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Three Spiritualist Novels cover
  • ISBN: 9780252025976
  • ISBN10: 0252025970

Three Spiritualist Novels

by Nina Baym

  • List Price: $40.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Univ of Illinois Pr
  • Publish date: 09/01/2000
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This volume brings together for the first time three novels that illustrate the distinguished American writer Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's enduring interest in the afterlife.

The daughter of a Calvinist minister, Phelps could not reconcile herself to the idea of a heaven full of spirits who had cut their ties to those left behind on Earth. Rather, she became convinced of the viability of the Spiritualist view that a vital link to earthly life continues in the hereafter. Articulating an alternative to conservative church doctrine, Phelps assured her readers -- many of them women bereft of their loved ones by the Civil War -- that Spiritualist ideas about the afterlife were not fundamentally at odds with Scripture.

All three of the novels collected here -- The Gates Ajar (1868), Beyond the Gates (1883), and The Gates Between (1887) -- describe heaven as a perfected version of earthly life and the afterlife as a chance to make up for opportunities squandered on Earth. A grieving sister finds consolation in the Spiritualist idea of a continued connection with her beloved brother; a dying woman finds her soulmate in the afterlife; an erring husband makes amends across the line between the living and the dead.

Tremendously popular in Phelps's lifetime, these novels offer a way of reconciling human beings to earthly loss and sorrow. They also provide an intriguing look at a phenomenon that preoccupied nineteenth-century America and continues to fascinate us in the twenty-first century.

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