The worldwide prominence of snakes in religion, myth, and folklore underscores our deep connection to the serpent - but why, when so few of us have firsthand experience? The surprising answer, this book suggests, lies in the singular impact of snakes on primate evolution. Predation pressure from snakes, Lynne Isbell tells us, is ultimately responsible for the superior vision and large brains of primates - and for a critical aspect of human evolution.
Sabarl island—created, in myth, from the bones of a serpent—is a coral atoll in the Louisiade archipelago of Papua New Guinea. The Sabarl speak of themselves as true "islanders": persons separated from the means of both physical and social survival. The Sabarl struggle for continuity—of the physical and social person and of social relations, of cultureal values, of paternal influence in a matrilineal society—is the subject of Debbora Battaglia's sensitive ethnography of loss and reconstruction: the first major work on cultural responses to mortality in the southern Massim culture area and an important contribution to studies of personhood in Melanesia.
The creative focus of Sabarl cultural life is a series of mortuary feasts and rituals known as segaiya. In assembling and disassembling commemorative food and objects in segaiya exchanges, Sabarl also assemble and disassemble the critical social relations such objects stand for. These commemorative acts create a collective memory yet also a collective experience of forgetting social bonds that are of no future use to the living. Sabarl anticipate this disaggregation in patterns of everyday life, which reveal the importance of categorical distinctions mapped in beliefs about the physical and metaphysical person.
Using remembrance and forgetting as an analytic lens, Battaglia is able to ask questions critical to understanding Melanesian social process. One of the "new ethnographies" addressing the limits of ethnographic representation and the fragmented nature of knowledge from an indigenous perspective, her finely wrought study explores the dynamics of cultural practices in which decontruction is integral to construction, allowing a new perspective on the ephermeral nature of sociality in Melanesia and new insight into the efficacy of cultural images more generally.
The Serpent and the Swan is a history and analysis of animal bride tales from antiquity to the present. The animal bride tale, the author argues, is an enduring expression of humankind's need to remain close to and a part of nature.
Boria Sax traces the idea of the animal bride through history by drawing upon legends and literary works from throughout the world. He pays particular attention to Eurasian sources which support his thesis that the animal bride theme originated among the serpent cults of Mesopotamia and southeastern Europe. Through time, the details of the animal bride theme changed as a result of mankind's changing perceptions of the natural world. In general, this study is an account of myths and beliefs that have surrounded animals—and women—during the rise of modern humankind.
The Serpent and the Swan identifies and explains images of the animal bride that pervade, enliven, and enrich our culture. The bride becomes Eve taking an apple from the serpent, Medea casting spells, Cinderella riding to the royal ball in a pumpkin coach, and the Little Mermaid rising from the waves.
The Author: Boria Sax, who holds a doctorate in German and intellectual history, is the author of The Frog King and The Parliament of Animals, among other books.
“A snake handler convicted of the attempted murder of his wife by means of serpent bite is serving ninety-nine years in prison. The reader is gradually pulled into an increasingly complex story as Thomas Burton allows the many individuals involved in this event to tell their stories. Readers are less likely to find themselves concerned with what “really” happened than with larger issues they too will become involved in. this is more than a story about the headline ‘preacher tries to murder wife – with rattlesnakes!” it is a story of individuals struggling with their faith and their fate under the steady gaze of their God.” —Ralph W. Hood Jr., winner of the American Psychological Association’s William James Award in the psychology of religion
In this comprehensive, multilayered set of narratives, the story of Glenn Summerford’s fall from grace is told by its participants, through interviews, court documents, and other primary sources. Free of either prejudice against or romanticizing about the snake-handling Holiness religion, this book presents an absorbing story of a fascinating group of people, while allowing the reader to draw his or her own conclusions about Summerford’s guilt or innocence. The Serpent and the Spirit is a startling commentary on truth and its representation, religion and its expression, humanity and its flaws.
Thomas Burton is professor emeritus of English at East Tennessee State University. He is the winner of the Appalachian Consortium Laurel Leaves Award.
