Adaptation of Greek Mythology in the Renaissance (Ackland Art Museum)

The interpretations of ancient stories have changed throughout history. Europa and the Bull is a prime example of a story whose interpretation has been changed since the classical era. Europa and the Bull was originally a Greek mythological story that, throughout the course of time, developed different meanings from literal to metaphorical. These adaptations were represented through the artwork, more specifically, the landscape of the piece. By using the landscape to frame the story or scene represented, the message conveyed is shifted. This is apparent in many renaissance artworks.  Centuries after the ancient Greeks, Christians were using these stories to represent their moral values through artwork. Artists such as Titian would depict scenes from prominent Roman and Greek tales. By using the landscape, the renaissance artists would retell these ancient stories either from their perspective or fit the commissioner of the piece.

The Renaissance in Italy was a time where moral values were derived from Christianity. The art reflected Christian icons or stories that represented the values that pertained to the church. However, not all these stories were found in the bible. Europa and the Bull is a Greek story about a woman, Europa, who was kidnapped by Zeus who turned himself into a bull, kidnapped her, and kept her on the island of Crete While the tale derived from classical mythology, this fable can be found on paintings, dishes, and sculptures throughout the mid-1500s by well-known artists. This is because many themes were considered to portray Christian values. Even Christian prayer books dating back to the late 16th century told those to “…respect the Oriental notions in the…Greeks…” because their literature had similar ideologies and values of the church. The mythological stories that mirrored the values of the church were then illustrated on large canvases and household items. The simplistic mythological story was perfect for anyone in the household to understand. In Italy during the Renaissance, only an average of 20% of the adult male population was literate; woman and children, in this time period, were uneducated. A painting/illustration of a woman being abducted by a higher being such as a god was supposed to tell women in the Renaissance period to be true and loyal to their husbands. Stories that represented woman’s loyalty to their husbands were commonly given as wedding gifts, usually illustrated on a maiolica. A maiolica is a dish that illustrated ancient mythology, classical history, and stories from the Bible These were commonly given as gifts or ordered in sets by wealthy Italian families. The piece Molded Dish with Europa and the Bull (c.1550) is a maiolica that displays the complete story of Europa and the Bull, which, according to the Ackland Art Museum Object Guide, was most likely given to a new wife on her wedding day (picture of piece displayed below).

In 16th century artwork, the color white was symbolic of power, deity, and purity. Of all the bright colors, Zeus in bull form is the only white part of the landscape, representing his godly status as a supernatural being who has control of all humans below. Along with white, the blue scarf on Zeus can represent a “steady character” or wisdom. Many western artists used the color blue as it is a formal color that represents wisdom, strength, and importance. The human form of Zeus also sits atop a cloud, almost disconnected from the story as if he is watching all the scenes play just like the viewer of the piece. While the animals and humans throughout the landscape show happy emotions, the meaning of the story is to suppress and keep woman “obedient”. By displaying the animals with these emotions, the moral meaning of staying loyal and obedient to your husband is delivered as good, giving off the tone that if your husband is happy, you will be happy.

This adaptation of Europa and the Bull, like many adaptations of Robinson Crusoe, added Christian values to retell the story “appropriately” to the people during this time period. The common idea that a wife is obedient to her husband and following a moral code was prominent throughout the church, especially in Italy during the 16th century. The church birthed, educated, fed, wed, and buried you during this time period, therefore, the artwork would reflect the dominant ideology. Through visual examination and color theory, it is apparent that key details helped determine the meaning of this piece and helps the viewer understand that it is an adaptation of the original story.

Wide Sargasso Sea movie proposal

Wide Sargasso Sea is a book about lost love, discrimination, morality, and the human psyche. However, Hollywood can’t seem to figure this out when they decided to make the movie version of this book. The book Wide Sargasso Sea is an adaptation of the book Jane Eyre. The deranged wife of Rochester, Bertha, is the main character in Wide Sargasso Sea as it follows her journey from the Americas to England, and how she became a lost soul trapped within the walls of her own brain with only one friend, her caregiver. The book goes deep into her past by describing the trials and tribulations of her life, her mother’s past and insanity, and her time in England.

Hollywood didn’t seem to pick up on this.

There were many places this movie could have gone. It could have focused on a certain aspect of Bertha’s, real name Antionette, life. It could have even focused on the relationship between Bertha and her time in England. Instead, the makers of the movie decided to make it…soft-core porn.

Any person who hasn’t read the book was probably thrilled to see it, but if they decided to go read the book, they were probably disappointed. This 50 shades of Grey knock-off features key elements such as intimate relations between the slaves, the main characters Antionette and Rochester, and really anyone in the movie. They turned her insanity into a passionate love story filled with “lust and desire”. It’s as if the directors read the back of the book, added in a couple of sex scenes, and decided they were done for the day. This movie version is so far from the book version that it’s not even an adaptation, just a poor excuse to make porn on an island.

