Department of English
University of Texas at Austin
2015 to 2016
Divining a Usable Past: Psychical Research and the High-Culture Novel, 1880-1940
What was the nature, between 1880-1940, of the relationship between psychical research and the research university, and what can fiction from this period tell us about this connection? This dissertation looks to William James as an intermediary whose work on the self and whose participation in the Society for Psychical Research offers insight into a reorientation of knowledge within academe. In the early twentieth century, as psychology departments emerged, psychical research programs at Stanford, Duke, and the University of Pennsylvania grew alongside them. Tracing the ideas and methodologies of psychical research through James to major creative writers of the era, one finds that the works of these seemingly fringe scientific organization were more influential than previously supposed. Studying what was deemed a proper scientific pursuit against what was deemed a creative one can elucidate the bearing of the research university on both cultural production and accepted categories of knowledge.