Re-visions : disordering perspectives of Ovid's Metamorphoses.
Suppose the informed reader of Ovid's Metamorphoses were a woman. What
difference might it make to posit a female reader for this work of literature? Might
a woman reader offer an alternative to the kinds of perspectives employed in
received readings of this text? Might a woman read this text differently?
The pluralism of feminist literary criticism offers the woman reader a variety of
reading strategies and positions to enable her to make a difference to her reading.
Rather than assenting to textual biases in which the male perspective is made
central and the female perspective is marginalised, women are invited to reread, to
resist, to revise, to re-appropriate and to disorder the dominant discourses of texts
and their received readings. Rereading focal stories and the narratives that place
them in context, this thesis engages these reading strategies to resist received
readings of Pygmalion and his puella, to revise the rape of Philomela, and to
Theoretical models adduced here include the work of the French feminist writers
Luce Irigaray and Julia Kristeva, who identify Woman as a figure of
indeterminacy and disorder, and a scientific model of chaos. Chaos theory
challenges the notion that rules and formal systems of interpretation can be relied
upon to interpret the dynamics of a complex system such as a literary text. It
suggests that the linear perspectives assumed in traditional models of
interpretation direct the reader towards the production of readings in which the
structural and ideological complexities of a text are smoothed over.
Beginning, like the Metamorphoses, with chaos and disorder this thesis will
attempt to progress towards stability and order. However, the readings and
rereadings of transformation through which this progression will be effected will
suggest that order is not a totalising or universal ising condition, but is rather a
pattern or state of symmetry in which asymmetries, gaps and unpredictabilities
may Occur. While emphasising the impossibility of an absolute or final form of
interpretation, it will offer an alternative to the kinds of linear perspectives
conventionally employed to read and interpret the complex dynamics of Ovid's
Metamorphoses. While seeking to map patterns and connections, causes and
effects, it will take into account unpredictability and indeterminacy, plurality and
contingency to read the Metamorphoses within an interpretative frame which
views contradiction, discontinuity and variation not as sources of critical and
textual weakness, but as sources of jouissance.