Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Author: Darryl Jones

M. R. James and Collected Ghost Stories [excerpt]

In the following excerpt from Collected Ghost Stories by M. R. James, Darryl Jones discusses how the limitations of James’s personal, social, and intellectual horizons account for the brilliance of his ghost stories. “The potential that ideas have for opening up new worlds of possibility caused James lifelong anxiety. Thus, his research, phenomenal as it […]

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H. G. Wells and science

The Island of Doctor Moreau is unquestionably a shocking novel. It is also a serious, and highly knowledgeable, philosophical engagement with Wells’ times–with their climate of scientific openness and advancement, but also their anxieties about the ethical nature of scientific discoveries, and their implications for religion.

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Arthur Conan Doyle: spirits in the material world

Sherlock Holmes is literature’s greatest rationalist; his faith in material reality is absolute. In his certainty, he resembles his creator; but not in his materialism. From the beginning of his writing career, Doyle was fascinated by the spirit world. One of his favourite literary modes, the Gothic, allowed him to explore the world of spirits and the supernatural, of vengeful mummies and predatory vampires, of ghosts and necromancers.

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In defence of horror

A human eyeball shoots out of its socket, and rolls into a gutter. A child returns from the dead and tears the beating heart from his tormentor’s chest. A young man has horrifying visions of his mother’s decomposing corpse. A baby is ripped from its living mother’s womb. A mother tears her son to pieces, and parades around with his head on a stick.

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