Author

Daniel Bowlin

Date Approved

2019

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History and Philosophy

Committee Member

John McCurdy, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Richard Nation, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James Egge, Ph.D.

Abstract

Spiritualism, or the belief in spirit communications through mediums, was a movement in the nineteenth century which gained popularity within America. This thesis aims to widen the scope of spiritualism’s historiography by exploring spiritualists’ lives to reveal a more complex answer to why this movement gained a large following in antebellum America. The stories of spiritualists show that spiritualism rose in nineteenth century America because the culture placed death in the periphery, leaving certain Americans unresolved and therefore looking to the Victorian death culture for closure from a lost relationship. Additionally, spiritualists saw the muddled religious system as proof of its subjectivity and thus looked to the spirits for empirical evidences of its claims. Furthermore, spiritualism is explored through a gendered lens to show that women were drawn to spiritualism to soothe their grief from a lost loved one, whereas men sought to prove spiritualism’s claims through a scientific method.

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History Commons

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