Stephen Benson


Starting out from the idea of the past as a pervasive presence in Charles Perrault’s “Bluebeard,” this essay seeks to explore the interrelation of two sets of retellings of “Bluebeard,” one operatic, one literary.The first set—Dukas/Maeterlinck’s Ariane et Barbe- Bleue and Bartók/Balázs’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle—can be read as situating the tale within fin-de-siècle discourses of gender and history, and it is to this particular contextualization that the second set of narratives—John Updike’s “George and Vivian” and Angela Carter’s “The Bloody Chamber”—returns.What emerges from the various historical and textual toings and froings, is a reading of “Bluebeard” which aligns the two central protagonists with particular attitudes to history, thus offering a representation of gender difference as a difference of historical perspective.