For Preternature's first issue of 2017, we present six articles rather than our usual four. The first three comprise the rest of our "Preternatural Environments" theme, carried over from issue 5.2. Considering the "eerie" in the landscape, their authors cover the uncanny as it relates to suburban areas, to lands surrounded by water, and to the "newness" of North America, a land lacking the antique ruins of Europe. The other three articles in this issue also relate to eerie environments, even if such a topic is not their main theme: they examine vampires, witches, and ghostly occurrences in the contexts of, respectively, small towns in early modern Europe, Nazi Germany, and the uniquely domestic setting of slumber parties.
In "The Liminal Space: Suburbs as a Demonic Domain in Classical Literature," Julia Doroszewska argues that the suburbs, more so than urban or rural settings, act as magnets for the preternatural in ancient Greece and Rome. Ghosts, witches, werewolves, and other such creatures seem drawn to this liminal area that was not strictly the city, yet not far enough removed from the city to be the countryside. This may have been because these entities were themselves considered liminal. Adducing evidence from a number of ancient sources, including Philostratus's Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Petronius's Satyricon, Lucian's The Lover of Lies, and many other loci, Doroszewska provides a highly original analysis of the connection between the preternatural and the suburbs in classical antiquity.
The title of our second article both poses a question and provides clues to an answer: "Why Sea Monsters Surround the Northern Lands: Olaus Magnus's Conception of Water." In it, Lindsay J. Starkey analyzes several works by Olaus Magnus (1490–1557), archbishop of Uppsala (Sweden), including maps and texts that prominently featured depictions and discussions of sea monsters in the waters surrounding northern Europe. She argues that Olaus conceptualized both sea monsters and the water that contained them as wonders or marvels, many of which were dangerous, some of which were protective, and others of which were surprisingly useful. The idea that Olaus and his contemporaries [End Page v] viewed the seawater itself as a wonder has broad ramifications in terms of European motives for investigating and dominating the oceans. Starkey's approach also has the advantage of combining monster studies and ecocriticism, two rapidly growing fields of study.
In contrast, Paul Manning's "No Ruins. No Ghosts." is firmly tied to dry land. Exploring cultural anxieties about the apparent "unhauntability" of the landscapes of the New World, Manning argues that architectural ruins, such as those found in the Old World, represent histories that allow the imagination to conjure up hauntings, whereas for colonial settlers in both North America and Australia, the absence of "picturesque ruins" left these new landscapes as blank slates that produced an eerie tension arising from their apparent emptiness. Manning suggests that this "sublime wilderness," with its vast untouched age approaching a cosmic scale, inspired the aesthetics of the American weird tale as embodied by the works of such writers as H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, among others.
Moving away from specific considerations of landscape, though not from considerations of setting, Stephen Gordon's "Emotional Practice and Bodily Performance in Early Modern Vampire Literature" considers "the troublesome dead" in relation to the emotional makeup of local communities in small-town Europe of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Gordon considers social stresses that contributed to beliefs about the agency of revenants, including a belief in the ability of such creatures to spread disease among the living. Reviewing a number of medieval and early modern literary sources, including Walter Map (De Nugis Curialium), William of Newburgh (Historia Rerum Anglicarum), Johann Valvasor (Die Ehre des Hertzogthums Krain), and Augustin Calmet (Dissertations upon the Apparitions of Angels, Dæmons, and Ghosts, and Concerning the Vampires of Hungary, Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia)—to name only a few—Gordon demonstrates that the phenomenon of "emotional contagion" can help our understanding of folk beliefs related to vampires and other revenants.
In light of the recent (2016) discovery of a large stash of Heinrich Himmler's books on witchcraft, our...