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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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Neil Gaiman’s Ghost Children


People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales.

(Neil Gaiman, American Gods, 418)

Abstract: The article examines Gaiman’s use of the ghost child motif in The Sandman (1989–1996), Coraline (2002) and The Graveyard Book (2008). It outlines the special symbolic tensions that result from the conflicting images of “ghost” and “child” and shows that Gaiman focusses on a liminal space between the two, in the shape of half-ghosts, or “dead boy detectives”. The paper suggests three emotional movements for the ghost plotlines of the analysed stories: from terror to hope, from pity to salvation and from desolation to connectedness. From this it concludes that Gaiman’s stories represent the ghost child motif as symbol for a positive relation with Death.

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