Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Comparative Literature

Committee Chair

Charles Ross

Committee Member 1

Daniel Hsieh

Committee Member 2

Jeffrey Turco

Committee Member 3

Shaun Hughes


This dissertation analyzes similar female characters from the medieval English Arthurian story Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the German opera Parsifal, and the Chinese supernatural tale “Nie Xiaoqian.” Although Morgan le Fay, Kundry, and Xiaoqian are products of different times and cultures, each of their stories offers a glimpse into a similar type of controversial woman often at variance with the expectations of a particular culture. These fictional characters are independent and influential women who drive the development of the entire plot and profoundly affect the protagonist’s destiny. Whether in England, Germany, or China, their status as aliens implies the hidden nature of female empowerment, no matter in the social range or in domestic sphere. The divergent treatments of similar female figures reveal diverse female voices and assorted message with regards to patriarchy. Although the movie adaptations of “Nie Xiaoqian” tend to lose the central idea of the interfering woman, they illustrate shifts in the cultural interpretation of women and show how the development of gender consciousness has to struggle against a modern emphasis on traditional roles and values.