Professor Marion Gibson
Director of the Flexible Combined Honours
I am Director of the Flexible Combined Honours programme, which sits in the College of Humanities, and am Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. For administrative purposes I am based at the Streatham Campus in Exeter for much of the time, but I teach at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall where my specialist Witchcraft and Magic in Culture option is based. My research investigates witchcraft and magic in history, and how writings about magic and the supernatural and those about identity intersect from around 1500 to the present day. I’m interested in meetings between cultures and disciplines, past and present.
Recent books include Rediscovering Renaissance Witchcraft (Routledge, 2017) and Witchcraft: The Basics (Routledge, 2018), a student guide to the field. I'm also the author of Imagining the Pagan Past: Gods and Goddesses in Literature and History since the Dark Ages. (London and New York: Routledge, 2013), Witchcraft Myths in American Culture (New York: Routledge, 2007). Possession, Puritanism and Print: Darrell, Harsnett, Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Exorcism Controversy (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2006), Reading Witchcraft: Stories of Early English Witches (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), with Garry Tregidga and Shelley Trower, Mysticism, Myth and Celtic Identity (London: and New York: Routledge, 2012) and with Jo Esra, The Arden Shakespeare Dictionary of Shakespeare’s Demonology (London: Arden/Bloomsbury, 2014).
I'm currently finishing up The Witches of St Osyth, the history of an Elizabethan witch trial for Cambridge University Press and an exciting new history book that I can't talk about yet... I am the editor of the CUP series Elements of Magic.
My research is broadly an enquiry into the British and American history of the supernatural from prehistory to the present, focusing on witchcraft and magic. I've been interested in witchcraft since the 1990s, and have recently returned to the first witchcraft news pamphlet that I ever read, A True and just Recorde, about a group of women and a man accused of witchcraft in the Essex villages around St Osyth in 1582.
I'm writing the first full history of this case in a monograph for Cambridge University Press (forthcoming 2022).I also edit the CUP series Elements in Magic, which is designed to bring out short, punchy new contributions to the field of magical studies from historians, anthropologists, literary scholars, archaeologists, medical humanities scholars, geographers, scholars of religion worldwide and scholars of film, media and social media.
In 2019 I hosted Professor Jay Johnston (University of Sydney) for a series of VIAF events on magic, landscape and religion run with Professor Nicola Whyte (History, Exeter) and Dr Will Pooley (Bristol).
£1,500 EPSRC Bridging the Gaps Grant ‘When Psychiatry Meets Literature and Culture’ with Dr. Mark Harrison (Devon NHS Trust) 2011-12
£216,072 AHRC Large Research Grant (plus funded PhD studentship bringing the total to £252,000) with Dr. Garry Tregidga (History, Exeter) 2008-11
I'm interested in hearing from anyone who would like to work on the history or literatures of the supernatural, especially witchcraft and magic. I’m a supportive and enthusiastic supervisor who has been helping PhD students undertake their dream projects for 20 years. Send me an email and we can chat about your ideas...
Jo Ann Esra
Tweets at: https://twitter.com/witchesetc
External impact and engagement
I tweet as @witchesetc.
As well as work for the AHRC Being Human Festival (‘Modern Folk’ and ‘Magic from the Inquisition to Harry Potter’) I often give one-off talks and work with artists and writers: the ‘Mysticism, Myth, Nationalism’ conference in July 2010 (organised by Shelley Trower, Garry Tregidga and myself) included a public exhibition of paintings, poems and artefacts (on campus and at the Cornwall Centre, Redruth) many of which were loaned by the National Trust, a creative writers’ event showcasing the work of a local arts publisher (Fal Publications) and featuring Penelope Shuttle and others, and several public lectures. I have also delivered public talks at the Cornwall Centre, Lowender Peran Festival, the Historical Association, the Du Maurier Festival, for U3A, the National Trust, the Pagan Federation, London Geekfest and Harry Potter Society. Most recently I spoke along with creative writers and artists at the 2019 Certaine Wytches event with the Devon Guild of Craftsmen.
See also media work under my "media" tab. My agent is Joanna Swainson at Hardman and Swainson.
Contribution to discipline
I have been an invited or keynote speaker at the following conferences: 'Narrating Witchcraft', Erfurt (2016), 'Hexerie und öffentlichkeit', Stuttgart (2015), 'Witches and demons', Tromsø (2015), Medieval and Early Modern Studies Association of Korea, Seoul (2011), ‘Witchcraft Act 1604’, Durham (2004), ‘Hatred’, Chicago (2000). In June I will be speaking at the ‘Narrating Witchcraft’ event (part of the ERC-funded ‘Lived Ancient Religion’ project) at the Max Weber Institute, Erfurt. Other papers: University of Wales, Swansea; the Strawberry Hill Conference; Wolfson College, Oxford; The Western Conference on British Studies, Denver, University of Sussex early modern seminar, Oxford Brookes speakers series, ‘Britain and the Sea’ conference, University of Plymouth, ‘Green Man’ conference, Trinity College Dublin, ‘Neo-Victorian Villainy’, University of York, ‘Regionalism and Representation’, University of Warwick.
