Stephen Mitchell’s research interests embrace many dimensions and periods of Scandinavian culture and literature, as well as such adjacent disciplines as folklore. He is, for example, author of Heroic Sagas and Ballads (Cornell University Press, 1991), was a collaborator on A History of Swedish Literature (University of Nebraska Press, 1996), and coedited the second edition of Albert Lord’s classic, The Singer of Tales (Harvard University Press, 2000). Mitchell’s publications in recent years have increasingly focused on performance traditions and on witchcraft and magic in the Nordic Middle Ages.
As a Radcliffe fellow, Mitchell will examine the accommodation of native Nordic views on witchcraft to church teachings on the topic between 1250 and 1550. The project reviews multifaceted evidence from this period (including, for example, vernacular literature, law codes, synodal statutes, prayer books, and church murals) and will trace the evolution of witchcraft and magic and their uses in the Nordic world during this critical period between the Viking Age and the early modern era, emphasizing the sometimes uneven fusion of elite and nonelite perspectives.
Mitchell is a professor of Scandinavian and folklore at Harvard University and was trained in anthropology and Scandinavian languages and literatures at Lunds Universitet in Sweden, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Minnesota. His previous research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, Kammarkollegiet (Stockholm), Svenska Institutet (Stockholm), and the Swedish Council for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences. In 2000, he was elected a “working member” (arbetande ledamot) of the Royal Gustav Adolf Academy.