The Devil Within: Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West
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Yale University Press / 2013 / Hardcover
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The Devil Within: Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West

Yale University Press / 2013 / Hardcover

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Stock No: WW0114720


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Product Description

In The Devil Within: Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West Brian Levack closely examines--taking into account the diverse interpretations of theologians, biblical scholars, pastors, physicians, anthropologists, psychiatrists, and historians-the cause, nature, and outcomes of demon possession in the West.

Challenging the commonly held belief that possession signals physical or mental illness, the author argues that demoniacs and exorcists--consciously or not--are following their various religious cultures, and their performances can only be understood in those contexts.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the era of the Reformation, thousands of Europeans were thought to be possessed by demons. In response to their horrifying symptoms--violent convulsions, displays of preternatural strength, vomiting of foreign objects, displaying contempt for sacred objects, and others--exorcists were summoned to expel the evil spirits from victims' bodies. This compelling book focuses on possession and exorcism in the Reformation period, but also reaches back to the fifteenth century and forward to our own times.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 352
Vendor: Yale University Press
Publication Date: 2013
Dimensions: 9.30 X 6.20 (inches)
ISBN: 0300114729
ISBN-13: 9780300114720

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Publisher's Description

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the era of the Reformation, thousands of Europeans were thought to be possessed by demons. In response to their horrifying symptoms—violent convulsions, displays of preternatural strength, vomiting of foreign objects, displaying contempt for sacred objects, and others—exorcists were summoned to expel the evil spirits from victims’ bodies. This compelling book focuses on possession and exorcism in the Reformation period, but also reaches back to the fifteenth century and forward to our own times.
 
Entire convents of nuns in French, Italian, and Spanish towns, 30 boys in an Amsterdam orphanage, a small group of young girls in Salem, Massachusetts—these are among the instances of demon possession in the United States and throughout Europe that Brian Levack closely examines, taking into account the diverse interpretations of generations of theologians, biblical scholars, pastors, physicians, anthropologists, psychiatrists, and historians. Challenging the commonly held belief that possession signals physical or mental illness, the author argues that demoniacs and exorcists—consciously or not—are following their various religious cultures, and their performances can only be understood in those contexts.

Author Bio

Brian P. Levack is John E. Green Regents Professor in History, University of Texas at Austin, and author of the best-selling book The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe. He lives in Austin, TX.

Endorsements

The Devil Within is a triumph. The overall argument--that demonic possession was rooted in religious culture, rather than being a mere pretense or illness--restores a powerful sense of agency to those affected and gives meaning to their bizarre behavior. Ranging as it does over time, across Europe, and among the confessions, one could not wish for a more comprehensive or more measured treatment of a perennially fascinating and revealing topic.
-Stuart Clark

A marvellous work. Brian Levack's reading of demonic possession offers a subtle and convincing account of this most painful and challenging phenomenon.
-Darren Oldridge

With a cool objectivity, Brian Levack reveals lucidly and persuasively why demonic possession made perfect sense in early modern culture, and how both exorcists and alleged victims assumed their roles. 'Teh Devil Within' takes seriously the supernatural world-view of our ancestors, yet avoids any misplaced sympathy for it.
-Malcom Gaskill

Brian Levack avoids skeptical efforts to say what demonic possession "really" was and differentiates for the first time the forms of possession characteristically found among Catholics and the Reformed. This is a most valuable contribution and by far the broadest and most interesting history of demonic possession that I have ever read.
-H.C. Erik Midelfort

Editorial Reviews

“Riveting [and] readable . . .  must-reading for students of history, psychology and religion.” —Publishers Weekly

“Brian P. Levak, a distinguished historian of early modern witchcraft, now sets exorcism in a long historical perspective, providing the most comprehensive and scholarly overview of the theme yet published...Underpinned by deep and empathetic learning, and an enviable knowledge of the sources, Levack’s cultural “script” theory of possession and exorcism is an attractive one.”—Peter Marshall, Times Literary Supplement


Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2013 in the Western Europe Category.

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