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Literature and Fascination

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Literature and Fascination
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Abstract

Many literary narratives include reflections upon their powers of fascination. In Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), the protagonist, who himself radiates an unsettling attraction, is absorbed not only by his portrait, but also by a book:

‘That book you sent me so fascinated me that I forgot how the time was going.’

‘Yes: I thought you would like it,’ replied his host, rising from his chair.

‘I didn’t say I liked it, Harry. I said it fascinated me. There is a great difference.’ (105)

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Notes

  1. See Valpy (1828), 148. A detailed account of the etymology of ‘fascination’ is provided in Johann Christian Frommann’s Tractatus de Fascinatione (1675).

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  2. Luther, Table Talk no. 2982b, in: Luther’s Works, 188. See Kors and Peters (2001), 262.

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  3. Delrio, Disquisitionum Magicarum Libri Sex, quoted from Elworthy (1895), 35-6.

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  4. See Plutarch, Symposium, V.2; Pliny, Natural History, XIX. 19; VarrO, Ling, VII.97; see Bartsch (2006), 144.

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  5. Fracastoro, On Sympathy and Antipathy (1546), 1.23.

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  6. Oxford English Dictionary, ‘touch’, n. 13b. See Healy (2003).

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  7. Spence (2006), 156. Spence refers to Lucretius’ De rerum natura in this context even though Lucretius does not use the term ‘fascination’.

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  8. Cusa, De Visione Dei, chapter 4, sect. 12, 11. 16-19. See Jaeger (2012), 201.

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  9. Oxford English Dictionary, ‘taboo’, A.a.; see also Webster (1973), 3.

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  10. See Plinius, Historia Naturalis, 37.164; also Simmons (2009), 343-63.

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© 2015 Sibylle Baumbach

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Baumbach, S. (2015). Literature and Fascination. In: Literature and Fascination. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137538017_2

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