How do Witches Frame Femininity within Children’s Literature? Witches as an abject construct of femininity

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

Abstract

This dissertation presents the findings of a literary research project which investigated how the construction of the witch frames femininity within Children’s Literature. Witches were chosen as the focus of this work as their depiction within children’s texts continues to remain popular and a significant reference for how femininity is contrived for young readers. Close examination is made of the witches in Hansel and Gretel, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and The Witches. These texts were selected due to there enduring presence in the canon of Children’s Literature and the strong iconic status these witches have retained.

The theory of abjection by Julia Kristeva (1941) frames this analysis by identifying how horror is generated within culture and the fundamental role this fear has in belying expectations of the Symbolic. It is through the application of Kristeva’s theory that the witch’s femininity is identified as existing within the abject realm; this dissertation acknowledges the re-formative role this has in promoting gendered expectations. Through close analysis of critical literature and the texts themselves a framework of abject moments was established in relation to the witch’s cultural status, appetite, body and status as mother. Analysis of the abject position that the witch occupies in each of these areas is explored in consideration to expectations of femininity. This dissertation finds that the construction of the witch reflects a rebellious femininity that overthrows expectations of gendered behaviour however the ungovernable femininity of the witch must be made abject in order to promote feminine etiquette deemed appropriate by the Symbolic.

This paper aims to apply the theory of abjection in order to expose the process by which scripts of femininity are constructed. In doing so it is hoped that these findings will add to the academic understanding of how femininity, particularly that of the monstrous kind, is constructed within Children’s Literature.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMaster of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Goldsmiths, University of London
Award date1 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017

Keywords

  • Children's Literature
  • Witches
  • Feminism
  • Reading
  • Kristeve

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