Early American History Seminar: Gretchen A. Adams, Texas Tech University

Early American History and Culture Seminar
Thursday, February 24, 2005

5:30 pm to 7:00 pm

“The Cultural Work of Salem Witchcraft
Gretchen A. Adams, Texas Tech University
While the studies of “positive” national symbols abound in the burgeoning field of cultural memory, little or no attention has been paid to the cultural work performed by “negative” national symbols, Salem’s witch hunt has, for over 300 years, functioned as a domestic cautionary tale. This paper argues that while positive icons are in times of crisis to suggest appropriate courses of action that define the normative self and community, negative symbols such as Salem are used to police the cultural boundaries of that same community by warning against the consequences of ill-advised actions.