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Dimensions:
190 × 135 × 20 mm
224 pages
Format:
Paperback
ISBN:
9781861897756
Illustrations:
128 illustrations, 65 in colour
Published:
01 Sep 2010
Series:
Animal

Spider Sergiusz Michalski, Katarzyna Michalska

The spider has a rich symbolic presence in the human imagination. Seen as representing death, due to its poisoned fangs and pitiless, predatory nature, the spider can also represent both creativity and creation: it weaves an intricate web and females carry a sac containing thousands of eggs. Spiders of course are also feared and reviled because of their appearance and skittery, spasmodic movements. In this comprehensive study, Katarzyna and Sergiusz Michalski investigate the cultural significance of the spider, as well as presenting the natural history of this fascinating, ancient creature.

Spider analyses the arachnid’s appearance in the literature of Dostoyevsky and Hugo, and the many depictions of the spider in art, paying particular attention to the sculptures of Louise Bourgeois. Horror stories, science fiction, folklore and children’s tales are reviewed, as well as the affliction of arachnophobia, and the procedures used in curing the condition. The psychological association of the spider with dominant women or mothers is explored, as is the role of the spider metaphor in Freudian and Jungian psychoanalysis. This in-depth account closes with an analysis of the way in which the sinister nature of the spider lends itself to unfavourable portrayal in film.

A thorough, wide-ranging account of the natural and cultural history of the spider, this book will appeal to anybody who admires, or fears, this complex, delicate yet powerful creature.

‘In phobia terms, Reaktions terrific animal series has reached the king of beasts. Arachnophobia, the Miss Muffet syndrome, is now counted among the most interesting human neuroses . . . Not everyone has this antipathy to the 400 different types of spider . . . In this enjoyable (at least for some of us) monograph, the reader learns something new about this extraordinary creature.’ — The Independent

Spider weaves biological facts and global traditions into a satisfying analysis of how arachnids capture the imagination.’ — BBC Wildlife Magazine


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Sergiusz Michalski is professor of art history at the University of Tübingen. His previous books include The Reformation and the Visual Arts (1993), The New Objectivity (1994) and Public Monuments: Art in Political Bondage, 1870-1997 (Reaktion, 1998).



Katarzyna Michalska is a cultural historian in Tübingen, and co-author of the Eyewitness Guide to Munich and the Bavarian Alps (2002).

Introduction: Spiders on the Wall and Elsewhere

1   Some Basic Zoological Facts
2   Arachnophobia
3   Venom and Cold Intellect: The Spider and its Web in the European 
     Intellectual Tradition
4   The Femme Fatale and Eroticism
5   Oppressive Mothers, Dreams and Louise Bourgeois
6   Spiders in Art and Caricature
7   Myth and Folklore
8   Urban Legends
9   Spider Goes Hollywood

Timeline of the Spider
References
Select Bibliography
Associations and Websites
Acknowledgements
Photo Acknowledgements
Index