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

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2009-04-01
  • Publisher: Routledge

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How did the witch become wicked? This is the central question of Crafting the Witch, which documents and analyzes the gendered transformation of magical figures that occurred in Arthurian romance as it developed from its earliest continental manifestations in the twelfth century to its flowering in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century England. In particular, while wizard-figures remained repositories of privileged knowledge throughout these periods, representations of witches mitigated cultural anxieties prompted by nascent capitalist economics through a rigid circumscription of femininity within the domain of the maternal. Though there are innumerable studies of witchcraft, few explore the development of the witch-figure within a continuing literary tradition that spans both the medieval and early modern periods, a process which offers a unique glimpse into the history of this powerful figure. Arthurian texts serve as a particularly useful case study for mapping the intersection of medieval and early moderndiscourses of literature, religion, science, and law which formed the notorious and familiar wicked witch. The witch still functions as a warning to women who reject normative conventions of ideal femininity, reminding us that while opportunity may knock, wickedness taints those who try to answer.

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