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Author Comment
Helen
Registered User
(3/20/01 7:17:34 am)
And the quest continues ...
Dear Everyone:
I'm still working on that self-same research project, though my thesis is changing as the research continues. Before, I believed in a kind of a pendulum theory, where the attitudes towards magic swung back and forth from one generation to the next, from a mainstream social acceptance coupled with a practical disinterest in physically performing actual acts of magic to a general distaste towards magic and fantasy paired with the fervor of some given segment of society which dedicates itself to acquiring the abilities deemed unworthy of attention by the majority (i.e., from Greece, with its active, societally popular mythmaking, possessing little evidence of cult activity outside of accepted religious bounds, to Rome, possessing a rather obligatory religious attitude - deifying people left and right by the end of it - as well as a heavy interest in secret "mystery cults" that required initiation, as evinced by, say, _The Golden Ass_ and the Villa of Mysteries).
I'm still holding true to my pendulum theory, but I've come to believe that the effects of technology mitigate it, shortening the span of the cycle and turning it into a dialogue between the two camps (Mrs. Trimmer vs. the fantasists, round three), thus establishing a means for the field to grow and develop steadily. I'm trying to track the beginnings of this movement through the Contes de Fees. It's the perfect period, possessing, as it does, a great many brilliant fantastic authors and enough critical material to track the societal reaction. The one thing that it - or rather, that *I* - lack is a plethora of sources. Would anyone have any suggestions for good references?
Thank you, thank you, thank you,
Helen

Midori
Unregistered User
(3/20/01 11:11:27 am)
suggestions
Helen,

I'm not sure about your theory as such. I have always felt that the notion of magic had a much more complex and interwoven sort of social history. It was always in fashion in some way. Two books I found fascinating on this idea from the Renaissance perception of magic are "Eros and Magic in the Renaissance", by Joan Couliano and "Spiritual and Demonic Magic: From Ficino to Campanella" by D. P Walker. They are really interesting social histories with a specific look at influential religious/philosophers, Giordano Bruno and Marsilis Ficino.

The other book I have enjoyed on the women of the Conte de Fees is Patricia Hannon's "Fabulous Identities" a feniminst study of how the women authors of the Conte de Fee used the text as a way of extending to themselves revolutionary identites at a time of historical and social revolution.

All of these should be available at a University Library.

good luck!

Helen
Registered User
(3/20/01 2:22:30 pm)
Maybe I misspoke....
Dear Midori:
Maybe I expressed myself badly; I, too, feel that the field has an intricate history, reflective of the fact that the interest in fantasy is intertwined with the development of the overall civilization. However, I think that the development of this facet of human evolution - the growth of the fantasy field - has a distinguishable pattern, swinging back and forth from general appreciation to general criticism over the span of generations in ancient times, and more and more rapidly with the advent of technology, a kind of a pendulum of societal opinion. I'm attempting to trace its path (slowly but surely) and I appreciate all of the advice that board members have contributed. I'm already familiar with the Couliano, but the other two sound fascinating.
Thanks!
Helen

Midori
Unregistered User
(3/20/01 5:32:41 pm)
ah!
Thanks Helen, I get it now. And good lord, sorry about the typos...I was in a hurry and didn't reread it before I sent it out there! Either that or I've gotten too used to having my errors pointed out by an annoying but always accurate computer!

Gregor9
Registered User
(3/21/01 6:07:53 am)
Dialogue between camps
Helen,
The idea of the dialogue between camps--between technology and magic/mysticism is to me a very potent and appealing one.

I've done a lot of research in the past couple of years on Mesmer, and his entire career of self-aggrandizing "science" is steeped in the mysticism of Paracelsus and others. It even utilized the very French salon culture where fairy tales were thriving, adopting the attributes of those secret societies you referenced: his "cures" became the events everyone wanted to be invited to, and to make money (when Marie Antoinette didn't come up with enough funds for him), he created a society of Mesmerists who were to be trained by the good doctor in the art of animal magnetism.
Anyway, I agree with you about the pendulum effect, but wonder if it has something to do as well with science and technology making off with some of the mysticism, absorbing and/or redefining it. Mesmer, again, did really nothing to cure anybody, but a generation after him, his animal magnetism re-emerged as hypnotism. The mystical nonsense of Mesmer himself was stripped out of it (this, by the way, included magnetic cures-- attaching magnets to the body, a curative that was debunked brilliantly at the time, but nevertheless we have it back with us in the alternate medicine/health food/newage markets today); and beneath that silliness lay a real psychological phenomenon. The mystical became science. Of course here we are 150 years later and we still don't really know what the hell hypnosis is about, and the science has devolved into the mystical--the regression to "past life experiences" and other fantastical so-called buried memories. The pendulum swings...

Greg

Midori
Unregistered User
(3/21/01 7:06:48 am)
Power?
Greg and Helen,

Do you think that this swing has something to do with the perception of power? Magic--especially when embodied in witchcraft was regarded as a female act of agression, but also difficult to control, connected to nature (in a way that women were due to childbearing) and so suspect because it couldn't be contained by patriarchy. Where as when these same mystical moments were translated into masculine forms of intellect and science, magic could be appropriated into the masculine (intellectual) sphere. I know this is hideously over simplified...I'm just raising it as a question--and not one I have any real answer to! Is it possible that the perception (and most likely not the reality!) historically of technology is that it is a largely male intellectual pursuit--and when it feels itself challenged by magic (and it's feminized component in witchcraft) it moves to incorporate it into what it recognizes as a more formal, masculine system of thought?

