Double, Double Toil and Trouble.
That's the primary focus for Maria Stehle's Witches: Myth, Reality and Representation class.
Observing the rise and fall of the witch, the class presents a historical exploration of witchcraft. Stehle, Ph. D. and assistant professor of modern foreign languages, said the class was a reaction to the prevalence of witches in pop-culture.
"One of my goals in this class is to give students the tools to critically dissect these pop-culture representations," Stehle said.
In addition, the class addresses the mechanisms and dangers of using fear to socially and politically mobilize people.
"We focus on the Central European and then, more generally speaking, Western cultural context," Stehle said. "We trace the images, myths and the actual persecution of witches from the early modern times in Central Europe to the context of colonial New England – Salem Witch Trials – and then into the fairy tales, mainly of the Brothers Grimm, in the 19th century."
Stehle encourages her students to psychologically analyze economic backgrounds, revealing why certain historical events took place.
Amy Bejenini, senior in geography, appreciates the incorporation of film in the class.
"The best part about the class so far has been the documentary clips we watch," Bejenini said. "The class has a large emphasis on the Salem Witch trials, which is a topic I've wanted to learn more about for a while."
Stefan Brudige, senior in German, said the course gives a detailed examination of a topic not typically discussed in the classroom.
"I took this class because it's something more exciting and fun than your typical history or culture class," Brudige said.
With many of the myths and traditions having strong ties to German culture, the class is sponsored by the department of Modern Foreign Languages.
Nathan Farcasin, junior in chemistry, said Stehle's class was a great change of pace from his major.
"It's definitely very diverse from my science classes, and that's probably why it is so interesting to me," Farcasin said. "The class isn't just about witches, it additionally highlights important events in history and culture that aren't typically taught."