Monday, September 19, 2011

A Treatise on Books with Prodigiously Long Titles, with Commentary on the Efficacy of the Ventilation and Air Filtration Systems in the Library of the University of Central Florida, Orlando and on the Effects Thereof Upon the Author

First thing's first: I hate the UCF library. It's ugly, hard to navigate, overcrowded, lit like a prison, and alternately noisy and dead silent. Its shelves come in colors selected for their ugliness and inability to match any other colors ever made by humankind. Worst of all, though, is the filtration system. I grew up by the ocean, and my body is used to breathing moist air, so after twenty minutes in the library, I'm bone-dry and can feel my palate shrivel up in my mouth. Today I spent the entire afternoon, after office hours at least, in the library. I'll be spending even more time there in the next few months.

Still, it was worth it for the chance to get past the paywall that blocks Evans Digital Database. I dug around in the witchcraft sections and found what I'd always wanted out of life: a PDF of a Cotton Mather book on witchcraft published in 1689, only three years before the infamous witch trials. The book, which had the cumbersome title of Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions, was perfect for me in terms of its publication date. It was published early enough to influence the Salem Witch Trials, and recently enough to still be remembered when they began. Poring through it, I found so many potentially intriguing things: Endorsements from other leading clergymen, a dedication to someone named Wait Still Winthrop, and remarks about the supposed demonic possession and sexual licentiousness of Quakers. Moreover, I found an explosion of new editions in 1697, implying that the witch trials had a positive effect on sales.

It's a juicy read, and I can't wait to really get into it. I especially want to compare the accounts in Mather's book to the accounts given by supposed victims of witchcraft in Salem. In the meantime, though, I need more cough drops.


  1. Jonas,

    I love the titles for your posts! And also, I couldn't agree with you more about the UCF Library: it is remarkably like a war zone, especially during the day when its filled too many people. I was there around 2:30 pm one afternoon to browse through the Library of Congress Subject Heading books, and I swear, the air on the second floor was steamy and muggy because of how many people were occupying that space. Ugh.

    Did you know that graduate students can check out study rooms on the 3rd floor that are reserved only for our use? They are a bit loud because of the high ceilings and thin walls, but totally worth it. I also like the 4th floor for quiet but bring a sweatshirt because it's always freezing up there.

    Anyways, can't wait to read more about your exploration of the Salem Witch Trials, which is an awesome topic. Best of luck!

  2. You have absolutely captured the tone and cadence of the early American "plain style"! Great fun to read your observations--and the long "s" is priceleF.