The Possession At Loudun by Michel De CerteauThe Possession At Loudun by Michel De Certeau

The Possession At Loudun

byMichel De CerteauTranslated byMichael B. Smith

Paperback | July 12, 2000

Pricing and Purchase Info


Earn 217 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Not available in stores


It is August 18, 1634. Father Urbain Grandier, convicted of sorcery that led to the demonic possession of the Ursuline nuns of provincial Loudun in France, confesses his sins on the porch of the church of Saint-Pierre, then perishes in flames lit by his own exorcists. A dramatic tale that has inspired many artistic retellings, including a novel by Aldous Huxley and an incendiary film by Ken Russell, the story of the possession at Loudun here receives a compelling analysis from the renowned Jesuit historian Michel de Certeau.

Interweaving substantial excerpts from primary historical documents with fascinating commentary, de Certeau shows how the plague of sorceries and possessions in France that climaxed in the events at Loudun both revealed the deepest fears of a society in traumatic flux and accelerated its transformation. In this tour de force of psychological history, de Certeau brings to vivid life a people torn between the decline of centralized religious authority and the rise of science and reason, wracked by violent anxiety over what or whom to believe.

At the time of his death in 1986, Michel de Certeau was a director of studies at the école des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris. He was author of eighteen books in French, three of which have appeared in English translation as The Practice of Everyday Life,The Writing of History, and The Mystic Fable, Volume 1, the last of which is published by The University of Chicago Press.

"Brilliant and innovative. . . . The Possession at Loudun is [de Certeau's] most accessible book and one of his most wonderful."—Stephen Greenblatt (from the Foreword)
At the time of his death in 1986, Michel de Certeau was a director of studies at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris. Of his many books, The Practice of Everyday Life, The Writing of History, and Heterologies: Discourse on the Other are available in English translation.
Title:The Possession At LoudunFormat:PaperbackDimensions:266 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.7 inPublished:July 12, 2000Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226100359

ISBN - 13:9780226100357

Look for similar items by category:


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Foreword by Stephen Greenblatt
Translator's Acknowledgments
History Is Never Sure
1. How a Possession is Born
2. The Magic Circle
3. The Discourse of Possession
4. The Accused: Urbain Grandier
5. Politics in Loudun: Laubardemont
6. Beginning the Judicial Inquiry
7. The Theater of the Possessed
8. The Medical Eye
9. A Teratology of Truth
I. The Imagination
II. The Liar
10. The Judgment of the Sorcerer
11. The Execution: Legend and History
12. After Death, Literature
13. The Time of Spirituality: Father Surin
14. The Triumph of Jeanne des Anges
Figures of the Other
Primary Sources and Bibliography

From Our Editors

Michael B. Smith translates this eerie story, first recorded by Jesuit historian Michel De Certeau in the 1950s. The Possession at Loudun describes how, in 1634, Father Urbain Grandier was convicted of sorcery after his flock of Ursuline nuns began to act as if possessed by demons. This seminal text, printed here in paperback, is considered to be a tour-de-force in the field of psychological history. De Certeau is the author of 18 books, including The Practice of Everyday Life, The Writing of History and The Mystic Fable, Volume I.