Melusine's Footprint

Tracing the Legacy of a Medieval Myth


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In Melusine’s Footprint: Tracing the Legacy of a Medieval Myth, editors Misty Urban, Deva Kemmis, and Melissa Ridley Elmes offer an invigorating international and interdisciplinary examination of the legendary fairy Melusine. Along with fresh insights into the popular French and German traditions, these essays investigate Melusine’s English, Dutch, Spanish, and Chinese counterparts and explore her roots in philosophy, folklore, and classical myth.
Combining approaches from art history, history, alchemy, literature, cultural studies, and medievalism, applying rigorous critical lenses ranging from feminism and comparative literature to film and monster theory, this volume brings Melusine scholarship into the twenty-first century with twenty lively and evocative essays that reassess this powerful figure’s multiple meanings and illuminate her dynamic resonances across cultures and time.
Contributors are Anna Casas Aguilar, Jennifer Alberghini, Frederika Bain, Anna-Lisa Baumeister, Albrecht Classen, Chera A. Cole, Tania M. Colwell, Zoë Enstone, Stacey L. Hahn, Deva F. Kemmis, Ana Pairet, Pit Péporté, Simone Pfleger, Caroline Prud’Homme, Melissa Ridley Elmes, Renata Schellenberg, Misty Urban, Angela Jane Weisl, Lydia Zeldenrust, and Zifeng Zhao.

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Misty Urban (Ph.D., Cornell University, 2008) coordinates the Writing Center at Muscatine Community College. She is the author of Monstrous Women in Middle English Romance (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 2010).
Deva F. Kemmis (Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2012) is an instructor of German language and culture at the Goethe-Institut in Washington, DC. Her publications include an essay on self-forgiveness in the Nibelungenlied and a forthcoming article in the Yearbook of the Society for Medieval German Studies.
Melissa Ridley Elmes (Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 2016) is Assistant Professor of English at Lindenwood University. She has essays published or forthcoming on the Arthurian legend, Chaucer, teaching medieval literature, medievalism, the Robin Hood legend, and violence at the feast in medieval texts.
"This magnificent book combines the research of twenty interdisciplinary scholars who meticulously investigate the eponymous footprint of Melusine from a wide variety of literary as well as artistic approaches. It illustrates how richly this theriomorphic monstrous snake woman has contributed to the culture of so many European countries, and extends as far afield as China, in a study that clearly indicates the continuing fascination of this most enchanting and threatening figure. Melusine is here variously discussed as an instructive exemplar of Christian piety, a powerful mother who desires to humanize herself through marriage into the chivalric, religious order of her age, a transformative figure unifying humanity with nature, an abject object of the gaze, a fairy who functions as a monstrous Other in the mirror of romance, and a metaphor for transgressive feminine prowess. This enthralling work contributes extensively to Melusinia, reading the fairy serpentine hybrid as a symbolic force who never remains contained within any boundaries that may attempt to inscribe her."
Gillian M. E. Alban (author of Melusine the Serpent Goddess in A. S. Byatt’s Possession and in Mythology (2003) and The Medusa Gaze in Contemporary Women’s Fiction: Petrifying, Maternal and Redemptive (2017).

"Essential reading not only for medievalists, but also for scholars focused on fairy tale and folklore studies, cultural studies, feminist theory, gender theory, and postmodernist theory. Melusine’s Footprint reinvigorates the study of the Melusine tale and her depiction in various texts from the Medieval period through contemporary representations. The analyses vary theoretically and render new interpretations, keeping Melusine alive for scholars in the humanities and the social sciences".
Sylvia Veronica Morin, in Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, 30 (1), (2019).
List of Illustrations
Notes on Contributors
Part I. Bodies and Texts: Mapping Melusine in Art and Print
1 The Tail of Melusine: Hybridity, Mutability, and the Accessible Other
Frederika Bain
2 Polycorporality and Heteromorphia: Untangling Melusine's Mixed Bodies
Ana Pairet
3 Mermaid, Mother, Monster, and More: Portraits of the Fairy Woman in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century Melusine Narratives
Caroline Prud'Homme
4 The Melusine Figure in Fifteenth- and Sixteenth-Century German Literature and Art: Cultural-Historical Information within the Pictorial Program
Albrecht Classen
5 The Alchemical Transformation of Melusine
Melissa Ridley Elmes
Part II. Mother, Muse: Melusine and Political Identity
6 Architecture and Empire in Historia de la linda Melosina
Anna Casas Aguilar
7 The Lady with the Serpent's Tail: Hybridity and the Dutch Meluzine
Lydia Zeldenrust
8 Matriarchs and Mother Tongues: The Middle English Romans of Partenay
Jennifer Alberghini
9 Melusine and Luxembourg: A Double Memory
Pit Péporté
Part III. Theoretical Transformations: Readings and Refigurations
10 Youth and Rebellion in Jean d'Arras' Roman de Mélusine
Stacey L. Hahn
11 The Promise of (Un)Happiness in Thüring von Ringoltingen's Melusine
Simone Pfleger
12 Half Lady, Half Serpent: Melusine's Monstrous Body and the Discourse of Romance
Angela Jane Weisl
13 Passing as a "Humayn Woman": Hybridity and Salvation in the Middle English Melusine
Chera A. Cole
14 Melusine and Purgatorial Punishment: The Changing Nature of Fays
Zoë Enstone
15 Metamorphoses of Snake Women: Melusine and Madam White
Zifeng Zhao
Part IV. Melusines Medieval to Modern
16 Goethe and Die neue Melusine: A Critical Reinterpretation
Renata Schellenberg
17 "Listening Down the Hall": An Epistemological Consideration of the Encounter with Melusine in the Germanic Literary Tradition
Deva F. Kemmis
18 Woman, Abject, Animal: Refigurations of Melusine in Frischmuth, Jelinek, and EXPORT
Anna-Lisa Baumeister
19 How the Dragon Ate the Woman: The Fate of Melusine in English
Misty Urban
20 Melusines Past, Present, and Future: An Afterword
Tania M. Colwell
Selected Bibliography
All those who focus on romance, gender, monstrosity, fairies, magic, folklore, or cultural transmission, as well as readers of 19th century romantic literature based on the Melusine figure.
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