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This paper considers the operation of “invisible” leadership in the figure of Melusine from the late Middle English romance Melusine. By invoking contemporary leadership theory, this paper identifies leadership maneuvers in Melusine that are similar to those often practiced by women today, but the discourses of gender identity then ultimately render Melusine’s leadership invisible, just as leadership discourses today often render female leadership invisible. By uncovering the operation of “invisible” leadership in the figure of Melusine and identifying commonalities with the leadership of women today, this paper aims to improve our understanding of the contemporary problem of the marked absence of women in leadership positions in our own society. Moreover, by highlighting the tentacular reach of the often obscured forces that work to exclude women from leadership roles I hope to contribute to strategies to interrupt such operations. This paper concludes with a consideration of the challenge that is Melusine’s leadership. This final approach to the text of Melusine yields a twist in the tale, so to speak, that introduces the potential for different kinds of leadership futures.


The author would like to acknowledge the generous funding provided by the Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of Bristol, in the form of a Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professorship, that contributed substantially to the research for this paper.


Melusine, leadership, women, gender, fifteenth century, romance

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