Ghost stories in various forms have been a part of popular literature for centuries, from Shakespeare to Dickens to Faulkner. Over the past 25 years, a resurgence of haunting plots has occurred in American literature. In this text, Kathleen Brogan makes the case that this recent preoccupation with ghosts stems t from a lingering interest in Gothic themes but instead from a whole new genre in American literature that she calls the story of cultural haunting . Examining Louise Erdich's Tracks , Toni Morrison's Beloved and Cristina Garcia's Dreaming in Cuban , Brogan argues that modern ghost stories offer a way for mirity writers to come to terms with their lost cultural identities. At the heart of this process, she contends, is the experience of mourning as that form of memory determined by an awareness of a break with the past. While conscious of the cultural differences among these haunted tales of slavery, colonization and immigation, the author demonstrates that they all function similarly: to re-create ethnic identity by imaginatively recovering a collective history that in many cases has been fragmented or erased. Her readings show how the specific histories and local meanings support the pan-ethnic genre she has defined. The book suggests that modern stories of haunting reflect the increased emphasis on ethnic and racial differentiation in American society over the past 30 years. The ghosts found in contemporary American literature lead us to the heart of our nation's discourse about multiculturalism and ethnic identity.
Kathleen Brogan is Associate Professor of English at Wellesley College.