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Knopf, 2002; Vintage Books, 2003)--I initially thought I would have to stop teaching seminars on witchcraft, because I had created a narrative that satisfied my own curiosity about the events in Essex County in 1692.But then I realized that my work had exposed many unanswered questions about Salem witchcraft and that I could direct undergraduates toward research topics that would in fact add to our knowledge of those iconic events.Betty, Abigail, and two other girls formed one of these groups and were assisted by the Parris family's' black slave, Tituba.
Accordingly, in 2003 I first taught a 200 (now 2000) level sophomore seminar--open to all, but aimed primarily at history majors or prospective majors--focusing sharply on 1692 rather than ranging more broadly, as had my previous seminars.
The course requirements include a final paper of 10-15 pages based on students' original research.
In addition, in the fall 2010 class Courtney Culhane looked closely at the Reverend Samuel Willard, the Boston minister who was one of the trials' most prominent critics; and Emily Santoro took advantage of the identification of handwriting in the new edition to study precisely the role played by the Reverend Samuel Parris in the legal proceedings.
The group studies have varied topics: Darya Mattes studied the young children accused as witches; Jedediah Drolet exposed the links among six women accused in Gloucester; Tamar Weinstock argued for the importance of the fact that almost all of the executed men had been accused of abusing their wives in addition to being witches; and most recently Patricio Martinez Llomport (using the new edition) examined the eight indictments returned ignoramus by the grand jury, suggesting that those jurors, at least, were carefully weighing the evidence and refusing to indict unless that evidence met legal criteria.
Christian Kinsella ranged farther afield, uncovering biographical details about and analyzing the responses of five New York clergymen to questions about witchcraft posed to them by Massachusetts authorities in October--answers that arguably helped to convince Governor Phips to dissolve the Court of Oyer and Terminer.
The most unusual paper included here was submitted in 2010 by Joseph Featherly, a senior majoring in plant pathology, who investigated the evidence for the presence of ergot poisoning in 1692 with the benefit of his expert knowledge.
Usually the seminar enrolls between 10 and 18 students.
In 2003, the first iteration, four papers--by Jackie Kelly, Mark Rice, Darya Mattes, and Jedediah Drolet--stood out as contributions to our understanding of the trials.
Parris objected to games because he thought that "playing was a sign of idleness, and idleness allowed the Devil to work his mischief." ( Reading books was a popular pastime during the winter.
Most popular, were Books about fortune telling and prophecy.