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Palgrave Macmillan

The Ethnopoetics of Shamanism

ISBN 9781137443687
Publication Date August 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

Western representations of shamans and shamanic experience have changed radically over the last century. Using studies of Nicholas Black Elk, a Lakota shaman, and his relationship with the poet John G. Neihardt; the Mazatec healer María Sabina and her treatment by R. Gordon Wasson and subsequent commentators; and the American writer and anthropologist Carlos Castaneda and the problematic status of his Yaqui native informant Don Juan, Marcel de Lima shows that while shamanic practices have long been indirectly registered (and often misrecognized) by Western observers and writers, it wasn't until the late nineteenth century that they took on a particular status within Western discourses of primitivism and the debates over magic and rationality.

Marcel de Lima is Associate Professor of English Literature at the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil.

1. Shamanism: a Historical Appraisal
2. The Poetics of Shamanism
3. The Case of Nicholas Black Elk
4. The Case of María Sabina and the Sacred Language of Mushrooms
5. The Case of Carlos Castaneda and Don Juan Conclusion


"In The Ethnopoetics of Shamanism, Marcel de Lima gives us the clearest and most complete account of what some of us, in the last years of the second millennium, were speaking of as a new 'ethnopoetics' that would change forever the dimensions of what we had spoken of before this as poetry and art. Whatever the final outcome of that questing, this is for now the definitive book to read as a telling of what came before and may still follow after" - Jerome Rothenberg, Professor Emeritus, University of California, San Diego, USA
"This book is more than a scholarly, sympathetic, and shrewd guide to the history of Western attempts to understand shamanism and to its ethnopoetic presence in the work of Plato, Robert Graves, Aldous Huxley, and Gary Snyder. It is more than an intelligent commentary on the 'chain of texts' generated by contact with Marcel de Lima's three case studies: Black Elk, María Sabina, and Carlos Castenada's Don Juan. It is a superbly documented and clearly articulated argument for 'parallel modes of knowledge' that dissolves distinctions between scientific and poetic discourses in an attempt to grasp the full potential of the human imagination for a deeper quality of life." - Terry Gifford, Bath Spa University, UK "Marcel de Lima's book offers an original and fascinating insight into Western literary uses of shamanism from the Romantics through to the ethnopoetics movement of the Sixties and the Castaneda controversy. He brings out the constant overlapping of ethnographic and literary interests and gives a fine sense of the excitement and challenge of the formal and intellectual experimentation of the Sixties, managing to be both sympathetic and appropriately skeptical. This book is an overdue revisiting of the important debates over ethnopoetics and a penetrating and exciting account of what shamanism has meant to millions of ordinary readers as well as scholars." - David Murray, Professor Emeritus, American and Canadian Studies, University of Nottingham, UK
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