She-Wolves in Manchester

// 9 March 2010

Hannah Priest is holding a conference about female werewolves

ladywere.jpgIn September 2010, a colleague and I will be hosting a conference at the University of Manchester on female werewolves in art, literature, folklore and film. While this might seem like a remarkably specialised subject, the response we’ve had so far has been overwhelming. It seems like 2010 is going to be the year of the she-wolf.

My own interest in female werewolves – and the original idea for the conference – came about almost by accident. I wrote my PhD thesis on monsters in medieval literature and two of my central texts featured male werewolves. As I was looking at the ways in which monsters are gendered, I put a neat little footnote to the effect that werewolves are usually male, though there are sometimes exceptions. I think I originally mentioned the film Ginger Snaps and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as examples of notable female werewolves. Not long after that, a friend mentioned that there is a female werewolf in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series. Then someone else recommended I read Suzy McKee Charnas’s short story ‘Boobs’. I watched The Curse, Cursed and An American Werewolf in Paris; I found an entire anthology of female werewolf stories published by Cleis Press; I saw work by Australian visual artists that does amazing things with the motif of the female werewolf. Everywhere I looked, I found more examples of fascinating and disturbing she-wolves, and I realized that a footnote was not going to be enough to do them justice. Around the time my own ideas were starting to develop, I was introduced to Carys Crossen, a PhD student at Manchester. Carys is currently writing her thesis on post-1800 werewolves, with a focus on gender and sexuality. We pooled our knowledge, and the conference began to come to life.

Carys and I are not the only researchers working on werewolves. As we’ve been marketing the conference, I’ve been struck by the growing interest in this subject. Female werewolves are a hot topic in current scholarship and a number of recent PhD theses and articles have grappled with the problem of what exactly a female werewolf is or why there are fewer she-wolves than he-wolves. But these questions are not just the preserve of the academic community. In 2010, a number of new books and TV shows will feature female werewolves in some form or another – including (and I still don’t know if this is a joke) a Sex and the City-style show about four werewolves, produced by the Fox Network. It’s pretty difficult not to conclude that werewolves are indeed the new vampires.

But is there a reason why werewolves are usually male? I’m afraid I don’t have an absolute answer to that. Some of the speakers at the Manchester conference will be putting forward their own views on this tricky question, and drawing on folklore, mythology, psychoanalysis and historical evidence to shed some light on it. But the incredible response we’ve had to our call for submissions, from people working in diverse areas – from witchcraft trials to self-help books, from visual art to Scottish folk tales – makes me wonder if there even is a definitive answer. All I know for sure is that female werewolves continue to have a strong hold on the imagination. They’re alluring, certainly, but also challenging and threatening. And they definitely don’t belong in a footnote.

The She-Wolf conference will be held at the University of Manchester, 9-10 September 2010. The submission deadline is 31 March 2010. For more information, contact Dr. Hannah Priest at hannah.priest@manchester.ac.uk.

Linocut by Jazmina Cininas, ‘Angela prefers the company of wolves’, used with permission

Comments From You

FeminaErecta // Posted 9 March 2010 at 2:58 pm

The Sacred Book of the Werewolf by Viktor Pelevin is an interesting read relating to this.

K. A. Laity // Posted 9 March 2010 at 3:01 pm

Oh my — I may not be able to resist this. I’ve forwarded it to the Horror in Film & Literature list as well. I am dying to do more with Carter. I was lucky once to experiene Suzy McKee Charnas reading “Boobs” to a captivated audience. Wonderful!

Yay, medievalists — aren’t we just all multi-talented?!

gadgetgal // Posted 9 March 2010 at 3:10 pm

It was Elena Michaels in Kelley Armstrong’s books that got me interested in women as werewolves – until then I’d only come across them in occasional horror b-movies and Buffy. I don’t know much about it but it would be interesting to find out more!

saranga // Posted 9 March 2010 at 4:13 pm

this sounds absolutely brilliant :) I can’t see how i’m gonna be able to make it tho :(

while we’re on the subject, Angua is one of my favourite fictional characters, and heroes.

stella // Posted 9 March 2010 at 5:16 pm

If your looking for female werewolves in contemporary culture there is also one in “being human”

Elmo // Posted 9 March 2010 at 5:26 pm

Yes, being human! Nina is a werewolf! Although it did take until the second series, and she is the only main female werewolf. Plus she got scratched by a male. Though personally i think the whole thing is a metaphor for bisexual relationships, but i cant be bothered explaining that now.

Elena1701 // Posted 9 March 2010 at 10:49 pm

Carrie Vaughn has written a series of book about a female werewolf, which are very good. The first book is ‘Kitty and the Midnight Hour’.

Kit Whitfield’s book ‘Bareback’ (published as ‘Benighted’ in the US) is an interesting version of the werewolf myth.

Charlotte Revely // Posted 9 March 2010 at 11:41 pm

Fox network producing a show about werewolves – brilliant!

Jenni // Posted 10 March 2010 at 9:44 am

Angua kick ass. Seriously. Although one wonders if Terry only made her female so she could get naked a lot? (See the completely gratuitous scene in ‘Thud!’)

