1st Edition

Women and the Victorian Occult

Edited By Tatiana Kontou Copyright 2011
    by Routledge

    222 Pages
    by Routledge

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    Increasingly, contemporary scholarship reveals the strong connection between Victorian women and the world of the nineteenth-century supernatural. Women were intrinsically bound to the occult and the esoteric from mediums who materialised spirits to the epiphanic experiences of the New Woman, from theosophy to telepathy. This volume addresses the various ways in which Victorian women expressed themselves and were constructed by the occult through a broad range of texts. By examining the roles of women as automatic writing mediums, spiritualists, authors, editors, theosophists, socialists and how they interpreted the occult in their life and work, the contributors in this edition return to sensation novels, ghost stories, autobiographies, séances and fashionable magazines to access the visible and invisible worlds of Victorian life. The variety of texts analysed by the authors in this collection demonstrates the many interpretations of the occult in nineteenth-century culture and the ways that women used supernatural imagery and language to draw attention to issues that bore immediate implications on their own lives. Either by catering for the fad of ghost stories or by giving public trance speeches women harnessed the metaphorical and financial forces of the supernatural. As the articles in this book demonstrate the occult was after all a female affair. This book was published as a special issue of Women's Writing.

    1. Introduction: Women and the Victorian Occult - Tatiana Kontou

    2. Life after Death: Apoplexy, Medical Ethics and the Female Undead - Andrew Mangham

    3. ‘‘‘I thought you was an evil spirit’’’: The Hidden Villain of Lady Audley’s Secret - Elizabeth Lee Steere

    4. Beyond These Voices: M. E. Braddon and the Ghost of Sensationalism - Kate Mattacks

    5. ‘‘Above the breath of suspicion’’: Florence Marryat and the Shadow of the Fraudulent Trance Medium - Georgina O’Brien Hill

    6. ‘‘God, or something like that’’: Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’s Christian Spiritualism - Roxanne Harde

    7. Co-operation and Co-authorship: Automatic Writing, Socialism and Gender in Late Victorian and Edwardian Birmingham - Sarah Edwards

    8. ‘‘A mere instrument’’ or ‘‘proud as Lucifer’’? Self-Presentations in theOccult Autobiographies by Emma Hardinge Britten (1900) and Annie Besant (1893) - Miriam Wallraven

    9. Whose Body? The ‘‘Willing’’ or ‘‘Unwilling’’ Mesmerized Woman in Late Victorian Fiction - Susan Poznar

    10. The Savage Magnet: Racialization of the Occult Body in Late Victorian Fiction - Sarah Willburn

    11. E. Nesbit’s New Woman Gothic - Nick Freeman


    Tatiana Kontou is the author of Spiritualism and Women’s Writing: from the fin de siècle to the neo-Victorian and co-editor with Sarah Willburn of The Ashgate Research Companion to Nineteenth-Century Spiritualism and the Occult. She is currently writing a monograph on Florence Marryat for Edinburgh University Press.