Literature Review

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For my thesis, I would like to discuss marriage and married life in a range of late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century novels. I would like to study Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda, Edgeworth’s Leonora and a Jane Austen novel. In the course of researching this topic, I have discovered a great deal of literary works that will support and inform my thesis.

01

Firstly, I came across The Ideology of Conduct: Essays in Literature and the History of Sexuality (Methuen & Co. 1987). The book is edited by Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse. I would like to focus on Chapter 4 in particular, which is entitled “The Rise of the Domestic Woman”. This essay discusses the ways in which conduct literature contributes to the rise of the ideal figure of the domestic woman in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century. The essay examines a wide variety of conduct literature and exposes the values that were forced upon the women of the time. In my opinion, this book will be quite useful to my research as my thesis is concerned with the bourgeois attitude that arose in this period which emphasised the value of domestic life. As I intend to explore marriage and married life, I will look in considerable detail at the notion of the companionate marriage. The companionate marriage ideal was promoted in order to replace older aristocratic marriages which were based on social, economic and reproductive terms. This book on conduct literature provides some context for my thesis as the conduct literature was promoting companionate marriages and domestic lifestyles for women.

02

Along with this, I would like to examine Mothering Daughters: Novels and the Politics of Family Romance, Frances Burney to Jane Austen by Susan C. Greenfield (Wayne State University Press 2002). I feel that Chapter 4, “The Maternal Bosom: Sexual and Colonial Difference in Belinda”, may be of particular use in relation to my thesis. This chapter discusses the domestic narrative concerning the marriage of Lord and Lady Delacour in Belinda. Evidently, this will be valuable to my work as the book explores the domestication of Lady Delacour. Lady Delacour is portrayed as an aristocratic women who quite dissipated and lacking in maternal instincts. The chapter also refers to the distinctions set up by Edgeworth between English and French society. Prior to the French revolution, elite aristocratic women seemed to possess a great deal of authority and control and often engaged in the public sphere. However, it seems that post revolutionary conservative critics in Britain saw France as corrupt and decadent due to this female power and influence. Aristocratic marriages were clearly associated with French society while companionate marriages were associated with proper English society. Mothering Daughters seems as though it will be useful as it discusses the manner in which Lady Delacour must transform her struggling marriage into a companionate marriage and thus make an emotional journey from dissipation to domestication.

03

In addition to this, I would like to examine the book Their Fathers’ Daughters: Hannah More, Maria Edgeworth and Patriarchal Complicity by Elizabeth Kowaleski-Wallace (Oxford University Press 1991). Chapter 4 of this book is entitled “Home Economics: Domestic Ideology in Belinda” and I feel that it may be quite helpful. This book also explores Lady Delacour’s lack of maternal instincts and the obligation forced upon her to become a domestic wife. Edgeworth seems to present this lack of maternity as something harmful and destructive in a marriage. She seems to want to inform women that domestic life is favourable. This book appears quite valuable as it delves into Edgeworth’s domestic ideology. Although the book focuses on Belinda, Edgeworth presents similar values and opinions in Leonora, in particular, the notion that domestic life is the only route to happiness.

04

Maria Edgeworth: Women, Enlightenment and Nation (University College Dublin Press 2005) by Clíona Ó Gallchoir may be quite constructive in relation to Edgeworth’s Leonora. Edgeworth depicts issues of nation in Leonora which may be associated with the distinction between the French aristocratic marriage and the English companionate marriage. This book’s discussion of Edgeworth and nation may be quite helpful in this respect.

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Jane Austen and Marriage (Continuum 2009) by Hazel Jones will undoubtedly be extremely valuable to my research as marriage in Jane Austen’s work is one of my central topics. The book is informative and well structured with chapters such as “Domestic Happiness Overthrown”, “The Simple Regimen of Separate Rooms” and “The Years of Danger”. This will be of great use for my thesis as the book does not just look at courtship in Jane Austen’s work, but also marriage and married life. Jones discusses the manner in which Jane Austen promotes the companionate marriage as a love-based relationship in which the husband and wife operate as partners. However, she also discusses Austen’s portrayal of failed marriages. Austen illustrates the dangers of entering into a marriage for money or social status. The book explores marriages in Austen’s work such as the marriage of Colonel Brandon’s brother and Eliza in Sense and Sensibility.

06

Domestic Realities and Imperial Fictions: Jane Austen’s Novels in Eighteenth-Century Contexts (University of Georgia Press 1993) by Maaja A. Stewart may also be of some use. Although I have not fully examined the book, the chapter entitled “Sentimental Returns: Imperialism and Domesticity in Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion” may inform aspects of my thesis.

In addition to this material, I intend to use a number of IT resources such as online journals and e-books. I have been building bibliography information using Zotero and I have been gathering and sorting files electronically.

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Research Journal

This year, I undertook the MA in Modernities: Romanticism, Modernism and Postmodernism. Firstly, I feel that it is appropriate to mention the extent to which I thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from the year. I was fortunate enough to meet an amazing group of people and had the chance to develop my education in an advanced level of study. Along with this, I had the opportunity to document my experience through a series of blog entries. These personal accounts recorded my progression throughout the year and became my “Diary of a Modernities Student”.

Having chosen to develop my study of English, I began the year considering language and contemplating questions of authorship. It seemed that Roland Barthes notion of intertextuality was extremely interesting and thought provoking. The concept of intertextuality appeared to have implications in many literary works; therefore, I decided to put together the following blog on the issue.

