Emily Selove

Emily Selove

Dr Emily Selove

A Masters Degree in Magic: the University of Exeter’s new interdisciplinary program

The University of Exeter will launch a new Master’s Degree program on Magic and the Occult in 2024: a flexible degree which gives students the freedom to explore their specific interests within the long and diverse history of esotericism, witchcraft, ritual magic, and related topics. This lecture will explain the rationale behind the MA’s structure, exploring, for example, the reason why it is based in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, but includes colleagues from at least six different departments. It will also explain the two dissertation module options: one employing historical, social science, or literary methodologies, and one based in the drama department and employing performance and practice-based methodologies. In explaining the genesis of this degree, we will illuminate the growing importance of the study of magic and the occult in the academy today, and its potential to break new ground in academic research techniques. Not only does research into magic and the occult allow us to explore alternative epistemologies and embodied knowledge, it furthermore provides the opportunity to address some of the most urgent challenges of our society. This is because the study of these topics necessarily entails reimagining the relationship of human cultures to one another and to the natural world. By housing this program in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, we place the Arabo-Islamic cultural heritage back where it belongs in the centre of these studies and in the history of the “West.” Decolonisation, feminism, and anti-racism are at the core of this programme.


Emily Selove (PhD 2012, UCLA) is an associate professor in Medieval Arabic Language and Literature at the University of Exeter. She is also the convener of the University of Exeter’s Centre for Magic and Esotericism. Her most recent publications include a short monograph for the Cambridge Elements Series: The Donkey King: Asinine Symbology in Ancient and Medieval Magic. Her article “Magic as Poetry, Poetry as Magic: A Fragment of Arabic Spells” in Magic, Ritual, and Witchcraft explores an area of special interest to her research: the overlap between poetic and magical language. She was also the PI of a Leverhulme-funded research project, “A Sorcerer’s Handbook,” which is creating an edition, translation, and multidisciplinary, multi-authored scholarly analysis of Sirāj al-Dīn al-Sakkākī’s (d. 1229) grimoire, Kitāb al-Shāmil wa-baḥr al-kāmil (The Book of the Complete). This guide to cursing, healing, and harnessing the power of stars, angels, jinn, and devils, was conceived at the crossroads of many magical and religious traditions, and serves as the intersection at which multiple scholarly methodologies and disciplines can intersect today.