Circus of Sins – a book we’re publishing at work, features several female werewolves, one of them the protagonist, I’m proud to say.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 10 March 2010 at 10:20 pm

its a boobs and nakedness issue i guess! but i remember being pretty surprised and happy when watching the 90s cartoon gargoyles, when the freshly freed from prison “Fox” upon receiving a pendant started becoming a werewolf with no huge issue on the transformation to, and only a little on the back-to-human stage

saranga // Posted 11 March 2010 at 2:09 pm

I thought Practhett made Angua female to a) subvert the women can’t be violent view, and b) so he could make time of the month jokes.

He also had Conina be mostly naked, and made a lot of mention of Christina’s beauty (masqeurade). I see this sort of stuff as his mocking the fantasy trope of always having all women be hot. I don’t read the naked women in the books as as an excuse for the readers to letch (apologies if that’s not what you were getting at), probably because he’s got so many other different types of women characters (looks and persoanlity wise), and they are never downplayed, or made 1D, or constitute window dressing.

Elmo // Posted 11 March 2010 at 2:21 pm

No, Pratchett def isnt sexist-his heroines are always quite ordinary looking, he makes fun of the way women are constantly meant to be hot in fantasy. The biggest clue is that 1: His books dont have any pictures 2: Any description of nudity, etc is always comic.

I get the feeling he is a bit shy about this sort of thing,lol, he never describes sex, or if he does its purely for comic reasons.

His latest book, “unseen academicals”-has two prominent female characters, the first being the disc’s first supermodel, and the second being a bit dumpy and short and cynical, and well, like real women-she is the heroine. The supermodel character is a really good look at the strange way that the fashion world works, yet he still makes her human and realistic, even when he makes fun of her.

Incidentally, the werewolves who are the most often naked in his books are Angua’s brother and father.

I heart TP :)

Jenni // Posted 11 March 2010 at 2:48 pm

PTerry’s politics are pretty much nigh-on perfect in my book, seriously, if I could write like anyone it would be him.

It’s just that that scene in Thud! with Sally the vampire, where they’re both naked and crawling around in the mud, and then they have to borrow teeny tiny outfits from a strip club and walk home, seemed particularly fan-pleasing. He said a lot of interesting stuff while doing it, though.

Also – the wizard ghost in Making Money who gets rewarded by the protagonist for saving the day – his reward is that he can spend all day watching the ladies in the strip club without their knowing about it? That creeped me out.

I honestly think his politics are not what they used to be.

Alex // Posted 11 March 2010 at 5:34 pm

Try “Blood and Chocolate” by Annette Kurtis Klaus.

Elmo // Posted 12 March 2010 at 4:18 pm

Yeah Jenni, I remember those bits from those books, and I kinda have to agree they do seem like a bit of senseless titilation. But I dont know, ive also got a hunch (not that that counts for much) that TP was using those scenes as a kind of comment on societies view on sex. The wizard ghost guy is meant to be sleazy and horrible (he keeps trying to hit on Adora earlier on) and I feel he was suggesting that even respected proffessors (dead ones at that) can be dirty old men. The bit with Sally and Angua…theres such a huge gulf between them and the women at the strip club, and I think its a kind of comment on that, when theyre made to wear their clothes. I think its kinda like hes saying “look at women in fantasy! even when their clever and cool and tough, they *still* end up wearing skimpy clothes and being naked! not fair! sheesh!” And he doesnt really go into any graphic description, he just says theyre naked.

But yes, I do agree that some of it seems a tad pointless. There wasnt any of that (as far as i can remember) in his latest book, so maybe he’s back to his goold old self.

Allison Moon // Posted 12 May 2010 at 2:19 am

Thanks for this post. Because of you, I’m thrilled to have been accepted to the conference to speak about the lesbian werewolves that inhabit my novel “Lunatic Fringe.”

I need help to get to the conference, though, since I’m flying all the way from San Francisco.

People can visit my website: http://www.talesofthepack.com, to read more or a donation, if they can.

Richard Muirhead // Posted 14 May 2010 at 11:56 am

Dear Hannah.I am interested in the cryptozoology and folklore of she-wolves.Please can you tell me if you came across reports in the Manchester area of she-wolves as “real” entities,I mean as mistaken for wolves or other real flesh and blood animals?Post 1800.Also, please can you recommend any reading material about she-wolves in Manchester,e.g. journals etc.?Thanks.

Rozi // Posted 29 September 2010 at 2:33 pm

The way I interpret that scene with Sally and Angua walking back to the club is Angua, who is usually really confident and strong, which she has worked hard at by keeping on top of her inner species conflict, being confronted by someone who is effortlessly good looking and confident in stilletto heels AND is eyeing up the love of her life. I know the feeling! But she does conceed it must be hard for Sally to… probably not explaining it very well. It is more about the sexism in the world rather than the author.

On balance, there is MUCH more male nudity (Carrot, Vimes, Greebo as a man, Ridcully, Wolfgang…) than female nudity in the Discworld books overall. Maybe someone should do some sort of study.

I have a massive Angela Carter complex, women/werewolves are endlessly interesting to me! Angua was the first character that got me interested in this particular trope.

Great article by the way!

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