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Title: Spiritualism exposed: scepticism, credulity and spectatorship in end-of-the-century America
Authors: Natale, Simone
Keywords: Spiritualism
Early cinema
Magic
Psychology
Scepticism
Spectatorship
Issue Date: 2010
Publisher: © Intellect Ltd
Citation: NATALE, S., 2010. Spiritualism exposed: scepticism, credulity and spectatorship in end-of-the-century America. European Journal of American Culture, 29 (2), pp. 131 - 144
Abstract: In recent years, the study of spiritualism and occultism has been proposed as a key to understand the political, social and cultural issues of nineteenth-century America. While the position of spiritualism's supporters has been the subject of most accounts, however, sources that critically questioned the spiritualist claims have been usually left aside. In this article, I will rely on this extremely rich body of sources, in order to understand how the debate about spiritualism played an essential role in the shaping of sceptical perspectives in nineteenth-century America. Focusing in particular on anti-spiritualist performances played on the stage by professional magicians and on psychological writings that questioned the phenomena of the spiritualist seances, I will argue that in both contexts the spirit medium came to be understood as a performer, and the sitters as spectators. As a critical reading of texts such as film theory pioneer Hugo Mnsterberg's 1891 Psychology and Mysticism may suggest, the exposure of spiritualist trickery shaped a discourse on perception and sensorial delusion that anticipated in many ways later debates on cinematic spectatorship.
Description: This article was accepted for publication in the serial, European Journal of American Culture [© Intellect Ltd]. The definitive version is available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/ejac.29.2.131_1
Version: Accepted for publication
DOI: 10.1386/ejac.29.2.131_1
URI: https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/19411
Publisher Link: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/ejac.29.2.131_1
ISSN: 1466-0407
Appears in Collections:Published Articles (Social Sciences)

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