Dr Joanna Morrison completed her creative writing PhD at Murdoch University in 2014, where she teaches writing as a sessional academic. Her fiction has been published in Westerly and anthologised in Joiner Bay and Other Stories (Margaret River Press, 2017). The Actress and de Beauvoir is derived from a chapter in her PhD thesis which comprises a novella and a dissertation collectively titled The Actress and the Look of the Other. The dissertation analyses two novelistic representations of actresses—Regina in Simone de Beauvoir’s All Men Are Mortal (1946) and Sibyl Vane in Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891)—through relevant aspects of Existentialism to illuminate themes of objectification and alienation in the novels, in relation to these hitherto neglected characters.
Volume 37, November 2017
Aspects of Simone de Beauvoir’s depiction of Regina in her novel All Men Are Mortal (1946) anticipate her later exploration of existentialist ideas about female actors, narcissism and transcendence in The Second Sex (2011/1949). Literary theorists have tended to overlook the figure of Regina in All Men Are Mortal, focusing instead on Raymond Fosca, the immortal character whose eternal alienation dominates the narrative. Most have not examined the ways in which Regina reflects aspects of Beauvoir’s Existentialism. Regina’s destructive longing for fame and immortality reflect significant aspects of Beauvoir’s feminism as it is outlined in The Second Sex. In particular, the characterisation of Regina is shown to foreshadow the development of Beauvoir’s philosophies about women, acting and narcissism.