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“One never learns how the witch became wicked, or whether that was the right choice for her~is it ever the right choice? Does the devil ever struggle to be good again, or if so is he not a devil?”

Welcome to our critical casebook on Gregory Maguire’s imaginative recreation of the world of Oz, his novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. This casebook was crafted by Millikin University students enrolled in Dr. Tony R. Magagna’s English 202: Writing About Literature course during the Fall 2011 semester. Wicked Book CoverSince its original publication in 1995 - and thanks to three sequels in what has come to be known as The Wicked Years series - Wicked has enjoyed a great deal of popular and critical acclaim. And, of course, the popularity of the story of Elphaba, the woman who would become the Wicked Witch of the West, exploded with the hugely popular 2003 Broadway musical adaptation of Maguire’s novel. However, with the exception of a handful of studies, there has been relatively little published literary scholarship dedicated to Maguire’s retelling. Thus, the students whose work is collected here have put together this casebook as an effort both to build the scholarly conversation on Wicked, and to showcase their own original critical contributions to the field of literary scholarship. By exploring this website, we hope that you will learn more about this incredible novel and the varied perspectives and themes that it confronts.

In addition to the in-depth academic analyses presented here, you will also find contextual information that we feel is useful to understanding and appreciating Maguire’s work. This includes: biographical information on Maguire himself; a look at some of the key characters that populate the book; an “atlas” of Maguire’s Oz, including discussions of the central peoples and places important to the events of the novel; an examination of the religious and sociopolitical make-up of Ozian society in the book; and an introduction to the Broadway musical and a discussion of the key similarities and differences between these two popular versions of Maguire’s retelling. In addition, you will find here some links to useful resources elsewhere on the internet, including interviews, reviews, and media clips.

All of the information and scholarship presented in this casebook has been selected and generated by the English 202 students themselves. The website itself was designed and published in collaboration with a team of student web designers from Millikin’s Spring 2012 Web Publishing course, led by Dr. Michael George.

"When books fall open, you fall in. When you crawl back out, you are a bit larger than you used to be" -Gregory Maguire

Wicked Book CoverSon of a Witch Book CoverA Lion Among MenOut of Oz Book Cover

Gregory Maguire began his modern series, a re-imagined version of The Wizard of Oz, in 1990s after being bombarded by media coverage of the Gulf War.  The powerful icon that was Saddam Hussein intrigued Maguire; this compelled him to begin writing an adult fairy tale that aimed to discern the nature of evil through the archetype of the Wicked Witch the West.  Maguire wanted to choose a character that a wide audience knew and feared, but who had historically not been allowed to tell for both sides of her tale.  Maguire has continued this adventure through Oz with three more dark and edgy novels. This series, as a whole, continues to bring new aspects of its characters to light, and twist our traditional views of The Wizard of Oz.

Gregory Maguire now resides in Massachusetts with his partner and their three children. In continuing his written career, Maguire believes, “As a swimmer, one does laps; a pianist, scales. As a writer, one uses words as a kind of sandpaper, not to smooth out the surface, but to rub off the skin of the world and find out what it's really made of. This is a daily process.”  

Visit Maguire's offical website

Check out Gregory Maguire on NPR

Hear about Maguire's inspiration


Previous casebooks from Millikin University's English Department

Persepolis Book CoverThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar WaoBeloved Book CoverOryx and Crake Book Cover

Wicked: A Critical Casebook joins four other casebooks produced by students in Millikin University’s English department. Dr. Magagna’s Fall 2010 students focused on Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoir Persepolis, whereas his Fall 2009 students explored Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Previous courses at Millikin examined Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake.