Both fascinating and frightening, the spider has a rich symbolic presence in the imagination. At once a representative of death, due to its fangs and dangerous poison, the spider can also represent life and creation, because of its intricate web and females who carry sacs of thousands of tiny eggs. In this wide-ranging book, Katarzyna and Sergiusz Michalskiinvestigate the natural history and cultural significance of the spider.
From ancient Greek myth to Dostoyevsky, the authors explore the appearance of spiders in literature and their depictions in art, paying particular attention to the sculptures of Louise Bourgeois. Horror stories, science fiction, folklore, and children’s tales are also investigated, as well as the affliction of arachnophobia and the procedures used to cure it. The association of the spider with women or mothers is explored alongside the role of the spider metaphor in Freudian and Jungian psychoanalysis, and the Michalskis’ in-depth account concludes with a look at the unfavorable portrayal of the sinister spider in film.
A thorough and engaging look at the natural and cultural history of the spider, this book will appeal to anybody who admires or fears this delicate yet dangerous creature.
About the Author
Katarzyna Michalski is a cultural historian at the University of Tübingen, Germany, and coauthor of the Eyewitness Guide to Munich and the Bavarian Alps. Sergiusz Michalski is professor of art history at the University of Tübingen. His previous books include The New Objectivityand Public Monuments: Art in Political Bondage 1870–1997, also published by Reaktion Books.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Spiders on the Wall and Elsewhere
1 Some Basic Zoological Facts
3 Venom and Cold Intellect: The Spider and its Web in the European
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
Associations and Websites