University of Toronto Press Blog

  • The History of Magic and Witchcraft

    To mark the publication of our new primary source collection, European Magic and Witchcraft: A Reader, author Martha Rampton provides some thoughts on how the book can be used in a course, the content and structure of the book, and the importance of studying magic as an integral part of human history and culture.

    “The History of Magic and Witchcraft” is a challenging course to teach. Over time I have found it necessary on the first day of the semester to remind students that it is a history class—in fact a history of religion in a sense, not a “how-to” seminar. I suggest that students drop the course if they are enrolled in order to conjure spells; but they rarely do, and inevitably mid-way through the semester, I hear: “When will we learn some magic?” “This class is all about religion,” or “When do we get to the witches?” So I produced a reader that satisfies everyone: those looking for incantations, those looking for werewolves, those looking for the horror of the macabre, and myself. Myself because my goal in European Magic and Witchcraft: A Reader is to reanimate a host of people and institutions locked in time. I have selected a wide-ranging assortment of source-types including hagiography, law codes, literature, court transcripts, scholarly treatises, grimoires, papal bulls, and witch-hunting manuals that allow readers to get as close as possible to the individuals that enliven the pages of the book: the people who used magic, condemned it, re-envisioned its purpose, and died because of it.

    In my view, a particular value of the book is that it is both non-linear and chronological—a seeming contradiction. By this I mean that when the readings are lined up chronologically, an interesting pattern emerges which demonstrates that at any given time there were diverse and clashing understandings of what magic meant or could do, depending on the community, institution, or individual under consideration. There is no straight trajectory from paganism, to romance, to learned magic, to witch-hunts, to skepticism. These constructs were co-temporal, intermingled, and each could appear in one context and disappear in another. From the earliest Christian centuries the capacity of the magic arts to carry off fantastic feats of revivification or transvection, for example, was contested. In the late medieval and early modern eras, diabolism, angelic magic, and Neoplatonic theurgy operated in European cultures side-by-side. Criticism of the judicial processes of witch prosecutions and suspicion from the medical profession are in evidence as early as the mid-sixteenth century when the witch hunts had barely begun, and this skepticism was voiced throughout the period of the witch trials. My chronological approach makes it clear that magic cannot be pinned down or neatly boxed and packaged; it was a mixed bag at any point on the historical continuum and for that reason is all the more intriguing.

    European Magic and Witchcraft is suitable for many audiences: scholars; teachers; students of history, English, anthropology, sociology, gender studies, and religious history; and the general public. The book is designed for the university classroom where it can be used at all levels across a variety of disciplines. Clearly the text is appropriate for courses on European magic, where it has an advantage over other primary source collections in that it covers the full spectrum of magic and witchcraft from late antiquity through the early modern period. The early Middle Ages is often given short shrift in the study of magic and treated as a seed-bed or precursor to subsequent developments; the same neglect is evident in regard to Anglo-Saxon England and Scandinavia. My collection examines early medieval and northern European magic in their own right. The book is also eminently usable for Western Civilization and general medieval and early modern courses. While the collection is primarily conceived as a history book, it draws on materials suitable to English, anthropology, religion, and sociology classrooms, demonstrating the interdisciplinarity of knowledge. A focus on the gendered nature of magic practices and witchcraft theory lend themselves to a gender studies curriculum. Every chapter ends with a handful of provocative questions that help the reader think about each text from multiple perspectives. Finally, European Magic and Witchcraft is simply a good read for anyone interested in the subject. The chapter introductions and background information contextualizing each individual reading give the book a narrative structure.

    As evidenced in popular literature, film, and college catalogues, interest in magic and witchcraft among students and the general public has mounted for several years, and for good reason. These topics shed light on popular and learned religion, heresy, folk medicine, rural culture, marginal populations, the development of intellectual/social constructs, juridical processes, and gender dynamics. Yet even given this, the academic study of magic has only recently been accepted as fully respectable. The history of the scholarship on magic is as interesting as magic itself.

    Nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century research evinced a fascination with late medieval demonology and paranoia about heresy. Scholars argued that the medieval church manufactured the stereotype of “the witch” and imposed it on a selected population that, brutalized by repression, torture, and threat of execution, confessed to heinous crimes and the sin of heresy, and that without the Catholic “creation” of Satan as the powerful counterpart to God, the witch trials would not have been possible. However, early-twentieth-century folklorist and anthropological findings revealed that many features of the European “witch” appear in cultures untouched by Christianity. Most of the ideas and practices attributed to European malefici are virtually ubiquitous. Some historians argued that medieval magic was the residuum of ancient Teutonic religions or an organic vestige of pre-historic, non-Christian fertility cults. Marxist writers viewed witchcraft as a form of political dissent, and some studies reveal that local populations took an aggressive stance on the village level against what they perceived as the very real threat of sorcery and did not depend on the Inquisition to define witchcraft for them. Whatever the particular angle, virtually all scholars now writing on the subject acknowledge that the broad concepts behind magic and witchcraft as played out in the medieval and early modern periods were not particular to Europe but were versions of phenomena commonly experienced by all peoples in some form. This perspective is crucial because it has sensitized scholars to the value of studying magic within networks of societal beliefs.

    Even though by the mid-twentieth century magic was understood as an integral component of human culture around the world, academia tended to view magical practices (and the study of them) as frivolous “oddities and superstitions,” “fantasies of mountain peasants,” “mental rubbish of peasant credulity and feminine hysteria” (Hugh Trevor-Roper, The European Witch Craze 9), or “a topic which most historians regard as peripheral, not to say bizarre” (Keith Thomas, “The Relevance of Social Anthropology” 47). Over the last four and a half decades as magic studies have proliferated, the reaction to the subject as an academic pursuit has changed. In 1998, Claire Fanger voiced an increasingly widespread attitude about the importance of magic by questioning scholars who minimalize it: “What precisely does it mean for a practice to be ‘marginal’ if it is widespread, if it is transmitted over several centuries, if textual evidence for it is relatively abundant,” especially given the fact that the relevant texts were forbidden, highly secret by their nature, and deliberately destroyed on a recurring basis (Conjuring Spirits x)? In short, magic is no longer a trivial subject on the edge of legitimate historical investigation, but is central to the story of human culture.

    Martha Rampton is Professor of History at Pacific University. She concentrates on the early medieval period with an emphasis on social history and the activities and roles of women. She is the founder and director of the Pacific University Center for Gender Equality.

  • Eating Culture: An Anthropological Guide to Food, Second Edition

    Feast on this! We have just published a gorgeous new edition of Eating Culture: An Anthropological Guide to Food, with a full-colour interior and a range of new features for students and instructors. In this blog post, the author, Gillian Crowther, provides background on how the book has changed from the first to the second edition and on some of the important issues raised in its pages. We highly recommend this book not only as a textbook but as a fascinating introduction to thinking about food and culture in very different ways!

    Over the last few years we have heard a lot about avocados; entertained the consumption of all things charcoal; experimented with chickpea pancakes and aquafaba; worried about palm oil, plastic packaging, weighed-up sugar taxes; warmed to the wonders of fermentation; watched hands-and-pans videos; and have learned (despite IKEA’s claim) that meatballs are actually Turkish! Each day brings a new food story, and the challenge for anyone teaching the anthropology of food is to provide an approach that can accommodate the dynamic nature of our collective food culture. The opportunity, then, to dish up another serving of Eating Culture: An Anthropological Guide to Food was enticing. It has allowed me to modify its recipe, mix in some new ingredients, and rearrange the existing core to improve the original textures and tastes, and to keep it relevant.

    The book still incorporates an emphasis on listening to public food discourses to understand local food culture—the nutritional, culinary, gastronomic, and sustainable meanings and values surrounding avocados, charcoal, and meatballs, for instance. The basic structure remains the same, moving from our nutrient needs, global patterns of food acquisition, cooking, and commensality, towards contemporary social, economic, and political realities. Ethnographic examples continue to explore the similarities and differences of our relationships with food, to address varied cosmological ideas and the identity-work of gender, age, class, and ethnicity, while considering the dynamics of power and authority manifest in the control of food. The materiality of food, and our embodied experiences of cooking and eating, are also persistent themes extending into the new edition.

