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Attendees of the panel “Penetrating Death” were treated to four wellinformed papers investigating the manner in which female bodies have been probed and evaluated by patriarchal “experts” throughout history; while tied thematically, the papers ranged widely in historical specificity, from predynastic Egypt to late Victorian England. The first speaker, Christine Gottlieb of UCLA, examined the “epistemology of gynecology” in the late nineteenth century in her paper, “Penetrating Knowledge and Attacking Mysteries: The Cases of Dracula and Dora.” By reading the novel Dracula in tandem with Freud’s account of his hysterical patient Dora, Gottlieb demonstrated how Dracula’s obsession with actual and metaphorical penetration pertains to the dominant medical discourse of its day. Just as the physician Van Helsing is allowed intimate access to ...
My dissertation argues that a symbiotic relationship between fiction and the occult existed in nineteenth century America. American authors reproduced occult ideas culled from the ancient systems of Hermeticism and Neoplatonism in their texts, and these fictions in turn inspired speculative traditions in America. "Occult Americans: Invisible Culture and the Literary Imagination" also provides a connecting link between ancient, magical ideas about the cosmos that were brought to America by its first colonists, and the later nineteenth century occult resurgence. Occult ideas did not go out of existence when Enlightenment dawned in America, but only shifted their terrain, and my dissertation sketches these new loci of occultism in antebellum America. In my first chapter, "The Triumph of Unreason: Charles Brockden Brown's Occult Moment,...
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