“Barthes, in his 1967 essay “The Death of the Author”, defines a text as “multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash” (Image-Music-Text 146). This slur on originality seems interesting and also quite controversial. It was this definition and understanding of a text that provoked me to delve deeper and indulge in Barthes’ ideas. Firstly, to understand this lack of originality, we must understand the notion of intertextuality. Barthes’ “The death of the author” undoubtedly contributes greatly to the characterisation of intertexuality. It seems that intertextuality was initially employed by poststructuralist theorists who were major critics of the structuralist method, in particular, the idea of an objective critical position and a stable metalanguage. Throughout his essay, Barthes presents the concept of the lack of originality of words and writing. He proclaims that words are intertextual as they have meanings, ideology and culture behind them. All words have many dimensions, are drawn from different places, different perspectives and different historical and social centres. Barthes clearly maintains that within writing, “everything is to be disentangled, nothing deciphered” (Image-Music-Text 147), which seems to suggest that meanings must be unravelled. We cannot decipher a text and come to one specific meaning as there is always a great deal of interpretations available. Since a text is intertextual, it is woven together from different forms of language; therefore, we can never close off or fully trace all meanings of the text. Barthes’ concepts can clearly be applied to numerous forms of literature and, for this reason; he has played a vital role in contributing to the science of semiology.” (The Death of the Author blog)

As the MA in Modernities involves a comprehensive study of literature, it seemed fitting to begin the year with the module Literary Theory. This aspect of the course introduced us to influential theorists such as Saussure, Marx, Derrida, Nietzsche and Freud. I became quite interested in Freud’s theories of the uncanny and decided to explore this matter in a blog.

“Freud’s paper “The Uncanny”, although distinguished and highly significant, seems essentially quite problematic. In, what I would consider, one of Freud’s most interesting papers, he attempts to define and interpret the nature of what is canny and uncanny, heimlech and unheimlech. However, this is not what is most intriguing, but rather Freud’s oversights and blindness towards certain issues which unfold within the paper. I would like to draw particular attention to his examination of the German Romantic writer, E.T.A. Hoffmann’s tale “The Sandman”. This has undoubtedly provoked a great deal of commentary and analysis from critics as not only is the narrative itself uncanny, but Freud’s interpretation of it proves just as uncanny. In Hoffman’s “The Sandman”, the central character Nathaniel is traumatized by his childhood fears of a gruesome figure who throws sand in the eyes of children to mutilate them and rob them of their eyes. Nathaniel repeatedly falls into delirium with the emergence of figures and events related to the dreaded Sandman. Freud, in his analysis, is determined to associate Hoffmann’s entire narrative with his castration complex, which evidently results in the development of a severe prejudice in his interpretative vision.

In an effort to substantiate his Oedipus analogy, Freud claims that in psychoanalysis “fears about the eye are derived from the fear of castration” (“The Uncanny” 231). He clearly believes that there is a direct connection between the eye and the male phallus and goes on to point out that it is the fear of castration of this male organ that makes the loss of any other organ so terrifying and poignant. Freud suggests that Hoffmann relates the theme of anxiety concerning one’s eye with the Sandman’s destructive path in the way of love and also with Nathaniel’s father’s death, connections which are echoed in Freud’s Oedipus complex.” (Freud and the Uncanny blog).

In addition to this, the blog discusses oversights in relation to Freud’s close reading of the text.

As the year progressed, I began to feel immersed in the MA experience. Great writers such as Byron and Shelley entered my mind on a day to day basis and, accordingly, similarities seemed to emerge between these Romantic writers and contemporary figures. During the year, I came across a Youtube video clip of Russell Brand openly calling for revolution in our society and I decided to write a blog on the issue. A link to the Youtube clip can be found on my “Diary of a Modernities Student” page.

“Russell Brand, in a recent interview with Jeremy Paxman on BBC’s Newsnight, declares his contempt for the current political power structures and the economic disparity and disillusionment they have caused. In his latest post as guest editor of the British current affairs magazine “The New Statesman”, Brand openly calls for revolution and evokes his passion, fury and unrelenting desire for change.

While contemplating this interview, it seems we can draw a parallel with Brand and the second generation Romantic writer Byron. Both figures equally possess the status of celebrity and express deep political frustration while they yearn to bring about action and revolution. This can undoubtedly be seen in Byron’s “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Canto III”. In his poem, Byron distinctly laments the loss of the British republic and scorns the reinstatement of the monarchy. His affinity with ideas of revolution and republicanism leads him to consider historical figures such as Napoleon and to visit the battlefield at Waterloo. The notion of this battle merely amounting to the strengthening of monarchy arouses rage and torment within Byron. Everything has collapsed and deteriorated to Byron. All ambition and efforts to gain a republic were futile as any form of progression has been broken and shattered. As Byron contemplates whether the world has gained any real independence after the defeat of Napoleon, he seems to conclude that people do not quite understand the true value of victory. He clearly feels as though we struck down one dominant, tyrannical beast only to get back down on our knee’s and serve another. Byron undeniably regards Britain as much more constrained by monarchy rather than liberated and comments “Shall reviving thraldom again be / The patched-up idol of enlightened days?”(167-8). It is clearly a great torment to Byron that history may just be circular. This concept also seems discernible in Brand’s interview as he expresses his apathy in observing the election of different politicians year after year yet the essential problems and difficulties of the economy remain unchanged. It seems evident that Byron and Brand fundamentally fear a lack of progression.” (A Call for Revolution blog)

The MA in Modernities involves a comprehensive study of the Romantic period. While studying Romanticism in the course, I began to consider women in society. Although it seemed early in the course, I was beginning to consider possible thesis topics and I was quite interested in the lives of women in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. As a possible introduction to this topic, I decided to explore the relationship between women and nature.

