Humanities

  • The Enduring Power of University Press Publishing

    In this contribution to the University Press Week Blog Tour (November 12-17), our editor, Stephen Shapiro, reflects on the enduring power of university press publishing. When considering today's theme of #TurnItUP: History, Stephen goes beyond just our history list to explore the legacy of what we do as a publisher.

    By Stephen Shapiro

    The theme of today’s contribution to the University Press Week Blog Tour is #History. As one of three acquiring editors for history who work at University of Toronto Press, I assumed that I would write about some of the excellent history books that UTP publishes every year. Many of those books reflect the press’ mission to advance scholarly knowledge and our authors’ commitment to #TurnItUP by amplifying stories and voices from the margins, whether those are geographic, social, or temporal. Indigenous history, queer history, and migration and memory studies are only some of the areas where UTP is proud to bring important, often overlooked, issues to public attention.

    However, the more I dug into the press’ backlist to write about those themes, the more I was reminded that they were just a small slice of the publishing that University of Toronto Press has done over the past 117 years. A quick look uncovered some eclectic bestsellers from the press’ past, like Frank Parker Day’s novel Rockbound, first published in 1928 and re-issued in 1973 by UTP, which became a CanLit smash hit after it won the first CBC Canada Reads competition in 2005. Or E.H. Moss’s Flora of Alberta (revised by John G. Packer in 1983), which seems to still have a devoted following in that province. Other strong sellers include the works of Canadian Jesuit theologian Bernard Lonergan, whose papers are held at the Lonergan Research Institute at Toronto. UTP published the first volume of the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan in 1988 and should complete the twenty-five volume series, with any luck, in 2020. It is only one of several major series at the press that have taken twenty or more years to complete (the eighty-nine volume Collected Works of Erasmus of Rotterdam, a truly herculean project, began in 1968 and is still ongoing here). Like many university presses, UTP has to balance obligations to stay the course with the need to encourage the latest trends in scholarship (like those fields mentioned above that barely existed in academia in 1968, when the Erasmus project began), but it’s humbling as an editor to think the manuscripts on my (virtual) desk today might still be relevant fifty-plus years from now.

    Of course, no editor goes into a project thinking they are handling a future classic. But I take comfort in knowing that, smash hit or not, the books UTP publishes will be out there, making a contribution to knowledge, fifty or more years on. That’s a consequence of unsung work all across the press, from the managing editors whose XML workflow helps us “future-proof” our e-books to the production department, printing our physical copies on acid-free, 100% post-consumer recycled paper, and a sales and marketing team that aims to put books not just in the hands of consumers today but also in libraries around the world. UTP’s own heritage is being preserved at the University of Toronto, where they fill 1,070 boxes spanning 450 linear metres (almost 1,500 linear feet) … so far. According to our website, right now the press has 4,898 different books either in print or forthcoming. With any luck, they’ll all still be available to #TurnItUP in another 117 years.

    To continue on Day Four of the University Press Week Blog Tour, check out posts by these other fine university presses:

    Wilfrid Laurier University Press
    Blog: https://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/Blog
    Twitter: @wlupress

    University of California Press
    Blog: https://www.ucpress.edu/blog/
    Twitter: @ucpress

    University of Nebraska Press
    Blog: https://unpblog.com/
    Twitter: @UnivNebPress

    University of Alabama Press
    Blog: https://uapressblog.wordpress.com/
    Twitter: @UnivofALPress

    Rutgers University Press
    Blog: https://www.rutgersuniversitypress.org/category/news/
    Twitter: @RutgersUPress

    Boydell & Brewer
    Blog: https://boydellandbrewer.com/blog/
    Twitter: @boydellbrewer

    Beacon Press
    Blog: https://www.beaconbroadside.com
    Twitter: @BeaconPressbks

    University Press of Kansas
    Blog: https://kansaspress.ku.edu/
    Twitter: @Kansas_Press

    Harvard University Press
    Blog: https://harvardpress.typepad.com/hup_publicity/
    Twitter: @Harvard_Press

    University of Georgia Press
    Blog: ugapress.wordpress.com
    Twitter: @UGAPress

    MIT Press
    Blog: https://mitpress.mit.edu/blog
    Twitter: @mitpress

  • Toronto: A City of Neighbourhoods

    In today's stop on the University Press Week Blog Tour (November 12-17), our Director of Sales and Marketing, Jane Kelly, discusses the many neighbourhoods that constitute and define the city of Toronto, and how UTP publishes for and about those neighbourhoods as part of its mission. An excellent contribution for today's theme of #TurnItUP: The Neighbourhood.

    By Jane Kelly

    Earlier this year the UTP Book Publishing group moved to a new location in Toronto. After almost 30 years in the same office, we moved to a brand new high tech open concept office space in downtown Toronto. As a new employee and a suburbanite, this was my first time working downtown and this move gave me the opportunity to explore and learn more about the city.

