Sunday, October 9, 2011
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Tottel's Miscellany (actually titled Songes and Sonettes) was originally published by Richard Tottel in 1557 and is the first published anthology of English poetry. It was incredibly popular and went through many printings, a few of which changed the composition of the book considerably, which has contributed to its being overlooked as a usual inclusion to the period's typically studied poetic canon. The book contains poems by Wyatt, Surrey, and a number of "uncertaine authors." While some of the poems do follow Gascoigne's prescription for the "sonnet" (Fourteen lines broken into three quatrains and a couplet with an ABABCDCDEFEFGG rhyme scheme--what would come to be called the English sonnet), most of them do not.
- Greensickness and the humors - linked to being hyper-sanguine and thought to have a strong connection with the onset of menstruation. When you're greensick, you're too much of a woman (Galen thought that this disease would cause menstrual blood to force itself out of as many pores as possible. I think the French feminists just found their new superpower of choice!).
- Greensickness and food - Chlorosis was later diagnosed as a type of anemia, the cure for which is a diet heavy in iron, which means eating foods like fragrant dark greens and red meat. These foods are heavy and not feminine. In this way, greensickness has a relative in anorexia nervosa (See my post on Unbearable Weight for more).
- The progression of greensickness - While first thought to be a digestive disease as the previous note suggests, it becomes strongly tied to virginity with Lange's letter in 1554, which argues that virginity blocks the flow of blood and must be removed (broken hymen, blood on sheets, from marriage to pregnancy, greensickness is cured).
- Greensickness and Shakespeare - King mentions the disease's widespread literary uses. Were I to be asked to discuss its presence in Shakespeare's plays (I'm sure I will be), I would point to Hamlet and Antony and Cleopatra. In the first, Polonius--who I love to hate--calls Ophelia "a green girl." He is literally referring to her inexperience in the ways of romance while trying to learn more about her relationship with Hamlet, but his clear desire for her to be an appropriate woman so he may rise socially makes me think "green" can also be read as "greensick" there. In the second, soldiers refer to the drunk Lepidus as greensick as a way to say that Cleopatra is feminizing (read: ruining) Rome with her ladylike Egyptian influence. In a play that sets up binaries to ultimately question them, I think that's significant.
Macbeth is the second play I'm teaching in my current course on Women in Shakespeare, and I've really enjoyed going through it with my students. It's an excellent text through which to explore how female agency and female embodiment conflict, and that has been a throughline of our discussion of the play thus far. Like Richard III, women are either wives or witches, and there is a since that the former inevitably become the latter. Other than the witches, the only women who figure (semi-?) prominently are Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff. The first instructs her husband to school his face to hide his heart (like Gertrude, she "knows seems"), and the majority of my students see her as the guilty party even though her husband commits the physical acts of murder, because she spurs on the idea of those actions. We've talked a lot about the play's many uses of the word "do," and whether thinking is action or not. For them, thinking seems to be doing more than doing is doing. I've been wondering how this relates to the Cartesian mind/body split, with which Susan Bordo begins her discussion of how the female body becomes culturally subordinate. My students' model reverses this association, making the mind female and the body male, thereby aligning with the standard active male/passive female dichotomy, with a side of "woman as duplicity" thrown in. I tend to agree more with Janet Adelman, who says that both lady Macbeth's fear and her power stem from the way she treats maternity. She knows motherhood and its social position (" I have given suck..."), but she is also savvy enough to recognize that that position and its accompanying feminine norms limit her agency (breasts filled with gall, ripping the hypothetical babe's gums from her breast and bashing in its head in order to be able to commit murder).Though Adelman sees social subversion in this ability to discern and use norms to her advantage and I do also, I'm not sure I agree 100%. I do think Lady Macbeth has a power that men around her cannot comprehend (a power that Cixous or Irigaray would respect for its incomprehensibility, even as they would likely not approve of her negative invocation of bodily fluids), I think the subversion of this power is limited because she enacts it by enforcing an extremely rigid (no pun intended, I swear) masculinity on her husband. She tells him to be a man a lot, saying that he is "too full of the milk of human kindness" and that she must inject her spirit into his ear in order to win him to her point of view. That second thing literally means she wants to convince him by talking to him, but when "spirit" and milk appear just a couple of lines apart, I don't think I'm entirely remiss in reading "spirit" as "semen" as well. Not entirely. Shades of the other meaning are there, at least.
