“‘Give me the table _ all the rest, all the other effects, come afterwards’: Sound and Sexual Communication in the Spiritualist Fiction of Marryat and Phelps”
Publication Type
Original research
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This paper examines the association between sound, sexual desire and women within the context of nineteenth-century spiritualist practices in the works of Florence Marryat (1833-1899) and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (1844-1911). Sound can be an effect of rapping that not only mediates erotic interactions between women and spirits, but also bestows on the former sexual agency within the social world that lies beyond the walls of the Victorian home. The paper argues that the employment of sound as a subversive medium of contact between female characters and spirits, either in the séance room or in heaven, results in the liberation and empowerment of women’s voices. This can take place within the phenomenon of materialisation, by which spirits – here sounds – turn into visible bodies with which female mediums communicate freely. In addition to enabling female sexual autonomy, the function of sound in Marryat’s and Phelps’s texts, particularly via wood-rapping, deconstructs masculine authority by questioning male voices and problematising their presence in the spirit world. Oppressive male figures in Marryat’s and Phelps’s novels become othered in the next world where hierarchical structures and gender roles are challenged and put on a basis of equality.

Journal
Title
Nineteenth-Century Contexts
Publisher
Taylor and Francis
Publisher Country
United Kingdom
Indexing
Thomson Reuters
Impact Factor
0.09
Publication Type
Both (Printed and Online)
Volume
37
Year
2015
Pages
341-358