Call for Essays: Melusine’s Footprint: Tracing the Legacy of a Medieval Myth (edited volume)

Call for Essays:
Melusine’s Footprint: Tracing the Legacy of a Medieval Myth
Deadline: 6 January 2015

Mélusine_allaitant_BnF_Français_24383_fol._30While the late 14th c French prose romance by Jean d’Arras arguably remains the earliest and most-translated version of the story of Melusine—in which he envisions her as a foundress of the powerful Lusignan family—the figure of the fairy woman cursed with a half-human, half-serpent form traveled widely through the legends of medieval and early modern Europe. From Thüring von Ringoltingen’s German iteration of 1456, which gave rise to the popular chapbook, and related folktales that brought Melusine decisively to the European medieval imaginary, Melusine’s variants surface in countries and centuries beyond. One finds her entwined in the ancestry of several noble houses across Europe; a Melisende ruled as Queen of Jerusalem; and the philosopher Paracelsus writes of melusines as water sprites in search of a soul by means of human marriage. Regal serpent women proliferate in carvings and paintings decorating churches, castles, villas, and public buildings throughout Europe, and a cri de Mélusine, in the story the signal of her castle’s changing fortunes, entered the language as a common phrase. Today one finds Melusine in film, novels, comic books, the Starbucks logo, and as a character in the video game Final Fantasy. In short, the figure of Melusine, often compared to ancient goddesses and other fantastic creatures with serpentine forms, was and remains a powerful, multivalent symbol condensing the fears, myths, and cultural fantasies of a historical  period into a potent visual image.

We seek to assemble a volume of essays that examine the impact and legacy of the figure of Melusine in art, history, literature, and fields beyond. We envision a collection that charts the evolution of and investigates the many representative instances of this figure over time and space, with analyses that give consideration, in whole or in part, to the following questions:

  • What particular valence does the figure of the half-serpent 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 does the particular venue in which Melusine appears articulate a cultural approach to and embodiment of female power and its exercise?
  • How do the various installations of Melusine deal with the transgressiveness of her hybrid form, and the transformations which are an integral part of her story?
  • What about this figure resonates across time and space, 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 remaining open to the ways in which readers continually recreate meaning each time a  story is retold?

While any and all analyses that focus on Melusine will be given full consideration, essays that approach Melusines outside 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, including a short list  of projected sources, of 500-800 words along with a very brief CV to Misty Urban atmru4@cornell.edu by January 6, 2015. Final essays of 6-25 pages will be expected by December 31, 2015.

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