The witches also bend gender, what with their beards and their appearing not of the world. Notably, none of these women have autonomous first names (something that Lady Macbeth's Daughter, the YA adaptation I'm reading for the dissertation immediately remedies in its quest for a female community with both agency and autonomy), so while they play with gender in some ways, they reflect strict patriarchy in others. That brings me to Lady Macduff. She too wishes her husband would man up and protect their child instead of fleeing to England, and she laments her gendered response to the situation in the following passage:
Whither should I fly?Like Banquo's description of the witches, she is in the world without saying she is of it. She also mimics their comments on the lack of logic to action in their society--"to do harm is often laudable, / to do good sometime accounted dangerous folly" sounds an awful lot like "fair is foul and foul is fair." While it's easy to see how Lady Macbeth's comments on embodiment and her famous "out, out damned spot" speech, with its spell-like commands, link her to the witches, Lady Macduff's passage above proves that even fairly normal, less power-hungry wives are doomed to go the way of the sorceress eventually. This dichotomy with no way out is mirrored in the Ophelia/Gertrude madonna/whore split: the former only avoids the latter's fate (being "a breeder of sinners" in an "enseamed bed") by killing herself. Though some would say this lack of female choices is lessened in Shakespeare's comedies, I would disagree (See my posts on The Roaring Girl and Shakespeare's cross-dressing comedies for more on that).
I have done no harm. But I remember now
I am in this earthly world, where to do harm
Is often laudable, to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly. Why then, alas,
Do I put up that womanly defense,
To say I have done no harm?
Other topics to discuss in Macbeth: The female role in fate(weird=wyrd=weyard), Why young boys in Shakespeare fare almost as badly as young girls in the character development department
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
The second thing I noticed is thematic. Wittig expresses a joy in the bodily similar to that of Cixous, Clement, and Irigaray, but hers is different in that it is much more visceral. Cixous tries to get messy with her loud, self-interrupting exhortations to "Write!" and her many liquid metaphors of overflowing words and writing with milk ("The Laugh of the Medusa," "Sorties"), but Wittig surpasses her easily. She takes common romanticisms like the desire to get closer to one's lover by crawling under her skin and literalizing them in her poems, peeling back her lover's dermis, exposing vessels and globules of fat inch by inch, and worshiping those parts in an empowering series of blazons that seem anti-Petrarchan in their emphasis on the wholeness of the tiny parts that makes up this beloved woman. If anybody out there is looking for some feminist romance (and you all should be), give The Lesbian Body a read.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Monday, September 5, 2011
- Genre - This is a tragicomedy that supposedly transitions from tragedy to comedy when A MAN GETS BRUTALLY MAULED BY A BEAR (If you've heard the famous phrase "Exit, pursued by a bear," this is where it comes from). I do not agree that this is the height of hilarity. I am much more willing to admit that the play is at its funniest during scenes when Jacobean nobility's hypocritical fondness for the pastoral is poked fun at.
- Chronology - I'm no stickler for the Neoclassical Unities, but the only reason at all that sixteen years need to pass is for small children to grow into marriageable teenagers. Even if it wasn't based on something Robert Greene already wrote, it'd be horribly telegraphed and obvious. I know it's pastoral and fantasy and all that, but COME ON.
