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The Ghost: A Cultural History

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  142 ratings  ·  27 reviews
“Five thousand years have now elapsed since the creation of the world, and still it is undecided whether or not there has even been an instance of the spirit of any person appearing after death. All argument is against it; but all belief is for it.” —Samuel Johnson
Ghosts are woven into the very fabric of life. In Britain, every town, village, and great house has a spect
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 3rd 2017 by Tate
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Karim Khayal It's not scary, but highly interesting. Everybody interested in the way different cultures have interpreted and seen ghosts will find this book…moreIt's not scary, but highly interesting. Everybody interested in the way different cultures have interpreted and seen ghosts will find this book extremely informing. (less)

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4.06  · 
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 ·  142 ratings  ·  27 reviews

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Kirsty ❤️
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating book regarding the history and culture of ghosts in the UK. Well researched and written. I really enjoyed reading about how the perception of ghosts has changed throughout the centuries from angry, fully visible ghosts to barely there apparitions.. Excellent read
Dec 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
I'm so in love with books about ghosts. Not books of ghost stories (whether fiction or 'true') but analyses of what ghosts mean in a sociological or psychological sense - why are we so fascinated by ghosts? How does belief in ghosts change over time and in different societies? What do ghosts mean to us? This book explored these questions in such a compelling way. I'd have loved more comment on ghosts in non-British society - but that's outwith the scope of this book, so no use complaining. For t ...more
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Was interesting to see how ghost stories and legends have changed over time, and the most interesting thing to me that the author brought up, was that no matter your beliefs, whether you believe in ghosts or not-everyone seems to have a story regarding one.

Fascinating from beginning to end. Extremely well researched. I liked that the author wrote about ghosts from an unbiased view- letting the reader decide and interpret the information for themselves.

I would like to thank Susan Owens and ABRAMS
Lolly K Dandeneau
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
via my blog:
'These dead refused to stay in their tombs and insisted on climbing out and stalking back to their towns and villages, night after night, to attack the living. But what was the background to these stories?'

Death comes to us all, and it would seem ghostly beings do as well, regardless of what country you live in or what time period. Ghosts certainly seem to be a tie that binds, be it harbingers of pending doom, terrorizing haunts, revenants bent
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
In her postscript to ‘The Ghost: A Cultural History’ Susan Owens states that she wanted to focus principally on ghosts appearances in imaginative works such as paintings, poems, ballads and stories as through them we are able to observe the British ghost as it becomes whatever we want it to be in any given era as they hold up a mirror to us and reveal our desires and fears.

Ranging from the medieval period to the modern day Owens charts not only how ghosts have been perceived by society and the e
Julie Cohen
Love this—a treasure trove.
A Reader's Heaven
(I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.)

Ghosts are woven into the very fabric of life. In Britain, every town, village, and great house has a spectral resident, and their enduring popularity in literature, art, folklore, and film attests to their continuing power to fascinate, terrify, and inspire. Our conceptions of ghosts—the fears they provoke, the forms they take—are connected to the conventions and beliefs of each particular era, from the marau
Clark Hays
Oct 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
The intersection of art and the spirit world

The Ghost, a Cultural History, by Susan Owens is a delightful look at British ghosts — how they have been written about and painted through the years — curated by an art historian. Not surprisingly, she has a deep understanding of and appreciation for British art — written and visual — from the Middle Ages to the present, and brings that to bear exploring the spirit world as captured by artists. The book is stuffed with lovely reproductions of some inc
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
The Ghost
A Cultural History
by Susan Owens
Tate Publishing
Pub Date 03 Oct 2017
Courtesy Netgalley

