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Friendship in the Time of Phantoms

31st October 2016

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We write together out of friendship.

Answering for our motivation in this way mostly disappoints those who ask why we wrote such an “unusual book” together.

Still, this is our best answer. Lacking reference to some kind of high-minded metaphysics (“making a difference”) or blatant self-interest (“why not write a book about a wild film?”), we suspect that this sounds like a put on. Far from it.

The “unusual book” is Realizing the Witch: Science, Cinema and the Mastery of the Invisible (Fordham University Press, 2016). In it we show how Benjamin Christensen’s 1922 film Häxan (The Witch––re-released as Häxan, Witchcraft Through the Ages in 2001) relates to wide debates taking place in the 1920s regarding the relationship of film to scientific evidence, the evolving study of religion from historical and anthropological perspectives, and the complex relations between popular culture, art, religion, medicine, and psychology.

Realizing the Witch is expressed in a single voice that differs from either of ours alone. In many ways, so is Häxan. Christensen channels the spirits of his sources (medieval magistrates, spiritualists, psychical researchers, historians, psychiatrists) as a “scholarly” pursuit in cinematic form. In the same way we channelled a variety of friends––some “in the flesh” or over Skype (contemporary séance), but more often through their scholarship. Such friends provided us not only with a deep resource, but also inflect an ethic of connection through critically engaged work. Such friendships disqualify hard distinctions between passion and rigour but in no way deflect judgement from the work at hand––if anything, this demand becomes more intense. And we like it that way. Our list below acknowledges only a few of those friends we made during our own witch’s flight.

Read the full post at Books Combined.

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