This article analyzes the rhetoric of nineteenth-century fantastic fiction in order to situate the genre within the intellectual tradition of apophatic, or self-negating, discourse. Through a reading of Fitz-James O'Brien's “What Was It? A Mystery” (1859) and Ambrose Bierce's “The Damned Thing” (1893), two short stories that feature the same kind of supernatural phenomenon (a material ghost), the essay argues that apophasis can be used as a key to understand not only the rhetorical fabric of the fantastic genre but also its tropes and themes and its larger epistemological preoccupations.

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