Sensational Spiritualism: The Study of 19th-Century Reporting and Its Effect on the Spiritualist Movement
Southern New Hampshire University
The project "Sensational Spiritualism: The Study of 19th Century Reporting and Its Effect on the Spiritualist Movement" will explore sensationalism's effect on the Spiritualist movement in the United States from the mid-19th century through the 20th century. The project explores how sensationalism contributed to the movement's progression, which peaked during the 19th century due to the population's rising numbers and literacy rates. Newspapers are the bulk of the primary sources captured for the project, which depict the unique language and imagery that sensationalism brought forth, intriguing and influencing the interest of society, which directly impacted society's intrigue and interest in Spiritualism. Many scholarly interpretations of why the movement caught on so quickly and dissipated are discussed further in the project. The newspapers are in tandem with Spiritualism's historiography – its rise, fall, and resurgence in the 19th and 20th centuries. Scholarly secondary sources have been chosen to support the vast historiography of the movement. The newspapers will concur with the argument that the preferred choice of language and imagery that sensationalism became known for directly impacted the timeline and historiography of the movement. News agencies had a grasp and influence on society's attention and fascination – Crompton Burton calls it "sophisticated manipulation" - and this project strives to prove that these entities and tactics directly impacted their acceptance and eventual disinterest.