IC Honors Seminar Spotlight: Witchcraft in a Cross-Cultural Perspective

Associate Professor of History Vivian Bruce Conger is offering her popular seminar on witches and their different depictions – from the “Burning Times” of early modern Europe to the Salem Witch Trials to fairy tales to Disney movies and more! Learn more below:

Describe your seminar in one sentence. We think we know well what a witch was, but different early modern cultures perceived the threat of witchcraft in a variety of ways, and we will explore the historical context of what those differences were, why there were differences, and the consequences of those differences.”

Describe your classroom style in one sentence.Given I believe students learn best by actively engaging with the material, this class will be an in-depth discussion and debate of the assigned readings (scholarly books and articles as well as fiction); depending on the size of the class, these discussions could entail the whole class or they could take place in smaller groups—I try to mix it up so it doesn’t get boring for any of us.”

What is one thing you hope students will take away from your seminar? I want my students to understand the cultural complexity of witchcraft, that it wasn’t the same every where and that even within a particular community, not everyone agreed about witchcraft.  It is those differences and disagreements that make the study of witchcraft interesting and revealing.”

 What is one piece of advice you would give to students? Have confidence in your ability to read and understand complex books and articles, and more importantly, have confidence in your ability to discuss, debate, and defend your points.  This is how we learn and this is how we become accomplished scholars.”

Want to know more?I start the semester by asking students to bring in current images of witches, either in songs, plays, poems, movies, or photos, and we discuss and analyze those images since that is what we will be doing in a historical context for the rest of the semester.  For their final project, I bring them full circle by asking them to critically evaluate a historical representation of witches or witchcraft of their choice. To explore change over time, I strongly encourage them to use the current cultural images we started the semester with.”

Check out the entire list of seminars here and all the seminar spotlights here.