Fearful Spirits, Reasoned Follies: The Boundaries of Superstition in Late Medieval Europe

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9780801451447: Fearful Spirits, Reasoned Follies: The Boundaries of Superstition in Late Medieval Europe

Superstitions are commonplace in the modern world. Mostly, however, they evoke innocuous images of people reading their horoscopes or avoiding black cats. Certain religious practices might also come to mind―praying to St. Christopher or lighting candles for the dead. Benign as they might seem today, such practices were not always perceived that way. In medieval Europe superstitions were considered serious offenses, violations of essential precepts of Christian doctrine or immutable natural laws. But how and why did this come to be? In Fearful Spirits, Reasoned Follies, Michael D. Bailey explores the thorny concept of superstition as it was understood and debated in the Middle Ages.Bailey begins by tracing Christian thinking about superstition from the patristic period through the early and high Middle Ages. He then turns to the later Middle Ages, a period that witnessed an outpouring of writings devoted to superstition―tracts and treatises with titles such as De superstitionibus and Contra vitia superstitionum. Most were written by theologians and other academics based in Europe's universities and courts, men who were increasingly anxious about the proliferation of suspect beliefs and practices, from elite ritual magic to common healing charms, from astrological divination to the observance of signs and omens. As Bailey shows, however, authorities were far more sophisticated in their reasoning than one might suspect, using accusations of superstition in a calculated way to control the boundaries of legitimate religion and acceptable science. This in turn would lay the conceptual groundwork for future discussions of religion, science, and magic in the early modern world. Indeed, by revealing the extent to which early modern thinkers took up old questions about the operation of natural properties and forces using the vocabulary of science rather than of belief, Bailey exposes the powerful but in many ways false dichotomy between the "superstitious" Middle Ages and "rational" European modernity.

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About the Author:

Michael D. Bailey is Associate Professor of History at Iowa State University. He is the author of ; ; and .

Review:

" Fearful Spirits, Reasoned Follies is a very useful book: learned and clearly written and offering perspectivesfor both the general reader and the specialist.... Bailey's narrative of how clerical writers used the category of superstition to define and control the boundaries of legitimate religious practice and acceptable science engages usefully with other historical narratives: the reforming agenda of the late medieval Church, rising concern about magicaland superstitious practices in the fourteenth century, and the heightened fear of demonic power."

(Sophie Page)

" Fearful Spirits, Unreasoned Follies is a groundbreaking work, suitable for graduate seminars and advanced undergraduate courses on premodern magic and witchcraft. It exemplifies why Bailey is one of the best scholars writing about the Middle Ages today."

(Michael A. Ryan)

"As Bailey elegantly points out, church authorities used superstition to promote proper religious devotion, and understanding these actions and beliefs is vital to understanding medieval culture and society. Basing his book upon a close reading of the primary sources, Bailey clearly explains the importance of superstition among the elite and in common practice during the late Middle Ages and explains how authorities sought to create a coherent theory of superstition to better control society. Summing Up: Highly recommended."



"Bailey provides his reader with a broad overview of Christian thinking about superstition from the patristic period through to the fourteenth century. The complexity of the multiple meanings that inhered in the term is immediately apparent, but Bailey writes with an eye to the future, and particularly the emergence of what he sees as a new impetus in this long-standing discussion."

(Helen Parish)

""Bailey writes clearlywithout jargon...and is excellent at noting changes in emphasis over time and differences between his sources without overplaying them... Yet he is far from being unreflective and concludes with a chapter explicitly pondering the trope of "modernity" and the role the concept of superstition has played in its construction."―Robert Bartlett"



"Bailey's approach to late medieval superstition highlights the challenges of determining what constitutes acceptable spiritual practice. He emphasizes that an exact definition of superstition may not exist: superstition itself is slippery and protean.... Bailey enriches his subject while expanding its relevance."

(Mike Pursley)

"This stimulating book traces a neglected thread in the Western intellectualtradition and challenges those modern prejudices and tropes of medievalsuperstition that are so irritating and offensive to historians of the period.Although the main focus of Michael Bailey's investigations is predominantlyGerman writers of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, he placesthem within a discourse stretching back to the Romans and forward intoour own time.... Bailey is to be commended for approaching these complex issuesfrom a fresh and provocative angle. Students of both science and witchcrafthave much to ponder here."

(Marcus K. Harmes)

"We will not successfully grasp the nuances of medieval European religion until we produce more case studies as skillful, confident, open-minded, and wittily expert as this one Fearful Spirits is an almost magical combination of close reading and methodological wisdom that should convince the most orthodox skeptics and persuade the most superstitious peasants that, although medieval Christians may have been enchanted, they were also literate, scientific, and thoughtful critics of religion."

(Lisa Bitel)

"In the eminently readable Fearful Spirits, Reasoned Follies, Michael D. Bailey takes a close look at late medieval writings about superstition. Bailey sets a remarkable efflorescence of treatises on superstition from fifteenth-century German-speaking lands in a historical conversation about superstition that extends back to late antiquity and extends to the Enlightenment. He also links these treatises to a wider project of reform. This is an important book that makes a significant contribution to the history of magic, the history of science, the history of reform, and the history of practical theology or pastoral care. Bailey explains complex theological arguments in clear and engaging prose."

