Solid to Void: The Ghost in Contemporary Fiction
with Karen Russell
Offered in partnership with The National Archives at New York City (The U.S. Customs House)
Tuesday, October 20, 2015

“The ghost” writes sociologist Avery Gordon, “represents a something-to-be-done.” When a ghost appears in literature, there is usually some balance to be righted. The haunting is an appeal (or a demand) for action. The ghost’s uncanny light exposes the rigging in the architecture, the violence of dispossession, exploitation, repression. In this seminar, we will read an excerpt from Dr. Gordon’s “Haunting and the Sociological Imagination” and Marjorie Sandor’s “The Uncanny Reader,” as well as selections from the work of Louise Erdrich, Mavis Gallant, Fesliberto Hernández, Toni Morrison, and Stephen King. We will reflect on what the figure of the ghost reveals to us about secret appetites, existential insecurities, and the sunken reef of the still-present past. We will also do some ghostly writing of our own.

Karen Russell received a B.A. from Northwestern University and an M.F.A. from Columbia University. Her short stories have appeared in such publications as The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope, and Oxford American. She was a fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library (2010) and at the American Academy of Berlin (2012), and she has taught writing and literature at Columbia University, Williams College, Bard College, Bryn Mawr College, and Rutgers University, Camden. She is the recipient of the Bard Fiction Prize, NYPL’s Young Lions Fiction Award, and a MacArthur Genius grant. She is the author of two collections of short stories and the novel Swamplandia!, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012.