By T. Kontou
Utilizing quite a lot of unexplored archival fabric, this publication examines the 'spectral' impression of Victorian spiritualism and Psychical examine on women's writing, analysing the ways that smooth writers have either subverted and mimicked 19th century resources of their evocation of the seance.
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Extra info for Spiritualism and Women's Writing: From the fin de Siècle to the neo-Victorian
Any elements of these ‘narratives’ which lent too closely to anecdote rather than serious analytical inquiry were stripped away. Indeed, William James emphasizes the demystification of the occult that characterizes the study by drolly remarking that ‘few species of literature are more truly dull than reports of phantasms’ ( James, 1892, p. 736). Nevertheless, the cases are vibrant and arresting documents because they offer a unique view of the ‘other side’ of nineteenth-century existence; they form a sort of afterlife for those who have been excluded, by chance or design, from recorded history.
However, at the turn of the century everyone had the capacity to be a ‘sensitive’ and to explore the hauntings of her own mind. 30 Mediums as well as actresses were able to subtly (and sometimes flamboyantly) manipulate the rules and conventions to which they were accountable. As a final example then, consider the concept of ‘psychorrhagy’ as it was used in Psychical Research. This term describes ‘a special idiosyncrasy which tends to make the phantasm of a person easily perceptible; the breaking loose of a psychical element, definable mainly by its power of producing a phantasm, perceptible by one or more persons, in some portion of space’ (Myers, 1903, I, p.
Betha’s vampiric (or animalistic) desire for the sustenance that performing provides is counterbalanced by the empathetic, ‘sensitive’ elements of her craft, creating an equilibrium between her raw ambition and her femininity. It is precisely this sensitivity (a subtle interweaving of passivity and control) that allows us to explore the cryptic bond between Marryat’s actress-heroine and her spiritualist experiences in more detail. Betha’s very first performance in front of an audience is at a school production of Schiller’s Joan of Arc.