Year of Study in Programme: Second
Supervisor: Dr Sara Martín
Area/Topic of Research: Fantasy and Young-Adult Literature; Gender Studies
Title/Provisional Title of Thesis: “She’d be the witch and know things”: Representations of the Witch in Young Adult Fantasy Fiction (1990s – 2010s)
Short Abstract: The character of the witch has always been present in fantasy literature, yet her portrayal was rarely positive in a feminist way. The otherness of the witch has been explored in academia, yet mostly in relation to her being a rejected figure of society or a monstrous woman. Similarly, fantasy literature was considered not worthy of academic study until the 1980s and it is still struggling to find its place within the canon. Therefore, the fact that both the witch and fantasy literature are marginalized suggests that there is a connection between the genre and the character which needs to be explored. In the 1990s fantasy literature for young adults began to include witches who were no longer wicked, and fantasy finally became a relevant genre. The massive success of fantasy novels which include favorable images of the witch, such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, shows that the reclamation of the witch by second wave feminists in the 1960s had a positive impact in popular culture. My dissertation sets to establish a correlation between this rescue operation and the rise and increasingly favorable portrayal of witches (and therefore women) in fiction, especially in fantasy literature for young adults. My aim is to analyze in which ways the witches selected to be part of my study conform to or defy gender expectations, and how their resistance helps to shape a new and better image of the witch that ultimately benefits women by offering new images of femininity and womanhood.