This book comprises four parts - `Some Notes on Biography'; `General Studies'; `Some Special Topics'; and `Studies of Individual Tales'.
The first section includes general biographical sketches as well as two fine pieces by Norman Scarfe and Michael Cox, `The Strangeness Present: M.R. James' Suffolk' and `M.R. James and Livermere'. The former explains and pinpoints the Suffolk settings of so many of James' tales and the latter describes the relationship James had with Livermere, the family home for over forty years.
The second section, `General Studies', encompasses general critical essays and picks out the evolution and sources behind the tales themselves. Simon MacCulloch's piece `The Toad in the Study: M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft & Forbidden Knowledge' is excellent, although a touch heavy going, and raises some pertinent points on the theme of justice and retribution in James' fiction, plus James' troubled dichotomy between the Christian view of his upbringing and his private fascination with magic and the supernatural.
`Some Special Topics', the third part of the volume, includes a nice piece by Ron Weighell that is amusing and enjoyable. He makes some strong links between ancient myths and magic and James' stories but also some very tenuous ones.
Jacqueline Simpson provides one of the most accessible essays in the collection, `The Rules of Folklore in the Ghost Stories of M.R. James' where she states that James had "a particular interest in the development and persistence of local legends and historical memories, a good knowledge of traditional beliefs, and an interest in oral narration". However, she makes it implicit that James was not actually a folklorist and, indeed, that he even ridiculed folklorists in the figure of Mr.Read more ›
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The editors have been justly praised for this major contribution to literary criticism. This superb collection of essays provides many important insights into the work of Britain's finest writer of ghostly fiction. It is a considerable achievement and an essential purchase for both acolytes of this great writer and anyone with a serious interest in literature. I disagree with the previous reviewers thoughts on the "overly academic" nature of some of the reviews. If supernatural fiction is to be treated with the seriousness he feels it deserves how can an article be over academic? Surely it is the intrinsic quality of the writing which matters and the insights it provides however complex, profound or "academic". So congratulations editors on providing such an excellent mix of thought provoking articles - written in many styles and on many "levels"!
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Table of Contents (from the publisher's website)6 Jan. 2008
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Table of contents
Introduction by S. T. Joshi
I. Some Notes on Biography
Montague Rhodes James: 1862-1936 (1936) , Stephen Gaselee Montague Rhodes James (1966) , Shane Leslie The Strangeness Present: M. R. James's Suffolk (1986) , Norman Scarfe M. R. James and Livermere (1998) , Michael Cox
II. General Studies
Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927) [extract] , H. P. Lovecraft The Art of Montague James (1934) , Mary Butts The Ghost Stories of Montague Rhodes James (1947) , L. J. Lloyd The Toad in the Study: M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft and Forbidden Knowledge (1995-97) [17,616], Simon MacCulloch
III. Some Special Topics
On Not Letting Them Lie: Moral Significance in the Ghost Stories of M. R. James (1982) , Michael A. Mason Dark Devotions: M. R. James and the Magical Tradition (1984), Ron Weighell M. R. James's Women (1993) , David G. Rowlands "The Rules of Folklore" in the Ghost Stories of M. R. James (1997) , Jacqueline Simpson "A Warning to the Curious": Victorian Science and the Awful Unconscious in M. R. James's Ghost Stories (1998) , Brian Cowlishaw "They've Got Him! In the Trees!": M. R. James and Sylvan Dread (1999) , Steve Duffy Homosexual Panic and the English Ghost Story: M. R. James and Others (2002) , Mike Pincombe "If I'm Not Careful": Innocents and Not-So-Innocents in the Stories of M. R. James (2007) , John Alfred Taylor
IV. Studies of Individual Tales
The Nature of the Beast: The Demonology of Canon Alberic's Scrap-book" (2004), Helen Grant A Haunting Presence (1999) , C. E. Ward "A Wonderful Book": George MacDonald and "The Ash-Tree" (2003) , Rosemary Pardoe Who Was Count Magnus? Notes towards an Identification (2001) , Rosemary Pardoe A Haunting Vision: M. R. James and the Ashbridge Stained Glass (2000) , Nicholas Connell A Maze of Secrets in a Story by M. R. James (1993) , Martin Hughes Thin Ghosts: Notes toward a Jamesian Rhetoric (2007) , Jim Rockhill Nightmares of Punch and Judy in Ruskin and M. R. James (1996) , Roger Craik An Elucidation (?) of the Plot of M. R. James's "Two Doctors" (1990) , Lance Arney Landmarks and Shrieking Ghosts (1997) , Jacqueline Simpson [with an Addendum by Rosemary Pardoe]