Mazeppa's horse : a case study of Anglo-French intertextuality.
The aim of this thesis is to reassess the value of the horse-figure in the tale of
Mazeppa. The study begins with an attempt to establish the status of the tale as a Romantic
myth in Western European culture and identifies four texts as a corpus of study: Voltaire's
Histoire de Charles XII, roi de Suede, Lord Byron's Mazeppa, its translation into French by
Amedee Pichot and, finally, Victor Hugo's 'Mazeppa' from his collection Les Orientales.
Using methodologies derived from the history of ideas, psychoanalysis, and contextual and
intertextual approaches, it is proposed that these four texts form a chain of meaning. The texts
are examined at symbolic, structural and textual levels. At these levels, the concepts of the
'centaur complex' and the 'Pegasus complex' are introduced, enabling the outline of the horse
as a representation of poetic inspiration and genius to emerge. This appears implicitly or
explicitly in the texts and is effected through a dialectical process of fusion and inversion
occurring within the man-animal relationship.
As a result, the horse becomes not only a thematic link, or 'bridge', horizontally tying
the chain of texts together, but it also endorses, within each text, a deeper, vertical function
supporting metapoetic meaning and thus reaching the field of poetic ontology. The figurative
horse is the 'real' creative surge for each writer within himself and between each text. Poetic
creation springs from a hollow wound which the horse, representing the urge of expression,
comes to fill and heal. This language transcends nationalities, but, as the story of Mazeppa was
written both in English and in French, and also for other methodological reasons, the thesis is
distinctively comparative. However, the double function of the horse implies that each text is
studied on its own as well as in relation to the other texts of the corpus.