Too early for Christmas, I hear you say?
Well, maybe. But there’s no escaping it – supermarkets’ seasonal aisles have sprung up before we’ve even thought of storing our summer clothes, and social media’s awash with panic-inducing adverts for Christmas Day dinner (“If you don’t book now, you’ll be eating beans on toast!”). We have two options – embrace it or ignore it, but reading material, I argue, is a different matter.
Scholars, academics, learned people of all kinds, often crop up in fiction. Horror is no exception and ghost stories from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in particular, featured academics in lead roles. Sometimes this is as the result of ‘write what you know’ more than any other reason; M. R. James, coming up later (because of course he is) being a case in point. But, much more significantly, academics represent rational, empirical, and “modern” thought, in contrast to the superstitions of an older, darker age. The academic represents progress; sometimes as a means of rebutting the supernatural, but sometimes the supernatural could show that perhaps our progress had gone too far. Thank you to Sarah Burton on Twitter for prompting the idea for this reading list and thank you to those who offered suggestions (@cath_fletcher, @marccold, & @ssmithwc1n).