Gothic Fiction and the Writing of Trauma, 1914–1934

The Ghosts of World War One

Andrew Smith

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The first detailed analysis of Gothic literature and trauma in World War One

  • Explores how the Gothic shaped, and controlled, cultural anxieties about the war
  • Provides a unique critical revision of the figure of the ghost across a wide range of literature from the period
  • Draws on the Imperial War Museum’s archives (including accounts of the war by less-well-known figures such as Jack Martin and Ronald Skirth)
  • Critically complicates the view of the Gothic as articulating, rather than containing, trauma

This book examines how the representation of the ghost-soldier in literature published between 1914–1934, both marks the presence of trauma and attempts to make sense of it. Andrew Smith examines short stories, novels, poems and memoirs that employ ghosts to reflect upon feelings of loss, paralleling the literary context with accounts of shell-shock which construe the damaged soldier as psychologically missing and therefore spectre-like.

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Introduction: the ghosts of war

1. The Psychology of War: Gothic and the Redirection of the Uncanny

2. The Ghosts of War: Writing Trauma

3. Spiritualism, War, and the Modernist Gothic

4. Aftershock: Malevolent Ghosts and the problem of memory

Conclusion: Ghostly afterlives


In the course of this finely argued book, Andrew Smith offers an important historicist revision of Freud on trauma and the uncanny before moving on to explore a hugely impressive range of ghost-texts written during the First World War and later. The criticism is acute and sensitive, the historical context vividly drawn.

David Punter, University of Bristol
Andrew Smith is Professor of Nineteenth-Century English Literature at the University of Sheffield where he co-directs the Centre for the History of the Gothic. He is the author or editor of over 20 published books including Gothic Death 1740-1914: A Literary History (Manchester University Press, 2016), The Ghost Story 1840-1920: A Cultural History (Manchester University Press, 2010), Gothic Literature (Edinburgh University Press, 2007, revised 2013), Victorian Demons (Manchester University Press, 2004) and Gothic Radicalism (Macmillan, 2000). He is a past president of the International Gothic Association.

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