Notes for "Ode to the West Wind"
from Shelley's A Defence of Poetry (1821)
. . . for [poetry] acts in a divine and unapprehended manner, beyond and above consciousness. . . It awakens and enlarges the mind itself by rendering it the receptacle of a thousand unapprehended combinations of thought. Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar (924)
Poetry is indeed something divine. It is at once the centre and circumference of knowledge; it is that which comprehends all science, and that to which all science must be referred. . . What were virtue, love, patriotism, friendship-what were the scenery of this beautiful universe which we inhabit; what were our consolations on this side of the grave-and what were our aspirations beyond it, if poetry did not ascend to bring light and fire from those eternal regions where the owl-winged faculty of calculation dare not ever soar? Poetry is not like reasoning, a power to be exerted according to the determination of the will. A man cannot say, "I will compose poetry." The greatest poet even cannot say it; for the mind in creation is as a fading coal, which some invisible influence, like an inconstant wind, awakens to transitory brightness; this power arises from within, like the color of a flower which fades and changes as it is developed, and the conscious portions of our natures are unprophetic either of its approach or its departure. (926)
Language that associates poetry with prophecy, with inspiration in the old-fashioned sense. The "fading coal" probably a reference to Isaiah's calling to be prophet:
Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo,this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged. 8 Also I heard the voice ofthe Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. (KJV, Isaiah 6.6-8)
If this poem is prophecy, how do we account for the ending of the poem, which some readers might see as trivial or even clichéd?
"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?" (70)
This trope or metaphor for regeneration is certainly not very original. If what makes the poem ultimately full of hope and "forward-looking thoughts" is the promise of renewal by the changing of the seasons, such a "content" seems inadequate to the poem's robust form. In other words, it seems like a lot of wind to blow such puny leaves.
To get at the larger implications of the poem, the way in which the "content" of the poem IS deserving of such formal care, let's look carefully at a handful of phrases that seem to move us and poem into consideration of ever-larger concerns.
"Pestilence-stricken multitudes" (5)
leaves, of course, but what do we SEE in this image?
"ghosts" (3) moves us away from leaves to people
traditional epic simile (in footnote) comparing leaves to people
Further complications: leaves "driven" by breath of Autumn's being is equated to ghosts "fleeing" from an enchanter
driven and fleeing are not the same
wouldn't an enchanter hold the ghosts against their will
"The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low, / Each like a corpse within its grave" (7-8)
This passage focuses on the wind's function in delivering the seeds to their place of implantation
Similar words and tropes link it to the first five lines, but here with strongly conventionalizing tendencies: i.e. this is a miniature nature poem expressed in the framework of Christian pastoral
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. (KJV, John 12.24) [Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (RSV, John 12.24)]
Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die (KJV, 1 Cor. 15.36) [You foolish man! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. (RSV, 1 Cor. 15.36)]
These are passages that deal with the resurrection of the human body
winged seeds -> Christianity -> death/rebirth -> crucified/empty tomb
Note also recurrence of verb "drive"—here the wind is "driving" the seeds "like flocks to feed in air"—the Autumn wind taking on the function here of its sister, the Spring wind; in other words, already regenerating.
These two parts, the first obscure, the second clear (note "clarion" in line 10; from Lat. clarus (clear), the wind as destructive and constructive, together provide us with an introduction to the poem.
"Destroyer and Preserver" (14)
As footnote makes clear—two Hindu deities
Siva the destroyer
Vishnu the preserver
Not separate gods but aspects of single power or force (along with Brahma the creator)—ultimate oneness of all; the two forces, destructive and constructive, Autumn and Spring, not seen as separate but as aspects of one force
When Vishnu sleeps, creation is withdrawn to a seed to be sown again when he awakes (recall the winged seeds)
Cycles of rebirth, but now extended out from Western Christian narrative and iconography to a world cultural (at least in early 19th century Europe) perspective
"Angels of lightning and rain" (18)
angel means literally messenger
in Judeo-Christian imagery what do we see when we think of angels?
