Instructor: Arianne Urus
Meeting time: Tuesday, 3:00-5:00 pm
Magic had long been an integral part of how people made sense of the world around them, but between 1450 and 1750 some 80 to 100,000 people (mostly women) were executed under charges of witchcraft in western Europe alone. During the same period, a literal witch hunt threatened the lives of elderly or widowed women, peasants, Indigenous healers, and West African Muslims. In this course we will explore what magic and witchcraft meant and how the charge of witchcraft came to be so deadly in western Europe, North America, colonial Latin America, the Caribbean, and West Africa in the world before 1800. Such fears of witchcraft might seem odd or alien to us now, but understanding witch hunts can help us interpret the social and cultural ramifications of the host of significant changes that ushered in the modern world. Through a variety of readings we will reflect on the way conceptions of magic and witchcraft intersected with ideas of gender, race, and colonialism. Grappling with the history of the early modern witch hunt can help us make sense of things like the rise of conspiracy theories in the present day. Texts for the course will include Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Laila Lalami’s The Moor’s Account, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, and Monty Python, as well as records from the colonial Inquisition, testimonies from witch trials, healing manuals, treatises on demonic possession, and guidebooks on how to catch a witch.