Tag Archives: teaching

  • Putting the Devil in Context

    Elizabeth Lorentz was a young maid servant in early modern Germany who believed herself to be tormented by the devil, and who was eventually brought to trial in 1667. We invited Peter A. Morton and Barbara Dähms to discuss their new book, The Bedevilment of Elizabeth Lorentz, and how they give the reader the opportunity to grapple with Elizabeth’s testimony for themselves.

    Written by guest blogger, Peter A. Morton

    This book is the second translation of trial records from the city of Brunswick in the seventeenth century that Barbara Dähms and I have published with University of Toronto Press. The first was The Trial of Tempel Anneke: Records of a Witchcraft Trial in Brunswick, Germany, 1663. Both trials involved an accusation of a pact with the Devil. A question that naturally arises is what this trial offers that distinguishes it from that of Tempel Anneke. The short answer is that Lorentz's testimony reveals some of the richness and complexity of early modern ideas of the Devil and his relations with human beings.

    The first point to make about the trial of Elizabeth Lorentz is that it was not a witch trial. Although she was accused of making a diabolical pact, no one involved in the case suspected that Elizabeth was a witch according to the picture that drove the witch trials. And this raises the question, why not? It would not have been difficult for the court officials to interrogate Elizabeth about the common aspects of witchcraft, especially the use of harmful magic and attendance at the sabbat. The use of torture was an option open to them, if they had wanted to force such confessions from her. The same court did just that in the trial of Tempel Anneke just a few years earlier. Yet, according to the records, both the court and the legal faculty at the University of Helmstedt accepted fairly readily that Elizabeth was a troubled soul, and that her pact (if there was one) did not derive from a desire to harm others as was commonly assumed of witches. A second point is that the stories of the Devil came from Elizabeth herself, not from the questioning of the court officials. The officials based their questions on what Elizabeth said of her own experiences.

    There is here, I believe, a valuable lesson about early modern European beliefs concerning human relations with the Devil and his demons: There was not a single template applied universally to every suspicion of involvement with the Devil. As Stuart Clark long ago emphasized in his book, Thinking with Demons, despite the degree of uniformity in demonological thinking, the concept of human interaction with demons served a myriad of purposes and could be adapted to many circumstances. In the introductory essay to The Bedevilment of Elizabeth Lorentz I tried to convey some of the variety of ways in which concourse with the Devil was conceived of between the medieval and early modern periods. As I emphasized there, fitting Elizabeth neatly into any of these categories is problematic. These trial records will hopefully underscore the importance of not rushing to conclusions when we find the Devil appearing in historical documents.

    With regard to understanding Elizabeth's testimony, the reader of these documents is in somewhat the same position as that of the court officials. We have Elizabeth's behavior as it was reported by the family and servants of her employer, Hilmar von Strombek, and we have her own descriptions of her experiences. What we don't have is her presence before us, and so we must use the documents we have as best we can. The objective in preparing this book, as it was with The Trial of Tempel Anneke, was to present the reader with the documents as much as possible in the same manner as they would be encountered in the archive reading room. The opportunity is there for the reader to sift through the evidence so as to determine how best to make sense of the rather extraordinary tales Elizabeth tells.

    Readers in the twenty-first century are of course not likely to take Elizabeth's descriptions of the Devil as literally true, and so they will perhaps look for psychological origins of her testimony. This is an option the court considers as well. But understanding the trial records requires us to recognize that Elizabeth's testimony conformed with a belief in the reality of the Devil that was universally accepted. There was at that time no reason to reject the truth of her testimony of demonic temptation without some kind of strong evidence against it. For the court, the possibility that Elizabeth was "not of sound mind" was fully consistent with the truth of her stories of spiritual torment by the Devil. We cannot, therefore, simply label or explain away her claims of demonic encounters; to gain a sympathetic reading of the records we must, rather, "think with demons."

    Much the same can be said for the supplementary reading of the book, the preface to a book of prayers for Appolonia Stampke, a girl who believed herself to be possessed by the Devil. There are dramatic ways of imagining cases of possession: violent behavior, strange preternatural powers, and so on. Some of these ideas have their origins in the history of possession. But there is little of this in the behavior of Appolonia, although some of the scenes in the church must have been startling. The story presented to us by her pastor, Melchior Neukirch, is that of a pious girl struggling to maintain her faith against doubts implanted by Satan. Like the attacks on Elizabeth, Appolonia's actions need to be read carefully against their social and religious background.

