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Altered States

Sex, Nation, Drugs, and Self-Transformation in Victorian Spiritualism

Marlene Tromp

Publication Year: 2006

Altered States examines the rise of Spiritualism—the religion of séances, mediums, and ghostly encounters—in the Victorian period and the role it played in undermining both traditional female roles and the rhetoric of imperialism. Focusing on a particular kind of séance event—the full-form materialization—and the bodies of the young, female mediums who performed it, Marlene Tromp argues that in the altered state of the séance new ways of understanding identity and relationships became possible. This not only demonstrably shaped the thinking of the Spiritualists, but also the popular consciousness of the period. In diaries, letters, newspaper accounts, scientific reports, and popular fiction, Tromp uncovers evidence that the radical views presented in the faith permeated and influenced mainstream Victorian thought.

Published by: State University of New York Press

ALTERED STATES

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CONTENTS

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pp. vii-viii

ILLUSTRATIONS

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pp. ix-x

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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pp. xi-xii

Like Elizabeth d’Espérance, I feel that the participation of many others made this project materialize, and those people are from every aspect of my life, professional and personal. First, I would like to thank my mother, Eileen Tromp, without whose warm nurturance, love, and free childcare, years of archival research might have...

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INTRODUCTION: PERFORMING READINGS

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pp. 1-17

This is a book about ghosts and the ways in which people may have put them to the “devious” uses Nussbaum describes in the epigraph above. My argument here speaks to the cultural uses of ghosts in nineteenth-century England and of a “new” religion called Spiritualism, which simply embodied the belief that a sincere seeker could contact those who...

PART I: SPIRIT MADE FLESH

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pp. 19-

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1. SPIRITED SEXUALITY: SEX, MARRIAGE AND VICTORIAN SPIRITUALISM

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pp. 21-47

Spiritualism was sexy. From its humble beginnings in 1848, this Victorian faith of “sittings,” mediums, and spirit contact thrilled its practitioners and detractors alike and broke countless rules of decency and decorum in spite of the fact that it was nurtured and developed in the drawing rooms of the proprietous middle classes. The darkened parlor of the séance...

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2. WEDDING STORIES / GHOST STORIES

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pp. 49-72

I have argued that the ghosts and séances of Spiritualism had a tremendous impact on the relationships, lives, and marriages of individual mediums and that, through the impact of Spiritualism on the culture at large, new beliefs about gender, gendered relationships, and matrimony were carried into the mainstream—not without ambivalence, not without...

PART II. GHOSTS OF HOME

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pp. 73-

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3. GHOSTLY EROTICS AND IMPERIALISM IN THE VICTORIAN DRAWING ROOM [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 75-96

In 1857, the Indian Mutiny, or First Indian War of Independence as it is known to Indians, undermined the English sense of authority over the colonized and intensified and brought into focus the imperial mission. Along with other disruptions of imperial power, this translated into more concerted and single-minded efforts to control and manage...

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4. ECONOMICS, RACE AND THE SPECTER OF CLASS

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pp. 97-128

The double-talk in the James Burns epigraph above underscores the ways in which Spiritualistic practices disrupted identity and called into question what was real. These disruptions became, as I will explain, intimately linked to economics and, ultimately, to the effectiveness and longevity of a medium’s career. In this chapter, I will explain...

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5. DRUNK WITH POWER: STORIES OF GHOSTLY OTHERS

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pp. 129-148

The work of postcolonial critics has testified that fiction of the Victorian period reflects a persistent and politicized consciousness of imperialism. Indeed, as Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has argued, contemporary readers of such fiction would be negligent if they failed to trace these connections (“Three Women’s”). This chapter proposes...

PART III. TRANSFORMING THE SELF

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pp. 149-

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6. UNDER THE INFLUENCE: THE FOX SISTERS AND PERNICIOUS SPIRITS

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pp. 151-179

Spiritualism was haunted by a number of scandals, and these scandals were not all sexual in nature. One of the most distressing indignities for Spiritualists and damning for non-Spiritualists was the abuse of alcohol and drugs in the movement. Spiritualism meant, by definition, coming under the influence—most often of spiritual communication,...

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7.HAUNTED: ELIZABETH D’ESPERANCE, SOCIAL JUSTICE, AND THE EVOLUTION OF MEDIUMSHIP

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pp. 181-200

Elizabeth d’Espérance1 was haunted by the ghosts of her own materializations. She distrusted their reality, feared she was an unintentional fraud, and spent years working through her questions about mediumship. As she described it in her autobiography: “I had begun to have a feeling of dissatisfaction with respect to these materialised...

NOTES

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pp. 201-211

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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pp. 213-223

INDEX

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pp. 225-233


E-ISBN-13: 9780791481936
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791467398
Print-ISBN-10: 0791467392

Page Count: 260
Illustrations: 14 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2006

Series Title: SUNY series, Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century
Series Editor Byline: Pamela K. Gilbert