The Essential Tension of the Selkie Bride: Masculinity/Femininity

Author: Ava McCartin
Major: History, Literary Studies
Approved: Spring 2019
Status: Completed

This paper seeks to overview several imaginings of the “selkie story,” a common motif in the canon of Irish folklore, and analyze the tensions within this motif. In doing so, this paper will show how tension between masculinity and femininity is central to this motif, and express the ways in which that tension is present in other binary themes within the texts, such as human/animal, civilization/wildness, natural/supernatural, and terrestrial/aquatic. Associating the masculine with the left side of those binaries and the feminine with the right side of those binaries, this paper argues that they can all be reduced to an essential tension: male and female. Ultimately, this paper seeks to highlight the tension between masculinity and femininity, and use theoretical frameworks to demonstrate how deep rooted this tension is both in the selkie motif, the realm of Irish folklore, and literary fiction conventions as a whole.

McCartin Distinction Project Final