Panel 5a – Excavating the Buried Past: Reimagining the Nineteenth Century

Panel 5a – Excavating the Buried Past: Reimagining the Nineteenth Century

Chair: Ron Callan

Dara Downey:

“I Must Have Died …”: Post-Mortem Speech in the Uncanny Tales of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps and Harriet Prescott Spofford

Interesting point that most ghost stories do grant a voice to the dead; the focus in the stories is on the feelings and actions of the living.

Downey begins with Elizabeth Stuart Phelps.

“Death is dumb as life is deaf”- wonderful end of a short story.

“The Amber Gods” by Harriet Prescott Spofford.
Downey praises the narrative voice of this short story.

In both texts, the dead women experience a freeing sensation post-mortem and the idea of time being stopped for the dead female narrators whilst continuing for the living, is an interesting shared theme.

However, though Phelps’ character eventually goes on to leave the earth, Spofford’s character does not.


Todd Mealy

A Political Alternative: William Howard Day’s Underground Railroad

Mealy begins by explaining the meaning of the term “underground railroad“.

– Day launched the first black American newspaper “The Aliened American”.

– the phrase becomes an irritant to the Southern slave owners

– fascinating account of how Lewis Williams managed to escape slavery,  who was recaptured and then managed to escape again thanks to Day’s help.

– Day enjoyed provoking the South

– personal liberty laws were created to protect free black slaves and abolitionists who refused to help catch runaway slaves

– therefore people could claim that the state personal liberty laws protected them from the ramifications of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

– Day came to Dublin and Belfast to fundraise

– $7,000 were raised in Ireland.


Kate Kirwan

Easy A: Repositioning Hester Prynne in Contemporary American Fiction

– Hester Prynne’s name is often used as shorthand for improper or immoral behaviour, despite the character’s redemption in The Scarlet Letter.

– arguable America’s first feminest: she guards the identities of both her husband and lover, maintains financial independance, and is a single mother.

– Kirwan details the various texts which use The Scarlet Letter.

– the modern versions of Hestor Prynne help refigure her as Hawthorn intended: as a woman who made a mistake and yet was able to transcend that mistake.

– Kirwan finishes with a statement that to use Hester Prynne to symbolise promescuity is to misuse and misconstrue Hawthorn’s intention.



About livesinliminalspaces

I am a PhD candidate in the School of English, whose research focuses on the effect the urban environment and the cityscape has on the behaviour of marginalised characters in the novels from the Twentieth Century.
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One Response to Panel 5a – Excavating the Buried Past: Reimagining the Nineteenth Century

  1. Pingback: Panel 5a – Excavating the Buried Past: Reimagining the Nineteenth Century « Irish Association for American Studies: Cork 2012

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