Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1893/23861
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Title: Mixed Media: Olivia Plender’s A Stellar Key to the Summerland (2007) and the Afterlife of Spiritualist Visual Culture (Forthcoming)
Authors: Ferguson, Christine
Contact Email: christine.ferguson@stir.ac.uk
Editors: Jones, AM
Mitchell, RN
Citation: Ferguson C (2016) Mixed Media: Olivia Plender’s A Stellar Key to the Summerland (2007) and the Afterlife of Spiritualist Visual Culture (Forthcoming). In: Jones AM, Mitchell RN (ed.). Drawing on the Victorians: The Palimpsest of Victorian and Neo-Victorian Graphic Texts. Series in Victorian Studies, Athens, OH, USA: Ohio University Press.
Issue Date: Dec-2016
Publisher: Ohio University Press
Series/Report no.: Series in Victorian Studies
Abstract: First paragraph: When Modern Spiritualism spread across the United States and then the Atlantic in the early eighteen-fifties, it initiated not only a radical heterodox and political movement but also a rich visual culture in which proof of spiritual survival was explained and evidenced through an elaborate system of cosmological maps and illustrations, emblems, photographs and phrenological medium portraits, spectacular demonstrations, and spirit drawings whose goal was to make the inquirer see anew 1 One of the most significant and intricate of the early movement’s illustrated books, A Stellar Key to the Summer Land (1867), by American Harmonial philosopher Andrew Jackson Davis, forges its argument for the Spiritualist hypothesis through a mixed-media synthesis of image and text in which the mundane and supernatural worlds are placed on the same visual plane. In her striking 2007 hand-drawn comic of almost identical name, research-based British artist Olivia Plender recovers the forgotten iconography and visual ephemera of nineteenth-century transatlantic Spiritualism—including mastheads from Spiritualist newspapers, medium portraits, proselytizing posters, and diagrams of séance equipment—to track, probe, and then ultimately undo the movement’s seeming complicity with the subsequent cultures of New Age libertarianism and neo-liberal capitalism. Framing her text as a New Age self-help book dictated by the departed spirit of Andrew Jackson Davis, Plender explores the ways in which Spiritualism’s reformist and socialist agenda was mediated and tempered by the spectacular forms of modern capitalism, its pictures of the hitherto unseen world of spirit framed to sell pitiless schemes of colonial violence and libertarian self-reliance. At the same time, however, her detailed reiterations and adaptations of the movement’s most iconic images reveal their continued ability to surpass the instrumentalist purposes to which they have often been put to use in the commodity culture of the New Age. This chapter examines A Stellar Key to the Summerland’s compelling meditation on the ideological ambivalence of the twinned exoteric image cultures in which it participates: that of the nineteenth-century Spiritualist movement and that of contemporary popular comics.
Rights: The publisher has not yet responded to our queries therefore this work cannot be made publicly available in this Repository. Please use the Request a Copy feature at the foot of the Repository record to request a copy directly from the author. You can only request a copy if you wish to use this work for your own research or private study.
Type: Part of book or chapter of book
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1893/23861
URL: http://www.ohioswallow.com/book/Drawing+on+the+Victorians
Affiliation: English Studies

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