115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

"It Works Even if You Don't Believe in It": Superstition and the Manifestation of Irony

Silke-Maria Weineck, University of Michigan

In a famous anecdote, a visitor to Niels Bohr's office was surprised to see a horseshoe nailed to the wall. "Surely, you don't believe in this nonsense?" Bohr snaps: "I'm told it works even if you don't believe in it." This talk will investigate the material manifestations of superstitions and read them as attempts to ward off what I call "the irony monster," a potent and disembodied force whose inversions of meaning have terrified humans for thousands of years, leading to disparate strategies to combat it.

Proposal: 

In a famous anecdote, a visitor to Niels Bohr's office was surprised to see a horseshoe nailed to the wall. "Surely, you don't believe in this nonsense?" Bohr snaps: "I'm told it works even if you don't believe in it." This talk will investigate the material manifestations of superstitions and read them as attempts to ward off what I call "the irony monster," a potent and disembodied force whose inversions of meaning have terrified humans for thousands of years, leading to disparate strategies to combat it.