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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)


The list below shows Durham University research staff who are members of IMEMS. Click the member's name to see a more detailed biography and department.

We also welcome anyone from outside the University with an interest in our work to join. Membership is free of charge. You will receive invitations to our programme of events, with a weekly emails digest about what is happening in the Insitute and further afield. To join IMEMS contact:

Publication details for Dr Ita Mac Carthy

Mac Carthy, Ita, Sellevold, Kirsti & Smith, Olivia Smith (2017). Cognitive Confusions: Dreams, Delusions and Illusions in Early Modern Culture. Oxford: Legenda.

Author(s) from Durham


A distinctively human aspect of the mind is its ability to handle both factual and counter factual scenarios. This brings enormous advantages, but we are far from infallible in monitoring the boundaries between the real, the imaginary and the pathological. In the early modern period, particularly, explorations of the mind's ability to roam beyond the factual became mainstream. It was an age of perspective art, anamorphism and optical illusions; of prophecy, apocalyptic dreams, and visions; and of fascination with the supernatural. This volume takes a fresh look at early modern understandings of how to distinguish reality from dream, or delusion from belief. Opening with cognitivist and philosophical perspectives, Cognitive Confusions then examines test cases from across European literature, providing an original documentation of the mind in its most creative and pathological states.