Crafting the Witch: Gendering Magic in Medieval and Early by Heidi Breuer

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 person status and tool, yet within the later texts, magic turns into a essentially female task, person 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 develop 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, finally arguing sequence of financial crises within the fourteenth century created a labour scarcity met by way of girls. As ladies 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 identical functionality in glossy American tradition simply because late-industrial capitalism demanding situations gender conventions in comparable methods because the fiscal crises of the medieval period.

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Additional resources for Crafting the Witch: Gendering Magic in Medieval and Early Modern England (Studies in Medieval History and Culture)

Example text

III. HEALING FOR LOVE: ARTHURIAN WOMEN TRANSFORM THE WOUNDED BODY If you are a bloody, partially dismembered knight, and you’re looking to fi nd some help in the bizarre otherworld of medieval romance, you’d do well to fi nd yourself an ointment-toting damsel. You could look for another knight with a healing herb, but it would take you much longer, and you might bleed to death. Luckily (for you and any other knights-errant), romances usually blend a heaping dose of feminine healing magic with generous portions of masculine aggression to produce the captivating cycle of assault, battery, and healing central to the romance tradition.

Despite what appears to be an oppressively rigid set of gender conventions, the behaviors of the characters in the romances do not always conform neatly to the accepted mold. In the scene I discuss at the beginning of this section, the narrator questions Cligés’s lack of aggressiveness towards Fenice. His masculinity should propel him to pursue her, to confess his love, but instead he is afraid. 16 Though they must often submit to horrific torture, ladies and damsels don’t always behave passively, as in one striking example where “more than a thousand ladies” rush in to a room where Fenice is being tortured by doctors and throw the cruel men out the window (196–7).

It’s merely a “beautiful flower,” which nevertheless has a quasi-magical ability to restore life to the dead (124). 20 Women are so frequently associated with quasi-magical domestic healing in the romances and chronicles that damsels with healing magic become a part of the landscape, like the parade of castles, knights, and 24 Crafting the Witch dwarves found in romance or the never-ending supply of invading armies within chronicle tradition. Arthurian women who bandage wounds and nurse knights to health come from both the servant and the aristocratic classes, and their labor is often anonymous.

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