“Double, double toil and trouble”: Witches and Witchcraft, 1450-1700

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This course is under review for 2021. Course registration will open to accepted students once courses are confirmed.

Course Description

Today, witches appear frequently in novels, tv, and movies, but ideas about these magical figures date back hundreds of years. This course will examine historical beliefs about witches and witchcraft from the period of 1450-1700— the era of the famous witch hunts and trials in Europe and colonial America. Students will study historical representations of witches in prints and paintings, theater texts, and trial documents. We will also consider how these historical ideas inform current-day representations of witches in pop culture.

Close analysis of several case studies will highlight the dramatic history of witches and their persecution in Renaissance Europe. By examining harrowing tales of witches’ sabbaths, dramatic prints depicting how female witches threatened the power of men, instructions for how to find and prosecute witches, and records from the Salem witch trials, we will ask what people believed about these figures in this period. Further analysis of current media that include witches, such as Netflix’s new remake of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018), will allow us to think about how witches are still potent figures of female power even today.

Readings and informal presentations will allow students to survey the varying beliefs about magic and witches in Renaissance Europe. Classroom discussions, the cornerstone of college academics, will allow students to engage with this material in a meaningful and in-depth manner. A final project will allow students to delve into a case study of their choosing. This course will be especially helpful to those students interested in European Renaissance history and the history of witches.

Students will acquire skills in comparative analysis, academic writing, reading comprehension and synthesis, and public presentations. By the end of this course students will have gained a strong grounding in historical research and methods of object-based analysis. Students will have learned an historical approach to research and a model for future studies at the college level.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEHA0922
  • Length: 1 week

Program Information

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Brown’s Pre-College Program in the liberal arts and sciences, offering over 200 non-credit courses, one- to four-weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

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