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Reading the feral woman: Female werewolves and liminality in fantasy fiction

Previously representing the threat of infection, invasion and the possibility of an internal Other, the werewolf, traditionally male, has recently been joined by a subgroup of wolf-women in fantasy literature. I intend to examine the female werewolf as a ‘new’ archetype, tracking her presence in the overlapping genres of Gothic fiction and contemporary paranormal romance. I want to understand how the female werewolf engages with, and dramatizes, the portrayal of gender and binary issues such as nature/culture and male/female. This thesis follows the shift from the familiar ‘morality tale’ structure, and examines the possibility of wolf-women as marginalised or deviant figures empowered, their liminality drawing attention to the permeable and ultimately arbitrary nature of the boundaries they cross. Chapters begin with a discussion of the literary and cultural history of the werewolf, moving into short stories and novels by Alice Borchardt, Gail Carriger, Angela Carter, Clemence Housman, Aino Kallas, Tanith Lee and Stephenie Meyer. Texts are analysed with insights drawn from feminist theorists of gender and fantasy, including Judith Butler, Barbara Creed, Julia Kristeva and Marina Warner, to consider the wolf-women as deviants both desired and desiring. The female werewolf brings to the forefront contemporary anxieties around body image, the monstrous feminine and gender performance, and draws uncomfortable attention to the problematic binaries presented in both fantasy and reality.
Type of thesis
Dewhurst, H. L. (2018). Reading the feral woman: Female werewolves and liminality in fantasy fiction (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/12082
The University of Waikato
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