The Secret Life of Puppets
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001. Octavo. Pictorial paper wraps, slight inch-long rippling on the rear wrap, fore-edge marked with three black lines. 337 pages. Uncorrected page proof. Unread, fine.
Nelson describes a curious reversal in the roles of art and religion: where art and literature once took their content from religion, we came increasingly to seek religion, covertly, through art and entertainment. In a tour of Western culture that is at once exhilarating and alarming, Nelson shows us the distorted forms in which the spiritual resurfaced in high art but also, strikingly, in the mass culture of puppets, horror-fantasy literature, and cyborgs. At the end of the millennium, discarding a convention of the demonized grotesque that endured three hundred years, a Demiurgic consciousness shaped in Late Antiquity is emerging anew to re-divinize the human. Here as never before, we see how pervasively but unwittingly, consuming art forms of the fantastic, we allow ourselves to believe.
"We forget that Western culture is equally about Platonism and Aristotelianism, idealism and empiricism, gnosis and episteme, and that for most of this culture's history one or the other has been conspicuously dominant—and dedicated to stamping the other out."