• Understanding History and Causality through the Television Ghost Story

    Derek Johnston (see profile)
    Cultural Studies, Horror, Television Studies
    Television, Television--Study and teaching, History
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Supernatural in Contemporary Society Conference 2018
    Conf. Org.:
    Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen
    Conf. Loc.:
    Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen
    Conf. Date:
    23-24 August 2018
    Television drama, Ghost stories, Television studies
    Permanent URL:
    This paper considers the ways in which the television ghost story serves to support understanding and interpretations of history, and particularly an understanding of causality. As Helen Wheatley has identified, the typical detailed period settings of the television Gothic operate as a form of ‘dark heritage’ drama, where, instead of the attractive detail serving to detract from any political content to the narrative, the props, costumes and settings instead suggest and emphasise the underlying historical issues, such as those of class and gender and race. Like the heritage drama, the dark heritage drama serves to give an impression of the past, separate from any supernatural elements. The supernatural allows the emphasis on causality, on the ways that events in the present are caused by the traumas of the past. In some cases, this connection of past and present can be used for educational purposes relating to specific events, as with the Clifton House Mystery and its plot based on the Bristol Riots of 1831. In others, there is a more general sense of the way that the past was lived, and particularly its horrors. The television ghost story can thus serve as a part of a construction not just of an understanding of historical periods, but also to understanding of how the present depends upon decisions made in the past, and how decisions made now will influence the history of the future.
    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
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