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Until the late twentieth century, literary scholars often assumed that Victorian scientific advances challenged the dominance of religion, theorizing that religious institutions and beliefs decline with modernity. More recently, scholars affiliated with the “religious turn” in Victorian studies have suggested Christian denominations gradually embraced scientific ideas, with new religious movements such as Spiritualism and Theosophy enabling Victorians to preserve elements of Christianity (e.g., belief in an afterlife) in a rapidly changing world. This chapter intervenes in these debates using two very different novels as case studies: Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890, 1891) and Marie Corelli’s The Sorrows of Satan (1895), both of which freely mix Christianity with science: Wilde blends Catholicism, neuroscience, and aestheticism, while Corelli creatively revises scientific theories to align with her heterodox faith. With their occult and pseudoscientific leanings these works ask us to reconsider what counted as religion or science and to redraw the boundaries of faith to encompass unorthodox trends.
The casino provided a unique location to probe the logic of chance for those seeking to understand fortune and misfortune, causation and correlation. Chance helped generate predictability. When we shift to consider the picture of luck that emerges, we see that it is exhibited in various systems designed to generate wins at the gambling table, lured to a person to through any number of bizarre superstitions, and made the object of social scientific inquiry. Luck was something that people could generate, manufacture, cultivate, or capture. This element of human agency speaks to a vision of the world that promoted the basic idea of human agency while also acknowledging its limits. Gambling systems and superstitions, especially when they did not rest on the foundation of the “maturity of chances,” were at their heart modern attempts to bend luck to one’s side.
Historians of Islamic occult science and post-Mongol Persianate kingship in the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires have in recent years made clear just how central this body of knowledge was to the exercise of imperial power. Alongside, scholarship on tantra has pointed to its diffuse persistence in the early modern period. But what dynamics beyond courts and elite initiates did these investments in occult science and tantra unleash? Through a focus on the seventeenth-century Mughal court and the Rajput polity of Marwar in the eighteenth century, this article weaves together the history of animals with that of harmful magic by non-courtly actors. It demonstrates the blended histories of tantra, Islamicate occult sciences, and folk magic to argue that attributions of liminality encoded people, animals, and things with occult potential. For some, like the owl, this liminality could invite violence and death and for others, like expert male practitioners, it could generate authority. By the eighteenth century, the deployment of practical magic towards harmful or disruptive ends was a political tool wielded not only by kings and elite adepts for state or lineage formation but also by non-courtly subjects and “low”-caste specialists in local social life. States and sovereigns responded to the popular use of harmful magic harshly, aiming to cut off non-courtly access to this resource. If the early modern age was one of new ideologies of universal empire, the deployment of occult power outside the court was inconsistent with the ambitions of the kings of this time.
In September 1968, regular British Vogue columnist Polly Devlin returned from a year working for the magazine’s sister publication in New York, and published a long article commenting on how, in her absence, the mood had changed.
In winter 2014, the town of Thohoyandou, South Africa was gripped with panic after a series of rapes and murders. In this area, notorious for its occult specialists and witchcraft, stories began to circulate attributing the violence to demonic forces. These stories were given credence by the young man who was charged with these crimes. In his testimony, he confirmed that he was possessed by evil forces. Taking this story as a point of departure, this article provides an empirical account of the ambivalent ways state sites of criminal justice grapple with the occult in South Africa. Drawing on twenty-two months of ethnographic fieldwork, I describe how spirit possession is not easily reconciled with legal methods of parsing criminal liability in courtrooms. And yet, when imprisoned people are paroled, the state entertains the possibility of bewitchment in public ceremonies of reconciliation. Abstracting from local stories about the occult, this article proposes mens daemonica (“demonic mind”) to describe this state of hijacked selfhood and as an alternative to the mens rea (“criminal mind”) observed in criminal law. While the latter seeks the cause of wrongdoing in the authentic will of the autonomous, self-governing subject, mens daemonica describes a putatively extra-legal idea of captured volition that implicates a vast and ultimately unknowable range of others and objects in what only appears to be a singular act of wrongdoing. This way of reckoning culpability has the potential to inspire new approaches to justice.
When Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) translated the ancient Corpus Hermeticum in 1460 and unlocked the secrets of the mysterious figure known as Hermes Trismegistus, he discovered a wellspring of knowledge that promised to transform humanity’s understanding of both the world and its Creator. He and many others believed that the writings of Hermes conveyed the prisca sapientia, or ancient wisdom, once vouchsafed to Adam in the Garden but then lost after humanity’s fall from divine grace. The philosophical tradition known as hermeticism quickly spread across Renaissance Europe, alongside renewed interest in the mystical Judaic practice of the Kabbalah, another source of wisdom that sought to reveal the hidden traces of God in the universe. These traditions of learned magic inspired the archetypal Renaissance magus, the English philosopher John Dee (1527-608), in his quest for knowledge. He conversed with angels and advised some of Europe’s most powerful monarchs, but like the fictional figure of Faustus, who dabbled in dark arts and damned himself for eternity, Dee had to contend with the distrust and fear of contemporaries who believed that magic was the work of demons.
From the recovery of ancient ritual magic at the height of the Renaissance to the ignominious demise of alchemy at the dawn of the Enlightenment, Mark A. Waddell explores the rich and complex ways that premodern people made sense of their world. He describes a time when witches flew through the dark of night to feast on the flesh of unbaptized infants, magicians conversed with angels or struck pacts with demons, and astrologers cast the horoscopes of royalty. Ground-breaking discoveries changed the way that people understood the universe while, in laboratories and coffee houses, philosophers discussed how to reconcile the scientific method with the veneration of God. This engaging, illustrated new study introduces readers to the vibrant history behind the emergence of the modern world.
This chapter explores the role and function of occult forces in South Asian bazaars. Drawing mainly, but not exclusively, on material from eastern South Asia, it challenges the repeated attempts by scholars to read these forces along functionalist lines. Instead, it demonstrates that there is a substantial body of formalized textual knowledge which theorizes the nature, role, and application of these forces. This knowledge is available, in the bazaar itself, in a specialized genre of printed books. The chapter argues against mapping the knowledge produced in these books within the category of “religion,” since the emphasis on belief and bounded identities that have become germane to modern ideas of “religion” are inapplicable to the practices of the occult bazaar. The occult bazaar, it is argued, should be treated as a distinctive sphere of abstraction that is separate from, though interacting with, the more formalized and well-known abstraction of “the economy.”
Poetry in the nineteenth century is often described as ‘haunted’; that is, as being replete with spectres and poignantly aware of its literary predecessors. From their readings of early Gothic fiction, the poets of the period learned both to celebrate and to mourn the past, an approach that is evident across a wide range of texts. Close reading demonstrates not only how the aesthetics but also the underlying anxieties of the Gothic permeate Victorian poetry, transforming Gothic into an acutely contemporary mode. To read Victorian poetry as Gothic offers a point of entry into the darker anxieties of the age, represented in miniature with splinters of Gothic anxiety. This chapter focuses on the ways in which poets such as Thomas Hood, James Thomson, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Robert Browning, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Mary Coleridge appropriate Gothic aesthetics to reflect a nineteenth-century unease with social change, faith and death, looking backwards to the Gothic past and forwards to an uncertain future.
The introduction sets out the historiographical framework and principle approaches of the book. Studies of nineteenth and twentieth century interactions between the established sciences and psychical phenomena have yielded many important insights but left many questions unanswered. We know a good deal about the psychical interests and investigations of a handful of scientists but only a partial sense of how far their examples were followed. We know a lot about the ‘occult’ uses to which spiritualists, theosophists and other occultists put developments in physical sciences relating to ether, energy, electricity and matter, but far less about the uses to which scientists made of psychical and occult phenomena in their scientific enquiries. Existing studies have also established much about the connections between ’physics and psychics’ at the level of ideas, theories and concepts, but have largely sidestepped the experimental nature of these connections.
