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Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

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Broken Gates and Leaky Graves: material text, narrative
embodiment and the haunted spaces of urban Australia.

Samuel Finegan n6342892



‘”You are aware they say the house is haunted.”/ “They say that of all houses that are
shut up.”’

The Mystery of Major Molineux

It is not only houses that hold restless spirits. They join the ranks of railway lines, asylums,
graveyards, shop fronts and all manner of buildings, shut up, in use or repurposed that form the
architecture of a

haunted Australia. In its short history as a ‘settled’ nation, Australia has been rife
with tales of supernatural haunting and mundane atrocity. For whatever reason, Australia has
proven fertile soil for the ghost, the spectre and its ilk even if other su
pernatural traditions have not
survived transportation. I do not say ‘real’ as a measure of veracity or ‘actualness’ but to separate
stories claimed as actual events from those told with full knowledge of their fictiveness. Haunting
experiences are hybrid
, informed both by culture and fiction and to examine its presence in one, one
must also keep an eye on the other.

What this thesis aims to answer is the question of what is the material language of haunting,
which makes the immaterial present in place, a
nd what do the tropes of this language reveal about
the Australian spectral? It aims to do this by making explicit the interaction between text,
materiality, spatiality performance and narratives in accounts of the haunting, both literary and
l’. Australian accounts of haunting will always be wildly varied and inhabit a range of
sites serving, or having served a variety of purposes such as Brisbane’s Boggo Road jail, now an
apartment bock, and Tasmania’s Port Arthur.


Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

The spectral, in terms of

the thesis question, is separated from other forms of immateriality
or metaphysics on the grounds that the spectral is both active (autonomous) and ‘inner worldly’.
That is, it belongs to, and operates within, the material world, not a transcendent or ‘ot
and unlike memory is independent of a subject. If the spectral is always worldly, then haunting is the
interrelation of a place with a given spectre, or spectres. While the immaterial is only understood by
its reference to, and references from ma
terial things, in a haunting the material ceases to only
reference the ghost, but becomes itself an extension of the ghost (or, alternately, the spectral is an
immaterial extension of place). This definition is significant too, when looked at in tandem wit
traditional belief as it offers the potential to read haunting in relation to animism. An understanding
of the world which credits nonhuman things and phenomena with spirit and agency decentres the
human subject and enables coherent reading of modern hau
nting within pre
modern and
Indigenous structures of a ‘living universe’. Within the city, animism speaks to a need to
conceptualise the built environment as something more than the human acts which gave it material

The given definitions of haunting
and the spectral are designed to counteract the fuzziness
that hangs over the terms in modern parlance and to reassert, for the purposes of this analysis, a
decidedly supernatural based understanding. As the topic of this thesis is the rich symbolic and
rrative tropes and traditions of haunting narratives, I see the broader definitions which
encompass all manner of history, memory and trauma within the scope of ‘haunting things’ as
distractions and dilutions of what is a specific, contextual language. I d
o not believe that ghosts are
interchangeable with repressed memories any more than I see the bunyip as interchangeable with
the naiad, or a changi tiger ghost interchangeable with the wraith of the recently deceased. Ghosts
exist within rich traditions th
at are explicitly supernatural and it is within this spirit that I approach
the texts of this analysis. Within Australia these traditions, coming from a variety of immigrant and
Indigenous beliefs, must comingle with Australia’s brutal early history to pro
duce something distinct
to this nation.


Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

It would be impossible, I believe, to fully catalogue and contextualise the seemingly
inexhaustible array of spectres and spirits, or indeed to fully separate out the variety of traditions
that underpin modern Austra
lian ghost stories. Instead, this work concerns itself with the narrative
methods which render the ghost visible and sensual. This thesis does not aim to ontologise the
ghost. Rather, its principle aim is the discernment of the common and always hybrid lan
guage of
material traces and phenomenon that comprise the haunting. This is not intended to reduce the
ghost to a function of language or aesthetic, but to discuss the significance of this hybrid language
within the postcolonial immigrant/settler nation th
at is Australia.

