M.R.James and Nigel Kneale

Conference paper


Cottis, D. 2024. M.R.James and Nigel Kneale. Sequestered Places, Heaving Seas: The Life and Works of M.R.James. University of Suffolk 30 - 30 Apr 2024
TypeConference paper
TitleM.R.James and Nigel Kneale
AuthorsCottis, D.
Abstract

In 1973, the Folio Society published its collection of Ghost Stories of M.R.James. In keeping with the publisher's practice of commissioning new introductions from then-active academics or authors, the stories were introduced by the television playwright Nigel Kneale (1922-2006) best know as the creator of the three Quatermass series - The Quatermass Experiment (1953), Quatermass II (1955), Quatermass and the Pit (1957), and the stand-alone play The Stone Tape (1972) which, like James' stories, was specifically written for Christmas.

Together with H.G. Wells and John Wyndham, M.R.James is the author most frequently mentioned as influencing Kneale's style - the four can be grouped together as a tradition of horror based on realism and detail. It's. a very English tradition - although that's a slightly contentious word when applied to the Manxsman Kneale - that carries on in works such as both the classic and revived Dr Who. In his introduction, Kneale notes this quality, with what reads to me like a slight note of weariness that he's having to explain it again: 'The verisimilitude performs its usual trick in such tales, conditioning us to accept the unbelievable and doubling the shock when it does hit us.' (ix)

In both Quatermass and the Pit and The Stone Tape, Kneale nods towards the earlier author, including clerical antiquarians of the sort that James tended to make into his protagonists. In this respect, Kneale's world is far larger than James' - these characters are functionaries, rather than the central figures they would have been in James. My paper will examine how James' influence plays out in Kneale's work, and how both the similarities and the differences between them tell us something about both writers.

KeywordsHorror; M.R.James; Nigel Kneale
Sustainable Development Goals4 Quality education
Middlesex University ThemeCreativity, Culture & Enterprise
LanguageEnglish
ConferenceSequestered Places, Heaving Seas: The Life and Works of M.R.James
Publication process dates
Accepted14 Feb 2024
Completed30 Apr 2024
Deposited07 May 2024
Output statusPublished
First submitted version
File Access Level
Open
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