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A History of Magic: From the Magi to Merlin - AHIS355

This unit will survey magic in the ancient world, from the Ancient Near Eastern civilisations, through the Egyptian and Graeco-Roman worlds, to Late Antiquity, Byzantium, and early Medieval Europe. It will provide thorough coverage of the way magic has been defined, understood, and used in these civilisations, and the way it has been conceived and studied in the history of modern scholarship over the past two centuries. Students will focus closely on the material sources for ancient magic, such as handbooks of spells on papyrus, amulets to ward off the evil eye, and lead curse tablets. There will also be close consideration of the construction of magic as an antithesis to religion in the ancient and modern worlds. As a coda, the unit will look beyond the ancient world to the role, use, and understanding of magic in wider historical, literary, and scientific contexts. This will include not only consideration of magic (and things which might be considered 'magic') in the Renaissance and modern worlds, but aspects of cognitive psychology such as perceptual illusions and delusional beliefs.

Credit Points: 3
When Offered:

2018 - Next offered in 2018

Staff Contact(s): Associate Professor Malcolm Choat

39cp at 100 level or above or (6cp in AHIS or AHST units at 200 level)  Prerequisite Information


Unit Designation(s):
Unit Type:
Assessed As: Graded
Offered By:

Department of Ancient History

Faculty of Arts

Course structures, including unit offerings, are subject to change.
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