Marion Troxler has joined the SNSF funded research project The Beach in the Long Twentieth Century at the University of Bern as a PhD candidate in December 2022.
Whenever there is a chance to leave her home country of Switzerland to visit the sea, Marion experiences the beach as a place to feel longing and belonging. The ever-fluid interplay of weather, water and shifting grounds sparks the imagination for otherworldly encounters to become tangible.
Marion’s PhD project explores how reading the beach with merfolk and vice-versa provides insights about the interconnectedness of hegemonic dualistic hierarchies. As a place of metamorphosis and encounter, the littoral is crucial to understanding mermaids and selkies with their intriguing combination of femininity, monstrosity and fluidity, and highlights the potential for embodied resistance in the hybridity and transformability it shares with them.
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Long, shiny hair, a beautiful voice, a naked torso with barely covered breasts – seamlessly transitioning into an animal body, with scales, fur, feathers or claws, mixing seduction with threat, crossing seemingly clear-cut boundaries between species. Mermaids, Selkies, Sirens and other female hybrid creatures have populated the imaginative seascape for centuries and are still popular in contemporary fiction. The beach is where these merfolk bodies become visible, where the hybridity of the landscape reflects the hybridity of the body. Drawing on the Blue Humanities, Animal, Gender and Critical Body Studies, this project hopes to contribute to understanding how embodied hybridity in merfolk literature serves as a means of resistance and engenders possible counter-narratives to hegemonic patriarchal power structures. These sustain narratives of dominance not only within relationships between humans, but also with the more-than-human. Tales of merfolk alienate the naturalised hierarchies between gender and species and muddle up the persistent nature/culture divide. Ultimately, they may envision alternative conceptions of co-living in a world where current power structures threaten the existence of all beings.
Key words: critical body studies, gender studies, mythologies, monstrosities, hybridity.
Troxler, Marion. 2024 (forthcoming). “Resisting Domination: Merfolk and the Beach in Amy Sackville’s Orkney.” Litteraria Pragensia: Studies in Literature and Culture.