Monday, October 10, 2016

De Haro Sanchez (ed.), Écrire la magie dans l'antiquité

Magali De Haro Sanchez (ed.), Écrire la magie dans l'antiquité. Actes du colloque international (Liège, 13-15 octobre 2011). Papyrologica Leodiensia, 5​. Liège​: Presses Universitaires de Liège​, 2015. Pp. 360; xv p. of plates. ISBN 9782875620651. €42.00 (pb).

Reviewed by David Frankfurter, Boston University (

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[Authors and titles are listed below.]

Thankfully, in recent decades, scholarship on early Christianity, Judaism, and other ancient religions has begun to confront texts and textuality as material phenomena, not simply ways of transmitting records, literature, or ideas. Biblical fragments are being discussed in terms of their utility as amulets; the codex is discussed as a living object in Christian or Manichaean material worlds; inscriptions and even graffiti are discussed as iconic, apotropaic, or otherwise forceful media in landscapes brimming with potent things.1 In this way, studies of ancient textuality are coming to embrace the issue of “magic” as a function of materiality itself, even of the act of writing,2 rather than simply an umbrella term for proscribed rituals, magical papyri, and legendary miracle-workers. It is to this larger issue of textuality and magic that this conference volume offers some important, thoughtful, and authoritative contributions, even though many of the papers revolve around objects and procedures classically designated “magic,” like the PGM (Papyri graecae magicae, the scholarly corpus of Greco-Egyptian ritual manuals first edited by Karl Preisendanz in 1928). The title, “Writing Magic,” comprises three dimensions: “magic” that is written (i.e., specific magical texts); genres or expressions of “magic” in written form; and—most theoretically compelling—the notion of writing versus speaking “magic” in a world that (in many classicists’ perspectives) privileged the power of the spoken word. The volume includes English abstracts of each paper as well as a concordance to discussions of PGM and other published magical texts and some excellent photos of artifacts discussed in individual papers.