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Demonology as Emotionology. Appropriate and Inappropriate fears in Increase and Cotton Mather's demonological works (Massachusetts, c. 1680–1700)

An online seminar hosted by The University of Western Australia. Part of the CHE Virtual Fellows Seminar Series


Image: Title page of Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits by Increase Mather  (1693), Wikimedia Commons

Date: Monday 8 August 2022
Time: 9:00am AWST / 11:00am AEST
Venue: Online via Zoom. Please email emotions@uwa.edu.au for connection details. 
Enquiries: emotions@uwa.edu.au

Throughout the last two decades of the Seventeenth century, Massachusetts experienced political crisis, social unrest and a revival of witchcraft cases. During these critical years, father and son Increase and Cotton Mather were the most eminent theologians and powerful religious ministers in the colony. Both of them interpreted these times of hardship within a providential and eschatological framework in which a displeased God punished the wicked and tested his saints in the eve of the end of times. Theirs was an enchanted world permeated by supernatural forces, particularly God's Providence and the handiwork of Satan and his minions. By reason of this, even though they wrote about a wide range of topics, demonology was of paramount importance during the 1680s and 1690s. One of the key ideas of this paper is that demonological texts penned by the Mathers told what kind of emotions were appropriate or inappropriate. The aim of this paper is to analyze the way in which those treatises represented fear, a fundamental emotion to the understanding of witchcraft theory. For our authors, it was mandatory to fear God, but utterly sinful to fear secondary causes like the Devil or witches. In this sense, it will be suggested that in puritan New England demonology was crucial to the constitution of Emotionology, defined by Peter and Carol Stearns as attitudes or standards that a definable group maintain towards basic emotions and their appropriate expression.


Prof Charles Zika (The University of Melbourne)


Agustín Méndez (University of Buenos Aires)