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Event in the Library

Wed. Feb. 17, 2010
4:00-5:00 p.m.
McKillop Library

Dr. Sheila O'Brien Quinn: "Magnetic Personalities: The Introduction of Mesmerism to the United States"

Sheila Quinn, Ph.D. Sheila O'Brien Quinn, PhD, associate professor of psychology, will talk about her research into the introduction of mesmerism in the U.S. and New England on Wednesday, February 17, from 4 to 5 p.m. in McKillop Library's Munroe Special Collections room. Mesmerism or animal magnetism, as it was called in the 19th Century, is now referred to as hypnosis.

In 1834, a 19-year-old Guadeloupe nobleman and medical school drop-out stepped off a merchant ship from the French West Indies and began to transform America. Fortunately for him, he found a country already vibrating with religious fervor, popular democracy, scientific innovation, and a drive for self-improvement. Charles Poyen de Saint Sauveur had arrived at the perfect moment for introducing mesmerism, a medical treatment and quasi-religious ritual that promised both spiritual and physical health. Mesmerism or animal magnetism had social implications that would be felt in American medicine, religion and literature for the rest of the 19th century. And it all took off when Poyen was invited to Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Using archival research from various locations in Rhode Island, Dr. Quinn will describe how mesmerism influenced Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe and provided the impetus for New Age Thought and modern day ghost hunters.