Peggy McCracken in Oxford

The 2020 Oxford Medieval Studies Lecture was delivered by Professor Peggy McCracken on Animate Ivory: Animality, Materiality, and Pygmalion’s Statue. Read the reports on the talk by two doctoral students and watch the full lecture (scroll to the end).



Lesley MacGregor writes: On the evening of 23 January 2020, we were treated to a talk by Professor Peggy McCracken entitled “Animate Ivory: Animality, Materiality, and Pygmalion’s Statue.” McCracken is the Domna C. Stanton Collegiate Professor of French, Women's Studies, and Comparative Literature at the University of Michigan. Her approach to the Pygmalion story and its medieval adaptations is similarly interdisciplinary as she examines the intersection of material and metaphor, grounding them both in notions of animation and the human-animal relation. 

Found in Book 10 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the Pygmalion story recounts how a sculptor carved a female figure out of ivory and, finding her more beautiful than any other woman, fell in love. He prayed to Venus who transformed the once hard and immobile statue into a flesh-and-blood woman. By so doing, McCracken noted, the sculptor’s passion for an ivory statue was transformed into marriage with an ivory-white woman.