Though a surging interest in communication with the Other World is typically associated with the Spiritualist frenzy of the second half of the nineteenth century, the theme already haunted the imagination and literature of earlier decades. This book investigates how communicating across unfathomable metaphysical distances was envisioned and represented in the fifty years before the advent of Spiritualism and more mundane forms of telecommunications like telegraphy. Looking at novels and short stories from both sides of the Atlantic through an approach combining communication theory and cultural history, it explores the prominence and significance of otherworldly communication in early nineteenth-century fiction, its relationship with popular theories of the time such as animal magnetism and sympathy, and the fundamental questions it raised about identity, power, and the negotiation of the boundary between self and other.
Greta Colombani is completing an AHRC-funded PhD on Romantic poetry and otherworldly communication at the University of Cambridge.
She previously studied at the Scuola Normale Superiore and University of Pisa and is the author of A Gordian Shape of Dazzling Hue: Serpent Symbolism in Keats’s Poetry (2017). Her interests focus on early nineteenth-century British literature and on applications of communication theory to the study of literary texts.