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Complex Transformation & Defence of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid"

English Extension Assessment Task 2

Julia Jones

on 19 June 2014

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Transcript of Complex Transformation & Defence of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid"

Complex Transformation & Defence
of Hans Christian Andersen's
"The Little Mermaid"

The Punishment for Going Around
She said I was stupid
She said he would give me a soul
If I was his
And he was mine

He watched my figure, my form
I danced
And bled

For him
We laughed
At my blood
And ignored

My voice
I loved
He loved

He left me
And I understood
I slew the sea
Not the man
And learned
I am punished
Ambition and soul
Are not for women

I opened
My eyes
My legs
My heart
My mind
And they cannot be closed
Analysis & Defence
Psychoanalytic Criticism
Feminist Criticism
Background image "Mermaid" by Criezi. Sourced from http://criezi.deviantart.com/art/Mermaid-367352626

"The Mermaid's Homesickness" by WonderlandNinja. Sourced from http://wonderlandninja.deviantart.com/art/The-Mermaid-s-Homesickness-301562526

Cover of Disney's The Little Mermaid. Sourced from Google Images

Words by Julia van Haeringen
Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid (1837)
She cannot return to her previous ignorance; she cannot “close her legs” into the tail they were before, or forget everything she has seen, learnt and loved in the pursuit of immortality.
Vladimir Propp's 31 Functions
8a. One member of a family either lacks something or desires to have something?
11. The hero leaves home?
17. The hero is branded?
25. A difficult task is proposed to the hero?
29. The hero is given a new appearance?

"Aristotle's three categories are essentially to do with the underlying themes and moral purposes of stories" (Barry, 2002)
Hamartia (tragic flaw)
Peripeteia (a reversal of circumstances; a turning point)
Anagnorisis (moment of realisation; recognition)
Characteristics of Children's Literature
Have child protagonists
Have a clear cut moral code
An optimistic outcome for the protagonist/s
Use child oriented language
Have plots of a distinctive order
Can be defined by the implied reader
Oedipal Complex
A child's desire to sexually possess the parent of the opposite gender
"In the girl's Oedipal scenario, the father, unlike the castrated mother, stands for the virile capacity of desire itself, which she herself lacks but might reclaim through another man's provision of the opportunity to have a child. In the trajectory of the girl's Oedipal Complex,
femininity is realized as the desire to be the
object of masculine desire."
(Zakin, 2011)
“refuses the obvious meaning of the story and seeks instead to isolate certain deep structures within it” (Thomsen, 1990, p. 141)
Formalist New Criticism approach: each work is treated as its own distinct piece, free from its environment, era and author
Contains the archetype of its genre, a moral message
“a good child, who is the joy of his parents and deserves their love” (Andersen, 1837)
Fifth Commandment: "Honour thy father and thy mother"
The Little Mermaid revolves around “the thwarted efforts of the female figure to develop and participate fully in a patriarchal order.” (Soracco, 1990, p. 149)
The Aesthetic
The sea witch’s assurance that the little mermaid will be able to enchain a man’s heart by her “beautiful form, … graceful walk, and … expressive eyes” (Andersen, 1837)
Binary Oppositions
The implication that femininity is simultaneously associated with mortality and the quality of being non-human while masculinity is associated with innate immortality suggests at an attempt to instil a belief that the feminine is inferior to the masculine.
My Transformation
Castration anxiety: the fear of emasculation in both the literal and metaphorical sense
Penis Envy: " A mother can transfer to her son the ambition which she has been obliged to suppress in herself, and she can expect from him the satisfaction of all that has been left over in her of her masculinity complex." (Freud, 1933)
Derrida & Structuralism
Neologism referring to the privileging of the masculine in creating meaning
Phallic imagery of "serpents with a hundred heads…with fingers like wiggling worms" suggests privileging of masculine language
A General Definition
"Having a penis seems to have become so important that it becomes appropriate to speak of its symbolic significance."
"The notion of phallocentrism involves some of the more subtle, more symbolic and perhaps more fundamental ways in which the phallus can be equated with power, authority, presence, and the right to possession. "
(Bennett & Royle, 2014, p. 182)
Feminist criticism “strives to expose the explicit and implicit misogyny in male writing about women”