- Gender (obviously) - SO MANY PROBLEMS HERE. Hermione is imprisoned even though she's truthful the whole time, but Leontes is allowed to change the rules of her trial whenever he wants. Paulina is the only person in the whole play willing to call Leontes on his nonsense, and she gets rewarded with disgrace at court and a dead husband (see note on bear above). When she gets remarried at the end, it's to Camillo, who is basically just standing there and also a liar and a spy. Not my kind of happy ending, no siree. That's not even talking about the whole Hermione-as-a-statue plot, which is obviously problematic from a feminist perspective. How does Leontes finally recognize he was a jerk to his wife? He LITERALLY objectifies her. Gross. I also have issues with the fact that Perdita radiates natural high-class vibes or something. How is that a thing?
Sunday, September 4, 2011
- Historically - This play completes the tetralogy begun with Henry VI parts 1-3. It is important for me and other Tudor scholars because it lays out the historical beginnings of Tudor rule through the defeat of Richard III by Henry Tudor (who will become Henry VII, marry Elizabeth of York, and give birth to Henry VIII) at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
- On Gendered Lines - Like most of the histories, there's not a huge female presence here. Most notably, there's Margaret of Anjou, who is grafted into this play anachronistically (at this point in history, she's already dead) mostly so she can shout really awesome curses at people. The best of these is not in this play, but in 3H6 (the "molehill speech" wherein Margaret captures the usurping York and mocks his pretensions for ruling by placing a paper crown on his head). The other notable woman in the play is Lady Anne, who marries Richard after he has killed her husband and father-in-law ("Was ever woman in this humor woo'd? / Was ever woman in this humor won?," Richard wonders.). While Richard seems to think that Anne is weak and unaware that he is marrying her to broker power, I'm not so sure she's that naive. The last interesting thing about women in this play is that they're either witches or wives (or in the case of Lady Elizabeth, wives who become witches upon the death of their husbands). That's a troubling dichotomy, but one that makes a bit of sense given the history plays' subject matter: nation-building power within a largely patriarchal society.
- In terms of childhood: The princes in the tower are Shakespeare's best-written young boys (we get adolescent princes and courtiers who have to reform, like Prince Hal, Orlando, Romeo, etc., but very few little boys that deal with similar pressures). It seems like most of what I read about them treats their death a priori (they're like Ophelia in that way...hmm), but I think that that isn't giving enough credit to the fact that they can participate in Richard's linguistic games, that they are aware of the political machinations going on around them. They are the only characters who are able to respond quickly to Richard's word games.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
- "Women are told from their infancy, and taught by the example of their mothers, that a little knowledge of human weakness, justly termed cunning, softness of temper, outward obedience, and a scrupulous attention to a puerile kind of property, will obtain for them the protection of a man...( excerpt from Kolmar and Bartowski 64). My grandmother used to say to me "The man may be the head of the family, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head whichever way she wants." I thought it was funny as a kid (and in a different way later after she passed away, when I heard it repeated in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding), but coming to feminism made me consider how the ways women are taught to gain power in relationships can actually keep them subordinate by playing into gender stereotypes. I love that Wollstonecraft goes straight to social construction in 1792. There is nothing new under the sun, indeed.
- "The most perfect education [will]... enable the individual to attain such habits of virtue as will render it independent. In fact, it is a farce to call any being virtuous whose virtues do not result from the exercise of its own reason. Cf. EM conduct books, the phenomenon of greensickness (or later, hysteria, or even later, anorexia/bullemia). Elizabeth I was only able to learn "unfeminine" virtues because of her class position. Sadly, the view of feminine education Wollstonecraft decries is gaining ground again in conservative religious communities through the Stay-at-Home Daughters movement.
- "In the education of women, the cultivation of understanding is always subordinate to the acquirement of some corporeal accomplishment" (65). In EME, this is true for most all women except some lucky high-class ones (Elizabeth, Lady Mary Wroth, etc.)
Monday, August 29, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
- "Taken together, the feminist critiques of gendered representations and of the politics of the material body can also be seen as an extended argument against the notion that the body is a purely biological or natural form" (33). This is where Bordo's tendency toward analysis of cultural artifacts like ads comes in really handy. It's easier for people--especially those new to critical thinking--to see sex or gender or race as social constructions once they can see how human-created culture informs our self-perception. In this way, she builds on both deBeauvoir and Butler.
