Spiritualism is often dismissed by literary critics and historians as merely a Victorian fad. Helen Sword demonstrates that it continued to flourish well into the twentieth century and seeks to explain why. Literary modernism, she maintains, is replete with ghosts and spirits. In Ghostwriting Modernism she explores spiritualism's striking persistence and what she calls "the vexed relationship between mediumistic discourse and modernist literary aesthetics."Sword begins with a brief historical review of popular spiritualism's roots in nineteenth-century literary culture. In subsequent chapters, she discusses the forms of mediumship most closely allied with writing, the forms of writing most closely allied with mediumship, and the thematic and aesthetic alliances between popular spiritualism and modernist literature. Finally, she accounts for the recent proliferation of a spiritualist-influenced vocabulary (ghostliness, hauntings, the uncanny) in the works of historians, sociologists, philosophers, and especially literary critics and theorists.Documenting the hitherto unexplored relationship between spiritualism and modern authors (some credulous, some skeptical), Sword offers compelling readings of works by James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats, H.D., James Merrill, Sylvia Plath, and Ted Hughes. Even as modernists mock spiritualism's ludicrous lingo and deride its metaphysical excesses, she finds, they are intrigued and attracted by its ontological shiftiness, its blurring of the traditional divide between high culture and low culture, and its self-serving tendency to favor form over content (medium, so to speak, over message). Like modernism itself, Sword asserts, spiritualism embraces rather than eschews paradox, providing an ideological space where conservative beliefs can coexist with radical, even iconoclastic, thought and action.
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Abyss of Reason Arthur Conan Doyle authorship automatic writing Byatt cataloging claims Collected Poems Conan Doyle Cottom critics cultural Cummins Dawson Scott dead death Derrida Edward Dowden Eliot essay experience famous father female Finnegans Wake ghostly ghostwriting Goldfarb and Goldfarb Hamlet haunting Hester Dowden Hughes human instance intellectual Joyce Joyce's language later Lawrence literary living London Majic Ring Mann mediumistic mediumship Merrill Merrill's metaphor mind modern modernist writers modernist-era mysterious novel occult Oscar Wilde otherworldly Ouija board paradox Plath poem's poet poetic poetry popular spiritualism postmodern Psychic Messages Psychical Research published real-life Rilke role Sandover scholars seance sexual Shakespeare Sibyl speak Specters of Marx spirit communication spirit mediums spirit messages spirit world spiritualist Stead Spirit story subsequent quotations Sylvia Plath symbolic T. S. Eliot tion Tribute to Freud tropes Ulysses Vision visionary voices W. B. Yeats W.T. Stead Waste Land Woolf words wrote Yeats Yeats's