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'hatcht up in villanie and witchcraft': fictional and historical recuperations of the witch child

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date01/2014
JournalPreternature
Journal number1
Volume3
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The witch child manifests at the intersection of history and fiction, revealing as uncanny our desire to know a ‘real’ child. This paper explores representations of the witch child in BBC 4’s 2011 documentary, The Pendle Witch Child, and Joseph Delaney’s fantasy fiction series, The Wardstone Chronicles, to argue that recent representations of witch children that attempt to ‘recuperate’ the image of the innocent-child-as-victim are destabilised by the uncanny presence of a witch child who resists this recuperation. The desire to know a real, historical child operates within a binary construction, oscillating between desire for the Romantic innocent and fear of the self-possessed child of gothic horror. The uncanny witch child that emerges from this conflict is finally embraced only by Fantasy, whose disregard for historical truth and veracity allows space for the construction of childhood to inhabit a multiplicity of possibilities.