Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Popular Ghosts

Popular Ghosts: The Haunted Spaces of Everyday Culture
edited by Esther Peeren & Maria del Pilar Blanco
Continuum, 2010

"Located in the ambivalent realm between life and death, ghosts have always inspired cultural fascination as well as theoretical consideration.

Haunting has long been a compelling element in popular culture, and has become an influential category in academic engagements with politics, economics, and aesthetics. While recent scholarship has used psychoanalysis and the Gothic as frameworks with which to study haunting, this volume seeks to situate ghosts in the cultural imagination. The chapters in Popular Ghosts are united by the impulse to theorize the cultural work that ghosts do within the trans-historical contexts that comprise our understanding of everyday life. These authors study the theoretical and aesthetic genealogies of the spectral, while also commenting on the multiple everyday spaces that this category occupies. Rather than looking to a single tradition or medium, the essays in Popular Ghosts explore film, novels, photography, television, music, social practices, and political structures from different cultures to reopen the questions that surround our haunted sense of the everyday."

This impressive collection of essays lays to rest any notion that ghosts should be confined to limiting conceptual categories. Deploying a wide-ranging multi-disciplinary approach, Popular Ghosts rehabilitates ghosts from their dark shadows into the glare of the everyday and exposes the ubiquity of the ghostly, where and how it resides in the cultural imagination and beyond.

Marie Mulvey-Roberts, Reader in Literary Studies, University of the West of England, Bristol
Maria del Pilar Blanco and Esther Peeren are to be congratulated for bringing together such an exciting set of essays. The comparative approach uniquely pulls together studies from all corners of the world, emphasizing cultural differences in narratives of haunting whilst maintaining a strong conceptual coherence. Whether looking at popular fiction, canonical literature, film, TV or folklore, they rightly follow the imperative to historicise and contextualise the ghost. What results is a fascinating series of encounters that speaks urgently to our contemporary spooked state of being.

Roger Luckhurst, Birkbeck College

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