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The Gothic and Death$
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Carol Margaret Davison

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781784992699

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784992699.001.0001

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Undying histories: Washington Irving’s Gothic afterlives

Undying histories: Washington Irving’s Gothic afterlives

Chapter:
(p.76) 5 Undying histories: Washington Irving’s Gothic afterlives
Source:
The Gothic and Death
Author(s):

Yael Maurer

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9781784992699.003.0006

This chapter examines Irving’s 1824 story ‘The Adventure of the German Student’ alongside his two earlier tales, ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘Rip Van Winkle’, focusing on Irving’s radical rethinking of the historical tale as a site of ghostly returns. The presence of death and ghostly figures at the heart of foundational historical moments makes the telling and retelling of the historical tale a fraught endeavour. Irving’s seemingly harmless ‘ghost stories’ are in effect radical reinventions of ‘History’ as a constant problem to be grappled with in the here and now. In ‘The Adventure of the German Student’, the figure of the guillotine offers a prime symbol for this deathly presence at the heart of the historical event, casting it as always already horrific and showcasing History’s deadly and beheading forces at work on the individual and the collective alike.

Keywords:   Washington Irving, American History, Spectrality, Guillotine, Death, Tale, Horror

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