Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion: An Intertextual Interpretation (萧伯纳作品《皮革马利翁》之互文性解读)文献综述
Bernard Shaw has been widely acclaimed as the most outstanding playwright ever since Shakespeare, whose works centering on the social problems and phenomena of the 20th century have exerted profound influence on the trend of modern drama and established his fame as the father of modern drama. In 1925, Shaw was awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature for the "demonstration of idealism and humanitarian" in his works, Saint Joan in particular. Shaw did not gain his success by coincidence or the favor of Lady Luck; on the contrary, he cultivated a fascination for books since childhood and this fondness lasted for his entire life, which render it possible for him to flexibly borrow and utilize the fruits of the previous writers to develop his own writing features.
In 1914, Shaw named his new five-act Pygmalion after the mythical figure Pygmalion in the Roman poet Ovid#8217;s best-known poem The Metamorphosis (produced in 7 AD). However, the way that he named Pygmalion keeps his readers in suspense and leaves them vast room for imagination as the title is generally regarded as the soul of a work and the core of thematic interpretation. It is unlikely that Shaw#8217;s intention of writing the very play is merely a reminder of the importance of pure English as what he himself claimed, for he himself is a passionate advocate of social problem plays. By interweaving the ancient character into the background of a modern 20th-century play and producing a diametrically opposite ending, Shaw intends to tell us something underneath. Therefore, an intertextual interpretation of Shaw's Pygmalion and Ovid's The Metamorphosis can help us figure out such intention and enhance a deep understanding of his thematic concerns as well as literary attainments as a language master and satirist. Pygmalion and Intertextuality will be reviewed as follows:
1. Previous studies on Pygmalion
As one of Bernard Shaw#8217;s most popular plays, Pygmalion has been the subject of much criticism since its very publication in 1914. Most critics view it as a delightfully amusing, well-constructed comedy. It was firstly translated into Chinese by Lin Yutang in 1929. Since then a lot of Chinese scholars have done tremendous research from various angles and perspectives. There are about 50 academic articles published on cnki.net between 2000 and 2012 and two perspectives should deserve our attention: Characterization and thematic analysis.
Quite a few scholars show great interest in the analysis of characters, especially the heroine Eliza. Deng Niangang (2010) studied Eliza#8217;s bewilderment with and awakening of her ethical identity and pointed out that the large gap between Eliza#8217;s poor economic condition and her cultured manners caused such bewilderment. It was the power of knowledge and independent personalities that finally helped her successfully overcome this plight. Tang Wan (2008) attached equal importance to independent personalities, which determined Eliza's awakening and growth. She further claimed that the new Eliza was created by Eliza herself, and what Higgins did to her was only providing her the opportunity to experience a different life, thus awakening her. Liu Tingting (2005) made a comparative analysis of Eliza in Pygmalion and Nora in A Doll#8217;'s House from the feminist perspective and came to the conclusion that though having different lives, they shared the same miserable destiny and the same mission of fighting for feminine rights in a patriarchal culture. Compared with the aforementioned scholars, Hu Hui (2011) gave a relatively thorough analysis of the personalities of all the major characters in Pygmalion. However, she didn#8217;t study in depth the causes and effects of those personalities; as a result, her interpretation seemed too superficial.
Some scholars focus on the themes of Pygmalion. Martin Meisel (1963), the author of Shaw and the Ninetieth Century Theater, viewed the play as a radical attack on class distinction and class prejudice. Archibald Henderson (1956) equally believed that Pygmalion reflected Bernard Shaw#8217;s idea that class barriers were artificial and meaningless, thus bound to be removed. The Chinese scholar Liu Yangyang (2011) concluded Pygmalion, like all the other plays, was a vivid and direct reflection of Bernard Shaw#8217;s creative evolution, which embodied both Eliza#8217;s improvement under the driven vitality and the significant improvement of women#8217;s status. Shi Yangling and Li Kai (2012) also agreed that creative evolution was the theme of Pygmalion, which served as a powerful tool for Shaw to criticize the darkness of the bourgeois society and encouraged feminine rebellion and self-awareness. However, Wang Lingli (2011) pointed out that the dramatic reversals in the play reflected his compromise to the bourgeois society, for Shaw, though understanding the darkness of the society, could only help the protagonists change their fortunes through impractical and absurd dramatic reversals, which was the very embodiment of his Fabianism in literature.
Intertextuality refers to the explicit and implicit relations of every text with other prior, contemporary and potential future ones, and it is created by repeating, emphasizing, condensing, changing and deepening the other texts (Samoyault 75). It is a kind of theory that generates from the 20th-century surge of Structuralism and Post-structuralism. It was first theorized by the French female scholar Julia Kristeva (1941- ) in Le mot, le dialogue, le roman, published in the journal of Tel Quel in 1966. However, it is after the publication of Barthes#8217;s book Text Theory that Intertextuality gains its popularity in the critic community. Since then, an increasing number of scholars dedicate themselves to the study of Intertextuality, and the intertextual theory gradually develops itself into a narrower sense. The French scholar, Gerard Genette (1930- ), as the representative of narrow Intertextuality, defined Intertextuality as the relations between a particular text and the other well-grounded ones (Luo 9). Intertextuality makes possible a free dialogue between a literary text and the other ones, which undoubtedly enriches literary criticism.
Generally speaking, Intertextuality can be divided into three categories: Internal Intertextuality, External Intertextuality and Contratextuality. Internal Intertextuality refers to the intertextual relations among different parts in one particular text. On the contrary, External Intertextuality is defined as the intertextual relations between two different texts. In most situations, writers apply Intertextuality to arise the positive associations of other texts. However, sometimes their intention of borrowing is to abandon or parody the previous texts, and this is Contratextuality.