The ghost of injuries present in Dickens's The Signalman
Written in the aftermath of the Staplehurst rail disaster, Dickens's ghost story 'The Signalman' is often read for its uncanny insights into what would later come to be known as trauma theory. This paper revisits that text - in its focus on retrospection, belatedness, repetition and the disarticulation of event from consciousness - to consider the role of other, arguably less intense, but still traumatising experiences. For example, Dickens's fraught editorial relationship with Elizabeth Gaskell; specifically his decision to remove a reference to himself from Cranford that suggested his readers might suffer injury from writing that found its origins in an industrial process of steam and gear train. The 'Signalman' anachronistically unites two distinct events - Staplehurst and Gaskell's wounding characterisation - within a frame that is recursively haunted by material common to both: rail catastrophe, mortal threats to the public and private self, and fraught miscommunication.
British and Irish Literature