“The Fairy of the Fountains” is one of Letitia Landon's most enigmatic and disturbing poems. It makes for particularly difficult reading because Landon sought in this poem to translate the forms of ballad and medieval lay into her own nineteenth-century poetic idiom. Her replication of the ellipses and abrupt transitions common to folkloric forms renders the poem both demanding and powerfully suggestive. These significant challenges to a coherent reading of the poem are magnified by its length. Based on the author's experience of teaching “The Fairy of the Fountains” in an upper-division course on gothic and supernatural literature, this article elucidates how placing it in the context of other, better-known Gothic texts significantly enhances students' appreciation of this long poem by helping to illuminate the most puzzling aspects of Landon's narrative. This approach implicitly asserts that Landon's poem is worthy to be read alongside these equally enigmatic canonical poems and also offers students two much more accessible prose versions of the Melusine legend. Through this comparative, intertextual approach, students gain a rich sense of the variations possible on an ancient folkloric motif and develop an understanding of the place of these texts in nineteenth-century literary history.
Kari Lokke; Letitia Landon's “The Fairy of the Fountains” And Gothic Narrative. Pedagogy 1 April 2016; 16 (2): 315–322. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/15314200-3435948
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