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Determined Spirits

Eugenics, Heredity and Racial Regeneration in Anglo-American Spiritualist Writing, 1848-1930

Christine Ferguson

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Examines the Spiritualist movement's role in disseminating eugenic and hard hereditarian thought

Studying transatlantic spiritualist literature from the mid-19th to the early 20th century, Christine Ferguson focuses on its incorporation and dissemination of bio-determinist and eugenic thought. She asks why ideas about rational reproduction, hereditary determinism and race improvement became so important to spiritualist novelists, journalists and biographers in this period. She also examines how these concerns drove emerging Spiritualist understandings of disability, intelligence, crime, conception, the afterlife and aesthetic production. The book draws on rare material, including articles and serialized fiction from Spiritualist periodicals such as Light, The Two Worlds and The Medium and Daybreak as well as on Spiritualist healing, parentage and sex manuals.

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List of Figures
Series Editor's Preface

Radical Determinism and the Natural History of the Medium
Spirits in Mind: Madness, Idiocy, and the Cultural Capital of Ignorance
Eugenic Summer Lands: Sexual Reproduction and Family Engineering in the Spheres
Blended Souls: Paschal Beverly Randolph and Occult Miscegenation
Criminal Man and Recidivist Spirit: Spiritualism, Criminal Anthropology, and Thanato-Rehabilitationism
Dead Letters: Bio-Aesthetics and the New Realism in Fin-de-Siècle Spiritualism

About the Author

Dr Christine Ferguson is currently a Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Glasgow. She is the author of Language, Science, and Popular Fiction in the Victorian Fin-de-Siècle: The Brutal Tongue (Ashgate, 2006).


Ferguson's work is a superb exposition of what Robert S. Cox referred to in his Body and Soul (2003) as the 'inherently polyvoal' nature of the Anglo-American movement.
- Ahren Lester, University of Southampton, The British Journal of the History of Science
Ferguson’s book is an ambitious and astute intervention in the parallel histories of spiritualism and bioessentialism
that signposts numerous fertile areas for future research.
- Will Abberley, St Anne’s College, University of Oxford, Victoriographies Vol. 4, No. 1

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