I was ‘rapporteur’ for the ESRC on a project to create the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft database (2003). I was on the editorial committee of the Pickering and Chatto series English Witchcraft 1560-1736 (2003). I review and/or read submissions regularly: for Women’s History Review, Preternature, Renaissance Quarterly, Seventeenth Century Journal, Folklore, Social History, National Identities, Early Modern Literary Studies, The Historian, the British Society for Literature and Science website, Supernatural Studies, Modern Language Review, Acta Borealia, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Gramarye etc and read proposals and completed books for Routledge, Yale University Press, Boydell and Brewer, Continuum, Ashgate and other publishers.
I was Editor of the European Journal of American Culture until December 2009, and am on the editorial board of Revenant, a new peer-reviewed e-journal of supernatural studies. I organised the Mysticism, Myth, Nationalism conference in 2010.
Radio: I have appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Drive show, Radio Devon, Radio Cornwall, Radio Scotland, Three Counties Radio, ABC Australian radio’s ‘Late Night Live’, BBC Radio 4’s series ‘Through the Courts’ with Clive Anderson, the BBC World Service series ‘Exorcism’, Radio 4’s Open Book with Mariella Frostrup and Patrick Gale (August 2013) and In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg (November 2015), and the BBC World Service’s The Why Factor (“Witches”, 25 December, 2017). The Salem episode with my contribution appears in Melvyn Bragg and Simon Tillotson’s In Our Time companion (Simon and Schuster, 2018).
Television and film: BBC TV Spotlight South West, Tony Robinson’s Gods and Monsters (Channel 4/National Geographic, autumn 2011), The King’s War on Witches (Channel 5/National Geographic, 2012), BBC1’s The Big Questions with Nicky Campbell (April 2016), Windfall Films’ Mythical Beasts for the Discovery Science channel (2019), PBS’ Secrets of the Dead (2019), the independent documentary film Familiar Shapes (2019), Rick Stein's Cornwall (2021 and 2022, forthcoming).
Press: My work has been featured in The Guardian, The Metro, The Telegraph, Archaeology, The Express and Echo, Evening Herald, Devon Life, The Catholic Herald, The Western Morning News, Whitby Gazette etc. Here’s a sample “Halloween” story: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/oct/31/west-country-witches-witchcraft-witches-hanged
I am regularly consulted by media researchers – e.g. a Radio 4 radio drama about witches, Ursula and Boy (2010), C4’s documentary The Pendle Witch Child (2010), a BBC One Show report on an archaeological site in Cornwall (2011), and the BBC’s documentary series The Real White Queen and her Rivals presented by Philippa Gregory (2013).
Online, podcasts and blogs: Recent interviews for podcasts include:
BFM Malaysia Radio’s Evening Edition podcast Happily Ever After (July 2017: https://www.bfm.my/happily-ever-after-12-the-magic-of-fairy-tales)
Cassidy Cash, That Shakespeare Life (October 2018: http://www.cassidycash.com/ep28/)
James Watts, A Podded History of Devon (November 2018: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06tydrl)
Peter Meinertzhagen, Sublime Horror (https://www.sublimehorror.com/2018/12/)
Mark Norman, The Folklore Podcast (March 2019: https://www.blubrry.com/thefolklorepodcast/ Episode 57)
I have written articles and provided content for:
The Huffington Post
(http://theconversation.com/the-witch-the-facts-behind-the-folktales-56233) and https://theconversation.com/the-love-witch-a-film-about-the-perversities-of-desire-that-will-soon-be-a-cult-feminist-classic-73308);
I was interviewed for the Stylus Media Group’s consumer trends report on contemporary spirituality in July 2017, which resulted in the Modern Mysticism report: https://www.stylus.com/nwczzp (behind paywall).
My agent is Joanna Swainson at Hardman and Swainson.
I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. My undergraduate teaching has included:
year 1: Foundations; Shakespeare and the History of Ideas; Reinventions year 2: Renaissance, Reformation and Rebellion; Interdisciplinary Research Project year 3: Dissertation; Interdisciplinary Dissertation. Masters: From Fairyland to Philippi.
I offer the popular optional module HUC3007/3013 Witchcraft and Magic in Culture primarily to History and English students, and it is also open to geographers, law and politics students, and intercalating medical students.
I have taught on the summer school programme at Exeter for several years.
I was born on the Isle of Wight and educated at Northwood Primary School, Somerton Middle School and Cowes High School.
PhD, University of Exeter, 1997
M.A., University of Birmingham, 1992
B.A. Hons. 1st class, University of Exeter, 1991