- "Many feminists remain agnostic or ambivalent about the role of biology and sexual 'difference,' justifiably fearful of ideas that seem to assert an unalterable female nature, they are nonetheless concerned that too exclusive an emphasis on culture will obscure a powerful, and potentially culturally transformative, aspects of women's experience (36). I like that Bordo advocates for a middle way here. I've often felt that to create an essentialist/constructionist binary is to neglect real people and how they live their lives. As I've said before, I think Butlerian performativity bridges a similar gap.
- "These elements point to culture--working not only through ideology and images, but through the organization of the family, the construction of personality, the training of perception--as not only contributory but productive of eating disorders. A parallel exists in the formation of female hysteria" (50). Not only is it incredibly interesting that Bordo links anorexia with hysteria, but its also a very intelligent move on her part to say that such feminine diseases work to reinscribe gender norms by conforming to traditional roles. Were I to go back further to my period of study, I think I could say the same for greensickness.
- "The current terms of the abortion debate--as a contest between fetal claims to personhood and women's right to choose--are limited and misleading. In the context of my analysis...the current battle over reproductive control emerges as an assault on the personhood of women" (72). I'm not entirely sure how the mode she sets up here is less of a limiting binary than the one she wants to break down, but I do think she's right. Galenic anatomy sees women as baby containers--any woman will do; it's the male-contributed form that's important--and recent pro-life "victories" like when a fetus "testified" in an Ohio court to prove its heartbeat suggest a similar idea, as do horrific prison conditions that force women to give birth while shackled to tables.
- " [Anorexic] Cherry Boone O'Neal speaks explicitly of her fear of womanhood. If only she could stay thin, says yet another, 'I would never have to deal with having a woman's body; like Peter Pan I could stay a child forever.' The choice of Peter Pan is telling here--what she means is stay a boy forever (155). This idea that children are the same regardless of gender and that womanliness dirties things up is true in the English Renaissance as well.
- "Women must develop a totally other-oriented emotional economy. In this economy, the control of female appetite for food is merely the most concrete expression of the general rule of governing the construction of femininity: that female hunger--for public power, for independence, for sexual gratification--be contained, and the public space that women be allowed to take up be limited (170). This is the entire point of the fighting in The Taming of the Shrew and The Tamer Tamed.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
- On shopping for bedding for her young daughter: "The designated boy's room is all in primary colors, the bedspread dotted with bats, balls, and catching mitts. The caption reads: 'I play so many sports that it's hard to pick my favorite.' Sounds like my daughter. On the opposite page, the girl's room is pictured, a pastel planetary design. The caption reads: 'I like stars because they are shiny.' That too sounds like my daughter. But Pottery Barn doesn't think a child can inhabit both worlds. If their catalogues were as segregated and stereotyped racially as they are by gender, people would boycott."YES. Stuff like this is why I frame my composition classes around cultural literacy, why we do things like examine arguments of pop songs and television commercials. These social constructions are fed to us so frequently and from so young an age that they become universals. Children should be able to do both "boy stuff" and "girl stuff" if they want. I'm also troubled by the active male/passive female binary in these ads, as well as the correspondingly gendered function/fashion split.
- Responding to author Sharon Lamb, who says that young girls in heavy makeup and revealing clothes are " silly and adorable, sexy and marvelous all at once," that they are "playing out male fantasies, but without risk": "22 to 29 percent of rapes against girls occur when they are eleven or younger. We might like to think that these rapes are the work of deranged madmen, so disconnected from reality as to be oblivious to the culture around them...The reality is, however, that these girls are much more likely to be raped by friends and family than by strangers, and that very few men, whether strangers or acquaintances, are unaffected by having a visual culture of nymphets prancing before their eyes, exuding a sexual knowledge and experience that they don't really have. Feminists used to call this 'rape culture.' We never hear that phrase anymore, do we?" I agree with Bordo's criticisms of Lamb, but some of this feels a tad close to victim blaming in that it doesn't hold rapists as responsible (or as explicitly responsible) as I think it should. As for the "rape culture" thing, that is an ever-present term in young feminist circles nowadays; I suspect we have Bordo to thank for its return to prominence.