“In her article “Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?”, Sherry B. Ortner argues that in various cultures and societies “woman is being identified with, or, if you will, seems to be a symbol of, something that every culture devalues, something that every culture defines as being at a lower order of existence than itself” (10). For Ortner, this recognition aligns women with nature as she concludes that women are closer to nature than men, who are closer to culture. The author suggests that the relationship between women and nature develops primarily due to physiological distinctions as a woman’s body is directly associated with natural reproductive functions which, in turn, places her in subdued domestic roles and removes her from the cultural sphere. (12) Traditionally, as human beings, we aspire to transcend nature and overcome natural limitations thus nature becomes inferior. Humanity, in many cases, strives to prove that we can act rather than be acted upon. Ortner seems to believe that culture, which may be linked with human consciousness, seeks to maintain control over nature, therefore “if woman is part of nature, then culture would find it ‘natural’ to subordinate, not to say oppress, her” (12). Although some may suggest that this argument, which associates women with nature, may be in the course of transformation due to eco-criticism and the realization of the importance of nature, much of Ortner’s line of reasoning does seem to apply to second generation Romantic poets such as Shelly, Byron and Keats who openly value culture over nature.” (Does Culture Triumph over Nature blog)

With these ideas in mind, we subsequently went on to study Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda. At this point, I formed a particular interest in marriage and married life during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Belinda illustrated the various types of marriages that existed during the period, such as aristocratic marriages based on social, economic and reproductive terms; and the bourgeois companionate marriage which encouraged a love-based relationship. I was quite keen to write a blog on the novel and to explore these ideas further.

“Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda, published as a second edition in 1802, undoubtedly presents an Enlightenment ideal of female identity which has both progressive and conservative potential. As a novel of female courtship, Belinda is set in a world where young girls must showcase their looks and accomplishments in the hope of securing a respectable marriage partner. Clearly, in the London marriage market, it would have been considered of paramount importance for a woman to uphold her reputation. Belinda, the young protagonist, must learn to follow her own instincts and rely on her own rationality in order to avoid the temptation of surrendering to the fashionable yet dissipated Lady Delacour and the notoriously crafty matchmaker Mrs. Stanhope. Although the novel tracks Belinda’s growth in society, it may have been quite difficult for Edgeworth to construct a novel of female development as women of the period did not possess a great deal of agency. Elements of Edgeworth’s writing can be seen, at times, as both progressive and conservative. Edgeworth seems somewhat progressive in her eagerness to promote education and its merits for women in society. She continually praises educated, rational women in the novel such as Belinda and Lady Anne. According to Elizabeth Kowaleski-Wallace in her book Their Fathers’ Daughters, Edgeworth “seeks to define female potential in terms of the capacity to transcend stereotyping that consigns them to weakness and folly” (99). However, Edgeworth’s father’s dominant and authoritative influence may often result in more conservative outlooks in her work, in particular, Lady Delacour’s body rejecting anything apart from conventional maternal instincts. Along with this, the character of Harriet Freke seems to be quite problematic as she reduces the overall rationality of women in the text. Throughout Belinda, Edgeworth undoubtedly varies from progressive to conservative perspectives in her depiction of Enlightenment female identity.” (Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda blog)

During the year, the School of English held a number of research seminars for all to attend. It was quite interesting, as a masters student, to hear the research papers of various speakers from different disciplines. On the 22nd of January 2014, Dr. Sarah Hayden presented a research seminar to the School of English in University College Cork entitled “‘No cleanly matter’: The Artist as Degenerate/The Degenerate Artist in Mina Loy’s Insel”.

“Hayden has recently discovered additional archive material on Insel, Loy’s only published prose text, and is currently writing an introduction to the novel which will expose these unpublished drafts and investigate their overall effect on the reader’s perception of the novel. Insel may be categorised as a surrealist novel, perhaps not in terms of the means of production used but certainly in terms of the novel’s subject matter. The text is often read as a memoir of the German artist Richard Oelze and Loy’s relationship with him. Readers are undoubtedly given an account of an intense friendship or love relationship that was never fully realised or consummated. Insel may also be described as an exploration of the development of the artist.  The notion of the surrealist artist manifests in the character of Insel while Mrs. Jones seems to represent Loy in the text. In her research seminar, Hayden refers to traditional feminist interpretations of the text which suggest that the female character declares her independence in the end of the novel and reclaims her free, talented and creative self. However, Hayden has recently discovered additional fragmented material in the archives such as alternate endings to the novel. Although Loy chose not to publish this material in her typewritten draft, Hayden intends to expose these unseen notes and fragments and explore their overall impact on the novel.” (A Research Seminar given by Dr. Sarah Hayden blog)

The research seminars provided a vast array of topics and, although many of them were not directly related to Modernities, I was quite interested in blogging on them. In my English undergraduate course, I had always had a particular interest in Shakespeare studies. On Wednesday the 26th of March, Dr. Edel Semple gave a research seminar in University College Cork entitled “Shakespeare, Elizabeth I, and Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous”.

Anonymous draws on the Oxfordian conspiracy which claims that Shakespeare did not, in fact, write his own works and, instead, accredits Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, as the true author of the plays. Although the words ‘outrageous’, ‘ridiculous’ and ‘downright blasphemous’ spring to mind, it seems that this hypothesis has been circulating and growing in popularity for a century or so. The Oxfordian notion, which cannot be given enough weight to be referred to as a theory, quite boldly disregards all logic and evidence on the matter. The vast quantity of documentary proof, such as official records and evidence from historians, which adequately determines Shakespeare’s authorship, seems to have, funnily enough, escaped Emmerich’s notice. Alas, Emmerich, his film crew or his flock of supporters cannot produce a shred of reasonable evidence to link de Vere to Shakespeare’s works.

