This introductory chapter discusses the theme of this book, which is about how the specter of Salem witchcraft haunts the American imagination. The book traces the metaphorical life of Salem witchcraft and suggests that the seeming ubiquity of Salem as a metaphor for persecution, intolerance, and bigotry is a legacy of the shaping of the memory and the metaphor in an earlier national moment. It also argues that historicizing the origin and evolution of Salem witchcraft as a cultural metaphor when it was most vital as an “agent of moralized fear in political speech” shows how dynamic collective memory can be.
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