Ghosts of the Missing: Multidirectional Haunting and Self-Spectralization in Ian McEwan’s The Child in Time and Bret Easton Ellis’s Lunar Park



Missing persons can exert a powerful haunting force on those searching for them. Like mediums, they constitute an enigma that inspires a mixture of fascination and fear. Yet with the missing, curiosity about what could have happened is dominated by the anxiety that the explanation for their disappearance is unlikely to be innocuous. Instead of producing a surplus of signification in the manner of the enthralling apparitions conjured by the medium, missing persons mark a lack of meaning and knowledge. To refer to them as living ghosts may seem a misnomer, since it is precisely their being alive that cannot be definitively confirmed or denied. At the same time, the elusive fate of the missing, even when their death is virtually certain, works to preserve and extend their lives in the minds of those left behind. Caught in a liminal zone, missing persons can live on while simultaneously becoming frozen in time; placed outside the everyday, progressive flow of temporality, they forever remain the age they were when they disappeared, growing older only virtually in mental images or digital composites. Their spectral lives are survivals characterized not by difference, potentiality and becoming, but by sameness and preservation. The ghostliness of the missing, then, is primarily predicated on their absent presence: they cannot be located and, as such, partake of Derrida’s visible in-visible.


Political Risk Missing Person Love Object Lost Object Mourning Process 
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Copyright information

© Esther Peeren 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Media StudiesUniversity of AmsterdamNetherlands

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