C4P: Anna Köhler - Evil Rewritten: Witches in Revisionist Fairy Tales



Luna's third Call for Papers, A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction will be released on Wednesday the 14th of August, at Dublin Worldcon. Explore the 21 brilliant papers you will find in the book.

Today, we would like to introduce you to Anna Köhler (Germany). PhD student researching gendered magic in contemporary fantasy at the Chair for British Literature at RWTH Aachen University.

Presenting the paper: Evil Rewritten: Witches in Revisionist Fairy Tales.

Anna says:

"This paper explores the way that witches are presented in literary and cinematic retellings of three canonical fairy tales (The Little Mermaid, Hansel and Gretel, and Rapunzel). While witches in the classic fairy tales are stock figures with a clear dramatic role, presented as unambiguously evil, this simplistic portrayal has been challenged in literary revisionist short stories by writers such as Emma Donoghue, Tanith Lee, Amanda C. Davis, Leigh Bardugo, Catherynne M. Valente, and Melissa Lee Shaw, who contest the assumption that witches are wicked by nature. At the same time, various Hollywood productions have reimagined popular fairy tales, but largely stopped short of changing the dramatic role of the witch. This paper first discusses the way that witches are presented in the canonical tales and the specific type of evil that they represent: solitary, anti-maternal women who transgress the social order by exercising power outside of the domestic sphere. The subsequent section details three strategies that revisionist writers have employed to redeem the witch: reversing anti-maternal stereotypes, turning the witch from a stock figure into a complex character, and questioning storytellers and the act of storytelling itself. The final section contrasts these literary portrayals with the major conservative influence of Hollywood adaptations, which to this day preserve the image of the witch as an anti-maternal hag whose rightful death reaffirms the patriarchal order. These conflicting depictions of witches expose evil as a matter of perspective, determined largely by the stories we choose to tell over and over again until they become part of the public consciousness."

Anna Köhler is a PhD student at the Chair of British Literature at RWTH Aachen University, Germany. She holds an MA in English Studies and Communication Science and has worked as a translator, editor, and library assistant. She is particularly interested in how fantasy reflects real-life discourses on social issues, and is currently researching the way in which cultural models of gender are negotiated in contemporary fantasy literature through magic and magic users. Her research interests include feminist approaches to literature, cognitive literary studies, worldbuilding, and anything that will give her an excuse to buy more books.

Twitter @ADotKoeh

A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction

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