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The witch as a queer figure: gender, the coven, and witchcraft in the literature of Ben Jonson and Terry Pratchett

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posted on 2023-08-30, 20:29 authored by Abigail Walker
This thesis joins a growing conversation in the humanities about the historical and literary witch. Many studies have connected the witch to images of feminism, mental health, and classism, but few have focused on how the witch can be seen as queer. Witches and queer people have been persecuted throughout history, particularly due to the way they represent difference to conventional society, so this thesis demonstrates a correlation between the two to celebrate how both highlight the fragility of binary oppositions. Through the knowledge and concepts of certain queer theorists, this thesis builds its own concept, communal lesbianism, to investigate the research question of how the witch can be seen as a queer figure. Communal lesbianism is defined as the joint community of those who can be argued as lesbian due to prioritising women-identified experiences, thereby challenging the male/female and masculine/feminine binaries with the way they avoid continued heterosexual relations with men. Although this thesis could simply define the witch as queer throughout its arguments, it puts particular emphasis on queering the witch through the term ‘lesbian’ in the hopes of demonstrating the terms continuing relevance, and to challenge lesbian erasure. Using this concept of communal lesbianism, the thesis explores the presence of the witch in the literature of Ben Jonson and Terry Pratchett and analyses them as queer through their representation of gender, the coven, and use of their body.



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