Spiritualism and Women’s Writing: From the Fin de Siècle to by Tatiana Kontou (auth.)

By Tatiana Kontou (auth.)

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The great Italian actress was, according to Archer, a living embodiment of Diderot’s folly. Archer argued that Duse’s genius was an amalgam of ‘an inward gift and an outward accident’: The inward gift is an extraordinary imagination, an unequalled power of projecting herself into another personality and living through the minutest details of its experience. The outward accident is that which made her (we are told) a child of the stage, and so gave her, not only hereditary aptitudes, but that early and lifelong habit of dramatic expression which has made her body the perfectly responsive instrument of her mind.

193). Violet’s failed mediumship on the stage is mended when she is not acting. , p. 195). This observation is a repetition, a ‘doubling’ as it were, of the phrase uttered by Mrs Alsager the previous evening to describe the feelings that Violet herself harbours for Allan. In this way, Violet acts as a medium for both Mrs Alsager and her own inner being at this particular moment. The two women therefore mirror each other in this respect but also cancel each other out through Nona’s personality. The strange repetition entangles the three characters in both a web of desire and in the web of plot – the two women are both in love with Wayworth and, unable to speak for themselves, they become uncanny embodiments (as muse and as actress) of his desire to realize his creation, Nona.

Xx). This ‘bleeding-out’ of the psyche, as its Greek roots indicate, can be convincingly applied to both mediumship and acting. Indeed, the psychical spillage that produces the phantasm becomes a crucial metaphor in understanding the way that many fin-de-siècle actresses manifested their own lives on stage – turning the dramatic character into a phantasm re-enacting a ‘real’ past, placing themselves both inside and outside of the play.

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