Helen
Registered User
(3/21/01 7:59:11 am)
I LOVE you guys!
Hee, hee, hee:
I LOVE feeling like I'm on the right track (subtitled: great minds think alike). Midori - that's actually going to be one of my chapters! I'm going to discuss how the figure of Hermes in Renaissance literature made magic accessible to a different class of people; the wealthy and well educated, who could not be prosecuted with the same impunity, as, say, the village midwife or wise-woman. Slowly, *their* realm was co-opted. However, the same development that made Hermeticism popular and accessible - the printing press, and, with it, the spread of literacy - later brought fairy-tales back to the public eye (this is where the conte de fees came in for me) leading, with the still-widening spread of literacy, to the beginnings of the on-going dialogue concerning the nature, and "propriety" of fantasy for general consumption. I'm going to look at the Victorians, who managed to have fairy-tale proponents - Dickens, Ruskin, Dunsany - co-existing in the same society with didactic moralists like Eliot, and at the modern period ... I wanted to fit in Mesmer and, even more specifically, John Dee ... but ... I'm scared that the topic is getting to big. I'm going to end up with an eight-volume opus if I keep going at this rate ... but not if I don't go to work.
Love the feedback,
Helen

Laura McCaffrey
Registered User
(3/21/01 11:39:09 am)
Re: I love you guys ...
Helen-

The discussion about the historical contraversies around fantasy and fairy tales reminds me of the discussions about the appropriateness of the novel (and the fantasies within it) that raged in the late eighteenth, early nineteenth century. I recently read Northanger Abbey, which in some ways could be read entirely as a discussion of the role of fantasy and reading in young (literate) women's lives. A bit off your topic I know, but still I was reminded of the subject when I came to your post mentioning Dickens and Ruskin and Eliot and all. Laura Mc

Gregor9
Registered User
(3/21/01 1:14:30 pm)
Re: I love you guys!
Helen,
If you incorporate Dickens into the mix, be sure to mention at least his delving into hypnosis. He was one of the few defenders of a physician in London who was drummed out of medicine because of his experiments with hypnosis. Dickens learned to use it from him and proceeded to practice it on the sly.
You're right, it's a whole megatome you are proposing to write. The hard part will be selectively dropping all the things you can't fit in.

Midori,
I think there's something in what you propose--sort of follows along the lines of the Roman approach to conquest. You simply absorb the enemy rather than denying them the right to be themselves. They don't even notice how and when they're taken over. I know you know it's oversimplified, but I think it happened on lots of levels, including the (patriarchal) Mother Church removing small obstacles (ex., those Benandanti of Friuli) from the road.

GF

Terri
Registered User
(3/22/01 8:14:09 am)
Jane Austin
Laura, I love your comment. In fact, I think I'm going to go re-read Northanger Abbey now. (Not that I ever need much of an excuse to re-read the sainted Austin!)

Laura McCaffrey
Registered User
(3/22/01 4:10:49 pm)
Re: Jane Austin
Thanks Terri.

I remember trying to read Austin as a teenager and missing everything wonderful about her writing. Now I'm a devoted fan. L. Mc.

Terri
Registered User
(3/23/01 6:02:44 am)
...a bit off-subject, sorry!
The same thing happened to me. I don't think I truly *got* Jane Austin till I was in my thirties. Now I re-read her entire opus at least once a year. What a writer!

Helen
Registered User
(3/25/01 7:17:13 am)
*whimper*
Northanger Abbey would be perfect ... but then I'd need a chapter on the Romantics ... I think that I will probably be using this for my dissertation if I'm not careful. Sigh.
Gregor - I will definitely have to bring that in ... not only is it consolation for leaving Dee and Mesmer out, but it works beautifully with my thesis. Thanks! Somehow I'd managed to miss that about him.
Terri - I really admired your essay on the contes de fees from the Endicott site ... would you reccomend any texts on the period as standing head and shoulders above the rest?
And thank you again for all the help, everyone (I feel like I say that too much, but I'm still thrilled to have discovered this site - you guys are wonderful!).
Helen

Terri
Unregistered User
(3/26/01 6:50:09 am)
French salon tales
Helen, my favorite book on the subject was the one recommended by Midori above, Fabulous Identities by Patrician Hannon. The original Jack Zipes collection of French fairy tales (as opposed to the more recent abridged edition) is a good source for the tales themselves, and has an excellent introduction by Zipes. For pure fun, Wonder Tales edited by Marina Warner is a very small volume but enjoyable because she's got great translations of the tales by A.S. Byatt and others.

Gregor9
Registered User
(3/26/01 11:06:40 am)
re: *whimper*
Helen,
If you do include the Dickens, there is an entire book devoted to his obsession with hypnosis: Dickens and Mesmerism: The Hidden Springs of Fiction. Fred Kaplan, Princeton University Press, 1975. He used it in particular on one close friend, a woman who was having "hysterical" fits. His nocturnal "treatments" of her served to drive a wedge between him and his wife. It's really an amazing story. Sooner or later the movies are going to find out about it...

Greg

Helen
Registered User
(3/27/01 3:49:27 pm)
Thank you ...
Thank you, all, once again; the Hannon and the Kaplan are both going on my "must-be-ordered list". Now I'm just hoping for a chance to offer my expertise on something and return the favor ...

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