Issue 2: Werewolves: Studies in Transformation, Guest editors: Kaja Franck and Janine Hatter
Kaja Franck and Janine Hatter , University of Hertfordshire and University of Hull
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Janine Hatter , University of Hull
As a hybrid creature, being both human and animal, the werewolf is in a unique position to interact with both rural and urban landscapes – yet this relationship is critically neglected. This article utilises an EcoGothic perspective to interrogate how werewolves influence these settings, specifically examining tales published in the long nineteenth century because this era underwent significant environmental changes, such as the Industrial Revolution, the introduction of new plants and animals, and the extinction of native species. Authors utilized werewolves, and in particular the short story form, to examine the impact these changes had. This article postulates that werewolf literature is representative of a nostalgia for a bygone age as a direct reaction to Industrialisation; that werewolf literature is the most apt genre to demonstrate a conflict between the human world and the natural environment because of its hybrid state; that werewolves prefer nature in both their animal and human forms, indicating an affinity for this landscape; that nature returns this preferential treatment through subtly influencing the narrative and by claiming back human settlements; and that this harking back to a purer ‘natural’ landscape pre-figures our own ecological outlook.
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Abigail Boucher, University of Glasgow
W. M. Reynolds’s 1850s Gothic serial, Wagner the Wehr-Wolf, reimagines the werewolf as a figure of religious hypocrisy. The serial follows the eponymous Wagner, who gains eternal youth, beauty and wealth through a satanic pact which curses him with lycanthropy; his rapid disenchantment with his immortal state propels him to find a cure amidst the religious upheaval of Inquisition-torn sixteenth-century Italy. Despite Wagner the Wehr-Wolf’s dubious literary status today, Reynolds’s rhetoric expresses a profound engagement with religious doctrine through his understanding of the Gothic morphology embedded in Victorian culture. As with the witch, the werewolf was once considered an enemy of the Church; despite this persecution, Reynolds hypothesises that both the institution and the creature are inherently congruent, their natures committed to generating guilt, violence and a schism from the Godly. His discourse uses the Church’s own rhetoric on and severe treatment of suspected werewolves against itself, theorising that the Church both creates and becomes the very beasts it tortures. Reynolds dissects both Church and creature from a Protestant Victorian perspective, reifying Gothic literature’s standard practice of associating Catholicism with a regrettable, historical Other and reducing the religion to a collection of terrifying superstitions—much like the myth of the werewolf itself
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Melissa Purdue, Minnesota State University-Mankato
Clemence Housman’s little-studied novel The Were-Wolf (1896) gives voice to fin de siècle anxieties surrounding changing roles for women. Just as other ‘monstrous’ texts of the period tackle these fears so too does Housman’s novel, but in the unique form of a werewolf story. A great deal of scholarship has been devoted to nineteenth-century representations of vampires, but comparatively little work has been done on less-frequently occurring werewolves. The figure of the werewolf embodies contradictions and allows Housman to tackle false dichotomies that plagued women at the end of the century – dutiful wife and mother or single, professional woman – and highlights both the potential and the danger of the New Woman. Her werewolf identity mirrors the rupture that results from trying to embody ‘conflicting’ roles, and it emphasizes White Fell’s inability to conform to societal expectations for women. While on the surface the novel can be read as a simple Christian allegory, it also functions as a cautionary tale for the progressive New Woman. The story warns that the New Woman’s strength and deviance from accepted norms will be perceived as dangerous signs of societal decline, and that more conservative individuals will attempt to destroy her progress.
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Hanan Alazaz, Lancaster University and Princess Norah University
This paper reviews a number of folktales that represent the Salu’ah, the she-wolf of Arabia. Telling the tale of a monster roaming the deserts of Arabia looking for men to devour, narratives about the nature of the Salu’ah are charged with horror. Her demonic nature shifts her from human to animal. But, her gender questions the very structures that abject her as a monster and a female. The discussion analyses how the narrative functions within the Bedouin social environment. It considers how the imagery within these narratives generates an image of the context in which this myth operates. Through a psychoanalytic reading of the narratives, the paper analyses how the myth shifts the social hierarchies to empower the feminine. It reviews the role of her transformation into the maternal and how it contributes to the figure of the werewolf as a female and as a monster. These narratives invert gender structures of heteronormative discourse when the monstrous feminine in the she-wolf destroys the location of its abjection that functions within the patriarchal discourse. The exaggeration of her abjection highlights her as an emasculator. She is a mother that devours. The Salu’ah emerges as more powerful than men of the desert where the Bedouin man is perceived to be the hero. She represents his most horrific fears.
