Recent Studies in Nineteenth-Century Spiritualism



Ferguson C (2012) Recent Studies in Nineteenth-Century Spiritualism. Literature Compass, 9 (6), pp. 431-440.

Inaugurated some thirty years ago, the massive resurgence of scholarly interest in nineteenth-century Spiritualism – a once-derided heterodox movement which offered believers the opportunity to speak with the dead – continues to gain momentum as we reach the second decade of the twenty-first century. This article examines how twenty-first century feminist, cultural studies, post-structuralist, and periodical studies approaches to the movement develop and differ from those of both its nineteen-eighties recoverers and indeed its nineteenth-century practitioners and adherents. What is at stake, intellectually, politically, and ethically, in the ways in which contemporary critics now interrogate and align transatlantic practices of mediumship and séance communication? In particular, I trace the growing challenge to the long-ubiquitous and near-exclusive emphasis on the movement’s feminist and proleptically radical dimensions, one which, however laudable in its progressive ambitions, has nonetheless tended to over-homogenize Spiritualism’s chaotically diverse political and philosophical identifications and to sometimes skew our understanding of its constituency. Recent moves to republish and digitize rare works from the transatlantic Spiritualist archive have the potential to remedy this situation, not by installing an univocal Ur-meaning for the movement, but by revealing new areas of dynamic tension and cross-fertilization within it.

Literature Compass: Volume 9, Issue 6

Publication date30/06/2012
Publication date online24/05/2012

People (1)


Professor Christine Ferguson

Professor Christine Ferguson

Professor in English, English Studies