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Dancing Devils and ‘Cutty Sarks’: Witchcraft and Magic in Robert Burns

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Supernatural themes and characters abound in Scotland’s rich history and literature, from ghosts to fairies to witches.

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In honour of the Bard’s birthday, this talk will explore supernatural themes, particularly witchcraft, in Robert Burns’ classic poem, Tam o’ Shanter. Drawing on historical evidence from real witch trials and hunts which occurred in the 16th and 17th centuries, Dr. Sierra Dye will explore how the supernatural influenced and remained an important aspect of Scottish literature and story-telling in the 18th century and beyond.

Dr. Sierra Dye is the Postdoctoral Fellow for the Centre for Scottish Studies at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. Her research focuses on Scotland’s witch-hunts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, particularly the role of speech, gender, and judicial evidence in witch trial prosecution. Dr. Dye completed her PhD at the University of Guelph, where her dissertation research was partially funded by the St. Andrew’s Society of Toronto. She now teaches courses on witch-hunts and early modern Scotland and is editor of the International Review of Scottish Studies.

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