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"Occultism in a Time of Shifting Orthodoxies"

Pehr Englén, Freiburg

My project looks at occultism in Scandinavia. While the interest in Swedenborg, theosophy, mesmerism, and spiritism peaked around 1900, when such thought and practices engaged the likes of Strindberg, Lagerlöf, and af Klint, they never quite disappeared. Occultist practices lived on in the postwar decades as tropes, themes, and motifs in literature, film and the fine arts: from Ingmar Bergman films via Asger Jorn's art theory to Lars Gustafsson's, P O Enquist's, Kerstin Ekman's or Carl-Henning Wijkmark's novels, the interest remained in a kind of intellectual practice which fits neatly neither into a religious nor a scientific category.

I explore such instances of what Christopher Partridge (2006; 2013) calls 'occulture' – i.e. the literary, cinematic, and artistic mobilizations of occultism – against the backdrop of Scandinavian secularization, examining what they say about the conditions of belief (Taylor, 2007) in religious as well as scientific paradigms in postwar Scandinavia.

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