Tuesday Talks | Christine Ferguson | Online via ZOOM
1 March.7:30 pm-9:00 pm
1st March 2022 | 7.30pm until 9.00pm | £6 | Online
Unhandling Cottingley: Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Coming of the Fairies 100 Years On
In December 1920, The Strand Magazine published a series of sensational photographs taken by two young girls from Cottingley that allegedly showed real-life fairies dancing at the bottom of their garden. Their authenticity was vouched by no less a person than world-famous Sherlock Holmes creator and spiritualist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The images immediately triggered a fierce public debate: were they evidence of the existence of otherworldly nature spirits, of the technical craft and duplicity of their creators, or of the suspect nature of photography itself?
In this talk, Professor Christine Ferguson of the Media of Mediumship project examines the legacy of Doyle’s defence of the fairies both for his own reputation as a rationalist and for his vexed relationship towards the scientific investigation of spiritualist phenomenon. How, we will consider, did Doyle’s attempt to handle the Cottingley case work for and against the spiritualist cause, and to obscure the handiwork of photograph creators Elsie Wright and Frances Griffith? The talk will be illustrated with images of the original Cottingley fairy cameras and Elsie Wright’s famous 1983 “Confession Letter”, now held in the collections of the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford.
Join us at 7:30 PM BST via ZOOM. The Tuesday Talk will last for around 45 minutes and is followed by a live Q&A.
You can purchase a ticket online for £6.00 or you can call us on 0131 625 0700 to book over the phone. Season passes are available and grant access to all the New Year 2022 talks for a heavily discounted price.
About Professor Christine Ferguson
Professor in English Studies
Christine Ferguson is a Professor in English Studies at the University of Stirling, where her research focuses on the entwined histories of the literary gothic and the British occult revival in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. She is the author of Determined Spirits: Eugenics, Heredity, and Racial Regeneration in Anglo-American Spiritualist Writing 1848-1930 (Edinburgh University Press, 2012) and Language, Science, and Popular Fiction in the Victorian Fin de Siècle (Ashgate 2006); with Andrew Radford, she co-edited The Occult Imagination in Britain, 1875-1947 (Routledge 2018) and led the AHRC research network Popular Occulture in Britain. She is currently preparing the first ever scholarly edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s spiritualist novel The Land of Mist and associated Spiritualist writings, which will contextualize the popular author’s involvement in the Cottingley Fairies case within the new religious techno-cultures of the early twentieth century. With Dr Manon Hedenborg White, she leads the ESSWE Network for the study of Esotericism, Gender, and Sexuality.
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