The Development of the Literary Werewolf: Language, Subjectivity and Animal/Human Boundaries
The werewolf is a stock character in Gothic horror, exemplifying humanity’s fear of ‘the beast within’, and a return to a bestial state of being. Central to this is the idea that the werewolf is, once transformed, without language. Using an ecoGothic approach, this thesis will offer a new approach in literary criticism regarding the werewolf. It argues that the werewolf has become a vehicle for our ambivalence towards the wolf, which itself has become a symbolic Gothic Other. Using interdisciplinary source materials, such as natural histories, fairy tales, and folklore, the notion of the ‘symbolic wolf’ is interrogated, particularly in relation to the dangers of the wilderness. Starting with Dracula, at the end of the nineteenth century, and finishing with an analysis of the contemporary, literary werewolf, this work explores how the relationship between humans and wolves has impacted on the representation of the werewolf in fiction. In particular, it will critique how the destruction of the werewolf is achieved through containing the creature using taxonomic knowledge, in order to objectify it, before destroying it. This precludes the possibility of the werewolf retaining subjectivity and reinforces the stereotype of the werewolf as voiceless. Following the growing awareness of environmentalism during the late twentieth century and, as humanity questions our relationship with nature, clear divides between the animal and the human seem arbitrary, and the werewolf no longer remains the monstrous object within the text. Central to this is the concept of the hybrid ‘I’ which this thesis exposes. The hybrid ‘I’ is a way of experiencing and representing being a werewolf that acknowledges the presence of the lycanthrope’s voice, even if that voice is not human. Subjectivity is shown to be complex and myriad, allowing for the inclusion of human and non-human animal identities, which the werewolf embodies.
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