The key issues raised by the language of haunting, which will form the basis of this thesis’s
chapters are; the qualities of this language that separate it from other fantastic forms like myth and
fairy tale; the role of performance and u
tterance in ‘conjuring’ the ghost; the conflict between
traditional and modern, Indigenous and imported understandings of the spectral and the role of
technology and artifice in the urban haunting. Throughout, the thesis will touch on the cross
ion between fiction and real world accounts, as well as the significance of place within
haunting and ghost narratives.

2. Program of Research

2.1 Research Problem

Research Question:

What is the material language of haunting, which makes the immaterial

present in place, and what
do the tropes of this language reveal about the Australian spectral?

Sub Questions:

What separates haunting from other fantastic forms?

What is the role of performance and utterance in creating, or calling up ghosts and hauntin


Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

How do traditional, modern, Indigenous and imported understandings of the spectral interact in
contemporary Australian haunting narratives?

How do technology and artificial sites and objects operate within spectral experience?

3 Design of Proposed Rese

3.1 Methodology and Research Plan

To approach the questions raised by accounts of Australian hauntings this thesis will perform textual
analysis on a range of accounts, both fictive, such as Lucy Sussex’s short stories and Tim Winton’s


‘genuine’ like Fischer’s ghost or the spectres of Boggo Road jail . The texts to be
analysed will include short stories, novels, folk stories and non
fiction accounts. While oral histories
are of interest to this project, the analysis will rely on previou
sly recorded stories, and not be
involved in the unearthing or generation of new narratives. The narratives of particular interest to
this thesis are those set in contemporary urban or ‘settled’ Australia. Historical and rural accounts,
such as Barbara Bay
nton’s gothic fiction, are not ignored in this analysis, but will be considered in
contrast, and as providing counterpoints to, the main corpus of contemporary urban texts.

The decision to focus on the contemporary and the urban is not to discount the ri
chness of
rural and historical tradition or to imply that it is not an area worthy of study. Instead, this decision is
a reaction to the apparent centrality of the country or the bush to Australian literature and
emplacement and the wealth of theoretical w
ork on the same. Also it is in the city that those
concepts of artificiality, ownership, post
colonialism, Aboriginality and emplacement of interest to
this analysis appear most obviously in relation and conflict. The city also offers a comparative density

of haunted locations and haunting narratives, and has been previously shown as both enmeshed
with, and generative of, supernatural traditions and beliefs in contrast to its common (though by no
means universal or even dominant) reading as rational.


Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

Stories taking place in an obviously fictional or fantastic location (excepting of course the
presence of the haunting or ghost as indicators of the ‘fantastic’) will not be considered. This is not
because fantasy cannot express the kinds of relationships
examined by this thesis, but because in
the terms of this thesis, the ghost story is defined in part by its reality. That is, the ghost story
happens (and is implied to be able to happen) within the world common to the reader.

To examine the narrative tex
ts, a wide range of scholarship will be drawn upon including
folklore, social research, tourism and literary studies. The work as a whole is grounded in philosophy,
and the platform from which these other areas of research are accessed is composed primaril
y from
the theories of Heidegger. Unlike a good deal of the previous literature on ghosts and hauntings,
this thesis is not interested in relegating them to the realm of phantasy nor in treating them only as
metaphor for experiences of unease or memory.
These treatments, which comprise or follow what
is termed the ‘spectral turn’, will be discussed in more detail in the literature review. In terms of
methodology, this decision precludes the use of psychoanalytical readings, which would occlude the

of the ghost and universalise what appear to be strongly culturally embedded narratives.

