Instructor: A. Smith TR 11:00am-12:20pm
Witches, nearly all of whom were women, have appeared in historical, religious, popular, and artistic texts throughout most of human history. Initially almost always cast as devilish tricksters or pagan worshippers of the devil, these women represent both a tradition of female oppression and radical opposition against it. Today, witches in popular culture are sometimes still depicted as villains but have more often been empowered by their magic. These women use their supernatural talents to challenge misogyny and patriarchy, while dealing with everyday issues that women face. This course will examine the origins of gender and witchcraft starting with texts like the Christian Bible, the medieval witch hunter’sMalleus Maleficarum, and William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Using these insights on the origin of women and witchcraft, we will discuss the witch’s changing role in contemporary television, film, and literature and how the history of magic might be read as a history of women’s liberation. Though the witch’s role in the human imagination has changed since the time of the witch hunts, and these women have become more like superheroes than villains (think Charmed and American Horror Story: Coven), the subject of women as witches continues to generate a diverse array of stories that show the damage of masculinity and anxiety about women’s ever-expanding role in society.