My Master’s Project explores the complex relationships and tensions between cats, women, gender, knowledge, sexuality, and independence in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series in the context of other 20th century fantasy novels.
So, why cats?
Cats have been connected to women—and, especially, to witches—in literature for centuries, and my project interprets cats in Harry Potter as a fluid signifier for women, mirroring periods of history when cats were valued for their connections to women, motherhood, and fertility, and, later, when they were feared because of their connotations with dark magic, witches, and disloyalty.
These opposing descriptions of cats and cat behavior are nearly identical to the conflicting descriptions of women that have existed over time, and by paralleling these diametrically opposed camps of ideas, I can perform a close reading of moments in Rowling’s novels that feature cats and “catwomen” to consider the strengths and elisions in her approaches to feminism.
— Katie Kline (M.A. ’20)