Posted on March 29, 2011 by Tia Lalani

Metamorphosis is part of COPLAC’s effort to highlight some of the best recent work in undergraduate research. Each semester, faculty committees at member campuses select two outstanding projects for inclusion in Metamorphosis. Spiritualism as Resistance in the Nineteenth-Century Ghost Story Erin Peters University of Alberta, Augustana Campus Mentor(s): Dr. Roxanne Harde, Associate Dean, Research, Associate …

Metamorphosis is part of COPLAC’s effort to highlight some of the best recent work in undergraduate research. Each semester, faculty committees at member campuses select two outstanding projects for inclusion in Metamorphosis.

Spiritualism as Resistance in the Nineteenth-Century Ghost Story
Erin Peters
University of Alberta, Augustana Campus
Mentor(s): Dr. Roxanne Harde, Associate Dean, Research, Associate Professor of English

In both the United States and England, Spiritualism flourished during the nineteenth-century. The importance of women’s roles as mediums within the Spiritualist movement provided new possibilities for women in terms of power and social mobility. Female authors during this period, aware of these possibilities, began using elements of Spiritualism within their stories to write resistance into their social context. In Josephine Daskam Bacon’s short story “The Children,” a maid gains power within her new household and over her new mistress by conjuring the spirits of two children. In “The Shadow in the Corner,” by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, a young girl who acts as a medium resists power by herself becoming a revenant and haunting those who were determined to put her in her place. In these and other ghost stories by Mary Elizabeth Wilkins Freeman, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Ellen Glasgow, either the medium or the spirit acts against those that oppress them. Using the writings of Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, this essay analyzes the places in these stories where the social hegemony is challenged or even overturned. I argue that through their ghost stories, transatlantic female authors of the nineteenth-century were able to manipulate traditional structures of power.

See the rest of the essay in Metamorphosis’ Spring 2011 edition!


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