Elizabeth Davidson '05

From Euripides to Sophocles: Hofmannsthal Creates His Own Voice

hofmannsthalMy honors paper explored the way in which the early twentieth century Austrian writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal depicted women in the theatrical works he based upon Greek tragedy. Hofmannsthal began writing Greek-inspired plays at a time of great personal insecurity in his own life, and he used ancient authors to help him find, or perhaps rediscover, his voice. Through this process he underwent a transformation of his own, and his later, classically-inspired works stand in sharp contrast to those he wrote earlier. They are less dependent on the Greek authors' words and far more individual.

Hofmannsthal wrote when the women's movement in Austria was in its infancy, and though he was known to speak contemptuously of women--or at least their literary abilities--all the women in his Greek inspired works are strong and capable women -- in fact, more so than the male characters. He contradicts himself constantly in his writing by having so many female characters who dominate and manipulate the men around them.

Working with Professor Cerf on this project was academically challenging and rewarding. I enjoyed working under the direction of one professor and spending my time reading and writing. When applying to graduate schools I gravitated toward programs that would offer a similar experience. Now at Oxford, I am not only pursuing the contradiction in Hofmannsthal that I found so fascinating when I was at Bowdoin, but I have also branched out to look at his portrayal of women versus his personal feelings as well as to look at some other writers from the same time and place, in particular Arthur Schnitzler. My honors paper prepared me well for the work I am doing here.

Elizabeth Davidson '05, was awarded a scholarship at Oxford University to pursue a Master's Degree in European Literatures.