Haunted Mind and Matter
This project argues that the concept of haunting pervaded Victorian society, imagination, and thought and reflected anxieties regarding destabilized conceptions of the self and the world. It spans the nineteenth century from Mary Shelley to Henry James in order to claim that the living can invite and employ haunting in ways useful to self discovery or recovery. Rather than view haunting as a primarily one-directional relationship in which the haunter imposes itself on the haunted, I suggest that haunting can be invoked by the haunted in order to integrate new perspectives, conceptions, information, and situations vital to advancing self-perception and understandings of the surrounding world. Consequently, this study introduces a term I call "hauntedness," which amounts to the state of feeling or being haunted. Through this word, I hope to confer greater agency to the notion of being haunted than the more passive, acted-upon "to be haunted" can sometimes convey. Haunted Mind and Matter employs concepts from Jacques Derrida's Specters of Marx and "Différance" to complicate the question of haunting and enter the critical debate about Victorian haunting in particular. The works of Derrida and critics like Julian Wolfreys, following Sigmund Freud, reveal haunting as not restricted to bonds with spectral ghosts; it exists in every person and discourse. Using the term "haunt" in a multifaceted, flexible manner can challenge notions of the self and what is human through biological, social, and other constructs. The introduction examines Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, in my view an inverted ghost story, to exemplify this text's employment of the term "hauntedness." The project then explores uses of terms related to haunting in texts in which mental, historical, and social haunting are infused with strong gothic and Romantic imagery: Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847), Charles Dickens' Our Mutual Friend (1864-65), George Eliot's Middlemarch (1871), and Henry James' The Turn of the Screw (1898). I claim that these works both reveal the powerful presence of haunting in Victorian thought and society and show characters generating productive, reverberating uses for the haunting they experience in order to progress into the future. Haunted Mind and Matter demonstrates what the lens of haunting can reveal about character and social context in fiction.