guardian angel—angel as protective spirit
wrathful angel—angel with flaming sword (such as those guarding the gates of Eden)
"clarion" of line 10 reminds us of Gabriel, whose trumpet will announce the end of time (apocalypse, not cycles of death and rebirth)
angels created from light
carry out God's commands—the very processes of Nature are actually performed by angels
the point here is the ever-expanding scope of the poem
seasonal change has moved
to the Christian narrative of resurrection
to the Hindu narrative of world rebirth
to Christian apocalypse and Islamic jihad (jihadists literature essentially apocalyptic in nature)
For more on world cultural, see line 25 "the dome of a vast sepulcher" which seems to bring together the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (in Jerusalem supposedly marking the site of Jesus' tomb) and the Dome of the Rock, built nearby on the Temple Mount (and also supposedly the site of a Mohammed's night journey in the company of Gabriel on the winged horse named "Lightning")
"some fierce Maenad" (21)
Paraphrase: The cirrus clouds seem scattered ahead of the storm like locks thrown forward by the wild orgiastic dance of a maenad.
more world-cultural links (Greek mythology)
orgiastic dancers—Bacchic drunkenness—rituals of the dying and reviving vegetation gods (Orpheus, Pentheus, actaeon, Adonis, Attis, Osiris)
"a pumice isle in Baire's bay" (32)
pumice = lava = volcano
Vesuvius and Pompeii
radical change in the heart of the earth
dark side of natural change is that it is both a preserver and a destroyer
flow of lava creates a new land mass ("pumice isle") and destroyed (but preserved) Pompeii
volcano as metaphor for change and creation—eruption
recall "burst" in line 28 and winged seeds of first stanza
"And saw in sleep old palaces and towers / Quivering" (33-34)
great civilizations that have fallen?
might look at the "Chorus" from Hellas (795-796) for more on Shelley's treatment of this idea
"pumice isle" and "underwater ruins" reveal that change in the natural world is paralleled by revolution in the social and political worlds
ever-expanding domain of the poem
seasonal change has moved
to the Christian narrative of resurrection
to the Hindu narrative of world rebirth
to Christian apocalypse and Islamic jihad
to "natural" and catastrophic change that destroys and preserves
to human initiated change that destroys and preserves
"thorns of life" (54)
passion and death of Christ
for Shelley, Christ is a human hero who metaphorically embodies the dying-resurrecting god
but for his audience, there would be no such distinction—therefore, but is strange or dangerous about this image? (the poet is Christ?)
note how this stanza struggles with equivalences
begins by recounting the different metaphors of the poem in the subjunctive mood (contrary to fact statements); leaf, cloud, wave
note how leaf, cloud, wave points to elements earth, air and sea
What's the missing element? Fire
Structure of the poem
each stanza a sonnet with interlocking terza rima rhyme scene and a closing, almost epigrammatic couplet
First three stanzas treat of three separate elements of creation (leaf-earth, cloud-air, wave-sea)
Fourth stanza, the one that should focus on fire begins with "I" (first person pronoun previously withheld)
The poet is fire (promethean)
The poet is both the subject and the object of the wind's operation, both cause and effect, both active director and passive instrument
In terms of the myth, was Prometheus the thief of fire or the agent by which it was restored to its rightful place?
Note how these lines demonstrate this problem.
We begin with the poet as object "Oh lift me"
We end with the poet as subject "I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!"
This collapsing of subject and object reaches its peak in grammatical error (literally grammar cannot contain the poet's claim)
"Be thou me" should be "Be thou I"—is he asking the wind to be like him, or is he asking to be like the wind? Is he an object of the wind (me) or is he subject (I)?
"unextinguished hearth" (66) and "Ashes and sparks" (67)
here we have fire—reminded of volcano imagery earlier
clearly turned from vegetation and seasons (cycles) to something more like cataclysm and apocalypse
but fire here is humanized by hearth
what are hearths?
the domestic hearth
but also the forge (think Blake's The Tyger)
And what happens when we scatter "Ashes and sparks"?
Recall also the prophecy of Isaiah and Shelley's use of it in his Defence of Poetry: creativity is like a fading coal and an inconstant wind
That passive construction where creativity looks like inspiration in the old-fashioned (Plato) sense is where the last stanza begins
"Make me thy lyre" the Aeolian harp, a common Romantic conception of inspiration and creation, where the poet is inspired by Nature (the wind)
But notice the shift from the poet as an instrument of nature (a lyre played by the wind) to the poet as controlling and directing Nature
Notice the imperatives—the poet ordering Nature, not striving "with thee in prayer in my sore need" as in line 52, but ordering
"Be thou, Spirit fierce, / My spirit"
"Be thou me"
Drive my dead thoughts"
"Scatter . . . my words among mankind"
"Be through my lips to unawakened earth / The trumpet of a prophecy!"