This is the first systematic exploration of the intriguing connections between Victorian physical sciences and the study of the controversial phenomena broadly classified as psychic, occult and paranormal. These phenomena included animal magnetism, spirit-rapping, telekinesis and telepathy. Richard Noakes shows that psychic phenomena interested far more Victorian scientists than we have previously assumed, challenging the view of these scientists as individuals clinging rigidly to a materialistic worldview. Physicists, chemists and other physical scientists studied psychic phenomena for a host of scientific, philosophical, religious and emotional reasons, and many saw such investigations as exciting new extensions to their theoretical and experimental researches. While these attempted extensions were largely unsuccessful, they laid the foundations of modern day explorations of the connections between physics and psychic phenomena. This revelatory study challenges our view of the history of physics, and deepens our understanding of the relationships between science and the occult, and science and religion.
This chapter argues that a logic of fiduciary exchangeability finds its most sustained and versatile expressions in the work of the celebrated London writer Iain Sinclair. Sinclair’s work of the 1990s is both a crucial signal of a deepening intimacy between experimental and genre writing that has become all the more pronounced over the past two decades, and a leading-edge example of the techniques of market metafiction so prevalent today. The chapter reads Sinclair’s novel Downriver (1991), published in the wake of the Thatcherite transformation of the City of London’s financial services sector, as exploring what happens to structures of fiduciary circulation when they are pushed to – and beyond – their limits. The reading of the ostensibly non-fictional Lights Out for the Territory (1997) as an exercise in the “hermeneutics of speculation,” meanwhile, argues for the constitutive roles of faith and belief even in texts that apparently ground themselves in the real and material, in the process challenging the homology between literary realism and precious metal that is a basic premise of much key work in the New Economic Criticism.
This chapter argues that we might better understand postmodernism’s ambivalent appropriation of genre models by theorizing it in terms of a logic of quasi- or “as if” belief that cuts across structures of financial and literary market exchange. Taking recent work in economic sociology and the “New Economic Criticism,” as jumping-off points it shows how a deep-rooted kinship between fiction and finance as forms of writing that mediate value in the modern credit economy (in Mary Poovey’s terms) are becoming newly visible today. The shared condition of fictional texts’ and financial and monetary instruments’ successful market circulation is their solicitation of tacit faith or trust in imaginary things. A desire both to exploit and to subvert this condition of “fiduciary exchangeability” shapes the experiments in supernatural narrative form offered by Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho (1991) and Lunar Park (2005), Anne Billson’s Suckers (1993), Stephen Marche’s The Hunger of the Wolf (2015), and Jonathan Coe’s The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim (2010). In the work of these writers we see many of the crucial elements of market metafiction in action.
Our objective was to describe clinically significant infections in a cohort of afebrile neonates who underwent an emergency department (ED) septic workup because of the history of a measured fever at home.
Retrospective medical record review of all infants ≤28 days of age who presented to our tertiary care pediatric ED between Jan. 1, 1999, and Aug. 22, 2002, underwent lumbar puncture in the ED, had a reported temperature at home of ≥38°C, and an ED triage temperature of <38°C. Laboratory and radiographic results were tabulated.
During the study period, 206 neonates underwent lumbar puncture in our ED. Of these, 108 were excluded because their home temperature was not documented, and 71 were excluded because they were still febrile on presentation to the ED. The study group consisted of the remaining 27 subjects, 4 of whom had received acetaminophen prior to ED arrival. Infections were confirmed in 10 (37%) subjects (3 urinary tract infections, 2 aseptic meningitis, 1 enterovirus meningitis, 1 respiratory syncytial virus bronchiolitis, 1 rotavirus enteritis and 2 pneumonias).
Clinically important infections are not uncommon among afebrile neonates undergoing ED septic workup because of a measured fever at home. Some diagnostic testing is warranted in this group, although the clinical utility and indications for specific test modalities remain unclear.
Occult papillary thyroid carcinoma is generally associated with an excellent prognosis. Distant metastasis of this tumour is extremely rare. A case of occult papillary thyroid carcinoma with metastases to the lungs, cervical lymph nodes, skeleton, and the brain is reported. The tumour expressed itself in extremely aggressive clinical behaviour and responded only partially to aggressive therapy. The controversial methods of treatment for occult papillary thyroid carcinoma are also discussed.
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