Hosting the ghosttransatlantic spiritualism and the reception of racialized otherness from victorian to neo-victorian gothic literature

  1. Clara Contreras Ameduri
Supervised by:
  1. Ana María Manzanas Calvo Director
  2. Miriam Borham Puyal Director

Defence university: Universidad de Salamanca

Year of defence: 2020

Committee:
  1. Rosario Arias Doblas Chair
  2. Ana María Fraile Marcos Secretary
  3. Tatiana Kontou Committee member

Type: Thesis

Abstract

This thesis examines the extent to which the interracial encounters depicted in Victorian spiritualist literature mirror the period’s wavering conceptions of ethnic and geo-cultural difference. More specifically, it proposes that the reception of racialized Otherness in works affected by the nineteenth-century Occult revival does not always echo the allegedly everwelcoming tenets of the spiritualist movement. In order to delve into the controversies posed by this disparity, it provides a comparative investigation of the influence of spiritualist thought on British an American Gothic texts, observing analogies and variations in the representation of mixed-raced female identity across the Atlantic. It also explores the incorporation of such motifs into Neo-Victorian fiction so as to evaluate contemporary reconfigurations of spiritualist imagery with relation to cross-cultural interactions. Chapter One considers the transatlantic impact of the spiritualist movement, paying attention to its linkage to the socio-cultural transformations of the long nineteenth century. It takes into account the theoretical implications of spiritualist practices such as mediumship from the point of view of narrative hospitality and feminist criticism, thus laying the ground for the subsequent analysis. Chapter Two examines Pauline Hopkins’ adaptation of spiritualist tropes into her Pan-Africanist novel Of One Blood (1902-1903). It argues that her use of the Occult in the redefinition of African-American personhood draws on previously established philosophical correlations between spiritualist and abolitionist circles in order to challenge racial discrimination. Chapter Three continues the exploration of racially liminal figures in Florence Marryat’s The Blood of the Vampire (1897). It asserts that the spiritualist author endorses a fundamentally hostile approach to the Creole protagonist’s heredity, expressed through recurrent allusions to eugenic ideology, thus demonstrating the problematic connections between nineteenth-century bio-determinist theories and the often seemingly progressive spiritualist community. Lastly, Chapter Four inquires into Essie Fox’s inclusion of Spiritualism into her Neo-Victorian novel The Goddess and the Thief (2013). It seeks to speculate upon the advantages and limitations of Fox’s use of the Occult in her revision of imperialist discourse, proving how the presence of spiritualist elements in contemporary historical fiction does not necessarily guarantee a full recovery of forgotten non-Western voices. The conclusion draws together the main findings of the abovementioned chapters, pondering on the dilemmas encountered throughout this investigation and confirming the paradoxical nature of interracial relations in spiritualist literary culture.