The Trial of Woman: Feminism and the Occult Sciences in Victorian Literature and Society

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During the Victorian period, women were judged on the legendary guilt of the female sex. As the women's rights movement gathered strength and coherence, the advent of mesmerism, spiritualism and theosophy - collectively the new witchcraft of the Victorian period - revived old notions of female occult power. In this book, the author explores these two strands of Victorian feminism and argues that the taboo subject of menstruation was the hidden pleader at the centre of the woman question . Drawing on a wide range of literary texts, the author examines the careers of a number of significant women, from Lady Byron to Madame Blavatsky, who tried to reconcile ambivalences in women's relation to spirituality and the law. This study suggests that the occult revival inspired Victorian writers to create the new woman , a figure to rival the achievements of Victorian science.