- "The extremes to which the anoretic takes the denial of appetite (that is, to the point of starvation) suggest the dualistic nature of her construction of reality; either she transcends body totally, becoming pure 'male' will, or she capitulates utterly to the degraded female body and its disgusting hungers. She sees no other possibilities, no middle ground" (8) It shocks me how much this sounds like the 16th and 17thc views on the female body that Lisa Jardine talks about. Hunger, whether it be physical or sexual, is a complex place for female power. The more things change...
Monday, August 1, 2011
- Jardine says that the Reformation brought with it " a triad of 'liberating' possibilities for women: Protestantism, humanism, and marital partnership" (38). These are not actually liberating, she says, because they create a "double bind" due to their existing within the patriarchal structure.
- As long as a woman uses her intelligence or partial autonomy to illuminate that of her husband, she is an asset. If she uses those things for independent means, she is scorned and her education acts as a patina for her natural female baseness (cf. Duchess of Malfi, the sonnets to the Dark Lady).
- We must read deeply and with a grain of salt so that we do not see the Renaissance as either totally misogynist or totally liberating (39).
- marital partnership - Jardine says that the viewpoint that give and take in marriage in necessary supposes the natural inferiority of women. I'm not sure I agree here. I think I know what she's getting at (the need for centralization necessitates preexisting marginalization), but I think this may be an oversimplification, especially given her previous caution to the reader of immediately equating past periods with chauvinism. Her textual justifications: Aristotelian/Galenic anatomy, Proverbs 31
- Protestantism - "The woman's freedom to think and act for herself is carefully contained within a freshly romanticized picture of the family" (49). The Reformation closed the doors of the independent, female homosocial community that was the convent, while at the same time making women's only real security come from the nuclear family. Additionally, letting women participate in heterogeneous theological communities created the idea that women are the keepers of the moral code--one stereotype gives way to an opposing, but no less oppressive, one.
- Education - Liberal humanist education as mostly available to high-class women, because who else has the time to devote to learning? Education as a means of transcending natural womanhood (see Roger Ascham's comments about Elizabeth - "[She learned] purity, chasteness, and modesty of language to become more than a woman").
- The chapter's big question: How do strong women of Jacobean Drama relate to their real life counterparts, who were "constrained by an ideology of duty and obedience" (68)?
- What makes these women strong, according to Jardine? "Passion, sensuality, courage, cunning, and ambition" (68).
- These strong women (Beatrice Joanna in The Changeling, Vittoria in The White Devil, the titular Duchess of Malfi) exist in male worlds written by male playwrights. Jardine says the plays make us accept male views of women. As a feminist historicist myself, I have to quibble with that. Make us? Want us to, perhaps, but not make us. Each reader possesses her/his own interpretive lens affected by a multitude of variables.
- Jardine makes the point that one big way women like the ones listed above (and their real counterparts) got power was by intruding upon the male inheritance system (entailment) as needed. Sometimes a "tail male" was forsaken for a "tail general" in order to prevent division of land or entailment to a distant relative (85).
- Something I thought was very interesting about this chapter was Jardine's suggestion that the closet scene in Hamlet owes its sexual undertones (or overtones, if you're Mel Gibson) to the fact that Hamlet looks at Gertrude's relationship with Claudius as a possible roadblock to his inheriting ruling power. If Claudius or Claudius' future offspring with Gertrude rules Denmark, Hamlet cannot. This wasn't something I had considered before, but it does go in line with readings that apply the play's instability to the Tudor succession crisis (despite the fact that Denmark was not ruled by primogeniture when the play is set) (92).
