Comparative literature (sometimes
abbreviated “Comp. lit.”) is critical scholarship
dealing with the literature of two or more different
linguistic, cultural or national groups. While most
frequently practiced with works of different
language it may also be performed on works of the
same language if the works originate from different
nation or cultures among which that language is
spoken. Also included in the range of inquiry are
comparisons of different types of art; for example, a
comparatist might investigate the relationship of
film to literature.
· Early work
· French School
· American School
· Current developments
This article is taken from Wikipedia Encyclopedia
Pygmalion: The Myth & The Play:
A Comparative Study
Pygmalion derives its name from the famous story in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, in which Pygmalion, disgusted by the loose and shameful lives of the women of his era, decides to live alone and unmarried. With wondrous art, he creates a beautiful statue more perfect than any living woman. The more he looks upon her, the more deeply he falls in love with her, until he wishes that she were more than a statue. This statue is Galatea.
Lovesick, Pygmalion goes to the temple of the goddess Venus and prays that she give him a lover like his statue; Venus is touched by his love and brings Galatea to life. When Pygmalion returns from Venus’ temple and kisses his statue, he is delighted to find that she is warm and soft to the touch—“The maiden felt the kisses, blushed and, lifting her timid eyes up to the light, saw the sky and her lover at the same time” (Frank Justus Miller, trans.).
Myths such as this are fine enough when studied through the lens of centuries and the buffer of translations and editions, but what happens when one tries to translate such an allegory into Victorian England? That is just what George Bernard Shaw
does in his version of the Pygmalion myth. In doing so, he exposes the inadequacy of myth and of romance in several ways. For one, he deliberately twists the myth so that the play does not conclude as euphorically or conveniently, hanging instead in unconventional ambiguity. Next, he mires the story in the sordid and mundane whenever he gets a chance. Wherever he can, the characters are seen to be belabored by the trivial details of life like napkins and neckties, and of how one is going to find a taxi on a rainy night. These noisome details keep the story grounded and decidedly less romantic. Finally, and most significantly, Shaw challenges the possibly insidious assumptions that come with the Pygmalion myth, forcing us to ask the following: Is the male artist the absolute and perfect being who has the power to create woman in the image of his desires? Is the woman necessarily the inferior subject who sees her lover as her sky? Can there only be sexual/romantic relations between a man and a woman? Does beauty reflect virtue? Does the artist love his creation, or merely the art that brought that creation into being?
Famous for writing “talky” plays in which barely anything other than witty repartee takes center stage (plays that the most prominent critics of his day called non-plays), Shaw finds in Pygmalion a way to turn the talk into action, by hinging the fairy tale
outcome of the flower girl on precisely how she talks. In this way, he draws our attention to his own art, and to his ability to create, through the medium of speech, not only Pygmalion’s Galatea, but Pygmalion himself.
More powerful than Pygmalion, on top of building up his creations, Shaw can take them down as well by showing their faults and foibles. In this way, it is the playwright alone, and not some divine will, who breathes life into his characters. While Ovid’s Pygmalion may be said to have idolized his Galatea, Shaw’s relentless and humorous honesty humanizes these archetypes, and in the process brings drama and art itself to a more contemporarily relevant and human level.
the flower girl who wants a higher station in life, it is even more concerned with the unloved, neglected woman who decides to make herself heard once and for all. The plays determination to have Eliza grow into a full human being with her own mind and will also explains why the play makes seemingly inexplicable structural moves like leaving out the climax, and carrying on for a further two acts after the climax. In other words, the superficial climax is not the real climax at all, and Shaw’s project is deeper than that of a fairy godmother.
3- What is the Pygmalion myth? In what siginicant ways, and with what effect, has Shaw transformed that myth in his play?
The Pygmalion myth comes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
Pygmalion is a sculptor who creates a sculpture of a woman so perfectly formed that he falls in love with her. Aphrodite is moved by his love and touches the statue to life so that she becomes Galatea, and the sculptor can experience live bliss with his own creation. While Shaw maintains the skeletal structure of the fantasy in which a gifted male fashions a woman out of lifeless raw material into a worthy partner for himself, Shaw does not allow the male to fall in love with his creation. Right to the last act, Higgins is still
quarrelsome and derisive in his interaction with Eliza, and does not even think of her as an object of romantic interest. Shaw goes on to undo the myth by injecting the play with other Pygmalion figures like Mrs. Pearce and Pickering,and to suggest that the primary Pygmalion himself is incomplete, and not ideal himself.
In transforming the Pygmalion myth in such a way, Shaw calls into question the ideal status afforded to the artist, and further exposes the inadequacies of myth and romances that overlook the mundane, human aspects of life.
4- “I care for life, for humanity; and you are a part of it that has come my way and been built into my house. What more can you: or anyone ask?” Henry Higgins has this to say to Eliza when she complains that he does not care for anybody and threatens to leave him. How does the professor of phonetics treat the people in his life? Can one ask for more?
5- Describe the primary ways in which Eliza Doolittle changes in the course of the play. Which is the most important transformation, and what clues Shaw give us to indicate this?