This last instance can be read as following the earlier image of the lyre; where "through my lips" means merely something like "using me"
It could also be read as moving in an opposite direction; where "through my lips" means something like "transformed by my agency"
The human subject to the cycles of the season, so many winged seeds awaiting rebirth?
Acted upon by forces, shaped to some unknown purpose, moved towards some unseen end?
Legislated or legislator?
"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"
A rhetorical question, which implies the assurance of future change where that change makes us the passive actors in world historical drama?
Or a real question, which asks with some anxiety about the coming Spring? If by the "incantation of this verse" we can become the wind, become the principle of change as opposed to it target, then we make history rather than history making us.
But this remains unresolved in the poem. The original last line was
"When Winter comes Spring lags not far behind"
What is the effect of Shelley's change?
Notes for Marriage of Heaven and Hell
- Blake's persona—the bard or the prophet
- Voice of prophecy
- knowledge of the Bible (i.e. sounds like the Bible, esp. OT)
- Why prophecy?
- failure of the present society
- warning to change their ways
- what we must do to save ourselves
- Key historical moment
- "Now is the dominion of Edom & the return of Adam into Paradise" (plate 3, 205)
- French Revolution
- Reasons for it
- conjunction of new ideas about natural rights and the worst kind of abuses of power
- natural rights—man is born free but everywhere he is in chains
- abuses—old economic system collapsing under emerging capitalism
- Industrial Revolution
- economic displacement (whole handcraft industries disappear overnight)
- mechanization of rural economy
- flight from country into the city
- giant disparities of wealth
- Blake's Revolution—Do Away with the Old Order
- Restraint in All Forms
- Religion a key mechanism of restraint
- "Religion"—God and his Priest and King
- Institutional religion distant from its original
- Plate 11 (209)
- Poets animated the world with spirits
- These spirits or gods and goddesses eventually made into a system of beliefs
- This system of beliefs becomes an institution (the Church) (i.e. enslav'd by rules)—"Priesthood" as Blake calls it
- The "Priesthood" tells us that "the Gods had ordered such things"—i.e. we are enslav'd by the gods that we in fact created
- "Thus man forgot that All deities reside in the human breast" (209)
- 4th Memorable Fancy (plate 17, 212)
- "Angel" (they are all bad—conformists) shows "future"
- stable (Jesus) -> Church (institution) -> Vault (burial of Jesus and true religion) -> Mill (grinding machine = Reason = systematic philosophy) -> Winding Caverns (maze of rationalism) -> Abyss (emptiness of spirituality)
- This journey leads to a cliché of Christian Hell (213-214)
- Angel returns to his mill and the "vision" vanishes
- "Hell" becomes heaven (214)
- "Sitting on a pleasant bank . . . harper sings":
"The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water & breeds reptiles of the mind"
- Universal Man (the speaker) realizes that "Hell" was entirely the work of the Angel's "metaphysics"
- Speaker takes Angel on a journey to show him his future
- Church filled with monkeys eating each other
- Reason (and the Systems it produces) as a form of Restraint (i.e. Mechanism)
- The Voice of the Devil (plate 4, 205)
- Cartesian duality is the error (205)
- body/material/fallen/evil vs. soul/spiritual/divine/good
- everything associated with body is bad; everything associated with soul is good
- Blake says NO
- body/material/pleasure is power and energy; soul/spiritual side is turned into something passive and obedient
- Energy (i.e. passion, desire, imagination) does not lead us astray—rather energy is everything
- How God and Satan switched places (plate 3, 205)
- "Without Contraries is no progression"—but contraries are too much for small minds; therefore
- from these contraries "spring what the religious call Good & Evil"
- "Good is the passive that obeys Reason"
- "Evil is the active springing from Energy"
- "Good is Heaven"
- "Evil is Hell" (plate 3, 205)
- "Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; and the restrainer or reason usurps its place & governs the unwilling" (plate 5, 206 (top))
- Even Milton makes this error and calls the active principle of energy Satan and the principle of passivity and obedience God
- but he was "a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it"—that's why Satan is almost a positive character (206)
- Obedience and Restraint—The Greatest Enemies
- "The crow wish'd every thing was black, the owl that every thing was white" (plate 10, 209)—conformity
- "The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn of the crow" (plate 8, 208)
- "He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence" (plate 7, 207)
- "For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his own cavern" (plate 14, 211 (end of plate))
- Solution? a Marriage of Heaven and Hell
- Restore the Energy of Hell (which is really the Energy of Heaven)
- The Proverbs of Hell (plate 7ff, 207ff)
- "The pride of the peacock is the glory of God." (plate 8, 207, etc.
