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Travellers lifted by dreams or ecstatic trances; explorers of moons and celestial paradises; inquisitive minds borne on the wings of curiosity; witches and roving demons; knights surveying the world from the backs of hippogriffs or flying hippopotami: the Renaissance is full of fictions and fantasies about flight, as this original "pre-history" of aerial voyages shows. Bringing out the importance of ancient and medieval traditions, this book ends, rather than starts, with the lunar fictions of the early seventeenth century, the point of departure for most historical work in this area. Maus de Rolley explores French and European Renaissance narrative fiction as well as learned discourses concerned with questions of flight and elevation (cosmology, astronomy, magic, demonology). This dialogue between literature and knowledge reveals the power and reach of Renaissance images of flight and their many tales of elevation, tales that, by definition, produce a "decentering" of the world, allowing it to be captured by the human eye and stimulating the invention of "eccentric" worlds. As consummate fables offering the ultimate test of verisimilitude, these flights of fancy also invite us to reconsider early modern conceptions of literary fiction.


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