The Woman Who Pretended to Be Who She Was: Myths of Self-Imitation

Wendy Doniger, Author Oxford University Press $55 (272p) ISBN 978-0-19-516016-1
Doniger, a scholar of religion and mythology at the Univ. of Chicago, completes her trilogy about the varieties of identity confusion (Splitting the Difference; The Bedtrick) with a book about the ways in which people imitate themselves. A concept that at first sounds bizarre and unlikely, self-imitation, Doniger shows, is a multi-faceted phenomenon that has been exploited by folktales around the world, and especially by movies. She identifies several classic types and provides an impressive range of examples, drawing from early and modern Hollywood, Bollywood, opera, literature and mythologies. Many instances of self-imitation arise in the context of romantic difficulties: the comedic masquerades of The Marriage of Figaro and the contortions of the film My Favorite Wife are just two examples. Other typical plot elements are reincarnation, face-lifts and ""mind lifts,"" such as those in the movies Vertigo and Total Recall. Doniger demonstrates an amazing facility for keeping such plot twists, which are by their nature confusing, straight in her mind, so that she can make comparisons throughout. The reader may have more difficulty following along, especially when the identities get so complicated that Doniger has to talk about ""George-as-Larry-as-George-as-Larry-as-George-as-Larry"" when referring to movies like I Love You Again, a 1940s film that depicts a ""doubled and squared amnesia and a pretended recurrence of that amnesia (to the third degree)."" However, Doniger generally provides extensive, clearly written plot summaries, and her discussion of them, though sometimes drawing on relatively obscure philosophy or psychology, is accessible and jargon-free. Anyone who enjoys brain-teasing plots in mythology or cinema will be fascinated by the sheer number of examples Doniger furnishes and the ease with which she untangles their meanings.
Reviewed on: 11/15/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 285 pages - 978-1-4237-6163-1
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