Ferguson C (2022) Beyond Belief: Literature, Esotericism Studies, and the Challenges of Biographical Reading in Arthur Conan Doyle's The Land of Mist. Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism, 22, pp. 205-230. https://doi.org/10.1163/15700593-20211002
Over the last decade, esotericism studies has witnessed a distinct literary turn, as more and more of the field’s primarily religious studies-based researchers have recognized the value, and indeed, centrality, of imaginative literature to the transmission of occult and new religious ideas. Although welcome, this impetus has sometimes taken an anti-aesthetic shape, reducing the texts it incorporates to little more than empirical evidence of authorial belief or practical occult experience. Accompanying this tendency has been a suspicion of the formalist, post-modern, and/or political forms of interpretation common within contemporary literary studies as being ideologically tainted or even wilfully perverse in their resistance to surface meaning. My article uses a case study of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Land of Mist (1926), a seemingly straightforward example of an emic novel whose author’s spiritualist belief and conversionist intentions are well known, to demonstrate the limitations of such a biographically reductionist hermeneutic, and to call for a greater diversity of approach within literary esotericism studies.
Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930); The Land of Mist; Spiritualism; Serial Fiction; Afterlife Writing; Literature and Esotericism Studies
Aries: Journal for the Study of Western Esotericism: Volume 22
|Publication date online||03/08/2021|
|Date accepted by journal||01/08/2020|