Melusine’s Footprint: Tracing the Legacy of a Medieval Myth
Editors: Misty Urban, Melissa Ridley Elmes, Deva Kemmis
Matriarch, monster, muse, and myth: while the late 14th c French prose romance by Jean d’Arras—in which he envisions her as a foundress of the powerful Lusignan family— arguably remains the earliest version
of the story of Melusine, the figure of the fairy woman cursed with a half-human, half-serpent form traveled widely throughout the legends of medieval and early modern Europe. From Thüring von Ringoltingen’s German iteration of 1456 to related folktales that brought Melusine decisively to the European medieval imaginary, Melusine’s variants surface in countries and centuries far beyond her French inception. One finds her entwined in the ancestry of noble houses across Europe; a Melisende ruled as Queen of Jerusalem; and the philosopher Paracelsus writes of Melusine as one of the four elementals. Today, one finds her in film, novels, video games, and the Starbucks logo, suggesting that Melusine was and remains a powerful, multivalent symbol capable of condensing the fears, myths, and cultural fantasies of any given historical period into a potent visual image.
We seek to assemble a volume of essays that examine the impact and legacy of the Melusine legendary in art, history, literature, and fields beyond. This collection will investigate the many representative instances of this figure over time and space, with analyses that give consideration to the following questions: What
particular valence does the half-serpent figure of Melusine hold for the time, place, and media in which she appears? How has the figure changed over time, and what forces have contributed to these changes? How do these various installations of Melusine deal with the transgressive nature of her hybrid form, and the transformations of that form which are integral to her story? What about this figure resonates across cultural periods, and what meanings herald a particular historical moment? What can Melusine teach us about reading
history (or art, or indeed any sort of cultural artifact) and the ways in which readers continually recreate meaning each time a story is retold?
While all proposals will be given full consideration, essays that approach the figure beyond the work of Jean d’Arras are particularly welcome. We invite methodologies that are historically researched or theoretically grounded as well as descriptive in nature. Please send a proposal of 500-800 words, including a short list of projected sources, along with a very brief CV to Misty Urban at [email protected] by January 6, 2015. Final essays of 6-25 pages will be expected by December 31, 2015.