'Her princes within her are like wolves': the werewolf as a Catholic force in Wagner the Wehr-Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

W. M. Reynolds’s 1850s Gothic serial, Wagner the Wehr-Wolf, reimagines the werewolf as a figure of religious hypocrisy. The serial follows the eponymous Wagner, who gains eternal youth, beauty and wealth through a satanic pact which curses him with lycanthropy; his rapid disenchantment with his immortal state propels him to find a cure amidst the religious upheaval of Inquisition-torn sixteenth-century Italy. Despite Wagner the Wehr-Wolf’s dubious literary status today, Reynolds’s rhetoric expresses a profound engagement with religious doctrine through his understanding of the Gothic morphology embedded in Victorian culture. As with the witch, the werewolf was once considered an enemy of the Church; despite this persecution, Reynolds hypothesises that both the institution and the creature are inherently congruent, their natures committed to generating guilt, violence and a schism from the Godly. His discourse uses the Church’s own rhetoric on and severe treatment of suspected werewolves against itself, theorising that the Church both creates and becomes the very beasts it tortures. Reynolds dissects both Church and creature from a Protestant Victorian perspective, reifying Gothic literature’s standard practice of associating Catholicism with a regrettable, historical Other and reducing the religion to a collection of terrifying superstitions—much like the myth of the werewolf itself.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-41
Number of pages20
JournalRevenant
Volume1
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2016

Fingerprint

Werewolf
Religion
Creatures
Rhetoric
Gothic
Victorian Era
Pact
Curse
Persecution
Discourse
Wealth
Beast
Disenchantment
Gothic Literature
Italy
Guilt
Doctrine
Schism
Eternal
Catholicism

Bibliographical note

Revenant website users are permitted to view/read, print, download, copy and distribute articles, creative pieces, reviews, and announcements for personal and academic fair use as long as they give proper credit to Revenant: Critical and Creative Studies of the Supernatural and individual contributors (where applicable) as the original publishers/creators. However, any activity involving commercial use and profit is strictly prohibited without prior permission from the Revenant: Critical and Creative Studies of the Supernatural editors.

Keywords

  • G. W. M. Reynolds
  • Gothic fiction
  • radical fiction
  • folklore
  • religion
  • Catholicism
  • werewolves
  • monsters
  • Victorian literature

Cite this

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abstract = "W. M. Reynolds’s 1850s Gothic serial, Wagner the Wehr-Wolf, reimagines the werewolf as a figure of religious hypocrisy. The serial follows the eponymous Wagner, who gains eternal youth, beauty and wealth through a satanic pact which curses him with lycanthropy; his rapid disenchantment with his immortal state propels him to find a cure amidst the religious upheaval of Inquisition-torn sixteenth-century Italy. Despite Wagner the Wehr-Wolf’s dubious literary status today, Reynolds’s rhetoric expresses a profound engagement with religious doctrine through his understanding of the Gothic morphology embedded in Victorian culture. As with the witch, the werewolf was once considered an enemy of the Church; despite this persecution, Reynolds hypothesises that both the institution and the creature are inherently congruent, their natures committed to generating guilt, violence and a schism from the Godly. His discourse uses the Church’s own rhetoric on and severe treatment of suspected werewolves against itself, theorising that the Church both creates and becomes the very beasts it tortures. Reynolds dissects both Church and creature from a Protestant Victorian perspective, reifying Gothic literature’s standard practice of associating Catholicism with a regrettable, historical Other and reducing the religion to a collection of terrifying superstitions—much like the myth of the werewolf itself.",
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'Her princes within her are like wolves' : the werewolf as a Catholic force in Wagner the Wehr-Wolf. / Boucher, Abigail.

In: Revenant, Vol. 1, No. 2, 31.12.2016, p. 22-41.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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