Publication Date

April 2017


Matthew Garrett




English (United States)


Ghosts have commonly been conceptualized as sites of repetition, the immobilizing tug of an obsessive past that prevents change, threatens teleology, and creates stasis. This thesis will attempt to complicate these conceptualizations, working instead toward a radical understanding of the specter. How might we begin to think of these ghostly returns and repetitions as themselves radical interventions in our tautological present moment? Drawing on Derridean hauntology, I will argue that the specter deconstructs the present, destabilizing its wholeness and self-containment by revealing its necessary relationship to prior and distant temporalities. Through disrupting linear “progress” and foregrounding that which is unresolved and unrealized, the specter enables a radical ethics of refuturization, providing alternative possibilities to the way we see time and fashion ourselves forward. Building a paradigmatic corpus of postmodern ghost stories, I locate and analyze a path of haunting in three American novels written within the last thirty years: Octavia Butler's Kindred, Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days, and George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo. I argue that the unconventional literary form and hauntological narrative of these texts work to radicalize spectral hauntings and reimagine geographies of time.



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