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Palgrave Macmillan

Spiritualism and Women's Writing

From the Fin de Siècle to the Neo-Victorian

ISBN 9780230240797
Publication Date October 2009
Formats Ebook (PDF) Hardcover 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

This original and imaginative study examines the influence of Victorian spiritualism and Psychical Research on a variety of modern and contemporary female authors. It explores both the material and ghostly connections between women's writing - particularly the work of Michèle Roberts, A.S. Byatt, Victoria Glendinning and Sarah Waters - and the practice of mediumship in the nineteenth century. For the first time, it provides a sustained analysis of how and why the haunted world of Victorian spiritualism has been appropriated and reimagined in late twentieth-century fiction. In addition, it shows how many of the apparently unprecedented innovations of modernism are in fact already present in the rituals, performances and documents of the Victorian séance. Supported by compelling archival research throughout, the book not only demonstrates how a unique selection of nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts are bound together by phantasmal ties but also shows how spiritualism forces us to reconsider our wider understanding of history, narrative and the afterlife.

TATIANA KONTOU is Associate Tutor in English at the University of Sussex, UK. She has previously published an article on Wilkie Collins and Spiritualist practice in Wilkie Collins: Interdisciplinary Essays (2007) and is the guest editor for a special issue of Women's Writing on 'Women and the Victorian Occult' (2008).

List of Figures
Theatres in the Skull: The Society for Psychical Research and Actress Narratives
Well-tuned Mediums: May Sinclair and Dorothy Richardson
Phantasms of Florence Cook in Michèle Roberts' In the Red Kitchen
Natural and Spiritual Evolutions: A. S. Byatt's Angels and Insects
The Other World Illuminated: Wiring Science, Text and Spirit in Victoria Glendinning's Electricity
Queering the Séance: Sarah Waters' Affinity


'Spiritualism and Women's Writing is a thought-provoking book...Clearly, a huge amount of research has gone into this book. It is well written with lots of signposting, and offers some original and interesting readings. For me, it emphasizes how fluid history is, and how important the written word is in recording, and re-recording, these histories.' -Lucy Le-Guilcher, Women: a Cultural Review
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