• Ophelia

Giudici, Paolo, 2023, Thesis, Ophelia PhD thesis, Royal College of Art.

Abstract or Description:

Ophelia (1851-2) is the title of a Pre-Raphaelite painting by John Everett Millais narrating the final moments of Shakespeare’s heroine in Hamlet (1599-1601): the former is considered the best-known picture in all Victorian art and the latter, the greatest work in English literature. Nonetheless, Ophelia owes its significance and enduring popularity to these monumental artworks, as well as the fantasies of “Woman” she embodies in successive discourses, and the material, semantic, and social networks she progressively integrates. The eight-hundred years span of such networks, their size and complexity across media and cultures, seem proof enough to consider Ophelia a “hyperobject.” Although Timothy Morton introduced it as a philosophical and ecological concept to deal with “things that are massively distributed in time and space relative to humans,” Ophelia shows the same characteristic properties (viscosity, nonlocality, temporal undularity, phasing, interobjectivity) and ontological structure, a mesh constituted by a dynamic mixture of strands in which component objects interact, and gaps in which they withdraw remaining unknowable. The reconceptualization constructs Ophelia as a new object of transdisciplinary research, overcoming limitations of previous studies that focused on character analysis, historical period, or discipline. Further, the hyperobject provides an ideal medium in which Ophelia arises, develops, and is resolved or abandoned as problem, and of which the answers to that problem are also part. The chapters that follow will address three questions about Millais’ Ophelia: What is Millais’ answer to Ophelia? Where does Ophelia fit in art history and modernity? What did Millais want from Ophelia and what does Ophelia want from the public?

Qualification Name: PhD
Subjects: Creative Arts and Design > W900 Others in Creative Arts and Design
School or Centre: School of Arts & Humanities
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ophelia; Victorian painting; cultural hyperobject; historical art practice; artistic criticism
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2023 16:06
Last Modified: 28 Apr 2023 16:06
URI: https://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/5363
Edit Item (login required) Edit Item (login required)