Ghost stories as a window on the American settler psyche

In this innovative book, Sladja Blažan explains the foundational role of ghost stories in fostering the cultural imaginary, offering a medium for framing political ideologies, philosophical thought, racial anxieties, and social concerns. Ghosts and Their Hosts analyzes American ghost stories, considering their role as a settler colonial tool that emerged to help justify land appropriation and human labor exploitation. Blažan breaks with the long tradition of reading ghosts as harbingers of justice, arguing that early American ghost stories worked instead to suppress the presence of non-Europeans through fantasies of European transcultural incorporation. Images of sentient forests and nature possessed by spirits helped develop fixed racial, gendered, and sexualized categories, while authors used ghosts to affirm existing hierarchies and establish new ones. Focusing on the cultural exchanges between Germany, England, France, and the United States around the turn of the nineteenth century, Blažan deploys a groundbreaking ecocritical and comparative approach to shed light on this haunting subject.
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