Poe, Fuller, and the Mesmeric Arts: Transition States in the American Renaissance

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Overview

In Poe, Fuller, and the Mesmeric Arts, Bruce Mills examines how the writings of Edgar Allan Poe and Margaret Fuller draw from representations of and theories concerning animal magnetism, somnambulism, or hypnosis rendered in newspapers, literary and medical journals, pamphlets, and books. Although some recent studies have begun to consider the relevance of animal magnetism or mesmerism to nineteenth-century literature and culture, this book moves more deeply into what might be termed the canon of mesmeric study.
            Through the works of Poe and Fuller, Mills argues, we can more fully understand the era’s response to dynamic cultural forces. Rather than simply using “American” subject matter as demanded in early calls for a national literature, Poe and Fuller, as well as Lydia Maria Child and Walt Whitman, increasingly rooted their epistemology and literary forms in psychological findings that accommodated the fluidity of democratic realities and principles.
            For many influential writers of the period, then, the call for a national literature had evolved into attention to the state of one’s own mind, to those manifestations of the highest states of mind, and to the effects of literary choices on readers’ psychological states. In the history and philosophy of mesmeric consciousness, Poe, Fuller, and others discerned those principles that offered the promise of answering a central question: how does one create an aesthetic that effectively explores, accommodates, and fosters the harmonious interplay of transition states in a democratic culture?
            Given its content and approach, Poe, Fuller, and the Mesmeric Arts should evoke interest among Poe and Fuller scholars as well as teachers, students, and historians intent upon understanding the emerging democratic sensibilities of the American Renaissance.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826216106
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2006
  • Edition description: bibliography, index, 6 illustrations
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Mills is Professor of English at Kalamazoo College in Michigan. He is the author of Cultural Reformations: Lydia Maria Child and the Literature of Reform and the editor of Lydia Maria Child’s Letters from New York.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : toward an American aesthetic : the centripetal and centrifugal force of mind 1
1 Charting the mesmeric turn : sympathy, animal magnetism, and the motion of the mind 19
2 The psychology of the single effect : Poe and the short-story genre 43
3 Laws of the heart divine : Eureka and the poetics of the mind 67
4 Reading the self : Fuller's magnetic juvenilia 94
5 Transition states 114
6 Exquisite sensibilities : Lydia Maria Child, Margaret Fuller, and magnetic reform 137
Conclusion : singing the American body electric : Whitman and the mesmeric turn 163
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