First Wave Feminism
highlights the inequalities between the sexes
Beauvoir: "the destruction of patriarchy if women will only break out of their objectification"
Woolf: "principally concerned with women’s material disadvantages compared to men"
(Selden, Widdowson,
& Brooker, 2005)
Second Wave Feminism
"Although second-wave feminism continues to share the first wave’s fight for women’s rights in all areas, its focal emphasis shifts to the politics of reproduction, to women’s ‘experience’, to sexual ‘difference’ and to ‘sexuality’, as at once a form of oppression and something to celebrate."
(Selden, Widdowson, & Brooker, 2005)
there “must be two sides of meaning that posits a natural relationship between words and things” (Basumatary, 2013, p. 5)
“The role of deconstructive thinkers is not simply to invert hierarchies… but to reopen the play of differences around these terms” (Pope, 2001, p. 131)
The Little Mermaid is told from the point of view of an omniscient narrator privileging a patriarchal ideology

I made the decision to retain the protagonist as female
"A characteristic deconstructive move is to invert differences and to point to what is marginalised or absent, thereby setting up alternative centres or challenging the notion of centres altogether. Poststructuralists in general, and deconstructors in particular, are especially fascinated by absences, gaps and silences and are keen on offering radical inversions of the relations between foreground and background." (Pope, 2001, p. 128).
Encountering the Sea Witch
My transformation attempts to convey the “recognition that gender identity is socially constructed and can be challenged and transformed” (Selden, Widdowson, & Brooker, 2005, p. 118) through subverting the dominant patriarchal ideology inherent in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.
By freeing the text from the constraints of a heavily prescribed genre, I am metaphorically freeing the female perspective from its suppressed position in the literary canon.
Feminist concept of sisterhood?
A simple moral or evidence of bias towards the patriarchy?
The point at which the little mermaid loses her voice;
The beginning of a silence?
the lack of titles and names to differentiate characters maintains this post-structuralism fracture of the original text
By using pronouns, binary oppositions are maintained
seeks to return a strong voice to the little mermaid, whereupon a female perspective is given that redefines and reconciles the position women should assume in both literary works and society itself, while reclaiming the concept of female sexuality.
Fairy tale
Free verse poem
Frees narrative from strict conventions
allows the transformation to be applied not just to The Little Mermaid, but to the greater population and any number of different, individual stories.
My transformation...
Human beings

“the multiple ways in which patriarchy figures the conjunction of femininity with death and the aesthetic , and the fact that the female body as an object of aesthetic contemplation is also bound up with a certain violence towards femininity, towards women.”
(Bennett & Royle, 2014, p. 33)
Andersen, H. C. (1837). The Little Mermaid.English translation sourced from http://hca.gilead.org.il/li_merma.html
Barry, P. (2002). Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory (2 ed.). Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Basumatary, D. (2013). Ferdinand De Saussure and Structuralist Theory: A Brief Illustration. Retrieved June 8, 2014, from Academia.edu: http://www.academia.edu/3437742/Ferdinand_De_Saussure_and_Structuralist_Theory_A_Brief_Illustration
Bennett, A., & Royle, N. (2014). An Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory (4 ed.). New York: Routledge.
Bøggild, J., & Heegaard, P. (1993). Ambiguity in Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. Andersen Og Verden, 311-320.
Brizee, A., & Tompkins, J. C. (n.d.). Literary Theory and Schools of Criticism. Retrieved April 1, 2014, from https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/owlprint/722/
Hunt, P. (1996). Defining Children's Literature. Only Connect, 2-17.
Pickering, R. (n.d.). To what extent may a gender perspective help us understand the characters, their desires and motivation in Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Little Mermaid'? Retrieved June 10, 2014, from Academia.edu: http://www.academia.edu/5231333/To_what_extent_may_a_gender_perspective_help_us_understand_the_characters_their_desires_and_motivation_in_Hans_Christian_Andersens_The_Little_Mermaid
Pope, R. (2001). The English Studies Book:An Introduction to Language, Literature and Culture. New York: Routledge.
Richter, D. H. (Ed.). (1998). The Critical Tradition: Classical Texts and Contemporary Trends. Boston: Bedford Books.
Selden, R., Widdowson, P., & Brooker, P. (2005). A Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory (5 ed.). London: Longman Pearson.
Soracco, S. (1990). Splash! Six Views of "The Little Mermaid": A Psychoanalytical Approach. Scandinavian Studies, 145-149.
Thomsen, U. (1990). Splash! Six Views of "The Little Mermaid": A Structuralist Approach. Scandinavian Studies, 141-145.
Zakin, E. (2011, May 16). Psychoanalytic Feminism. Retrieved June 6, 2014, from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2011/entries/feminism-psychoanalysis/

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