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“Seances and Ouija boards: British Spiritualists and the First World War,” Murphy Temple receives 2018 Yalom Prize

Aug 9 2018

Murphy Temple

Murphy Temple, a fourth-year student in the history PhD program at Stanford, has been awarded the Marilyn Yalom Research Fund Prize to further her dissertation research on “There Is No Death: British Spiritualists and the First World War,” an examination of women mourners who Temple writes found consolation “through conversations with mediums…[where] spirits explained how their deaths had occurred.” Temple was nominated by Priya Satia, Professor of History and previously a Faculty Research Fellow at the Clayman Institute.

The Yalom Prize awards $1,500 to support research and/or conference costs for students in the humanities conducting research concerning women and gender.  The prize is named for former Clayman Institute Acting Director and current Senior Scholar, Marilyn Yalom, an internationally renowned author on literature and women’s history.  Her most recent book was just released in early 2018, “The Amorous Heart: An Unconventional History of Love.” 

Professor Satia lauded Temple for a dissertation “that will do a great deal to write women back into the history of this epochal war, and help us understand how British society coped with mass death on that war’s unprecedented scale, in ways that produced long-term cultural legacies.”

Temple herself “argue[s] that spiritualists redeemed the war experience through their belief that the soul and personality persisted after death” and that “women were critical agents in this process of spiritualistic redemption.”  She writes that “while wartime spiritualism was a source of female empowerment,” female mediums were subjected to invasive medical procedures by the “male-dominated medical and scientific professions” in an effort “to discern the legitimacy of their occult powers” and were also the “objects of legal persecution.”

She plans to use the Yalom funds to support a month-long summer research trip to the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin, where she will gain insight about the “gender-bending lesbian couple” English poet Marguerite Radclyffe Hall and her companion of 28 years, Lady Troubridge, who were both active in “the main scientific body in the UK devoted to the investigation of paranormal phenomena.”  Temple will also study the Center’s collection of Arthur Conan Doyle’s manuscripts and letters, as she contends he was “perhaps the most influential spiritualist of his day.”

In describing the reach of her research, Temple said that “perhaps most significantly, it promises popular appeal through its engagement with the universal human experience of grief and mourning.”  

Please join us in celebrating Murphy Temple as this year’s Yalom Prize winner!

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