Course Meeting Times

Lectures/Recitations: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session
Occasional evening film screenings

Classroom sessions are a mix of lectures for the entire class and smaller section discussions led by each course instructor.


This class examines the supernatural in belief and practice, and its reflection in literature and music.

The semester is divided into three sections concerned with:

1. Witchcraft beliefs and witch hunting. Special attention to the great European witch hunt of the 15th through 18th centuries: Shakespeare's Macbeth; Purcell's Dido and Aeneas; Verdi's Macbeth; Kurosawa's Throne of Blood

2. Wizards and sorcery. Necromancy, astrology, and other medieval and Renaissance magic: Goethe's Faust; Liszt's Faust Symphony; Gounod's Faust; Murnau's Faust

3. Ghosts and Spirit Contact. Spiritualism and ghosts in 19th-century America: H. James's The Turn of the Screw; Britten's The Turn of the Screw

Emphasis falls on weekly listening and reading assignments, to be completed by the class for which they are listed in the syllabus. There will be live performances by staff members, other faculty, and outside musicians and actors. Film adaptations and opera videos will be screened in the evenings: students who cannot attend a particular screening must view the material on their own using videos to be provided.


Class Participation

Students are required to attend lectures and recitations and to participate actively as part of the CI requirement of this class. At least one hour per week will be devoted to discussion.

Essay Writing

Students will write a total of 20 pages divided among three papers (one with required revision and expansion).

Oral Presentations

At the end of the semester, several class sessions will be devoted to preparing and delivering oral presentations on aspects of the works considered in the last third of the course.

There is no final exam.


21M.013J / 21A.113J is both a HASS-D and CI-H subject. This means that each recitation can accept a maximum of 18 students. Priority is given to students who are registered in the class through the HASS-D lottery, but these students must attend the first two recitation meetings to keep their place in the class. Students may not change their preassigned recitation. Additional students may enter the class, so long as there are open slots, through the second week of classes.

Required Texts

Amazon logo Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Macbeth Oxford World's Classics Edition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780192834171.

Amazon logo Goethe, Johan Wolfgang von. Faust: Part I. New York, NY: Penguin Classics, 2005. ISBN: 9780140449013.

Amazon logo James, Henry. The Turn of the Screw. New York, NY: Penguin Classics, 2003. ISBN: 9780141439907. [Download a version of this work from Project Gutenberg]

Additional required readings are assigned for each class session.

Paper Assignments

Students are required to write three papers, plus a substantial revision and expansion of the first paper. Successful writing in this course will largely depend on the organization of each essay, the strength of the reasoning, and competence with the fundamentals (spelling, punctuation, grammar, and syntax).


Attendance is required. Because there is no final exam, students who miss class for any reason will be required to write a two-page summary of the material covered that day.

Course Grade

The individual recitation instructors give the grades in this class, adhering to the following approximate percentages:

Papers 50%
Oral contributions to recitation 50%


L = Lecture
S = Section
F = Film screening

L1 Introduction  
Part I. Witches
L2 Social history of witch-hunting  
S1 Section discussions on witches introduction  

Introduction to Shakespeare's Macbeth

F1 Evening screening of Kurosawa, Throne of Blood  
S2 Shakespeare, Kurosawa and context  
L4 Purcell, Dido and Aeneas; Handel, Alcina (excerpts)  

Alcina in-class performance excerpts by Boston Opera Collaborative

Discussion of Purcell, Handel

Paper 1 due
L5 Berlioz, Symphonie fantastique; Verdi, Macbeth (excerpts)  
L6 Berlioz, Verdi  
Part II. Wizards
L7 Introduction to learned magic, alchemy and astrology  
S4 Section discussions on wizards introduction Paper 1 revision due
L8 Introduction to Goethe's Faust  
S5 Goethe's Faust  
L9 Liszt, Faust Symphony  
S6 Symphonic repertoire  
F2 Evening screening of Murnau, Faust, with live musical accompaniment by Ellen Harris and Martin Marks  
S7 Murnau and Goethe  
L10 Gounod, Faust  
S8 Gounod, Goethe  
Part III. Ghosts
L11 Introduction to hosts and spiritualism; Henry James's Turn of the Screw; Britten's Turn of the Screw  
L12 Spiritualism and ghost stories Paper 2 due
F3 Evening screening of Britten, Turn of the Screw  
S9 Discuss choice of presentations  
L13 Turn of the Screw on film  
S10 Presentation preparations  
S11 Student presentations; discussion of context and James  
S12 Student presentations; discussion of James and Britten  
L14 Summary of class Paper 3 due