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Plato's GhostSpiritualism in the American Renaissance$
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Cathy Guiterrez

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195388350

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388350.001.0001

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(p.143) 6 Minds
Plato's Ghost

Cathy Gutierrez (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In promulgating trance states and multiple voices talking through particularly young women, Spiritualism had from the outset been skirting the territory of insanity. This chapter explores the rise of psychoanalysis in America and the contested value of trances and hypnosis. As mental health became increasingly medicalized, the religious value of different experiences of consciousness were contested. Spiritualists fought to protect their theological turf from the encroaching charges of insanity even as mediums were institutionalized and labeled as mad. Asylums in the nineteenth century frequently functioned to promote social norms, and women in particular who deviated from mainstream decorum or religiosity often found themselves imprisoned there. Spiritualists were no exception, and the movement that promoted progress and knowledge with the aid of the dead soon found itself an unwilling object of scientific scrutiny.

Keywords:   hysteria, Sigmund Freud, insanity, asylums, trances, monomania, hypnotism, Franz Mesmer, unconscious, Frederick Myers

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