Mediumship and literary studies in the age of Jane
Literary scholars like Helen Sword and Bette London have recently demonstrated the significance of channeled texts, works produced by spiritualist mediums who claim to channel messages from famous dead authors and different realities. Although literary criticism has recently expressed an interest in the history of channeled writing, especially in its Victorian and early modernist iterations, the field has rarely considered the fascinating channeled texts of the New Age movement. Therefore, I hope to show that New Age channeled texts are comparable to the channeled texts of earlier periods, particularly in the ways these works challenge our conventional understandings of authorship. Writing from the 1960s through the early 1980s, Jane Roberts claimed to channel the teachings of a discarnate energy personality named Seth. My purpose in this project will be to show that the Seth material, even as a product of the New Age movement, can be read according to the same principles that scholars have developed for approaching the channeled texts of previous eras. Because the Seth material comprises dozens of works over thousands of pages, I have focused my investigation on a single text: The God of Jane: A Psychic Manifesto. Written by Roberts, the book is a memoir which describes her experiences as a medium. Through various close readings of the manifesto, and by situating the work in a historical and cultural context, I demonstrate that The God of Jane functions as an interpretive guide for reading New Age channeled texts. In addition, I find that Roberts is not only a literary medium, she is also a literary theorist, who translates the tradition of mediumship into the latter half of the twentieth century.