So…how am I going to accomplish all of this? Well, the truth is, I am making this up as I go. I have never done this sort of project before, especially not one that has materialized completely out of my own head. However, I do have a general outline of what needs to happen.
I will need to read/watch and analyze several scholarly and non-scholarly sources to see if they are fit for the course. I will need to create not just a list of class materials, but come up with core themes and learning objectives. I will need to plan lectures, discussions, and assignments. I will need to do a lot, in short. As the semester continues forward, more about the specifics will be posted. (Probably as I figure them out.)
However, I am very excited despite the size of the task ahead. My general plan is to start with the non-scholarly sources and solidify that list. As I begin to read through them, I will take notes on what questions and connections I myself can make and then I will look for the scholarly sources to give context and promote discussion. I will also begin to formulate specific course themes and learning objectives. (Those are already in the works, but they’re still a bit nebulous.)
Where I am right now:
Currently, I have narrowed my general area of research. I began by making a list of all of the non-scholarly sources that interested or intrigued me and edited that list down to a final twelve. Not all twelve of these sources will make it into the final syllabus, but they are the twelve things that I will officially consider for the class. I also have a list of the general topics and learning objectives I want to cover. For instance, I will need to research the history of “real witches” in early to modern North America and Western Europe. Specifically, I will need to take a look at the type of witch displayed in Puritan and English values, as those values have created what I have come to call the “traditional” witch it literature and film. Most of the sources I am currently looking at are versions or variations on the “traditional witch”. However, I will add flavor and context from other cultures and myths as I feel is necessary or appropriate without detracting from the main focus. As much as I want to write a class that covers everything from Native American Spirituality to Voodoo priestesses to the Baba Yaga and so on, I do have other things to work on this semester. Not to mention that part of a good class is being able to take a very specific topic and wring as much out of it as you can. Already, we will be talking about history, gender roles, feminism, changing identities, and power struggles. We will be analyzing novels, graphic novels, films, historical texts/trials, and scholarly essays. We will be discussing how the form impacts the function of these media and tracing how as the view of women has changed, how that has changed the witch. I rather think that is quite enough for one semester.
I am going to begin by reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. The 165 came out in 2013 to extremely positive reviews. It also quickly became one of my favorite books, which is part of the reason why I want to look at it. From the first time I read it, I wondered what it would be like to discuss this book in an academic setting. I found it to be a quick but powerful read. Like children, the novel is small but packs a whole lot more than you think.
Truthfully, I do not know whether this book is a good fit for the class yet. It has been at least half a year since I re-read it and I have never read it with the context of this class in mind. The women portrayed in this book have abilities, but the question becomes, are they witches? I think it possible that this book could start the discussion of “we’ve come far enough that witches are not necessarily just fears and fantasies about women, but tributes to women”. I think it possible that we can talk about a lot of tradition with the way Gaiman breaks tradition; we can talk about how the archetype of the witch has finally been given a bit of room to breathe and grow in more modern times.
Once I have read and taken notes on the book, I will post again with a summary, some of my notes, and a fuller explanation of how I think the book will/will not fit into the class.