    Each chapter, however, has been refined, and some substantially re-written, to more clearly address an anthropological framework for making sense of our global food system. More specifically, the discussion of the globalization of food production, distribution, and consumption has been reworked and updated. It now includes the work of the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization to explore how top-down global models intersect with grassroots food security, sovereignty, and activism. Consequently, the global gastro-anomie chapter is now organized around specific food challenges—famine, climate change, and non-communicable diseases—and the gastro-politics of varied solutions concerning quantity, quality, and access to food are assessed. These serious realities are balanced by recognition of the satisfaction and pleasure that are gained from food, its creative potential, and its eminently social capacities. Each chapter is accompanied by some suggested further readings drawn from the work of current food scholars, which can be useful as course supplements or student assignments.

    The new edition remains structured around the conceptual frame of cuisine as a significant facet of everyday culture, deeply tied to personal and group identity, and memory-making. The book’s case studies, from Britain, Guatemala, France, India, and the United States, among other locales, serve to contextualize cuisines in the wider historical, social, economic, and political processes of everyday life. These model the questions food anthropologists pose and the sources of evidence studied, and serve as comparison points against which the reader’s own cuisine can be brought into focus. To facilitate a process of self-reflection, this edition includes new experiential learning assignments to accentuate the “guide” quality of the text. There are two types of practical exercises, which focus on specific foods and related fieldwork activities. These were designed to make classes interactive and to bring food into the room without the logistics of food safety! Each applies the frame of social anthropology to interrogate the values and meanings that shape everyday food activities, environmental and social relationships, and our sense of identity.

    “Pondering a Foodstuff” boxes focus on particular foods, ranging from raw ingredients such as sugar, fat, and meat, to specific cooked dishes like pies and chocolates, for instance. These are served as tastes of the research possibilities that surround any food and illustrate how embedded food is in the social fabric of any cultural context. Toward this end, the book moves Malinowski’s “imponderabilia of actual life” into the twenty-first century, making methodological use of the Instagram-able quality of food and our fondness for smartphone photography. The photographs, now in full colour, model the anthropological lens, framing our everyday food encounters as worthy of study. These practical boxes encourage photographic scavenger hunts, which sharpen observational skills, and prompt anthropological questions based on each chapter’s terms and themes. While images cannot replace the materiality of food, they certainly cut down on classroom messiness and foster productive chat-‘n-chew teachable moments. For instance, the images can facilitate an interrogation of a food’s material substance, allowing its objective, sensorially assessed physical properties to be recalled and considered as cues for handling, processing, cooking, and eating. A picture can easily trigger sensory memories and start the conversation about how meanings and values are assigned to food, transforming its properties into sought after or avoided qualities. Furthermore, the range of food images, from fruit to meat, opens the door to debates about health and ethical choices, the pleasures of gastronomy and commensality, and grave sustainability issues surrounding global food patterns.

    “Foodscape Grounded” boxes, on the other hand, provide specific, self-guided, out-and-about activities to bring another practical engagement with the book’s content. Included are an exploration of food labels, supermarket and farmer’s market fieldtrips, an assessment of food security using the four pillars approach, and a guide to restaurant reviews. These cultivate an awareness of the global food system’s reach, bringing home the global ramifications of our eating practices and directly tapping into students’ engagement with public food discourses as part of classroom discussions. Furthermore, the experiential activities are a powerful reminder of the important concept of embodiment, which is particularly relevant to the anthropology of food. For instance, cooking is an embodied skill, calling upon the cook to manipulate foods, to engage with its materiality, and to perform patterned tasks to make something to eat. The “Chaîne Opératoire” exercise asks for a step-by-step account of the bodily and cognitive skills and knowledge required to transform raw ingredients into a cooked dish. It makes apparent how culture is written into physical experiences, including the sensory engagement with food.

    As a teaching tool, Eating Culture: An Anthropological Guide to Food dishes up an anthropological perspective that invites students to apply its ideas through testing, sampling, and discussion, and to formulate an understanding of their local food culture. It encourages students to regard their recent food experiences as valuable, meaningful, relevant, and worthy—the stuff of anthropological research. It also emphasizes that wherever anthropologists conduct fieldwork, we engage with the everyday lives of ordinary people—just like our students, and their ideas, behaviours, and experiences are what constitute culture, everywhere.

    Gillian Crowther is Professor of Anthropology at Capilano University in Vancouver, British Columbia.

