Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Making Myth Matter analyzes the influence of classical myths and their adaptations on cultural values and offers a prescription for how the adaptation process may be improved for cultural sensitivity. My concern is to address the troubling treatment and interpretation of acquaintance rape in three Greek myths: Cassandra, Persephone, and Philomela. I see the treatment of the rape in these myths' adaptations from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Timberlake Wertenbaker and Joanna Laurens as creating metanarratives that shame rape survivors and demean the violence of the rape act. I begin the scholarly portion of the dissertation by examining the difference between narrative: the events of a story, and metanarrative: the discursive function of the story. I address the contemporary Western understanding of rape and survivors' experiences, which reflect how influential metanarratives are in survivors' healing process. I further explain the care that is necessary in adapting myths involving rape because of those myths' strong influence on attitudes cultural attitudes about rape. I analyze the variety of adaptations of the three myths and how disempowering most have been. I use Neil LaBute's bash as an example of care in adaptation being a play that asks questions of the audience but does not provide answers. I see LaBute as engaging the tradition of catharsis without offering its comforting closure, creating a contemporary response to classical work that engages the values of the culture to which it is addressed. I finally provide a set of terms I believe necessary to follow in order to create considered adaptations. In my creative response, which forms the second half of the dissertation, I adapt the myths of Cassandra, Persephone, and Philomela to create metanarratives that empower survivors and engage cultural prejudices against them and their experiences. Through the writing process, I find my own understanding of the survivor experience challenged and explore the idea of adaptation an action of catharsis in itself.
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