Abstract

In her writings about ghost stories, Edith Wharton points out the importance of believing consciously in ghosts in order to enjoy the stories, but it seems that Wharton uses the genre to say something more about belief. Through her ghost stories, Wharton, though she generally emphasizes rationality, places herself between the rational and the irrational, a space where something or someone “not here” could be technically “here.” In this respect, Wharton makes her ghost stories a space to speculate on metaphysical questions which, in the context of William James's philosophy of religion and late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century spiritualism, was often regarded as irrational. In “The Fulness of Life,” Wharton assumes the afterlife as fact and searches for the possibility of settling difficult earthly matters in the world of the dead. Later, in “Mr. Jones,” she seeks the possible path of literary afterlife through the ghost figure and through allusions to dead authors like Edgar Allan Poe. Finally, in “The Looking-Glass,” Wharton combines themes from earlier stories, presenting a character who mediates between true and false spiritualism and between spiritualism and Catholicism.

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