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Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media Into the Twenty-First Century

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  128 ratings  ·  18 reviews
With over thirty illustrations in color and black and white, Phantasmagoria takes readers on an intellectually exhilarating tour of ideas of spirit and soul in the modern world, illuminating key questions of imagination and cognition. Warner tells the unexpected and often disturbing story about shifts in thought about consciousness and the individual person, from the first ...more
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published December 1st 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published January 1st 2006)
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Matt Simon
Sep 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
If you think your life is too crazy, read this book. You probably don't have ectoplasm coming out of your ears right now, which is good. ...more
I didn't like this as much as I enjoy Warner's other work. This book is more of a meditation on why humans obessess about the things we do in terms of life, the afterlife, and the end of all things. It does give you much to think about, and as always, Warner points out some interesting facts ( I loved the tie to spiritualism and the use of women). It is rather dense though. It doesn't quite flow. ...more
Rita Hooks
Jan 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Phantasmagoria by Marina Warner is a scholarly reference work for readers and writers of literary fiction. It is a study of the spirit world filled with literary allusions, and it has a great index. I had no idea how strong the occult influence has been on canonical authors. Although less known than their male peers, many women have researched the spirit world.
Rebeca F.
Mar 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow! This book is a mindblower. I've always been a fan of Warner, yet I only discovered this jewel a couple of months ago and had a lot of trouble getting my hands on a copy. I was ecstatic, because I love her work and this is a subject I'm specially interested in. At the same time, I really admire her guts to take on this project, since it's so overwhelming and such an extensive area of research which she handled wonderfully leading the reader on a fantastic journey through time, space and diff ...more
Jan 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Marina Warner doesn't hit you over the head with a thesaurus, a dictionary or an encyclopedia. She feeds you an erudite tome that combines all three through thrilling chapters, each bite sized and delicious in its own right; when you're done you look back at the mountain of scholarship you've just consumed and have to admire the vivacity and grace with which it was presented and prepared.

Given her other work, there should be no surprise that Warner takes a subject and crafts of it a marvellously
Dec 31, 2012 rated it it was ok
I was really disappointed with this book. It was quite dense but I couldn’t get over the impression that it read like a dissertation. I hated the extended introduction which described what each chapter was going to discuss. I don’t need a heads up or summary, I’ll find out soon enough by actually reading it! It’s the kind of thing a student would do to bump up the word count with repetitive information! There wasn’t a flow to the book and the chapters read like individual essays pieced together ...more
This book treats of spirits and the search for contact with another world not in a philosophical way but through exploring the earnest attempts through history to be in touch with a reality beyond the everyday. Marina Warner leads us expertly through wax effigies and the fata morgana, ether and ectoplasm to modern cinema and illustrates how spirits remain a concern. While one may disagree that the presence of 'soul' is now marked by its absence, the mass of information gathered to illustrate the ...more
Elizabeth Judd Taylor
A very engaging book about how cultures have perceived the soul, or spirit, throughout history. Mythology, theology, spiritualism, science, even popular entertainment: how do these influence our beliefs about what the soul is? And how do these beliefs change as things such as photography and moving pictures change the way we perceive ourselves and our bodies? This book covers a lot of ground but is always interesting and thought-provoking.
Steve Wiggins
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of those rare books that defies categorization, Phantasmagoria is indeed a phantasmagoria. Broadly based, the book addresses the question of what it means to have a soul, or ensoulment, including the concept of embodiment. Not easily grasped, not easily forgotten. See more about it on my blog: Sects and Violence in the Ancient World. ...more
Mar 08, 2018 rated it liked it
A hot mess. It's like a higgledy-piggledy museum filled with weird stuff from all over the place. Certainly nice to look at. Whenever the author muses on more theoretical concerns, though, it's pretty bad. And I don't mean bad meaning good, but bad meaning bad. ...more
Ed Skoog
Catalogues, classifies and interprets phenomena that people have considered manifestations of "the spirit," tying together wax museums, mirrors, clouds, steam, shadows, etc--a poetics of spookiness. ...more
May 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, absolutely fluent , well-interpreted book of soul, spirit or other definitions of it. It is not only providing the description but the examples or studies from books, paintings, films etc.

I can say that learned so much from it and recommend to study it.

Just adding something I am deeply impressed from the book: As the Chinese sage Li Kuan put it, "War is like a fire. If you do not put it out, it will burn itself out".

Another expression "Granulated Time".
Squeaky Skull
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
While I really enjoyed this book, I had to turn it back in to the library before I finished it...even with an extension. It is very dense reading, and not well-suited to my subway/lunch schedule for non-school reading. Maybe this summer I'll have time to pick it back up. ...more
Rodrigo Paris
Jun 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am still reading it, but so far, I find it fascinating, like everything written by Marina Warner, like her previous Alone Of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (1976, A.A.Knopf, NY).
Feb 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
reading this slowly. Sometimes the organization of the language leaves something to be desired, but the ideas are delicious and are fed to you at a mile a minute.
Mar 01, 2009 is currently reading it
Shelves: monograph
since i keep denouncing the enlightenment and the renaissance and their impact on community, and their impact on the human ego, i thought it might be a good time to start reading this.
This book is brilliant, but VERY DENSE. I need to come back to it when I can concentrate.
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Marina Sarah Warner is a British novelist, short story writer, historian and mythographer. She is known for her many non-fiction books relating to feminism and myth.

She is a professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre at the University of Essex, and gave the Reith Lectures on the BBC in 1994 on the theme of 'Managing Monsters: Six Myths of Our Time.'


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