ABSTRACT. The article explores the various ways in which Bizet’s opera Carmen has been understood. The cultural agenda of the 19th century fin de siècle can explain the opera’s reception by the public, as well as the changing perception of its eponymous heroine, who came to be seen as a (fictional) icon of femininity and freedom. The changes in the cultural context, brought about by the advent of postcolonial, feminist, post-structuralist and deconstructionist ideologies, have given rise to a new way of reading this oeuvre which highlights the themes of resistance to domination, and emancipation. Regardless of the context and mode of reading, Bizet’s heroine remains one of the best-known fictional Romani characters in European culture, whose gender and ethnical identity continues to elicit an ambiguous attitude, both positive and negative. pp. 5–19

Keywords: intellectual history; cultural studies; gender studies

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Spiru Haret University, Bucharest

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