Fall 2018

Witch Hunt! Magic and Belief in Renaissance Literature  

Listed in: English, as ENGL-370


Anston L. Bosman (Section 01)


[Before 1800]  What was magic in the early modern world? Why did it cause a crisis in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries? How did that crisis shape the literature of its time? We will follow competing ideas about magic as they ran like wildfire through the imagination of artists, playwrights, and preachers from medieval Germany through Renaissance England to Puritan Massachusetts. We will ask how magic in its apparently beneficial forms, such as alchemy and astrology, might relate to the supposedly malevolent practices of witchcraft, which yielded notorious trials and brutal executions on both sides of the Atlantic. Why did cultures balanced between religion and science become obsessed with magic? How did the fear and wonder that it evoked find its way into art? And what can literary figures of witches and sorcerers still tell us about our modern fantasies of self-empowerment and the counter-threat of demonic possession?

Limited to 25 students. Fall semester. Professor Bosman.

If Overenrolled: Preference given to English majors who need to fulfill pre-1800 course requirement.


Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Languages Other Than English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2018, Spring 2020