Purkiss, Diane 1961-

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PURKISS, Diane 1961-

PERSONAL: Born 1961. Education: University of Queensland, B.A. (honors); Merton College, Oxford, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Office—Keble College, Parks Rd., Oxford OX1 3PG, England. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: Keble College, Oxford, England, fellow and tutor; Exeter University, Exeter, England, professor of English.


(Editor with Clare Brant) Women, Texts, and Histories: 1575-1760, Routledge (New York, NY), 1992.

(Editor) Renaissance Women: The Plays of ElizabethCary: The Poems of Aemilia Lanyer, Pickering and Chatto (Brookfield, VT), 1994.

The Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth-Century Representations, Routledge (New York, NY), 1996.

At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, and Other Troublesome Things, New York University Press (New York, NY), 2000, published as Troublesome Things: A History of Fairies and Fairy Stories, 2000.

SIDELIGHTS: Diane Purkiss is a fellow and tutor of English at Keble College, Oxford. Her research areas include Milton, Renaissance drama, the English Civil War, and the supernatural in the early modern period. Purkiss's book At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, and Other Troublesome Things discusses the history and anthropology of fairies. Backing up her history with intensive scholarly research, Purkiss shows that in the past, fairies were regarded with fear and dread, as frightening beings from another world who could steal or kill children, abduct young men, cause illness or blindness, or rape human women. Later, in the seventeenth century, people began regarding them as beings who could bring luck or wealth to those they favored. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, their image changed, and they were seen as pure, childlike beings that represented innocence and light. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote, "Although fairies are a popular subject among New Age readers today, Purkiss's book is better suited for serious researchers of popular beliefs and culture." In the London Sunday Times, Lucy Hughes-Hallett wrote that the book is "both splendidly scholarly and breezily accessible," and called it "a monstrous, magnificent fairy ride." In the Times, Michele Roberts praised it as "an elegantly written and witty book" Sara Maitland wrote in Spectator that the book was "accessible without being simplistic" and "both illuminating and enormous fun."

The Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth-Century Representations examines a variety of documents on witches and witchcraft to determine how witches have been regarded during different periods in history. Purkiss examines records of witchcraft trials and shows how some women used fantasies of witchcraft to feel more empowered in their daily lives. She also studies witches as depicted in the works of Shakespeare, Jonson, and others, and shows how these authors not only drew upon popular images of witches, but also reshaped them. In addition, she also surveys contemporary witchcraft practitioners and examines their feminist version of witchcraft's long history in European culture. As Alison Lurie wrote in the New York Review of Books, Purkiss "avoids the problem of the confusing, fragmentary, and probably biased records of the witchcraft trials by putting aside any attempt to find out what 'really happened' and concentrating on what people thought happened, both then and now."



Ariel, July, 1998, Wendy Schissel, review of The Witch in History: Early Modern and Twentieth-Century Representations, p. 198.

Contemporary Review, spring, 1997, Chris Arthur, review of The Witch in History, p. 158.

Eighteenth-Century Life, May, 1998, Michael Hunter, "Witchcraft and the Decline of Belief," p. 139.

Journal of Women's History, winter, 1999, Heather Lee Miller, review of The Witch in History, p. 232.

New York Review of Books, October 23, 1997, Alison Lurie, "Bothered and Bewildered," p. 48.

Notes and Queries, September, 1993, Isobel Grundy, review of Women, Texts, and Histories: 1575-1760s, p. 366.

Publishers Weekly, February 5, 2001, review of At theBottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, and Other Troublesome Things, p. 78.

Renaissance Quarterly, summer, 1998, Brian P. Levack, review of The Witch in History, p. 655.

Review of English Studies, February, 1995, Jacqueline Pearson, review of Women, Texts, and Histories, p. 89.

Sixteenth Century Journal, spring, 1994, Robert C. Evans, review of Women, Texts and Histories, p. 210; winter, 1997, Kathryn A. Edwards, review of The Witch in History, p. 1433.

Spectator, January 6, 2001, Sara Maitland, "Haunters of the Margins," p. 25.

Sunday Telegraph (London, England), December 17, 2000, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, "Fairies Could Be Dangerously, Seductively Beautiful, or Repulsively, Hairily Naked," p. 38; December 24, 2000, Richard Davenport-Hines, "The Tooth Fairy Had Fangs," p. 15.

Times (London, England), November 29, 2000, Michele Roberts, "Enchanting Visions of Fairyland," p. 14; December 17, 2000, p. 38; January 20, 2001, "Fairies Don't Just Live at the Bottom of the Garden," p. 12.

Times Literary Supplement, June 22, 2001, Andrew Wawn, "Farewell Rewards and Fairies," p. 36.


Dr. Diane Purkiss Web site,http://senior.keble.ox.ac.uk/fellows (February 11, 2003).*