- "The scolding woman traditionally represents the irrational and uncontrollable in even the best-ordered male life" (103).
- In their own times, scolds were brutally punished (bridles, ducking stools, etc.) and often tried as witches, but they appeal to our 21st. c. sensibilities. We don't want to think of them as socially complex, but instead as harbingers of a better age (104).
- Wives are instructed to control their tongues (see James 3:1-18), but sometimes that was their only weapon. Woman's vocal power is illusory because it threatens disorder without freeing her from the responsibilities of the female sphere (106-7).
- Domination gets bigger in Troilus and Cressida and Antony and Cleopatra -- shrews on a global stage! (114)
- The female tongue is also a sexual instrument, and can have power like a penis (see jokes by both Petruccios in Shrew and Tamer) (121).
- Dress above one's station was unlawful (148).
- Sumptuary laws also reflect the commercial threat of globalization (150)
- Women's fashion as a drain on their husbands--one reason why Petruchio has Kate step on her cap (also jokes about (maiden)heads and headship there) (152).
- Fashion in The Roaring Girl: Feathers, breeches, and tobacco (the things the merchant women sell and Moll buys) all flew in the face of sumptuary pamphleteers, and its comments on fashion (from the prologue on) make the play act as an intersection of "all society's nervousness where relations between men and women were concerned" (159-61).
- Depictions of Elizabeth portray anxiety about women in power (169)
- Cult of Elizabeth - even though she was old, she still got painted up and fawned over and called Gloriana and Cynthia. Her power became a courtly joke (173).
Saturday, July 23, 2011
The tradition of using shorter, bowdlerized versions of Shakespearean plots as didactic tools for children is a long one, but one that does not reach its apex until the Victorian period. Katherine Prince details how children's periodicals helped construct rigidly gendered identities in this period: identities that encouraged “embracing adventure, exploration, and conquest for boys [and] self-sacrificing daughterhood—and eventually motherhood—for girls” (153). This gendering was made evident in the titles of the periodicals themselves, the most prominent of them being The Boy's Own Paper and The Girl's Own Paper. The latter published a special issue, The Girl's Own Shakespeare, in 1888. In addition to several short stories with Juliet, Ophelia, and other Shakespearean girls as protagonists, the issue reprinted an essay by Mary Cowden Clarke originally published the previous year entitled “Shakespeare as the Girl's Friend.” In it, Clarke extols Shakespeare as not only a great moral teacher, but also as a confidant whose understanding of a young girl's troubles extends beyond the boundaries of time:
To the young girl...Shakespeare's vital precepts and models render him essentially a helping friend. To her he comes instructively and aidingly; in his page she may find warning, guidance, kindliest monition, and wisest counsel. Through his feminine portraits she may see, as in a faithful glass, vivid pictures of what she has to evitate, or what she has to imitate, in order to become a worthy and admirable woman. Her sex is set before her, limned with utmost fidelity, painted in genuinest colors, for her to study and copy from or vary from, in accordance with what she feels or learns to be supremest harmonious effect in self amelioration of character. (Clarke 562)
The use of the word “essentially” in the first line of this passage suggests that for young girls, the deepest, most natural use of Shakespearean drama is not for entertainment or social commentary, but as a “helping friend” who serves a varied didactic function. I say that that function is varied because the advice described seems to come from both positive (“guidance” and wisest council”) and negative examples (“warning” and “kindliest monition”). The variance of tone lessens considerably when the division of power within the passage is examined, however. The repeated use of superlative adjectives (“kindliest,” “wisest,” “utmost,” “genuinest,” etc.) seems to paint Shakespeare as the pinnacle of wisdom from which the girl in question has everything to learn. Furthermore, the small amount of autonomy she possesses during this molding of self (“to study and copy from or vary from in accordance with what she feels or learns”) is immediately undermined within the space of one sentence whose ultimate goal is “self amelioration of character,” suggesting that the young girl's essential self is somehow bad or wrong and needs to be ameliorated in favor of a more acceptable femininity, a femininity best not only described, but created, by a man.