What Heidegger offers when approaching the ‘reality’ of ghosts in and of themselves, rather
than as metaphors or abstractions, is an ontology that is dependent on ‘
world’. That is,
an understanding of being as arising in, and understood by, the web of connections and correlations
(in Heidegger’s terms, references and relevancies) that links it with other beings which are
objectively present. In its broad
est manifestation, this web is the world. However, a reference is not
to an objective individual, but a whole category of beings, nor is a reference itself material or
objective. Heidegger uses the example of the hammer, whose qualities can be understood,

not only
as purpose, i.e. a hammer for hammering, but by the implied beings that that act encompasses

nail, the plank of wood, the builder, the building, and the implied user of that building. In this way
the hammer is defined not by its use, but al
so by what it is used for, by whom and why. The ghost is
to be read in the same way. As the ghost is only detectable by its references to the objectively

Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

present or material, or alternately, the references of the material being to the ghost, then it
s apparent that to understand the ghost and the haunted location is not to isolate it as a
transcendent individual, or the production of a singular mind, but to understand the web of
references and relevancies that render it present.

The outcome of this t
hesis however, is not a revolution in philosophical understanding. Its
outcomes and findings are centred on literature and narrative. The grounding in philosophy is
important as the peculiar reality of the ghost story means that it must be able to be read,

allowed space within the ‘real’ world. That is, it cannot be treated only fictively as many of the
beliefs underpinning it are based in understandings of the world, not in the manipulation of a fictive
one. Heidegger, in the ways discussed above provi
des a basis for transferring the unearthed
language of haunting between fictional and real world accounts.

Folklorists, such as Mark Moravec (Moravec 2003)often adopt a structuralist approach,
however this work will adopt a thematic approach as Julia Bri
ggs (Briggs 1977), Jeannie Banks
Thomas(Thomas 2007) and Ken Gelder (Gelder 1994) have done in their work on the English,
American and Australian ghost story respectively. Where Briggs addresses a host of familiar writers,
including Henry James, Vernon Lee
, Oscar Wilde and Algernon Blackwood, Banks restrains her scope
mostly to the urban legend and the unabashedly populist such as horror films and children’s
television. Both writers treat their examined narratives as symptomatic of cultural pressures.
r’s work is largely historical, using mostly nineteenth and early twentieth century examples
such as Mary Fortune and Marcus C Clarke’s gothic ghost stories, which cover a period of
immigration and settlement. While he too tends to view the ghost story as
symptomatic, he does
emphasise the importance of post
colonialism to an Australian context. As with these theorists, the
thesis will draw on a broad range of texts with full knowledge that the sample is not exhaustive or
necessarily representative. While t
hese theorists have primarily focussed on the ghost story as a
fiction produced by either psychological or social forces, this thesis is less interested in their

Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

originating conditions, but rather in the function of their narrative and employment of a lang
uage of

This thesis aims to access the ghost as a sensual phenomenon. While I do not aim to ascribe
to the ghost an objective presence, I aim, through the close reading described above, to uncover the
references and relevancies that render the g
host present and employ this ‘narrative embodiment’,
or rather, culturally imbedded language of embodiment that underpins the Australian ghost story to
examine the relation between the sacred, the city, the Aboriginal and possession.

3.2 Timeline


Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

Time Line

Time Elapsed (in months for 3 yr study)













PhD Milestones

Stage 2


Annual Progress

Final Seminar


Generic Capabilities

Advanced theoretical knowledge and analytical skills, as well
as methodological, research design and problem
solving skills
in a particular research area;



l and


information processing skills and knowledge of
advanced information technologies and other research


Textual Analysis.

Independence in research planning and execution, consistent
with the level of the research degree

storage and archive for sources, references
and analyses

Apply for
Grants In
Aid to
sent at
least one

Skills in academic writing and oral communication;

Writing for Publication'

Meeting Final Seminar


Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

Awareness of the mechanisms for research results transfer to
users, scholarly dissemination through publications and
presentations, research policy, and research career planning.

