Lucy Traverse

Position title: Dana-Allen Dissertation Fellow (2014-2015)

Art History, UW-Madison

Portrait image of Lucy Traverse

Ectoplasmic Modernities: Materialization Photography at the Turn of the Century

This project explores the trans-Atlantic interest in psychical research at the fin-de-siècle, focusing on the textual and photographic archives of “ectoplasmic” materializations. Though seemingly an eccentric and marginal practice, I argue that parapsychology research and imagery intervened in larger cultural debates concerning the nature of memory, the matter of materialism, and issues of social justice. The “ectoplasmic” forces us to rethink modernism’s visual and conceptual relationship to the occult, it recharges and complicates the presumed role of doubt and artifice in the production of evidence, and it puts pressure on existing narratives about photography’s relationship to the history of science.

Lucy Traverse is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Art History at UW-Madison, where she also received an M.A. in 2010. She is a broad modernist interested in fin-de-siècle transatlantic visual culture, the history and theory of photography, the gendering and imaging of psychosomatic eccentricity, and visual experiences of the urban. Her dissertation has also been supported by Chancellor’s Fellowships and a CLIR/Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in Original Sources. Work from her dissertation research will appear in the forthcoming anthology Photography in Doubt (Routledge, 2015). She is at work on her dissertation entitled “Ectoplasmic Modernities: Materialization Photography at the Turn of the Century.”