Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Unicorns and Sex? out of This World

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Unicorns and Sex? out of This World

Article excerpt

Peer-reviewed scholarship takes on demons and ghosts. Matthew Reisz prepares for an encounter.

"The thorny penis of the devil, the bizarre anal insertions of Satanists and the mysterious probing of aliens," not to mention a King of Aragon who spent much of his time searching for unicorn horns, all come under scrutiny in a new academic journal.

Published by Pennsylvania State University Press, Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural describes itself as "a rigorously peer-reviewed inter-disciplinary forum for original research that touches on the appearance of magic, prophecy, demonology, monstrophy, the occult and related topics that stand in the liminal space between the natural world and the preternatural".

But editor Kirsten Uszkalo, Circa scholar at the University of Alberta and e-lab scholar at Athabasca University, also in Canada, said the journal was not for "ghost hunters or magical practitioners".

Contributors will focus on the "cultural significance" rather than the "veracity" of their ghosts and goblins, she said, yet the journal will be committed to "studying things that keep being scary and troubling and anxiety-provoking".

"We always have the same worries about the preternatural. We are still buying crystals and going to pyramids. There's continuing interest in the power of magic objects. Similar monsters, gods and demons keep recurring - we have a resistance to letting them go."

Furthermore, suggested Dr Uszkalo, "some really exciting ideas don't form part of the mainstream conversation of particular disciplines". …

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