ATN More Critic
al Writing







Advanced Information Retrieval Skills (IFN001 Mandatory for
PhD candidates)


Thesis Writing (by chapter
example only
amend as required)

Title & Abstract


Literature Review


Textual Analysis



Research Process

Accessing Literature

Consider Methodologies

Sourcing Primary Texts

Analysing Primary Texts

Secondary Texts


Annotating/Writing Up Results


Intellectual Property


Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

Target Journals:
Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature

Australian Literary Studies

Health & safety


Grants in Aid

Write Up Scholarship


Conference Papers



Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

3.3 Preliminary Literature Review

‘How do you talk to a ghost?’ begins Lucy Sussex’s
(Sussex 2006) and so, this review begins
with the same. Neither Sussex, nor I are the first to pose the question and previous attempts at
speaking to the dead already form a rich mine of methods to draw on. Whether it be séance,
planchette, Ouija, trance,
psychotropic drugs, sacred ritual, alchemy or mediumship, when it comes
to the question of talking to ghosts one can hardly cry poor. Rather than address the mechanics of
talking to ghosts, which are either overly obscure or overly familiar depending on on
e’s reading
habits, this review will offer a brief overview of the theory and ideas surrounding contact with
ghosts, drawing both on previous critics and on ghost stories themselves.

Why should we talk to the ghost, however? The ghost is often painted
as a figure of naive
superstition, indeed many discussions on the rise of the gothic, a genre inextricably bound up with
ghosts and hauntings demonstrate how the ‘proper’ response is one of incredulity. The gothic is
barbaric and primitive, unsuitable for
modern minds. This is no better demonstrated then the public
response to Henry Walpole’s
The Castle Otranto
whose success in the eighteenth century is ascribed
by E.J Clery in
The Rise of Supernatural Fiction

to its sensationalism, but a sensationa
tempered by its framing as an ancient text. One whose supernatural excesses could be pardoned by
its ‘exemplary historicism’. Says Clery: ‘Rationally speaking, ghosts and goblins are not
when they appear in the literary artefact of past age
s, they are
true to history,

representations of an obsolete system of belief.’(Clery 1995, p54) When it was revealed as a
contemporary text, scandalised critics set up a rallying cry of
Incredulus odi
but the reading public
had already discovered
a taste for the sensations of the supernatural and these tastes continue

Another criticism of Henry Walpole, coming much later from Julia Briggs in her 1977 work
Night Visitors,
reveals something of the modern ‘horizon of expectation’ touched on by

Clery in
relation to eighteenth century readers. Of
the Castle Otranto


Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

‘The giant helmet, speaking portrait, bleeding statue follow another in so arbitrary a
sequence as to appear merely ludicrous. The inability to establish an intrinsic pattern … has
maged the story irretrievably, strongly imagined and written though it is.’(Briggs 1977,

The supernatural, to Briggs, requires a sense of logic. Indeed ghost stories often follow patterns,
even if they are not ones governed by rationality. In the Chin
ese stories of suicide ghosts discussed
by Rania Huntington there are patterns of repetition, where the ghosts, broken down into drowned
ghosts, hanged ghosts and the like, attempt to convince others to recreate the manner of their
death. These stories als
o have strong imagery; in the example of the hanged ghost in particular the
noose becomes iconic:

‘Reeking of blood, the rope is both the embodiment of her death and the vessel of her
power to persuade another to die, but it is also a means by which she c
an be foiled, because
it can be taken from her, leaving her helpless’ (Huntington 2005, p13)

The description offered by Huntington is provocative. It has a mythic intensity, and also reveals that
these tales retold and varied that they are, offer instructi
on to the reader on how to avoid falling
prey to the ghost. In this sense ghost stories are a form of fairy tale or myth. They offer an
understanding of the world, when coherent as
The Castle Otranto

was not, which is not

but mythic. Ghost storie
s function not on a rational, empirical level, but according to their own logic,
, which is based in a cultural understanding of the world and of the spectral.

While Australian accounts may not have the same obvious mythic resonance of these

ancient Chinese forms, they never
less operate on a similar kind of cultural, rather than
empirical world view. In three of Mary Fortune’s nineteenth century Australian stories,
The Illumined
The Ghostly White Gat
e and
Mystery and Murder
The Oxford Book of Australian
Ghost Stories

(Gelder 1994))

the main action of the narrative is provoked by the always silent, but

Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

unrelenting apparition of the dead around the grave site until their remains are uncovered. This
recurrent narrative does

not provoke incredulity, because it is grounded in cultural understandings
of judgement, and justice.

