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By Heidi Breuer

This book analyzes the gendered transformation of magical figures taking place in Arthurian romance in England from the 12th to the 16th centuries.

In the sooner texts, magic is predominantly a masculine pursuit, garnering its consumer status and tool, yet within the later texts, magic turns into a basically female task, one who marks its person as depraved and heretical. This undertaking explores either the literary and the social motivations for this modification, looking a solution to the query, 'why did the witch turn into wicked?'

Heidi Breuer traverses either the medieval and early sleek classes and considers the way the illustration of literary witches interacted with the tradition at huge, eventually arguing sequence of monetary crises within the fourteenth century created a labour scarcity met via ladies. As girls moved into the formerly male-dominated economic system, literary backlash got here within the type of the witch, and social backlash quickly after within the kind of Renaissance witch-hunting. The witch determine serves an analogous functionality in smooth American tradition simply because late-industrial capitalism demanding situations gender conventions in related methods because the fiscal crises of the medieval period.

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

Sample text

Without the remarkable ability of magic and medicine to heal the human body, romance as we know it would not be possible. Interspersed with riotous adventure and fighting with giants and dragons are scenes of the knights’ ever-too-slow convalescence in the doting care of a lovely maiden. Without the healing women of romance, not only would there be more dead knights, but there would be no space for unmarried women (young or old) to participate in chivalric culture. ” Early Arthurian romance and chronicle traditions represent healing as an appropriately feminine behavior.

There is another force present in Arthurian literature within both romance and chronicle traditions, a force which destabilizes convention, which blurs the division between masculine and feminine, creating what I call gender-blending or gender mutability—an ability to appropriate gendered behaviors to consolidate or generate transformative power. That force is magic. While these authors represent both magic and love as forces that allow gender mutability, magical power is distinct from the power of love in its specificity: magic enables gender mutability only in male characters.

In Chrétien’s Erec and Enide, Erec “had received great honour at the court” and was more “highly praised” than any other knight (38), and Cligés (titular character of Cligés) “knew more about fencing and archery than did King Mark’s nephew Tristan, and more about birds and hounds” (156). Marie’s Bisclavret is described as “a good and handsome knight who conducted himself nobly” (“Bisclavret” 68), and her introduction to “Milun” notes, “From the day he was dubbed a knight he did not encounter a single knight who could unhorse him” (97).

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