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Ghosts – or the (Nearly) Invisible

Spectral Phenomena in Literature and the Media


Maria Fleischhack and Elmar Schenkel

In this volume, ghost stories are studied in the context of their media, their place in history and geography. From prehistory to this day, we have been haunted by our memories, the past itself, by inklings of the future, by events playing outside our lives, and by ourselves. Hence the lure of ghost stories throughout history and presumably prehistory. Science has been a great destroyer of myth and superstition, but at the same time it has created new black boxes which we are filling with our ghostly imagination. In this book, literature from the Middle Ages to Oscar Wilde and Neil Gaiman, children’s stories, folklore and films, ranging from the Antarctic and Russia to Haiti, are covered and show the continuing presence of spectral phenomena.

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The Ghost of Oscar Wilde: Fictional Representations


Abstract: A century after the death of Oscar Wilde, literature, films, cartoons and comic books provide fictional spaces in which his ghost can rematerialise. This essay examines a number of these representations of Wilde in phantasmal form, analysing the ways in which they conform to the figure of Wilde as he endures in the cultural consciousness: as the epitome of visual dandyism and the paragon of aphoristic wit. While the ghost of Wilde imitates these most celebrated qualities, confirming the perpetual recycling of the Wildean stereotype, his impact upon the contemporary worlds in which he is reimagined reveals his persisting influence upon and relevance to modern culture. Across media, his power is shown to have a magical potency, which, fairytale-esque, contributes to harmonious conclusions for those he encounters.1

Oscar Wilde […] did not respond. He inclined his head to sniff the green carnation in his lapel and smiled to himself. (Bailey 134)

The purpose of this chapter is to explore a niche within the body of fictional representations of Oscar Wilde across a variety of media: the depiction of his ghost. Considering films, cartoons and comic books as well as literature, it argues that the reappearances of Wilde’s specter in contemporary culture conform to a single particular facet of Wilde’s complex and changing identity – the elegant, dandified Wilde, endlessly issuing witty aphorisms. As Laurence Dumortier has recently observed, the photographic images of Wilde which proliferate are most often the portraits taken by Napoleon Sarony, images...

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