Doctoral Student of Literature: University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Asemic Occultism: Hélène Smith’s Martian Writing
Hélène Smith* (1861–1929) was a famous late nineteenth century medium who produced “Martian writing” at her seances. She wrote Martian automatically during somnambulatory trances and was known as ‘the Muse of Automatic Writing’ by the Surrealist. In the context of the linguistic theory, Smith’s Martian alphabets can be classified as a constructed language. A Swiss psychologist, Théorode Flournoy, explored Smith’s Martian language and noticed that it had a strong resemblance to French, which was Smith’s mother tongue. He suggested that her automatic writing was “romances of the subliminal imagination, derived largely from forgotten sources (for example, books read as a child).” Anyone other than Smith could not read Martian before she translated it into French. I suggest that this was part of the compelling nature of her writing. The Martian text was ‘asemic’, it did not express verbal meanings until Smith revealed them. In my presentation, I analyze Martian alphabets and two examples of Smith’s writings in the point of view of asemic writing.
(*Her real name was Catherine-Elise Müller.)
Riikka is writing a doctoral thesis on asemic writing at the University of Jyväskylä. She is working on developing methods for analyzing asemic writing in the context of literary theory. In addition, she is translating an anthology of Henri Michaux’s aphorisms, poems and essays from French into Finnish.