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Title: A seance room of one's own : spiritualism, occultism, and the new woman in mid-to late-nineteenth century supernatural fiction
Author: Spears, Jamie
ISNI:       0000 0004 5923 1321
Awarding Body: University of Sunderland
Current Institution: University of Sunderland
Date of Award: 2016
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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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature