A History of Fascination, Obsession and Fantasy
Distributed for Reaktion Books
A History of Fascination, Obsession and Fantasy
448 pages | 50 halftones | 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
“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.’”
New York Times Book Review
“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.”
“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.”
“The richness, distinction and diversity of ancient Egyptian culture has fired imaginations for millennia. Here, historian 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.”
"Fritze proves himself an expert guide on this journey through the history of our fascination with Ancient Egypt in all its forms ranging from the serious study of Egyptology to its more bizarre manifestations in popular culture. . . . An entertaining, enlightening work."
"Fritze has used this amazingly fertile field to produce a well-researched and comprehensive history of enthusiasm for all things Egyptological, from ancient times right up to the twenty-first century, spanning the whole spectrum. It is a remarkable achievement and makes for a fascinating read. . . . There is a rich mine of factual material here which could repay detailed study."
Ancient Egypt Magazine
"Fritze surveys the bewildering variety of Egyptian rites dreamed up by the Rosicrucians, Freemasons, and Theosophists, and takes us on an entertaining tour of fringe and alternative history set in the Land of the Nile."
"The particular craze that’s the focus of veteran historian Fritze's new book Egyptomania is one of the oldest intellectual fads in the history of mankind: the fixation with ancient Egypt that’s been felt by the rest of the world for so long that it actually started when ancient Egypt wasn’t even ancient. . . . Fritze’s narrative is dense with historical detail and frequently sparkles with wit. Anyone who has ever felt the touch of Egyptomania . . . will find plenty in these pages to feed their curiosity."
Open Letters Monthly
“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.”
“A fascinating read for any who are interested in Egyptian culture.”
“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.”
Jeremy Black, author of "Contesting History
“Egypt has long captivated people’s imagination. 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.”
Carole Levin author of "Dreaming the English Renaissance" and "The Heart and Stomach of a King"
“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 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!”
Susan Bordo, author of "The Creation of Anne Boleyn"