Students and instructors in the field, usually called “comparatists,” have traditionally been proficient in several languages and acquainted with the literary traditions and major literary texts of those languages.
Some of the newer sub-fields, however, stress theoretical acumen and the ability to consider different types of art concurrently, over high linguistic competence.
The interdisciplinary nature of the field means that comparatists typically exhibit some acquaintance with translation studies, sociology, critical theory, cultural studies and history, As a result, comparative literature programs within universities may be designed by scholars drawn from several such departments. This eclecticism has led critics (from within and without) to charge that Comparative Literature is insufficiently well-defined, or that comparatists too easily fall into dilettantism, because the scope of their work is, of necessity, broad. Some question whether this breadth affects the ability of Ph.D.s to find employment in the
Pygmalion of Tyre
(in Virgil’s epic Aeneid)
Pygmalion was king of Tyre from 820 to 774 BC and a son of king Mattan I (829-821 BC). During Pygmalion’s reign. Tyre seems to have shifted the heart of its trading empire from the Middle East to the Mediterranean,as can be judged from the building of new colonies including Kition on Cyprus.In Virgil’s masterpiece The Aeneid, Pygmalion is the cruel-hearted brother of Dido who secretly kills Dido’s husband Sychaeus because of his lust for gold. In Dante’s The Divine Comedy, Purgatorio, Canto XX, verses 103-105, Dante uses Virgil’s version of Pygmalion to represent greed.
Pygmalion in Greek Mythology
(in Ovid’s epic Metamorphoses)
Ovid (43 BC – 17 AD) was a Roman poet who wrote on many topics, including love, abandoned women and mythological transformations. By AD 8, Ovid had completed his most famous work called the Metamorphoses, an epic poem drawing on Greek mythology. The poem’s subject, as the author indicates at the outset, is “forms changed into new bodies”. From the emergence of the cosmos from formless mass into the
organized material world to the deification of Julius Caesar many chapters later, the poem weaves tales of transformation.
The stories are woven one after the other by the telling of humans transformed into new bodies ـــ trees, rocks, animals, flowers, constellations and so forth. Many famous myths are recounted such as Apollo and Daphne, Orpheus and Eurydice and Pygmalion. For literary scholars today the book is very valuable, as it offers an explanation to many alluded myths in other works. It is also a valuable source for those attempting to piece together Roman religion, as many of the characters in the book are Olympian gods or their offspring.
Pigmalion (1748 Opera)
Pigmalion is an opera in the form of a one-act acte de ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau first performed in 1748at the Opera in Paris. The libretto is by Ballot de Sovot. The work has generally been regarded as the best of Rameau’s one-act pieces. He was said to have composed the work in eight days. The story is based on the myth of Pygmalion as told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The sculptor Pygmalion falls in love with a statue of a beautiful women he has carved and asks the goddess Venus to bring it to life.
Sources of Shaw’s Pygmalion:
In his play Pygmalion (1914). G. B. Shaw (1856 – 1950)
has invented the specific story of Eliza and Higgins, but it is a variant on some of the best known basic or archetypal stories in the world (e.g. the legend of Pygmalion and Galatea, the story of Cinderella, the Faustus legend and legend of Don Juan).
Shaw has not needed to mention this openly as the presence of these sources (legends, stories or plays) can be recognized whenever the play has been performed.
The Source of the Title of Shaw’s Play:
The Legend of Pygmalion and Galatea
Shaw took his title from the ancient Greek legend of the famous sculptor named Pygmalion who could find nothing good in women, and as a result, he resolved to live out his life unmarried. However, he carved a statue out of ivory that was so beautiful and so perfect that he fell in love with his own creation. Indeed, the statue was so perfect that no living being could possibly be its equal. Consequently, at a festival, he prayed to the goddess of love, Aphrodite, that he might have the
statue come to life. When he reached home to his amazement, he sound that his wish had been fulfilled, and he proceeded to marry the statue, which he named Galatea.
Even though Shaw used several aspects of the legend, most prominently one of the names in the title, viewers, writers, critics, and audiences have consistently insisted upon there being some truth attached to every analogy in the myth. First of all, in Shaw’s Pygmalion,Professor Henry Higgins, is the most renowned man of phonetics of his time; Higgins is also like Pygmalion in his view of women- cynical and derogatory: Higgins says, “I find that the moment I let a woman make friends with me, she becomes jealous, ex-acting, suspicious, and a damned nuisance.” And whereas in the myth, Pygmalion carved something beautiful out of raw stone and gave it life, Shaw’s Higgins takes a “guttersnipe,”’a”squashed cap-bage leaf up out of the slums and makes her into an exquisite work of art. Here, however, the analogies or similarities end. Shaw’s “Galatea,” Eliza, develops a soul of her own and a fierce independence from her creator (Higgins).
In the popular film version and in the even more popular musical comedy version, My Fair Lady, the ending allows the au-dience to see a romantic love interest that blends in with the ancient myth. This, however, is a sentimentalized version of Shaw’s play