A Seance Room of One's Own: Spiritualism, Occultism, and the new Woman in Mid-to Late-Nineteenth Century Supernatural Fiction

Spears, Jamie (2016) A Seance Room of One's Own: Spiritualism, Occultism, and the new Woman in Mid-to Late-Nineteenth Century Supernatural Fiction. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

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Abstract

This thesis will examine the nineteenth-century supernatural stories
written by women connected to Spiritualism. These include ‘standard’
ghost stories, esoteric novels and works infused with Spiritualist and
occult themes and tropes.
The middle- and upper-class Victorian woman was already considered
something of a spirit guide within her own home; following the
emergence of Modern Spiritualism in the 1850s, women were afforded
the opportunity to become paid spirit guides (that is, mediums and
lecturers) in the public sphere. Spiritualism was an empowering force
for female mediums like Elizabeth d’Espérance and Emma Hardinge
Britten, and Spiritualist philosopher Catherine Crowe. In this thesis I will
examine how these new power dynamics—to use Britten’s phrasing,
the ‘place and mission of woman’—are reflected in society and
literature. This thesis sees Spiritualism as the impetus for several occult
movements which emerged near to the end of century, including Marie
Corelli’s Electrical Christianity, Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophy, and
Florence Farr’s Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Each of these
women founded, or had significant input in the founding of, their
respective creeds.
There is an area of critical neglect around the fiction written by these
women. Corelli’s works are often analysed in the New Woman
framework, but rarely in the spiritual or occult; scholarly interest in
Blavatsky focuses on the incredible power she consolidated, but her
Theosophical fiction tends to be dismissed in favour of her treatises;
d’Espérance’s fiction has not been properly examined thus far.
With this thesis I hope to offer a re-reading or re-framing of this
supernatural literature by placing it, and its authors, in its socio-political
context at the tumultuous end of the nineteenth century.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Culture > English Language and Literature
Divisions: Collections > Theses
Depositing User: Barry Hall
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2016 14:58
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2017 17:40
URI: http://sure.sunderland.ac.uk/id/eprint/6503

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