    Toronto is known by many different nicknames: The Big Smoke, T Dot, The Six. It is the biggest city in Canada and is the financial centre of Canada. However, it is not a cosmopolitan city, it is a city of neighbourhoods. The Toronto Star recently published a listing of 170 unique neighbourhoods identified by their geographic boundaries, history, or unique population. A ten-minute walk from our new office location can take you to Yorkville, the Kensington Market, the Annex, or the financial district. Walk a little more and you can tour the entertainment district, Little Italy, or the Distillery District.

    UTP recognizes these diverse neighbourhoods by publishing titles that celebrate the cultures, people, and politics of Toronto’s neighbourhoods. Toronto Iberic and Toronto Italian Studies Series give a voice to scholarship and research for these populations. Individual books like Kensington Market by Na Li focus exclusively on well-known Toronto neighbourhoods. UTP also publishes many books focused on important issues that affect individuals in these neighbourhoods like racism, poverty, the environment, and education. Our recent publication, Queering Urban Justice, examines how to map space in ways that address very real histories of displacement and erasure.

    As I discover Toronto, I also learn more about the thousands of books from the UTP list. After a short 9 months with the book publishing team, I am so impressed with my coworkers’ dedication to the mission of the organization “to publish exemplary works of scholarship, and to disseminate knowledge widely for the benefit of society.”

    In Canada, research shows that loneliness is reaching epidemic levels and one in five people suffer from loneliness, the effects of which can be as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Social media technology designed to bring people together could be contributing to increased feelings of loneliness. People need to connect with others and find a community. Perhaps by giving a voice to Toronto neighbourhoods, UTP can help people be more connected.

    To continue on Day Three of the University Press Week Blog Tour, check out posts by these other fine university presses:

    University of Manitoba Press
    Blog: https://uofmpress.ca/blog
    Twitter: @umanitobapress

    Syracuse University Press
    Blog: https://syracusepress.wordpress.com/
    Twitter: @SUPress

    Fordham University Press
    Blog: www.fordhampress.com/blog
    Twitter: @FordhamPress

    Northwestern University Press
    Blog: https://incidentalnoyes.com/
    Twitter: @northwesternUP

    University Press of Mississippi
    Blog: http://upmississippi.blogspot.com/
    Twitter: @upmiss

    Temple University Press
    Blog: https://templepress.wordpress.com/
    Twitter: @TempleUnivPress

    University of Alberta Press
    Blog: https://holeinthebucket.wordpress.com/
    Twitter: @UAlbertaPress

    University of Texas Press
    Blog: http://utpressnews.blogspot.com
    Twitter: @UTexasPress

    University of Washington Press
    Blog: https://uwpressblog.com/
    Twitter: @UWAPress

    Johns Hopkins University Press
    Blog: https://www.press.jhu.edu/news/blog
    Twitter: @JHUPress

    University of Illinois Press
    Blog: https://www.press.uillinois.edu/wordpress/
    Twitter: @IllinoisPress

    Rutgers University Press
    Blog: https://www.rutgersuniversitypress.org/category/news/
    Twitter: @RutgersUPress

    Oregon State University Press
    Blog: http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/blog
    Twitter: @OSUPress

    Columbia University Press
    Blog: cupblog.org
    Twitter: @ColumbiaUP

    University of Georgia Press
    Blog: ugapress.wordpress.com
    Twitter: @UGAPress

  • Hashtags and Rabbit Holes: Confessions of an Academic Writer

    To kick off the University Press Week Blog Tour (November 12-17), our Social Media Specialist, Tanya Rohrmoser, reflects on the many ways in which social media can be used as a vehicle for communicating research in the arts and humanities.

    “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” – Alexander Pope

    “I want you to take a Post-It and write, ‘Don’t write like an academic.’” said my new Digital Communications professor. “Stick it on your desk, your wall, your computer. Anywhere you’re working. And don’t forget it.”

    I blinked. But, ever the conscientious student, I slowly wrote it out in my notebook. (Yes, in ink, on paper.) I underlined it twice.

    As a mature student, I had enrolled in Humber College’s Professional Writing & Communications post-graduate program. I came armed with 6 years’ experience as a teaching assistant in Brock University’s English department, and a Master’s degree which had focused on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature and gender studies. I loved studying that period, where manicured sentences wound long and lush as a garden path, heroic couplets were the chosen form of intellectuals, and you could stand on a Richardson novel to change a light bulb. Sadly, no one ever did beat down my door after graduation to discuss Judith Butler or Mr. Darcy’s masculine performance in Pride and Prejudice. So here I sat in this classroom, fluorescent lights buzzing, debt accruing, determined to bridge the distance between the ivory tower and the landscape beyond.

    And, over the next eight months, my writing changed. Write for screens! Know your audience! Drop those adjectives! Bullet points! I ducked red pens and track changes, as my clauses fell away like petticoats. Watched as my murdered darlings dropped breathless to the floor, certain I’d never recover from the sacrifice. In time, I learned to step over them.

