From Rome to Hollywood: Apuleius’ Cupid and Psyche to Beauty and The Beast

Stephen Harrison Oxford

Morning program: 10:00 – 10:45

From Rome to Hollywood: Apuleius’ Cupid and Psyche to Beauty and The Beast

This lecture looks at the highlights in the rich reception of the long two-book romantic story of Cupid and Psyche (C&P), first known in the Latin novel Metamorphoses or The Golden Ass by the second-century AD writer Apuleius.

The story concerns the beautiful princess Psyche. Cupid falls in love with Psyche and steals her away to a magic palace where they are united; Cupid only asks that Psyche does not seek to know his identity, which he does not reveal to her. But Psyche disobeys him and finds out who Cupid is, at which point her leaves her. After a series of wanderings, Psyche and Cupid are united and she becomes a goddess alongside him in heaven.

This story is unusual in the Greek and Roman world in having a female protagonist. It was adapted many times in literature, opera and art all over Europe. It is especially influential on the tradition of the fairy tale: Psyche’s two evil sisters are the model for the story of Cinderella, while the magic palace is the origin of the Beast’s palace in Beauty and the Beast, familiar to modern cinema audiences through two Disney films.

Stephen Harrison Oxford
Professor of Latin Literature
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