Sequestered Places, Heaving Seas: The Life and Works of M. R. James

deadline for submissions: 
January 29, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
Dr Lindsey Scott and Dr Jamie Bernthal-Hooker / University of Suffolk
contact email: 

Sequestered Places, Heaving Seas: The Life and Works of M. R. James

A One-Day Symposium, Tuesday 30 April 2024

Centre for Culture and Heritage, University of Suffolk


Keynote Speakers

Simon Loxley – M. R. James and the Suffolk Landscape

Professor Matt Hills – M. R. James and Adaptation


Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936) is widely regarded as one of the greatest ghost story writers of all time. His published collections, from Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904) to A Warning to the Curious and Other Ghost Stories (1925) have never been out of print, while popular tales such as ‘A Warning to the Curious’ and ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’ have been adapted for the screen and hailed as defining the modern style of horror fiction.

Born in Kent, M. R. James moved to Great Livermere, Suffolk with his family in 1865. Some of his most famous ghost tales are set in the county under disguised names such as Seaburgh (Aldeburgh) and Burnstow (Felixstowe). James was also an influential scholar and medievalist. Following his education at Eton and King’s College, Cambridge, he became Provost of King’s before returning to Eton as Provost in 1918. James had many interests, including premodern religious texts and church architecture, while his experiences as an academic, medievalist, archaeologist, and travel writer feature prominently in his fictional stories.

There have been several important contributions to Jamesian scholarship in recent years, although gaps still remain in terms of a more substantial and holistic approach to his life and works. Patrick J. Murphy, author of Medieval Studies and the Ghost Stories of M. R. James (2017) observes that James’s fiction is typically valued ‘for its stylistic mastery and affective power rather than for any thematic interest it might hold.’ Connections between James’s life, his scholarly contributions, and his ghost tales – despite the latter initially being written to entertain friends at Cambridge – are often severed, leaving a somewhat divided legacy of ‘James the medievalist’ and ‘James the ghost story writer’ in criticism.

This symposium, celebrating 120 years since the publication of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904) aims to bring together scholars, writers, and researchers interested in M. R. James, with a view to pursuing publishing opportunities. All speakers will be invited to attend an evening dinner followed by a screening and exhibition at The Hold, Suffolk Archives on Monday 29 April.

Topics for 20-minute papers might include but are by no means limited to:

  • James and genre
  • James and landscape
  • James and the figure of the ‘ghost’
  • James and childhood
  • James at King’s/Eton
  • James and medievalism/antiquarianism/archaeology
  • James and modernism
  • James and sexuality/race/gender/class
  • James and Englishness/reticence
  • James and the First World War
  • James as late-Victorian/Edwardian/travel writer
  • James and adaptation/afterlives/illustrations

Please submit abstracts of around 300 words, along with a short bio (100 words) to Dr Lindsey Scott ( and Dr Jamie Bernthal-Hooker  ( by Monday 29 January 2024. Please use M. R. James symposium as the subject line of your email.

This symposium is designed as a friendly and welcoming space for established and emerging scholars to share and discuss their work. We aim to notify everyone of the outcome by Monday 5 February 2024.