  • World Environment Day: June 5th, 2018

    University of Toronto Press Journals World Environment Day

    Celebrated in over 100 countries since its beginning in 1974, the UN’s World Environment Day (WED) has developed into a global platform for encouraging awareness, action and, of course, learning. This year’s timely theme pledges to show the many ways that we can help beat plastic pollution.

    Over the years, journals from across our collection have contributed to this important conversation, publishing articles that tackle everything from fracking to pollution, from sustainability to ecofeminism, to changes in policy. Naturally, we couldn’t resist sharing with you some of our top articles on the environment. This WED, see what our scholars are saying on the subject.

    Canadian Historical Review Volume 99 Issue 2 CoverIn the latest issue from the Canadian Historical Review, Mark Kuhlberg and Scott Miller offer insight into pollution in Sudbury, Ontario. Learn how the government granted mining firms practical impunity to pollute the local environment in “‘Protection to the Sulphur-Smoke Tort-feasors’: The Tragedy of Pollution in Sudbury, Ontario, the World's Nickel Capital, 1884–1927.” http://bit.ly/wed1chr

    How are the various ways that people think about water’s relationships to their lands and lives being confounded? Drawing on interviews with 31 concerned residents of Ohio, Anthropologica’s Anna J. Willow discusses the cultural meaning of water in “Troubling Water: Shale Energy and Waterscape Transformation in a North American Extraction Zone.” http://bit.ly/wed4anthro

    Journal of Canadian Studies Volume 51 Issue 3How are the longstanding systematic problems with the provision of safe drinking water on Northern Ontario’s reserves being addressed? In “Boil-Water Advisories and Federal (In)Action: The Politics of Potable Water in Pikangikum First Nation,” from the Journal of Canadian Studies, Lori Chambers suggests that the lack of care reflects colonialism, racism, and a fundamental failure of the federal government to live up to its constitutional responsibilities. http://bit.ly/wed6jcs

    In “Meat-ing Demand: Is In Vitro Meat a Pragmatic, Problematic, or Paradoxical Solution?” the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law’s Angela Lee takes a critical, ecofeminist perspective on how, in the midst of an ecological crisis, science has been working toward making in vitro meat a commercial reality. http://bit.ly/wed2cjwl

    IJFAB Volume 11 Issue 1Kristen Abatsis McHenry takes us to the fracking sites of Pennsylvania in the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, and sheds light on the negative impacts of fracking on women’s health. “Fracking Women: A Feminist Critical Analysis of Hydraulic Fracturing in Pennsylvania” is part of an important discussion about advocacy, environmental politics, and gender. http://bit.ly/wed3ijfab

    As oil and gas activity intensifies, so too do its environmental risks and impacts, which in turn signal a need for stronger environmental policy. So how did a five-year research project assess environmental policy trends in Canada’s four leading oil- and gas- producing provinces? Canadian Public Policy’s Angela V. Carter, Gail S. Fraser, and Anna Zalik share their findings in “Environmental Policy Convergence in Canada's Fossil Fuel Provinces? Regulatory Streamlining, Impediments, and Drift.” http://bit.ly/wed5cpp

    For more information about WED and to see how you can join the millions of people who participate each year and help make a difference, please visit: http://worldenvironmentday.global/

  • Moving to Online Publication: Canadian Journal of History / Annales canadiennes d'histoire

    For over fifty years, the CJH / ACH has produced first-class historical scholarship that reaches a wide audience. That audience is increasingly accessing our content wholly through digital platforms. Last year alone, 10,000 readers downloaded articles and book reviews. In response to this reality, and to rapid changes in academic publishing, our Editorial Board has decided that starting in 2019 the CJH / ACH will be published online only. The shift to digital-only production will allow us to produce higher-quality copy that is more accessible to low-vision readers, while also enabling us to include full-colour, high resolution images. And, if you are already an online subscriber, you know that this means you get the journal sooner than the mail can deliver it!

    We thank you for your continued support!

    CJH/ACH Covers Read Online

    Want to see what’s been making impact online? Here are our some of most downloaded articles!