In her seminar, Dr. Edel Semple deconstructs the entire premise of Anonymous and argues that the film attempts to reshape our present and future by rewriting our Tudor past. According to Semple, Emmerich endeavours to do this by appropriating two Tudor icons, Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth is portrayed as flirtatious, idiotic and pathetic woman despite her historical significance as a courageous ruler, a writer and a translator. As Semple points out in her seminar, the figure of Shakespeare is also appropriated and portrayed as a product of Western conspiracy. Emmerich presents two Shakespeare’s in Anonymous. Firstly, the Earl of Oxford is offered as a new messiah behind the conspiracy. This genius writer and child author of A Midsummer Night’s Dream supposedly offers guidance and truth. Secondly, William Shakespeare, the idiot from Stratford, is portrayed as a drunkard, a murderer and all that is wrong with the world. Viewers of the film may also find it difficult to witness the maiming of literary icons, such as Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe, who are undermined and devalued throughout the piece.

The entire premise of the Oxfordian conspiracy is based on the notion that a commoner from Stratford born to illiterate parents could never have written such astonishing works of poetry and drama. Instead, a member of the aristocracy who was forced to deny his literary dreams must be the true author, according to believers in the bizarre ploy. The film, unsurprisingly, is rife with inaccurate details and chronology issues. Emmerich does not take into account a number of the obvious glitches in the Oxfordian scheme, in particular, the fact that de Vere died in 1604 which was before ten or so of Shakespeare’s plays were even written. As Semple pointed out, Anonymous is filled with sexism, misogyny and classism.” (A Research Seminar given by Dr. Edel Semple blog)

The whole experience was undoubtedly very enjoyable and a huge success. The entire MA group finished the year with a Textualities conference. This conference gave all of the MA students a chance to showcase their work and also provided the perfect opportunity to inform those in attendance of their research topics. The conference incorporated presentations from all of the School of English MA programmes which included American Literature and Film, Irish Writing and Film, Modernities: Romanticism, Modernism, Postmodernism and Texts and Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance Literature. Writing a blog was clearly the perfect way to reflect on the day.

“As part of the MA Modernities group, I decided to present on the influence that conduct literature had on women and marriages in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. We were required to include a visual element to our presentations using the Pecha Kucha methodology. This format involves using 20 onscreen slides for 20 seconds each. Each slide automatically moves to the next after 20 seconds, therefore, the presentation concludes after 6 minutes and 40 seconds. Although this may sound quite basic and uncomplicated, anyone that presented on the day can account for the difficulties and struggles that occur in attempting to say almost anything meaningful and sensible in 20 seconds.

Prior to the conference, I volunteered to present my topic first on the day as the prospect of finishing my presentation early seemed appealing. Although I was incredibly nervous just as I stepped up to open the conference, I took a deep breath and managed to stay calm and composed throughout. I was quite happy as my presentation came to an end having kept my discourse in line with each 20 second slide. However, for future presentations, I feel that I could improve by maintaining more eye contact with audience members.

The conference was a huge success and was undoubtedly enjoyed by all in attendance. The entire MA group presented their work incredibly well and with great enthusiasm. A host of colorful, interesting and entertaining topics emerged and, along with this, the live blogging and tweeting on the day gave the conference a lively and energetic element. Taking part in the conference was a great experience and a highlight of the year. Well done to all!” (Reflection on UCC’s Textualities Conference blog)

Reflection on UCC’s Textualities Conference

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MA group

On Friday the 28th of March, the School of English MA students held a Textualities conference in the Western Gateway Building from 9.30am – 3.00pm in University College Cork. The conference gave all of the MA students a chance to showcase their work and also provided the perfect opportunity to inform those in attendance of their research topics. The conference incorporated presentations from all of the School of English MA programmes which included American Literature and Film, Irish Writing and Film, Modernities: Romanticism, Modernism, Postmodernism and Texts and Contexts: Medieval to Renaissance Literature.

As part of the MA Modernities group, I decided to present on the influence that conduct literature had on women and marriages in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. We were required to include a visual element to our presentations using the Pecha Kucha methodology. This format involves using 20 onscreen slides for 20 seconds each. Each slide automatically moves to the next after 20 seconds, therefore, the presentation concludes after 6 minutes and 40 seconds. Although this may sound quite basic and uncomplicated, anyone that presented on the day can account for the difficulties and struggles that occur in attempting to say almost anything meaningful and sensible in 20 seconds.

Prior to the conference, I volunteered to present my topic first on the day as the prospect of finishing my presentation early seemed appealing. Although I was incredibly nervous just as I stepped up to open the conference, I took a deep breath and managed to stay calm and composed throughout. I was quite happy as my presentation came to an end having kept my discourse in line with each 20 second slide. However, for future presentations, I feel that I could improve by maintaining more eye contact with audience members.

The conference was a huge success and was undoubtedly enjoyed by all in attendance. The entire MA group presented their work incredibly well and with great enthusiasm. A host of colorful, interesting and entertaining topics emerged and, along with this, the live blogging and tweeting on the day gave the conference a lively and energetic element. Taking part in the conference was a great experience and a highlight of the year. Well done to all!

 

 

A Research Seminar given by Dr. Edel Semple

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On Wednesday the 26th of March, Dr. Edel Semple gave a research seminar in University College Cork entitled “Shakespeare, Elizabeth I, and Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous”. The seminar explored presentations of Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth and Roland Emmerich in Emmerich’s 2011 film Anonymous. Anonymous draws on the Oxfordian conspiracy which claims that Shakespeare did not, in fact, write his own works and, instead, accredits Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, as the true author of the plays. Although the words ‘outrageous’, ‘ridiculous’ and ‘downright blasphemous’ spring to mind, it seems that this hypothesis has been circulating and growing in popularity for a century or so. The Oxfordian notion, which cannot be given enough weight to be referred to as a theory, quite boldly disregards all logic and evidence on the matter. The vast quantity of documentary proof, such as official records and evidence from historians, which adequately determines Shakespeare’s authorship, seems to have, funnily enough, escaped Emmerich’s notice. Alas, Emmerich, his film crew or his flock of supporters cannot produce a shred of reasonable evidence to link de Vere to Shakespeare’s works.