I propose a new movie, an actual movie for Wide Sargasso Sea.

This movie would go somewhat chronologically to the book. It would open on Antoinette’s home island with Antoinette and Christophine. Throughout the scenes on the island, the movie would flash to and from flashbacks to the first part of the book with her mother. The mother’s story would develop as Antionette’s “insanity” develops. Her insanity would be subtle. The movie would only hint at her mental state throughout the first half of the movie. As the island drama played out, the first part would end with the fire and Antionette getting hit in the head with the rock. Many would think this is how it ends, that she will either die or wake up in some foreign hospital, BUT it will flash-forward to when Rochester meets with Antionette.

The second half would open up with her in the attic of Rochester’s estate. It would be a carbon copy of the book’s description. This would focus on the mental state of Antionette, who Rochester is now calling Bertha. Flashbacks to her journey would come to Antionette when she is reminded that she isn’t on a boat but is, in fact, in England. This is where the book Jane Eyre and the book Wide Sargasso Sea come together. The rest of the movie would play out Jane Eyre but behind the attic walls. Scenes such as the stabbing, walking through town, and Jane meeting Bertha would play out. The last scene would end with Bertha’s “dream” of setting the house on fire. As she wakes up, the screen would go black just as she started to light the curtain.

This new movie for Wide Sargasso Sea would correctly display the book and all the morality issues, discrimination, and psychological trauma that comes with it. By using lust and desire as the main attraction, you lose the meat of the book. This proposal is a solution to a real movie for this adaptation to an all-time classic.

A Beautiful Mind: Susan Barton Version

In the book “Foe”, Susan Barton is an adventurous, independent, strong-minded character who doesn’t take no for an answer. Her willingness to find her daughter, to get Friday home, and get off the island make her apart of a unique group of strong female characters. Throughout the book, she writes letters to the infamous author Defoe as a way to communicate her story. Many of these letters are details similar to Robinson Curose, who she meets on the island. As the story progresses, however, the book starts to creep away from the adventure tail into a mind puzzling mystery filled with psychological twists and turns at every corner. By the end of the book, we have an unreliable narrator, a missing Defoe, a murder, and Friday alone. In the last chapter of the book, Susan Barton’s voice is replaced by an unknown character that describes the beginning of the book. Instead of Susan being alive with the dead captain, she was laying next to the captain and Friday across the deck. Their skin is stretched out tight almost making it look like they are smiling. Their bodies were motionless yet they were still warm, most likely from the sun.

This is not like the rest of the chapters. Instead of continuing the story, it begins again at the ship, but Friday is now aboard. Many scholars believe this to be real life and the entire story was Susan Barton’s dream. I don’t believe this at all.

I think Susan Barton went crazy.

Not just a little crazy, off the deep end. At the end of the book, there are key phrases which Susan speaks about that seem off to her. First, a woman claiming she is Susan’s daughter approaches her multiple times saying her name is Susan Barton and our Susan is her mother (Foe 89). Susan does not believe this for a minute. Later in the chapter, Mr. Foe brings the alleged daughter back to Susan with her caretaker. The woman tries to tell her this is her daughter along with the alleged daughter in the room. Susan then goes to the alleged daughter and kisses her, but instead of this being a happy ending, Susan recoils back and says that she knows better to believe this (Foe 164). While as the reader we do not know if she is the daughter or not, Susan’s violent actions could be a step towards her insanity.

Earlier in the book, Susan speaks about how she isn’t the greatest writer and wants to change aspects of her story. While maybe adding in a couple of details like the scenery isn’t anything, Susan wanted to change key details such as action scenes and Cruso himself. But when Foe wanted to make Friday a cannibal, she refused. As if her changes were ok but his changes were not. This could be hinting that the island itself was fake.

By the end of the fourth chapter, Foe and Susan are getting into a heated argument. Foe screams at her “did you even have a daughter”. Foe could have realized Susan’s digress into insanity as she became more adamant to change the story or was homeless and somehow could not get work after being back. Later, as the story is closing in, Susan comments on how Foe is calling her “sweet Susan” (Foe 162) and how they might have had an intimate relationship. This doesn’t seem odd at first but Susan comments on how no one has called her that since she was a child.  While this seems like nonsense, the fact that she has some sketchy details and is retelling this story to someone could mean she’s changing details as she goes. This creates an unreliable narrator who could be using the story to their own benefit to “make it better” in a sense. The last part is the only section of the book where Susan is not the speaker and it is being told, that we know of, in the present day. This is where we see her on the ship, skin pulled back, with Friday the only one reacting. This last section could be the restart of her story as she has officially gone crazy. A story where she is retelling the same story over again in a new perspective so that she might come out with a happier ending.