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The Land of Remorse: A Study of Southern Italian Tarantism

: De Martino, Ernesto

The Land of Remorse (La Terra del Rimorso, first Italian edition 1961) is a classic work by Ernesto De Martino, the founding figure of Italian cultural anthropology and ethnopsychiatry. Based on fieldwork conducted in the Salentine peninsula of Southern Italy in 1959, the study deals with the phenomenon of Apulian tarantism, a form of possession related to the belief in the bite of a mythical tarantula and its ritual cure in the tarantella dance. De Martino draws together the contributions of various specialists who participated in the fieldwork, including a psychologist, a psychiatrist, an ethnomusicologist and a social anthropologist. As both an ethnologist and classically-trained religious historian, the author reviews the fieldwork data through the lens of tarantism’s historical analysis. Never losing sight of his own relationship to the subjects of his study, he is able to restore the connection between the “history-less” peasants of the Salentine and the elites who wrote about tarantism in learned treatises from the Middle Ages on. The result is a compassionate and compelling account of tarantism, which no longer appears as mere mental illness or as a “survival” of shamanistic irrationality, but as a product of a cultural history defined from above, endowed with its own forms of rationality. The Land of Remorse offers an excellent introduction to Ernesto De Martino’s theoretical and methodological perspective. It will be of interest to a wide range of academic fields, including cultural anthropology, folklore, medical anthropology, ethnopsychiatry, ethnomusicology, semiotics, classics, religious studies and the history of philosophy and science. Along with appendices featuring essays on tarantism by specialist members of De Martino’s research team, this annotated edition includes the fieldwork photographs of those afflicted by tarantism as they perform the ritual exorcism, an example of the author’s early use of visual methods in ethnographic research. Read more…

My Shyness, My Self: Learn to Live with Shyness

: Manara, Fausta.

Here, the author, Fausta Manara, explores how persistent and unsuccessful suppression of shyness can generate significant pathologies, such as social phobia, and suggests a constructive approach. The author argues that returning to and examining origins of shyness can aid development. The author urges us to abandon the temptation to seek cures for our shyness but to praise shyness as a determined acceptance of one’s own reality. Read more…

Making Death Thinkable

: De Masi, Franco.

Man’s perception of the finite nature of life is always present, resulting in anxieties of varying intensity, depending on the person’s character and on the phases of life he is going through. Franco De Masi is aware of the philosophical, sociological, religious or mystical approaches to the problem of death, however he chooses to focus on, and remain within, the theoretical frame of reference of psychoanalysis. He explores how different psychoanalytic theories have addressed the issue of death, its presence or absence in the unconscious, as well as the implications of the theories of the death instinct on a more strictly clinical and technical level. Moreover De Masi is interested in thinking about the psychological resources available to man, to make death thinkable, when its inevitable occurrence needs to be faced. He is concerned with the transformation of the thought of death, from an unthinkable catastrophic event, to a natural conclusion of one’s existence. As a psychoanalyst, he explores the quality of the anxiety accompanying the idea of the natural occurrence of death, which, however, is a perturbing presence in the mind of the average man of our Western civilization. We might fear, sense and anticipate the death of our loved ones, and we know that when it occurs we will need to face the emptiness that will result. Yet, the emptiness we will leave proves to be unthinkable. Read more…