Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe / Edition 1

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This is a work of fundamental importance for our understanding of the intellectual and cultural history of early modern Europe. Stuart Clark offers a new interpretation of the witchcraft beliefs of European intellectuals based on their publications in the field of demonology, and shows how these beliefs fitted rationally with many other views current in Europe between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"From the 15th through the beginning of the 18th century, many intellectuals expounded and defended views of the world and of human behavior to which witches were central. This volume presents a magnificent attempt to understand this demonological thinking and the intellectual activity of which it was a part."—Choice

"A short review cannot do justice to the richness or the subtlety of this volume. One of the most striking things about it is Clark's willingness to treat the subject with proper seriousness....The book...ought to be in the hands of as many readers as possible."—Sixteenth Century Journal

"Nothing in [Clark's] earlier writings would have led one to expect that he was meditating a work so powerful in conception and so massive in scale as he has now produced. His Thinking with Demons, which runs to over eight hundred large, closely printed, and heavily annotated pages, suddenly places him at the forefront of cultural history...For anyone interested in what we can hope to learn about ourselves from past systems of thought, this is a genuinely important book."—Common Knowledge

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198208082
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 848
  • Sales rank: 1,109,603
  • Lexile: 1720L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Table of Contents

PART I : LANGUAGE 1. Witchcraft and Language 2. Festivals and Sabbaths 3. Dual Classification 4. Contrariety 5. Inversion
6. The Devil, God's Ape 7. Witchcraft and Wit-Craft 8. Women and Witchcraft 9. Unstable Meanings
PART II : SCIENCE 10. Witchcraft and science 11. The Devil in Nature 12. The Causes of Witchcraft 13. Believers and Sceptics 14. Natural Magic 15. Demonic Magic 16. Prerogative Instances (1) 17. Prerogative Instances (2) 18. The Magical Power of Signs 19. Witchcraft and the Scientific Revolution
PART III: HISTORY 20. Witchcraft and History 21. Postremus Furor Satanae 22. Eschatology 23. The Life and Times of the Antichrist 24. The Witch as Portent 25. Witch-Cleansing 26. Understanding Possession 27. Possession, Exorcism, and History
28. Before Loudun
PART IV: RELIGION 29. Witchcraft anRd Religion 30. Cases of Conscience 31. Popular Magic 32. Superstition 33. Reformation
34. Acculturation by Text 35. Protestant Witchcraft, Catholic Witchcraft
PART V: POLITICS 36. Politics and Witchcraft 37. Magistrates and Witches 38. Inviolability 39. The Charisma of Office 40. Mystical Politics 41. Marvellous Monarchy 42. Spectacles of Disenchantment 43. Kingcraft and Witchcraft 44. Bodin's Political Demonology
Postscript Bibliography Index

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2001

    MUST READ for Fans of Witchcraft History

    In this impressive work, Stuart Clark presents the study of witchcraft, demonology, not as reactionary fuel that fed the flames of European irrationality but as a major intellectual enterprise that reflected and shaped beliefs that permeated an entire social, cultural, and political milieu. The book blends a variety of theoretical approaches, ranging from Thomas Kuhn to Michel Foucault, but Clark primarily utilizes a post-structural approach to interpret the language of demonology. He addresses language in his opening chapter, but the entire book considers language within its broader social context; demonology had an internal logic that is revealed through a close study of the words of those that pondered the divine and the debased. Building on the linguistic premise he establishes in the first chapter, Clarke traces the strands of the demonological web through the modern categories of Science, History, Religion, and Politics. For example, in his chapter on ¿Politics¿, Clark argues that the demonological thinking validated the work of magistrates, secular and spiritual, as they investigated and adjudicated witch trials. In this manner, Clark links the intellectual foundations of early modern life in a manner that effectively conflates the categories that he and modern scholars have imposed on early modern thinking. The categories we view as distinct, Politics, Religion, etc., were inextricable owing to demonology¿s pivotal role in shaping intellectual discourse. However, Clark tempers demonology¿s structural logic with a recurring caveat: internal theoretical tensions and external disputes among its proponents continually plagued demonological reasoning. According to Clark, demonology not only rationalized beliefs and practices but also contained the seeds of its own gradual disintegration. For example, the tension between natural and demonic magic fostered increased scrutiny of ¿magical¿ phenomenon- a trend that expanded the boundaries of the natural and shrank the realm of the demonic. In this massive, meticulous work, Clark effectively challenges many deeply entrenched scholarly opinions on early modern witchcraft. For example, he argues against a significant body of anthropological and historical works that has characterized witch trials as primarily driven by misogynistic rhetoric and sentiment. Clark counters that demonologists did not encourage misogyny, nor were they that concerned with women. Instead, prevailing notions of women¿ inherent sinfulness and susceptibility to demonic influence outside of demonological writings were responsible for the resulting gender imbalance in witch prosecutions. ¿Writers on witchcraft evidently took for granted a greater propensity to demonism in women¿The connection was so obvious to them that they felt no need¿to indulge in additional women-hating to back it up.¿ (117) Pre-existing misogyny did influence the persecution of witches but neither defined nor fomented demonological thinking or rhetoric. Clark also promotes a manner of historical interpretation that is more sensitive to the perspective of historical subjects than to those of the modern reader/scholar. Throughout the book, Clark steps out of the narrative to critique the traditional historiography of witchcraft that has premised explanatory narratives on the unreality of witchcraft. These works, for the most part, cite more ¿rational¿ and modern factors like economic dislocation, religious conflicts, social upheaval, misogyny, etc., to explain the uncritically accepted irrationality of witch-hunts. Clark is attempting to reveal how demonologists understood witchcraft, regardless of its objective reality.

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