Karen Turman

Karen Turman

What Time Is It? Presentation Panel Presenter

Creating an image

Morris Day’s Autonomy in the Prince Universe

The narrative of Prince as “creator” of The Time and acts such as The Family, Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Carmen Electra, and others evokes Ovid’s “Pygmalion” myth from Metamorphoses. The artist, Pygmalion, sculpts his version of the ideal woman in ivory, falls in love, and she in turn comes to life thanks to Aphrodite’s divine intervention. This myth of creating and curating the object of one’s desires exists solely on the erasure of the “creation’s” autonomy. Prince put The Time together for myriad reasons, including the desire to have musical peers, an additional outlet for his artistic production, and some healthy competition, but this narrative ignores Morris Day’s agency. This presentation will explore the iconic style of Morris Day and the Time in the 1980s while deconstructing the myth of Prince as Pygmalion-creator of musical groups and pop stars in the purple universe.

Karen Turman, Ph.D., is a Preceptor of French in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University. She earned her B.A. (2001) at the University of Minnesota, and her M.A. (2008) and Ph.D. (2013) in French Literature with an emphasis in Applied Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her interdisciplinary research interests include 19th-century Bohemian Paris, music, and dance during the Jazz Age, fashion and popular culture studies, community engagement scholarship, and topics of social justice and sustainability in the language classroom. Dr. Turman’s publications on Prince include an essay on Josephine Baker, Claude McKay, and Prince entitled “Banana Skirts and Cherry Moons: Utopic French Myths in Prince’s Under the Cherry Moon,” and “Prettyman in the Mirror: Dandyism in Prince’s Minneapolis.”

Harvard Faculty Profile