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[SI0196] - Myths Monsters and Legends

Module Code: SI0196
Module Leader: Sara Delamont
Year: 2
Semester: Both
Number of Credits: 20

Teaching Method: Lectures and seminars.
Assessment: Coursework (essays) 3500 words (50%) - Autumn Semester; Written examination 1.5 hours (50%) - Spring Semester
Degree Schemes: Social Science; BPS Social Science


Module Aims

To develop knowledge, understanding and skills in applying anthropological perspectives to belief systems.


Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Comprehension

  • Explain the major theoretical approaches to the study of the supernatural.
  • Describe the key sociological and anthropological concepts used in the study of the supernatural
  • Appreciate the diversity of research methods used to study belief systems.

Skills (Application and Analysis)

  • Undertake and present scholarly work using a variety of sources including those independently identified.
  • Apply theoretical concepts from anthropology and sociology to supernatural beliefs and practices.
  • Compare and contrast social science explanations for different belief systems.

Understanding (Synthesis and Evaluation)

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the social science research methods used to do research on the supernatural.
  • Evaluate different social science accounts of belief systems and supernatural practices.
  • Elucidate the relevance of key theoretical ideas to supernatural phenomena.

Transferable Skills

The module will contribute to the development of the following transferable skills:

Problem solving, information retrieval, comparative social science, communicating through written and oral presentation.


Synopsis of Module Content

Supernatural beliefs and practices from contemporary ‘modern’ societies, such as the UK, the USA and France, will be juxtaposed with well documented studies of supernatural beliefs adapted from African cultures through diaspora to produce a course that shows how anthropological ideas are applied ‘at home’and in traditional anthropological settings.

There will be five sub-areas : (i) Urban Legends and contemporary folklore, (ii) traditional folk beliefs about misfortune and ‘new age’ witchcraft in Europe, (iii) Spirit Possession and Healing, (iv) Diaspora, Contagion and Fear, (V) The City. The first section will focus on work by Brunvand and Fine, on contemporary folklore, including school transfer legends.  Then the research on ‘surviving’ witchcraft beliefs in western Europe, such as Favret  – Saada and on the contemporary new age Wiccans will be contrasted.  The second semester will be focussed on Santeria in Cuba and Voudun in Haiti as examples of diasporic African healing systems. Finally the fear of the supernatural, as in the moral panics about ‘satanic’ abuse and polluted blood supplies in the USA and the UK will be examined.


Opportunities for Formative Assessment

A formative task is provided in the Autumn Semester. Written Feedback will be provided by the seminar tutor, and generic issues posted on Learning Central.


Arrangements for Feedback on Work

For the summative coursework individual written feedback is provided by the module convenor. Generic Issues will be posted on Learning Central. For the examination generic feedback will be provided
on a question specific basis (e.g. Answers to question 4 were….).  Any student who fails the module will get individual written feedback from the module convenor or their nominee, assuming SOCSI has a valid address on file.


Indicative Reading

Blain, J. (2005) Researching Paganisms (Alta Mira) Brown, K. L. (1991) Mama Lola (California UP)

Browning, B. (1998) Infectious Rhythm (Routledge)

Brunvand, J. H. (1984) The Choking Doberman

Brunvand, J. H. (2005) Encyclopaedia of Urban Legends

Carrington, D. (1995) The Dream Hunters of Corsica (Weidenfeld & Nicholson)

Delamomt, S. (2010) Neo Pagan Narrators, Sociological Research Online 14,1.

Favret-Saada, J. (1990) Deadly Words (CUP)

Fontaine, J. S. La (1998) Speak of the Devil (CUP)

Hagedorn, K. J. (2001) Divine Utterances (Smithsonian)

Luhrmann, T. (1989) Persuasions of the Witch’s Craft (OUP)

Stewart, C. (2000) Demons and the Devil (Princeton UP)