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The Mining of History, Cognitive Disorder and Spiritualism in Olivia Plender’s A Stellar Key to the Summerland

Dan Smith

Abstract

Olivia Plender’s single-volume comic A Stellar Key to the Summerland (2007) offers an account of the origins of the Spiritualist movement. This book is part of a practice that deploys historiographic methodologies. Plender explores social and esoteric beliefs from the past that disturb contemporary expectations. The illumination of alternative formations and beliefs in the past offers a redress to the apparent inevitability of the social and economic topographies of the present. The use of comics is read here as part of an ongoing practice of excavation. A Stellar Key to the Summerland uses the form of graphic narrative to create a reflexive history. The work contributes to a practice that overlays dream geographies onto perceptions and expectations of social reality, and is suggestive of the possibility of social change while engaging with notions of belief and religiosity.