Author: Eric Pudney

This book situates witchcraft drama within its cultural and intellectual context, highlighting the centrality of scepticism and belief in witchcraft to the genre. It is argued that these categories are most fruitfully understood not as static and mutually exclusive positions within the debate around witchcraft, but as rhetorical tools used within it. In drama, too, scepticism and belief are vital issues. The psychology of the witch character is characterised by a combination of impious scepticism towards God and credulous belief in the tricks of the witch’s master, the devil. Plays which present plausible depictions of witches typically use scepticism as a support: the witch’s power is subject to important limitations which make it easier to believe. Plays that take witchcraft less seriously present witches with unrestrained power, an excess of belief which ultimately induces scepticism. But scepticism towards witchcraft can become a veneer of rationality concealing other beliefs that pass without sceptical examination. The theatrical representation of witchcraft powerfully demonstrates its uncertain status as a historical and intellectual phenomenon; belief and scepticism in witchcraft drama are always found together, in creative tension with one another.

An intellectual history
Author: Johan Östling

In the twenty-first century, intense debates concerning the university have flared up in Germany. An underlying factor is the general feeling that the country's once so excellent universities have been irredeemably left behind. This book anchors the current debate about the university in the past by exploring the history and varying meanings of the tradition of Wilhelm von Humboldt. It first provides a history of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the history and content of the Humboldtian tradition. Humboldt was involved in Greek antiquity, theory of education, Prussian educational system, and comparative linguistics. If, in spite of this versatility, a comprehensive idea, his Lebensthema, is to be found, it would have to be human beings and their Education. The book discusses the contributions of Adolf von Harnack and Eduard Spranger who emphasised Humboldt as a prominent figure in German university history. It focuses on three of the most influential figures in the post-war debate on the university: philosopher Karl Jaspers, historian Gerhard Ritter, and Germanic philologist Werner Richter. The 150th anniversary celebrations of the university in 1960 saw the eastern Berlin academia claiming to be the bearers of the true Humboldtian spirit and the west demonstrating itself as taking over Humboldt's original idea. The years following 2000 saw most European countries realising university reforms without any notable opposition, but in Germany the Bologna process gave rise to heated discussions in the public sphere.

How people and organizations create and manage excess

This book presents studies of ways in which people and organizations deal with the overflow of information, goods, or choices. The contributors explore two main themes. The first is the emergence of overflows: What is defined as overflow? Here the notion of framing as coined by Michel Callon has guided our approach. There is no overflow until some flow has been framed; framing means defining, and defining means imposing borders. Who does it, how, and why? The answer to these questions necessitates an historical and comparative approach. What one culture defines as necessity, another may see as excess, and these differences can exist even between different levels of the same social hierarchy. The second theme is the management of overflows, in the double meaning of the term: as controlling and as coping. Coping with overflow means learning to live with it; controlling overflow requires various skills and devices. The individual chapters show the management of overflow taking place in various social settings, periods, and political contexts: From the attempts of states to manage future consumption overflow in post-war Eastern European to the contemporary economies of sharing. Other contributions focus on overflow in healthcare administration, overflow problems in mass travel and migration, overflow in digital services, and the overflow that scholars face in dealing with an abundance of research information and publications. This edited volume belongs to the transdisciplinary social sciences, and therefore it should be of interest to sociologists, management scholars, economists, historians, anthropologists, and cultural studies scholars.

Open Access (free)
Living with scandal, rumour, and gossip

This book illuminates the personal experience of being at the centre of a media scandal. The existential level of that experience is highlighted by means of the application of ethnological and phenomenological perspectives to extensive empirical material drawn from a Swedish context. The questions raised and answered in this book include the following: How does the experience of being the protagonist in a media scandal affect a person’s everyday life? What happens to routines, trust, and self-confidence? How does it change the basic settings of his or her lifeworld?

The analysis also contributes new perspectives on the fusion between interpersonal communication that takes place face to face, such as gossip and rumours, and traditional news media in the course of a scandal. A scandal derives its momentum from the audiences, whose engagement in the moral story determines its dissemination and duration. The nature of that engagement also affects the protagonist in specific ways. Members of the public participate through traditional oral communication, one vital aspect of which is activity in digital, social forums.

The author argues that gossip and rumour must be included in the idea of the media system if we are to be able to understand the formation and power of a media scandal, a contention which entails critiques of earlier research. Oral interpersonal communication does not disappear when new communication possibilities arise. Indeed, it may be invigorated by them. The term news legend is introduced, to capture the entanglement between traditional news-media storytelling and oral narrative.

Economies of allegiance

French subsidies played a central role in European politics from Charles VIII’s invasion of Italy in 1494 until the French Revolution. French kings attempted to frustrate what they viewed as a Habsburg bid to pursue universal monarchy. During the seventeenth century, the French monarchy would embrace the payment of subsidies on a different scale than previously, using alliances in which subsidies played a prominent role to pursue crucial aspects of royal policy. Louis XIII made alliances promising subsidies to support the United Provinces’ resumed war against the king of Spain, and for the Danish, Swedish, and various German princes to fight against the Holy Roman Emperor. Louis XIV continued some of these subsidies and used subsidies as a tool in order to implement his own politics. When Louis XIV appeared to Dutch and some English statesmen as aspiring to Universal monarchy, the Dutch and particularly the English used the tool of subsidies to frustrate the French monarch. During the eighteenth century, principally the French and the British, but also the Austrians, used subsidies to procure allies and attempt to maintain the balance of power. The subsidy system prompted significant debates about the legal, political, and moral implications, and was sometimes a source of political conflict between competing power groupings within states. The book argues that participation in the French system of subsidies neither necessarily accelerated nor necessarily retarded state development; but such participation could undoubtedly change political dynamics, the creation of institutions, and the form of states that would emerge.

A history of forbidden relations

This study brings out the norms and culturally dependent values that formed the basis of the theoretical regulation and the practical handling of incest cases in Sweden 1680–1940, situating this development in a wider European context. It discusses a broad variety of general human subjects that are as important today as they were hundreds of years ago, such as love, death, family relations, religion, crimes, and punishments.

By analysing criminal-case material and applications for dispensation, as well as political and legislative sources, the incest phenomenon is explored from different perspectives over a long time period. It turns out that although the incest debate has been dominated by religious, moral, and later medical beliefs, ideas about love, age, and family hierarchies often influenced the assessment of individual incest cases. These unspoken values could be decisive – sometimes life-determining – for the outcome of various incest cases.

The book will interest scholars from several different fields of historical research, such as cultural history, the history of crime and of sexuality, family history, history of kinship, and historical marriage patterns. The long time period also broadens the number of potential readers. Since the subject concerns general human issues that are as current today as they were three centuries ago, the topic will also appeal to a non-academic audience.