Vexed by Devils: Manhood and Witchcraft in Old and New England

Erika Gasser. New York Univ., $35 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4798-3179-1
In her first book, Gasser, an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati, offers a close read of published accounts of demonic and witchcraft possession in England and New England between the years 1564 and 1700, focusing on the gender dynamics at play in these narratives. Gasser uses five case studies involving both men and women to demonstrate how early modern beliefs about manhood shaped accusations of witchcraft. An accused witch, for example, might be judged guilty if he failed to control the female members of his household, as was the case with John Samuels in Warboys, England, who, along with his wife and daughter, was executed for witchcraft in 1593. Yet if a man exerted too much controlĀ­, that was also grounds for conviction, as seen in accounts of the 1692 trial of George Burroughs in Massachusetts. Though regional differences can be found, Gasser argues that demonic and witchcraft possession cases throughout the Anglo-American world functioned as a form of social policing during the early modern period. The book is academic in scope, but anyone seeking a fresh perspective on, and deeper understanding of, such possession accounts will not be disappointed. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/29/2017
Release date: 07/01/2017
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-1-4798-4781-5
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