The Pygmalion Effect
From Ovid to Hitchcock
Stoichita traces the reverberations of Ovid’s founding myth from ancient times through the advent of cinema. Emphasizing its erotic origins, he locates echoes of this famous fable in everything from legendary incarnations of Helen of Troy to surrealist painting to photographs of both sculpture and people artfully posed to simulate statues. But it was only with the invention of moving pictures, Stoichita argues, that the modern age found a fitting embodiment of the Pygmalion story’s influence. Concluding with an analysis of Alfred Hitchcock films that focuses on Kim Novak’s double persona in Vertigo, The Pygmalion Effect illuminates the fluctuating connections that link aesthetics, magic, and technical skill. In the process, it sheds new light on a mysterious world of living artifacts that, until now, has occupied a dark and little-understood realm in the history of Western image making.
“Victor Stoichita is one of the most brilliant art historians of his generation, and The Pygmalion Effect is his most wide-ranging book to date. Dazzling in his scholarship, Stoichita successfully excavates the core of the Pygmalion myth for the art and literature that invoke it.”
“This is a book of real imaginative scope—from Pygmalion to Bacchus to Helen of Troy, from classical philology to contemporary visual poetics, from narrative to sculpture to photography to cinema. Stoichita manages to touch all these bases with both erudition and grace.”