Werewolves and women with whiskers: figures of estrangement in early modern English drama and culture

Brett Hirsch

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

Each chapter of Werewolves and Women with Whiskers: Figures of Estrangement in Early Modern English Drama and Culture explores a particular figure of fascination and fear in the early modern English imagination: in one it is owls, in another bearded women, in a third werewolves, and in yet another Jews. Drawing on instances from drama and other cultural forms, this thesis seeks to examine each of these phenomena in terms of their estrangement. There is a symbolic appositeness in each of these figures, whether in estranged and estranging minority groups, such as Catholics, Jesuits, Jews, Puritans, Italians, the Irish, and the Scots; or in transgressive behaviours, such as cross-dressing and gender trouble, infidelity and apostasy, intemperate passion and unnatural desire. Essentially unfixed and unstable, these emblematic figures are indicative of cultural uncertainty and therefore are easily adapted to suit changing political, religious, and social climates. However, adaptability and fluidity come at a price, since figures of difference have an uncomfortable way of transforming themselves into figures of resemblance. Thus, this thesis argues, each of these figures—owls, bearded women, werewolves, Jews—occupies an undefined and undefinable space on the precarious boundary between the usual and the unusual, between the strange and the strangely familiar, and, most strangely and paradoxically of all, between us and them.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2008

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