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Simon Bacon, Independent Researcher
This study will look at the ways in which the homeless in America have been correlated with the figure of the werewolf in horror films since the 1940s. Coming out of the Great Depression of the 1930s and the increasing migration of people from small towns into the cities after WWII, the homeless signified both a return to the past and an uncontrolled and controllable element of the population. Films such as Werewolf of London (Walker: 1935) and The Wolf Man (Waggener: 1941) will be examined to demonstrate how the werewolf is constructed to represent poverty and homelessness and the contagious nature of both. The present study will further show, in light of films like the Underworld (2003-present) series, that these signifiers remain part of contemporary configurations of lycanthropy, particularly since the global economic crisis of 2008.
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Jaquelin Elliott, University of Florida
This article examines LGBTQ fans’ on-going frustration with the appropriation of queer narratives, or ‘queer-coding’, in contemporary depictions of werewolves in popular media and fans’ attempts to reclaim the werewolf as an explicitly queer figure through the medium of same-sex fanfiction. Focusing on two of the most popular fandoms featuring lycanthropic characters, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and MTV’s Teen Wolf, this article explores both fan reactions to canonical developments within these texts and statements from the texts’ author(s) pertaining to queerness, as well as pieces of slash fiction from both fandoms featuring werewolves. In hopes of better articulating and unveiling fans’ frustrated desire not only for better queer representation in fantasy texts, but also for more complex re-articulations of queer monstrosity, this article will interrogate the interplay between fan and author and look at the cultural work lycanthropic slash fiction performs.
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Andrew Dean and Sylvia Dean, Durham University
Individuals self-identifying as lycanthropes appear to be engaged in an ongoing negotiation of what can broadly be considered empowerment and stigmatisation from considering themselves capable of physically undergoing metamorphosis into werewolves and back. Before this study, there was still much to understand about how such individuals discursively construct their identities, and the cultural resources used to aid their identity claims. To better understand this area, interviews were carried out using a discourse analytic methodology to give a voice to the ‘wolf man’ exploring what it means to claim a lycanthrope identity, ‘undergo’ metamorphosis and to enact the werewolf.
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Melissa Bianchi, University of Florida
Bridging a host of narrative and procedural genres, werewolves feature prominently in videogames as characters to control, enemies to kill, and allies to assist. Yet, despite the broad range of werewolf depictions found in games, there is a relative paucity of research examining how games depict werewolves and how these depictions relate to the mythos writ large. To address gamic werewolves specifically, this essay performs close readings of several games, notably The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006) and The Sims 2: Pets (2006). The readings are guided by the works of media scholars, including Alexander Galloway, Ian Bogost, Souvik Mukherjee, Tom Tyler and others. In analysing werewolf avatar gameplay, this essay proposes that some gamic werewolves encourage players to acknowledge and value animal alterity, human animality, and human-animal relations. Additionally, these werewolves foster ‘becomings’ for players, allowing them to understand hybridity and liminality experientially.
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Richard J. Hand, University of East Anglia
Research and pedagogical interest in Grand-Guignol and popular horror performance at the University of South Wales has led to the commissioned creation of an annual public Halloween event for a council in Wales. In 2015, the event took place at a Nature Reserve with the theme of ‘Werewolves’. This article gives an account of this Practice-as-Research project, in which a large ensemble developed skills in various areas: writers investigated the lycanthropic folklore and culture of Wales and beyond; performers trained in storytelling and physical performance; and a technical and stage management team facilitated the overall experience. This article gives a detailed account of the cultural context, creative process and final production of the 2015 ‘Werewolves’ event. In so doing, it demonstrates how an ensemble working intensively on a focused project with a willing audience can present an example of a negotiated horror world through which the seeming oxymoron of a ‘brand new ancient legend’ can be inaugurated.
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Kaja Franck, University of Hertfordshire
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Janine Hatter, University of Hull
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Jaquelin Elliott, University of Florida
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Val Derbyshire, University of Sheffield
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Lindsay Katzir, Louisiana State University
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Kaja Franck, University of Hertfordshire
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Notes on Contributors
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