French History @IHR: Will Pooley finds werewolves in the 20th century

Date & Place: Monday 18 November, at the IHR, London.

Speaker: Will Pooley (IHR Past and Present Fellow)

Paper Title: The Long Tail of the Werewolf: Real Modern Monsters?

Chair: Rob Priest (RHUL)

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Will Pooley is a 19th century historian who was recently awarded a doctorate for his thesis on the history of the body, folkore and Félix Arnaudin at the University of Oxford. He is currently a Past and Present Fellow at the IHR, and in his time there has taken some ideas from his thesis and pushed them into the 20th century. On Monday night, Pooley presented us with some of this brand new research which brought this question of bodies, werewolves and folktales out of the 19th century and into the interwar period. In 1925, in the Alsatian town of Uttenheim, Xavier Marbach was murdered by the head of a well-established local family, the Surs, with a gunshot which blew his chest wide open. The inquest and trial which followed revealed that Sur was convinced Marbach had been a werewolf. (There is an elaborate backstory to this, obviously.) Without spoiling any of the details, Pooley’s story sets the frame for a very rich discussion of bodies, the supernatural and modernity in this Franco-German borderland. And the photographs give us a unique insight into this ‘tale’. Indeed, if werewolf stories are often tied to the supernatural and to local culture, here Pooley is telling us a story about modernity and the transnational. We won’t reveal all the details so not to spoil the surprise – are, werewolves, more real than imagined? – but we certainly look out for this work to be published.

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Thanks again to Will for his paper – which, as expected, generated a flurry of questions – and for making French historians think more about bodies, and how they can be historicized.

Thanks also to all the attendees, and join us again on 1 December to hear Sarah Walters (Leeds) discuss capitalism and workplace suicide in the 21st century.


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