Witchcraft in the modern world: 1900 to the present
Time: 10:30 - 16:30
Location: Keeley Street
Course Code: HRS56
Duration: 1 session
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What is the course about?
The course explores the radical changes that the concept of witchcraft has undergone in Western cultures since the start of the 20th century. This includes the rise of competing scholarly interpretations of early modern witchcraft and the eventual emergence of a general consensus among historians of the phenomenon. It also looks at the growth of new religions, such as Wicca and forms of Satanism, whose practitioners identify as witches and who have shaped broader perceptions of what witchcraft means. In addition, it considers portrayals of witchcraft in modern literature, cinema, and television, looking at how these fictional portrayals, new religions, and scholarly interpretations have all fed into and influenced each other.
What will we cover?
Changing historical views of early modern witchcraft, from Margaret Murray’s theory of a pagan witch-cult and Montague Summers’ belief in a genuine Satanic conspiracy through to contemporary academic perspectives.
The emergence and growing popularity of the idea of the ‘good witch’.
Witchcraft in literature, film, and television – from The Wizard of Oz to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The history, beliefs, and practices of witch-themed religions such as Wicca and Satanism.
The use of rhetoric around witchcraft in modern political contexts, from the witch as feminist icon to McCarthyite ‘witch trials’.
Conflicts arising from definitions of witchcraft in Western countries and those found elsewhere in the world.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
Understand how the idea of the witch has been repeatedly transformed since the start of the 20th century and why there are now multiple, very different viewpoints regarding what a witch is.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
The course is suitable for beginners and does not require any particular skills beyond an interest in the subject.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The course will be taught primarily through a lecture with interactive elements and discussions.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Materials for taking notes are recommended.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Please see City Lit's website for up-to-date information about upcoming religion and belief courses.