January Deadlines and Events of Interest

Trickery, Poetry, Intoxication: The Magic of Medieval Arabic Literature

Emily Selove (IAIS, Exeter)

A Centre for Medieval Studies seminar
Date 30 January 2019
Time 16:00 to 18:00
Place Digital Humanities LaboratoryQueen’s Digital Humanities Seminar 2 (B.02)

Emily Selove from the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies offers us insights into the occult world of medieval Arabic literature.


MagiCog: Cognitive Approaches to Ancient Magic

January 17-18 (Thursday-Friday), 2019
Room G22/26, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU.
We cordially invite you to a workshop on cognitive approaches to ancient magic, organised by Esther Eidinow (Bristol), Irene Salvo and Tanja Scheer (Goettingen).
Speakers include Anton Alvar, Esther Eidinow, Laura Feldt, Chris Gosden, Gustav Kuhn, Jennifer Larson, Lambros Malafouris, Franziska Naether, Eleni Pachoumi, Adam Parker, Irene Salvo, Celia Sánchez Natalías, Jesper Sørensen, and Yulia Ustinova. The full programme can be found here.
If you are interested in attending the whole of the workshop or part of it, please register here, so that we have numbers for catering. (Do get in touch with us directly if you have dietary restrictions.)

The workshop is generously supported by the Leverhulme Trust, the DFG Collaborative Research Centre 1136 Education and Religion at the University of Goettingen, and the Institute of Classical Studies.

“Magical Cities” CFP deadline January 31

The University of Portsmouth’s Supernatural Cities research group presents their fourth conference: Magical Cities. This one-day conference seeks to explore the magical potential of urban environments. To what extent are fictional cities ‘real’ or grounded in reality? In what ways are ‘real’ cities fictional or fantastical creations of their observers and inhabitants? How have people historically imagined the urban environment and through what social, cultural, literary or political lenses? How might the geography of the city space suggest surreal, unreal, supernatural or magical characteristics or personalities? How do such spaces affect our identities?



November 29th at Cambridge University

Literature as Magic, Magic as Literature: Sirāj al-Dīn al-Sakkākī’s Complete Book and a Fragment of Spells

Rooms 8 & 9, Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Event date:
Thursday, 29 November, 2018 – 17:15 to 18:45

Dr. Emily Selove

Handbooks like that ascribed to the famous 13th-century scholar of language and magic, Sirāj al-Dīn al-Sakkākī’s Kitāb al-Shāmil wa-baḥr al-kāmil, do not themselves invite literary readings. This grimoire often displays all the literary charms of an ungrammatical cookbook; it is a technical manual—a mixed collection of magical recipes and rituals. It includes instructions for creating talismans, for contacting both jinn and devils, for causing hatred and sickness, for curing such magically caused afflictions, and for calling upon the power of each of the planets. As for previous research on Sakkaki, such studies tend to center on his influential book on language and rhetoric, Miftāḥ al-‘ulūm (The Key to the Sciences), often ignoring his reputation as a magician. Nevertheless, early biographical literature credited him with the power to, for example, strike cranes down in mid flight with a magical inscription. I will argue that both Sakkaki’s linguistic and magical interests show his fascination with the power of language. The power of language to alter the mind or create effects in the physical world is described as a kind of bewitchment in occult literature as well as in studies of language, not to mention in love poetry, and my own strategy in approaching magical texts is to read them with the techniques applied to poetry. I will also discuss some evidence of the practise of magic today, focusing on a mysterious 6-folio fragment of spells in Yale’s Beinecke library.