Spirituality and Religion in American Culture, Olomouc 2000
THE SPIRITUALIST PERFORMANCES OF SHAKERISM IN THE 1830s AND 1840s" (abstract)
Bridget Bennett, Ph.D., School of English, University of Leeds, U.K.
Bridget Bennett works at the School of English, University of Leeds. She is currently working on a book on spiritualism, gender and radical reform in nineteenth century America, a book on the representation of Egypt in the nineteenth century, and a book on transatlantic literary relations in the modern peiod. She has published widely on nineteenth century American literature and culture. Books include (ed) 'Ripples of Dissent: Women's Stories of Marriage from the 1890s' (Dent, 1996); 'The Damnation of Harold Frederic: His Lives and Works' (Syracuse University Press, 1997); and (co-ed) 'Grub Street to the Ivory Tower: Literary Journalism and Literary Scholarship from Fielding to the Internet' (Clarendon Press, 1998.) Her latest jointly edited book will be published by Manchester University Press in 2001.
My paper will be on the representation of Native American spirits within the spiritual manifestations of white Shakers in 1838, and in the seances of white spiritualists later in the century and to the present day. The extraordinary racial theatre of the Shaker manifestations might be described as part of the prehistory of modern spiritualism and investigating the events of 1838 - "Mother Ann's Work" as they are known helps to ally modern spiritualism to a tradition of radical Protestant theology that stretches back several centuries. My paper reads these manifestations in relation to the connection between spiritualism and its involvement in political agitations about racial and gender rights. I will look at differing representations of generic "Indians" both within Shaker performances and on the stage, in poetry and within visual art of the period. I will also look at the varying modes of depictions of Pocahontas within seances. My paper will consider the ways in which the performances of "Indians" put on by Shakers were consistent with the various images of the Indian as it was being constructed in the literature, art and popular culture of the period.