Rediscovering Renaissance Witchcraft is an exploration of witchcraft in the literature of Britain and America from the 16th and 17th centuries through to the present day. As well as the themes of history and literature (politics and war, genre and intertextuality), the book considers issues of national identity, gender and sexuality, race and empire, and more. The complex fascination with witchcraft through the ages is investigated, and the importance of witches in the real world and in fiction is analysed.
The book begins with a chapter dedicated to the stories and records of witchcraft in the Renaissance and up until the English Civil War, such as the North Berwick witches and the work of the ‘Witch Finder Generall’ Matthew Hopkins. The significance of these accounts in shaping future literature is then presented through the examination of extracts from key texts, such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Middleton’s The Witch, among others. In the second half of the book, the focus shifts to a consideration of the Romantic rediscovery of Renaissance witchcraft in the eighteenth century, and its further reinvention and continued presence throughout the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including the establishment of witchcraft studies as a subject in its own right, the impact of the First World War and end of the British Empire on witchcraft fiction, the legacy of the North Berwick, Hopkins and Salem witch trials, and the position of witchcraft in culture, including filmic and televisual culture, today.
Equipped with an extensive list of primary and secondary sources, Rediscovering Renaissance Witchcraft is essential reading for all students of witchcraft in modern British and American culture and early modern history and literature.