Date of Completion


Embargo Period


Major Advisor

Christopher Vials

Associate Advisor

Clare Eby

Associate Advisor

Cathy Schlund-Vials

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


“Spectral Speculations” is about spiritualism and capitalism in the nineteenth-century United States. In setting the cultural history of modern American spiritualism in relation to the nation’s emergent market economy, I generate new perspectives which suggest that the public came to know and critique capitalism vis-à-vis spiritualism in nineteenth-century America. The project spans from 1848 to 1905. The year 1848 marks the birth of American spiritualism and the Chicago Board of Trade, while 1905 is the year in which futures were legitimized in the Supreme Court case, Chicago Board of Trade v. Christie Grain. I depart from traditional understandings of spiritualism as an alternative or aberrant religious movement in U.S. history by theorizing its significance within a broad set of public responses to the trajectory of capitalism’s nineteenth-century evolution. “Spectral Speculations” highlights the ways in which spiritualism, a religious practice to which an estimated 1 in 3 Americans subscribed at its peak, persistently engaged with and also destabilized capitalist market hegemony from the antebellum era to the turn of the century. Spiritualism unsettled ideologies of capital through its affiliations with utopian socialist movements, its empowerment of women and disenfranchised social groups who worked as fortune-tellers attuned to the secrets of business, and its calling into question the morality of abstract forms of market speculation.

Available for download on Wednesday, April 26, 2028