Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in English



First Advisor

Daniel Novak

Second Advisor

Peter Reed

Third Advisor

Ian Whittington

Relational Format



Stephen Guy-Bray argues that though the story of Pygmalion has taken various forms in the nineteenth century, “it is often read as a story of artistic and sexual triumph” (447). But a sexual triumph for whom? My thesis addresses questions pertaining to how the nude female body is viewed on the theatrical stage by focusing specifically on the myth of Pygmalion as presented in W. S. Gilbert’s Pygmalion and Galatea and George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. I argue that the image of the moving statue, especially in the melodramatic tradition of the pose plastique and tableau vivant, creates instability for the viewer by evoking notions of human mortality that the stone human body embodies. The portrayal of the nude female form within paintings provides an insight into the lack of female agency within the Pygmalion myth by highlighting the buying and selling of women’s bodies and questions of female personhood and the performance of class.



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