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Record Type: Review   ID: 1201

The Darkened Room: Women, Power, and Spiritualism in Late Nineteenth Century England

Owen, Alex

 Based on her doctoral research, historian Owen writes about the manner in which women spiritualists were constructed as "natural" mediums, the way in which their "innate" femininity made it possible for mediums to obtain powerful positions but then boomeranged because they became trapped within the confines of a limited definition of self, the "transgression femininity" that was evidenced in some of the most spectacular materialization seances, and the hostility aroused by this spectacular form of mediumistic femininity. There were male mediums also, and they have received more attention, according to Owen, than the women. She attempts to right the balance. Owen is not interested in the validity of spiritualist mediums, but "with the issues of power and subversion and, consequently with the meaning . . and significance of female spiritualist practice" (p. xiii). Even though Owen is not interested in the question of whether or not mediums had genuine psychic ability, and if anything, she prefers a psychoanalytic interpretation of mediumship, she has uncovered and perhaps even created a framework for and understanding of why and how some of those striking seances occurred. Parapsychologists and others interested in mediumship would do well to study it.
Publisher Information:London, England: Virago Press, 1989. 314p. Bibl: 290-307; Chap. bibl: 243-289; 19 illus; Index: 308-314
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