Witch Wives in television, film and literature with Chloe Campbell

Witch Wives in television, film and literature with Chloe Campbell

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Cheerfully Empowered? The Witch-Wife Character in Twentieth-Century Film, Literature and Television with Chloe Campbell

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During the twentieth century, the witch-wife character emerged as a popular and domesticated iteration of the witch, notably appearing on screen in Hollywood films like Bell, Book and Candle (1958) and in the popular TV series Bewitched (1964 – 1972). In The Suburban Gothic in American Popular Culture (2009), Bernice Murphy recognises the twentieth-century witch-wife character as a notable figure of the Suburban Gothic.

Between 1941 and 2000, the witch-wife advanced from a dangerous, transgressive woman, to become an evocation of the oppressed, domesticated woman. In post-war Britain and America, the witch-housewife manifests a dangerous threat from within the home. In the second-wave feminist period, witch-wife narratives present women who seek and harness extraordinary power. At the turn of the century, the witch-wife becomes a visual symbol of the oppressed housewife. In each iteration, the witch-wife character demonstrates tensions regarding femininity, domesticity, and power.

This talk on the witch-wife will engage with feminist and gothic theory to cover the character’s origins in post-war American and British culture, from I Married a Witch (1942) to Bewitched (1964 – 1972). The witch-wife’s rise in popularity in the 1960s and 19702 will then be discussed in relation to Second Wave Feminism, exploring texts such as George Romero’s Jack’s Wife (1973). This study will go on to demonstrate how the witch-wife was portrayed in the 1980s and 1990s, in The Witches of Eastwick (1984) and Charmed (1998 – 2202), as well as the cultural afterlives of the witch-wife character, as in The Love Witch (2016).

Chloe Campbell is a Commissioning Editor in academic publishing, based in the North West of England, UK. Chloe is an MA English Studies student at Manchester Metropolitan University (UK), having participated in their specialised Gothic Studies pathway. Chloe’s Masters dissertation focused on the figure of the witch-wife in twentieth-century literature. Her current research centres on portrayals of witches and Lilith-figures in twentieth century and twenty- first century popular culture. You can find Chloe on Twitter at the handle @readingwitches.

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