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The Trouble with Ghost-Seeing: Vision, Ideology, and Genre in the Victorian Ghost Story Author(s): Srdjan Smajic

Reviewed work(s): Source: ELH, Vol. 70, No. 4 (Winter, 2003), pp. 1107-1135 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/30029915 . Accessed: 07/03/2013 07:34
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THE TROUBLE WITH GHOST-SEEING: VISION, IDEOLOGY,AND GENRE IN THE VICTORIANGHOST STORY
BY SRDJANSMAJIC

Despite the immense popularityof ghost storiesin the nineteenth in the literaryperiodicalsof the time, centuryand their pervasiveness it appearswe are today as unlikely to see new scholarshipon the subject as we are to see an actualghost.' This curiousand persistent lack of scholarlyinterest, accordingto Julia Briggs, may in part be attributed to the elusive character of ghost fiction itself, a genre widely infamousfor being "atonce vast, amorphous,and notoriously That the generic boundariesof ghost fiction, as difficultto define."2 Briggs finds, inevitably collapse upon closer scrutiny is, however, something that may equally be said about any literary genre-the nineteenth-century realist novel is arguably even more vast and amorphousthan the ghost story, even more difficult to grasp as a unified textual body-nor has the increasinglyprevalent argument for the fluidity of generic markers and arbitrarinessof generic classificationsufficed to discreditterminallythe usefulness of genre theory,which has over the past couple of decades demonstratedits compatibilitywith the methods and practices of historically and culturallyfocused literarycriticism.' It seems that a more daunting and discouraging obstacle for literature negotiatingthe ghost story'srelationto nineteenth-century and culturehas been the conspicuousomnipresenceof the specter in Western literature.As Dorothy Scarboroughremarkedas early as 1917, the literaryghost "is absolutelyindestructible.... He appears as unapologetically at home in twentieth-century fiction as in classical Christian medieval hagiology, legend, or Gothic romance. mythology, He changes with the styles in fiction but he never goes out of Since ghosts evidently belong everywherein literaturefashion."'4 and consequently,one might say, nowhere in particular-the ghost storyappearsbetter adaptedto the climateof formalistor psychoanalytic, ratherthanhistoricist,readings.In fact,the genre as such seems to validateprecisely the type of criticismthat downplaysthe signifiELH 70 (2003) 1107-1135 2004 by The JohnsHopkinsUniversityPress

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cance of cultural and historical context and, instead, emphasizes the immutability of certain mythic structures or psychological constants (the ghost as a classic mythic figure, the ghost as a haunting reflection of the Unconscious).5 Compared to other genres of nineteenthcentury literature, and especially the realist novel, the ghost story's ethos appears not only anachronistic for its time but even fundamentally ahistorical; ghost stories are probably the last place one would think to look for evidence of how industrialization, Darwinism, or colonial expansion affected Victorian society and culture. It is as if the figure of the ghost demarcates the borders of an inhospitable, alien territory where social and political consciousness, the sense of literature's historical and cultural embeddedness, the intricate network of ties that bind literary to nonliterary practices and discourses, are somehow mysteriously effaced-temporarily suppressed or forgotten-or, at best, are just barely visible, themselves made insubstantial and spectral.6 That the nineteenth-century ghost story was "as typically part of the cultural and literary fabric of the age as imperial confidence or the novel of social realism," and that it is motivated by the impulse to orchestrate a particular kind of spectral narrative-one substantially different from late eighteenth-century Gothic romances, and in which representations of the spectral are directly informed by contemporary philosophical and scientific debates about vision and more apparent if we shift our attention from knowledge-become the ghost to the ghost-seer, from the spectral object of ghost-seeing to its human subject.' For if the specter is in some sense timeless, changing its appearance just enough to suit the sartorial fashion of the times, it bears repeating that theories of vision and ways of seeing are invariably contingent upon historical and cultural determinants.8 Michel Foucault's observations on the role of institutional surveillance in modern disciplinary regimes, Martin Jay'sanalysis of distinct and historically successive "scopic regimes" in Western culture, and Jonathan Crary'sdescription of the "dominant model" of the observer in the nineteenth century have suggested the need to insert the spectator into a complex network of sociocultural practices and discourses.9 Contributing to this trend, a number of recent critics have turned to Victorian visuality for new assessments of the formal properties and cultural agency of certain nineteenth-century literary genres, yet, in doing so, have typically set their sights on realist rather than supernatural fiction.'0 Elizabeth Ermarth, for instance, has persuasively shown how the concept of perspectival vision was 1108

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of the Englishrealistnovel arounda fixed, centralto the organization More recently,RonaldR. Thomashas of view. stable narrative point more particufiction (one of realism's detective that Victorian argued is underwritten larized and genericallysystematizedmanifestations) by the period's confidence in the readabilityof visual signifiers, amplifiedby the newly developing technologies of forensic science and techniques of surveillance." Although for different reasons, Ermarth and Thomas both maintain that the nineteenth-century discourse on vision, in the field of literary production as well as elsewhere,provedto be a powerfulideologicalagent in the construction, reification,and disseminationof certainnotionsabout truthand privireality.While Ermarthconvincinglyarguesthat the apparently world is at bottom text to the access of the realist phenomenal leged consensus between authorand audience about a matterof arbitrary how reality is perceived, and how it consequently ought to be represented,Thomas effectively demonstrateshow the institutional of new visual and forensic technologies enforced the appropriation sense of visible (and therefore supposedlyreal) racial,national,and class distinctionsin the nineteenth century. Ermarth'sand Thomas's astute assessments of the ideological underpinningsof Victorianvisual culture and discourse on vision, however, are compromised by their exclusive focus on the realist narrativeand enforce the notion that certain ways of seeing in the nineteenth-centuryare more exemplarythan others, because dominant or hegemonic. Yet while nineteenth-centuryrealist fiction, and the detective story especially,everywheredisplays signs of implicit faith in the epistemologicalvalue of sight and the universallegibility of visual signifiers,the ghost story,in contrast,provides a radically different perspective, both on the popular Victorian dictum that "seeing is believing"and the ideological dimensions of visualityin literatureand culture. Unlike the fictionaldetecnineteenth-century tive, who always knows what to look for and perceives hidden meaningsat a single glance,the fictionalghost-seeris typicallycaught in a disconcertingdouble bind between instinctivefaith in the evidence of one's sight and the troublingknowledgethat vision is often deceptive and unreliable: a subject precariouslypositioned at the crossroadsof ocularcentricfaith and anti-ocularcentric skepticism.'" as an early Reading Sir WalterScott's"TheTapestriedChamber" and representativeexampleof the genre, I will arguein what follows that the ghost story'scomplex negotiationsbetween faith and doubt in the epistemologicalvalue of sight are the result of an emerging SrdjanSmajic
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crisis in earlynineteenth-centurydiscourseon vision, a crisis shaped by two related and concurrentdevelopments:the rapidlydeclining influence of theology and metaphysical philosophyin formingpopular thinkingabout visual perception, and the disseminationof ideas through physiological science about the fundamentallysubjective characterof human vision. While nineteenth-centuryphysiological science could effectively rationalizethe appearanceof a specter as nothing more than a subjectiveoptical effect-an ephemeralimage that exists nowhere except in the deceived eye of the beholder, an illusion of evidence of the existence of an afterlife-the unsettling question that inevitably arose from such arguments, and which Victorianghost-storywriters often posed quite explicitly,was where precisely (if anywhereat all) to drawthe line between objectiveand subjective perception in general, between optical fact and optical illusion. 13 What I am suggestinghere, in effect, is that the ghost storybrings to the foreground,in ways that realistfiction generallydoes not, the often neglected fact that the very definition of "seeing,"in the Victorianpopularimagination,was an ontologicallycontested issue. While the only acceptable model of vision for nineteenth-century materialistphilosophy and science was of course the physiological one, vocal defenders of Christiandoctrine such as Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskinzealouslyargued for the primacyof spiritualvision and poignantlycontrastedthe limited capabilitiesof the bodily eye with the more valuable and permanent insights of spiritual and devotionalspectatorship.Yet, if believing demandsa certainkind of seeing-if to believe one has seen a ghost means, first of all, to believe that one's bodily sight can be trusted-it is precisely by the dubiousreliabilityof physiological sight, I will argue, dramatizing that the ghost story covertly invokes a form of spectatorshipthat meets the ghost on its own spectral terms. This silent invocation, however, is in the end little more than a reflection of nostalgic desire for a metaphysical, longingand frustrated theologicalmodel of vision that no longer seems plausible and believable in what Scott aptly describes as "anage of universalincredulity."'14
I.

