Date of Award:
Master of Arts (MA)
Lynne S. McNeill
This thesis explores the folk resurrection of the thylacine through artwork and symbolic interaction. The thylacine, better known as the Tasmanian tiger, is a marsupial that suffered a government-sanctioned massacre leading to its extinction in 1936. The thylacine’s status as a hidden animal has inspired what folklorists call “ostensive practice”; people not only actively seek out the thylacine in the wilderness of Tasmania today and share their sightings online, but they have also incorporated the thylacine as a symbol of hope and perseverance into various forms of folk art.
There have been upwards of five thousand documented sightings of the thylacine since its extinction. This documentation can take the form of amateur or phone-recorded films, or sightings described in interviews for local news agencies. Some people have even found alleged biological remains of the thylacine and have described hearing its unique call. In addition to these types of legend-tripping activities, the thylacine is also represented in a variety of folk-art forms, including digital, painted, and hand-drawn artwork, written fiction, fiber arts, and costuming. This content is shared widely across the internet.
Keeping the thylacine alive through the creation of folk art and legend-tripping search parties helps thylacine enthusiasts cope with the guilt for having lost an ecologically important animal due directly to ignorance and financial gain. If the thylacine is resurrected, whether literally or figuratively, people can symbolically undo some of the damage they have caused the natural world. Thus, the vernacular resurrection of the thylacine, understood through a folklorist lens, offers a model for comparing some of the vernacular ways that people are presently dealing with the general loss of wildlife due to climate change.
Ahlstone, Daisy M., "Thylacine Dreams: The Vernacular Resurrection of an Extinct Marsupial" (2019). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 7563.
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