Cover for PHELPS: Three Spiritualist Novels

Three Spiritualist Novels

A fascinating trilogy of novels that delineates the afterlife as viewed from the “Spiritualist” perspective--a movement that was very strong in the 19th century and still has adherents today

This volume brings together for the first time three novels that illustrate the distinguished American writer Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's enduring interest in the afterlife. The daughter of a Calvinist minister, Phelps could not reconcile herself to the idea of a heaven full of spirits who had cut their ties to those left behind on Earth. Rather, she became convinced of the viability of the Spiritualist view that a vital link to earthly life continues in the hereafter.

Articulating an alternative to conservative church doctrine, Phelps assured her readers--many of them women bereft of their loved ones by the Civil War--that Spiritualist ideas about the afterlife were not fundamentally at odds with Scripture. Like the protagonist of The Gates Ajar, these readers wanted to believe "something actual, something pleasant" about the world to come, not "glittering generalities" about a "dreadful Heaven" where their loved ones were too busy singing and worshiping to have any thought of those left behind.

All three of the novels collected here--The Gates Ajar (1868), Beyond the Gates (1883), and The Gates Between (1887)--describe heaven as a perfected version of earthly life and the afterlife as a chance to make up for opportunities squandered on Earth. A grieving sister finds consolation in the Spiritualist idea of a continued connection with her beloved brother; a dying woman finds her soulmate in the afterlife; an erring husband makes amends across the line between the living and the dead.

Tremendously popular in Phelps's lifetime, these novels offer a way of reconciling human beings to earthly loss and sorrow, assuring readers of an afterlife both restorative and compensatory. They also provide an intriguing look at a phenomenon that preoccupied nineteenth-century America and continues to fascinate us in the twenty-first century.


"Convinced of the viability of the Spiritualist view that a vital link to earthly life continues in the hereafter, Phelps wrote the three novels included here -- The Gates Ajar (1868), Beyond the Gates (1883), and The Gates Between (1887) -- portraying heaven as a perfected version of earthly life and the afterlife as a chance to make up for lost opportunities on earth. These works were immensely popular in Phelp's lifetime, and it is good to have them brought together in such a convenient and attractive format."--Nineteenth-Century Literature


Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (1844-1911) published fifty-seven books, including Hedged In, The Silent Partner, The Story of Avis, and Doctor Zay. Nina Baym, Swanlund Professor of English and Jubilee Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is general editor of the Norton Anthology of American Literature and the author of more than a hundred books and articles on American writers.

To order online:
//www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/64cym4ba9780252025976.html

To order by phone:
(800) 621-2736 (USA/Canada)
(773) 702-7000 (International)

Related Titles

previous book next book
Novel Bondage - Cover
Novel Bondage

Slavery, Marriage, and Freedom in Nineteenth-Century America

Tess Chakkalakal

Waging War on War - Cover
Waging War on War

Peacefighting in American Literature

Giorgio Mariani

Quakers and Abolition - Cover
Quakers and Abolition

Edited by Brycchan Carey and Geoffrey Plank

Violence and Difference - Cover
Violence and Difference

Girard, Derrida, and Deconstruction

Andrew J. McKenna

Road-Book America - Cover
Road-Book America

Contemporary Culture and the New Picaresque

Rowland A. Sherrill

Kay Boyle - Cover
Kay Boyle

A Twentieth-Century Life in Letters

Kay Boyle

Denise Levertov - Cover
Denise Levertov

A Poet's Life

Dana Greene

A Community of Memory - Cover
A Community of Memory

My Days with George and Clara

Jeff Gundy

Beyond the Black Lady - Cover
Beyond the Black Lady

Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class

Lisa B. Thompson

Becoming Ray Bradbury - Cover
Becoming Ray Bradbury

Jonathan R. Eller

How Did Poetry Survive? - Cover
How Did Poetry Survive?

The Making of Modern American Verse

John Timberman Newcomb

Teaching with Digital Humanities - Cover
Teaching with Digital Humanities

Tools and Methods for Nineteenth-Century American Literature

Edited by Jennifer Travis and Jessica DeSpain

Ray Bradbury Unbound - Cover
Ray Bradbury Unbound

Jonathan R. Eller

Give Me This Mountain - Cover
Give Me This Mountain

Life History and Selected Sermons

Reverend C. L. Franklin

The Bop Apocalypse - Cover
The Bop Apocalypse

The Religious Visions of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs

John Lardas

Julian Hawthorne - Cover
Julian Hawthorne

The Life of a Prodigal Son

Gary Scharnhorst