Representations of female sexuality in fairy tale illustrations and text, with specific reference to the Brothers Grimm's The handless maiden

Meyer, Berry (2010-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Visual Arts))--University of Stellenbosch, 2010.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation aims to investigate, from a feminist perspective, representations of female sexuality in fairy tale text and illustrations. I conduct my analysis in the form of a case study of the Brothers Grimm’s The Handless Maiden as it appeared in the 1915 English edition of their Children and Household Tales. My investigation is prompted by the belief that fairy tales play an important role in the social construction of gender relations, a process known as ‘interpellation’ within contemporary feminist discourse. This due to the fact that fairy tales are some of the earliest narratives young children get exposed to and thus help shape their understanding of the world around them and their role as social beings in it. I start my investigation by looking exclusively at fairy tale text – The Handless Maiden by the Brothers Grimm - and how language gets used to construct a specific version of female sexuality; that which is silenced and without agency, thus repressive and problematic from a feminist perspective. Here I firmly situate my argument within a theoretical framework provided by contemporary feminist discourse with reference to the arguments of theorists Judith Butler and Luce Irigaray and their emphasis on the key role of language within processes of ‘interpellation’. I then move on to a discussion of fairy tale illustrations and the important role thereof to underscore, by making visible, the particular version of female sexuality implicit in the accompanying text. The next part of my investigation focuses on images of women in the photo-collages of the early 20th century German artist Hannah Höch. I posit these as exemplary of imagery with the potential to destabilize patriarchal notions of female sexuality. By means of this investigation I hope to provide a discursive framework in which to situate my own set of illustrations of the Grimm’s Handless Maiden, which I completed as part of the practical component of my submission for the current degree. The final part of my discussion focuses on my own illustrations of the Grimm’s Handless Maiden and here I will argue for my illustrations as a means to, not only destabilize notions of female sexuality implicit in the accompanying fairy tale text, but also a means to suggest other, alternative, readings of the nature of the female sexual subject position implicit in the text.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek die feministiese tentoonstelling van vroulike seksualiteit in sprokies se illustrasie en teks. My ondersoek analiseer die Broers Grimm se The Handless Maiden soos dit verskyn het in die 1915 Engelse uitgawegenaamd, Children and Household Tales. Hierdie ondersoek word gelei deur die aan-name dat sprokies‘n belangrike rol speel in die sosiale konstruksie van geslag verwantskappe, ‘n proses bekend as “interpellasie” in die diskoers van kontemporêre feminisme. Sprokies is van die vroegste narratiewe waaraan kinders blootgestel word en beïnvloed dus hul begrip van die wêreld, ondermeer hul sosiale rol daarin. My ondersoek begin met die fokus op The Handless Maiden se teksen hoe taal gekonstrueer word rondom ‘n spesifieke weergawe van vroulike seksualiteit. Vanuit ‘n feministiese oogpunt is hierdie seksualiteit problematies, aangesien dit as swygend en sonder agentskap aanskou word. Ek struktureer my ondersoek rondom die argumente van Judith Butler and Luce Irigaray, met klem op die rol van taal in die proses van “interpellasie”. Daarna skuif my fokusna ‘n diskoers omtrent sprokies se illustrasies en die belangrike rol van onderliggende vroulike sexualiteit wat teenwoordig is in die teks sowel as die illustrasies. My ondersoek lei dan na die vroulike figure in die foto-plakskildery van die vroeg 20ste eeuse Duitse kunstenaar, Hannah Höch. My ondersoek van vroulike figure staan dan as voorbeelde van die moontlikheid om patriargale neiging van vroulike seksualiteit te destabiliseer. Ek beoog dus om ‘n diskoers raamwerk te stig waarin ek my eie illustrasies van Grimm se Handless Maiden, wat ek as ‘n deel van my praktiese komponenet voltooi het vir my huidige tesis. Die finale deel van my tesis ondersoek my eie illustrasies van Grimm se Handless Maiden. Hier plaas ek my werk in die destabieliseering raamwerk van vroulike seksualiteit wat vanselfsprekend is in die sprokie en terselfde tyd alternatiewe lesings van die vroulike seksualiteits onderwerp bied.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/4124
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