The Big Striptease: Mythologizing Femininity and the Self in the Work of Sylvia Plath and Cindy Sherman.

Thumbnail Image
Issue Date
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The literary and visual arts have had significant influences on each other, especially in shaping dominant values of gender and sexuality, which reflect the ideologies of Western patriarchal rule. The American writer Sylvia Plath and the photographer Cindy Sherman revisit this value system, but distort or deconstruct it to reveal the underlying male fears and fantasies that motivate its construction. Plath and Sherman thereby aim to break the limitations on female self-expression, sexuality, and identity. Based on Laura Mulvey’s Visual and Other Pleasures (1989) and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1949, translated into in English 1953), this thesis offers a comparative, feminist analysis of Cindy Sherman’s photography and Sylvia Plath’s poetry, which examines their works in respect to the themes of nudity and mythmaking. Both artists pose in front of a photographic or literary lens in different angles and disguises, showing that their art is less about themselves, but more about opposing female oppression in contemporary culture. They mythologize the concepts of femininity and the self to prevent the ‘male gaze’ and other patriarchal values from corrupting female identity formation. KEYWORDS Femininity, mythology, male gaze, identity, photography, poetry
Faculteit der Letteren