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ISBN:0674011619
Author: Judith Richardson
ISBN13: 978-0674011618
Title: Possessions: The History and Uses of Haunting in the Hudson Valley
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Language: English
Category: History and Criticism
Publisher: Harvard University Press (October 31, 2003)
Pages: 320

Possessions: The History and Uses of Haunting in the Hudson Valley by Judith Richardson



As an exile from the Hudson Valley, I much appreciate this book for its scholarship and its grounding in the felt reality of the place. I better understand why the stories I read and heard in the Valley as a child mean so much to me as a transplant living in California. The author ranges over the tellings and retellings of various ghostly hauntings so that I better understand what previous residents thought of the major events of their time, from wars to slavery to immigration.

The cultural landscape of the Hudson River Valley is crowded with ghosts-the. These tales of haunting, Richardson argues, are no mere echoes of the past but function in an ongoing, contentious politics of place. Through its tight geographical focus, Possessions illuminates problems of belonging and possessing that haunt the nation as a whole.

The cultural landscape of the Hudson River Valley is crowded with ghosts-the ghosts of Native Americans and Dutch colonists, of Revolutionary War soldiers and spies, of presidents, slaves, priests, and laborers.

The History and Uses of Haunting in the Hudson Valley. Possessions asks why this region just outside New York City became the locus for so many ghostly tales, and shows how these hauntings came to operate as a peculiar type of social memory whereby things lost, forgotten, or marginalized returned to claim possession of imaginations and territories.

and London: Harvard University Press, 2003. xi, 296 pp. The subtitle of this informative, cleanly written, and admirably documented book is both apt and revealing. As in recent studies by Rene Bergland, Kathleen Brogan, and Avery Gordon, whose influence is acknowledged, Richardson's interest lies in "haunting" as a sign of serious social division rather than in ghosts as a staple of the literary gothic.

Haunting Argentina: Synecdoche in the Protests of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. Quarterly Journal of Speech 87: 237–58. Possessions: The History and Uses of Haunting in the Hudson Valley. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Schlecker, Markus and Endres, Kirsten . .

Possessions: The History and Uses of Haunting in the Hudson Valley by Judith Richardson Harvard, 296 pp, £1. 5, October 2003, ISBN 0 674 01161 9. Judith Richardson begins Possessions by quoting a 1933 guidebook to the Hudson Valley: ‘How comes the Hudson to this unique heritage of myth, ghosts, goblins and other lore?’ By the end of her exhaustive chronicle of local history and legend the answer is self-evident: ‘Why is the Hudson Valley haunted? Perhaps a better question after all is: how on earth could it not be?’ Until I read this book, the Hudson Valley seemed remote from anguished, obvio.

The cultural landscape of the Hudson River Valley is crowded with ghosts--the ghosts of Native Americans and Dutch colonists, of Revolutionary War soldiers and spies, of presidents, slaves, priests, and laborers. Possessions asks why this region just outside New York City became the locus for so many ghostly tales, and shows how these hauntings came to operate as a peculiar type of social memory whereby things lost, forgotten, or marginalized returned to claim possession of imaginations and territories. Reading Washington Irving's stories along with a diverse array of narratives from local folklore and regional writings, Judith Richardson explores the causes and consequences of Hudson Valley hauntings to reveal how ghosts both evolve from specific historical contexts and are conjured to serve the present needs of those they haunt. These tales of haunting, Richardson argues, are no mere echoes of the past but function in an ongoing, contentious politics of place. Through its tight geographical focus, Possessions illuminates problems of belonging and possessing that haunt the nation as a whole.

Reviews: 6
Anarus
As an exile from the Hudson Valley, I much appreciate this book for its scholarship and its grounding in the felt reality of the place. I better understand why the stories I read and heard in the Valley as a child mean so much to me as a transplant living in California. The author ranges over the tellings and retellings of various ghostly hauntings so that I better understand what previous residents thought of the major events of their time, from wars to slavery to immigration. Yes, it is a scholarly work (that Harvard published it makes that obvious) but if you want to understand why people tell ghost stories, read it.
MisterQweene
Possessions is engrossing for all those seeking sources for the spirits abounding in the Hudson Valley. People generally bother only with a headless horseman or a man wearing a silken noose for the story. But, if you want to know where the horseman rides and what's behind all the haunting in this region, turn to Richardson's book.

