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This thesis analyzes both the material phenomena channeled by antebellum Spiritualists, and the attendant séance form. Sitter accounts, emphasizing the desire for emotional and material points of connection with spirits, challenge previous interpretations of material phenomena as novel sensationalism. Through practice, material mediums demonstrated an ideal model of selfhood as social, bodily, and free from spatial confines. Rail technology's disruption of the traditional social and spatial implications of distance opened up the possibility for a radical reimagining of space as primarily social, and erasable through physical and emotional harmony. Though previously neglected, practices around material manifestations demonstrate a strategic model of bodily selfhood complementary to the larger Spiritualist project of pursuing an imminent universal harmony.
Emotion, Haunting, Material culture, Sensory, Spiritualism
Date of Defense
December 11, 2015.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Religion in partial fulfillment of the Master of Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
John Corrigan, Professor Directing Thesis; Amanda Porterfield, Committee Member; Michael McVicar, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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