    The editor and translator of this book hope that the records will offer a chance for the reader to work directly with the complexities and nuances in the responses of ordinary people in early modern Europe to evidence of the Devil in their world.

    Peter A. Morton is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Humanities at Mount Royal University and author of the newly-released book The Bedivilment of Elizabeth Lorentz.

    Barbara Dähms is a translator.

  • New Book Broadens the Lens for Teaching About Gendered Violence

    With violence against women increasingly under the spotlight, we invited authors Chris Bruckert and Tuulia Law to discuss their new book, Women and Gendered Violence in Canada: An Intersectional Approach.

    Contemporary feminist actions – everything from Slut Walks to the #MeToo movement – are drawing renewed attention to the ongoing urgency of violence against women. This is certainly encouraging. All around us we see feminists ‒ socially engaged, mindful of intersectionality, and critical of essentialist presentations – build on the work of earlier socialist, working class, Indigenous, and racialized scholars and activists. But sometimes it feels like we keep having the same conversations, leading us to wonder: what has really changed?

    In Women and Gendered Violence in Canada, we balance celebrating the significant progress made ‒ certainly it would be unthinkable for today’s parliamentarians to laugh and jeer as they did in 1982 when Margaret Mitchell raised the issue of battered women in the House of Commons – with acknowledging that much remains to be done. Consider, for example, the compelling, emotion-evoking, and all too familiar representation of gendered violence ‒ a lone (often youthful and white) woman, bruised, dejected, looking away/down or staring forward with terror-filled eyes. This image, though deployed to admirable effect, obscures much – context, agency, resistance, diversity ‒ at the same time as it limits the frame to interpersonal violence (by individual men). Endeavouring to expand beyond these parameters, Women and Gendered Violence in Canada attends to a range of inter-related and mutually reinforcing sources, forms, and sites of gendered violence.

    Women and Gendered Violence in Canada mobilizes the concepts of intersectionality and interlocking systems of oppression to unpack the ways violence inflicted on women is rooted in social, political, and economic systems that work through and with patriarchy, including colonialism, neoliberalism, capitalism, and national and global economies. From this point of departure it follows that women’s vulnerability to, and experience of, violence is shaped by intersecting aspects of their identities, social location, and negotiation (or rejection) of gender norms. Our use of the term gendered rather than gender-based violence reflects our conceptual framing; while gender is the unifying thread, the diverse instances and forms of violence women experience are rooted in a multiplicity of factors intersecting with gender. This allows us to include violence to which women are vulnerable that does not originate in gender but is a more indirect outcome of gender inequity and scripts (e.g., nurses’ experience of violence from patients and their families, violence for which they are routinely blamed by supervisors). It also broadens the scope of perpetration beyond individual men to violence committed by agents of the state (e.g., the neglect and abuse of Indigenous women by police), by women (e.g., domestic workers at the hands of their employers), by co-workers and customers in the workplace (e.g., the verbal violence endured by call-centre workers), indirectly as the result of policies (e.g., austerity measures that culminate in ill health), and emanating from the criminal justice system (e.g., the deployment of psychotropic medications to regulate incarcerated women).

    At the same time we hold that recognizing gendered violence as embedded in our social fabric and acknowledging the complex ways it ripples through women’s lives is not tantamount to ascribing women the master status of victim. All too often the many ways women have contested, challenged, and subverted that which would oppress them is written out of history (an erasure that is, of course, another manifestation of gendered violence). In Women and Gendered Violence in Canada we pay homage to our resilient and brave foremothers – the Indigenous women who, in the face of violent assimilation efforts, kept oral history alive and safeguarded traditional teachings; the generations of Black women who fought tirelessly against segregated public spaces and services; the women garment industry workers who stood shoulder to shoulder with their union brothers to contest exploitative labour practices. We also highlight and celebrate the many faces of contemporary women’s resistance – from everyday acts, to subtle (and not so subtle) calling out of sexism, to clever social media campaigns, to dramatic protests ‒ simultaneously drawing attention to the ways intersecting identities and interlocking systems of oppression constrain (or facilitate) the tactics and strategies women can mobilize. For us, foregrounding individual and collective action, and the limits of what is possible, is part of a larger commitment to grounding the analysis in women’s lives and experiential knowledges. To that end we also spotlight first-person accounts throughout the book.