A sense of narrative impulse or of a ‘pattern’ does not only appear when in keeping with
grand narratives such as justice or a cycle of corruption. Ken

Gelder describes his experience
The Oxford Book of Australian Ghost Stories
as follows:

‘People who had heard I was compiling this anthology doubted if there were any Australian
ghost stories to be found; at the same time, they almost invariably

knew someone who used
to tell ghost stories.’ (Gelder 1994, pix)

That is, while the reader may recognize the tropes of the ghost story, such as the narratives of the
vengeful ghost, and ‘unfinished business’ as route cause, they may be hard pressed to of
fer concrete
examples that underpin this understanding. The mythos of haunting underpins the believability of
the ghost story, not only in its purpose, but in its manifestations.

Australia’s aptness as a haunted nation too, falls within the scope of cult
ural logic. According
to Julian Holloway and James Kneale:

‘The disinterring of the colonial past in countries like Australia is a good example of [a] kind
of productive encounter with the spectres of past traumas, making the taken
world uncann
y. The refugee or exile remembering home, or returning only to find it changed
forever is similarly haunted’

Australia’s history, both as a displacer of Aboriginal Australians in their own land and home for the
globally displaced feeds into cultural ideas
of strangeness, which both unearth native spirits and
refuse to let the dead rest easily. Gelder and Rachel Weaver quote Marcus Clarke in their
introduction to
The Anthology of Colonial Australian Gothic Fiction


Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

‘The sun suddenly sinks, and the mo
pokes burst out into horrible peals of semi
laughter. The natives aver that, when night comes, from out of the bottomless depth of
some lagoon the Bunyip rises, and, in form like monstrous sea
calf, drags his loathsome
length from out the ooze. From
a corner of the silent forest rises a dismal chant, and around
a fire dance natives painted like skeletons. All is fear
inspiring and gloomy.’ (Clarke in Gelder
and Weaver 2007, pp3, 4)

The image here is one of holistic menace, a land lacking the familiar
pantheon of brownies, angels,
spirits and sprites that might intercede on a settler’s behalf. Indigenous Australians are no less
troubled by settlement though, but it is the settler rather than the landscape that becomes
supernaturally menacing. In Sam Wat
The Kadaitcha Sung
, for instance, white settlement is the
consequence of an evil sorcerer’s machinations. Non
Indigenous Australians are not mundane but
possessed of a ‘special sort of poorie [magic] [which] comes from deep within them and sends them

onwards. They are ruled by greed … greed and an evil sort of hunger that won’t allow them any
peace.’ (Watson 1990, p42)

Within both Indigenous and settler ideologies the other becomes supernaturally perverse
and menacing, according to the cultural valu
es and narratives of the other. According to David
Crouch, for the non
Indigenous writer, this act is implicitly political: ‘the ghostly or otherworldly
status given to indigenous [sic] people in the novel becomes a way of erasing, objectifying and
g them.’ This does not seem to be the case in reverse, where the Indigenous credit the
invader with supernatural agency. It does nothing to erase the settlers’ abilities or standing, but does
serve to adopt them into an Indigenous mythos of explanation.

ven when the mythos of the ghost is not borne out in the text directly, it still inflects its
reading. The protagonist of
The Revenant
tries to explain her ability to see the titular spirit by
reference to an ancestor ascribed clairvoyant talent by no less
er authority than Sir Arthur Conan
Doyle. Similarly she missteps in her conversation by re
treading one of the less pleasant tropes of

Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

ghostly encounter: ‘“Er, yes, well it’s against nature, of course.” Oh gawd, that was tactless.’(Sussex
2006, p42)

all that the ghost story is reliant on an accreted mythos, it is incorrect to view it as an
entirely traditional or ‘old
fashioned’ form. Rather than being outpaced by advances in scientific and
rational thought, the ghost story is its constant shadow. In
trying to explain why the fairy tale
appeals to so many female writers, Susan Sellers explains that;

‘In contrast … to the logocentric text which strives to establish and police its own weave,
what might be termed a ‘feminine’ text is an unguarded network
that continually unfolds
outwards towards others’ (Sellers 2001, p25)

While I am tentative to gender the text quite so unequivocally, reading the ghost story as
unguarded accounts for its ability to absorb evolving systems of thought. One of the largest
nnovations in talking to ghosts came out of the rationality of the Victorians, and as Mikel J. Koven
explains in ‘
Most Haunted’ and the

Convergence of Traditional Belief and Popular Television
modern paranormal investigator has augmented his or her met
hods with night
vision cameras,
magnetic field readings, closed
circuit cameras and the like.

