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The medium on the stage: trance and performance in nineteenth-century spiritualism

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journal contribution
posted on 12.11.2015, 13:50 by Simone Natale
While historians of spiritualism have been eager to focus on its political and social implications, less attention has been given to the fact that spirit communication was also a matter of visual spectacle. This article aims to analyse spiritualist séances as a form of spectacular entertainment. Relying on a wide array of spiritualist sources, it argues that séances were meant not only as moments of religious and scientific inquiry, but also as a brilliant amusement where theatrical effects embellished an exciting shared experience. The intermingling of religion and entertainment can thus be seen as one of the defining characteristics of the spiritualist experience. After sketching the history of the presence of spiritualist mediums on the stage and discussing the involvement of professionalism in mediumship, the article will then focus on the trance as a specific performance strategy. It will examine how the trance combined issues of automatism, theatricality and absorption, and contributed to the coexistence in spirit seances of spectacular features and claims of authenticity.

History

School

  • Social Sciences

Department

  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

Published in

Early Popular Visual Culture

Volume

9

Issue

3

Pages

239 - 255

Citation

NATALE, S., 2011. The medium on the stage: trance and performance in nineteenth-century spiritualism. Early Popular Visual Culture, 9 (3), pp. 239 - 255.

Publisher

© Taylor & Francis

Version

AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date

2011

Notes

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Early Popular Visual Culture on 06 Sep 2011, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/17460654.2011.601166.

ISSN

1746-0654

eISSN

1746-0662

Language

en