Automatic writing, or spirit writing, introduces a hidden feminist media history that puts into question the role of the author, divisions between automaticity and creativity, and the porosity of the (writing) body. In the nineteenth century, a predominantly female labor force began channeling spirits and producing scripts that were either entirely authorless or profoundly collaborative, a practice not so much about inscribing as de-inscribing. This article focuses on medium Geraldine Cummins, who brought her ghosts and guides into a court of law, revealing how the most ordinary tools of writing can be encountered as uncanny and talismanic presences. Her techniques of radical listening invite explorations of live-ness, presence, able-ness, and receptivity—themes that the article extends to the work of contemporary feminist artists and the illegible scripts of AI. How does automatic writing complicate the role of bodies who write as well as bodies of writing?
Spirit, Writer: Nineteenth-Century Mediumship and the Feminist Practice of (De)inscription
Sandra Huber is a PhD candidate in interdisciplinary humanities at Concordia University. Her research centers on communication with the dead in ceremonial magic and witchcraft, with a particular focus on mirrors, fluids, and practices of inscription. She is the author of Assembling the Morrow: A Poetics of Sleep (Talonbooks, 2014). She lives in Montreal/Tio'tia:ke. sandrahuber.com.
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Sandra Huber; Spirit, Writer: Nineteenth-Century Mediumship and the Feminist Practice of (De)inscription. Feminist Media Histories 1 July 2020; 6 (3): 137–171. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2020.6.3.137
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