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A ghost story may be any piece of fiction, or drama, or an account of an experience, that includes a ghost, or simply takes as a premise the possibility of ghosts or characters' belief in them. Colloquially, the term can refer to any kind of scary story. In a narrower sense, the ghost story has been developed as a short story format, within genre fiction. It is a form of supernatural fiction, and is often a horror story. While ghost stories are often explicitly meant to be scary, they have been written to serve all sorts of purposes, from comedy to morality tales. Ghosts often appear in the narrative as sentinels or prophets of things to come. Whatever their uses, the ghost story is in some format present in all cultures around the world, and may be passed down orally or in written form.

Types

Marley's Ghost-John Leech, 1843

The ghost of Jacob Marley visits Scrooge.

Jack Sullivan's 1978 book Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story from Le Fanu to Blackwood presented several sub-classifications of English-language ghost stories:[1]

Around the world

England

In "Some Remarks on Ghost Stories"[2] (1929), M. R. James identifies five key features of the English ghost story, as summarized by Prof. Frank Coffman for a course in popular imaginative literature:

  • The pretense of truth
  • "A pleasing terror"
  • No gratuitous bloodshed or sex
  • No "explanation of the machinery"
  • Setting: "those of the writer's (and reader's) own day"

Japan

The Tale of Genji contains ghost stories. In English Victorian society, Lafcadio Hearn published his collection of Japanese folktales, Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things.

Arabia

The Arabian Nights contains a number of ghost stories, often involving jinns, ghouls and corpses. Other medieval Arabic literature such as the Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity also contain ghost stories.

See also

Texts

  • Felton, D. Haunted Greece and Rome: Ghost Stories from Classical Antiquity, University of Texas Press, 1999.
  • Medieval ghost stories : an anthology of miracles, marvels and prodigies / comp. and ed. by Andrew Joynes, Woodbridge: Boydell press, 2003.

References

  1. Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story from Le Fanu to Blackwood, Jack Sullivan, 1978.
  2. Excerpts From "Some Remarks on Ghost Stories". 13 October 2005.

External links