"The Tapestried Chamber,"first published in The Keepsakeof 1829, describes the eerie nocturnalexperience of a certain General Browne, whose tour of the English countrysideaccidentallyleads

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him to the ancestralmansionof his long-lost friend Lord Woodville. Browne accepts Woodville'sinvitationto stay for the night, but the followingmorningappearsmuch disturbedand informshis host that he must leave on urgentbusiness. He eventuallyadmitsthat the real reasonfor his departureis that he had been visited by an apparition, a spectralwoman with a "diabolical countenance"and "agrin which seemed to intimate the malice and the derision of an incarnate fiend."'5As the other rooms had been occupied before Browne's Woodvillewas forced to reopen the allegedlyhaunted chamarrival, ber,but Browne's unexpectedvisit, the noblemanlaterconfesses,also of removingthe unpleasant "seemedthe most favourable opportunity rumourswhich attachedto the room."Browne,it turnsout, had been the unwitting subject of an experiment, an ideal candidate for exorcising certain "unpleasantrumours,"since his "courage was indisputable, and [his] mind free of any pre-occupationwith the subject" ("T," 139). Unfortunately, for Woodville, these rumors appearto be true after all; before takinghis leave, Brownevisits the Woodville gallery of family portraits where, in one painting, he immediately recognizes his spectral visitant: "'There she is!' he exclaimed, 'there she is, in form and features, though inferior in demoniacexpressionto, the accursedhag who visited me last night.'" Woodville,previouslya staunch skeptic on the subject of ghosts, is now satisfied that "there can remain no longer any doubt of the horriblerealityof your apparition. That is the picture of a wretched ancestressof mine, of whose crimes a black and fearful catalogueis recorded in a family history in my charter-chest."The narrative concludes with Browne's hasty departure, and Woodville'swelladviseddecision to reseal the hauntedchamberand "restoreit to the solitudeto which the betterjudgmentof those who preceded me had 141-42). consigned it" ("T," Seeing is believing, Scott's narrator unambiguously seems to suggest. But this suggestionis actuallyfar more hesitantand equivocal than it appears,and the storyis certainlynot what Briggscalls "a tale of a miserable night spent in a comparativelystraightforward haunted room."' In his essay, "On the Supernaturalin Fictitious Composition"(1827), Scott explains that "[t]he marvellous, more thananyother attributeof fictitiousnarrative, loses its effect by being much into view. The of brought imagination the reader is to be excited if possible, without being gratified.""Supernaturalfiction, Scott believes, should be subtly provocativeratherthan declarative, suggestive rather than bluntly explicit. What is "brought. . . into
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view,"both literally(throughvisualimagery)and figuratively (through verbal explication), ought to remain just barely visible, glimpsed ratherthan fully seen. Such a narrativemust occupy a liminal space between expressionsof faith and doubt, belief and skepticism,and it is precisely to the extent that it managesto maintainthis liminality that the fiction succeeds or fails to do justice to Scott'sconcept of the In "The TapestriedChamber"Scott follows his own "marvellous." advice by carefully sustaininga sense of ambiguityconcerning the most importantfacts. Key descriptions,for example,are purposefully vague; the tantalizedreader is left to speculate-to imagine, that is, but also to engage in a sort of imaginative,interior spectatorshipor the unfathomwhat the spectralwoman's"diabolical countenance" able "grinwhich seemed to intimatethe maliceand the derisionof an incarnatefiend" might actuallylook like. The central image in the story is slightly out of focus, somewhat like a blurryphotographin which one can just barelydiscern the outlines of a person or object: "Upon a face which wore the fixed features of a corpse were imprinted the traces of the vilest and most hideous passionswhich had animatedher while she lived" ("T,"136). The traces of certain unspeakable passions are clearly there to be seen-signs which, attest to unmistakably "imprinted" upon a textualizedphysiognomy, the woman'shideous past, and whose visibility and legibility have become accentuated in the afterlife-but seen by Browne rather than Scott's reader, who must therefore trust another'seyes and believe, as it were, without seeing. Scott chooses his words with deliberationand strategicallyavoids visual clarity,but also suggests vision lies altogetherbeyond the graspof that Browne's extraordinary that the ghost is quite literallyindescribable, descriptivelanguage: and that to trulybelieve in it one would have to see it with one'sown itself eyes.18 Like these moments of visual opaqueness,the narrative and unfulfilled promises appearsincomplete,punctuatedby omissions of explication. One would like to know what abominable deeds Woodville's ancestress,doomed to revisitthe scene of her past crimes, had committed in the ill-fated chamber.The chest containingthis darksecret of "vilestand most hideous passions"remainsunder lock and key--a partof the storythat,we are told, alreadyexistsin writing, but which Woodville(for reasonsof decorum)declines to sharewith Browne, or ratherScott (for purposes of effect) with the reader. the mostimportant Yetthe story's question-did ambiguity regarding after see a all, really Browne, ghost?-is sustainednot by withholding informationbut, on the contrary, by presentinga numberof rational
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explanations for spectral appearances that only further complicate the argument for believing one's own eyes. It is little known that Scott had published a shorter version of the same story in 1818, under the nondescript title "Story of an Apparition."19 In rewriting and considerably expanding the original text, Scott changed the characters names and the year of the event, and made the story, in some sense, more literary than it was in its previous anecdotal form by developing the plot and characterization, and by accentuating the elements of drama and mystery. Characteristically for Scott, the most significant revision in "The Tapestried Chamber" comes in the form of something that is stated obliquely and briefly: "Lord Woodville never once asked [Browne] if he was sure he did not dream of the apparition, or suggested any of the possibilities by which it is fashionable to explain apparitions,--wild vagaries of the fancy, or deception of the optic nerves." Browne, the narrator informs us, "spoke with such a deep air of conviction" about his nightmarish vision, "that it cut short all the usual commentaries which are made on such stories" ("T,"138). Even though both versions conclude with Browne's identification of the spectral woman from a portrait and the author's suggestion that Browne indeed did see a ghost, this claim becomes far more dubious in "The Tapestried Chamber," where the reader is invited to consider a variety of "fashionable" explanations and alerted to "the usual commentaries of skeptics": the whole episode could have been a vivid dream, a fanciful construct of Browne's excited imagination, or, finally, an optical illusion. All three theories would have sounded plausible to Scott's readers, but by 1829 the most fashionable explanation, as Scott knew, was increasingly becoming the optical one.20 Early nineteenth-century research in physiological optics gave rise to a new type of scientific literature on the subject of ghosts, with which Scott was well acquainted, and in which the specter was repeatedly described as a perfectly normal optical effect rather than a dream-vision or bizarre product of an overactive, unhealthy imagination. Compared to traditional theories that attributed ghosts to certain "wild vagaries of the fancy,"whether waking or dreaming, the physiological argument had the advantage of explaining how ghosts could appear to persons of sound mind and sound vision, even if they were convinced that what they were seeing was only an optical illusion. The deeper epistemological implications of this argument, however, were often rather disconcerting, as they pointed to a serious theoretical and methodological obstacle for modern empirical science. For although the Srdjan Smajic 1113

