The Postmodern Ghost Tour

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Pamela Buena


Do you believe in ghosts? Whether or not you do, the pre-modern belief in the supernatural is far from eradication in quotidian reality. Following the dawn of the Enlightenment, it was predicted by modern theorists that the belief in supernatural tradition was destined for an imminent demise, as rational and secular dispositions increased in modern society. Yet as I was led on a ghost tour around St. Bartholomew’s Church and Cemetery, rational thought was discouraged as I was suspended in a desire for anachronistic belief. Contrary to the image of the Enlightenment, this site is the postmodern epitome of the past haunting the present. So much so that even its location – perched on top of Prospect Hill, directly overlooking power transmission towers, the M4 and the Great Western Highway – reflects the comingling of pre-modern traditions and contemporary commodified culture. I argue that what modern theorists had underestimated, was the ability of supernatural traditions to be reinvented in order to prevail in modern society. And so this essay will question, how has the postmodern condition allowed for the irrational belief in the supernatural to flourish within the destructive age of modernity? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to develop a symbiotic approach between the two schools of thought – tradition and postmodernity. Using these two lenses of viewing the world to analyse the history of St. Bartholomew’s Church and Cemetery, further informs our understanding of how certain traditions manage to continue from the past into this present moment.

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