CAS RN 470/770 * HI 407/807 * STH TX871

Topics in Medieval Religious Cultures

Fall 2011: Magic, Witchcraft, and the Demonic in Medieval Europe

Professor: Deeana Klepper
Office Hours: Wednesday 1:00 - 2:00, Tuesday 2-3:30
and by appointment
145 Bay State Road, Room 201
617 358-0186

Oxford, Bodleian MS. Douce 332, Guillaume de Lorris, Roman de la Rose
In this course, we will explore magic, witchcraft, and the demonic as understood, employed, and feared in medieval Christian and Jewish communities. Our emphasis will be on the relationship between literate and “folk” ideas and practices; intersections with formal religious practice;  and forms of social control, including counter-magic, proscription, and inquisition. You can expect to gain an overview of current scholarship in the field, to develop familiarity with the primary sources and methods for interpreting them, and to engage both of these things in the construction of a substantive research paper. The course is a seminar, meaning that students will be expected to interact with the material and each other in discussion on a regular basis.

Course Requirements:

Students are expected to attend and participate in every class. If you know that you will miss class because you are sick or are away from school for an emergency, please try to let me know ahead of time, if possible, via phone or e-mail.  More than three unexcused absences during the semester may result in a lower overall grade in addition to an unsatisfactory class participation grade. All reading is to be completed by Tuesday of the week in which it is assigned.  Graded work for the seminar will include class participation (30%); weekly response papers (30%), and a final research paper (40%). Students will also be expected to initiate discussion on one week's reading.  The class participation grade will be based on attendance, the level of your preparedness to discuss the material, your presentation to the class/discussion leading during your assigned week, and your general involvement in the seminar.  Please note that students must complete all written work in order to receive a passing grade for the class.

Note: University policy is that students have the right to be excused from class for the observance of religious holidays. However, it is your responsibility to notify faculty ahead of time and to arrange to make up any work you might miss. If you plan to miss class for this reason, you must let me know at the beginning of the semester.

Expectation of Integrity:

All students should familiarize themselves with the Boston University Undergraduate Academic Conduct Code or College of Arts and Sciences Graduate Academic Conduct Code as appropriate and adhere to it. Please see also my plagiarism policy.

Required Books (in the order we will read them):

Alan Charles Kors and Edward Peters, eds., Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History, 2nd ed. revised by Edward Peters (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001). pbk ISBN 9780812217513

Joshua Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion, Forward by Moshe Idel (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). pbk ISBN 9780812218626

Ivan Marcus, Rituals of Childhood: Jewish Acculturation in Medieval Europe (Yale University Press, 1998). pbk ISBN 978-0300076585

Michael Bailey, Battling Demons: Witchcraft, Heresy, and Reform in the Late Middle Ages (Penn State Press, 2003). pbk ISBN 978-0271022260

Peter A. Morton, ed., and Barbara Dahms, trans., The Trial of Tempel Anneke: Records of a Witchcraft Trial in Brunswick, Germany, 1663 (University of Toronto Press, 2005). pbk ISBN 978-1551117065

Carlo Ginzburg, Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992). pbk ISBN 978-0801843860

Copies of required books will be held on 24 hour reserve in Mugar Library.

Recommended Book:

Bengt Ankerloo and Stuart Clark, eds., Witchcraft and Magic in Europe: The Middle Ages (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002). pbk ISBN 978-0812217865
I will not be assigning readings from this book, but it is a great reference if you are looking for a concise summary of the issues and historiography.

Other Readings:

A number of readings are available in pdf format on the Blackboard site or linked directly to the course syllabus. Please bring all readings to class on both Tuesday and Thursday each week. You may either print out web/Blackboard readings or bring your laptop/ipad/tablet to class.


Response Papers: Students will be asked to write weekly 1- to 2-page response papers, due in class each Tuesday. Students may opt out of this assignment any two weeks of the semester (i.e., you will write ten responses over the course of the semester). Each response will be worth a possible 10 points for a total of 100 points over the course of the semester.

Final Paper: Students will write a final research paper on a topic of their own choosing. Undergraduate papers should be 12-15 pages long, graduate papers should be 15-20 pages long. Guidelines may be found below.

