In an exciting new approach to witchcraft studies, The Witch in the Western Imagination examines the visual representation of witches in early modern Europe. With vibrant and lucid prose, Lyndal Roper moves away from the typical witchcraft studies on trials, beliefs, and communal dynamics and instead considers the witch as a symbolic and malleable figure through a broad sweep of topics and time periods.
Employing a wide selection of archival, literary, and visual materials, Roper presents a series of thematic studies that range from the role of emotions in Renaissance culture to demonology as entertainment, and from witchcraft as female embodiment to the clash of cultures on the brink of the Enlightenment. Rather than providing a vast synthesis or survey, this book is questioning and exploratory in nature and illuminates our understanding of the mental and psychic worlds of people in premodern Europe.
Roper’s spectrum of theoretical interests will engage readers interested in cultural history, psychoanalytic theory, feminist theory, art history, and early modern European studies. These essays, three of which appear here for the first time in print, are complemented by more than forty images, from iconic paintings to marginal drawings on murals or picture frames. In her unique focus on the imagery of witchcraft, Lyndal Roper has succeeded in adding a compelling new dimension to the study of witchcraft in early modern Europe.
Lyndal Roper has a reputation among historians for bright, stimulating, even provocative insights into the society and culture of early modern Europe. This collection of essays is no exception. It will go down as a pioneering book in witchcraft studies. Original, theoretically sophisticated, and superbly grounded in fascinating historical material, this is a splendid challenge to scholars to follow her in new and interesting directions. It is a virtuoso performance by a historian at the height of her powers.
Much of the argument and method of this collection is laid out clearly in the intro- duction, although the sustained essays are a pleasure to read, beautifully crafted and harmoniously balanced by the elegant virtuosity of the physical edition. From font to binding, this is a book that celebrates the physicality of the text.
Lyndal Roper, Regius Professor of History at the University of Oxford, is author of Witch Craze: Terror and Fantasy in Baroque Germany.