The contemporary, cutting edge technology of paranormal investigation sits uneasily in a
corpus of texts that relegate superstition and belief to the pr
imitive and the past. Rationality has
failed to stamp out spectral beliefs. Even in the city, imago of modernity that it is, the supernatural
and the spectral persist or even prosper. Clarke’s weird melancholy is not the purview of the
wilderness alone. In

The Urban Uncanny
Julian Wolfreys shares the strangeness of the city: ‘The idea
of the city … remains inimical and irreducible to any architectural planning, organisation or
erection.’(Wolfreys 2008, p172) The city is not reducible to its material structu
res. A city then can be
as mysterious and unknown as the wilderness for all it originates in human constructions it is as
Stephen Pile asserts in
Real Cities

(2005) prone to spectral infestation. As ‘cities are places where

Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

innumerable pasts

tragic, trau
matic or otherwise

exist,’ ghosts ‘are strangely familiar
presences in the phantasmagoria of modern city life.’ (Pile 2005, p143)

Even if we do not seek the ghost, it seems prepared to appear regardless. While I have
discussed ideas around talking to
the ghost, it is important to understand its unwelcomed
appearance. A basic unit of the ghost’s presence is ‘haunting’. The meaning of ‘haunting’ is overly
muddied both by its common usage and appropriation by cultural theorists following Derrida into
spectral turn. The spectral turn is described by Roger Luckhurst in his article
The Contemporary
London Gothic and the Limits of the Spectral Turn
(2002) as ‘the critical language of spectral or
haunted modernity that has become cultural
critical shorthand

in the wake of
Spectres of Marx
that it can ‘only go so far in elaborating the contexts for the specific topography of [the] London

that, indeed, the generalised structure of haunting is symptomatically blind to its
generative loci’(Luckhurst

2002, p534) This idea of blindness is a significant one, in Luckhurst’s view
haunting and spectrality are divorced from their ‘generative loci’, to this reader the accreted cultural
logic of mythos. To the post
Derridean eye ‘no concept, no self

no text, no writing […] is not
haunted.’ (Luckhurst 2002, p535) The mythos of haunting, which may allow the spectre to be
is not so free in allowing it be
. If a ghost’s deployment as a measure of the
uncanny or as a figure of resistanc
e is to be effective, then it must be anomalous.

Nor is it correct to say the ghost undermines all boundaries, the reading of it as an absent
presence ignores the emplacedness of a given spectre. Ghosts are not
and they are not so glibly
beyond stru
ctures of life and death, or even truly ‘between’ them. Phillip A. Clarke’s (2007)
examination of Aboriginal belief in southern, ‘settled’ Australia shows indigenous ghosts or ‘gupa’
not as an exception, but as an always existent potential for the dead. A
ny dead person may become
a ghost, and return to haunt the living. Ghosts, in this model, are not ‘between’ life and death so
much as they are a
way of being dead
. Rather than undermine the Aboriginal tribes’ beliefs around
life and death, the gupa reinfor
ces their understanding of the world. The familiar structure that

Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

writes living as existence and death as non
existence is not universal. To this end, haunting is not a
‘hauntology’ but a culturally imbedded (mythic) understanding of how immaterial things
are present
in the world. The haunting that concerns this thesis is not the ‘generic lever of deconstruction’ that
Luckhurst sees in Derrida, but the eruption of the immaterial into the structures of the material,
concrete world.