In her seminar, Dr. Edel Semple deconstructs the entire premise of Anonymous and argues that the film attempts to reshape our present and future by rewriting our Tudor past. According to Semple, Emmerich endeavours to do this by appropriating two Tudor icons, Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabeth is portrayed as flirtatious, idiotic and pathetic woman despite her historical significance as a courageous ruler, a writer and a translator. Emmerich undoubtedly employs the character as an object of art rather than a subject of history. As viewers of the film, we are provided with an erotic biography of a coquettish, frail Queen who is incredibly manipulated by the men around her. Her reign, the Elizabethan era, is also appropriated to conform to a dramatic pattern following Shakespeare’s dramas. The director also seems to exploit the figure of Queen Elizabeth I as a political puppet. Emmerich suggests that Elizabeth is enchanted and captivated by the beautiful works, supposedly composed by de Vere, to such a degree that she falls under their spell. De Vere, knowing this, writes the dramas merely to influence and control her, however, he is not censured for this as he seemingly has England’s political interests at heart. As Semple points out in her seminar, the figure of Shakespeare is also appropriated and portrayed as a product of Western conspiracy. Emmerich presents two Shakespeare’s in Anonymous. Firstly, the Earl of Oxford is offered as a new messiah behind the conspiracy. This genius writer and child author of A Midsummer Night’s Dream supposedly offers guidance and truth. Secondly, William Shakespeare, the idiot from Stratford, is portrayed as a drunkard, a murderer and all that is wrong with the world. Viewers of the film may also find it difficult to witness the maiming of literary icons, such as Ben Jonson and Christopher Marlowe, who are undermined and devalued throughout the piece.

As Semple pointed out, Anonymous is filled with sexism, misogyny and classism. The entire premise of the Oxfordian conspiracy is based on the notion that a commoner from Stratford born to illiterate parents could never have written such astonishing works of poetry and drama. Instead, a member of the aristocracy who was forced to deny his literary dreams must be the true author, according to believers in the bizarre ploy. The film, unsurprisingly, is rife with inaccurate details and chronology issues. Emmerich does not take into account a number of the obvious glitches in the Oxfordian scheme, in particular, the fact that de Vere died in 1604 which was before ten or so of Shakespeare’s plays were even written. Although many may feel that Anonymous is merely a Hollywood enterprise with a trivial subject matter, a quite frightening element to the emergence of the film exists. Sony Pictures, under the guidance of Roland Emmerich, have issued lesson plans to literature and history teachers in an attempt to persuade students that Shakespeare was a fraud. In light of these bizarre and alarming events, Cambridge University Press published Shakespeare Beyond Doubt, a collection of essays by twenty three distinguished scholars who provide biographical, textual and bibliographical evidence in response to the authorship question. It seems that Oxfordian supporters, Roland Emmerich or Anonymous producers have not yet responded, at least not with anything reasonable or sensible, to this.

As the New York Times puts it, “Anonymous, a costume spectacle directed byRoland Emmerich, from a script by John Orloff, is a vulgar prank on the English literary tradition, a travesty of British history and a brutal insult to the human imagination. Apart from that, it’s not bad”.

Works Cited

“Anonymous – Trailer.” YouTube. YouTube, 07 Apr. 2011. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

Scott, A. O. “How Could a Commoner Write Such Great Plays?” Rev. of Roland Emmerich’s Anonymous. The New York Times [New York] 27 Oct. 2011 www.nytimes.com. Web.

Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia

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Roland Barthes, in his 1967 essay “The Death of the Author”, defines a text as a “tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture” (Image-Music-Text 146). This seems to imply that all writing is made up of a structure of many intertextual languages brought together from many cultures, traditions and ideologies. Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, in many ways, satisfies this definition. Throughout the play, Stoppard presents the blending and clashing of various cultures and languages. Literary illusions become customary as the play is composed of numerous quotations and references from an assortment of authors and works. The characters of the nineteenth century and the present day attempt to define, interpret and understand language, along with the world around them as the search for meaning is paramount in the play. Hannah very fittingly informs readers and audience members that “It’s wanting to know that makes us matter”. Stoppard also seems quite interested in his reader’s analysis and reception of events. He allows readers and audience members experience an intertextual world in which language is continuously evolving and acquiring new meaning. Septimus quite aptly points out that, as humans, “We shed as we pick up” which suggests that meanings can, at times, be left behind and forgotten, but they are never truly lost. Throughout Arcadia, language transcends time and connects the nineteenth century with the present day to such a degree that the worlds begin to merge. Arcadia undoubtedly conforms to Barthes’ notion of a text as a “multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash” (Image-Music-Text 146).

