Galatea's Emancipation

Galatea's Emancipation

The Transformation of the Pygmalion Myth in Anglo-Saxon Literature Since the 20th Century

eBook - 2014
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The Pygmalion myth, most famously told by Ovid in his Metamorphoses, has always fascinated artists. This fascination, due to the erotic potential of the story, resulted in an abundance of patriarchal re-narrations from the Middle Ages to the late 19th century. With the turn of the 20th century, however, the Pygmalion stories gradually changed under the influence of feminist thought and emancipation. The woman created by Pygmalion no longer remained a passive creature but began to resist her master and his male fantasies, sometimes in a subtle way, sometimes in open rebellion. The study at hand focuses on the development of the tale in the Anglo-Saxon literature of the 20th and 21st centuries. The author will analyze some of these modern Pygmalion versions, written by George Bernard Shaw, Carol Ann Duffy and Neil LaBute amongst other significant author   Auszug aus dem Text Text sample: Chapter IV, Retelling Pygmalion: New, Feminist Conceptions in the 20th and 21st Centuries: Essaka Joshua writes in her study about the reception of Ovid's Pygmalion myth in English literature that in 'the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the story is developed from being man-centred to woman-centred'. She continues that 'the focus moves to the empowerment of the woman Galatea becomes and the overturning of the patriarchal power of Pygmalion'. Indeed, Pygmalion's creation, who is not necessarily a statue any more, transforms into a major character in most 20th century versions of the tale. The statue had represented a 'tabula rasa' for the male act of creation from antiquity to the Victorian age: it could be filled with man's wishes and fantasies. Since the beginning of the 20th century, however, a new line of interpretation has become apparent. Ovid's tale underwent a 'feminist revisioning' which paid attention to Galatea's perspective and sometimes
even identified the Pygmalion figure as a pathological case who uses art to satisfy his male fantasies. George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion from 1912 was the first of these feminist retellings of the myth, therefore it will be discussed in this chapter along with Willy Russell's Educating Rita, a modernised version of Shaw's play. Most male twentieth-century writers retelling the Pygmalion story were occupied with Pygmalion's artistic crisis. My concern, however, is the feminist revisioning of the myth. Therefore, I shall neglect the artist-concerned texts and instead analyse the gender concerned re-workings by Angela Carter, Carol Ann Duffy and Neil LaBute. All of them bring a change of perspective on the Ovidian myth. 1, Critical View on the Educator Pygmalion: 1.1, George Bernard Shaw's Drama Pygmalion (1912): George Bernard Shaw counteracted all former receptions of the myth, especially those of the Victorian Age, in his play Pygmalion. A Romance. Here, Galatea is personified by the flowergirl Eliza and is neither silent nor devoted like the former models of Pygmalion's creation. Self-confidently, she confronts her Pygmalion, the phonetician Professor Higgins, with his tyranny and selfishness in the end of the play instead of marrying him. As Joshua points out, Shaw's play owes more to W. S. Gilbert's Pygmalion and Galatea than to the Ovidian myth. It 'does not contain […] any of the key episodes of Ovid's tale', but is 'a genuine variant' of the Pygmalion interpretations of Gilbert and his Victorian contemporaries. The latter especially focussed 'on the expanding role of Pygmalion as educator' of his Galatea. The first English work interpreting Pygmalion as educator is William Caxton's text of 1480 in which Pygmalion educates a servant girl. It anticipated Shaw's retelling of the myth as did Tobias Smollett's novel The Adventures of
Peregrine Pickle of 1751. Within his novel, Smollett tells a comical episode of a young nobleman, Peregrine, educating a beggar girl and introducing her to the London society as a lady. Geoffrey Miles mentions that Shaw knew Smollett's story and 'admitted that [it] might have unconsciously stuck in his mind from reading it as a boy'. While Shaw may not have been the first to convert Pygmalion into an educator, he still was the first to approach the Pygmalion-as-educator version critically and even from a feminist perspective. In Shaw's play, the positive view of Caxton or Rousseau on the humanistic educator Pygmalion turns into a rather negative one. Professor Higgins is not interested in forming a refined human being but in forming an aristocrat; only if the flowergirl is able to take on the speech of the higher classes she will become a worthy human being. For him, 'a woman who utters such […] disgusting sounds [as Eliza does in Act I] has no right to live'; to '[croon] like a bilious pigeon' contradicts her status as 'a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech'. Further, his sole interest is the result of his experiment. Eliza is nothing more than a human guinea pig to him, her feelings or future life are irrelevant. When she confronts him with the question what should become of her, he just replies 'What does it matter what becomes of you?'. Higgins does not care about his creature. Other than former Pygmalions he is not a caring creator but an entirely selfish one. The result of his experiment, to win his bet with Colonel Pickering, is all that matters to him. Moreover, he does not think of marrying his Galatea. Instead, he intends to remain a bachelor. He even wants to convince Eliza of the advantages of bachelorhood: in Higgins imagination, she, he himself 'and Pickering will be three old bachelors together instead
of only two men and a silly girl'. Yet Shaw's Galatea has her own mind and does not fulfil her Pygmalion's wish but marries another man, Freddy Eynsford Hill, instead. Compared to Ovid's Pygmalion, Higgins only resembles his mythical role-model in his convinced bachelorhood and misogyny. While the Ovidian sculptor soon falls in love with his creation, Higgins is not at all in love with Eliza. He stays a misogynist and instead of declaring his love to his Galatea, he expresses his contempt by calling her 'draggletailed guttersnipe', 'baggage' etc. Similarly, the flowergirl Eliza differs a lot from the Ovidian statue. She is not the silent object of her master any more but makes use of her voice. It is her speech that Higgins becomes interested in, that is from a phonetic perspective. During the whole play, he never really cares about the content of her words. He begins to shape Eliza's speech and manners until she passes as a duchess. This is the first part of her metamorphosis: her speech and outer appearance is changed. Due to new dresses and manners, the flowergirl is transformed into a lady. The second part of Eliza's metamorphosis, however, is more crucial - her inner change. In Act IV, when Higgins has won his bet, she begins to rage against him and his cruel selfishness. The act of throwing his slippers at him is a symbol of her liberation.   Biographische Informationen Stefanie Eck was born in Landshut in 1986. In 2006, she enrolled in British Studies, German Literature and European Ethnology at the University of Regensburg, followed by a master's degree in Studies in European Cultures at the University of Konstanz. Due to her fascination with cultures, languages and travelling she spent a lot of time abroad after graduating from high school: As an exchange student she studied at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and at the Universidad
de Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has also worked in South Africa and Australia. Carol Ann Duffy's poetry collection 'The World's Wife' brought about her interest in the interrelations of Anglo-Saxon literature with antique myth and thus induced the study at hand.
Publisher: Hamburg : Diplomica Verlag, 2014
Edition: 1st ed
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9783954895991
9783954890996
Branch Call Number: Electronic book
Characteristics: 1 online resource (44 pages)
Additional Contributors: ProQuest (Firm)

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