Johannes Kepler's 'Somnium' and the Witches' Night Flight

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Abstract

This article explores the uses of the witches’ night-flight in Johannes Kelper’s Somnium (1634). It situates Kepler’s engagement with the motif in the broader context of debates on the reality of the night-flight among early modern witch theorists, including Kepler’s contemporary and friend, Georg Gödelmann. It proposes that Kepler understood the night-flight as a phenomenon with a disputed reality status and, as such, an appropriate imaginative space through which to pursue the thought experiment of lunar travel. Consequently, it suggests that we ought not to dismiss Kepler’s engagements with the figure of the witch as a vestigial medieval superstition (itself a problematic contention), but rather an interest characteristic of his age, and that we might find in the speculations of witch-theory the very beginnings of science fiction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-97
Number of pages24
JournalInterfaces: A Journal of Medieval European Literatures
Volume8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2021

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