PUBLISHED_Spreading the Spirit Word.pdf (471.6 kB)

Spreading the spirit word: print media, storytelling, and popular culture in nineteenth-century spiritualism

Download (471.6 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 11.11.2015 by Simone Natale
Spiritualists in the nineteenth century gave much emphasis to the collection of evidences of scientific meaning. During séances, they used instruments similar to those employed in scientific practice to substantiate their claims. However, these were not the only source of legitimization offered in support of the spiritualist claims. In fact, writers who aimed to provide beliefs in spiritualism with a reliable support relied very often on the testimonies of eyewitness that were reported in a narrative fashion. This article interrogates the role of such anecdotal testimonies in nineteenth-century spiritualism. It argues that they played a twofold role: on one side, they offered a form of evidentiary proof that was complementary to the collection of mechanical-based evidences; on the other side, they circulated in spiritualist publications, creating opportunities to reach a wide public of readers that was made available by the emergence of a mass market for print media. Able to convince, but also to entertain the reader, anecdotal testimonies were perfectly suited for publications in spiritualist books and periodicals. The proliferation of anecdotal testimonies in spiritualist texts, in this regard, hints at the relevance of storytelling in the diffusion of beliefs about religious matters as well as scientific issues within the public sphere. By reporting and disseminating narrative testimonies, print media acted as a channel through which spiritualism’s religious and scientific endeavors entered the field of a burgeoning popular culture.

Funding

Research that lead to the publication of this essay has been funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and by the Italian Academy of Columbia University, New York.

History

School

  • Social Sciences

Department

  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

Published in

Communication+1

Volume

4

Pages

1 - 18

Citation

NATALE, S., 2015. Spreading the spirit word: print media, storytelling, and popular culture in nineteenth-century spiritualism. Communication+1, 4, Article 12.

Publisher

ScholarWorks@UMass Amherst

Version

VoR (Version of Record)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 International (CC BY-SA 3.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

Publication date

2015

Notes

This is an Open Access article published by ScholarWorks@UMass Amherst and licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Language

en

Exports

Logo branding

Keyword(s)

Exports