Staging the Séance: The Spirit Medium and the Gothic in Modern Theatre

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


In this chapter, I set out to explore how Anglophone theatre in the 20th and 21st century has tried to represent the spiritualist séance. As I will show, this often involves allusions to the performance conditions and contexts of spiritualism’s nineteenth-century heyday. In the last few years, I will argue, the depiction of the séance has begun to move away from Gothic narratives of encounters with an unnameable evil, and back towards the séance’s show-business roots in commercial entertainment. Anglophone theatre has a legacy of séance plays to come to terms with whenever a medium is represented on stage, particularly in the form of Noel Coward’s classic comedy Blithe Spirit (1941). Therefore, I contend, attempts by contemporary playwrights to write séance scenes and create spirit medium characters are haunted by the theatrical past, as much as by the past of their own narrative worlds.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContemporary Gothic Drama
Subtitle of host publicationAttraction, Consummation and Consumption on the Modern British Stage
EditorsKelly Jones, Robert Dean, Benjamin Poore
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-349-95359-2
ISBN (Print)978-1-349-95358-5
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2018

Publication series

NamePalgrave Gothic
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
  • Death and Culture

    Benjamin Poore (Member of programme committee)

    1 Sept 20163 Sept 2016

    Activity: Participating in or organising an eventConference

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