206 } early american literature: volume 40, number 1 Possessions: The History and Uses of Haunting in the Hudson Valley. judith richardson. Cambridge, Mass., and London: Harvard University Press, 2003. xi, 296 pp. The subtitle of this informative, cleanly written, and admirably documented book is both apt and revealing. As in recent studies by Rene Bergland, Kathleen Brogan, and Avery Gordon, whose influence is acknowledged, Richardson's interest lies in ``haunting'' as a sign of serious social division rather than in ghosts as a staple of the literary gothic. Within the especially ``rapid pace of development and obsolescence'' (5) occurring in the four-century history of the Hudson Valley, the local ghost story serves as a major vehicle of social memory, the return of the repressed, a ``measure of historical change and jolting dislocation'' (63). Haunted houses and headless horsemen, Indian specters and gnomic Dutchmen, fancied pirates and bloody Hessians are all removed, in Richardson's rendering, from the limiting domains of merely anecdotal folklore, silly superstition, and gothic convention. Whether the text is a tale by Washington Irving, a guidebook for Hudson Valley tourists, a local newspaper, a Broadway play, or a recent novel, narratives of ghostly appearances restore for
Early American Literature – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Feb 17, 2005
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