Spirits Unseen: The Representation of Subtle Bodies in Early Modern European Culture


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Spirits – airy, volatile ‘subtle bodies' – occupied a central place in early modern European culture. At the edge of the visible and perceptible, spiritus could signify a broad variety of subtle substances, both natural and divine: the vapours moving inside the body, the elements of air and fire, angels, demons and spectres, the Holy Spirit and the human soul. Spirits functioned as intermediaries between two opposite worlds with continually shifting borders. This book investigates specific meanings and uses of spiritus in a variety of early modern disciplines and fields – physiology, psychology, alchemy, theology, demonology, art theory, music theory, novels and the literature on love – thus revisiting the ambivalent history of a central ancient concept in a period of crisis and change.

Contributors include: Wietse de Boer, Sven Dupré, Jennifer Frangos, Axel Christoph Gampp, Christine Göttler, Berthold Hub, Dawn Morgan, Wolfgang Neuber, Bret Rothstein, Rose Marie San Juan, Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann, Justin E. H. Smith, Paul J. Smith, Thijs Weststeijn, and Sarah F. Williams.

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Christine Göttler is Associate Professor of the history of early modern European art at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her many publications include Die Kunst des Fegefeuers nach der Reformation (1996); forthcoming is her Last Things: Art and Religious Practice in the Age of Reform.
Wolfgang Neuber is Professor of early modern German and Neolatin literature at the Free University in Berlin. He has published extensively on early modern travel accounts (including Fremde Welt im europäischen Horizont, 1991) and is currently preparing a book on spirits and spectres.
Notes on the Editors of this Volume
List of Contributors

Preface: Vapours and Veils: The Edge of the Unseen, Christine Göttler & Wolfgang Neuber

1. Poltergeist the Prequel: Aspects of Otherworldly Disturbances in Early Modern Times, Wolfgang Neuber
2. Fire, Smoke and Vapour. Jan Brueghel’s ‘Poetic Hells’: ‘Ghespoock’ in Early Modern European Art, Christine Göttler
3. Movable Feasts of Reason: Description, Intelligence, and the Excitation of Sight, Bret Rothstein
4. Images in the Air: Optical Games, Magic and Imagination, Sven Dupré
5. Material Gazes and Flying Images in Marsilio Ficino and Michelangelo, Berthold Hub
6. Spirits of Love: Castiglione and Neoplatonic Discourses of Vision, Wietse de Boer
7. ‘Painting’s Enchanting Poison’: Artistic Efficacy and the Transfer of Spirits, Thijs Weststeijn
8. ‘Singe the Enchantment for Sleepe’: Music and Bewitched Sleep in Early Modern English Drama, Sarah F. Williams
9. Bilder des Unsichtbaren: Robert Fludds Konzeption des Weltgeistes, Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann
10. Sympathy in Eden: On Paradise with the Fall of Man by Rubens and Brueghel, Paul J. Smith
11. Dizzying Visions: St. Teresa of Jesus and the Embodied Visual Image, Rose Marie San Juan
12. Spirit as Intermediary in Post-Cartesian Natural Philosophy, Justin E. H. Smith
13. The Motions of Laughter: Allegory and Physiology in Walter Charleton’s Natural History of the Passions (1674), Dawn Morgan
14. Ghosts in the Machine: The Apparition of Mrs. Veal, Rowe’s Friendship in Death and the Early Eighteenth-Century Invisible World, Jennifer Frangos
15. Die Geburt des Kunstwerks durch den Geist der Proportion: Franz Xaver Messerschmidt und seine Charakterköpfe, Axel Christoph Gampp

List of Illustrations
Index Nominum
All those interested in intellectual history, the history of science, the history of philosophy, and the history of religion, as well as historians of art, literature, and music.
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