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Animate Ivory: Materiality, Beauty, and Pygmalion's Statue

Professor Peggy McCracken (University of Michigan)

The story of Pygmalion’s ivory woman, transformed into a living woman, posits a relationship between animacy and materiality that I will interrogate through a focus on several medieval French translations of Ovid’s story. I will explore the terms in which medieval poets describe the inanimacy of the statue, and I will foreground the materiality and the material of Pygmalion’s ivory woman in order to ask whether Pygmalion’s beloved lady, as white as ivory, can tell us something about the values that organize the association of animacy and whiteness in medieval Europe.

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Queens Building 1B