Realist Ecstasy: Religion, Race, and Performance in American Literature


ACLS Fellowship Program




Realist Ecstasy revises linear narratives of secularization by recovering a series of ecstatic performances in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American and African-American realisms. From feminist frenzies to Native American ghost dances and storefront church revivals, realism confronts the ecstatic body as an object of fascination, transforming spiritual experience into the material of realist description. By mobilizing the idioms of ecstatic religion to account for and imagine new modes of social affiliation, realism presents turn-of-the-century experience as a version of being beside oneself: caught up in the communicable realities of modernization as well as in the bodily and affective repertoires of religion, race, gender, and sexuality.