The Secret Life of Puppets

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Harvard University Press, 2009 - Literary Criticism & Collections - 368 pages

In one of those rare books that allows us to see the world not as we've never seen it before, but as we see it daily without knowing, Victoria Nelson illuminates the deep but hidden attraction the supernatural still holds for a secular mainstream culture that forced the transcendental underground and firmly displaced wonder and awe with the forces of reason, materialism, and science.

In a backward look at an era now drawing to a close, "The Secret Life of Puppets" describes a curious reversal in the roles of art and religion: where art and literature once took their content from religion, we came increasingly to seek religion, covertly, through art and entertainment. In a tour of Western culture that is at once exhilarating and alarming, Nelson shows us the distorted forms in which the spiritual resurfaced in high art but also, strikingly, in the mass culture of puppets, horror-fantasy literature, and cyborgs: from the works of Kleist, Poe, Musil, and Lovecraft to Philip K. Dick and virtual reality simulations. At the end of the millennium, discarding a convention of the demonized grotesque that endured three hundred years, a Demiurgic consciousness shaped in Late Antiquity is emerging anew to re-divinize the human as artists like Lars von Trier and Will Self reinvent Expressionism in forms familiar to our pre-Reformation ancestors. Here as never before, we see how pervasively but unwittingly, consuming art forms of the fantastic, we allow ourselves to believe.

 

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The secret life of puppets

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This unusual work examines the roles of art and religion in relationship to each other from both historical and contemporary perspectives. Until the Renaissance, art was visibly influenced by religion ... Read full review

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Sadly, the sample pages are not readable: text riven from top right to bottom left.

Contents

PREFACE
1 GROTTO AN OPENING
2 EARLY ADVENTURES OF THE EARTHLY GODS
3 THE PUPPET TRACTATES
4 THE STRANGE HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN FANTASTIC
5 HP LOVECRAFT AND THE GREAT HERESIES
6 SYMMES HOLE OR THE SOUTH POLAR GROTTO
7 IS THIS REAL OR AM I CRAZY?
9 THE NEW EXPRESSIONISTS
10 THE HERMETICON OF UMBERTUS E
11 THE GREAT TWENTIETHCENTURY PUPPET UPGRADE
12 THE DOOR IN THE SKY
NOTES
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
INDEX
Copyright

8 TWO OLD BIRDS AND THEIR NEW FEATHERS

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About the author (2009)

Victoria Nelson is an essayist and fiction writer who teaches in the Goddard College graduate program in creative writing.

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