    Articles

    Raven Plays Ball: Situating “Indian Sports Days” within Indigenous and Colonial Spaces in Twentieth-Century Coastal British Columbia
    https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/abs/10.3138/cjh.ach.50.3.003

    Since Skyscrapers: New Histories of Native-Newcomer Relations in Honour of the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of J.R. Miller’s Skyscrapers Hide the Heavens
    https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/full/10.3138/cjh.ach.50.3.001

    The Adoption of Frances T: Blood, Belonging, and Aboriginal Transracial Adoption in Twentieth-Century Canada
    https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/full/10.3138/cjh.ach.50.3.004

    Commerce, Industry, and the Laws of Newtonian Science: Weber Revisited and Revised
    https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/cjh.35.2.275

    Difficultés Économiques et Réaction Seigneuriale au Terroir de Beaucaire: La Commanderie des Hospitaliers de Saint-Pierre de Campublic aux XIVe et XVe Siècles
    https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/cjh.25.1.1

    “He was neither a soldier nor a slave: he was under the control of no man”: Kahnawake Mohawks in the Northwest Fur Trade, 1790–1850
    https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/full/10.3138/cjh.ach.51.1.001

    The Queen’s Jews: Religion, Race, and Change in Twentieth-Century Canada
    https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/cjh.49.3.369

    Reviews

    The Fascist Challenge and the Policy of Appeasement, edited by Wolfgang J. Mommsen and Lothar Kettenacker
    https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/cjh.19.3.466

    Histoire des industries françaises. Les industries lainères de Colbert à la Révolution, par Tihomir J. Markovitch
    https://www.utpjournals.press/doi/pdf/10.3138/cjh.12.3.423

  • Making of a Monster (Studies Article)

    Written by guest blogger, Christopher McGunnigle.

    Comic page - Tales to Astonish 17Image courtesy of Marvel.

    Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, even Thor: a secret behind these household superheroes is that, once upon a time, they were all monsters. The Marvel superhero, ever the outsider filled with doubt and heroic flaws, was built from the mold of an earlier age known as the Monster Era.

    My article on “Marvel Monsters and Their Transition into the Superhero Genre” came about, honestly, from a formulaic approach. Coming from a generalist doctoral program at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, I studied in numerous fields, including rhetoric, graphic narrative (i.e. comic books), and linguistics. When coming up with ideas for conferences or articles, I apply the formula (one of my scholarly fields) + (another scholarly field).

    While browsing through the Penn State Call for Papers website, I was excited by a call for an MLA panel on Monster Studies that would later become my article. The topic easily fit into my creative formula: (comic books) + (monsters) = the Marvel Monsters of the 1950s and 60s!

    Of course, my creative formula required more specification to avoid being too broad. As a rhetorician, I look into the heart of what makes a topic popular – its rhetorical appeal. As a graphic narrative scholar, I focus on visual and verbal rhetorical appeal. As a linguist, I developed a knack for finding patterns in massive amounts of data. My topic further solidified into a rhetorical analysis of the visual and verbal characteristics of the Marvel Monster – what traits of the medium and genre made the Marvel Monster so popular and influenced the formation of the new Marvel superheroes that followed the Monster Era.

    Comic page - Tales to Astonish 20Image courtesy of Marvel.

    But it was not enough to merely note that Marvel Monsters came in certain colors or shapes or had certain types of names – what about these colors and shapes and names was monstrous? I still needed more of the MONSTER in my research.

    My glue came from Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s theses on Monster Theory, which discuss the ambiguity and re-iteration of the monster figure. Multimedia rhetoric thrives on ambiguity of content to promote transmissive value, while the superhero comic book sustains itself throughout decades of storylines through constant re-iteration of content. From there, everything fell into place!

    We are always looking for the monster, whether in the closet or under the bed, but despite this search, academia has only begun to touch upon the monster’s many appearances – both where it appears and what it looks like. As the foundations of Monster Studies are being set, its future promises to find the monster in new locations and in new fields – in the social sciences, in computer and information technology, in business, in the hard sciences and who knows where else. With each new field, we will find a new interpretation and version of the monster.

    Christopher McGunnigle is a professor at Northampton Community College. His article “The Difference between Heroes and Monsters: Marvel Monsters and Their Transition into the Superhero Genre” can be found in the special Monster Studies issue of University of Toronto Quarterly. Read it online here (open access for a limited time).

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