In Melusine’s Footprint: Tracing the Legacy of a Medieval Myth, editors Misty Urban, Deva F. 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 accomplished 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, culture, and medievalism, applying rigorous critical lenses ranging from feminism and comparative literature to film and monster studies, 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.
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), calls Melusine’s Footprint a “magnificent book combining a wide variety of literary as well as artistic approaches” and says “this enthralling work contributes extensively to Melusinia, presenting a figure who clearly continues to escape prescribed boundaries.”
Building on current monster theory and adding to research on medieval women in literature, this study reclaims the Middle English romance as a sophisticated literary strategy that, in its narrative reflexivity—and its use of a fictionalized thirdspace—reveals how medieval rhetoric essentially makes women into monsters.
“Dr. Urban’s study is at once an elegantly provocative yet accessible introduction to these unusual works, and a many-sided consideration of the challenge that all these works raise.” – Andrew Galloway, Cornell University
“Texts like Melusine or the “Man of Law’s Tale” seemed essentially opaque to modern readers, but it is clear from Professor Urban’s study that they are very rich and interesting indeed when read as texts expressing and illustrating deep cultural and political anxieties about the role of women who are simultaneously foundational and yet excluded from the normative political and social order. This is an important study which should be widely read in classes concerned with feminist theory and medieval romance.” – Thomas D. Hill, Cornell University
“Urban suggests that female monsters create a new space, a thirdspace, in which the constructiveness of patriarchal society is critically exposed, predicating this epistemological operation on the establishment of the absolute Other, woman. This new monograph impresses the reader with its solid combination of recent theoretical approaches to monstrosity with a careful, sound reading of the relevant Middle English texts.” – Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona
“The Unicorn Learns Accountability.” In The Ballad of the Lone Medievalist. Eds. Kisha G. Tracy and John P. Sexton. Punctum Books, 2018.
“Women’s Weapons in The White Queen.” In Premodern Rulers and Postmodern Viewers: Gender, Sex, and Power in Popular Culture. Eds. Janice North, Karl C. Alvestad, and Elena Woodacre. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.
“Magical Fountains in Middle English Romance.” In The Nature and Function of Water, Baths, Bathing, and Hygiene from Antiquity through the Renaissance. Eds. Cynthia Kosso and Anne Scott. Leiden: Brill, 2009.
“Sexual Compulsion and Sexual Violence in the Lais of Marie de France.” In Teaching Rape in the Medieval Literature Classroom: Approaches to Difficult Texts. Ed. Alison Gulley. Forthcoming from Medieval Institute Press.