I really enjoyed The Ghost A Cultural History by Susan Owens. This nonfiction book examines the history of the ghost or apparition. Ms. Owens, the author, was interested in how much Dickens's ghost have in common with what we define as ghosts today. How did ghosts change as technology was introduced, like the earliest shadow shows and then film? Also what is it about Britain that creates the ferti
Siri Olsen
A very thorough, beautifully executed guide to the cultural history of ghosts. The book is built up chronologically, such that each chapter deals with the cultural ideas and perceptions surrounding ghosts and the afterlife in a specific historical period. It shows how our beliefs and thoughts about ghosts reflect the general spirit of the age we live in and how the idea of the ghost has been transformed in sync with other, much more well known and seemingly grander transformations. The author is ...more
Thornton Rigg
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Ghost is a thoroughly fascinating book which traces the development of ghosts from warnings from the afterlife, through escapees from purgatory and then the devil's playthings and finally to delicious, terrifying entertainment purely from the imagination. This history is complemented by the shifts in the images of ghosts from skeleton to a shrouded, bare footed figure to the cotton sheet. There are old favourites such as the well known Ghost of a Flea by William Blake and new favourites incl ...more
Nicki Markus
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-non-fiction
The Ghost: A Cultural History was a fascinating read from start to finish. I loved how Owens used social history and the arts to detail the changing attitudes towards ghosts through the ages. The wide range of source material was especially pleasing, with examples ranging from paintings to poems to plays. Personally, I found the earlier chapters the most illuminating, but that's probably because the information from the Victorian era onwards was already familiar to me. This is an easy and deligh ...more
Heidi Svendsen
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have always been fascinated by ghosts. Therefore I was very intrigued when I discovered this book. It has a great view on ghosts, and lists how the view have changed throughout the years. It does not take the discussion if they exist or not, and do not patronise any reader and their belief. This is one of the best characters of the book, you can read it no matter your opinion and end up with your own conclusion. This because it is filled with history and stories.

A great read under a blanket in
Sarah Rogers
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Really enjoyable, well researched and very digestible study of mainly English ghosts from the medieval hauntings of Edith and Etheldreda up to the present day more paranormal output of Susan Hiller and Julie Myerson.

I loved the straightforwardness (& humour) of the older ghosts: open up their graves and they'd give you a thump for your efforts, close the door on them and they'd kick it down rather than waft insubstantially through the wall (that apparently comes later thanks to the advent of
Mar 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Really enjoyable and informative. It was a bit too heavily focused on art for me... primarily the book is about representations of ghosts in art (with some references to literature and then at the end a couple of paragraphs about other mediums e. g. television). I still enjoyed it and found it interesting but I don't have a huge interest in art. The stuff about literature was fascinating and I just wanted more of that. I especially enjoyed the bits about the Victorian period, and I also liked th ...more
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a very interesting study of ghost stories throughout history. I enjoyed both the tales themselves and the analysis of them. The book withholds judgment on whether ghost experiences are real, but there certainly have been a lot of them! If you are interested in the background in addition to ghost tales, you will enjoy this book.

I received a free electronic copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Firman
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A well researched and organised book looking at the way Ghosts have changed throughout British history. From being used to keep people on the right moral path to their uses in entertainment. Owens also examines how their appearances changed over time in peoples descriptions and in works of art and literature. I found the first part of the book looking at the 'Ghost' in the medieval period particularly fascinating. Overall this is a great and informative read and would recommend to anyone who has ...more
Jesse Richards
Feb 19, 2018 rated it liked it
The first half of this was quite enjoyable, showing trends and pulling larger meaning from connected cultural history, and all the art and photos are great, but the second half devolved into a list of books and art, each getting an unconnected paragraph, like a list of blurbed reviews (like this one, actually).
Ash Tree
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is excellent for those that love a British ghost story. The book is not necessarily for a popular audience (it read like an academic text). It is well researched and arranged well. I especially like all the sources provided; I was writing down books to read constantly while enjoying this book. As an American who loves M.R. James, I really appreciated learning more about the tradition of the British ghost. It's packed with information, so have a notebook handy.

The images included in th
Katia M. Davis
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A great book, beautifully illustrated and presented. Takes you through the history of ghosts in Britain using folklore, written tradition, and artwork. Fascinating insights and well written. Thoroughly recommend.
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
From 1066 to 2010s, a great cultural history of the ghost
Aug 06, 2019 added it
Shelves: unfinished
I struggled with this and couldn't finish. It felt like the author listed information rather than unpacked it, and after a while I completely lost interest.
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Life changing book. It took me a month to read because I took so many notes as I read it.
Lucy Mac
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating, lucid with wonderful intertextuality. Great reading for the coming Autumn months!
Jan 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book! You can find my full review here:
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating account of the human relationship with the supernatural.
rated it it was amazing
Feb 12, 2018
Thespian Artichoke
rated it it was amazing
Aug 08, 2019
Chantal Larochelle
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Mar 12, 2018
Helen Smith
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Feb 04, 2018
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