PhD Research

I am currently a PhD candidate at Aberystwyth University, exploring the correlation between accusations of witchcraft and reproduction/fertility through historic fiction.

My research

My research attempts to demonstrate how creative writing, and specifically the novel form, can uncover new ways to explore accusations of witchcraft between the 16th century and present day across Europe, and what this can tell us about the relationship between these accusations, gender and reproduction.

There is a disquieting relationship between those historically accused of witchcraft and the concept of reproduction. I am exploring this correlation through a creative writing project (a form of reproduction in itself) with emphasis on:

  • Fertility and Childbirth
  • Repeating History and Patterns of Abuse/Violence
  • Spellcasting and Sorcery
  • Trauma and Repetition in Literature

In its most immediate sense, reproduction refers to the conception and birth of a child. Of those disproportionately accused of practising witchcraft, women who were unable, or unwilling, to bear children appear in records time and again. This is evidenced frequently in children’s literature, where archetypal figures of withered old women, ‘hags’ and ‘spinsters’ appear repeatedly as ‘wicked witches.’ Conversely, midwives and women involved with medicine and pain relief were also deemed suspicious in a patriarchal social structure due to their wealth of knowledge surrounding the female reproductive system.

Though the witchcraft act was abolished in 1736, many of the same fears and biases surrounding women, reproductive health and bodily autonomy abound today. We are still living in a political climate in which religious and government officials repeatedly leverage their positions to thwart female bodily autonomy, and in which some tribes still believe the womb houses evil spirits.

“Some men feel their lust as fear.”

Harlots, BBC