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Reviews Works Cited Assael, Brenda. "Music in the Air: Boise, Performers and the Contest over the Streets of the Mid-Victorian Metropolis." The Streets of London from the GreatFire to the GreatStink. Eds.Tim Hitchcock and Headier Shore. London: Rivers, Oram, 2003. 183-197.·> * Nicola Bown, Carolyn Burdett, Pamela Thurschwell, eds. The VictorianSupernatural (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2004), US$ 65.00. 'Technology enchants and baffles, suggesting a new kind of supernatural. [. . .] Humdrum life is always perturbed by unwelcome insights and never quite securely closes on itself" (xiii-xv), Gillian Beer comments in her foreword to The Victorian Supernatural. This superb collection of essays enchants and perturbs, too, but in the best way, by upsettingwhat we usually take as axiomatic. Its essays combine to suggest that the seal between the natural and the supernatural is not as hermetic as we, or the Victorians, might like it. For the Victorians, the supernatural was not confined to dark chambers where mediums channelled departed relatives; what the collection brings to light is that supernatural ideas and beliefs permeated all aspects of life. The collection persuasively shows that concerns about what is "above and beyond the power of natural causes" (4) touched the core of society, not merely the margins, and that die Victorians endeavoured to "re-categorise the supernatural as supernormalphenomena" (197), as Roger Luckhurst notes in his essay. The collection's dozen pieces are divided into six sections covering science, women, resuscitation, visions, empire, and modernism. In the first, Richard Noakes asks why, in an age of science, the supernatural had so many eager believers. His answer - that Spiritualists thought the phenomena exhibited in séances would be explained by natural laws, legitimated and thus accepted into scientific circles - puts a new slant on the debate between Spiritualism and science. Traditionally viewed as a struggle to separate sham science from the real thing, Noakes relocates the issue as a debate about scientific approaches, not the objects of inquiry themselves. He cites a London physics professor's defensive response to a psychical researcher as emblem70volume 31 number 1 Reviews atic: "is not die whole progress of physics based on the assumption that these [Spiritualistic] things do nothappen?" (24). Noakes's conclusion, mat debates about Spiritualism were also disputes about authority (33), links to Eve M Lynch's essay on "spectral politics" and the relationship between domestic authority and ghost stories. Drawingon Mary Elizabeth Braddon's ghost stories and her efforts for social reform, Lynch's splendid contribution connects the invisibility of Victorian servants to spectres, family secrets and child-rearing Pamela Thurschwell parallels George Eliot's DanielDeronda and The Rabbi's SpeU, a shilling schocker by Stuart Cumberland, one of the most popular thought-readers of the day. A materialist and anti-Spiritualist at heart, Cumberland insisted he could read people's minds by interpreting their physical movements, not through supernatural powers. His novel, however, plays to stereotypes about thought-reading Similarly, in DanielDeronda, "second sight" (Eliot's favoured term for "prediction") and thought transference dichotomise the novel's concern with gender, race and nationhood. Glossing Eliot's declaration that '"second-sighf is a flag over disputed ground", Thurschwell shrewdly reminds us "that planting a flag takes unmarked ground and makes it into a nation" (93). In me section tided "Raising the Dead", Colin Cruise's interdisciplinary exploration of the images and texts of Frederick Rolfe points up the intersections between Catholicism and Spiritualism. Less convincing, however , is Adam Roberts's interpretation of Browning's dramatic monologues as resurrections. The poet, in Browning's words, "Repeats God's process in man's due degree, [. . .] Creates, no, but resuscitates, perhaps" (110). Perhaps. The essay's premisory rush to judge these "resuscitated" speakers as representative of Christian and pagan concepts of resurrection would have benefited from a more measured unpacking As it is, one is reluctant to agree to this interpretive jump, wimout Ae benefit of a litde more hopping and slopping amongst plausible grounds for it. Many poems make use of "dead speakers" (1 10) as a narrative technique (the Divine Comedy is only the first to spring to mind), but surely Roberts doesn't intend his "aesthetics of resuscitation" to be applicable to them all...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 70-73
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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