In his 1874 essay “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life”, Friedrich Nietzsche recognises the need for history in society; however, he does not feel that this should correspond with the need to acquire knowledge. Supported by his quote from Goethe, Nietzsche expresses his disdain for “instruction without invigoration” and “knowledge not attended by action” (59). Evidently, he maintains that history should be availed of only in so far as it serves the living and should provoke some form of productive action. In Arcadia, the past seems to be celebrated to a much higher degree than the present or future. The contemporary characters efforts to interpret the tissue of quotations that have survived form the past is quite interesting. The modern day scholars encounter great difficulties as they are attempting to understand history from a number of quite fragmented sources. Bernard undoubtedly misinterprets the past and bases the theories on very little or no evidence. Although the inscription on “The Couch of Eros” (1.1) does link Septimus and Mr. Chater to Sidley Park, Bernard quite arrogantly declares that because the book occupied Byron’s library for some time, it must have belonged to him. Furthermore, Bernard confidently goes on to state that Byron must have used the underlined passages to produce a review of the book in the “Piccadilly Recreation of April 30th 1809” (1.2). Audience members are aware, however, that Byron himself identifies Septimus as the author of this review. Throughout Arcadia, truth and facts are distorted. Bernard bends, twists and contorts information to suit his needs in a pursuit to rewrite history based on presumptions. In a somewhat pompous and careless manner, he decides that the letters found in “The Couch of Eros” belonged to Byron rather than Septimus despite Hannah pointing out that these alleged discovers are “Superb. But inconclusive” (1.2). Hannah seems to represent a realistic and unbiased vision in the text. While she looks for evidence and reinforcement to support her claims, true meaning becomes almost redundant to Bernard due to his wild and distorted interpretive gaze. He quite dramatically hypothesises that Byron murdered Chater, a statement which seems largely unfounded, and begins to gradually transform history into a fictional, melodramatic soap opera. Truth is sacrificed in Bernard’s attempt to manipulate history with publications and press releases as he endeavours to acquire attention and fame. In spite of this, he acknowledges his unreliability when challenged on his theories by responding “I don’t know, I wasn’t there, was I?” (2.5) yet he also accredits himself with “the most sensational literary discovery of the century” (2.5). Along with the vast quantity of interpretation and misinterpretation in the play, there is also a great deal of confusion, miscommunication and manipulation of language. When Hannah quotes Thomas Love Peacock referring to the hermit of the park as “a savant among idiots” (1.2) and “a sage of lunacy” (1.2), Bernard replies “An oxy-moron, so to speak” (1.2). This play on the word oxymoron is interesting and quite humorous as Bernard is alluding to the convergence of two contradictory meanings in the phases used yet he is also referring to the hermit himself as a moron. It seems that the contemporary characters often find it difficult to communicate as meanings become distorted and confusion occurs. As Bernard discusses his theories in relation to Byron, he asks his listeners “Where was I?” (2.5) Valentine replies “Pigeons” (2.5), Chloe replies “Sex” (2.5) and Hannah replies “Literature” (2.5). Clearly, the communication has been compromised and personal interests have influenced each person’s thinking. Due to the intertextual nature of language, various meanings have been derived from Bernard’s argument. Along with this, Hannah and Valentine, both intelligent scholars, find it difficult to communicate between disciplines. When Hannah inquires as to what an iterated algorithm is, Valentine can only respond with “Well, it’s…Jesus…it’s an algorithm that’s been…iterated” (1.4). Although he goes on to form a rather satisfactory explanation, it seems to require a considerable effort. Stoppard seems to be suggesting that we, as dialogic beings, can often fall short and fail to adequately adopt and employ the tissue of quotations surrounding us.

Works Cited

Barthes, R. “The Death of the Author”. 1968. Image-Music-Text. Trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977. Print.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life”. Untimely Meditations. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 57-125. Print.

Stoppard, Tom. Arcadia. London: Faber and Faber, 1993. Print.

 

A Research Seminar given by Dr. Sarah Hayden

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On the 22nd of January 2014, Dr. Sarah Hayden presented a research seminar to the School of English in University College Cork entitled “‘No cleanly matter’: The Artist as Degenerate/The Degenerate Artist in Mina Loy’s Insel”. Hayden has recently discovered additional archive material on Insel, Loy’s only published prose text, and is currently writing an introduction to the novel which will expose these unpublished drafts and investigate their overall effect on the reader’s perception of the novel.

According to Hayden, Loy is often renowned for her attractive physical features and feminine beauty; however, it must be acknowledged that she is a distinguished poet, playwright, novelist and artist. Prior to writing Insel, Loy accepted a position in Julien Levy’s surrealist art gallery in Paris. It seems that Paris, at the time, was losing its status as centre of the art world. Loy, observing this, began to compile notes for Insel, a novel which would be fully written and realised when she arrives in New York in 1936.

Insel may be categorised as a surrealist novel, perhaps not in terms of the means of production used but certainly in terms of the novel’s subject matter. The text is often read as a memoir of the German artist Richard Oelze and Loy’s relationship with him. Readers are undoubtedly given an account of an intense friendship or love relationship that was never fully realised or consummated. Insel may also be described as an exploration of the development of the artist.

The notion of the surrealist artist manifests in the character of Insel while Mrs. Jones seems to represent Loy in the text. In her research seminar, Hayden refers to traditional feminist interpretations of the text which suggest that the female character declares her independence in the end of the novel and reclaims her free, talented and creative self. However, Hayden has recently discovered additional fragmented material in the archives such as alternate endings to the novel. Although Loy chose not to publish this material in her typewritten draft, Hayden intends to expose these unseen notes and fragments and explore their overall impact on the novel.

Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda

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Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda, published as a second edition in 1802, undoubtedly presents an Enlightenment ideal of female identity which has both progressive and conservative potential. As a novel of female courtship, Belinda is set in a world where young girls must showcase their looks and accomplishments in the hope of securing a respectable marriage partner. Clearly, in the London marriage market, it would have been considered of paramount importance for a woman to uphold her reputation. Belinda, the young protagonist, must learn to follow her own instincts and rely on her own rationality in order to avoid the temptation of surrendering to the fashionable yet dissipated Lady Delacour and the notoriously crafty matchmaker Mrs. Stanhope. Although the novel tracks Belinda’s growth in society, it may have been quite difficult for Edgeworth to construct a novel of female development as women of the period did not possess a great deal of agency. Elements of Edgeworth’s writing can be seen, at times, as both progressive and conservative. Edgeworth seems somewhat progressive in her eagerness to promote education and its merits for women in society. She continually praises educated, rational women in the novel such as Belinda and Lady Anne. According to Elizabeth Kowaleski-Wallace in her book Their Fathers’ Daughters, Edgeworth “seeks to define female potential in terms of the capacity to transcend stereotyping that consigns them to weakness and folly” (99). However, Edgeworth’s father’s dominant and authoritative influence may often result in more conservative outlooks in her work, in particular, Lady Delacour’s body rejecting anything apart from conventional maternal instincts. Along with this, the character of Harriet Freke seems to be quite problematic as she reduces the overall rationality of women in the text. Throughout Belinda, Edgeworth undoubtedly varies from progressive to conservative perspectives in her depiction of Enlightenment female identity.

Works Cited

Kowaleski-Wallace, Elizabeth. Their Fathers’ Daughters: Maria Edgeworth, Hannah More and Patriarchal Complicity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. 99-121. Print.

Living in the Past

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Friedrich Nietzsche, in his 1874 essay “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life”, considers the role of history in a modern culture and society and its effect on the individual person along with the wider nation state. His intention throughout the essay seems to be to guide the reader towards the correct application of history which, in his view, is for the purpose of serving life. Nietzsche clearly recognises the need for history in society however he does not feel that this should correspond with the need to acquire knowledge. Supported by his quote from Goethe, Nietzsche expresses his hate for “instruction without invigoration” (59) and “knowledge not attended by action” (59). Evidently, he believes that history should provoke some form of productive action, should have a true value and should ultimately be employed to facilitate the living.

Throughout the text, Nietzsche provides a guide to various approaches to history in the form of monumental, antiquarian and critical views. Monumental history is valuable to the man “who acts and strives” (67), antiquarian history can be of use to the man “who preserves and reveres” (67) and critical history is practical to the man “who suffers and seeks deliverance” (67). According to Nietzsche, monumental history serves life as it manifests as a teacher and instructor, providing guidance and direction. Evidently it provides role models, depicting great and powerful men of action in history and, therefore, prompts and impels the living towards deeds and accomplishments of their own. With antiquarian history, Nietzsche seems to be referring to the sort of man who is interested in the conservation of the past as he is highly respectful of his roots and origins. These men wish to uphold the honour of past generations and maintain a sense of admiration for those who laid the foundations of greatness. Furthermore, they are concerned with upholding a cultures heritage and traditions for future generations and, in this respect, antiquarian history is of service to the living. The third and final category of history takes the form of a critical approach, which must be employed alongside monumental and antiquarian history to serve life. According to Nietzsche, critical history is concerned with the analysis and dissection of history which is achieved by “bringing it before the tribunal, scrupulously examining it and finally condemning it” (76). For Nietzsche, this process of deconstruction is necessary as, in many cases, the past ought to be criticised and rebuked. It seems that the role of critical history is to scrutinise major historical events and figures and consequently, to explore human flaws, passions and weaknesses.

In his essay, Nietzsche considers two distinct beings in society; the historical and the suprahistorical man. The man with a “suprahistorical vantage point” (65) seems to be above history and his involvement in it has made him indifferent towards life. He has no aspiration to go living as he feels that subsequent years will teach him nothing that the past could not teach. In his book Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist, Peter Berkowitz suggests that the suprahistorical man knows that “despite the great variety in the history of nations and individuals, existence is always the same, a perennial flux devoid of intrinsic significance” (31). For Nietzsche, history essentially destroys the suprahistorical mans life. The historical man, on the other hand, has no desire to relive his years, but for quite different reasons. He has a much more optimistic outlook on life and believes the years to come will improve and triumph over the past. He can learn from history and apply this knowledge to enhance his future. Nietzsche seems to encourage the historical mans behaviour as although he has a strong attachment to history, he employs it for the purposes of life rather than knowledge.

However, Nietzsche also seems to have extensive fears and anxieties concerning the dangers of an excess of history. According to Nietzsche, to overestimate the importance of history in our lives can be damaging and problematic as “it is possible to value the study of history to such a degree that life becomes stunted and degenerate” (59). He also seems to be particularly concerned with the notion that history is responsible for weak personalities in the modern man. Along with this, he believes that history can have a harmful and destructive effect on modern culture. This weak personality along with a crisis in relation to the culture of the nation undoubtedly forms his critique of modernity throughout the essay. Moreover, Nietzsche’s concern on the subject of the nation as a whole may also give rise to the political ideology of nationalism. It seems that Nietzsche is fundamentally a deep pragmatist, asserting that we must ensure the past is put to good use in our present lives and future society as we can essentially become a slave to history or be its master. Throughout the text, Nietzsche’s underlying and vital message continuously emerges: “We want to serve history only to the extent that history serves life” (59).

 

Works Cited

Berkowitz, Peter. Nietzsche: The Ethics of an Immoralist. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1995. Print.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. “On the Uses and Disadvantages of History for Life”. Untimely Meditations. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997. 57-125. Print.