    But if I bristled at changing my writing, I positively shut down when I was told to sign up for Twitter. As part of a generation that has recently been dubbed the “Xennials,” I grew up with the luxury of picking and choosing the parts of digital life in which I participated – and Twitter wasn’t one of them. I dutifully claimed my handle, but certainly didn’t see how I would ever need it in the workplace.

    Is a tweet different than a heroic couplet? Yes, that’s a silly question. And no, it’s not silly at all. Alexander Pope may not have constrained himself to 280 characters, but he did know how to pack a nice, salty punch into two short lines. I made my peace with the fact that a tweet is a similar burst of information, deliberately chosen to display its author’s worldview. As with any writing, both form and content are debated. Some are written poorly. Some are politically charged. Some will send you careening down a bot-peppered rabbit hole into chaos. Some are profound, impactful, and memorable.

    When finally, happily, I was hired by the Journals Division of the University of Toronto Press, it was as their Digital Marketing Coordinator, where one of the largest parts of my job was to run their social media accounts. And I was pleased to learn along the way that Alexander Pope and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu both have hashtags, and that a “Swiftie” not only refers to songstress Taylor, but satirist Jonathan.

    I slid back into the academic world like a hand finds its glove. I knew this world. I loved this world. What was different now was that I knew how to promote this world. And I also knew that, in some ways, it would be a challenge. Part of each day was spent finding contributors on social media in order to market their articles and gain a wider reach. I searched for the handles of their university departments. I tracked down and promoted the work of grad students. Though they are often quite sparing with their words, I tried to get scholars talking on Twitter, and I discovered an active, robust academic community that was happily leaning in to it, and using social media to their advantage.

    And, in perhaps an even odder twist, wrung from the student who once turned her nose up at the prospect of having a Twitter account, I’m now the Social Media Specialist for UTP’s Book Publishing Division.

    As humanities majors, we’re told we have a wide variety of skills; we just need to market them. But we’re rarely taught how, and many of us are more comfortable curled up with a good book than we are singing our own praises. One week into my job at UTP, I went home to my own academic, a quiet historian who’s writing his dissertation, and told him to make sure he uses social media to promote his research. That when the time comes to apply for one of those coveted academic positions, to show not only that he can write, teach, and produce, but that he can help promote the department on its digital platforms. Useful advice? Academics on hiring committees would know more than I.

    Is the debate about writing for social media similar to the heated debates about the potential dangers of the novel when it first appeared? Poetic license with the sonnet? The modern, post-Victorian aesthetic?

    Today, I saw a man reach out to another we follow on Twitter: “It grieves me that I’ve had to degrade myself to contact you over Twitter. Is there really no other way to reach you?” I trust that by this point you know I understand the sentiment, but here is the truth, the raw truth for those of us who, as author Tim Bowling puts it, are “dragging the bloodied pelt of the twentieth century” behind us: social media is simply an exchange. A hand reaching out across a shrinking globe to create and participate in community. How does Alice not fall down the rabbit hole? If I ever find out, I’ll let you know. Sometimes I feel like I’m leasing space down there.

    But here is what I also know to be true, as the academic world shifts shape into something new: there is a way to marry the two, and still retain the integrity and traditions of the former.

    Last year, I was in Washington at the American Historical Association meeting, and my colleague was attending the Modern Language Association convention in New York. As I followed the conference hashtags, what struck me was just how many academics were reaching out to each other in kind and positive ways. During the worst of the January storms, there were offers of child-minding services for presenters if daycares were closed, promises to post grad student papers online if they couldn’t attend their sessions, and gentle reminders to tenured professors that a drink and a chat with a vulnerable adjunct can go a long way.

    Can you fall down the rabbit hole, Alice? God help you, yes.

    But you can also find support in an online community that will help you find and market your research, provide career advice, and offer opportunities to form new collaborations – often with a little humour thrown in for good measure. You just need to make sure you’re opening the Twitter handle to the right door.

    To continue on Day One of the University Press Week Blog Tour, check out posts by these other fine university presses:

    MIT Press
    Blog: https://mitpress.mit.edu/blog
    Twitter: @MITPress

    Athabasca University Press
    Blog: http://www.aupressblog.ca/
    Twitter: @au_press

    Rutgers University Press
    Blog: https://www.rutgersuniversitypress.org/category/news/
    Twitter: @RutgersUPress

    Yale University Press
    Blog: http://blog.yalebooks.com/
    Twitter: @yalepress

    Duke University Press
    Blog: https://dukeupress.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/how-partnerships-with-museums-help-build-a-strong-art-list
    Twitter: @DukePress

    University of Minnesota Press
    Blog: uminnpressblog.com
    Twitter: @UMinnPress

    Thank you for supporting university press publishing!

  • 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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