Granted, this is scholarship. Compared to most academic writings, however, the thorough research here inspires you to read on knowing, this is an authoritative voice on Hudson Valley history. Richardson backs up every utterance with evidence. She covers all the writers from Washington Irving to T.C. Boyle. She notes the region's rapid changes, from Native to Dutch to British to American, to industrial to suburban all create a forgetful dreamy atmosphere where ghosts to thrive.

A devoted student of the Hudson Valley, and a professional storyteller, I find people want to know, where do all these ghosts come from. Possessions gives you answers!
Kigabar
Clearly, reviewers listed here of this scholarly work are ill-prepared to evaluate Richardson's Possessions. It reads as a scholarly work because IT IS one! The author teases apart the multiple layers of history recorded in ghostly stories of the Hudson Valley. She is looking at the power of place and how some stories of the past - particularly those of underrepresented groups - get lost but found in haunted tales preserved about the landscape. This is an important book for scholars interested in exploring alternative views of history and/or pursuing Spectral Studies. I loved this book and use it often in my work.
Dordred
This (2003) thorough-going, scholarly study of Hudson-Valley legends argues that hauntings in this region negotiate uncertainties of ownership of territories once occupied by aborginals, then by Dutch settlers, then by the British, then by Yankees, then by successive waves of European immigrants starting in the late-nineteenth century. Ghosts stories, fostered by Romanticism and Tourism, represent claims of former inhabitants. Successive waves of newcomers look to the legends in order to root and legitimize their own belonging in place.
Adrierdin
For centuries (and obviously also before the first European immigrants arrived) Hudson Valley has been known for its splendid nature, and people started settling there quite early in American history. However, these are not the only reasons it's famous. It's only a very haunted area. Numerous ghost stories appear in local folklore, and over the years a very large number of people have been prepared to testify under oath that they've come face to face with all different kinds of ghosts.

The same stories - or at least different variations of a story - have returned from time to time during different eras, and why is that? How come a ghost story is brought up to begin with? And to what extent will local folklore - and history - affect the evolution of a ghost story? These questions, and many others, Judith Richardson attempts to answer in Possessions. It's not a book where the author tries to explain what ghosts actually are, if they really exist or not, if there's life after death, and so on.

No, instead Richardson's methodology is using folklore and history, and instead of discussing whether ghosts are real or not she devotes much time and energy offering a historical survey of the area, its people, and evolution.

It really must be said that honestly, Richardson is a very skilled researcher. Every chapter and angle of approach is extremely thorough, and every single page is filled to the brim with copious footnotes, which in turn offer tons and tons of other sources for anyone interested in doing some research of his or her own. Out of the book's 296 pages, 209 make up the main text, while pages 211-286 are footnotes only. In other words, you won't find much reason to complain about lack of source material and references when it comes to Possessions.

But who, then, will do some of this independent research that the book can be helpful with? Well, one thing is for sure, it's not going to be me.

And this despite her excellent research and easy to understand and well-reasoned text. Why, you say? Because quite frankly, I found the book to be extremely boring, drawn-out, long-winded, and overall uninteresting. Sure, the topic is definitely worth examining and Richardson's book can without a doubt be interesting to some, but absolutely not to me.

I'm not American, and that's probably one of the main reasons to why I didn't find it interesting whatsoever. The main reason, though, has to do with the way the ghost stories are presented. In most cases they are put in contrast to the very specific history of the area, and this makes the book more interesting to people that focus on folklore and history compared to ghostbusters and people who simply want to know more about the phenomenon of ghosts in general. I belong to the latter category, and thus this book wasn't for me.

Still I cannot say it's a bad book, because it isn't; this time it just happened to come into the wrong hands.
Inertedub
I was given this book as a gift, and was intrigued because I live in the Hudson Valley. All I can say is that I could not drag myself through this book. It is *not* lively; it is much too scholarly for what this book is trying to be.