Much of what I’m doing right now is not only writing, but reading. Here’s a couple works that I’m reading as part of my continuing development.
Jacqueline Simpson, “‘The rules of folklore’ in the ghost stories of M.R. James,” Folklore 108 (1997): 9–18.
An examination of how M. R. James made use of folklore tropes and conventions while composing an impressive and original corpus of ghost stories. Simpson especially notes how James’ knowledge of Scandinavian folklore and his trips to Sweden inform his work and take it beyond the traditional elements of English legend. A piece I recommend to anyone interested in folklore or its usage in horror fiction.
James is an interesting guy, who was actually familiar with the grimoire tradition through his cataloging work in various libraries. If you aren’t familiar with him, you should try Ghost Stories of an Antiquary. Of particular interest to Papers readers are the stories “Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book” and “Count Magnus,” though all are worth reading.
Rangar H. Cline, “Archangels, Magical Amulets, and the Defense of Late Antique Miletus,” Journal of Late Antiquity 4, no. 1 (2011): 55–78.
One of the best known features of Miletus, a ruined city on the coast of Anatolia, is an inscription on the outside wall of a theater that asks seven archangels to protect the people from an unknown danger. Whereas previous authors thought this was a fifth- or sixth-century Christian inscription, Cline proposes that it is earlier and not exactly Christian, as archangels were also known in Jewish and pagan writings. In addition to looking at other inscriptions from the region, he also examines Greek amulets for similar phrasing and graphic elements. The only part I’m not sure about is his theory that the inscription is intended as protection against plague; I think it’s more likely that the vagueness of the inscription is deliberate, and intended to cover all manner of possible problems.
If you’d like to know more about any one of these, just let me know.