Haunting in the historical biopic: Lincoln

R. Burgoyne, J. Trafton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Lincoln features several key moments in which the conventional, realist coordinates of the historical biopic open to a deeper sense of time and place, evoked in the film's references to clairvoyance, haunting, and ‘bad dreams’ – aspects of Lincoln's interior life that are well known but seldom expressed in film. The theme of haunting in Lincoln is rendered directly, but it is also suggested in the film's multiple references to the medium of photography, and in scenes that recall the flicker effect of early film. The film's complex understanding of time underlines the uncanny nature of the historical biopic, and the strange, almost phantasmatic wish at its core – the wish to impersonate and revivify the dead – a wish that is especially visible in films that take Abraham Lincoln as their subject.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-535
JournalRethinking History
Issue number3
Early online date9 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Lincoln
  • Historical biopic
  • The Abraham Lincoln family
  • The uncanny
  • Haunting
  • Phantasmagoria
  • Photography
  • Séance


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