Drowning Girl

A10 4

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  • Title: Drowning Girl: Water and the Feminine Body
  • Author(s): Fiona Edmonds-Dobrijevich
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Arts in Society
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review
  • Keywords: Feminity, Death, Water, Visual Culture
  • Volume: 5
  • Issue: 4
  • Year: 2010
  • ISSN: 1833-1866 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2473-5809 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/1833-1866/CGP/v05i04/35899
  • Citation: Edmonds-Dobrijevich, Fiona. 2010. "Drowning Girl: Water and the Feminine Body." The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review 5 (4): 119-130. doi:10.18848/1833-1866/CGP/v05i04/35899.
  • Extent: 12 pages


The pervasive image of the drowned woman throughout art and literature has become a signifier of female transgression, self sacrifice and martyrdom: as Helen Emmit states, “Drowning is gendered”. Representation of the drowned female became, in the 18th and 19th centuries, a trope of otherness, alterity and abjection. This trope was, in fact, so pervasive as to be almost unremarkable, as evidenced by the paintings of Delaroche, Millais and others. My research into this imagery has investigated current notions of Feminine Drowning, and its position in both historical and contemporary visual culture. Culture, through representations of the dead female body, has been able to both repress and articulate a knowledge of death by placing it outside of the self. “Images of the dead”, Elizabeth Bronfen proposes, “delight, because they are the death of the other”. Cultural fascination with the submerged female body persists, imagery of the drowned female in different and ambiguous ways reframing the dead-woman-as-muse to a more complex position. In my own art practice, I have proposed an ambigious imagery of the female body in the ocean, investigating the role of the feminine body and water in the works of contemporary artists including Patricia Piccinini and Fiona Tan, and throughout current forms of visual culture.