This book situates witchcraft drama within its cultural and intellectual context, highlighting the centrality of scepticism and belief in witchcraft to the genre. It is argued that these categories are most fruitfully understood not as static and mutually exclusive positions within the debate around witchcraft, but as rhetorical tools used within it. In drama, too, scepticism and belief are vital issues. The psychology of the witch character is characterised by a combination of impious scepticism towards God and credulous belief in the tricks of the witch’s master, the devil. Plays which present plausible depictions of witches typically use scepticism as a support: the witch’s power is subject to important limitations which make it easier to believe. Plays that take witchcraft less seriously present witches with unrestrained power, an excess of belief which ultimately induces scepticism. But scepticism towards witchcraft can become a veneer of rationality concealing other beliefs that pass without sceptical examination. The theatrical representation of witchcraft powerfully demonstrates its uncertain status as a historical and intellectual phenomenon; belief and scepticism in witchcraft drama are always found together, in creative tension with one another.
Christopher Abram is a member of the English department and a Fellow of the Medieval Institute at the University of Notre Dame. He works on Old English and Old Norse literature, with a special interest in poetry, religious culture, and ecocritical approaches. His most recent book, Evergreen Ash: Ecology and Catastrophe in Old Norse Myth and Literature (University of Virginia Press, 2019), looks at the resonances between the Norse apocalypse of Ragnarok and our own ecological crises in the twenty-first century.
Peter Buchanan is Assistant Professor of English at New Mexico Highlands University, where he teaches courses on linguistics, medieval literature, and composition. He also spends his time thinking about the relationship of the present to the past in twentieth-century literature. He lives with his wife amid a clutter of more books than can reasonably fit inside a single apartment and an impressive array of hedgehog-themed bric-a-brac.
Mary Dockray-Miller is Professor of English in the Humanities Department at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, where she teaches undergraduate literature and humanities classes and advises the English Majors’ Honor Society. She is the author of Public Medievalists, Racism and Suffrage (Palgrave, 2017), The Books and the Life of Judith of Flanders (Ashgate, 2015) and Motherhood and Mothering in Anglo-Saxon England (Palgrave, 2000) as well as editor of the Wilton Chronicle (Brepols, 2009).
Irina Dumitrescu teaches Old and Middle English literature at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn. She is the author of The Experience of Education in Anglo-Saxon Literature (Cambridge, 2018) and the editor of Rumba Under Fire: The Arts of Survival from West Point to Delhi (punctum books, 2016). She and Eric Weiskott have edited a collection of essays dedicated to Roberta Frank entitled The Shapes of Early English Poetry: Style, Form, History (Medieval Institute Publications, 2019).
Donna Beth Ellard is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Denver. She is the author of Anglo-Saxon(ist) Pasts, postSaxon Futures (punctum books, 2019) and has published in journals such as Exemplaria, postmedieval, and Rethinking History. Her work focuses on the haunting presence of race and empire in Anglo-Saxon studies and on the interspecies and interdisciplinary relationships between birds and humans, literary studies and the biosciences.
Roberta Frank, Marie Borroff Professor of English emerita at Yale University and University Professor emerita at the University of Toronto, has taught and written on Old English and Old Norse literature for half a century. She is now working, like Penelope at her loom, on a book about the art of early Northern poetry.
David Hadbawnik is a poet, translator, and medieval scholar. His Aeneid Books 1–6 was published by Shearsman Books in 2015. In 2012 he edited Thomas Meyer's Beowulf (punctum books), and in 2011 he co-edited selections from Jack Spicer's Beowulf for CUNY's Lost and Found Document series. He has published essays on poetic diction in English poetry from the medieval to the early modern period, and is a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. His latest book, Holy Sonnets to Orpheus and Other Poems, was published by Delete Press in 2018.
Mary Kate Hurley is Assistant Professor of English at Ohio University. Her research focuses on time, translation, and community in medieval literature, and has appeared in The Journal of English and Germanic Philology and Review of English Studies, as well as in The Politics of Ecology (ed. Schiff and Taylor) and American/Medieval: Nature and Mind in Cultural Transfer (ed. Overing and Wiethaus). With Jonathan Hsy and A. B. Kraebel, she was the co-editor of the autumn 2017 special issue of postmedieval, ‘Thinking Across Tongues’.
Robin Norris is Chair of the Department of English Language and Literature at Carleton University, where she teaches courses on Old English, history of the language, and grammar through sentence diagramming. Her research interests include saints’ lives and the litany of the saints, and with Johanna Kramer, she was one of the co-founders of the Anglo-Saxon Hagiography Society. With Rebecca Stephenson and Renée Trilling, she was one of the co-founders of the Feminist Renaissance in Early Medieval English Studies, which has been fostering new work on gender in Anglo-Saxon England since January 2016.
Mo Pareles is Assistant Professor of English at the University of British Columbia, where she holds a Hampton New Faculty Fellowship and is a member of the Oecologies Collective. She researches the mutual construction of species, sexual, and ethnic difference in medieval English religious literature. She is completing a book, Translating Purity, about the cultural translation of Jewish law in early medieval England, and is at work on another book project, Time's Others, on the roles of animal, infant, and Jewish temporalities in medieval English Christianity.
James Paz is Lecturer in Early Medieval English Literature at the University of Manchester. He is the author of Nonhuman Voices in Anglo-Saxon Literature and Material Culture (Manchester University Press, 2017) and the co-editor of Medieval Science Fiction (KCLMS, 2016). His work has also appeared in Exemplaria, New Medieval Literatures, and the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. His current research examines modern translations and poetic responses to Old English riddles, and he is also working on a long-term study of cræft in Anglo-Saxon literature.
Daniel C. Remein is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. His current book project concerns the aesthetics of Beowulf and ‘Berkeley Renaissance’ poets Robin Blaser and Jack Spicer, and a recent essay on eco-colonial anxiety in late Old Norse saga appears in New Medieval Literatures. A co-founder of the Organism for Poetic Research, he is the author of A Treatise on the Marvelous for Prestigious Museums (punctum books, 2018).
Benjamin A. Saltzman is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Bonds of Secrecy: Law, Spirituality, and the Literature of Concealment in Early Medieval England (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019) and co-editor of Thinking of the Middle Ages: Midcentury Intellectuals and the Medieval (forthcoming from Cambridge University Press). He is beginning work on a new project about the literary and visual experience of witnessing evil, atrocity, and human suffering.
Catalin Taranu gained his PhD from the University of Leeds in 2016 and works on vernacular ‘heroic’ verse in Anglo-Saxon England and Carolingian Francia and on the modern uses and abuses of the early Middle Ages. He publishes and gives papers on Beowulf, Maldon, rhizomes and violence, and teaches medieval literature and Old English. He is preparing his first monograph on early medieval poetic history and is editing a volume on theories of truthfulness and historical representation in medieval history writing.
Erica Weaver is Assistant Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is currently working on a book about the role of distraction in the development of early medieval literature and literary theory, with a related article – on medieval enigmata and the history of reading – in New Literary History. She is also co-editor, with A. Joseph McMullen, of The Legacy of Boethius in Medieval England: The Consolation and its Afterlives (ACMRS, 2018).