    Women and Gendered Violence in Canada is organized to reflect the progression of an undergraduate course while providing pedagogical flexibility. The introductory section lays out the conceptual and contextual framing for the remainder of the text. The following three sections (each with three chapters) are organized around types of violence: interpersonal, workplace, and structural. In turn, each of the substantive chapters highlights specific elements/manifestations of gendered violence. We have endeavoured to bring cohesion to the collection not only through consistent engagement with the contextual and conceptual framing presented in the introductory section but also via recurring themes that cut across the chapters, including: historical context; resistance, subversion, and agency; the impact of neoliberalism; critical consideration of criminal justice solutions and protectionist policy; reflections on feminist approaches; consideration of the dialectic relationship of myths, social judgement, and state responses; and the foregrounding of experiential evidence. Throughout, we draw on rich Canadian scholarship, illustrated using examples from regions across the country, and put the focus firmly on our unique legal and policy contexts. Inevitably this means harsh light is shed on the ways structural inequality and bias manifest in, for example, anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, and ongoing colonialism. It also means some beloved national myths ‒ multiculturalism, meritocracy, post-racism ‒ are challenged.

    In our experience, today’s students welcome the opportunity for critical engagement. They also welcome the opportunity to see themselves in the material they study. To that end we self-consciously sought to ensure the book feels relevant to university-aged students by examining topics they encounter in their daily lives (e.g., sexism on campus, routine intrusions on the street, school dress codes, cyber bullying); this helps to render the links between everyday occurrences, social structures, and gendered violence visible and positions readers to appreciate the ways we are all caught up in systems that create the conditions of possibility for gendered violence.

    Like teachers everywhere we dream of classrooms that are dynamic learning environments filled with engaged students as excited about the material as we are. All too often our experience falls short; we find ourselves trying to lay the groundwork with little opportunity (or time) for nuanced engagement to manifest. In writing this book we sought to make theories accessible through application, as well as to introduce students to key concepts, pivotal ideas, and foundational knowledge upon which instructors can build to make the material fresh and timely. After all, in the perpetually-shifting terrain in which gendered violence occurs there are (sadly) always emerging issues to explore: a new provincial government that promises to revitalize neoliberal policies, a novel and exciting (or depressing) social media campaign, a pivotal court ruling. In this way the book can be useful for educators who are interested in integrating active learning and student-centred pedagogy into their classrooms through exercises and activities that facilitate deep learning. To that end, we included a suggested activity at the end of each chapter that teachers may wish to use or adapt. The last activity asks readers to consider how their thoughts have evolved since beginning the text. This reflects our (admittedly lofty) goal of contributing to what we are seeing all around us ‒ contemporary feminists (and others interested in social justice) taking on gendered violence, stubborn stereotypes, and tired tropes in creative and innovative ways.

    Chris Bruckert is Professor of Criminology at the University of Ottawa, and Tuulia Law is Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Science at York University. To find out more about their new book Women and Gendered Violence in Canada: An Intersectional Approach, click here.

  • Recommended Reading for Back to School

    With the start of the new school year, we thought this would be a great opportunity to highlight some of our new education titles. We’ve picked out five titles for you to have a look at.

    Staying Human during Residency Training: How to Survive and Thrive After Medical School

    By Allan D. Peterkin

    The ultimate survival guide for medical students, interns, residents, and fellows, Staying Human during Residency Training provides time-tested advice and the latest information on every aspect of a resident’s life – from choosing a residency program, to coping with stress, enhancing self-care, and protecting personal and professional relationships.

    Allan D. Peterkin, MD provides hundreds of tips on how to cope with sleep deprivation, time pressures, and ethical and legal issues. This sixth edition is not only updated to reflect the latest research and resources, but also features new material on the latest issues in residency training, including social media use, patient-centered care, the medical humanities, and the “hidden curriculum” of residency.

    Acknowledged by thousands of doctors across North America as an invaluable resource, Staying Human during Residency Training has helped to shape notions of trainee well-being for medical educators worldwide. Offering wise, compassionate, and professional counsel, this edition again shows why it is required reading for medical students and new physicians pursuing postgraduate training.

    "This guide should be required reading for each intern beginning residency and also for each and every residency program director in North America."

