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They Flew: A History of the Impossible

Original price $35.00 - Original price $35.00
Original price $35.00
$35.00 - $35.00
Current price $35.00
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date:
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 512
Availability: In Stock
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An award-winning historian's examination of impossible events at the dawn of modernity and of their enduring significance

Accounts of seemingly impossible phenomena abounded in the early modern era--tales of levitation, bilocation, and witchcraft--even as skepticism, atheism, and empirical science were starting to supplant religious belief in the paranormal. In this book, Carlos Eire explores how a culture increasingly devoted to scientific thinking grappled with events deemed impossible by its leading intellectuals.

Eire observes how levitating saints and flying witches were as essential a component of early modern life as the religious turmoil of the age, and as much a part of history as Newton's scientific discoveries. Relying on an array of firsthand accounts, and focusing on exceptionally impossible cases involving levitation, bilocation, witchcraft, and demonic possession, Eire challenges established assumptions about the redrawing of boundaries between the natural and supernatural that marked the transition to modernity.

Using as his case studies stories about St. Teresa of Avila, St. Joseph of Cupertino, the Venerable María de Ágreda, and three disgraced nuns, Eire challenges readers to imagine a world animated by a different understanding of reality and of the supernatural's relationship with the natural world. The questions he explores--such as why and how "impossibility" is determined by cultural contexts, and whether there is more to reality than meets the eye or can be observed by science--have resonance and lessons for our time.

Editorial Reviews

"Eire examines in this insightful study such phenomena as levitation and bilocation (being in two places at once) that were frequently attributed to saints and mystics in the early modern era. . . . Readers interested in magic, religion, or medieval history will want to take a look."-- Publishers Weekly

"This book is a game-changer. Eire engages in extensive primary textual work in multiple languages, goes down all the skeptical pathways (including demonological ones), and practices the historian's bracketing of the obvious truth question: "Well, did these people fly or not?" Eire's deeper conclusion is secreted, or just shouted, in the title: They Flew. And that, well, that changes everything."--Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of The Superhumanities: Historical Precedents, Moral Objections, New Realities

"Eire has once again done the impossible: written a book with the pace of a thriller and the scope of a historical monograph. He has historically unraveled levitations and bilocations, where the temporal merges with the spiritual: Newton's gravity with Teresa's ecstasies. Specialists will find deep insights and general readers will enter a new fascinating universe."--Jaume Aurell, author of Medieval Self-Coronations: The History and Symbolism of a Ritual

"With sophistication and subtlety, sensitivity and sympathy, Carlos Eire follows the unlikely thread of abundant testimonies about human levitation and bilocation in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Catholic Europe. His book invites self-examination about cocksure assumptions and uncritical dogmatisms in the present. A profound meditation on religion, history, and the meanings of modernity, They Flew shows that a history of the impossible is not just possible--it has now been realized."--Brad S. Gregory, author of The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society

"Eire has written an engaging and monumental history of supernatural belief during a period when the miraculous coincided with the Age of Reason: flying nuns and friars were contemporaries of Isaac Newton. For Protestants and Catholics alike, the supernatural imaginary maintained a powerful hold."--Alison Weber, University of Virginia

"Only Carlos Eire could take us on this journey to the impossible. A brilliant feat of scholarship and imagination that requires us to look again at an early modern world we thought we knew."--Bruce Gordon, Yale University

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