Classic Uncanny Stories by British Women Writers

Collected Ghost Stories by Mrs. Molesworth

Asked to name uncanny authors, most readers would come up with names like Edgar Allan Poe, M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu – all male. But a surprising number of women authors, some of whom may be better known for writing more homelike novels, also wrote very “unhomelike” short stories.  

Sigmund Freud’s famous essay about weird literature is usually translated as The Uncanny. But the German word “unheimlich” literally means “unhomelike.”

No Direction Home: The Uncanny in Literature by Francis Booth (©2023, from which this essay is excerpted by permission) traces how uncanny literature takes us from the familiar, the reassuring, the homelike, into a world of the unfamiliar, the unsettling, and the unhomelike. Read More→


The Shadow in the Corner by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1879)

The Shadow in the Corner by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

A fairly common trope in uncanny stories is that of a shadow. An example of this is the short story “The Shadow in the Corner” by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1879), a serious, if rather sensationalist, female novelist who wrote ghost stories. Braddon is most famous for the 1862 novel, Lady Audley’s Secret.

As in other such stories, one of the characters is an educated, responsible man, in this case a scientist, who seeks to disprove what he sees as local superstition. This time we start with a spooky and unhomelike old house, which is believed to be haunted by the restless spirit of a previous owner who had hanged himself in one of the top floor servants’ rooms.

This discussion is excerpted from No Direction Home: The Uncanny in Literature by Francis Booth (©2023, by permission). Read “The Shadow in the Corner” in full. Read More→


All Souls’ & The Eyes: Two Uncanny Stories by Edith Wharton

Ghosts by Edith Wharton

A surprising number of women authors, some of whom may be better known for writing more homelike novels, also wrote very “unhomelike” short stories. One was Edith Wharton, who understood that before leading us into the world of the tense and unsettling, the author first has to make us feel calm and settled. 

Wharton said that this can be done by starting with a modern clean, electric-lit environment at least as well as with a gloomy old castle.

Sigmund Freud’s famous essay about weird literature is usually translated as The Uncanny. But the German word “unheimlich” literally means “unhomelike.” Read More→


Sophie Calle and Double Game: Is Artistic Voyeurism Ethical and Relevant?

Double Game by Sophie Calle

In 1992, the American writer Paul Auster used the French conceptual artist Sophie Calle as a thinly disguised character in his novel, Leviathan. Unlike Calle, who famously plunders the lives of others in service of her art, he asked her permission to do so. Delighted to be a character in a novel, she agreed.

And so this became a kind of game that ultimately takes the cliché of art imitating life — and vice versa  — to dizzying new heights.

In his description of the character, who he calls Maria, Auster accurately describes some of Calle’s real life projects, and in other cases, he makes up projects that sound as if they could have been done by here. His description of the fictional Maria gives the viewer insight into the real Sophie Calle: Read More→


Jeanne Goosen, Author of We’re Not All Like That

Jeanne Goosen, 1968

Jeanne Goosen (July 13, 1938 – June 3, 2020) was a South African author, poet, and journalist. Her novel We’re Not All Like That (1990) explored the average Afrikaner household, pushing the boundaries of what could be said in fiction through the lead character of Doris van Greunen.

At the age of twelve, Goosen published her first short fiction in the Afrikaans lifestyle magazine Rooi Rose (Red Roses).

Goosen cited Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky as her first writing inspiration; she said that this book shook her deeply. Read More→


Enid Blyton’s Top 5 Series: Mystery, Adventure & More

The secret seven collection by Enid Blyton

Enid Blyton (1897 – 1968) is one of the world’s most successful and prolific children’s authors. She wrote some seven hundred full-length books, many of which have never been out of print. Here is a selection of Blyton’s top 5 series.

Despite controversy over the literary merit of some of her work, including the use of outdated and offensive language, she remains one of the world’s most popular fiction authors, coming sixth in an all-time bestselling list by estimated sales (behind William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, Danielle Steel, Harold Robbins, and Dr. Seuss, and well ahead of J.K. Rowling at number 10).

Her books were intended for children between the ages of about three and twelve, and many were part of a series — one of the most popular being “The Famous Five.” Read More→


The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little house in the big woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder are autobiographical series of novels for children reflecting her life on the American frontier. Though beloved by generations of young readers, they haven’t been without controversy, as we’ll soon discover.

Wilder (1967–1967) wrote these vivid tales — nine in the Little House series — that immediately appealed to readers of all ages. The books were an immediate critical and popular success, winning numerous awards and making their way into readers’ hearts with their message of endurance, simple living, and love of family.

Born in a log cabin on the edge of an area called “Big Woods” in Pepin, Wisconsin, Laura’s real-life experiences were the inspiration for her novels, and richly informed her memoirs as well. Read More→


Kathleen Raine – British Poet, Scholar, and Mystic

Kathleen Raine, British author, philosopher, and mystic

Kathleen Raine (June 14, 1908 – July 6, 2003) was a British poet, scholar, and mystic. She is also remembered as a William Blake scholar, and wrote extensively on W.B. Yeats and Thomas Taylor as well.

She fought against the materialism of her time and turned toward the artists, writers, and mystics. In her later life, she founded the Temenos Academy, a school that offers courses and lectures on philosphy, the higher arts, and contemplation.

Kathleen believed that the purpose of great art and literature was to illuminate mankind to higher states of the soul, and that the inner experience far more than the outer. Read More→