- How do we restore the energy?
- Admit the power of the lions and eagles: "When thou seest an Eagle, thou seest a portion of Genius" (plate 9, 208: eagles, lions, tigers, etc. fierce, independent, powerful, sublime, non-conforming, ambitious, uncontrollable
- Do not restrain them: "One Law for the Lion & Ox is oppression" (plate 24, 216)
- When restraints are lifted . . . we achieve a seeing that goes beyond perception and becomes visionary
- "If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite" (plate 14, 211)
- Isaiah the prophet on true prophecy: "I saw no God, nor heard any, in a finite organical perception; but my senses discover'd the infinite in everything" (plate 12, 209)
- The true greatness of the world:
How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five? (plate 7, 207)
Some critical views on Austen's Northanger Abbey
Gilbert and Gubar
- NA an attack on patriarchy
- Patriarchy takes the form of books—or fictions or narratives
- Narratives of female initiation
- Domestic—the Assembly Rooms of Bath
- Gothic—Northanger Abbey
- Catherine trapped in these and in the clichéd narratives of others
- Isabella's script—coquette after a husband
- John Thorpe's scripts
- He's a man's man
- Catherine is in love with him
- She's a wealthy heiress (this is the script that carries over to the general)
- Austen does not reject the novel
- Status deprived just as are the women who read (and write) them
- NA relies heavily on conventionality
- Obviously as parody
- But also as key to the more serious parts of the novel
- Austen does not reject the gothic
- Female gothic (Radcliffe) rejected because it implies dangers are exotic (far from home)
- Austen wants to locate the Gothic exactly in the English countryside
- What's more terrifying than a laundry list?
- Henry's attack on her naïvete turned back on him (136)
- Catherine's realization that she was right about the general (170) (Does Henry ever apologize and admit that Catherine was right? Of course not.)
- Real imprisonment
- Lack of education and life experience
- Lack of financial independence
- Lack of mobility (how hard is it for women to move around in her novels?)
- Failure of families and the Father
- General to Austen's novels
- The General fails to provide a home for his children
- He fails Catherine
- Henry Tilney as a second father (who takes charge of her education)
- Catherine's joking substitution of instruct vs. torment
- Henry supplies the plot (his "gothic" tale in the carriage ride)
- His misogyny in which she will need to find a place
- Catherine's own story
- Her double (Isabella) must be revealed and punished
- She must submit to Henry's authority
- She must renounce her sense of being in danger
Johnson, Claudia L. "The Juvenilia and Northanger Abbey: The Authority of Men and Books." Jane Austen: Women, Politics, and the Novel (Chicago: U of Chicago Press, 1988). Norton, 306-325.
- Austen's defense of the novel tied to her authority
- The Gothic a politically charged form (Paulson)
- French Revolution, War, Reign of Terror transform the prisons, towers, tortures of the gothic
- Gothic as Not the opposite of the ordinary but found everywhere
- Gothic Trappings are Parodied, but not Gothic Fear of the tyrannical father
- Henry's claim: "Man has the advantage of choice, woman only the power of refusal" (51)
- This power of refusal compromised
- Bullying by the Thorpes and by James—moral and physical coercion transferred to drawing room (59, 98-100, 66-68, 99-100)
- Bullying by Henry
- He is an "expert" on all things feminine
- Refers to Eleanor as his "stupid sister" (78)
- He tells Catherine what she ought to write in her journal (15)
- He silences her (she's fearful of having an opinion "in opposition to that of a self-assured man" (31))
- "Fixes" her language
- Great stickler for language—he overpowers women with corrections
- something shocking in London
- he sees this as a sign of female ignorance (and the need for male correction)
- the connection between the "horror" of political unrest and the "horror" of the gothic, though, makes perfect sense in the historical context (and also when one considers that both are responses to repression)
- Catherine's Lesson
- From Gothic Novels she learns
- to distrust paternal figures
- that everything is not as it appears
- Key to political thought—the basis of government and self-government
- Critiqued by Austen
- Henry's "dance" contract—dancing linked marriage and fidelity
- Henry's criticism of "faithful promise" (as a kind of redundancy like "free gift")
- But is it given that in this novel almost all promises are not kept
- Isabella Thorpe the most obvious promise-breaker
- General Tilney the most sinister promise-breaker
- Henry fails to see the promise-breaking of his own brother
- Catherine's response marks her maturation, even detachment from Tilney's judgment (151)
- Guardians of public trust are here socially destabilizing figures
Hoeveler, Diane. "Vindicating Northanger Abbey: Mary Wollstonecraft, Jane Austen, and Gothic Feminism."