A cursory examination of
the narratives of haunting reveals the correlation between ghosts
and memory as similarly inadequate. A ghost’s generative reality, that is ontic, material reality, may
lie like memory’s in the past, however whereas memory is
known, a ghost is only ba
rely known.
Julian Holloway and James Kneale are ‘…happier with the idea of ghosts as traces of the unknown of
unknowable than as a kind of puzzle, standing in for something else, something more
important.’(Holloway and Kneale 2008, p298) While I would sug
gest there are culturally imbedded
ways of ‘knowing’ the ghost, this stance alerts us to the fact that the ghost belongs, curiously
enough, in the company of material relics, junk and artefact. That is, a witness need have no
experience of the ghost’s past

to know it has one, and while its appearance is provocative, as the
finding of relics under floorboards, it alerts the witness only to the presence of a history to be
unearthed. The ghost is not the history itself, but its

Susan Sellers discusses

the employment of archetypes in fairy tale, and argues that these
figures are vacant and defined by their role. However, this vacancy only characterises ghosts as a
multiplicity. An individual haunting speaks of an individuated history and circumstance, n
ot as
Derrida would have it ‘simulacrum of simulacra without end.’ (Derrida 1994, p127)

The emptying out of meaning seen in deconstruction can be contested within Martin
Heidegger’s theory of being. Bill Hemminger has pointed out that Heidegger offers an
particularly helpful when theorizing animistic texts such as Ben Okri’s
The Famished Road

‘redefine[s] the world human beings inhabit and argue[s] for increased interplay between physical
and spiritual in a modern technologized world ‘(
Hemminger 2001, p67) Heidegger offers an

Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

alternative to anthropocentric models where ghosts, spirits and their like are the purview only of
humans and their delusions. Heidegger reminds us that ‘the world of Da
sein [conscious beings] is a
. Bein
in is

others.’(Heidegger 1996, p112) No entity is ever fully autonomous,
being born into, and arising only within a world of objects and other beings. The Da
sein determines
and is determined by the experience and understanding of these other

‘The others who are “encountered” … in the surrounding world at hand are not somehow
added on in thought to an initially merely objectively present thing, but these “things” are
encountered from a world in which they are at hand for others.’ (
, p111)

Ghosts are certainly ‘at hand’ for others, they are not dependant on any particular individual. Ghost
tourism, for instance, is motivated by a desire to contact ghosts that are not personal. Ghosts, for all
they are immaterial, are still to some de
gree ‘public’ accessible, as other objects, to anyone.

While Heidegger notes the significance of objective presence to ontology, in that one cannot
encounter what is not present, this objectivity does not presuppose being, nor render it a ‘thing’.
The gh
ost inhabits a peculiar position, in lacking an objective, material existence as spectral things
must, but still present in and through the references of material things. Using the example of the
boat, Heidegger explains ‘the boat anchored at the shore ref
ers in its being
itself to an
acquaintance who undertakes his voyages with it, but as a “boat strange to us,” it also points to
others.’(Heidegger 1996, p111) Ghosts are an implied other, they may be the disenfranchised
residents or owners of a house, a
s in Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet (1992), beings who are present in the
itself’ of the house. In this sense, the ghost of a haunted place is not ‘added on’ but
implicity in the nature of objectively present things. The phenomena of phantom lights, ta
rappings, unlocking doors and other discernable happenings form the references to the ghost who is
never fully ‘here’ but exists as a reference from that which is at hand and experiential. Australia is
rich in sites of Indigenous sacred which keeps the

spectral at hand, but also a host of institutions and
oppressive or bloody historical acts which imply the unquiet dead. The being
itself of Australia

Samuel Finegan n6342892 IF49

then, no matter how fractious and chaotic, is one that speaks of a ghostly population and a haunted

Lucy Sussex answers her own question: ‘How do you talk to a ghost? Just like you talk to
anybody: a smattering of the commonplace, some gratuitous observations, information of varying
use, and gossip.’ Perhaps this is the best advice. The ghos
t, like anybody, needs to be treated as an
individual with their own history and their own narrative. What we lack, and what the theories and
stories discussed above point to, is not an inability to talk to the ghost, but a need to understand the
of rapping, knocking, apparition and repetition that replaces words as the common
language of ghosts.

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