Entanglements: an exploration of the digital literary work FISHNETSTOCKINGS

The Mermaid Image Divided


​​The mermaid, as literary device and cultural figure, serves to illuminate the cultural and historical contexts in which she appears; her appearance operates as a kind of silhouette in that it shifts vision between background and foreground, exposing the lines that divide them. The mermaid silhouettes in FISHNETSTOCKINGS do something similar; they expose differentials between states of being. The mermaid’s act of surfacing exposes the interfaces and borders of her environment and context. That is why she is often depicted sitting on a rock or surfacing at sea level, partially submerged in water and partially visible in air. Her midline often demarcates the interface between air and ocean as much as it does the merger of human and animal. For example, consider the famous mermaid paintings: John William Waterhouse’s A Mermaid (1900) and Howard Pyle’s The Mermaid (1910). Sitting alone or embracing her lover (and prey), the mermaid’s midline delineates the line between air and water. Her hybrid body demarcates the lines of space (environment and context), place (visual location), and positionality (power and politics). The lines– and outlines– of her body, including her silhouette, serve to reflect back to us the function of vision and its vulnerability towards distortion.

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