The role and meaning of the Melusine myth in modern narrative
Mosley, Laura Nannette
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The myth of Mélusine first appeared in literary form in France in 1393. Its author, Jean d’Arras, drew from long-standing oral tradition in the writing of his romance, which was, by the standards of the Middle Ages, a best-seller. Mélusine’s ongoing popularity into the 20th and 21st centuries, not only in France, but internationally as well, is evidenced by André Breton’s Arcane 17 (1944), Manuel Mujica Lainez’s El unicornio (1965), Esther Tusquets’s El mismo mar de todos los veranos (1978), and Marie de la Montluel’s (Chantal Chawaf’s) Mélusine des détritus (2002), the four novels I undertake to explore in this dissertation. From a Jungian perspective, the ongoing appeal of Mélusine may be explained by the rich archetypal images and mythological motifs contained within her story, but to fully understand why these authors from such vastly different socio-cultural and historical backgrounds were so inspired by her, it is necessary to consider that each of these authors wrote at a time of personal and societal crisis. Jung teaches that it is at such times that the individual awakens to the need to probe the unconscious, and that it is then that the archetype most needed by the psyche will appear. Following Jungian scholar James Hillman, who identifies the alchemical Mercurius as the archetype of healing due to his capacity to unite opposites, I identify Mélusine with this archetype. I argue that the four narratives addressed here are projections enabling a “working through” of psychological and/or societal problems, and Mélusine emerges in each to act as spiritual guide and archetypal healer. I will show that in all of these narratives, her ultimate function is to bring healing – to characters, authors, and societies. In these narratives, the authors tap into and give voice to the unconscious. By offering the reader a representation of the individuation process this requires, they, like Mélusine, are offering guidance toward a healing of harmful schisms that have cut the individual and society off from the unconscious, the feminine, the body, nature, and the Other.