Marina Warner

Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors & Media

Non-Fiction Monograph

Phantasmagoria explores ideas of spirit and soul since the Enlightenment; it traces metaphors that have traditionally conveyed the presence of immaterial forces, and reveals how such pagan and Christian imagery about ethereal beings are embedded in a logic of the imagination, clothing spiritsin the languages of air, clouds, light and shadow, glass, and ether itself. Moving from Wax to Film, the book also discusses key questions of imagination and cognition, and probes the perceived distinctions between fantasy and deception; it uncovers a host of spirit forms — angels, ghosts, fairies,revenants, and zombies — that are still actively present in contemporary culture. It reveals how their transformations over time illuminate changing idea about the self.

The chapter ‘Materializing Mediums’ has been published in Italian translation in Barbara Grespi, Alessandra Violi (eds.), Apparizioni. Scritti sulla fantasmagoria (Canterano: Aracne Editrice, 2019)


This book is a powerful statement of the centrality of imagination, a humane and engaging work, if a solemn one. Sometimes the reader, like a prince in a fairytale, needs a stout heart to hack at the thorny growth of a Warner sentence; but usually there is, if not a princess in the thicket, the prospect of a pearl worth the price.

Hilary Mantel, The Guardian

First published by Oxford University Press, 2006