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immediate purpose of works such as John Ferriar's pioneering An a Towards and Samuel Hibbert's (1813) Essay Theoryof Apparitions Sketchesof the Philosophyof Apparitions (1824) was to burst the bubble of superstitionwith the fine point of scientific fact, and thus complete the Enlightenmentproject of exorcisingthe specter from the popular imagination,new theories about ghosts also effectively undermined the Enlightenment imperative for absolute scientific the subjectivenatureof sensorypercepobjectivityby foregrounding and the tion, especiallysight, ensuing uncertaintiesof all knowledge derived from empiricalinvestigation. Ferriarthus explains that, while "spectraldelusions"may sometimes be attributedto "certaindiseases of the brain,such as delirium which effect a "peculiarcondition of the sensorium," and insanity," are also they frequently experienced by healthy persons under conditions favorable to the "renewal of external impressions."2' Apparitions,in Ferriar'sopinion, are nothing more than occasional re-visions of things previously seen, past impressions that have temporarilybeen brought back to life. This means, though, that ghosts are more than just particularlyvivid visual memories. The reanimatedimpression, Ferriar claims, affects the visual nerves in exactly the same way it had in the past, so that even though the perceivedimage is not what it seems to be (it does not correspondto anythingactuallypresent before one's eyes), the observerneverthemore subtlythanhis less reallysees something.Hibbertdiscriminates internal between external and impressions,which he predecessor uses to distinguishbetween sensations and ideas, but reaches the same conclusion. Because "an idea is nothing more than a past to the feeling renovatedwith a diminutionof vividnessproportional science and since of the physiological intensity originalimpression," shows "that the susceptibilityof the mind to sensations and ideas ought to refer to similar circumstances of corporeal structure," Hibbert maintains "that organs of sense are the actual medium through which past feelings are renovated."The bodily senses, in other words, are not merely passive receptors of external impressions, as it had been previouslybelieved, since "the retina may be shewn,when subjectedto strongexcitements,to be no less the organ of ideas than of sensations."22 With the publication of David Brewster'sinfluential Letters on Natural Magic (1832), the figure of the specter becomes integralto the physiologicalstudy of vision-as the quintessentialexample of the optical illusion and demonstrationof the eye's inherentlyflawed 1114
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structure--but also to the popularization of physiological optics as the most efficient and scientifically rigorous approach to understanding the complex phenomenon of human perception. Whereas Hibbert, at one point, suggests that specters are pictures painted in the mind's eye, Brewster, in response, explains "that the 'mind's eye' is actually the body's eye, and that the retina is the common tablet on which both classes of impressions are painted, and by means of which they receive their visual existence according to the same optical laws.""23 For Brewster the specter is entirely an optical effect; to speak of something as intangible and vague as the mind's eye not only unnecessarily complicates matters that can sufficiently be elucidated by physiological optics, but also leads into that hazy sphere of inquiry where empirical science degenerates into obscure and imprecise metaphysical speculation. But exposing the ghost as an optical illusion is, for Brewster, ultimately less important than vindicating the suspect notion that seeing is believing. By better understanding the precise physiological causes that produce optical deceptions, Brewster implies, it will become possible to distinguish with greater certainty between subjective and objective perceptions, and hence between subjective interpretations of reality and objective scientific facts. Brewster was aware that this position is more tenable if one regards vision as exclusively retinal and questions of perceptual psychology as secondary.24Other contemporary physiologists, however, such as Charles Wheatstone, found the objective-subjective distinction altogether arbitrary, since all sensory experiences "are subjective, i.e. in the mind; and were we, without qualification, to admit the classification of phenomena into objective and subjective, we should be unable to determine, with any degree of accuracy, where the objective ends or the subjective begins."25 For his adamant defense of the retinal basis of human vision, and the premise that objective and subjective perception are fundamentally distinct categories, Brewster was in fact less indebted to the work of fellow scientists such as Hibbert (whose reference to the mind's eye in some ways anticipated Wheatstone's relativism on the subject), than Walter Scott's widely read Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft (1830).26 Although Scott acknowledges the effect of "the excited imagination acting upon the half-waking senses," and concedes that the "imagination, favoured by circumstances, has power to summon up to the organ of sight, spectres which only exist in the mind of those by whom their apparition seems to be witnessed," he

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nevertheless stronglyprefers the physiologicalexplanationover the psychologicalone.27


But the disorder to which I previously alluded is entirely of a bodily character, and consists principally in a disease of the visual organs, which present to the patient a set of spectres or appearances which have no actual existence. It is a disease of the same nature which renders many men incapable of distinguishing colours; only the patients go a step further, and pervert the external form of objects. In their case, therefore, contrary to that of the maniac, it is not the mind, or rather the imagination,which imposes upon and overpowers the evidence of the senses, but the sense of seeing (or hearing) which betrays its duty and conveys false ideas to a sane intellect. (L, 22)

Like a piece of faulty,unreliableequipment,in certainsituationsthe organ of sight fails to function properly-or refuses to do so, as if it had a will of its own-and confuses the mind with misleading information."In such unhappycases,"Scott goes on to explain,"the patient is intellectuallyin the conditionof a generalwhose spies have been bribed by the enemy, and who must engage himself in the difficult and delicate task of examiningand correcting,by his own powers of argument, the probabilityof the reports which are too inconsistentto be trusted"(L, 35).28 Scott'suse of the militaryidiom (the duties and betrayalsof the "bribed"sensorium) expresses his militantattitude towardspecters:like spies, who seek to destabilize the body politic from within, ghosts must be identified and eliminated-or rather, their precise cause must be scientificallydetermined so that the effects they produce (fearand superstition)maybe dispelled once and for all. But the claimthat the ghost-seeris a pathologicalsubjectsuffering from "a disease of the visual organs"(a disease that, like shortsightednessor glaucoma,may presumablybe treated and corrected) is somewhat at odds with the physiologicalexplanationthat Scott endorses here. Scott himself admits as much when, echoing Ferriar and Hibbert, he observes that "[t]he same species of organic dewhich causes certainindividuals to habituallysee apparirangement" tions "mayoccupy,for a brief or almostmomentaryspace, the vision of men who are otherwiseperfectlyclear-sighted" (L, 35). The ghost, it seems, can never be wholly exorcised from the field of vision. A momentary lapse from objective to subjective perception-from veridicalto pervertedperception of "the externalform of objects"is not, properly speaking, a derangement or disease, but, as Scott
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here suggests,a normalconditionof the humansensorium.One may cease to believe in the existence of ghosts, in other words, having understoodwhy and how they appear,but this does not mean that one will stop seeing them. Yet Scott, it is important to note, is finally less anxious than Brewster to rescue physiological vision from the vicissitudes of and doubt, and his insistence on pathologizingthe ghostuncertainty seer in the end serves to supporta very different kind of argument about seeing and believing.29 Scott'simpatiencewith popularsuperstition indicates not the intolerance of a modern scientist toward metaphysicalor religious concepts, but instead points to his deeply felt concern about the increasinglack of faith in what necessarilylies beyond the reach of the bodily senses: in things that must be apprehendedintuitivelyrather than empirically,by relying on faith rather than reason and through other channels of perception than those of the body. The widespread belief in ghosts-and, more the belief that ghosts can be perceived with the problematically, and only with the bodily eye-exemplifies for Scott the bodily eye, decline of genuine religious conviction. "Unaided by revelation," Scott observes, "it cannot be hoped that mere earthlyreason should be able to form any rationalor precise conjecture concerning the destination of the soul when parted from the body" (L, 11). But revelations offered to the bodily senses are, not any less so than "mereearthlyreason,"precisely the wrong way to go about forming such conjectures, since the knowledge they give rise to will itself necessarilybe conjectural,vague, and imprecise. No longer capable of intuitivelygraspingthe divine nature of the universe and perceiving things with the inner, spiritual senses, the modern spectator desperatelyseeks surrogateforms of proof that, in essence, conform to the evidential rules of empirical science: "[T]he conviction that such an indestructibleessence [the soul] exists . . . must infer the existence of many millions of spiritswho have not been annihilated, though they have become invisibleto mortalswho still see, hear,and (L, 11). perceive, only by meansof the imperfectorgansof humanity" The physiologicalsensorium is imperfect, Scott suggests, not only because it is difficult to separate objective from subjectiveperceptions, as physiologicalscience had amply demonstrated,but, more because there are some things that can never be seen importantly, with the bodily eye nor heard with the bodily ear. It is, thus, not so much the concept of ghost-seeing itself that Scott so vehemently objects to here, and which he considers a symptomratherthan the
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cause of the problem, but instead the kind of belief-an ineffectual, half-hearted,ghostly remnantof resolute Christianfaith-that such spectatorship,bound by the physical body and bound to produce epistemological uncertainty,necessarily privileges. For Scott, the increasingimpetus in the early nineteenth century to believe that ghosts can be seen with the bodily eye (if only occasionallyand unexpectedly), registers, more alarmingly,other indicators of religious doubt: the profound crisis of the spectator'sfaith in things invisible, and the displacementof intuitive, faith-centeredforms of human knowledgeby the inflexiblelogic of Enlightenmentrationalism and skepticalempiricism.
II.

