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Byron's GhostsThe Spectral, the Spiritual and the Supernatural$
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Gavin Hopps

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781846319709

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781846319709.001.0001

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Conjuration and Exorcism: Byron’s Spectral Rhetoric

Conjuration and Exorcism: Byron’s Spectral Rhetoric

(p.97) Chapter Four Conjuration and Exorcism: Byron’s Spectral Rhetoric
Byron's Ghosts

Dale Townshend

Liverpool University Press

Starting with reference to a hitherto unexamined tract, Spiritual Interview with Lord Byron (1880), and drawing on recent theoretical writing by Derrida and de Man on the signature and epitaphs, this chapter examines the spectral efficiency of Byron’s name and traces the shift in his conceptualization of fame from a positive ghostly entity that is actively pursued and invoked to a negative phantasm that is to be wholeheartedly rejected or exorcised. It emphasizes the way that Romanticism offers itself — even as it is preoccupied with ghosts of its own — ‘as an antidote to Gothic excess’. It highlights Byron’s more complex desire on the one hand to exploit what Wordsworth described as ‘this degrading thirst after outrageous stimulation’; and on the other to present the Gothic vogue for ghosts in a somewhat more positive light. The chapter then turns to Derrida’s Specters of Marx and relates its advocacy of ‘an ethics of ghostliness’ to the defiant elusiveness of Byron’s ghosts, in which the ineradicable alterity of the other is preserved.

Keywords:   Spiritual Interview with Lord Byron, Jacques Derrida, Paul de Man, fame, ghosts, Romanticism, Gothic

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