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Why Isham uses violence and how violence functions in the society

Instructions: Choose ONE of the following prompts and write a 4-page paper (12pt font/double spaced) in response.

  1. Real all four of the Salem witchcraft group readings from Week 2 (i.e. Boyer and Nissenbaum, Karlsen, Breslaw, and Norton). Write an essay that analyzes how historians have differed in their explanations for why the witchcraft prosecutions occurred in 1692. Which explanation or explanations do you find most convincing and why? (This last part is opinion, but it should NOT be the focus of your paper). Make sure you indicate the strengths and weaknesses of each historian’s view on the Trials.
  2. Read Edward Isham’s biographical narrative (Week 5 course readings – which are available). Write a paper analyzing how and why Isham uses violence and how violence functions in the society he inhabits. How do you explain the importance of violence in the backwoods South? Be sure to use and cite Gorn’s “Gouge and Bite, Pull Hair and Scratch’: The Social Significance of Fighting in the Southern Backcountry” (Week 5 course readings) in crafting your answer. Hint: How would Gorn (historian) use the life and times of Isham to back up his own argument.

Worksheet # 5 

Isham and Gorn – Violence in the South

  1. According to Gorn, why was the backwoods South best suited for rough-and-tumble fighting? What was it about the society, the environment, and people that encouraged this type of fighting?
  2. How does class (i.e. lower, middle, upper class) relate to rough-and-tumble fighting? Who was partaking in this type of behavior? Why?
  3. Why do you think Isham remembered all of his fights, his opponents, and the injuries he inflicted on them? What does that say about what his fighting meant to him?
  4. Use Isham’s account of his life (and violence) to back up one of Gorn’s arguments. (For example, use a quote from Isham – maybe regarding one of his fights) and directly relate it to one of Gorn’s examples or quotes.
  5. What did Isham’s opponents have in common? What was Isham’s relationship with his opponents after the fight?



  • Essays must be typed in double-spaced, size 12, Times New Roman font with 1” margins on each side.
  • Essays should follow basic paragraph and paper considerations, including an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.)
  • Essays should include a clear thesis statement.
  • Essays must refer to and cite specific passages from required texts. I prefer Chicago Style citations; however, you may use any citation style so long as you conform to the requirements of that style. (Including parenthetical citations, e.g. author’s last name, page number. (Norton, 118). Try to include a quote per paragraph. If you do not use quotation marks and cite it can be considered plagiarism. Any plagiarism will result in a zero grade and possible further penalties. (see bottom of page.)
  • While essays should quote specific passages from the text, block quotes (quotations longer than 3 lines) should be avoided.
  • Quotes from the texts should be used to support your arguments, not to make them.
  • Essays should draw from information contained in lectures or other course readings when relevant. Students do not need to cite the lectures.
  • Only use the readings that are assigned. DO NOT use outside sources including: other articles/books or websites.

Remember: All assignments will be run through – which checks for plagiarized material, including papers found for profit online. If you use a source’s words you must cite, if you do not, it can be construed as plagiarism. Please see the university’s policy on plagiarism (the link is on the syllabus).

Last Updated on September 22, 2021

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