The realization that physiological science was, in some ways,doing more to confuse than clarifythe difference between optical illusion and optical fact became useful to the proponents of a radically different model of spectatorship.In Carlyle's SartorResartus(1833commitsthe fatalerrorof forsak1834), the anti-heroTeufelsdr6ckh ing his divine gift of spiritualvision for the short-sightedeyes of misdirectedquestion, "Where skepticalempiricism.Teufelsdr6ckh's is the Godhead;our eyes never saw him!,"encapsulatesfor Carlyle the distressingly common error of seeking evidence of spiritual existence with the bodily eye.30 "Till the eye have vision," the misguided Professor eventuallylearns, "the whole members are in bonds"(SR, 146). With the re-openingof his inner eye, the Professor "becomes a Seer" in what Carlyle suggests is the true and original meaningof this word:"Ina word, he has looked fixedlyon Existence, have all melted till one afterthe other,its earthlyhulls and garnitures, of Holies, celestial now his vision the and to interior, Holy rapt away; of reclamation lies disclosed"(SR, 187). As a resultof Teufelsdrickh's in the reclamation which also marks the vision, turningpoint spiritual of his soul, he perceives that all matter is ephemeral and the corporeal body itself nothing but a spectral appearance,a ghostly illusion of human essence: "Ghosts! There are nigh a thousand million walking the Earth openly at noontide; some half-hundred have vanished from it, some half-hundredhave arisen in it, ere thy watch ticks once." Not only do ghosts walk among the living, then, but the living too are "[s]pirits,that are shaped into a body, into an (SR, Appearance;and that fade awayagain into air, and Invisibility" of Christianfaith as one is likely to 194). As energetic an affirmation 1118
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find anywhere, Sartor Resartus may be read as, among other things, a sort of instruction manual for the modern ghost-seer, a timely response to writers such as Ferriar, Hibbert, and Brewster, whose understanding of vision was far too restrictive for Carlyle's taste. If one wishes to catch a "glimpse of IMMORTALITY,"Carlyle advises his readers, in language permeated with visual terminology and optical references, one must learn (or rather relearn) to look with altogether different eyes-otherwise "the white Tomb of our Loved One," like the optical ghost, will become nothing but "a pale spectral Illusion!" (SR, 192). That the problem of the relationship between inner and outer vision would become central to spiritualist arguments in the second half of the century, and to the type of ghost story inaugurated by Scott, is already apparent in Catherine Crowe's The Night-Side of Nature (1848), one of the most popular studies on ghosts and collections of allegedly true ghost stories of its time. Empirical observation is, according to Crowe, at once the only legitimate mode of investigation in matters concerning ghosts and, paradoxically, the most unreliable method imaginable, since ghosts can be perceived only with the intuitive inner sense: In the spirit in bothconjoined, or soul,or rather also,the power dwells, of spiritual for,asthereis a spiritual seeing,orintuitive knowing; body, there is a spiritual ear, and so forth;or, to speak eye, and a spiritual more correctly,all these sensuousfunctionsare comprisedin one universal sense, which does not need the aid of the bodilyorgans; is most efficientwhen mostfreed fromthem.31 but, on the contrary, Following Carlyle's lead, Crowe reminds her readers that in regard to "the term invisible world . . . what we call seeing is merely the function of an organ constructed for that purpose in relation to the external world; and so limited are its powers, that we are surrounded by many things in that world which we can not see without the aid of artificial appliances and many other things which we can not see even with them" (N, 21-22). The urgent question, "whether the apparitions are subjective, or objective, that is, whether they are the mere phenomena of a disease, or real out-standing appearances," must therefore be decided by considering the evidence of intuitive perception alone: by treating ghost-sightings as experiences that fall under the domain of "this universal sense, latent within us," and belonging to an order of "perceptions which are not comprised within the functions of our bodily organs" (N, 22-23). Srdjan Smajic

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But if questionsconcerningghosts can be conclusivelysettled only by appealing to the universal sense-which obviously contradicts of empirical Crowe'spreviousargumentaboutthe supremeauthority evidence-the very existence of this hidden, intuitive channel of communicationcan be adducedin no other way than intuitively,and must consequentlyremainpurelyhypothetical,although"anhypothesis which, whoever believes that we are immortalspirits, incorporatedfor a seasonin a materialbody,can scarcelyreject"(N, 23). One of the numerous real-life ghost stories Crowe cites concludes with the ghost-seer's assertionthat "itis impossiblefor me ever to doubt or to deny thatwhich I know I saw"(N, 204). Seeing is believing,Crowe proposesto demonstratethroughthis and a host of similarexamples, but this kind of spectatorshipfinally has very little to do with the are to have any privilegeduniversalsense. If reportedghost-sightings evidentialvalue whatsoever,Crowe admitsthat they must belong to the same order of verifiableobservationsthat characterizerigorous empiricalinquiry.32 By the time Ruskin,in an 1872 lecture titled "TheRelationto Art of the Science of Light," turned his attention to the distinction between spiritualand physiological vision, it is evident that the strict and outer senses demandedby Carlylewas between inner separation no longer feasible. Ruskinasks his audience to remember "thatthe words fiat lux' mean indeed 'fiat anima,'because even the power of the eye itself, as such, is in its animation.Youdo not see with the lens of the eye. You see through that, and by means of that, but you see with the soul of the eye.""33 Responding to a comment made by a Ruskin that sightwas 'altogethermechanical,"' "greatphysiologist... "that all his mean is these words that what actually causticallyreplies him between the difference had never eyes and taught physiology telescopes. Sight is an absolutelyspiritualphenomenon;accurately, and only, to be so defined; and the 'Let there be light,' is as much, when you understandit, the orderingof intelligence, as the ordering of vision"(R, 194-95). True sight is "no mechanicalvision,"Ruskin insists, and this indisputablefact best accounts for the discrepancy between the higher "moralpower"of human beings and their poor or "metric vision," when compared to the optical "mathematical" of other creatures(R, 201). As with Carlyle's Teufelsdr6ckh, prowess one kind of seeing is enhancedat the cost of another;their respective opposed. If powers are mutuallycontingentbut alwaysdiametrically "the science of optics is an essential one to us," Ruskinadds, this is because it demonstratesthat "exactlyaccording to these infinitely
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grotesque directions and multiplicationsof instrument you have correspondent,not only intellectualbut moral,facultyin the soul of the creatures"(R, 200). In another lecture, however, delivered three years later, Ruskin vision"by instructing subvertshis previous criticismof "mechanical his audienceto use their bodilyeyes to judge for themselveswhether science are well-founded certaintheories advancedby contemporary was Ruskin or not. More precisely, responding to the claims of who ascertainedthat there are Charles Lyell and other geologists "three great demonstrable periods of the Earth'shistory. That in that in which it was sculptured;and that in which it was crystallized; which it is now being unsculptured,or deformed."34 Examiningthe same evidence Ruskin sees signs of permanence where geologists perceive change and progressivedeterioration.To anyonewho cares to observe nature attentively,he asserts,the shape of the landscape or so softly modified that eye can scarcely will appear"[u]nchanged, trace, or memory measure, the work of time" ("A,"120). One need contoursto only pay attentionto the permanence of the landscape's see that the geologists are profoundlymistaken.Seeing is believing, in otherwords,because the universaland unchangingbook of nature, testifies to the truth of to those who have eyes to see, unambiguously belief is doctrine. consequentlypredicatednot on Religious religious the intuitive revelationsof spiritualvision, which looks beyond the questionablefacts of materialrealityto apprehenda higher and more enduring order of truth, but on physical evidence brought to light through "mechanicalvision." For Ruskin, the value of empirical scientifictheories,which observationlies not in contestingparticular can sometimes be refuted simply by looking at what scientists prefer not to see, but, more generally,in demonstratdisingenuously illusions and self-deceptions of materialistscience. By the gross ing standard towardphysiologicalsight, Ruskinends a double adopting of something like a double vision: the the exercise up advocating who desires to see things in their true light must learn to spectator switch back and forth between two ways of seeing, to alternate between two conceptualmodels of vision-or perhapsuse both pairs with "thelens of the of eyes at once, observingthings simultaneously and "the soul of the eye" eye." lectures to restore sense of urgencyin Ruskin's The unmistakable faith in the spirituality of sight, in part reflects his distressing realizationthat he is arguingfor a lost cause, that spiritualvision as such belongs to an irretrievable cultural past and that modern SrdjanSmajic
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religious conviction (if it is to be a conviction in any meaningful sense of the word) demands the reassurance of verifiable empirical evidence. Whereas for Carlyle spiritual and bodily vision are mutually incompatible and fundamentally antagonistic, Ruskin, like Crowe, finds he must negotiate more cautiously between the two models of perception to construct a theoretical and methodological compromise between intuitive and empirical knowledge. Since a return to a previous model of spectatorship requires a leap of faith that his audience may be unwilling or unable to make, Ruskin must concede that it is only through the external eye of the body that one can perceive things with the inner eye of the soul. Ruskin's forced compromise suggests that, certainly by the 1870s, and even for writers who refused to give up on the doctrine of intuition and inner vision, the physiological model of sight had become indispensable for making seeing a plausible argument for believing. The most Ruskin can hope to accomplish, by making ample use of biblical references to strike a sympathetic cord in his audience, is to ask the spectator to read (or view) the book of nature from a devotional, rather than skeptical and rigidly materialist, point of view.
III.