    Aliye Runyan, Medical Education Team Chair, American Medical Student Association, and Sonia Lazreg, AMSA/Committee of Interns and Residents Health Justice Fellow

    Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences or Humanities PhD

    By Loleen Berdahl and Jonathan Malloy

    Work Your Career offers practical advice to PhD students in Canada on how best to position themselves for a successful career. The book looks at both academic and non-academic career options for graduate students, and how to prepare concurrently for each.

    The authors carefully recognize that every student brings unique skills, values, and aspirations and that a career path in academia might not be the sole option for students. Drawing on their own personal careers and experience, Berdahl and Malloy provide motivations and strategies for students and provide answers to the questions that many PhD students have. Work Your Career is in essence a mentoring program for students and is full of practical advice on how to be best prepared for a successful career.

    A must read for any graduate student in Canada!

    The Craft of University Teaching

    By Peter Lindsay

    Intended for professors of all academic disciplines who either enjoy teaching or wish to enjoy it more, the soon to-be-released The Craft of University Teaching is a provocative and accessible book containing practical advice gleaned from the academic literature on pedagogy.

    In an era of increased bureaucratic oversight, rapidly diminishing budgets, and waves of technological distraction, The Craft of University Teaching provokes reflection on matters of pedagogy that are too often taken as settled. In so doing, it seeks to reclaim teaching as the intellectually vibrant and intrinsically rewarding endeavor that it is.

    "Peter Lindsay has produced an energetic study of the craft of teaching. His lively treatment will resonate with anyone who has stood in front of a classroom. He rescues the topic from both formula-seekers and those who think good teaching can’t be taught. The result is a stimulating practicum delivered by a bona fide maestro."

    Peter T. Struck, Professor and Chair of the Department of Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania

    Kickstarting Your Academic Career: Skills to Succeed in the Social Sciences

    By Robert L. Ostergard, Jr. and Stacy B. Fisher

    Kickstarting Your Academic Career is a primer on the common scholastic demands that social sciences students face upon entering college or university. Based on the challenges that instructors most often find students need help with, the authors offer practical advice and tips on topics such as how to communicate with instructors, take notes, read a textbook, research and write papers, and write successful exams. The succinct writing and clear organization make this an essential reference for first-year students as they encounter post-secondary work for the first time, and a useful refresher for upper-year students looking to refine their skills.

    “I would recommend Kickstarting Your Academic Career to every college student because they can benefit from the advice given in the book. It establishes what mindset you need and what tools you can utilize in order to be as successful as you can throughout your schooling. It is also written in a clear, concise manner that any student can understand regardless of their reading comprehensive skills.”

    Lauren Bullock, Sophomore at Stephen F. Austin State University

    The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy

    By Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber

    If there is one sector of society that should be cultivating deep thought in itself and others, it is academia. Yet the corporatisation of the contemporary university has sped up the clock, demanding increased speed and efficiency from faculty regardless of the consequences for education and scholarship.

    In The Slow Professor, Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber discuss how adopting the principles of the slow movement in academic life can counter this erosion of humanistic education. Focusing on the individual faculty member and his or her own professional practice, Berg and Seeber present both an analysis of the culture of speed in the academy and ways of alleviating stress while improving teaching, research, and collegiality. The Slow Professor will be a must-read for anyone in academia concerned about the frantic pace of contemporary university life.

  • Ideas for Building Career Development into PhD Seminars

    By Loleen Berdahl

    Since the publication of our book Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences and Humanities PhD, my co-author Jonathan Malloy and I have been asked for ideas about how to use the book in PhD seminar classes. I am delighted that faculty are looking for ways to help PhD students start thinking about their careers at an early stage, and that they are working to create a climate where students feel safe to discuss career options. Over the past couple of years, Jonathan and I have led conference sessions and workshops with PhD students, postdocs, and others interested in PhD career development that draw on the ideas we present in Work Your Career. Most recently, we offered a Career Corner session at the 2018 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, and we were pleased to see students across a broad range of academic disciplines enthusiastically engage with the topic.

    For our sessions, we have led students in discussions and group activities. The discussions of PhD career development prompt students to think about the many career options—including but not exclusively academia—for which PhD students can prepare. The group activities are particularly useful to help students engage with the ideas; for these, we ask students to complete a self-assessment on a specific area for a short period, and then share their responses with each other in small groups of 3-4 people. This is then followed by a larger full group discussion. We conclude the process by asking students to come up with a personal “action plan” to develop areas they wish to strengthen. What we particularly enjoy about this collaborative process is that it helps students identify further strengths that they already possess. By developing an action plan students increase their awareness of how they can use personal agency to achieve their goals.

