The spider has a rich symbolic presence in the human imagination. Seen as representing death, due to its poisoned fangs and pitiless, predatory nature, the spider can also represent life and creation, weaving its intricate and delicate web, and females carrying a sac containing thousands of eggs. Spiders of course are also feared and reviled because of their appearance and skittery, spasmodic movements. In this comprehensive study, Katja and Sergiusz Michalski investigate the cultural significance of the spider, as well as presenting the natural history of this fascinating, ancient creature.
Spider analyses the arachnid's appearance in the literature of Dostoyevsky and Hugo, and the many depictions of the spider in art, paying particular attention to the sculptures of Louise Bourgeois. Horror stories, science fiction, folklore and children's tales are reviewed, as well as the affliction of arachnophobia, and the procedures used in curing the condition. The psychological association of the spider with dominant women or mothers is explored, as is the role of the spider metaphor in Freudian and Jungian psychoanalysis.
This in-depth account closes with an analysis of the way in which the sinister nature of the spider lends itself to unfavourable portrayal in film. A thorough, wide-ranging account of the natural and cultural history of the spider, this book will appeal to anybody who admires, or fears, this complex, delicate, yet powerful creature.
Sergiusz Michalski is professor of art history at the University of Tubingen, Germany. His previous books include The New Objectivity and Public Monuments: Art in Political Bondage 1870-1997 (Reaktion Books, 1998). Katarzyna Michalska is a cultural historian at the University of Tubingen, Germany, and author of the Eyewitness Guide to Munich and the Bavarian Alps.