21.5.17

Womens' Voices

Claudie Massicotte. Trance Speakers: Femininity and Authorship in Spiritual Seances, 1850-1930. McGill-Queen's University Press (1 May 2017)

Few people know that Susanna Moodie participated in spiritual seances with her husband, Dunbar, and her sister, Catharine Parr Traill. Moodie, like many other women, found in her communications with the departed an important space to question her commitment to authorship and her understanding of femininity. Retracing the history of possession and mediumship among women following the emergence of spiritualism in mid-nineteenth-century Canada and unearthing a vast collection of archival documents and photographs from seances Claudie Massicotte pinpoints spiritualism as a site of conflict and gender struggle and redefines modern understandings of female agency.

Trance Speakers offers a new feminist and psychoanalytical approach to the religious and creative practice of trance, arguing that by providing women with a voice for their conscious and unconscious desires, this phenomenon helped them resolve their inner struggles in a society that sought to confine their lives. Drawing attention to the fascinating history of spiritualism and its persistent appeal to women, Massicotte makes a strong case for moving this practice out of the margins of the past. A compelling new reading of spiritual possession as a response to conflicting interpretations of authorship, agency, and gender, Trance Speakers shines a much-needed light on women s religious practices and on the history of spiritualist traditions and travels across North America and Europe."