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Curses or threats? Debating the power of witches’ words in 17th-century Scottish courtrooms


Leitner, Magdalena (2017). Curses or threats? Debating the power of witches’ words in 17th-century Scottish courtrooms. Nordic Journal of English Studies (NJES), 16(1):145-170.

Abstract

17th-century Scottish court records present a perspective on witchcraft language that is
unavailable in Early Modern English trials, namely that of defence lawyers. This paper
offers a discursive analysis of speech act functions attributed by trial parties to alleged
witches’ utterances in three 17th-century Scottish witchcraft cases. Culpeper and
Semino’s (2000) curse definitions are combined with Jucker and Taavitsainen’s (2000:
74) “pragmatic space” to capture the spectrum of witchcraft speech acts. The examination
of metacommunicative expressions suggests that threats were key witchcraft speech acts
with different degrees of performativity, ranging from venting anger to effective harmcausing
curses. The supernatural dimension of witches’ threats is absent in modern
threats.

Abstract

17th-century Scottish court records present a perspective on witchcraft language that is
unavailable in Early Modern English trials, namely that of defence lawyers. This paper
offers a discursive analysis of speech act functions attributed by trial parties to alleged
witches’ utterances in three 17th-century Scottish witchcraft cases. Culpeper and
Semino’s (2000) curse definitions are combined with Jucker and Taavitsainen’s (2000:
74) “pragmatic space” to capture the spectrum of witchcraft speech acts. The examination
of metacommunicative expressions suggests that threats were key witchcraft speech acts
with different degrees of performativity, ranging from venting anger to effective harmcausing
curses. The supernatural dimension of witches’ threats is absent in modern
threats.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:2017
Deposited On:30 Jan 2018 14:50
Last Modified:19 Mar 2018 10:12
Publisher:Nordic Association of English Studies
ISSN:1654-6970
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Official URL. An embargo period may apply.
Official URL:http://ojs.ub.gu.se/ojs/index.php/njes/article/view/3839

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