Clemence Housman’s The Were-Wolf: A Cautionary Tale for the Progressive New Woman
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.
Read Clemence Housman’s The Were-Wolf: A Cautionary Tale for the Progressive New Woman