Friday, July 15, 2011
- Non- aggressive: WS did his best not to be sexist, but was limited by the views and mores of his society.
- Aggressive: WS was an obvious sexist. The author proceeds to point out instances of sexism in the plays and poems.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Performativity cannot be understood outside of a process of iterability, a regularized and constrained repetition of norms. And this repetition is not performed by a subject; this repetition is what enables a subject and constitutes the temporal condition for the subject. This iterability implies that 'performance' is not a singular 'act' or event, but a ritualized production, a ritual reiterated under and through constraint, under and through the force of prohibition and taboo, with the threat of ostracism and even death controlling and compelling the shape of the production, but not, I will insist, determining it fully in advance. (95)In saying that performance of gender is a conscious act that appears or becomes naturalized through repetition, Butler bridges the theoretical gap between feminists who claim gender is wholly socially constructed (cf. deBeauvoir's The Second Sex--"One is not born a woman, but becomes one.") and those who rely more on the existence of the innate and the bodily to determine femininity (cf. Irigaray and Cixous). In making performativity about simultaneous consciousness and reiteration, Butler seems to suggest that seeing social construction and biological essentialism as binarily opposed concepts is to oversimplify both theories. Instead, she provides a grey area that enriches both sides.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
In conformity with its peculiar nature, psychoanalysis does not try to describe what a women is -- that would be a task it could scarcely perform -- but sets about enquiring how she comes into being, how a woman develops out of a child with a bisexual disposition (Freud, 1933, p. 116).Freud immediately says that woman is other, both in the quote above and in the introduction to his lecture, when he says that only men think about "the problem of women" because women themselves "are the problem" (114). He then argues against such dichotomous thinking, saying that psychology proves variation of strict gender norms due to the existence of things like motherhood (active caretaking) and manners and social graces which temper male aggression (115). He, like many feminists, actually blames socially constructed ideology for stringent gendered associations: "You have decided in your own minds to make active coincide with masculine and passive with feminine. But I advise you against it. It seems to me to serve no useful purpose and adds nothing to our knowledge" (115). Despite this seemingly progressive statement, Freud continues to assert the otherness of woman in his insistence that female/female bonds must be subordinated to male/female bonds following puberty, in order for normal psychosexual development to occur (116-7). If the relationship that
[t]hey at once notice the difference and, it must be admitted, its significance too. They feel seriously wronged, often declare that they want to 'have something like it too,' and fall victim to 'envy for the penis,' which will leave ineradicable traces on their development and the formation of their character and which will not be surmounted in even the most favorable cases without a severe expenditure of psychical energy. (118)Though the "severe expenditure of psychical energy" described here seems to go along with Freud's claim that female does not necessarily equal passive, I think there's a huge difference between unconscious action and conscious socialized behavior. If that unconscious action to possess a penis can only be accomplished by socially prescribed feminine passivity, then it seems to me that the unconscious action is subordinate and Freud's argument falls apart.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Monday, July 4, 2011
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
- Shakespeare's Pericles (1607/8) - I have a feeling I'm going to need to come back to this one, particularly when I get to Measure for Measure and The Merchant of Venice, due chiefly to conflicts between a young woman's filial duty and her view of her spiritual calling. I also see parallels with The Tempest (Dreher says both Marina and Miranda are "redemptive daughters" as are all the daughters in Shakespeare's Romances), though I think Pericles is less of a straightforward romance due to the complications introduced by the incest plots between Antiochus/Thaisa and Pericles/Marina. Other things to consider: Pericles thought to be cowritten with George Wilkins. WS responsible for just over 800 lines, most of those concerning Pericles and Marina. This seems to validate the filial duty connection I'm seeing with some of his other works. Lastly, there's obvious shades of Oedipus, what with taboo sexuality being prophesied and proven unavoidable or fated. Not sure what to do with that, but I think I should know it's there, at any rate.
