Crafting the Witch: Gendering Magic in Medieval and Early Modern England

Crafting the Witch: Gendering Magic in Medieval and Early Modern England

by Heidi Breuer

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Overview

This book analyzes the gendered transformation of magical figures occurring in Arthurian romance in England from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries.

In the earlier texts, magic is predominantly a masculine pursuit, garnering its user prestige and power, but in the later texts, magic becomes a primarily feminine activity, one that marks its user as wicked and heretical. This project explores both the literary and the social motivations for this transformation, seeking an answer to the question, 'why did the witch become wicked?'

Heidi Breuer traverses both the medieval and early modern periods and considers the way in which the representation of literary witches interacted with the culture at large, ultimately arguing that a series of economic crises in the fourteenth century created a labour shortage met by women. As women moved into the previously male-dominated economy, literary backlash came in the form of the witch, and social backlash followed soon after in the form of Renaissance witch-hunting. The witch figure serves a similar function in modern American culture because late-industrial capitalism challenges gender conventions in similar ways as the economic crises of the medieval period.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781135868222
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Publication date: 05/05/2009
Series: Studies in Medieval History and Culture
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 190
File size: 394 KB

About the Author

Heidi Breuer is Associate Professor at California State University, San Marcos, USA.

Table of Contents

Preface

Acknowledgments

Chapter One: "Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?": An Introduction to Medieval and Early Modern Magic

Chapter Two: Gender-Blending: Transformative Power in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Arthurian Literature

Chapter Three: From Rags to Riches, Or the Step-Mother’s Revenge: Transformative Power in Late Medieval Arthurian Romances


Chapter Four: The Lady is a Hag: Three Writers and the Transformation of Magic in Sixteenth-Century England

Chapter Five: Hags on Film: Contemporary Echoes of the Early Modern Wicked Witch

Notes

Bibliography

Index

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