Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Postbellum Hauntings

I'm about to go teach "Rappaccini's Daughter," but wanted to do a quick follow-up on one of the many loose threads here at CitizenSE--a comment or two on the relation between the hauntings in Charles Chesnutt's "Po' Sandy," Ambrose Bierce's "The Haunted Valley" and "The Stranger," and Lafcadio Hearn's "On Ghosts and Goblins." What I've been trying to emphasize in the Haunting America course I've been teaching this semester is the relation between literature and history. To the key course question, "What is haunting (about) America?" one answer I've been emphasizing is its history of conflicts and tensions over land, wealth, and power. Chesnutt suggests the history of slavery haunts the postbellum South, Bierce suggests that the Indian wars and other conflicts engendered by the massive migrations to the newly U.S.-owned (but not yet held) Southwest after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the Gold Rush haunt the frontier, and Hearn puts Japanese and American hauntings in relation even as his travels and writings suggest parallels between the late 19th C modernizing and expansionist programs in Gilded Age America and Meiji Japan. Elaborations to come--later!

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