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Type: Thesis
Title: ‘We are the granddaughters of the witches you couldn't burn’: Feminist Afterlives of the Witch in Popular Culture
Author: Kosmina, Brydie
Issue Date: 2020
School/Discipline: School of Humanities : English and Creative Writing
Abstract: Witches are having a moment in English-language popular culture and politics. The witch contains competing and sometimes paradoxical discourses of femininity, feminism, activism, power, history, memory, and magic. Through analysing popular culture texts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, I draw these competing discourses into the present, investigating the contradictory meanings of the witch for present-day feminist activism and political world-building. In this thesis, I propose a feminist activist memory methodology as a means of re-reading history, memory, politics, and popular culture. Analysing the rhetoric of second-wave feminist manifestos and treatises which revise the history of the early modern European and colonial American witch trials, this thesis argues that these feminist historiographical revisions of the past have intervened in and influenced collective memories of the events and of the figure of the witch. Popular-culture depictions of the witch have consequently changed: rather than a victim of mass hysteria or a demonic monster, the witch became a victim of patriarchy, and thus a useful symbol for feminist politics. Using Jacques Derrida’s theory of hauntology ̶ a collapsing of past, present, and future – this thesis traces the spectral temporalities of feminist memories of the witch trials in popular culture, and how the figure of the witch thus becomes an engine of feminist activism. Having proposed this method of re-reading popular culture texts through a feminist activist mnemonic practice, I then analyse four afterimages or models of femininity and witches: the monster, the mother, the lover, and the girl. I analyse these afterimages through thirteen different texts from the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (dir. David Hand et al, 1937); The Wizard of Oz (dir. Victor Fleming and King Vidor, 1939); C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950) and The Magician’s Nephew (1955); Bewitched (created by William Asher, 1964-1972); The Addams Family (created by David Levy, 1964-1966); John Updike’s The Witches of Eastwick (1984); George Miller’s adaptation The Witches of Eastwick (1987); The Witch (dir. Robert Eggers, 2015); Suspiria (2018); Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series (1995-2000); J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (1997-2007); Buffy the Vampire Slayer (created by Joss Whedon, 1997-2003); and The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (created by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, 2018-present). In analysing these texts, I demonstrate how the witch exists as a figure of the past, drawn into the present as a symbol of feminine and feminist power, and used to fight for a new, more hopeful future.
Advisor: Tonkin, Maggie
McEntee, Joy
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2020
Keywords: Feminism
memory studies
cultural studies
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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