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Ghostly Communion

Cross-Cultural Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century American Literature

In this exceptional book, Kucich reveals through his readings of literary and historical accounts that spiritualism helped shape the terms by which Native American, European, and African cultures interacted in America from the earliest days of contact through the present. Beginning his study with a provocative juxtaposition of the Pueblo Indian Revolt and the Salem Witchcraft trials of the seventeenth century, Kucich examin[e]s how both events forged “contact zones”— spaces of intense cultural conflict and negotiation—mediated by spiritualism. Kucich goes on to chronicle how a diverse group of writers used spiritualism to reshape a range of such contact zones. These include Rochester, New York, where Harriet Jacobs adapted the spirit rappings of the Fox Sisters and the abolitionist writings of Frederick Douglass as she crafted her own story of escape from slavery; mid-century periodicals from the Atlantic Monthly to the Cherokee Advocate to the Anglo-African Magazine; post-bellum representations of the afterlife by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Mark Twain and the Native Americans who developed the Ghost Dance; turn-of-the-century local color fiction by writers like Sarah Orne Jewett, Charles Chesnutt and Maria Cristina Mena; and the New England reformist circles traced in Henry James’s The Bostonians and Pauline Hopkins’s Of One Blood. Kucich’s conclusion looks briefly at New Age spiritualism, then considers the implications of a cross-cultural scholarship that draws on a variety of critical methodologies, from border and ethnic studies to feminism to post-colonialism and the public sphere. The implications of this study, which brings well-known, canonical writers and lesser-known writers into conversation with one another, are broadly relevant to the resurgent interest in religious studies and American cultural studies in general.

225 pages | 6 x 9

Literature and Literary Criticism: General Criticism and Critical Theory


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements • Introduction: The Pueblo Revolt, the Salem Witchcraft Trials, and Cross-Cultural Spiritualism • Chapter 1. Around Rochester: Spiritualism, Reform, and Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl • Chapter 2. Public Spirits: Spiritualism in American Periodicals, 1848-1861 • Chapter 3. The Politics of Heaven: The Ghost Dance, The Gates Ajar, and Captains Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven • Chapter 4. Spirits in the Contact Zone: Spiritualism and Local Color Writing • Chapter 5. Spirit Nation: Spiritualism and National Ideology in Henry James’s The Bostonians and Pauline Hopkins’s Of One Blood • Conclusion: The Poetics and Politics of Spiritualism • Notes • Works Cited • Index

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