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A Journey through Fantastic Realms

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A Journey through Fantastic Realms

A History of Magic

Evening Course

Wednesday, October 9, 2024 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0399A
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Drawing from The Black Pullet, an 18th-century book of magical spells

Over the past half century, dwarves, hobbits, elves, magic, dragons, runes, and other staples of fantastic realms have become firmly entrenched in popular culture and mainstream media, from The Lord of the Rings to the Harry Potter series. Are such strange phenomena merely the products of fertile imaginations, or are there substantive historical inspirations behind them? Historian Justin M. Jacobs discusses the evolving conceptions of fantastic elements in Eurasian history and lays bare the truth behind what he sees as four distorted myths of fantasy in popular culture surrounding magic; elves, dwarves, and hobbits; Norse runes; and medieval bestiaries.   

Jacobs, a professor of Chinese history at American University, is the author of several books, including Plunder? How Museums Got Their Treasures.

Session Information

A History of Magic

Though the concept of magic can be hard to define precisely, an ardent belief that supernatural forces can be conjured via unorthodox rituals, concoctions, and negotiations with luminous forces in unseen worlds has been persistent throughout human history. Jacobs provides an overview of magical practices in ancient and medieval Europe and China. He examines the use and abuse of grimoires (books of magic) in Europe; Daoist medicinal magic in China; the use of charms, amulets, and other folk healing practices in Anglo-Saxon England; and esoteric sexual practices that were believed to cultivate unusual longevity in ancient China.

Additional Sessions of A Journey through Fantastic Realms Series

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