Course: Magic and Witchhunts in Early Modern Europe

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Course title Magic and Witchhunts in Early Modern Europe
Course code KHI/EMAG
Organizational form of instruction Lecture + Seminar
Level of course Master
Year of study not specified
Semester Winter and summer
Number of ECTS credits 5
Language of instruction English
Status of course Compulsory-optional
Form of instruction Face-to-face
Work placements This is not an internship
Recommended optional programme components None
Course availability The course is available to visiting students
  • Elbel Martin, doc. Mgr. M.A., Ph.D.
Course content
TOPICS Introduction Magic, religion and science (Mauss) Holy wizards and Church magic (Gentilcore) Occult philosophy and Renaissance Magi (Yates) The possessed of Loudun (de Certau) Demonological debates (Caro Baroja) Theory a practice of witchcraft: The magistrates (Clark) Theory a practice of witchcraft: The bewitched (Sharp) Theory a practice of witchcraft: The witch (Briggs) Gender and witchcraft (Roper) Epilogue: vampirism, folklore, revivals READING: Mauss Marcel. 1972. 'The elements of magic: The magician.' In A General Theory of Magic. London: Routlede and Kegan Paul, 44-61. Caro Baroja, Julio. 1990. 'Witchcraft and Catholic theology.' In Early modern European witchcraft: Centres and peripheries. Edd. B. Ankarloo and G. Henningsen. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 19-43. Gentilcore, David. 1992. 'The priest: Ecclesiastical remedies and and their variants.' In From bishop to witch: The system of the sacred in the early modern Terra d?Otranto. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 94-127. Yates, Frances A. 1991. 'Cornelius Agrippa?s survey of Renaissance magic.' In Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic tradition. Chicago and London: Chicago University Press, 130-143. de Certau, Michel. 1999. 'The theatre of the possessed.' In The possesion at Loudun. Transl. M.B. Smith. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 85-108. Sharp, James. 1999. ?Many strange tortures.? In The bewitching of Anne Gunter: A horrible and true story of football, witchcraft, murder, and the King of England. London: Profile Books, 43-63. Briggs, Robin. 2002. 'The myth of the perfect witch.' In Witches and neighbours: The social and cultural context of European witchcraft. Second edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 12-50. Clark, Stuart. 1997. 'Magistrates and witches.' In Thinking with demons: The idea of witchcraft in early modern Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 560-571. and so forth?

Learning activities and teaching methods
Dialogic Lecture (Discussion, Dialog, Brainstorming)
Learning outcomes
The classes deal with European witchhunts between 15th and 18th century. The witchhunts are studied in a wider context of contemporary image of the world (enchanted world). Classes are based on texts treating various aspects of magic and witchcraft in the Early Modern times. Although the course will deal mainly with European witch-hunts of 15 to 18 centuries, its scope is much wider. It aims at analysing the position of magic in European culture. Early cultural anthropologists (Tylor, Frazer) saw magic as a primitive form of human thought and behaviour which was?In the process of human development?replaced first by religion and later by science. Next generations of scholars however discovered that the relationship between magic, religion and science is much more complex. These categories are intertwined; their boundaries are blurred and overlapping. Yet the European history is marked with regular attempts to define and delineate magic, religion and science as three separate realms of thought and behaviour. The seminar will discuss some of these attempts (which culminated in early modern witch-hunts) and their impact on European culture. It will demonstrate that the changing attitudes towards magic helped to define not only Europe?s main religious systems (Judaism, Christianity) but also modern science. Another broader issue related to European witch-hunts is the ?mechanism of persecution?. How did it happen that the witch-hunts emerged? Why did they start only in the fifteenth century and culminated in the period we associate with the birth of modern Europe? What did trigger the violence and what did it nourish? And also what factors contributed to their end? How can be witch-hunts compared to other ?witch-hunts? (anti-Semitism and Shoa, Communist terror, McCarthism)? Topics: anthropologic approaches to magic, church and magic, Renaissance occultism, culture of fear, emergence of witch-hunts, points of view (judges, bewitched, witches), gender issues, the aftermath.
Students will see the phenomenon of witchcraft from more points of view.
The knowledge of English is necessary.

Assessment methods and criteria
Student performance

Participation in the classes, reading of the required texts, discussion, essay.
Recommended literature
  • Mauss, Marcel . (1972). 'The elements of magic: The magician.'. London, A General Theory of Magic.

Study plans that include the course
Faculty Study plan (Version) Branch of study Category Recommended year of study Recommended semester
Faculty of Arts History (2012) History courses - -
Faculty of Arts History (2012) History courses - -
Faculty of Arts Euroculture (2015) Philosophy, theology - -