Nineteenth-century ghost fiction, as Scott's example shows, provides one of the earliest (if not most explicit) indicators of the ascending hegemony of the physiological model and its increasing indispensability to theological arguments about seeing and believing. While Browne's reaction to his spectral visitant leaves us unenlightened about the varied emotional and intellectual responses to apparitions in the nineteenth century (not all ghost-seers were shocked and appalled to encounter a ghost), in other ways Browne represents what one might regard as the quintessential ghost-seer-not so much, that is, because he hesitates to believe in the evidence of his bodily sight, but rather because it is only this kind of seeing that Scott's spectator is capable of trusting or imagining. The scene in the haunted chamber, where Browne comes face to face with a figure that challenges (as only a ghost can) the limits of a materialist epistemological and ontological frame of reference, is at the same time a scene in which this paradigm is enforced or implicitly endorsed on the level of the all important visual experience itselfprecisely that experience in the story which appears to testify (as only seeing can) that there is more to human existence than mere flesh

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and bones, more to the possible range of human knowledge than what the physiologicalsensorium makes apprehensible and knowable. There is thus an ideologicalparadoxof sortsto be located at the very center of this dramaticscene of spectralityand spectatorshipone that eschews an unequivocalpronouncementon the veracityor makes"TheTapestried usefulnessof bodilysight,andthatin retrospect a tale but about haunting-or Chamber"anything straightforward more precisely,a paradoxthat relocates the haunted site elsewhere than in the haunted chamber (which, after all, is only its incidental, confined stage, the place where it plays itself out in a architecturally particularbut repeatable situation), and squarelywithin the larger discursiveterrainI have charted above. What Scott describes in his Letters as "the imperfect organs of humanity," and which so often form the external of that can objects" "pervert they hardlybe deemed function here as both an ineffectual trustworthy, surrogatefor the inner senses and a means of legitimizingandverifyingthe theological visionof the ghost assumes argumentfor spiritualexistence. Browne's the natureof what Scott describes as "revelation" the revelationof the existence and omnipresence of things unseen and unseeablebut a revelationthat requires the interventionand mediatingpresence of what can, after all is said and done, be seen with the bodily eye. To trulybelieve in the unseen means first of all to unconditionally believe in evidence of the seen. The model of spectatorshipthat informs Scott'sconstruct of the ghost-seer is, therefore, more directly in line with the investigative methods of nineteenth-century philosophicalskepticismand evidential rules of materialist science than with Carlyle's,Crowe's, and Ruskin'smetaphysicallyand theologically informed arguments for spiritualvision. And yet, what earlynineteenth-century physiological science makes amply evident, inadvertently developing a counterdiscourse to its own rationalizing imperativesand ideological agendas,is that the validityof empiricalevidence in general,and the evidence of bodily sight especially,demands the same kind of blind and somewhat irrationalleap of faith that spiritualistslike Crowe demandedfor inner vision-faith in what turns out to be little more than a shaky hypothesis, an assumptionthat, in the end, must be accepted at face value if it is to be accepted at all. The cultural hegemony of the secular,physiologicalmodel-epitomized by that strictly optical or retinal encounter in "The TapestriedChamber" between ghost and ghost-seer, specter and spectator-is paradoxicallyundermined(andnot only in Scott'sstory)fromwithin,that is by

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precisely those philosophical and scientific discourses which aimed to establish its exclusive purchase on reality and truth. "It is easy to suppose," Scott writes in the last installment to his Letters, where he almost directly quotes from his own ghost story, that "the visionary has been imposed upon by a lively dream, a waking reverie, the excitation of a powerful imagination, or the misrepresentation of a diseased organ of sight" (L, 285). As in "The Tapestried Chamber," the optical explanation appears last in a list of plausible theories, not because it is the least likely one, however, but because Scott wishes to emphasize, once again, the difference between traditional views on ghosts, founded on a dubious understanding of human psychology, and more recent, compelling explanations drawn from physiological science-explanations which, while suggesting that ghosts are always and only subjective optical phenomena, bring into question the dubious distinction between optical facts and optical illusions. More than that, such theories inadvertently and invariably problematize the impulse to equate a certain kind of vision with direct knowledge of facts and truths, thus exposing the deficiencies and contradictions of a rigidly mechanistic theory of sight and accentuating the possible epistemological limitations imposed on the subject of knowledge by the physiological sensorium. Numerous writers who followed Scott's example, and who contributed far more prolifically than Scott to the ghost story'siconic cultural status in the nineteenth century, made the reference to optical illusions a staple of the genre. The narrator in Sheridan Le Fanu's "An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street" (1853), disturbed by the repeated appearance of an intrusive and not very amicable ghost, takes comfort in the possibility that the apparition may have been "an ocular delusion," in other words, that the ghost is "subjective (to borrow the technical slang of the day) and not the palpable aggression and intrusion of an external agent."35The ghost-seer in Amelia Edwards's "The New Pass" (1873), confronted by a more benevolent apparition, similarly refuses to trust the evidence of his senses and prefers instead to believe that he "laboured under some kind of optical illusion."36 In both cases, however, certain details seem to verify the reality of the ghost-seer's vision. The recurrent ghost of the infamous hanging judge in Le Fanu's story finally appears wearing a rope around his neck and standing close to a banister where he had hanged himself several years before. In "The New Pass" the ghost is seen by both the narrator, Legrice, and the dead man's brother. Legrice describes the apparition in striking

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detail, and his companion, who reenacts the role of Woodville in Scott'sstory,has good reasonto insist on the realityof what they had seen: "[Y]oudescribed my brother Lawrence-age, height, dress, everything;even to the Scotch cap he alwayswore, and the silver He got that scarin badge my uncle Horace gave him on his birthday. a cricket-match at Harrogate." Legrice consequentlymuses: "WellI would never disbelieve in hallucinationsagain. To that I made up my mind;but as for ghosts ... pshaw!"37 Legrice'sflippantlydismissive attitude, even after his skepticism has been parriedby apparentlyincontrovertible proof, calls to mind Scott'sevaluation"of what are called real ghost stories,"and where "the evidence with respect to such apparitions is very seldom accuratelyor distinctly questioned" (L, 285). While the evidential details in these allegedly factualnarrativesseem to speak for themselves, Scott maintainsit is far more likely that the narrator,after withrespectto the apparition," beingasked"someunimportant question hadprovided"afeatureof minuteevidencewhichwas beforewanting, and this with perfect unconsciousnesson his own part" (L, 285). Eyewitnesstestimony,Scotthere suggests,is a highlyunreliableform of evidence, not just because the alleged ghost-seer might unwittinglyor deliberatelyfabricatepartsof the storyto lend it credibility, but, more importantly,because the organ of sight is so easily and deceived thatthe testimony,no matterhow impeccablethe habitually characterof the eyewitness may be, should alwaysbe taken with a grain of salt. Legrice pushes this anti-ocularcentric skepticismto its limits. Havingconsulted "withmore than one eminent physicianon this very subject," and all but quoting from Scott's or Brewster's Letters in support of his argument, he adamantly sticks to his preferred "illusiontheory."The fact that the alleged ghost appears just in time to prevent the two men from entering a perilous mountainpass, which soon after collapses, does little to change his mind, as Legrice ascribes their narrowescape to "the delay consequent upon my illusion"ratherthan to a benevolent spectral intervention.38

