Maria Troupi

Becoming female: exploring Karavelas’ “otherness” in K. Theotokis’ novel The Life and Death of Karavelas

Περίληψη

This paper proposes to explore the construction of gender in The Life and Death of Karavelas, a novel written by Konstantinos Theotokis in 1920. It will attempt to study the representation of masculinity and femininity by focusing on the portrayals of Maria, the novel’s central female character, her husband Yannis and the novel’s hero Karavelas. The main question to be addressed is whether these portrayals reinforce or undermine patriarchal ideology: does the novel impose a gender hierarchy consistent with and supportive of the gender system of the time or does it reverse traditional representations? The paper will examine whether Maria could be seen as a masculinised woman who, in her turn, effects the feminisation of the other two male characters. In the case of Karavelas feminisation will be explored in relation to his social exclusion and the concomitant loss of his social identity. Emphasis will also be given to Maria’s representation as the woman par excellence and the object of Karavelas’ sexual desire on one hand, and as the source of evil and destruction on the other. The paper will therefore seek to trace a line of possible mythological ancestors looming behind Maria, such as Helen and Pandora. In relation to gender issues the proposed paper will examine the theme of the body, both male and female, which recurs throughout the novel. The body is offered as the object of spectacle since characters are often called to take on the role of spectator and gaze upon another character’s body. The bodies which become a major element in the plot belong to Aggelo, Karavelas’ wife (the infertile and repulsive body), Maria (the desirable body, the site of sexuality) and Karavelas (the body in pain, the abused body). The paper also intends to explore to what extent the novel could be argued to have a feminist agenda which could be related to its writer’s socialist ideology. Its purpose is to make use of a recent Greek monograph on the representation of women in Theotokis’ work (Th. Glykofryde-Athanasopoulou, Apo ten Exartese sten Autoteleia: Stereotypes eikones gynaikon sto pezographiko ergo tou Konstantinou Theotoke, 2007) along with feminist literary criticism in order to submit the novel to an unfamiliar reading which will enrich our understanding of it.

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