As spiritualism developed as a religious movement in the second half of the nineteenth century, the realm of show business and spectacular entertainment was experiencing revolutionary changes, with the creation of new kinds of audiences, the industrialization of the circuits of life entertainment and, ultimately, the introduction of the new spectacular technology of the moving image. Focusing on the performances of mediums on the theatrical stage, on the relationship between beliefs in spirits and fictional representation of ghosts, and on the entertaining character of the spiritualist experience, this talk will tackle the mostly disregarded history of the role of entertainment and spectacle in the British and American spiritualist movement.
Simone Natale is a Fellow of the Italian Academy at Columbia University. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Torino, Italy, in 2011, and has been a Humboldt Foundation Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Cologne in 2012-13. He has published in numerous peer-reviewed journals, including History of Photography, Media History, Early Popular Visual Culture, the Canadian Journal of Communication, Celebrity Studies, and Media, Culture and Society. He is currently working on a book manuscript titled “The Spectacular Supernatural: Spiritualism and the Rise of Modern Show Business,” based on his Ph.D. dissertation.