22.2.17

Supernatural Cinema

Murray Leeder. The Modern Supernatural and the Beginnings of Cinema. Palgrave Macmillan (6 Feb. 2017)

The book takes up the familiar notion of cinema as a “ghostly,” “spectral” or “haunted” medium and asks what made such association possible. Examining the history of the projected image and supernatural displays, psychical research and telepathy, spirit photography and X-rays, the skeletons of the danse macabre and the ghostly spaces of the mind, it uncovers many lost and fascinating connections. The Modern Supernatural and the Beginnings of Cinema locates film’s spectral affinities within a history stretching back to the beginning of screen practice and forward to the digital era. In addition to examining the use of supernatural themes by pioneering filmmakers like Georges Méliès and George Albert Smith, it also engages with the representations of cinema’s ghostly past in Guy Maddin’s recent online project Seances (2016). It is ideal for those interested in the history of cinema, the study of the supernatural and the pre-history of the horror film.

17.2.17

Lost and Found Department

Jim Willis. Ancient Gods: Lost Histories, Hidden Truths, and the Conspiracy of Silence.  Visible Ink Press. (14 February 2017)

From the publisher's website: Where do we come from? What are the origins of modern civilisation? Do the world's pyramids, the Nazca Lines, Easter Island statues, and other enigmatic structures, archaeological wonders, and geographic anomalies contain evidence of ancient gods? Sifting through the historical and archaeological evidence, Ancient Gods: Lost Histories, Hidden Truths, and the Conspiracy of Silence probes the myths, stories, history, and facts of ancient civilisations, lost technologies, past catastrophes, archetypal astronauts, and bygone religions to tease out the truth of our distant past and modern existence. It takes and in-depth look at the facts, fictions, and controversies of our ancestors, origins, who we are as a people and who might have come before us. It tackles more than 60 nagging stories of ancient gods, ancestors, alien visitors, theories and explanations.



13.2.17

Magic in Pictures

Owen Davies (Editor) The Oxford Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic. OUP Oxford (1 Feb. 2017)

This richly illustrated history provides a readable and fresh approach to the extensive and complex story of witchcraft and magic. Telling the story from the dawn of writing in the ancient world to the globally successful Harry Potter films, the authors explore a wide range of magical beliefs and practices, the rise of the witch trials, and the depiction of the Devil-worshipping witch. The book also focuses on the more recent history of witchcraft and magic, from the Enlightenment to the present, exploring the rise of modern magic, the anthropology of magic around the globe, and finally the cinematic portrayal of witches and magicians, from The Wizard of Oz to Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.




8.2.17

Science, Religion and ET

David Wilkinson. Science, Religion, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. OUP Oxford (1 Feb. 2017)

If the discovery of life elsewhere in the universe is just around the corner, what would be the consequences for religion? Would it represent another major conflict between science and religion, even leading to the death of faith? Some would suggest that the discovery of any suggestion of extraterrestrial life would have a greater impact than even the Copernican and Darwinian revolutions.

It is now over 50 years since the first modern scientific papers were published on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Yet the religious implications of this search and possible discovery have never been systematically addressed in the scientific or theological arena. SETI is now entering its most important era of scientific development. New observation techniques are leading to the discovery of extra-solar planets daily, and the Kepler mission has already collected over 1000 planetary candidates. This deluge of data is transforming the scientific and popular view of the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. Earth-like planets outside of our solar system can now be identified and searched for signs of life.


4.2.17

Dead and Alive

John C Hagan. The Science of Near-Death Experiences. University of Missouri (January 17, 2017)

What happens to consciousness during the act of dying? The most compelling answers come from people who almost die and later recall events that occurred while lifesaving resuscitation, emergency care, or surgery was performed. These events are now called near-death experiences (NDEs). As medical and surgical skills improve, innovative procedures can bring back patients who have traveled farther on the path to death than at any other time in history. Physicians and healthcare professionals must learn how to appropriately treat patients who report an NDE. It is estimated that more than 10 million people in the United States have experienced an NDE. Hagan and the contributors to this volume engage in evidence-based research on near-death experiences and include physicians who themselves have undergone a near-death experience. This book establishes a new paradigm for NDEs.

2.2.17

Victorian Values

Lara Pauline Karpenko, Shalyn Rae Claggett. Strange Science: Investigating the Limits of Knowledge in the Victorian Age. University of Michigan Press (30 Jan. 2017)

The essays in Strange Science examine marginal, fringe, and unconventional forms of scientific inquiry, as well as their cultural representations, in the Victorian period. Although now relegated to the category of the pseudoscientific, fields like mesmerism and psychical research captured the imagination of the Victorian public. Conversely, many branches of science now viewed as uncontroversial, such as physics and botany, were often associated with unorthodox methods of inquiry. Whether ultimately incorporated into mainstream scientific thought or categorised by 21st century historians as pseudo- or even anti-scientific, these sciences generated conversation, enthusiasm, and controversy within Victorian society.

To date, scholarship addressing Victorian pseudoscience tends to focus either on a particular popular science within its social context or on how mainstream scientific practice distinguished itself from more contested forms. Strange Science takes a different approach by placing a range of sciences in conversation with one another and examining the similar unconventional methods of inquiry adopted by both now-established scientific fields and their marginalised counterparts during the Victorian period. In doing so, Strange Science reveals the degree to which scientific discourse of this period was radically speculative, frequently attempting to challenge or extend the apparent boundaries of the natural world. This interdisciplinary collection will appeal to scholars in the fields of Victorian literature, cultural studies, the history of the body, and the history of science.


22.1.17

Planning Paradise

Michael J. Lewis. City of Refuge: Separatists and Utopian Town Planning. Princeton University Press (October 2016)

The vision of Utopia obsessed the nineteenth-century mind, shaping art, literature, and especially town planning. In City of Refuge, Michael Lewis takes readers across centuries and continents to show how Utopian town planning produced a distinctive type of settlement characterised by its square plan, collective ownership of properties, and communal dormitories. Some of these settlements were sanctuaries from religious persecution, like those of the German Rappites, French Huguenots, and American Shakers, while others were sanctuaries from the Industrial Revolution, like those imagined by Charles Fourier, Robert Owen, and other Utopian visionaries.

Because of their differences in ideology and theology, these settlements have traditionally been viewed separately, but Lewis shows how they are part of a continuous intellectual tradition that stretches from the early Protestant Reformation into modern times. Through close readings of architectural plans and archival documents, many previously unpublished, he shows the network of connections between these seemingly disparate Utopian settlements--including even such well-known town plans as those of New Haven and Philadelphia.

The most remarkable aspect of the city of refuge is the inventive way it fused its eclectic sources, ranging from the encampments of the ancient Israelites as described in the Bible to the detailed social program of Thomas More's Utopia to modern thought about education, science, and technology. Delving into the historical evolution and antecedents of Utopian towns and cities, City of Refuge alters notions of what a Utopian community can and should be.