"The TapestriedChamber"presents a prototype of the kind of ghost story later made popular by writers such as Le Fanu and Edwards,where the question of the ghost'srealitycannot satisfactorily be decided either throughthe accumulationof coincidences and suggestive details (which can be rejected as precisely nothing more than that, coincidental and merely suggestive), or by weighing the eyewitness'stestimony.If visions such as Browne'scarryany evidenSrdjanSmajic 1125

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tial import, it is, first of all, to suggest something about the difficulty of generating or substantiating belief from sensory perceptions, no matter how convincing and conclusive certain observed details may appear to be. What, then, are we to make of that second, arguably more important scene of spectatorship in "The Tapestried Chamber" where Browne identifies his spectral visitant from a painted portrait? The moment of identification (of "revelation") follows just shortly after Woodville's tourguide-like explanation of other notable portraits in the gallery: whohadruined the estatein the royal Here,wasa cavalier cause; there, a fineladywhohadreinstated it by contracting a match witha wealthy round-head.There, hung a gallantwho had been in danger for withthe exiledcourtat SaintGermain's; here,one who corresponding andthere,a thirdthathad hadtakenarmsforWilliam at the revolution; thrown hisweightalternately intothe scaleof whigandtory.("T," 141) The Woodville portrait gallery narrates both a personal and national history, and depicts, through a chronologically ordered succession of images, the memorialized places and moments where the two intersected, for better or for worse. But the images themselves would be mute without an interpretive voiceover-they would not be images that are just (truthful and truth-telling) but precisely "just images."39While it would seem that Browne's epiphanic recognition of Woodville's ancestress from a portrait ratifies the notion that seeing warrants believing, it is none other than the ghost-seer himself who makes the crucial connection between apparition and portrait, the two separate appearances of what is ostensibly the same subject. If physiological sight is initially declared suspect in the story, by reminding the reader of the fashionable optical explanation of spectral appearances, its subsequent vindication in Scott's story is equally uncertain because the same spectator who had previously seen a ghost now identifies it with the image in the painting. Unlike so-called accidental colors-sometimes also referred to as phantasms or ocular spectra-which exist only in the eye of the beholder, one can reasonably assume that painted images are stable and exist But external (and externally perindependently of the observer.40 ceived) images of any kind, Scott implies, never speak for themselves; the evidential value of any object in the field of bodily vision, whether fleeting or fixed, spectral or physical, is always a matter of subjective interpretation.

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Considering Scott's serious reservations about purportedly true ghost stories, it is finally important to consider why he should have authored such a story himself. Scott even suggests that the narrative is based on actual events, "related, more than twenty years since, by the celebrated Miss Seward, of Lichfield,"who "alwaysaffirmed that she had derived her information from an authentic source, although she suppressed the names of the two persons chiefly concerned" (L, 123-24). To dispel doubt in the trustworthiness of Miss Seward's account, Scott reports that he has since then learned the identity of the persons involved and the precise location of the incident, but has judiciously decided to let these particulars "rest under the same general description in which they were first related to me" (L, 124). Whether Scott intended to present "The Tapestried Chamber" to The Keepsake's readers as a real ghost story or as a piece of fiction that ironically simulates, and thereby undermines the evidential claims of such narratives, perhaps becomes more clear if we consider it in light of Scott's effort to construct a type of supernatural narrative significantly different from the Gothic romances of Ann Radcliffe. From an aesthetic point of view, Scott finds it difficult to commend "the rule which the author imposed upon herself, that all the circumstances of her narrative, however mysterious and apparently superhuman, were to be accounted for on natural principles at the winding up of the story" ("AR,"326-27). The conclusions to Radcliffe's novels are disappointingly anticlimactic because "the imagination has been kept in suspense, and is at length imperfectly gratified by an explanation falling short of what the reader has expected" ("AR,"329). The vast machinery Radcliffe sets in motion is finally dissembled, toppling like a house of cards: "[T]he reader feels tricked, and, like a child who has once seen the scenes of a theatre too nearly, the idea of pasteboard, cords, and pulleys destroys forever the illusion with which they were first seen from the proper point of view" ("AR,"330). Scott contrasts Radcliffe's ineffectual strategy with that of some modern authors ... who have endeavoured,ingeniously betwixtancientfaithand modernincredulity. enough,to compound They have exhibitedphantomsand narratedpropheciesstrangely withoutgivinga definedor absoluteopinionwhether accomplished, these are to be referredto supernatural agency, or whether the were produced(no uncommoncase) by an overheated apparitions and the accompanying imagination, presagesby a casual,though coincidence of circumstances. ("AR," 328) singular,

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Such fictional narratives, Scott believes, entail a radically different approach to the supernatural and spectral; indeed, they belong to an altogether different genre of fiction, where ambiguity is sustained throughout and no "defined or absolute opinion" is offered. In "The Tapestried Chamber," it is not the imagination, however, but the dubious veracity of bodily sight-that single but centrally important reference in the story to a possible "deception of the optic nerves"that makes it difficult for the reader to embrace without hesitation Woodville's final pronouncement. Scott remarks that this novel strategy leads to "an evasion of the difficulty, not a solution," but nevertheless believes that, such a upon the whole, this is the most artfulmode of terminating with the taste tale of wonder,as it formsthe meansof compounding thosewho, like children,demand of two differentclassesof readers; shall andincidentof the narrative circumstance thateach particular be fully accounted for; and the more imaginativeclass, who, a moonlight menthatwalkforpleasure landscape, through resembling withwhich minuteness aremoreteasedthanedifiedby the intrusive some well-meaningcompaniondisturbstheir reveries, divesting stock and stone of the shadowysemblancesin which fancy had dressed them, and pertinaciously restoringto them the ordinary meannessof reality.("AR," formsand commonplace 328-29) If not with "Story of an Apparition," which appeared pseudonymously, then certainly after the publication of "The Tapestried Chamber," Scott would have had to include himself in this group of "artful"and distinctly modern writers of ghost fiction, who manage to appeal to both the skeptic and the believer, courting rational explanations and drawing upon contemporary scientific theories only to show that these do not suffice to solve the mystery of the spectral. For while Scott recognizes in his Letters that the popular demand for ghost stories, especially those which purport to be veridical, reflects the growing need for empirical verification of things which ought to be perceived and understood intuitively, he privately acknowledges that a kind of ghost story in which the distinction between objective and subjective perception, between optical fact and optical illusion, appears entirely arbitrarymay produce a productively destabilizing effect: that such narratives can serve to challenge, if only indirectly and implicitly, the hegemony of the physiological model of vision and a way of seeing which always seems to promise more than it can deliver. The revelations experienced through bodily 1128

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sight are, at once, the only revelations Scott's readers, living in "an age of universal incredulity," can accept as trustworthy, as well as revelations of the manifest ineffectuality of bodily sight to provide a solid foundation for religious belief, for that supremely important knowledge of the final "destination of the soul." The soul that lingers in a haunted chamber, scaring visitors out of their wits, is a debased form of the human spirit, morally unfit for a Christian afterlife, yet one promising, nevertheless, that the afterlife is more than just an illusion. But, more to the point, Scott's ghost-seer in "The Tapestried Chamber" is also a debased, despiritualized spectator whose intuitive sight is a dormant or lost faculty, a subject whose field of vision is obstructed by the hegemonic ideological and discursive structures that demand a certain kind of visibility from all objects. Browne's departure from Woodville Castle, the spectator's flight from the scene of the ghastly and ghostly spectacle, may thus be read symbolically as signaling Scott's calculated departure from the type of ghost story in which everything in the end falls neatly into place. Scott's rejection of Radcliffean supernaturalism, I am suggesting, is therefore more than just a matter of difference in aesthetic sensibilities. Nor is Scott's project underwritten by a thorough and systematic critique of rationalism and materialism, of an epistemological and ontological paradigm which restricts the field of human vision and scope of human knowledge to "the ordinary forms and commonplace meanness of reality," but rather, if more subtly and imperceptibly, by a persisting ambivalence in the nineteenth century, registered early on by Scott, about both spiritual and physiological models of vision and ways of seeing. "The Tapestried Chamber," I have argued here, like Le Fanu's "StrangeDisturbances" and Edwards's "The New Pass," foregrounds at once the ascending hegemony of the physiological model of sight and alerts us to the ways in which the discoveries of physiological science problematized, as much as they enforced, this model's epistemological claims. Because Scott finally, if reluctantly, accepts the notion that only bodily seeing warrants believing, the ghost story's invocation of spiritual sight and intuitive knowledge-audible as such only in the context of a more comprehensive account of the nineteenth-century discourse on vision than recent histories of the subject have afforded-manifests itself as little more than a nostalgia for Carlyle's "Seer," Crowe's "spiritual eye," or Ruskin's "soul of the eye," a frustrated desire for the kind of perception which breaks through the shackles of the physical body and corporeal sensorium to apprehend, without ever doubting, the Srdjan Smajic 1129

