Egyptomania

A History of  Fascination, Obsession and Fantasy

Ronald H. Fritze

Egyptomania

Ronald H. Fritze

Distributed for Reaktion Books

464 pages | 50 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2016
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9781780236391 Published November 2016 For sale in North and South America only
The land of pyramids and sphinxes, pharaohs and goddesses, Egypt has been a source of awe and fascination from the time of the ancient Greeks to the twenty-first century. In Egyptomania, Ronald H. Fritze takes us on a historical journey to unearth the Egypt of the past, a place inhabited by strange gods, powerful magic, spell-binding hieroglyphs, and the uncanny, mummified remains of ancient people. Walking among monumental obelisks and through the dark corridors of long-sealed tombs, he reveals a long-standing fascination with an Egypt of incredible wonder and mystery.

As Fritze shows, Egypt has exerted a powerful force on our imagination. Medieval Christians considered it a holy land with many connections to biblical lore, while medieval Muslims were intrigued by its towering monuments, esoteric sciences, and hidden treasures. People of the Renaissance sought Hermes Trismegistus as the ancient originator of astrology, alchemy, and magic, and those of the Baroque pondered the ciphers of the hieroglyphs. Even the ever-practical Napoleon was enchanted by it, setting out in a costly campaign to walk in the footsteps of Alexander the Great through its valleys, by then considered the cradle of Western civilization. And of course the modern era is one still susceptible to the lure of undiscovered tombs and the curses of pharaohs cast on covetous archeologists.

Raising ancient Egyptian art and architecture into the light of succeeding history, Fritze offers a portrait of an ancient place and culture that has remained alive through millennia, influencing everything from religion to philosophy to literature to science to popular culture.
 
Contents
Introduction
 
Part One: Egyptomania through the Ages
One: The Real Egypt
Two: Ancient Egyptomania: Hebrews, Pharaohs and Plagues
Three: Classical Egyptomania: The Greeks and Romans
Four: Medieval Egyptomania: From St. Augustine to the Renaissance
Five: Egyptomania from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment
Six: Napoleon’s Expedition to Egypt and the Birth of Modern Egyptomania
Seven: Nineteenth-century Egyptomania to the Discovery of Tut
Eight: The Rise of Mass Egyptomania: Tutankhamun, Tutmania and the Curse of the Mummy
 
Part Two: Varieties of Modern Egyptomania
Nine: Occult Egyptomania
Ten: Egyptomania on the Fringe of History
Eleven: African American Egyptomania
Twelve: Egyptomania and Fiction
 
Postscript
References
Select Bibliography
Acknowledgements
Photo Acknowledgements
Index
 
Review Quotes
Publishers Weekly
“Delves into how the realities of Egyptology have been reimagined or misinterpreted as sources of hermeticism, portals to another reality, or tokens to confer knowledge and respectability. . . . Fritze’s entertaining and enlightening work does well in separating ancient Egypt’s actual legacy from the pseudo-history of occultists and assorted charlatans.”
New York Times
“A broader interpretation of the subject, going back to the Greek historian Herodotus and forward to Cecil B. DeMille and Tutankhamen. . . . Fritze reminds us that what fascinated later artists and their public was not what Egyptologists considered important. Largely self-nourishing, Egyptomania was often detached from its original sources, and the stream of dime novels and films about mummies and their curses have, according to scholars, more to do with Western guilt over imperialism than with the supernatural. Even the artifacts exhumed from Tutankhamen’s tomb with great fanfare beginning in 1922 did not, in fact, add much to our knowledge of ancient Egypt, although they were responsible for the museum world’s first blockbuster traveling exhibition. . . . Document[s] an enduring fascination with its subject, based, as the author points out, ‘on the fact that it is both comfortably familiar and intriguingly exotic.’”
 
The Bookseller
“From Medieval Christians and Muslims to Napoleon, a detailed but readable account of how ancient Egypt has been a focus of fascination throughout history, capturing our imagination through its strange gods, murky magic, secret knowledge, immense wealth, and mystifying mummies.” 
Nature
“The richness, distinction and diversity of ancient Egyptian culture has fired imaginations for millennia. Here, historian Ronald Fritze examines ‘Egyptomania’ in detail and through time. As Herodotus and other classical scholars extolled Giza’s pyramids and the great lighthouse at Alexandria, Egyptian cults and esoteric tracts seeped into Greece and Rome—to later fascinate and befuddle medieval and Renaissance scholars. The cracking of hieroglyphs, discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, and ‘mummymania’ from the nineteenth century onwards ensured that the craze persists almost unabated today.”
Choice
“Informative, entertaining, and comprehensive, this well-written book begins with a concise review of the archaeology of ancient Egypt and moves on to discuss the craze for all things Egyptian. Recommended.”
Decatur Daily
“A fascinating read for any who are interested in Egyptian culture.”
 
Susan Bordo, author of The Creation of Anne Boleyn
“When then-candidate for the Republican nomination Ben Carson insisted that the pyramids had been built to store grain, the media made him a laughingstock. What they did not note, and what Ron Fritze’s exhaustively researched, fascinating book illustrates, is that Carson’s pseudo-theory is hardly the first fiction to pass itself off as ‘knowledge’ of Egypt. From the accounts of Hebrews and Greeks up to mummy movies and Cleopatra-inspired fashion, our cultural obsession with Egypt, both scholarly and pop, has been a history of myth and fantasy. In highly accessible chapters abundantly laced with illuminating details, many of them little-known until now, Fritze deconstructs the ideas that have formed this ever-changing but enduring ‘Egyptomania.’ Fascinating!”
Jeremy Black, author of Contesting History
"Fritze has an enviable ability to dig deep into the worlds of popular history. Well-written, his new book, which goes right up to date, is wide-ranging, both chronologically and thematically. Fritze covers the pyramids, archaeology, film, popular fiction, and a wide range of concerns and forms. Deserves wide attention."
 
Carole Levin author of Dreaming the English Renaissance and The Heart and Stomach of a
"Egypt has long captivated people’s imagination. Ronald H. Fritze has produced a smart, thoughtful, and engagingly written study of the history of Egypt, from the ancient period to the present. . . . For those interested in the curse of the mummy, it is a fascinating read."
 
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