“Not Orphée.” “No, Never Him.”: Reclaiming Female Agency From Ovid’s “Orpheus and Eurydice” in Alice Munro’s “the Chidlren Stay” and Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire
thesisposted on 22.05.2021, 17:28 by Charlene Chow
[Introductory paragraph] In myth, women's boundaries are pliant, porous, mutable. Her power to control them is inadequate, her concern for them unreliable. Deformation attends her. She swells, she shrinks, she leaks, she is penetrated, she suffers metamorphoses. The women of mythology regularly lose their form in monstrosity. —Anne Carson, Men in the Off Hours Metamorphoses can be understood as “the action or process of changing in form, shape, or substance [and especially] transformation by supernatural means” (OED). Ovid’s Metamorphoses focuses on the changing of bodies to other physical forms, but Ovid’s tales of transformation have themselves been transformed into other literary and cultural forms. This paper will pull together different disciplines such as classical, literary, and film studies to examine Ovid’s “Orpheus and Eurydice” from the Metamorphoses, and the formalist and feminist adaptations of the tale by women about women: Alice Munro’s short story “The Children Stay” and Céline Sciamma’s film Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Munro and Sciamma give their female heroines the agency and voices they lacked in Ovid’s text, where there is a pattern of violence against women, who are silenced usually through some form of destructive transformations of their bodies.