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divine origin of the universe and the human subject. This longing makes "The Tapestried Chamber" at once an ironic stab at supposedly factual ghost stories, and a sort of confessional narrative admitting that the circulation of such stories is instrumental to preserving at least the final vestiges of faith in things unseen and unseeable. Unlike in the realist novel or the detective story-where the spectator's faith in the veracity of sight is an unspoken rule, a matter of general consensus regarding the intimacy between the visible and the knowable, enforced all the more efficaciously because rarely vocalized as such-in the Victorian ghost story vision reveals itself as a stumbling block in, rather than a foundation for, erecting stable epistemological or ideological constructs: the site where nineteenthcentury ideas about truth, knowledge, and belief (as well as our historical accounts of them) are radically complicated. Were one to look for a figure that most closely embodies, in Crary's words, a "dominant model" of the observer in the nineteenth century, the ghost-seer suggests him or herself as the most likely candidate for this dubiously prestigious title-not so much because this spectator personifies any single, hegemonic model of vision, but because it is from the perspective of the ghost-seer that one perceives more readily the working of a complex dialectic between the secular and the spiritual eye, between intuitive and empirical knowledge, and the ways in which their individual claims and relations to each other were continuously negotiated.

TulaneUniversity
NOTES

I See Dorothy Scarborough, The Supernatural in Modern English Fiction (New


York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1917); Peter Penzoldt, The Supernatural in Fiction (1952; reprint, New York: Humanities Press, 1965); Julia Briggs, Night Visitors: The Rise and Fall of the English Ghost Story (London: Faber, 1977); Jack Sullivan,

ElegantNightmares:The English Ghost Storyfrom Le Fanu to Blackwood(Athens:


Ohio Univ. Press, 1978); David Punter, The Literature of Terror: A History of Gothic Fictions from 1765 to the Present Day (London: Longmans, 1980), 314-45. As in Punter's The Literature of Terror, the nineteenth-century ghost story is often considered as only one (and often minor) chapter in the history of Gothic literature. The most notable recent contribution to the scant body of scholarship on specifically Victorian ghost fiction is Vanessa Dickerson's Victorian Ghosts in the Noontide: Women Writers and the Supernatural (Columbia: Univ. of Missouri Press, 1996). Arguing that there is a substantial difference between male-authored and femaleauthored Victorian ghost stories, Dickerson suggests that women could more readily

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identifywith spectralfiguresthancould men, because"theghost corresponded... to the Victorianwoman'svisibilityand invisibility,her power and powerlessness, the contradictions and extremes that shaped female culture" (5). Whereas maleauthored ghost stories, Dickerson argues, "tend to be more diagnostic, clinical, for women writersthe genre offered "a fitting journalistic,vested in mensuration," medium for eruptionsof female libidinalenergy, of thwartedambitions,of cramped egos" (7, 8). 2 Briggs, 7. Briggs thus opts for avoidingdefinitions altogetherand broadens the categoryof ghost story to include narrativesdealing with "possessionand demonic bargains, spiritsotherthanthose of the dead,includingghouls,vampires,werewolves, the 'swarths'of living men and the 'ghost-soul'or Doppelgdnger" (12). While for Briggs, as for many other critics, the term "ghost story"is interchangeableand fiction,"I will presume that stories dealing specifisynonymouswith "supernatural callywith spectralappearances(or so-called visitations)may, at least in nineteenthcentury fiction, be considered a distinct literary form, motivated by the need to negotiate a particularset of problemsand concerns. 3 For examplesof such readings,see FredricJameson,The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1981), and MichaelGamer,"Genresfor the Prosecution:Pornography and the Gothic,"PMLA 114 (1999): 1043-54. For an effective deconstructionof the idea of generic purity, see JacquesDerrida,"TheLaw of Genre,"trans.AvitalRonell, in On Narrative,ed. W. J. T. Mitchell (Chicago: Chicago Univ. Press, 1981), 51-77. For a recent of the role of genre theoryin Victorianstudies specifically,see optimisticreappraisal CarolynWilliams,"'Genre'and 'Discourse'in VictorianCulturalStudies,"Victorian Literatureand Culture27 (1999): 517-20. 4 81. Scarborough, which is secretly familiar,which has 5 Describingthe uncannyas that "something undergonerepressionand then returnedfromit," SigmundFreud offers as the most consummateexampleof this phenomenonthe reanimation of the repressedbelief in the existence of ghosts: "Nowadayswe no longer believe in [ghosts], we have surmounted these modes of thought;but we do not feel quite sure of our new beliefs, and the old ones still exist within us ready to seize upon any confirmation." Something may occur at any moment, Freud suggests, that will resurrect the repressedbelief and give us reasonto say:"'So,after all, it is true that one can kill a personby the mere wish!'or, 'So the dead do live on and appearon the scene of their former activities!'and so on." "The 'Uncanny,'"in The Standard Edition of the CompletePsychologicalWorksof SigmundFreud, ed. and trans.James Strachey,22 vols. (London:The HogarthPress, 1953-1974), 17:245,247, 248. The indispensability of the Freudianuncannyto recent scholarshipon ghosts and the Gothic is best evidenced by TerryCastle'sThe Female Thermometer: Culture Eighteenth-Century and the Inventionof the Uncanny(New York:OxfordUniv. Press, 1995), and Julian Wolfreys'sVictorian Hauntings: Spectrality, Gothic, the Uncanny and Literature (Houndmills:Palgrave,2002). 6 The case is precisely the opposite with Bram Stoker'sDracula, which has often been read as an overt commentaryon late nineteenth-century anxietiesabout crime, culturalatavism,and degeneration,as well as the dubiousethics of Britishcolonialism. For examplesof such readings,see Ernest Fontana,"Lombroso's CriminalMan and Stoker's Dracula," The Victorian Newsletter 66 (1984): 25-27; Daniel Pick, "'Terrorsof the Night': Dracula and 'Degeneration' in the Late Nineteenth

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Century," Critical Quarterly 30 (1988): 71-87; Stephen D. Arata, "The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization," Victorian Studies 33 (1990): 621-45; David Glover, "Bram Stoker and the Crisis of the Liberal Subject," New Literary History 23 (1992): 983-1002; Troy Boone, "'He is English and Therefore Adventurous': Politics, Decadence, and Dracula," Studies in the Novel 25 (1993): 76-91. 7See Michael Cox and R. A. Gilbert's introduction to Victorian Ghost Stories: An Oxford Anthology (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1991), x. 8 The phrase "ways of seeing" was popularized by John Berger in the small, but remarkably influential, book of the same title: Ways of Seeing (London: BBC, 1972). Berger succinctly expresses what has since been reiterated by historians and cultural critics many times over: "The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe" (8). 'I will continue to use the term "spectator" rather than "observer" because I wish to underscore the etymological link to "specter." The connection is reinforced countless times in nineteenth-century studies on ghosts, where the popular phrase "ghost-seeing" always accentuates the mediating role of vision in encounters between the living spectators and the specters of the dead. See Suren Lalvani, Photography, Vision, and the Production of Modern Bodies (Albany: State Univ. of New York, 1996), for a useful distinction between spectacle and surveillance in the nineteenth century. Lalvani rejects Michel Foucault's separation of the two concepts under different regimes of vision, and instead argues that "modernity is the constitution of individuals who are both subject-spectators for the spectacular consumption of images and observed-observers within the regime of surveillance: individuals who engage the abundant field of the visible and are in turn made visible, at each instance producing knowledge and power" (171). 10One notable exception to this rule is Audrey Jaffe's "Spectacular Sympathy: Visuality and Ideology in Dickens's A Christmas Carol," in Victorian Literature and the Victorian Visual Imagination, ed. Carol T. Christ and John O. Jordan (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1995): 327-44. Jaffe describes how A Carol links "visual representation to the production of individual sympathy, and thus, ultimately, to social harmony," and presents "a definition of spectatorship as a means of access to cultural life" (328-29). '"Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage Books, 1995); Martin Jay, "Scopic Regimes of Modernity," in Vision and Visuality, ed. Hal Foster (Seattle: Bay Press, 1988): 3-23; Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990); Elizabeth Deeds Ermarth, Realism and Consensus in the English Novel (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1983); Ronald R. Thomas, Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1999). See also Nancy Armstrong, Fiction in the Age of Photography: The Legacy of British Realism (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1999), for the argument that nineteenth-century realist fiction "equated seeing with knowing and made visual information the basis for the intelligibility of a verbal narrative" and, more specifically, the claim that "to be realistic, literary realism referenced a world of objects that either had been or could be photographed" (7). 12 An indispensable work on the subject of anti-ocularcentrism is Jay's Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1993).