- Shakespeare's Hamlet (1600) - This is the first play I'm teaching in my Women in Shakespeare class in the Fall, so I'm thinking about it on multiple levels. I know I want to point to the publication year and relate that to questions of Elizabethan succession. Indeed, the play begins with a question about identity (Bernardo's "Who's there?" to Francisco upon the changing of the watch), and that unsure tone continues until its body-strewn ending. All the play's characters are trying to figure out their places in a rapidly changing world, and none of them do this very well. Bradley says Ophelia is sheltered and naive, but I think he overstates that case, especially given that she seems to both understand and respond to Hamlet's innuendo prior to The Mousetrap, and because of how frank and accusatory she is after she goes mad, when she passes out flowers. Perhaps she is freed to do so by her madness, but that seems empowering to me. Bradley reads it as wholly tragic, speaking of her eternally surrounded by delicate flowers in the minds of readers. I think he's patronizing. I'll talk about Gertrude when I cover Janet Adelman's book Suffocating Mothers, as well as when I read Lacan and Freud, which should be next week sometime.
- Shakespeare's Othello (1603) - Need to mention animal imagery and the importance of storytelling/mysticism in connection with Daileader's discussions of "jungle fever." To contest/explain Bradley's distaste for Emilia, point to her protofeminism, as well as her understanding and use of figurative language (prove she understands Iago and can use his linguistic tools). If Desdemona is "wholly passive" as Bradley claims (and I think she is, mostly because of her response to "Who did this to you?": "Nobody. I myself."), I don't think it's because of her loving nature, but because of a naivete and a wish for escape. He actions are coded and passive because they are feminine and love-related.
- Diane Dreher's Domination and Defiance: Fathers and Daughters in Shakespeare (1986) - Dreher discusses different types of daughters and fathers in Shakespeare's plays. Will edit this to provide more detail in the next few days once I organize my notes better.
- A.C. Bradley's Shakespearean Tragedy (1905) - Bradley's mode is often called "character criticism," as he refers to the plays' characters as though they were real people, speculating often on their internal motivations and asserting that, while it may be impossible for modern readers to know these motivations for sure, Shakespeare did without a doubt. I'm not sure this is true (couldn't he have been being purposefully ambiguous?), but my biggest bone to pick with Bradley is his tendency to oversimplify the female characters he discusses, even those he admits are important and often improperly read, like Desdemona and Ophelia. I do agree with his assessment of Iago, who he says is a great villain because he's a fantastic observer of people, and that his downfall comes when he , in his desire to know these people and his motivations, does not truly know himself or his own motivations. I think this fits with Iago's refusal to "speak word" at the end of the play because he controls his environment as much as he can in that moment, just as he has all along, but, in the wake of the play's awful violence, all of which is the result of a lack of cross-gendered communication that he put in motion, further silence comes across as childish and petulant, even as Iago himself reads it as the end to a sophisticated master plot.
- Eve K. Sedgwick's Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (1985) Sedgwick uses the term "homosocial" to refer to same-sex friendships, noting that the line between such relationships and homoerotic or homosexual ones is thin and tenuous. Because of the threat of this overlap, women are often employed as mediators in male homosocial relationships, creating a relational triangle in which it appears the two men are focused on the affections of the woman. Sedgwick argues that such relational formations erase and devalue women while purporting to center and elevate them. Cf. Shakespeare's sonnets to the young man, Spenser's Shepheardes Calendar, Othello, The Merchant of Venice, Petrarch's sonnets and the courtly love social structure.
- Celia Daileader's Racism, Misogyny, and the Othello Myth (2005) - Daileader coins the term "Othellophilia" to refer to the cultural obsession with romantic or sexual relationships between black men and white women, saying that such a preoccupation stems from a desire to divert attention from the much more historically accurate "slaveholder's secret"--the frequent rape of black female slaves by their white owners. Stereotypes: hypersexuality, exoticism, "jungle fever" as a result of both of the previous stereotypical characteristics.