Reclaiming Archetypes in Witch Lit with Stephanie M. Wytovich

Immerse yourself in the rich literary history of witchcraft and create fictional work that showcases how our interpretation of witches has evolved over time.

Your Instructor: Stephanie M. Wytovich (Bram Stoker Award Winning Author of 'Brothel')

Where: Online — Available everywhere!

When: August 4, 2020 - September 1, 2020

Enrollment: 16 Students

Price: $325

Class Description

How do we identify a witch?

From the Weird Sisters of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, to the Owens sisters in Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic, literature is filled with the kiss and stain of witchcraft. This course will focus on the stereotypical images of the witch—from the virgin, to the seductress, to the hag—as well as discuss the movement to reclaim the term in an effort to showcase female independence and embrace the sex-positive language that is associated with the sisterhood of magic. While studying the true history of witchcraft through the accusations and trials that took place both in modern Europe and America, students will analyze cases of mass hysteria and the monstrous feminine, and as a result, create fictional work that showcases how our interpretation of witches has evolved over time.

In this 4 week class, we will be focusing on 6 different archetypes:

• The hunted
• The profiled
• The isolated
• The enraged
• The enlightened
• The fabled

Students will then create a work or set of works in response to the archetype each week. Either:

  • 3 short poems or 1 longer poem (up to 500 words each, 1500 for a longer poem)
  • 3 pieces of flash fiction (up to 500 words each)
  • 1 short story (up to 1500 words)

Students will leave this class with a deeper understanding of the history of witchcraft and numerous finished pieces of witch-centric writing to revise/expand upon. 

What This Class Covers

Week 1:

This week we’ll be focusing on the history of witch hunts as we focus on the archetypes of “the hunted” and “the profiled.” In my teaching portion, I’ll talk about the trials and theories surrounding why they started, and I’ll also shed light on some literary history in regard to stories such as: The Crucible by Arthur Miller, ‘The Lottery,” I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Conde, “Young Goodman Brown,” “The Minister’s Black Veil,” and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Students will then create a work in response to the archetype of “the hunted” or “the profiled” that surrounds a someone being accused/trailed of/for witchcraft. Students will write:

  • 3 short poems or 1 longer poem (up to 500 words each, 1500 for a longer poem)
  • 3 pieces of flash fiction (up to 500 words each)
  • 1 short story (up to 1500 words)

Week 2:

The week, we’ll be focusing on the archetype of “the isolated” and how this relates to gender roles and expectations of women. In my teaching portion, I’ll be referencing Shirley Jackson’s “The Dameon Lover” and We Have Always Lived in the Castle to expand on how female independence/power was/is viewed, and then we’ll open up to discussion about why we think this is in contemporary society. 

Students will create a work in response to the archetype of “the isolated” that surrounds someone being classified as a witch…whether that may or may not be true. This will be both a challenge for characterization and world building because the setting will also have to act as character here. As such, in my lecture, I’ll also be talking about the Gothic setting and how place can function as character. Students will write:

  • 3 short poems or 1 longer poem (up to 500 words each, 1500 for a longer poem)
  • 3 pieces of flash fiction (up to 500 words each)
  • 1 short story (up to 1500 words)      

Week 3:

This week, we’ll be focusing on the archetype of “the enraged” and “the enlightened.” Here I’ll be focusing on the darker portrayals of witches with special emphasis on stories such as Carrie by Stephen King and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. We’ll talk mythology concerning scorned women (Lilith, Circe, Medusa, etc.) and how notions of forbidden knowledge and suppressed rage are often used against women as a way to silence them and keep them submissive.

Students will create a work in response to the archetype of “the enraged” and/or “the enlightened” witch with a character who breaks the confines of his/her entrapment and rises above societal demands and expectations. Students will write:

  • 3 short poems or 1 longer poem (up to 500 words each, 1500 for a longer poem)
  • 3 pieces of flash fiction (up to 500 words each)
  • 1 short story (up to 1500 words)

Week 4:

This week, we’ll be focusing on the archetype of “the fabled.” In my teaching portion, I’ll talk about the portrayal of witches in fairytales as well as in contemporary literature using Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane as my soundboard. 

Students will create a work in response to the archetype of “the fabled.” This will be a lesson in straddling the lines between horror and fantasy, so in my teaching portion, we’ll also cover certain tropes and expectations that readers of those genres will have in mind. Students will write:

  • 3 short poems or 1 longer poem (up to 500 words each, 1500 for a longer poem)
  • 3 pieces of flash fiction (up to 500 words each)
  • 1 short story (up to 1500 words)

Witchy Additions:

At the beginning of each week, I will provide an optional divinatory exercise with students to get the creative juices flowing, while also teaching them to look more deeply into symbolism and themes both in their lives and in their careers as writers and weavers. 

In week one, students will do an online exercise (or an in-home one if they have their own deck of cards), where they read a three-card tarot spread. I’ll encourage everyone to share their spreads in the discussion forum so others can jump in and add on if they want, but this will service as a brainstorming exercise for creating their first character.

In week 2, I’ll do a rune reading for the class as a whole, and this will serve as a brainstorming exercise to think about the interpretation of their second character and how it relates to place. These will be power words and associations that we create, and we’ll have a separate discussion forum for this as well. Personally, I find it really interesting how we all interpret words and symbols differently based on our life experiences and associations with them, so I think this excise will allow students to think more critically about the interpretation of symbols and dreams.

In week 3, I’ll do an oracle reading via the Literary Witches Oracle deck. We’ll use this as a soundboard to brainstorm about the third week’s character(s).

Also during our time together that month, I’m going to ask my students to keep a dream journal. Nothing intense and nothing that needs to be turned in, but just a record of their dreams, reoccurrences, etc. Students will use their dreams to sew together the character of the last archetype, the fabled.

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