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University academics launch shapeshifter book

THE growing popularity of werewolves and other shapeshifters in popular culture plays a part in sparking debate about important issues such as social alienation and difference, according to a Wollongong University academic.

The book Werewolves and Other Shapeshifters in Popular Culture will be launched by co-author Dr Kimberley McMahon-Coleman, from the University of Wollongong on Friday.

Co-author University of Western Sydney’s Dr Roslyn Weaver says the book explores how fantasy monsters are often used as
metaphors for real world issues including adolescence, disability and
addiction.

Dr Weaver says fantasy creatures can allow society to better understand and sympathise with marginalised groups.

“Like vampires, werewolves have gone from being evil monsters to misunderstood outsiders in society, and their experiences encourage readers to understand what it’s like to be isolated and feared,” she says.

“The classic example is Remus Lupin from the Harry Potter series, a werewolf who was excluded from society because of his condition.

“Lupin can be seen as a metaphor for real life experiences such as having a disability, or AIDS, and authors sometimes use werewolves in this way to provoke readers to think about their own prejudices.”

Dr Weaver says other popular werewolves, such as Jacob from the Twilight franchise, are attractive to readers because they are heroes with a conflicted identity.

“In some ways Jacob is dealing with what most teenagers have to face in a much more general way, dealing with changing bodies, feeling like you don’t belong, and trying to find your own identity when you’re caught
between child and adult identities,” she says.

“Monsters have always been a way for authors to explore social issues,
and werewolves in particular offer a lot of scope for thinking about
identity and moving bebeyond limits and boundaries.”

About Mick Roberts

A newspaper journalist, writer and local historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in the Sydney and Illawarra regions of NSW for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides authoring a number of history books, Mick has owned and operated several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limted), Sydney based, City News, and is now with Torch Publications.

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