Witch craze Terror and fantasy in baroque Germany

Lyndal Roper

Book - 2004

"In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries thousands of women confessed to being witches and were put to death ... Drawing on hundreds of original trial transcripts and other rare sources in four areas of Southern Germany, where most of the witches were executed, Lyndal Roper paints a vivid picture of their lives, families and tribulations. She also explores the psychology of witch-hunting, explaining why it was mostly older women who were the victims of witch crazes, why they confessed to... crimes, and how the depiction of witches in art and literature has influenced the characterisation of elderly women in western culture"--Dust jacket.

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Subjects
Published
New Haven, Conn. : Yale University Press c2004.
Language
English
Physical Description
xiv, 362 p. : ill. ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (p. [327]-345) and index.
ISBN
0300103352
9780300103359
0300119836
9780300119831
Main Author
Lyndal Roper (-)
  • The Baroque landscape
  • Interrogation and torture
  • Cannibalism
  • Sex with the devil
  • Sabbaths
  • Fertility
  • Crones
  • Family revenge
  • Godless children
  • A witch in the age of enlightenment.
Review by Choice Reviews

A decade after hurling her first major bombshell into the field of European witch-hunting (Oedipus and the Devil, 1994), Roper (Oxford) now throws another. As in the earlier work, her perspective is heavily psychoanalytical, although as a historian she remains unwedded to any model. Here she explores the terrors surrounding early modern witchcraft by discovering their roots in basic fears about human and natural fertility. In an age desperately concerned about fruitfulness, the figure of the witch evoked murderous hatred because she was an agent of barrenness, coldness, and death. A woman's social status was closely tied to her fertility; hence, the barren old woman became a lightning rod for deep fears that were articulated and reinforced through interrogation and torture. The study is based largely on materials from four south German localities: Wurzburg, Nordlingen, Augsburg, and Marchtal. Roper also makes broader forays into the art and literature of baroque Germany, stressing the mutual influences of learned theory and popular belief. The final chapters offer fascinating perspectives on the 18th-century decline of witch-hunting. Roper's speculations are sophisticated, often pregnant; her overall interpretation has a persuasive resonance. The volume includes scores of illustrations and an extensive scholarly apparatus. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. Copyright 2005 American Library Association.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

From the gruesome ogress in Hansel and Gretel to the hags at the sabbath in Faust, the witch has been a powerful figure of the Western imagination. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries thousands of women confessed to being witches?of making pacts with the Devil, causing babies to sicken, and killing animals and crops?and were put to death. This book is a gripping account of the pursuit, interrogation, torture, and burning of witches during this period and beyond.Drawing on hundreds of original trial transcripts and other rare sources in four areas of Southern Germany, where most of the witches were executed, Lyndal Roper paints a vivid picture of their lives, families, and tribulations. She also explores the psychology of witch-hunting, explaining why it was mostly older women that were the victims of witch crazes, why they confessed to crimes, and how the depiction of witches in art and literature has influenced the characterization of elderly women in our own culture.