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Reviewed by:
  • Melusine's Footprint: Tracing the Legacy of a Medieval Myth ed. by Misty Urban, Deva Kemmis, and Melissa Ridley Elmes
  • Ellie Crookes
Urban, Misty, Deva Kemmis, and Melissa Ridley Elmes, eds, Melusine's Footprint: Tracing the Legacy of a Medieval Myth (Explorations in Medieval Culture, 4), Leiden, Brill, 2017; paperback; pp. xiv, 437; R.R.P. €127.00; ISBN 9789004315082.

Melusine's Footprint: Tracing the Legacy of a Medieval Myth is an edited collection on the creation and continued utilization of the medieval myth of the 'mermaid-esque' Melusine. The collection brings together research from a number of disciplines and countries and in alignment with this geographic and disciplinary variety it undertakes a wide-ranging examination of the Melusine character and her depiction and reception over time and place. This is where the power of the collection lies, as a study of both the macro- and micro-manifestations of the Melusine tradition. The book does this by acknowledging the fact that medieval tropes often function as 'viral' phenomena, resulting in the varied, and at times even contradictory, propagation of works of visual art, literature, and architecture based on medieval subject matter. Ultimately, the collection is held together by a common thread, beyond simply the shared subject matter, of striving towards a mutual goal of mapping the diversity, complexity, and longevity of stories and legends from the medieval past. Undeniably, certain papers are stronger in achieving this aim than others, with some far more useful for understanding the influence and 'viral' impact of the Melusine legend. Angela Jane Weisel and her chapter 'Half Lady, Half Serpent: Melusine's Monstrous Body and the Discourse [End Page 263] of Romance', and Misty Urban's 'How the Dragon Ate the Woman: The Fate of Melusine in English' are particularly striking, drawing their potency from directly engaging with the womanhood of Melusine and investigating this integral aspect of her characterization through a lens of historical immutability, exchange, and development. Weisel and Urban's examination of the representation and reception of Melusine, from the medieval to the modern, makes strides to understanding the impact and importance of the Melusine character beyond simply examining her use in a certain time and/or place. Understood as a whole, this collection provides a sound overview for those new to the field, whilst also providing new and interesting interpretive nuance for those who are more familiar with the medieval 'mermaid'.

Ellie Crookes
Macquarie University


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pp. 263-264
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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