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Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692 / Edition 1

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Salem Story engages the story of the Salem witch trials through an analysis of the surviving primary documentation and juxtaposes that against the way in which our culture has mythologized the events of 1692. Salem Story examines a variety of individual motives that converged to precipitate the witch hunt. The book also examines subsequent mythologies that emerged from the events of 1692. Of the many assumptions about the Salem Witch Trials, the most persistent one remains that they were precipitated by a circle of hysterical girls. Through an analysis of what actually happened, through reading the primary material, the emerging story shows a different picture, one where "hysteria" inappropriately describes the events and where accusing males as well as females participated in strategies of accusation and confession that followed a logical, rational pattern.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"If you own only one book about the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, it should be this one, and if you have others, this one should be among them." Journal of American Folklore

"This is no light historical overview as are so many accounts, but a strong story of the trials which contrasts the primary documents themselves with the myths surrounding the Salem events....Rosenthal provides a refreshingly different approach." Reviewer's Bookwatch

"The gender-related issues are especially striking...The author's reflections on Salem's continuing symbolic resonance, make Salem Story thoroughly rewarding." PA, Times Literary Supplement

"No doubt Rosenthal knows that myths must go on despite his laborious efforts to expose them. Still, for those interested in the trials themselves, he has performed a valuable service by sifting the evidence and telling not only the single Salem story but also the many and varied stories of the main participants. In addition, he has offered a compelling explanation for how a society fashions and cultivates—and needs—its myths." Kenneth P. Minkema, New England Quarterly

"...should be essential reading for anyone working on the trials, and I can think of no better starting place for students of the field....A true legal thriller, Salem Story is also that rare academic work with the capacity to reach a wider popular readership." Anne G. Myles, American Literature

"In Salem Story, Bernard Rosenthal, Professor of English at the State University of New York at Binghamton, provides a useful and methodologically somewhat different approach to the story of the Salem witch trials." Bryan Le Beau, American Studies

"...a carefully and clearly written account....[By his] close reading of the record and its subsequent historiography Rosenthal dismantles many...assumptions (for example, adolescent female hysteria, Tituba's 'wild and strange superstitions' or the Christian martyr-figure, Rebecca Nourse) and substitutes a minimalist account of the proceedings, but one that is much more consistent with the available evidence and the applicability of theory to it....Rosenthal pays close and shrewd attention to the law as well as to theology and popular belief. The book is an instantly standard item in—and guide through—both the scholarly and popular history of the Salem trials." Choice

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Product Details

Table of Contents

1. Dark Eve; 2. The girls of Salem; 3. Boys and girls together; 4. June 10, 1692; 5. July 19, 1692; 6. August 19, 1692; 7. George Burroughs and the Mathers; 8. September 22, 1692; 9. Assessing an inextricable storm; 10. Salem story.

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