Salem Witch Trials

Spring 2014

HIUS 3150 / RELC 3150

Salem Witch Trials

Benjamin Ray

The course will explore the historical scholarship, literary fiction, and primary source materials relating to the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692. How and why did the accusations begin? How and why did they stop? Serious theories and wild speculations abound both in 1692 and now. Who were the female and male heroes, victims, and villains in this tragic episode? The most gripping personal stories are to be found in the court records and in the literary portrayals by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Arthur Miller. Explore the impact of this small-scale, 300 year-old event upon America’s cultural heritage -- how and why did "Salem witchcraft" become part of the American cultural imagination? The course will draw upon the following historical works: Entertaining Satan by John Demos, Salem Story by Bernard Rosenthal, In the Devil’s Snare by Mary Beth Norton, and Judge Sewall’s Apology by Richard Francis, in addition to selected journal articles, as well as Arthur Miller's classic play The Crucible. The class will include short presentations of reading materials and culminates in two short essays to be written on important figures and/or topics related to the witch trials, based entirely on the primary sources. The best of these essays will become part of UVA’s award winning site, "Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive"<>  The class will make extensive use of the online Salem Archive which contains all the original court documents and contemporary accounts.  

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

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