Thursday, October 30, 2014

Katherine Howe

Katherine Howe was born in Houston, Texas, and holds degrees in art history and philosophy from Columbia and in American and New England Studies from Boston University. She is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, The House of Velvet and Glass, and the young-adult novel Conversion, a modern-day retelling of The Crucible set in a Massachusetts prep school.

Howe is the editor of The Penguin Book of Witches, a primary-source reader about witches and witch-hunting ranging from the medieval period into the early eighteenth century.

From her Q & A with Jia Tolentino for Jezebel:

Are there any big misconceptions about witchcraft in America?

We have this idea that witches were burned at the stake. That's a common misconception. Witches were burned at the stake on the Continent in Spain and France and Germany, but that's because witchcraft there was an ecclesiastical crime. We did not have separate ecclesiastic courts, and here, witchcrafts were a felony, punishable like any other felony: like murder. No witch was ever burned at the stake in North America or England.

You write about Salem as not an anomaly or an aberrant expression but an ultimate expression of attitudes that were (are?) in North America surrounding witchcraft. A threat of what we could still become. Do you see witch trials around today?

Yes is the short answer, but I'll have to think about ways to make it more nuanced. Of course I can't neglect to mention that witchcraft has become a modern religion, a very 20th-century one, founded in the '30s. And Wicca expresses a strong solidarity with people who have been accused in the past; the women's movement made it a way for people to experience a more woman-centered spiritual practice.

But broadly speaking, I think that the questions about gender performance and power are still very much on the lives of women as we try to find our way in the world. I think that for a lot of us we feel very keenly the tension between...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Katherine Howe's website.

The Page 69 Test: The House of Velvet and Glass.

My Book, The Movie: The House of Velvet and Glass.

Writers Read: Katherine Howe (February 2013).

--Marshal Zeringue