    Building off these conference sessions, I have developed a list of activities for faculty who wish to use Work Your Career in their PhD seminars or in non-credit, stand-alone professional development seminars offered to students. For the group activities (Table 1), I suggest that students begin with individual work, followed by small group student discussions, and then full class discussion. For some classes, instructors might consider including students at other stages of their program. This can have the dual benefit of bringing in some different perspectives as well as prompting more senior students to reflect on their own studies. For the reading responses (Table 2), I suggest that instructors limit responses to 250 words, and assign grades on a complete/incomplete basis to avoid any perception that there are “right answers.” The reading response items could also be adapted to serve as seminar discussion questions.

    It is rewarding to see that so many faculty—and particularly PhD supervisors, graduate program chairs, and department chairs—are deeply committed to advancing PhD student career success. For those who use Work Your Career in the classroom, I hope that you will find these activities useful as you guide and mentor your students. I welcome your ideas to expand this list, as well as any feedback on how the activities work in your classroom, at loleen.berdahl@usask.ca. And I thank you for looking for opportunities to prompt PhD students to engage with their own career development as early in their programs as possible.

    Table 1: Group Activities drawing upon Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences or Humanities PhD

    Group Activity Reading and Material
    Assess your current career competency evidence and strengths, and select areas where you would like to develop your evidence and strengths further. Chapter 1, particularly Table 1.2
    Explore how you can build further career competency evidence through program activities such as classes, comps, and dissertation, and create a personal action plan. Chapter 3
    Evaluate how you can build further career competency evidence through non-program activities, and create a personal action plan. Chapter 4, particularly Table 4.1
    Create an informational interview action plan. Chapter 4, particularly pages 87-89
    Assess and refine the significance of your current dissertation project idea. Chapter 5, particularly Table 5.1
    Create a schedule for the remainder of the semester, strategically booking tasks into high energy and low energy schedule blocks. Chapter 7, particularly pages 142-149
    Detail your current professional network, and select areas where you would like to develop your network further. Create a personal action plan to do so. Chapter 7, particularly Figure 7.1
    Appraise which PhD activities you find most energizing and rewarding. Chapter 8, particularly Table 8.2
    Develop a short narrative story that uses evidence to demonstrate one or more of your career competencies. Chapter 8, particularly pages 179-183
    Formulate specific strategies to identify the problem that an organization is hiring to solve, and create a personal action plan for how to approach job applications. Chapters 8 and 9
    Plan specific answers to the common questions raised during academic job interviews. Chapter 9, particularly Table 9.4

    Table 2: Reading Response Topics drawing upon Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences or Humanities PhD

    Reading Response Topics Reading
    What is your personal career goal? How does your PhD program fit into this goal? Chapter 1
    What are the strengths of your current program for your personal career goal and how can you realize these strengths? Chapter 2
    What factors should students regularly consider when deciding whether or not to continue their program? How can you make this a safe question for yourself as you move through your program? Chapter 3
    What are the opportunities for you to use non-program activities to increase your experience and skills? (Examine your university’s doctoral professional development opportunities and be specific in your response.) Chapter 4
    What are the opportunities for you to build your funding track record? (Search online for opportunities and be specific in your response.) Chapter 5
    Identify one potential scholarly journal option and one potential non-scholarly publishing option for your work. Explain why these options are good fits for your research. Chapter 6
    In what ways do you personally use graciousness, professionalism, and discretion to cultivate your own professional reputation? Chapter 7
    What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of an “academia-first” mentality? Chapter 8
    What amount of teaching experience do you feel would best position you to be competitive for tenure-track academic jobs? Chapter 9
    Which of the identified faculty “actions” do you feel would most benefit PhD students? What other actions, if any, do you recommend? Appendix

    Loleen Berdahl is Professor and Head of Political Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, and co-author (with Jonathan Malloy) of the book Work Your Career: Get What You Want from Your Social Sciences and Humanities PhD (University of Toronto Press, 2018). After completing her PhD, she worked for ten years in the nonprofit think tank world. Her research considers public attitudes, intergovernmental relations, and political science career development, and she is the recipient of three University of Saskatchewan teaching awards. Follow her on Twitter (@loleen_berdahl), where she tweets about political science, higher education, and opportunities for students, among other topics, and connect with her on LinkedIn.

  • 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.

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