BookTalk event, 8 Feb 2017: Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House

The next BookTalk event will focus on the American Gothic classic by Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (1959).

Seen by many as one of the best horror stories ever written, Jackson’s novel was a finalist for the National Book Award in the US, and evokes the dark secrets that lie in the heart of post-war middle America, as it traces the psychological assault faced by its protagonist, Eleanor Vance.

Eleanor is invited to participate in a psychic experitment by Dr John Montague, by spending the summer in Hill House, an 80-year-old mansion built by Hugh Crain. Joining Eleanor and Montague are the bohemian artist Theodora and Luke Sanderson, the young owner of Hill House. Isolated in the foreboding setting, the four visitors soon uncover the turbulent and disturbing history of Hill House, and soon begin to experience increasingly terrifying supernatural phenomena that threaten to drive them insane.

Jackson uses a traditional motif of the Gothic, the haunted house, to explore a range of complex social and psychological issues, including women’s position in society, mental illness and the hidden history of violence that courses throughout American history. According to Stephen King, The Haunting of Hill House is one of the finest ghost stories of the 20th century. Jackson’s novel was adapted twice as The Haunting, first as spinechilling classic starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom in 1963, and in a 1999 remake that starred Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

To explore Jackson’s complex interweaving of the conventions of gothic supernaturalism with probing analysis of middle-American culture, BookTalk is delighted to host the following panel of speakers:

  • Robert Lloyd is a second-year doctoral researcher at Cardiff University, whose thesis ‘Spectre-scopics’ explores later 20th-century ghost stories by women.
  • Dawn Mannay is Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences at Cardiff University, working on class, education, gender, geography, national identity, violence and inequality.
  • Diana Wallace is Professor of English at the University of South Wales and a leading scholar of historical fiction and female gothic.

The main event (7pm) will be preceded by a reception with tea, coffee and biscuits at 6.30pm in Cardiff University’s School of Optometry and Vision Sciences, Maindy Road, Cardiff CF24 4HQ.

All welcome! Book your free tickets via Eventbrite by clicking here.

About the Author

shirley_jackson_portraitShirley Jackson (1916–1965) was an American novelist and short story writer, whose fictions used gothic and dystopian motifs to expose the hidden darkness of her society. The author of six novels and around a hundred short stories, Jackson’s prolific career was marked by classics such as ‘The Lottery’ (1948), The Haunting of Hill House (1959) and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962). Her stories were published in numerous magazines of the period, including Harper’sThe New RepublicThe New Yorker and Woman’s Day. Her fictions have been adapted for the stage and screen, and in addition to two motion picture adaptations of The Haunting of Hill House, a new film version of We Have Always Lived in the Castle is planned for a summer 2017 release.

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