Encephalitis Lethargica vs Witchcraft in Salem

993 Words Feb 3rd, 2018 4 Pages
Victims suffered from strange mental and physical illnesses. The randomness of the victims, and their unusual symptoms, led residents to suspect a supernatural explanation. These suspicions eventually led to the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Past historians have concentrated their research on the accused, while Laurie Winn Carlson focuses on the afflicted in her novel, A Fever in Salem: A New Interpretation of the New England Witch Trials. Carlson offers an innovative, knowledgeable explanation of witchcraft’s link to organic illness. She focuses on the physical symptoms of “possession”, which can include convulsion, hallucinations, distorted language and paralysis; which are all congruent with the symptoms of encephalitis lethargica. Carlson expertly supports her case with accounts of Puritan religious and medical beliefs, histories of witchcraft and mental illness, scientific studies of plagues, colonial diaries and court records to those of the encephalitis lethargica epidemic in the early twentieth century. In eight chapters, Carlson convincingly argues that the victims suffered encephalitis lethargica and offers persuasive evidence for organic explanations of other witchcraft victims throughout New England. A Fever in Salem is a stimulating understanding of one of America’s most unusual moments and offers a retreat from the Freudian, Marxist, feminist, and…

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