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Old as time: Circulation of gender conceptions in Beauty and the Beast tales
McClish, GlenPollard, Elizabeth
One of the first forms of rhetoric we encounter as children is the fairy tale, which inducts us into society by conferring social roles, especially gendered ones. This thesis traces a fairy tale’s portrayal of gender using circulation studies—specifically, Jenny Rice’s framework of affective ecologies—and feminist criticism—Sonja Foss’s disruptive strategies and Gesa Kirsch and Jacqueline Royster’s critical imagination. In doing so, I extend circulation studies to demonstrate how it can be used not only for digital rhetoric but also for tales that have been circulated via print and film. “Old as time,” Beauty and the Beast tales lend themselves to such a study, with the animal bridegroom motif providing a particularly fascinating take on gender. This thesis examines three versions of the tale, occurring in three distinct time periods and cultures: Lucius Apuleius’s second-century CE Roman Cupid and Psyche (embedded within The Golden Ass), Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s eighteenth-century French La Belle et la Bête, and Disney’s 2017 live-action film Beauty and the Beast. To capture the viral spread of the tale, this thesis provides an overview of the cultural gender context and analyzes the temporal, historical, and lived contexts of each tale, tacking in and out to illuminate the bleeding of contexts and the complexity of rhetorical movement. Investigating how gender expectations are conveyed rhetorically through the “male animal” and “female bride” in each tale, the thesis argues that the heroine and the Beast conform to their contemporary gender conventions in terms of physical appearance and performative roles in education and marriage. Circulating literature and films during each tale’s historical period indicate how the tale shifted to reflect changes in societal perspectives on curiosity and love in marriage. While the lived context of each tale points to a change in audience, the purpose of edification and instilling gender conformity remains consistent throughout the tale’s circulation. Ultimately, this thesis offers an example of how a circulation studies analysis of the viral spread of a tale enhances our understanding of how rhetoric and the ideologies it presents—such as gender—morph as rhetoric circulates across time and culture.
Rhetoric And Writing Studies
Rhetoric and Writing Studies
Arts and Letters
San Diego State University
Master of Arts (M.A.) San Diego State University, 2020
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