Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The governess in Benjamin Britten's and Henry James' “The Turn of the Screw”
by Hoyler, Emily C., M.A., Tufts University, 2009, 112; 1463929
Abstract (Summary)

The governess' marginal social positioning and inconsistent reputation in Victorian England renders her the perfect narrative figure to deliver the ambiguous story of The Turn of the Screw. Henry James built upon the social instability and sexual implications associated with the prototypical governess figure to manifest a theory of her hysteria out of subtle clues in her seemingly straightforward narrative. In adapting the novella into an opera, Benjamin Britten maintained this ambiguity musically through the construction of the Governess' two primary motives that are used throughout the opera to suggest her state of mind and her position as protector or predator of the children. An examination of James' and Britten's textual and musical manipulations of the Governess character yields insight on the tactics they used to maintain the ambiguity of the story through the character of the Governess in two different mediums. The Turn of the Screw fully explores the fictional potential of the governess prototype and uncovers the many suggestive layers of this prominent yet unassuming nineteenth century figure.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Bernstein, Jane A.
Commitee: Auner, Joseph, Ullman, Michael
School: Tufts University
Department: Music
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: MAI 47/05M, Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Music, American literature
Keywords: England, Hysteria, Hysterical woman, Motive, Narrative, Opera, Sexual
Publication Number: 1463929
ISBN: 978-1-109-11954-1
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