Discussion Leading: There is a sign up sheet on the Blackboard Assignment Page for discussion leading. Take a look and choose a week that works for you in terms of topic, schedule, or both. By 11 PM Monday night of the week you are on, you should post a brief paragraph highlighting some of your thoughts on the document(s), book, or article on which you'll be leading discussion, including several questions for classmates to ponder. In class, you will give a presentation of no more than 10 minutes and will be given the opportunity to manage discussion. Feel free to contribute graphics, timelines, etc.


Week 1 [Sep 6/8] Introduction: Magic and the Demonic in Ancient Jewish Cosmology

Gideon Bohak, Ancient Jewish Magic, 8-69 [Blackboard]; Selections from the Gospel According to Mark, Acts of the Apostles

Week 2 [Sep 13/15] Jewish and Christian Magic in Late Antiquity

Gideon Bohak, Ancient Jewish Magic, 351-434 [Blackboard]; Michael Morgan, trans., Sepher Ha-Razim, pp.17-59 [Blackboard]; Edward Peters, Witchcraft in Europe, pp. 41-57; Apocryphal Acts of Peter and Paul

Week 3 [Sep 20/22] Acts of Ritual Power in Medieval England: Elf Charms

Karen Jolly, Popular Religion in Late Saxon England: Elf Charms in Context, pp. 1-34; 97-174 [Blackboard]; Gregory the Great on mission to the English

Week 4 [Sep 27/29] Angels, Demons, and the Dead in Medieval Jewish Thought and Practice

Joshua Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition, pp.ix- xxx; 1-77; 145-180

Sep 29: We will not meet (Rosh Hashanah)

Week 5 [Oct 4/6] Magic in Medieval Jewish Childbirth and Childhood Rituals

Trachtenberg, Jewish Magic and Superstition, pp. 184-190; Elisheva Baumgarten, Mothers and Children: Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe, pp. 43-49; 117-118 [Blackboard]; Ivan Marcus, Rituals of Childhood

Week 6 [Oct 11/13] Magic, Mysticism, and Creative Power: The Golem

Moshe Idel, Golem: Jewish Magical and Mystical Traditions on the Divine Anthropoid, pp. 1-43; pp. 47-95; 165-195 [Blackboard]

Week 7 [Oct 20] Concerns about/Control of Sorcery

Edward Peters, Witchcraft in Europe, pp. 58-86; 103-105; 112-132; 139-148; Depictions of magic and witchcraft in trial records

Oct 22: We will not meet; students should arrange individual meetings on research papers this week

Week 8 [Oct 25/27] Clerical Magic: Licit and Illicit

Richard Kieckhefer, Forbidden Rites, pp. 1-41; 126-153; 170-185 [Blackboard]; Honorius of Thebes, "The Sworn Book" ; Marsilio Ficino, "Three Books on Life"

Week 9 [Nov 1/3] Witchcraft and the Demonic in Fifteenth-Century Church Reform

Michael Bailey, Battling Demons

Nov 1: Research Paper Proposals Due in Class

Week 10 [Nov 8/10] The Hammer of Witches

Peters, Witchcraft in Europe, 176-229

Week 11 [Nov 15/17] The Making of a Witch

Peter A. Morton, Ed. and Barbara Dahms, trans., The Trial of Tempel Anneke: Records of a Witchcraft Trial in Brunswick, Germany, 1663

Week 12 [Nov 22] A Witch Collective? The Benandanti of Italy

Carlo Ginzburg, Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

Nov 22: Annotated Bibliographies Due in Class

Nov 24: Thanksgiving--have a good break!

Week 13 [Nov 29/Dec 1] The Collapse of a Worldview: Religion and the Decline of Magic

Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic, pp. 641-663 [Blackboard]; Michael Bailey, "The Age of Magicians: Periodization in the History of European Magic," Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft, Vol. 3 (2008), pp. 1-28 [Blackboard]; Edward Peters, Witchcraft in Europe, pp. 392-448, docs 61; 62; 64; 65; 66; 69 (and their introductions) only

Week 14 [Dec 6/8] Research Summaries (we will begin these on Dec 1)

Thursday, Dec 15: Final Papers Due. Submit to Blackboard dropbox by 11:59 PM


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