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216 × 138 × 32 mm
328 pages
24 Feb 2020

Blood Rush The Dark History of a Vital Fluid Jan Verplaetse

As a young man Jan Verplaetse saw a hare suspended from a meat hook, skinned and gutted. What struck him so forcefully at the time was not the animal but the blood gently dripping from its mouth. His reaction prompted the start of a quest he undertakes in this book – to investigate our fascination with blood, the most vital of fluids.

Blood Rush shows how, throughout history, blood has had the capacity to intoxicate us. In his deeply researched and provocative narrative, Verplaetse moves from antiquity to the present, from magic to experimental psychology, from philosophy to religion and scientific discoveries, to demonstrate why blood both repels and attracts us.

‘Intricate, poetic, disturbing and indefatigably intense, Blood Rush: The Dark History of a Vital Fluid is unique in its scope. Verplaetse’s enthusiasm for his subject transforms the text into far more than an eccentric history; through it, the book becomes a history of our turbulent, passionate and fearful relationship with the very principle of life itself.’ — The Australian

‘Is "blood lust" – the idea that coming into contact with blood can lead to an awakening of a hidden, insatiable desire to spill more – a real experience? What started the superstition that menstrual blood was toxic, and why can’t scientists prove this isn’t the case, even today? In Blood Rush, moral philosopher Verplaetse writes an account of our relationship with life’s vital liquid throughout history. From the pagan ritual of sacrifice to the blood horror written into great works of literature such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Blood Rush weaves an engaging narrative with science, technology, culture, and art. Verplaetse even anticipates the bloodless slaughterhouses of the future. Where will our blood lead us next?’ — BBC Science Focus

‘an exploration of the history of the meaning of human blood. The book is less a history of blood itself than one of human thought about blood, and how our perception of an element of our biology evolved from mystical, to practical, to a combination of both.’ — Social History of Medicine

‘As one whose life – due to hereditary hemochromatosis – revolves around the monitoring and regular letting of my own blood, I’ve developed quite an interest in it over recent years. So when word of Verplaetse’s new book . . . reached me, promising to delve into not just the physical, but also the philosophical and sociological aspects as well of this fluid we all share, I knew it was a book I needed to read . . . I am absolutely enthralled by the richness of Verplaetse’s explanations and analyses of a wide range of the ways we humans have understood, sacralized, feared, and used blood down through the ages.’ — The Well-read Naturalist

Blood Rush is an absolutely fascinating, deeply disturbing, and thoroughly compelling book. A masterful must-read by Jan Verplaetse.’ — Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of V-Wars and Rage

‘An unsettled philosopher’s unsettling reflections on the taste for blood in such divergent human practices as the hunt, the slaughterhouse, medical routines and sacrificial violence. Verplaetse’s thoughtful meditation on what it means to be human is at the same time an intimate quest for the darker aspects of life and human nature, riddled with tensions between anguish and ecstasy, reason and passion, lust and disgust. Circling around a dark, unfathomable beyond, Blood Rush cuts violently across a cultural modernity that celebrates rationality and science. Both rigorous and highly creative, it will leave many readers awestruck.’ — Raymond Corbey, Professor of Philosophy of Science and Anthropology, Leiden University

‘"The blood is the life!" intones the madman Renfield, in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in a parody of the Biblical phrase. Blood – without which we die – has fascinated humankind for millennia, and Jan Verplaetse’s remarkable book explores both its physical and metaphysical aspects, throughout history and literature. Highly recommended!’ — Leslie S. Klinger, editor, New Annotated Dracula

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Jan Verplaetse is Associate Professor in Moral Philosophy at Ghent University, Belgium. He is the author of Localizing the Moral Sense (2009) and co-editor of The Moral Brain (2009).


Part One: Blood Magic
Blood Mist
Sacrificial Blood
Evil Blood
Red Urine

Part Two: Blood Thirst
Wild Origins

Part Three: Blood Aesthetics
Blood Horror
Sublime Blood