Witchcraft, Magic and Gender in Literature (TRU3002)

StaffProfessor Marion Gibson - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module aims to give you insight into a literary and cultural topic which recurs across fiction and film, from the major works of Renaissance literature by Shakespeare and Marlowe, through modern classics such as The Crucible to contemporary cult film, children’s literature and TV. An understanding of the significance and appeal of the supernatural in literature is an asset - aspects of the module’s coverage have in the past been drawn upon by students who have progressed into careers in teaching, heritage, bookselling, publishing and into postgraduate work. The module is strongly research-led, with opportunities to engage with (and even, optionally, to re-enact) texts researched and written about by Professor Gibson.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate an advanced critical understanding of the literature and cultural history of witchcraft and magic and an advanced ability to engage with concepts such as gender, identity and the uses of fantasy
  • 2. demonstrate an advanced capacity to place witchcraft and magic in literature in the context of social and cultural events (e.g., the legal history of prosecutions, religious and feminist movements)

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. demonstrate an advanced ability to analyse the literature of witchcraft and magic theoretically and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its historical context
  • 4. demonstrate an advanced ability to interrelate texts and discourses with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 5. through seminar work and presentations, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups
  • 6. through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, such as information retrieval and interpretation, an advanced capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose

Syllabus plan

Week 1 Introduction: Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, Malleus Maleficarum and The Blair Witch Project (film)

Early Modern Witches:

Week 2 William Shakespeare, Macbeth.

Week 3 Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus.

Week 4 John Ford, Thomas Dekker and William Rowley, The Witch of Edmonton and Henry Goodcole, The Wonderfull Discoverie.

Witches in Modern Myths of Paganism:

Week 5 John Updike, The Witches of Eastwick (and film)

Week 6 Ted Hughes, Gaudete, and The Wicker Man (film) American Witches Rewritten:

Week 7 Nathaniel Hawthorne, ‘Young Goodman Brown’, H. P. Lovecraft 'The Dreams in the Witch House'

Week 8 Elizabeth Gaskell, “Lois the Witch”; Arthur Miller, The Crucible (and film)

Writing back?

Week 9 Maryse Condé, I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem and Kate Pullinger, Weird Sister.

Witches in Popular Culture:

Week 10 J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, Roald Dahl, The Witches (and film)

Week 11 Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic (and film) and witchcraft on TV: American Horror Story: Coven, Bewitched (including 2005 film), Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed and other texts.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities11Lecture by convenor
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities22Seminar discussions
Guided independent study267Reading, researching, writing, seminar preparation, ELE- and web-based activity, attending office hours with tutor

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentation1510 mins1-6Verbal from written notes, in office hour appointment
Essay352,000 words1-6written
Essay503,000 words1-6written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Presentation1,000 w essay1-6Referral/deferral period
Essay 2,000wEssay 2,000w1-6Referral/deferral period
Essay 3,000Essay 3,000w1-6Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Students who miss their presentation and present acceptable evidence of mitigating circumstances (e.g. serious illness) may give the presentation in a later week during term time, but if they are unable to do so before term ends may submit a 1000 word summary, containing a structured argument and fully-referenced, in lieu of the presentation. This will be assessed using the assessment criteria for essays.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading: Students should buy:

William Shakespeare, Macbeth (any edition’ - the third series Arden Macbeth, ed. Sandra Clark and Pamela Mason, (London: Bloomsbury 2014) is a good one, but if you have one already bring that one)

Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus (available in Abrams and Greenblatt, eds., Norton Anthology of English Literature vol. 1, 8th edition, purchased for previous modules)

John Ford, Thomas Dekker, William Rowley, The Witch of Edmonton (any edition, also available in collections such as Peter Corbin and Douglas Sedge, eds. Three Jacobean Witchcraft Plays (Manchester University Press, 1986))

John Updike, The Witches of Eastwick (Knopf, 1984 or any later edition)

Ted Hughes, Gaudete (Faber, 1977, or any later edition)

H. P. Lovecraft, The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Weird Stories (Penguin, 2005)

Arthur Miller, The Crucible (any edition)

Marysé Conde, I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem (Ballantine, 1994 or any later edition)

Kate Pullinger, Weird Sister (McArthur, 1999 or any later edition)

Roald Dahl, The Witches (Jonathan Cape, 1983 or any later edition)

Alice Hoffman, Practical Magic (Vintage, 2002 or any later edition)

At least one of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels.

Watch ALL the following films:

The Blair Witch Project (1999),

The Witches of Eastwick (1987),

The Wicker Man (both versions: 1973, 2006),

The Crucible (1996),

The Witches (1990),

Bewitched (2005 film version),

Practical Magic (1999)

and at least one Harry Potter film.

Watch as many witchcraft-related TV series as you can, especially American Horror Story: Coven and Bewitched.

Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown’ ,

Gaskell’s “Lois the Witch” and Goodcole’s The Wonderfull Discoverie are available on the ELE site.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Watch ALL the following films: The Blair Witch Project (1999), The Witches of Eastwick (1987), The Wicker Man (both versions: 1973, 2006), The Crucible (1996), The Witches (1990), Bewitched (2005 film version), Practical Magic Watch as many witchcraft-related TV series as you can, especially American Horror Story: Coven and Bewitched.(1999) and at least one Harry Potter film.

Hawthorne’s ‘Young Goodman Brown’ and Goodcole’s The Wonderfull Discoverie are available on the ELE site.


ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages


Web based and electronic resources: listed on ELE


Other resources: listed on ELE

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Witchcraft magic literature history paganism