The Doer of Good

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Oscar Wilde, in his short poem in prose “The Doer of Good”, gives his rendition of Christ’s return to meet the people whose lives he has impacted. The poem is undoubtedly filled with various counteractions and oppositions as Wilde portrays the contrasting lives of the characters before and after Christ healed them. The man who was once a neglected leper now leads an excessive, superficial life while the man who was once blind, now lusts after beautiful women. This seems to echo Wilde’s response to his own family and childhood as “His father had been laughed at by society, so he would mock society first [and] His father had been unkempt, so he would be fastidious” (Kiberd “Oscar Wilde” 35). The author can perhaps draw a parallel with his characters divergent lifestyles and his own need for change. Just as the people depicted throughout the poem have abandoned their old, wretched lives for a more stylish and alluring alternative, Wilde rejected a bleak and depressing Dublin “for the cosmopolitan glamour of a career in London” (Kiberd “The London Exiles” 372). In his essay “The London Exiles: Wilde and Shaw”, Declan Kiberd indicates Wilde’s lifelong rejection of the “manic Victorian urge to antithesis” (373). Evidently, the Victorians believed that the uncivilised Irish must be the entire opposite to the refined English, a notion which severely discontented Wilde. According to Kibred, the Victorians set up striking oppositions between men and women and often good and evil; however Wilde cannot accept this “black-and-while distinction between good and evil” (“The London Exiles” 374). He is clearly of the opinion that, as humans, we are antithetically mixed; therefore we can contain both bad and good. We have the capacity to sin, our sins may be forgiven if we repent and we may eventually sin again, much the same as the figures in “The Doer of Good”. Wilde does not seem to believe that people are confined to certain character traits and in refusing the notion of antithesis, he subsequently rejects the theory of determinism. The leper in Wilde’s poem was marginalised by society but now resides in a house of “marble” (7) and “fair pillars” (7) which seems to confirm that social conditions do not fully govern and control. Wilde, throughout his life and his work, “saw the self as an artwork, to be made and remade” (“Oscar Wilde” 40).

 

Works Cited

Kiberd, Declan. “Oscar Wilde: The Artist as Irishman.” Inventing Ireland. Cambridge: Harvard University Press,1995. Print.

—. “The London Exiles: Wilde and Shaw.” The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. Ed. Seamus Deane. Derry: Field Day Publications, 1991. Print.

Sarony, Napoleon. Oscar Wilde. C1882. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. Wikimedia Commons. Web. 10 December 2013.

Wilde, Oscar. “The Doer of Good.” Oscar Wilde. Introd. Merlin Holland. Somerset: Collins, 2003. Print.

Does Culture Triumph Over Nature?

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In her article “Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?”, Sherry B. Ortner argues that in various cultures and societies “woman is being identified with, or, if you will, seems to be a symbol of, something that every culture devalues, something that every culture defines as being at a lower order of existence than itself” (10). For Ortner, this recognition aligns women with nature as she concludes that women are closer to nature than men, who are closer to culture. The author suggests that the relationship between women and nature develops primarily due to physiological distinctions as a woman’s body is directly associated with natural reproductive functions which, in turn, places her in subdued domestic roles and removes her from the cultural sphere. (12) Traditionally, as human beings, we aspire to transcend nature and overcome natural limitations thus nature becomes inferior. Humanity, in many cases, strives to prove that we can act rather than be acted upon. Ortner seems to believe that culture, which may be linked with human consciousness, seeks to maintain control over nature, therefore “if woman is part of nature, then culture would find it ‘natural’ to subordinate, not to say oppress, her” (12). Although some may suggest that this argument, which associates women with nature, may be in the course of transformation due to eco-criticism and the realisation of the importance of nature, much of Ortner’s line of reasoning does seem to apply to second generation Romantic poets such as Shelly, Byron and Keats who openly value culture over nature.

For Keats in particular, nature seems to be highly influential. Along with this, his poems undoubtedly place a distinct emphasis on his poetic ambition and his strive for permanence. Although nature clearly provides him with a great deal of inspiration through his portrayal of its everlasting cycle, he ultimately attempts to gain permanence through poetry and, therefore, culture. In Keats “Ode to a Nightingale”, nature assumes a prominent and pivotal role throughout the poem. It seems to empower the poet and often provides a sense of comfort as he contemplates the fleeting nature of human life and a transient, temporal beauty “who cannot keep her lustrous eyes” (Ode to a Nightingale 29). However, it is clear that nature does not provide a complete refuge to the poet as he fundamentally desires to escape and to transcend his earthly existence “on the viewless wings of Poesy” (Ode to a Nightingale 33). For Keats, poetry, and therefore culture and society, undeniably prevails over nature. Similarly, in “Bright Star! Would I Were Steadfast As Thou Art”, Keats’ admiration for the purity and permanence of nature is evident. Nature clearly provides guidance and direction to the poet as he ultimately desires to emulate the bright star. However, it is important to note that Keats’ primary concern is to attain the stars constancy and immortality. He essentially rejects nature, informing the reader of his indifference and lack of enthusiasm in gazing upon the “moving waters” (Bright Star 5) or the “soft-fallen mask / Of snow upon the mountains” (Bright Star 7-8). Keats, along with a range of second generation Romantic poets, abandons the notion of being solitary in nature and yearns to achieve a sense of permanence through his poetry. This triumph of culture over nature can undoubtedly be seen in a great deal of Romantic poetry.

 

 

Works Cited

Keats, John. “Ode to a Nightingale.” Poetry Now. Ed. Niall MacMonagle. Dublin: The Celtic Press, 2007. Print.

—. “Bright Star! Would I Were Steadfast as Thou Art.” Poetry Now. Ed. Niall MacMonagle. Dublin: The Celtic Press, 2007. Print.

Neatby, W. J. Ode to a Nightingale. 1899. Wikimedia Commons. Web. 28 November 2013

Ortner, Sherry B. “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?.” Feminist   Studies 1.2 (1972): 5-31. Print.