Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media Into the Twenty-first Century

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Oxford University Press, 2006 - Body, Mind & Spirit - 469 pages
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Phantasmagoria explores ideas of spirit and soul since the Enlightenment; it traces metaphors that have traditionally conveyed the presence of immaterial forces, and reveals how such pagan and Christian imagery about ethereal beings are embedded in a logic of the imagination, clothing spiritsin the languages of air, clouds, light and shadow, glass, and ether itself. Moving from Wax to Film, the book also discusses key questions of imagination and cognition, and probes the perceived distinctions between fantasy and deception; it uncovers a host of spirit forms -- angels, ghosts, fairies,revenants, and zombies -- that are still actively present in contemporary culture. It reveals how their transformations over time illuminate changing idea about the self. Phantasmagoria also tells the accompanying story about the means used to communicate such ideas, and relates how the newtechnologies of the Victorian era were applied to figuring the invisible and the impalpable, and how magic lanterns (the phantasmagoria shows themselves), radio, photography and then moving pictures spread ideas about spirit forces. As the story unfolds, the book features the many eminent men andwomen -- scientists and philosophers -- who in the Society of Psychical Research applied their considerable energies to the question of other worlds and other states of mind: they staged trance seances in which mediums produced spirit phenomena, including ectoplasm. The book shows how this oftenembarrassing story connects with some of the important scientific discoveries of a fertile age, in psychology and physics. Over a sequence of twenty-eight chapters, with over thirty illustrations in colour and black and white, Phantasmagoria thus tells an unexpected and often uncomfortable story about shifts in thought about consciousness and the individual person, from the first public waxworks portraits at the end ofthe eighteenth century to stories of hauntings, possession, and loss of self as in the case of the zombie, a popular figure of soulessness, in modern times.

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User Review  - KarmaChimera - LibraryThing

Phantasmagoria by Marina Warner is an interesting exploration of the history of image and representation in Western thought. Warner explores the role of imagination from just before the Enlightenment ... Read full review

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User Review  - deliriumslibrarian - LibraryThing

Wow, is this book ever dense. I love Marina Warner's work, and I'm enjoying this - but it is like trying to grasp at clouds sometimes. She brings a huge, huge amount of material and many brilliant ... Read full review

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About the author (2006)

Marina Warner's studies of mythology and fairy tales include Monuments and Maidens: The Allegory of the Female Form (l985), and No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling and Making Mock (1998, winner of the Rosemary Crawshay Prize). Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds (Clarendon Lectures), waspublished in 2002, and her essays on literature and culture are collected in Signs and Wonders. Her novels include In a Dark Wood (l977) and The Lost Father (l988), which was short-listed for the Booker Prize and won a Commonwealth Writer's Prize. She has also published two collections of shortstories. She was created Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French in 2002, and Commendatore by the Italians in 2005. She was awarded the Warburg Prize in Germany in 2004, and is an Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford and a Visiting Professor at St. Andrew's University, Scotland.She is Professor of Literature at the University of Essex. In 2005 she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.

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