Turn-of-the-Century American Women’s Ghost Stories

Dr. Dara Downey

This short course introduces students to the history and development of ghost stories by American women writers from around the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning the twentieth when the popularity of such stories was at a peak. It explores issues and cultural phenomena such as Spiritualism, the servant problem, the temperance movement, first-wave feminism, Western expansion, magazine publishing, and changing attitudes to mental health. The course covers some well-known authors and others that are almost forgotten today.

Session 1: Unstable Spaces
Madeleine Yale Wynne, “The Little Room” (1895):
Emma Frances Dawson, “An Itinerant House” (1897):

Session 2: Unstable Selves
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wall-paper” (1898):
Mary Wilkins Freeman, “The Southwest Chamber” (1903):

Session 3: Unstable Relations
Edith Wharton, “Afterward” (1910):
and “All Souls’” (1937) (a scan of this story will be provided closer to the date. It can also be found in many collections of Wharton’s ghost stories).

Dara Downey is a Teaching Fellow in American Literature in Trinity College Dublin. She is the author of American Women’s Ghost Stories in the Gilded Age (2014) and editor of The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies (https://irishgothicjournal.net/). She is currently writing a literary biography of Shirley Jackson for the Palgrave Literary Lives series (forthcoming 2024).

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