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Submission date

7 April 2023 at 6:53:22 am

First name


Last name




Shanghai International Studies University





Cheng Qiujie
Shanghai International Studies University (SISU), Shanghai, China
Sep 2022 – June 2023 & Sep 2024 – June 2025
M.A. in English and American Literature

The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
July 2023 – August 2024
MSc, English Literature: Literature and Modernity
(2nd Master’s Degree)

Paper title

“The Fisherman and his Soul” Revisited: Disabled Body, Stockholm Syndrome, and Podophilia


Oscar Wilde; “The Fisherman and his Soul”; Disabled Body; Feminist Disability Studies; The Literary Fantastic


Oscar Wilde’s “The Fisherman and His Soul” from A House of Pomegranates (1891) has been categorized as a fairy tale, whose motif, argued by previous scholars, is true love against the religious and moral orthodoxy imposed by Victorian society. Although Oscar Wilde countered mainstream ideologies with his unorthodoxy against the Victoria social norm, the perpetuation of the patriarchy, and the shackles of phallocentric aestheticism, can still be observed in this fantastic short story, rather than a fairy tale. Through the lenses of feminist disability studies and the theory of fantasy literature, this essay examines the fiction’s marginalization of the female body by exploring the mermaid’s disabled body described as without “soul,” which specifically refers to the lacking of the lower half, and defining the deformed love between the fisherman and the mermaid as rooted in Stockholm syndrome, which permeates the hint of sexual harassment and the objectification of the mermaid’s upper body. Furthermore, the essay considers the fisherman as a “white male pervert” based on his podophilia, as he is eventually tempted by the “white and naked feet” of the men’s daughter, further demonstrating how is the female body divided and viewed separately in the fiction. However, even the witch, who owns a healthy and femininized body, is trapped in the female intrasexual competition with the mermaid so as to win the heterosexual love from the fisherman. The essay concludes with a discussion about Wildes’ endorsement of phallocentrism: in his attempts to subvert the dominant literature form (here, reads fairy tales) and Victorian society’s orthodoxy form (here, reads the heterosexual norm), Wilde, however, still renders the Other sex marginalized through the objectification of and discrimination against the female body.


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