Portrayals of Gender in The Metamorphoses

Selecting our Myths

Out of the 250 myths in Ovid’s The Metamorphoses, we carefully selected 14 for our dataset that would best support our research questions. In order to narrow down to these 14, we conducted some independent research in order to find myths that are notable for conveying themes related to gender portrayal and expression. As we read through myths, we focused on observing patterns such as:

Does the myth reaffirm socially constructed gender stereotypes? Or does the myth break them?
Are descriptions of characters and their actions influenced by their gender?
How are prevalent themes in The Metamorphoses, such as transformation and desire, portrayed differently based on gender?

Once we chose our myths we examined language based on aspects that could be influenced by gender. Our findings could reveal gender biases of the author and the social context of the time period, as well as how the performance of gender is significant in the creation of these myths.

Markup Strategy

We decided to markup each myth with the tags: character, desire, transformation, and dialogue. Each of these tags were also given a gender attribute: female, male, and non-binary.

The character tag was used to markup text which included descriptions of characters. We decided upon 9 distinct descriptions: virginal, matronly, protector, protected, rage, jealous, cocky, despair, joy. These descriptions were updated throughout our markup process anytime we observed distinct patterns of how characters were described according to trait, action, or emotion. These were the descriptors that were most common throughout our 14 myths.
note: the word “virginal”, in this context refers to one who is sexually independent. Meaning, one who is free, and not owned or tamed by anyone. this does not possess the same meaning as one who is sexually chaste as we may know it as today. this word was most commonly ascribed to feminine deities, but all descriptors are aimed to disregard gender stereotypes.

The desire tag was used to compare two characters: one who is the perpetrator acting on desire, and one who is the object being desired. In many of the contexts, this desire was out of love or lust. We thought that this tag would be significant to our research, as desire implies agency or lack of agency. Meaning that we can observe which gender is more likely to desire and which gender is more likely to be the one desired.

The transformation tag was used to markup instances where a character undergoes a dramatic change in physical appearance or social status. Therefore, we used the attributes of physical or social in order to distinguish the kind of transformation a character goes through. The transformation is either cast upon them by a deity as a curse, punishment, or for protection, or sometimes is performed through one's own agency for those same reasons. Here we can examine the occurrence of transformation according to each gender.

The dialogue tag was used to markup every occurrence that a character spoke. This act is marked by quotations in the original text. We also gave the tag attributes of speaker and invocation in order to associate each dialogue with a specific character and who that character is addressing. This also helps us understand agency, as we can observe which gender has more agency through their voice. This can not only help us observe which gender speaks more across all myths, but if the character that the myth is based on speaks, or is spoken to, or spoken of, more.