Just back from the Gothic North and catching up on some stories in the media following the inspiring and fun event that was the Manchester Gothic Festival (which had some excellent papers and its own live mouse at the venue). There is an initial write up here:
My research seemed to be grabbing some headlines ahead of the symposium so there was a nice buzz around my talk and I did some interviews with the Yorkshire Post, Hull Daily Mail etc.
Thanks to Gothic MMU I returned to the South to find that I was headline story on the University of Hertfordshire news pages for this week and there was some public debate around the werewolf sightings and my analysis of them.
Now where is my wolf bane…my garlic…..soooo busy ahead of Halloween.
Thanks to MMU for inviting me to speak and for hosting the festival. There will be some tributes, a full review and media updates to follow soon!!!
This is wonderful news! I’m so glad your talk caught people’s attention – and I concur with your argument. I can’t wait to hear all about it.
I’m going into a little werewolf study myself and I wanted to ask a few questions if anyone is up for responding:
What is the purpose in the werewolf to be so violent? Is it hunger? Is it insanity from being trapped into the curse of being a beast instead of a man? When the human turns into the beast has he lost his mind? Why attack or kill people while in the werewolf form? I’m rather looking for something fairly straightforward. Thanks!
Studying werewolf stories *is* fascinating, Daryl, and you’re asking all the right sort of questions. But I don’t think I can give you something straightforward! Each werewolf narrative has to be looked at in its own uniqueness (as does literature in general, I think)–there’s so much diversity and so many ingenious and imaginative ways of making new things out of the same material that you can’t reduce it to one, or a few, things. That’s part of the appeal of the myth, really–that it can express so many different things in different hands and in different periods.
Ahhh, okay. I think I can do that. This one is a werewolf by curse. (Well the whole family has a load of curses.) He’s likely just offing people for the sake of horror, but there’s probably more I can find in the saga.
Definitely happy with this response. Thanks for being there and working on all that is macabre. ^_^
To reiterate Bill’s comment, I’m not sure there is an easy answer as all werewolves are so varied. I would suggest it’s not about why the werewolf *is* so violent, rather, why do we want our werewolves to be violent? Each time the werewolf is depicted, the changes made say something about the society which it reflects.
Typically in depictions of the werewolf in horror texts from the 20th century onwards, the werewolf functions as a metaphor for the ‘beast within’. Thus the violence of the werewolf is indicative of the violence inside the human subject which, usually hidden beneath a veneer of civilisation, is let loose by werewolfism. This is also affected by whether or not the individual werewolf chose to be a werewolf or was ‘cursed’ against their own volition. If you want to become a werewolf, knowing that you may hurt people, this makes you significantly less sympathetic than someone who was cursed to become a werewolf.
Recent depictions are moving towards a more holistic approach to the werewolf in which the individual retains some wolf-like senses in human form and can control any violent impulses when transformed. They can also control when they transform. Being a werewolf is perhaps less a curse than a gift and in this way, the ‘beast within’ is embraced rather than reviled.
Personally, I’m all for sympathetic werewolves as I’m not a big fan of the philosophy that humans are intrinsically violent and cruel. But if it’s your werewolf, then you get free rein in how you want it to function.
Thanks for your question. I would read this historically – those who were executed in werewolf trials in the late middle ages were thought to have a taste for human flesh, hence lycanthropy came to be seen as a sign of bestiality or at worse cannibalism (werewolf trials were also in evident in C16th and C17th France ). See Garry Marvin, ‘Wolf’ (Reakton Press, 2012) for further details about this. Marvin was a speaker at our werewolf conference and is the leading expert on wolves in the UK. Good luck with your research.
Thank you, both! It sounds a bit on the mark of Margot Adler’s studies in vampires leaning toward what the human psyche requires as time goes along which makes a lot of sense.
I’m mainly working with a, erm, ahem… a soap-opera werewolf or two. So they’re not mine. (I’m still over here building my relief-series.) I’m not sure how much research the writers of the program were basing all of this on. (Sadly the original writers don’t get a lot of attention which is pretty standard of U.S. television.) However! I do get the feeling these are sympathetic werewolves. It’s one of those scenarios where it is handed down in the family.
Actually that’s a good question, too. I have seen the lineage werewolf before. So this one started with a curse in the late Victorian age but it handed down into the 1960’s. (Pardon, this is kind of low-brow and I know Open Graves, Open Minds is very deep study on so much of the supernatural.) But the talk is great to find. That’s for sure and certain.
It was a great symposium and yours was a fascinating talk. Good that you’ve created so much ‘impact’ in Hull, though unfortunately there have been some infantile responses on the Hull Daily Mail comment page–I’ve tried to introduce the voice of reason a bit.