CFP: Telling Ghost Stories, Symposium on the 19th C. Press

15 May 2022 4:28 PM | Erika Pribanic-Smith (Administrator)

The steering committee of the Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War, and Free Expression invites papers that specifically explore spiritualism and other supernatural themes as they appeared in the 19th century press. Following the 2022 Symposium, we will begin pulling together work for a book, Telling Ghost Stories: Spiritualism and the Supernatural in the 19th Century Press. Conference papers on this theme will be considered for inclusion.

Spiritualism, an important social and religious movement that saw great popularity between the 1840s and the 1920s, began after two young sisters in New York claimed spirits were trying to communicate with them. Their story caught on and so did spiritualism. A little more than decade later the Civil War and its eventual devastation and death increased spiritualism’s popularity among those seeking to reconnect with dead loved ones, including Mary Todd Lincoln. By the late 1890s, it had some 8 million followers between the U.S. and Europe, many of whom were wealthy women of a reform bent. The movement spawned specialty newspapers like The Light published by the London Spiritualist Alliance, the Banner of Light published in Boston, the Spiritualist of London, and others. It also spawned skeptical reactions from journalists and authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle and William T. Stead.

Papers may be any methodology and deal with any period within the 19th century. They must keep their focus on how newspapers, magazines or other periodicals covered the spiritualist movement, journalists who were involved in the movement, spiritualist or other religious media that dealt with the subject, or any other topic that focuses on the press and the supernatural.

This call is looking for 19th-century press research on spiritualism or any ghost stories found in the 19th century newspapers. As related topics, any press research on gothic themes where the setting is “desolate or remote” and where the macabre, mysterious, or violent” took place is welcome and encouraged.

Debbie van Tuyll
Professor Emerita
Augusta University

See the full call for the Symposium on the 19th Century Press below:

The steering committee of the thirtieth annual Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War, and Free Expression solicits papers dealing with US mass media of the 19th century, the Civil War in fiction and history, freedom of expression in the 19th century, presidents and the 19th century press, images of race and gender, sensationalism and crime in 19th century newspapers, and the antebellum press and the causes of the Civil War. Selected papers will be presented during the conference Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, November 3–5, 2022. The top three papers and the top three student papers will be honored accordingly.

The Symposium will be conducted via ZOOM (for both speakers and participants). If possible, it will also be conducted in person.

The purpose of the November conference is to share current research and to develop a series of monographs. This year the steering committee will pay special attention to papers and panel presentations on the Civil War and the press, presidents and the 19th century press, news reports of 19th century epidemics, coverage of immigrants, African Americans, and Native Americans, and 19th century spiritualism and ghost stories. Since 2000, the Symposium has produced eight distinctly different books of readings: The Civil War and the Press (2000); Memory and Myth: The Civil War in Fiction and Film from Uncle Tom’s Cabin to Cold Mountain (2007); Words at War: The Civil War and American Journalism (2008); Seeking a Voice: Images of Race and Gender in the 19th Century Press (2009); Sensationalism: Murder, Mayhem, Mudslinging, Scandals, and Disasters in 19th-Century Reporting (2013); A Press Divided: Newspaper Coverage of the Civil War (2014); After the War: The Press in a Changing America, 1865–1900 (2017); and The Antebellum Press: Setting the Stage for Civil War (2019). The panel presentations from the 2020 Symposium were recorded and aired on C-SPAN.

The symposium is sponsored by the George R. West, Jr. Chair of Excellence in Communication and Public Affairs, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Communication Department, the Walter and Leona Schmitt Family Foundation Research Fund, and the Hazel Dicken-Garcia Fund for the Symposium, and because of this sponsorship, no registration fee will be charged.

Papers should be able to be presented within 20 minutes, at least 10–15 pages long. Please send your paper (including a 200–300 word abstract) as a Word attachment to by August 26, 2022.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. David Sachsman
George R. West, Jr. Chair of Excellence in Communication and Public Affairs, Dept. 3003
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

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