Piranesi was an architect, engraver, antiquities restorer and dealer, draftsman, archaeologist, furniture and fireplace designer, author, and bookseller. His creations in paper and in stone garnered considerable renown in his own lifetime, allowing him to transform himself from a penniless son of a stonemason to a wealthy entrepreneur. However, despite attempts to catalogue and analyze his work, little is known about Piranesi. Since Henri Focillon published his monograph on the artist in 1918, scholars have sought to expand his interpretive strategies used to examine Piranesi and his work. This volume is a representative sampling of the contemporary scholarship on Piranesi, with each essay scrutinizing a particular aspect of his oeuvre. By engaging with material found in eighteenth-century manuscripts and printed materials, as well as the texts and images Piranesi produced, the nine essays by esteemed contributors add to the rapidly growing and diversifying field of eighteenth-century studies. The outcome is a volume that will add to the expanding, glittering mosaic of Piranesi’s life and his work.
Mario Bevilacqua is Associate Professor at the University of Florence, Italy.
Heather Hyde Minor is Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
Fabio Barry is Assistant Professor at the American University of Rome, Italy.
If laughter is good medicine, then the twenty-two essays offered here by Dr. Allen B. Weisse should prove a hearty antidote to a host of ills suffered by doctors, students and would-be students of medicine, amateur and professional medical historians, and, of course, patients, those of us who wonder what the medical profession is all about and how it affects us.
Often humorous and always informative, these essays cover a broad range of medical subjects. Weisse tackles medical ethics, offers advice to medical and premedical students and their families, delves into unusual episodes in medical history, confronts considerations of aging and self-image, and discusses the vagaries of rewards and recognition available from medical research. He also examines honesty in medical thinking, investigates ways of dealing with bureaucracies, and considers ways of learning to live with oneself. Finally, he evaluates the changing nature of medicine and medical research and looks into the roles of minorities and women in medicine.
Weisse knows whereof he speaks, enlivening each essay with personal anecdotes. When he explains past and current medical school admissions policies, for example, he approaches the subject with the combined knowledge of a former premedical student, a medical student, a faculty member, and an admissions chairperson over the past thirty years. As a medical researcher whose chief turned against him, he certainly knows what he is talking about in "Betrayal." He also writes with authority in his humorous account of how he, as a senior physician, struggles to keep on top of the overwhelming onslaught of medical advances ("Confessions of Creeping Obsolescence"). And in an essay to boost all of our spirits, he tells how an ivory tower physician (Weisse himself) gets drawn up in the service of the IRS bureaucracy and winds up tweaking its nose a bit ("In the Service of the IRS").
Perhaps nothing better illustrates the vigor, wit, and élan that characterize Weisse’s essays than his titles. "On Chinese Restaurants" deals with unusual syndromes and the way in which they have evolved and affected the way we look at ourselves. Other titles are "Pneumocystis and Me," "The Vanishing Male," "Say It Isn’t ‘No," "Bats in the Belfry or Bugs in the Belly?: Helicobacter and the Resurrection of Johannes Fibiger," and "PC: Politically Correct or Potentially Corrupting?"
Finally, two words in this book’s subtitle succinctly characterize Weisse’s essays: pertinent and impertinent—germane and irreverent information rakishly presented.
From its dissonant musics to its surrealist spectacles (the urinal is a violin!), Modernist art often seems to give more frustration than pleasure to its audience. In Untwisting the Serpent, Daniel Albright shows that this perception arises partly because we usually consider each art form in isolation, even though many of the most important artistic experiments of the Modernists were collaborations involving several media—Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring is a ballet, Gertrude Stein's Four Saints in Three Acts is an opera, and Pablo Picasso turned his cubist paintings into costumes for Parade.
Focusing on collaborations with a musical component, Albright views these works as either figures of dissonance that try to retain the distinctness of their various media (e.g. Guillaume Apollinaire's Les Mamelles de Tirésias) or figures of consonance that try to lose themselves in some total effect (e.g. Arnold Schoenberg's Erwartung). In so doing he offers a fresh picture of Modernism, and provides a compelling model for the analysis of all artistic collaborations.
Untwisting the Serpent is the recipient of the 2001 Susanne M. Glasscock Humanities Book Prize for Interdisciplinary Scholarship of the Center for Humanities Research at Texas A&M University.