Sunday, October 29, 2017

Review of Fritze, Egyptomania

BRYN MAYR CLASSICAL REVIEW: Ronald H. Fritze, Egyptomania: A History of Fascination, Obsession and Fantasy. London: Reaktion Books, 2016. Pp. 444. ISBN 9781780236391. $35.00. Reviewed by Maya Muratov, Adelphi University (
Ronald Fritze’s book joins a plethora of publications dedicated to the fascination with ancient Egypt, which fall under the wide term Egyptomania.1 The book is substantial in size and broad in scope. It is apparent that the author is much more at ease with the texts, hence the book’s emphasis on literary sources, and not on the (equally) rich visual and material culture of Egyptomania, the focus of the majority of works on the subject. Therefore it is not surprising that the illustrations are few and their selection at times seems random.

In the introduction, the author underscores the difference between Egyptomania and Egyptology2—and it is important to realize that this book deals with the former. Egyptomania is a social phenomenon that has very little to do with actual Egypt and more often than not belongs to the realm of popular culture; it is related to Egyptology only inasmuch as when new and fascinating finds or scholarly discoveries stir up the popular imagination. This particular focus on misunderstandings and misrepresentations of Egypt and its culture is undoubtedly related to Fritze’s interest in the history of pseudo-science, the subject of his earlier publication.3

The book consists of 12 chapters arranged in two parts. Part one “Egyptomania through the Ages,” comprises eight chapters, arranged in chronological order. It begins with a chapter on “The Real Egypt,” which covers the basics —geography and the environment — followed by a brief overview of Egyptian history. Chapter Two, “Ancient Egyptomania: Hebrews, Pharaohs and Plagues,” treats the Hebrew accounts of ancient Egypt, from the earliest biblical reference in Genesis through the works of Josephus.

And so on.

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