Spirits Rapping: Spiritualism in Anglo-American Fiction (09/30/09; NeMLA, 4/7/10 - 4/11/10)

full name / name of organization: 
Michael Cadwallader / University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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Spirits Rapping: Spiritualism in Anglo-American Fiction

41st Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)

April 7-11, 2010

Montreal, Quebec

The rapping of spirits that began in Hydesville, NY in 1848 quickly raised echoes in fiction on both sides of the Atlantic. Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, William Dean Howells, and Hamlin Garland are just a few of the authors to write works focused on Spiritualism, and even more authors include passing references to the movement. However, the treatment of Spiritualism in fiction varies widely between authors. Some, like Phelps, use fiction to work out the doctrines of Spiritualism as a religious movement; others, like Arthur Conan Doyle, use fiction to build a case for the truthfulness of Spiritualist beliefs; still others, like Hamlin Garland, use Spiritualism as a means to build tension between those characters who do and those characters who do not believe in the world of spirits. These different approaches reflect Spiritualism's position at the center of a number of dichotomies being inscribed during the second half of the nineteenth and the start of the twentieth century. Positioned squarely between science and religion, between the material and the immaterial, and between the sacred and the secular, Spiritualism presents a rich topic for authors working through growing tensions in their culture.

This panel seeks to analyze the many ways in which authors of fiction in the United States and England treat Spiritualism as a means of exploring cultural tensions emerging during the period between 1848 and the end of the First World War. Papers could address competing narratives of Spiritualist practices or beliefs, Spiritualism as subject of scientific inquiry, Spiritualism as symbol of larger cultural concerns, or other uses to which authors put the movement in fiction.

Email 300 to 500 word abstracts to Michael Cadwallader at cadwallader@unc.edu by 30 September 2009.

See the entire NeMLA 41st Convention CFP at http://www.nemla.org/convention/2010/cfp.html.