29 September 2008

A Space of her Own: Sexuality, Silence, and Negotiating Spaces in Homer’s Odyssey and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale

A Feminist Reading

This is my MA thesis abstract. If you have nothing to do and want to spend a long night under a blanket, let me know and I will send you a copy of the whole thesis.

The present research examines themes of women’s sexuality, silence, power and negotiation of spaces in Homer’s The Odyssey and Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. The study employs an open reading of the texts alongside feminist perspectives to offer new, alternative meanings that are hidden within the folds of the dominant, patriarchal discourse. As meaning depends mainly on the lens through which a text is read, the strategies utilized in this research enable fluid shifts in meaning because they open up the texts to alternative possible interpretations. Maneuvering within the dominant discourse and reading between the lines uncovers a space within which women have to struggle in order to find their own private spheres and modes of being.
No research—to my knowledge—has engaged in a comparative study of the two literary works under consideration, despite a number of common elements. The thread connecting these works, and on which the arguments in this study are built, is the image of stone that is prominent in both works. In The Odyssey, Penelope is presented pausing near a pillar of stone a number of times, whereas in The Winter’s Tale, the queen Hermione is turned into a statue of stone at the end of the play. These two images are closely analyzed in relation to these women’s silence and marginalization, and they constitute a central point of reference in exploring the other themes.
A unique element of the present research is that it combines two contrasting approaches often utilized by feminist literary research. The first seeks to uncover the oppressive patriarchal mechanisms which act to marginalize and constrain women, while the second searches for openings in the text which enable an alternative, celebratory reading. In my research, I harness both of these strategies to offer broader possibilities of reading The Odyssey and The Winter’s Tale, paying attention to the possible ways in which these two varying readings can interact to offer broader and richer understandings of the themes dealt with.

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