Merpeople: A Human History (Hardcover)

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People have been fascinated by merpeople and merfolk since ancient times. From the sirens of Homer’s Odyssey to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid and the film Splash, myths, stories, and legends of half-human, half-fish creatures abound. In modern times “mermaiding” has gained popularity among cosplayers throughout the world. In Merpeople: A Human History, Vaughn Scribner traces the long history of mermaids and mermen, taking in a wide variety of sources and using 117 striking images. From film to philosophy, church halls to coffee houses, ancient myth to modern science, Scribner shows that mermaids and tritons are—and always have been—everywhere.

About the Author

Vaughn Scribner is assistant professor of history at the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of Inn Civility: Urban Taverns and Early American Civil Society.

Praise For…

"Whether you fancy a quick dip or a marathon swim, this is a delightful book to splash around in, a gloriously illustrated and meticulously researched study of our closest aquatic relatives."

— Literary Review

“The image of a mermaid—or, less frequently, a merman—perched on a rock, luring sailors to either danger or destiny, is weaved throughout human history. In 1493, Christopher Columbus saw what he believed to be three mermaids off the coast of the Dominican Republic. . . . This visual history plunges into the representations of merpeople throughout the ages, from Homer and Hans Christian Anderson to the 1984 film Splash.”

— History Revealed

Merpeople offers an imaginative and beautifully illustrated survey of the persistent yet mutable fascination that these compound creatures have exerted over the last few millennia.”

— Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

"Merpeople is an impressive work. It provides a thoroughly researched overview of the circulation of mermaids and mermen in various cultural contexts. Scribner's analyses are well-supported by a range of striking visual material and the book is a valuable contribution to studies of the interface between folklore and popular culture."

— Philip Hayward, University of Technology Sydney, and editor of "Scaled for Success: The Internationalisation of the Mermaid"

“Scribner’s thorough, engaging, much-needed book fills an enormous gap in scholarship on mermaids. While serving as a comprehensive overview of their significance in Western culture, the book expands into examining merpeople globally, making it essential reading for anyone interested in how mermaids, or mythological creatures generally, shape and are shaped by cultures.”

— Jennifer A. Kokai, Weber State University, and author of "Swim Pretty: Aquatic Spectacles and the Performance of Race, Gender, and Nature"

"Scribner’s thousand-year history of merpeople in science, religion, and popular culture offers a fascinating lens through which to view changing ideas about humanity and our relationship to nature."

— Surekha Davies, research fellow, Utrecht University, author of "Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps and Monsters"
Product Details
ISBN: 9781789143140
ISBN-10: 1789143144
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Publication Date: September 17th, 2020
Pages: 320