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of physiological optics in 13 The most important contributions to the development the nineteenth century came from British and German scientists. David Brewster's and Charles Wheatstone's shorter works on vision have been collected in Brewster and Wheatstone on Vision, ed. Nicholas J. Wade (London: Academic Press, 1983). J. W. von Goethe's, Johannes Miiller's, and Hermann von Helmholtz's major contributions were, respectively, Theory of Color (1810, translated into English in

1840), Handbuchder Physiologiedes Menschen fiir Vorlesungen(1834-1840), and

Handbuch der Physiologischen Optik (1855-1866). See Crary for a discussion of how physiological optics gave rise to subjective theories of visual perception in the first half of the nineteenth century. 14 Sir Walter Scott, "Mrs. Ann Radcliffe," in The Lives of the Novelists (1821-1824; reprint, London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1906), 328. Hereafter abbreviated "AR" and cited parenthetically by page number. of 1829 facsimile (Delmar, NY: 15 Scott, "The Tapestried Chamber," The Keepsake Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1999), 136-37. The number was published in November 1828 for the following year. Hereafter abbreviated and cited parenthetically as "T." 16Briggs, 36. 17Scott, "On the Supernatural in Fictitious Composition; and Particularly on the Works of Ernest Theodore William Hoffmann," in On Novelists and Fiction, ed. Ioan Williams (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1968), 314. Scott here anticipates Tzvetan Todorov's argument about the constitutive role of ambiguity in fantastic literature. The ambiguity, Todorov explains, "is sustained to the very end of the [fantastic] adventure: reality or dream? truth or illusion?" Once this question is settled either way, "we leave the fantastic for a neighboring genre, the uncanny or the marvelous. The fantastic is that hesitation experienced by a person who knows only the laws of nature, confronting an apparently supernatural event." The Fantas-

tic: A StructuralApproach to a Literary Genre, trans. Richard Howard (Ithaca:


Cornell Univ. Press, 1975), 25. 18 In The Keepsake the reader is provided with an illustration of the scene in the haunted chamber as a visual aid, but the image hardly does justice either to the specter's horrific visage or to Browne's expression of horror upon seeing it. As such, the image may be said to participate in the narrative's movement toward and away from visual clarity. 19The story appeared in the April 1818 number of Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, signed with the initials "A. B." For a comparison of the two versions, see Coleman O. Parsons, "Scott's Prior Version of "The Tapestried Chamber," Notes and Queries 9 (1962): 417-20. theories about 20 See Castle for a different view of early nineteenth-century spectral illusions. Castle acknowledges the importance of optics in such theories, but argues that the dominant explanation was the psychological one: "Once an apparition-producing faculty was introduced into the human psyche, the psyche became (potentially) a world of apparitions. Human beings continued to see ghosts, only the ghosts were now inside, not outside" (174). 21 John Ferriar, An Essay Towardsa Theoryof Apparitions(London: Cadell and Davies, 1813), 14-15, 17.
22

Samuel Hibbert, Sketchesof the Philosophyof Apparitions;or, An Attemptto

Trace Such Illusions to Their Physical Causes (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1824), 287-88 ("an idea"), 288 ("that organs"; "susceptibility"), 291 ("retina").

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23 Letterson NaturalMagic(1832;reprint,New York: Brewster, Harper& Brothers, 1842),53. 24 In an 1830 article on optics in the EdinburghEncyclopaedia,Brewsterasserts that "we know nothing more than that the mind, residing,as it were, in every point on the retina, refers the impression made upon it at each point to a direction coincidingwith the last portionof the raywhich conveysthe impression" (quoted in Wade, 27). to the Physiologyof Vision. No. I," in Wade, 249. Wheatstone,"Contributions 25 Wheatstoneis specificallyreferringto the objective-subjective distinctionproposed by the Austrian physiologistJohannesEvangelistaPurkinjein Beitrdgezur Kenntniss des Sehensin Subjectiver Hinsicht (1919). 26 In the opening address to Scott, Brewster acknowledgesthat "it was at your suggestionthat I undertookto draw up a popularaccount of those prodigiesof the materialworld which have received the appellationof Natural Magic,"and hopes that his contribution"shallbe consideredas formingan appropriate supplementto your valuablework,"in Letterson Magic (13-14). 27 Scott, Letters on Demonologyand Witchcraft(1830; reprint, London: George Routledge and Sons, 1884), 16, 13. Hereafter abbreviatedL and cited parenthetically by page number. 28 It is hence appropriate-and could hardlybe called a coincidence-that Scott should have given Browne the title of general: someone used to being obeyed withoutquestion,andpresumably experiencedin dealingwith flesh-and-blood spies, but demoted to the humiliatingand humblingrankof petty officer, as it were, when forced to evaluatethe "reports" of the "spies" within. 29For an accountof Brewster's and Scott'ssharedinterestin ghostsandvision, and the argumentthat Scott was less invested in the physiologicalexplanation of spectral appearancesthan I have here suggested, see Frederick Burwick, "Science and Sir David Brewsterand Sir Walter Scott,"ComparativeCriticism Supernaturalism: 13 (1991): 83-114. 3oThomas Carlyle,SartorResartus:The Life and Opinionsof Herr Teufelsdrbckh in ThreeBooks (Berkeley:Univ. of CaliforniaPress, 2000), 122. 31CatherineCrowe, The Night-Sideof Nature;or, Ghostsand Ghost-Seers(1848; reprint, New York:J. S. Redfield, 1850), 20. Hereafter abbreviatedN and cited parenthetically by page number. 32 "As I said before, observationand experience can alone guide us in such an inquiry;for, though most people have a more or less intuitive sense of their own immortality,intuition is silent as to the mode of it; and the question I am anxious here to discuss with my readers is, whether we have any facts to observe, or any experience from which, on this most interestingof all subjects,a conclusionmay be drawn."Crowe, 17-18. Ruskin,"TheRelationto Artof the Science of Light,"in TheWorksofJohn 33John 39 vols. (London:George Allen, Ruskin,ed. E. T. Cook and Alexander Wedderburn, 1903-1912), 22:194-95. Hereafter abbreviatedR and cited parenthetically by page number. 34Ruskin,"The Three Aeras,"in Works, 29:117. Hereafter abbreviated"A"and cited parenthetically by page number. 35Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, "An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street,"in Classic Ghost Stories, ed. John Grafton (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications,1998), 8, 4.

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36Amelia B. Edwards, "The New Pass," in Classic Ghost Stories, 82.

37 Edwards,81, 83. 38 Edwards,83, 85. 39 I am evokinghere the famousquote from Jean-LucGodard-"Not a just image, just an image"-and more specificallyRonald Barthes'sdesire for "animage which would be both justice and accuracy-justesse: just an image, but a just image," and Wang, 1981), 70. 40 Goethe calls them colors," and remarksthat they "have been "physiological known from the earliest times, but since their fleeting quality could be neither Theoryof caughtnor held they were exiled to the realm of mischievousphantoms." Color, in Scientific Studies, ed. and trans. Douglas Miller (New York:Suhrkamp Publishers,1988), 168.
Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill

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