(Laura Ackerman Smoller, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, author of History, Prophecy, and the Stars: The Christian Astrology of Pierre d'Ailly, 1350–1420)

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Descripción Cornell University Press. Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. 312 pages. Dimensions: 14.6in. x 9.8in. x 1.2in.Superstitions are commonplace in the modern world. Mostly, however, they evoke innocuous images of people reading their horoscopes or avoiding black cats. Certain religious practices might also come to mindpraying to St. Christopher or lighting candles for the dead. Benign as they might seem today, such practices were not always perceived that way. In medieval Europe superstitions were considered serious offenses, violations of essential precepts of Christian doctrine or immutable natural laws. But how and why did this come to be In Fearful Spirits, Reasoned Follies, Michael D. Bailey explores the thorny concept of superstition as it was understood and debated in the Middle Ages. Bailey begins by tracing Christian thinking about superstition from the patristic period through the early and high Middle Ages. He then turns to the later Middle Ages, a period that witnessed an outpouring of writings devoted to superstitiontracts and treatises with titles such as De superstitionibus and Contra vitia superstitionum. Most were written by theologians and other academics based in Europes universities and courts, men who were increasingly anxious about the proliferation of suspect beliefs and practices, from elite ritual magic to common healing charms, from astrological divination to the observance of signs and omens. As Bailey shows, however, authorities were far more sophisticated in their reasoning than one might suspect, using accusations of superstition in a calculated way to control the boundaries of legitimate religion and acceptable science. This in turn would lay the conceptual groundwork for future discussions of religion, science, and magic in the early modern world. Indeed, by revealing the extent to which early modern thinkers took up old questions about the operation of natural properties and forces using the vocabulary of science rather than of belief, Bailey exposes the powerful but in many ways false dichotomy between the superstitious Middle Ages and rational European modernity. This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Hardcover. Nº de ref. de la librería 9780801451447

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Descripción Cornell University Press, United States, 2013. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.Superstitions are commonplace in the modern world. Mostly, however, they evoke innocuous images of people reading their horoscopes or avoiding black cats. Certain religious practices might also come to mind--praying to St. Christopher or lighting candles for the dead. Benign as they might seem today, such practices were not always perceived that way. In medieval Europe superstitions were considered serious offenses, violations of essential precepts of Christian doctrine or immutable natural laws. But how and why did this come to be? In Fearful Spirits, Reasoned Follies, Michael D. Bailey explores the thorny concept of superstition as it was understood and debated in the Middle Ages.Bailey begins by tracing Christian thinking about superstition from the patristic period through the early and high Middle Ages. He then turns to the later Middle Ages, a period that witnessed an outpouring of writings devoted to superstition--tracts and treatises with titles such as De superstitionibus and Contra vitia superstitionum. Most were written by theologians and other academics based in Europe s universities and courts, men who were increasingly anxious about the proliferation of suspect beliefs and practices, from elite ritual magic to common healing charms, from astrological divination to the observance of signs and omens. As Bailey shows, however, authorities were far more sophisticated in their reasoning than one might suspect, using accusations of superstition in a calculated way to control the boundaries of legitimate religion and acceptable science. This in turn would lay the conceptual groundwork for future discussions of religion, science, and magic in the early modern world. Indeed, by revealing the extent to which early modern thinkers took up old questions about the operation of natural properties and forces using the vocabulary of science rather than of belief, Bailey exposes the powerful but in many ways false dichotomy between the superstitious Middle Ages and rational European modernity. Nº de ref. de la librería APC9780801451447

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Descripción Cornell University Press, United States, 2013. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. Superstitions are commonplace in the modern world. Mostly, however, they evoke innocuous images of people reading their horoscopes or avoiding black cats. Certain religious practices might also come to mind--praying to St. Christopher or lighting candles for the dead. Benign as they might seem today, such practices were not always perceived that way. In medieval Europe superstitions were considered serious offenses, violations of essential precepts of Christian doctrine or immutable natural laws. But how and why did this come to be? In Fearful Spirits, Reasoned Follies, Michael D. Bailey explores the thorny concept of superstition as it was understood and debated in the Middle Ages.Bailey begins by tracing Christian thinking about superstition from the patristic period through the early and high Middle Ages. He then turns to the later Middle Ages, a period that witnessed an outpouring of writings devoted to superstition--tracts and treatises with titles such as De superstitionibus and Contra vitia superstitionum. Most were written by theologians and other academics based in Europe s universities and courts, men who were increasingly anxious about the proliferation of suspect beliefs and practices, from elite ritual magic to common healing charms, from astrological divination to the observance of signs and omens. As Bailey shows, however, authorities were far more sophisticated in their reasoning than one might suspect, using accusations of superstition in a calculated way to control the boundaries of legitimate religion and acceptable science. This in turn would lay the conceptual groundwork for future discussions of religion, science, and magic in the early modern world. Indeed, by revealing the extent to which early modern thinkers took up old questions about the operation of natural properties and forces using the vocabulary of science rather than of belief, Bailey exposes the powerful but in many ways false dichotomy between the superstitious Middle Ages and rational European modernity. Nº de ref. de la librería APC9780801451447

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