The word “witch” carries a weighty history of feared female power. For centuries, healers and midwives using techniques outside Western medicine and women who amassed too much land, wealth, or independence were branded witches and suffered rape, torture, and death as a result. Today, while witch-persecution continues in certain parts of the world, the figure of the witch is both exploited and championed in films, television, music videos, visual art, and fashion. Whether on American Horror Story: Coven, Game of Thrones, Maleficent, or Salem, the witch transgresses hegemonic boundaries by rejecting religious, cultural, or patriarchal ideologies. This course will analyze the archetype of the witch through a feminist lens, tracing the history of this figure through historical and contemporary texts, films, and artworks that delve into the legacy of the witch as an enduring cultural icon.
A multiplicity of feminist voices can be heard everywhere from Jezebel and Feministing to DIY drag shows and burlesque nights. With the first, second, and third waves of feminism defined by 20th century cultural movements, what has become of the “F-word” today? Moving beyond traditional issues that have historically shaped Feminist discourse and into the vast cross section of new feminisms alive in New York City, this course will examine intersectional perspectives that encompass race, class, gender and sexual identities and the burgeoning field of sex positive feminism. Through selected readings, guest speakers, and on site visits to performances and events, students will delve into the dynamic and often conflicting voices and communities embracing, reinterpreting, and rejecting feminist tropes within art, entertainment, and politics in the millennial movement of 4th wave feminism.