Early Modern Supernatural: The Dark Side of European Culture, 1400-1700

Early Modern Supernatural: The Dark Side of European Culture, 1400-1700

Early Modern Supernatural: The Dark Side of European Culture, 1400-1700

Early Modern Supernatural: The Dark Side of European Culture, 1400-1700

Synopsis

Devils, ghosts, poltergeists, werewolves, and witches are all covered in this book about the "dark side" of supernatural beliefs in early modern Europe, tapping period literature, folklore, art, and scholarly writings in its investigation.

Excerpt

The period between 1400 and 1700 was one of tremendous changes and innovations in European technology and culture. To use a modern term, one could say that some of these changes were quantum. New continents were being opened for exploration; the planets were seen for the first time with a telescope; advances in all branches of the natural and geologic sciences took place; the social, political, and religious fabric of European society was rent apart; and public knowledge about all these changes was made much more accessible to everyone because of the printing press and the increased use of the vernacular in printed materials. We are accustomed to thinking about parts of this period as the “Renaissance.” We tend to think of it as a time when comparative science, rationality, and realism took over not only learned discourse and writing but the fine and other arts as well. The Renaissance developed over a long period of time, and some of its aspects, including the widespread interest in the supernatural, evolved in part from the concepts that were held in the preceding centuries. One of my professors in graduate school put it aptly: “No one looked out a window in Florence one morning in 1400 and said, oh my! Here comes the Renaissance.” This period that we now broadly label Early Modern is one in which the “dark side” of culture remained vigorous, and in some aspects, such as the witch hunts of the 16th and 17th centuries, flourished. Beliefs in evil or demonic supernatural entities and events were a large component of European art and literature. Many books were written on the dark side subjects of devils, witches, ghosts, possession, exorcism, and black magic. There were even a small number of books on werewolves, although in most cases that topic was . . .

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