The Astonishment of Experience: Americans and Psychical Research, 1885-1935


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


History of Medicine


This dissertation explores the practice of psychical research in America around the turn of the twentieth century, contextualizing it in relation to other observational sciences and the rise of laboratory psychology. Psychical researchers, many of them respected public intellectuals, organized around a project of probing human subjectivity using methods that they understood as strictly scientific. Thousands of ordinary Americans participated in this project as part of a network of psychical societies and publications that gathered evidence of telepathy, clairvoyance, and trance mediumship. This project examines the vigorous experimental culture of amateur psychical researchers in light of their growing marginalization in the 1920s and 30s, as psychology asserted its professional status.