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Dissertation Information for Anthony Tobin Siebers

- Anthony Tobin Siebers
- (Alias) Tobin Anthony Siebers

- Ph.D.

- Literature

- Johns Hopkins University (USA) (1981)

- None

- None

MPACT Status: Incomplete - Not_Inspected


Abstract: "Although myth and ritual seem to have lost some of their influence in the modern world, superstition persists globally. It appears odd, therefore, that anthropologists and folklorists tend to concentrate their energy on myth and ritual, but rarely on superstition. A cross-cultural theory of superstition, in fact, does not really exist. This may be because superstition remains a phenomenon so pervasive that it exceeds the grasp of most single disciplines of knowledge. The best method of treating superstition, therefore, is to adopt an interdisciplinary perspective and analyze a particular belief of universal significance.

The belief in the evil eye, which holds that individuals may emit harmful radiation from their eyes or be affected by the object of their gaze, exists in almost every culture. Although anthropologists recognize its universality, they only chart its effects in specific societies. By their own admission, they have been able to formulate neither a complete description of the evil-eye event nor a worldwide explanation of the belief.

Case studies verify this admission. For example, many records have been made from the point of view of those who believe themselves to suffer from the toxic glance of a fascinator, but not a single account from the perspective of the accused fascinator exists in anthropological literature. Fiction fills this gap in anthropological theory by allowing us to schematize the evil-eye event and to describe the psychology of the individual accused of possessing the evil eye. After an introduction treating various theories of superstition from Frazer to Malinowski, the first chapter examines the myth of Medusa, as related by Apollodorus and Ovid, in order to expose the mythodological aspects of the evil-eye belief and to provide a model for considering the existing anthropological theories. The myth of Medusa permits us to understand the superstitious logic of like against like in a new light. In the second chapter, the anthropological theories and data concerning the superstition are contrasted to the myth. The most significant aspects of the evil eye are found to be its contagiousness and capacity to circulate from person to person.

In the third chapter, the myth of Narcissus is introduced as a means of interrogating the evolution of supernaturalism and the fascinator's status in society. Here narcissism and fascination are both shown to be superstitions capable of producing social differentiation. The fourth chapter takes as its object Theophile Gautier's Jettatura. Gautier allows us to recognize that the fascinator is made an outcast for the purpose of social organization. He thus confirms the suspicions of anthropologists concerning the ordering capacity of superstition, but moves beyond them by giving for the first time a complete account of the evil-eye event from the perspective of both the community and fascinator.

The final chapter brings the formulations of this dissertation to bear on the work of Freud and demonstrates the impact of superstitious logic on such concepts as the uncanny, narcissism and the omnipotence of thoughts. It also surveys the historical relation between some of Freud's writings and contemporary anthropology for the purpose of questioning his definition of superstition as the product of individual psychopathology."

MPACT Scores for Anthony Tobin Siebers

A = 0
C = 1
A+C = 1
T = 0
G = 0
W = 0
TD = 0
TA = 0
calculated 2008-01-31 06:29:45

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Students under Anthony Tobin Siebers

- None

- Ruth C. Morris - University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (2001)