- Valorization of the masculine woman
- In patriarchy, the highest praise for a woman is to be told that she thinks like a man (118)
- Originates in Wollstonecraft
- But Wollstonecraft also shows that for women of all classes, life really is like a gothic novel—a series of "insults, humiliations, deprivations, and fatal or near-fatal disasters" (118).
- The response is the "ideology of gothic feminism", that women "earn their superior rights over the corrupt patriarchy through their special status as innocent victims" (119)
- Being a Victim
- Victim earns rights through suffering
- Victim passively suffers
- The meek shall inherit the gothic earth
- Bath and the Abbey
- The sentimental and the gothic equally subjected to parody
- Isabella the sentimental, Catherine the gothic (sort of)
- Both worlds are equally unreal, rejected by and rejecting of Catherine
- Catherine is the heroine because she is "too dense to understand clearly … what is going on around her" (122)
- She is therefore an ideal victim
- She is victim of oppression, malice and fraud
- Conventions of the Gothic and Gothic Feminism
- Heroine: Catherine not a heroine (or is the meaning that no women are heroines except of their uninteresting lives) (123)
- Fairy Tale Plot—the Double Suitor Plot
- John the false suitor and Henry the true one
- Substitute parents (the Allens)
- Mrs. Allen the gothic duenna figure but again she doesn't really fulfill this role
- General Tilney the villain—the obstacle in the marriage plot
- Education of the Heroine
- Only men can educate women; and if they choose not to the women must suffer in their ignorance
- Gossip and Rumor
- This side conversation posits that gossip and rumor are "unsanctioned 'feminine' discourse[s]" (126)
- Power exists by controlling the paths along which information can flow
- Gossip and rumor undermine this power
- But John Thorpe is the source of gossip and rumor
- Is this a feminizing of him? No
- Being able to deal in gossip and rumor is a sign of membership
- Therefore, gossip and rumor by women remains "unsanctioned"
- False and True Mentor
- Isabella the false
- Eleanor the true
- She has the more conventionally gothic plot (128)
- Three Incidents
- The General and the Abbey
- He is patriarch and tyrant
- He is a usurper of the Abbey
- Abbey a sign of female disinheritance
- The abbey a reminder of female community, living in seclusion from men and escaping the demands of marriage and childbirth
- The usurpation leaves the reality of women as property, sources of income, breeders of heirs (130)
- Catherine's Discoveries
- Linen and laundry list—"visible residue of women's lost and unpaid labor for the family. The domesticities, rather than reassuring Catherine, should have horrified her" (131).
- The absent mother
- Henry's "anti-gothic" rebuke
- Masculine newspapers vs. female novels
- Education has eradicated evil (but who gets educated?)
- Laws protect us (protect whom?)
- Expulsion and Flight
- Smoothed over by plot machinery
- Result: "the domestic is gothic … we cannot think any more about the domestic without at the same time recognizing its gothic underpinnings, its propensities for violence, abuse, and exploitation of women" (129)
Female Conduct Manuals
One of the contexts for Wollstonecraft’s A
Vindication of the Rights of Women was the widespread available of
"ladies' conduct manuals." These conduct manuals generally argued
that women were always dependen t on men, and recommended that women should
be (or at least appear to be) meek, submissive, grateful, gentle, delicate,
modest, feminine, ignorant (of anything important) and virtuous. Well known
conduct books were:
Emile by Jean Jacques Rousseau (1762) (Wollstonecraft singles out
Rousseau on several occasions.)
Sermons to Young Women
by the Reverend James Fordyce (1767) (The Janeites amongst you might recall
that at the end of chapter 14 of Pride
and Prejudice Mr. Collins tries to read this book to the Bennet girls
but is "rudely" interrupted by Lydia.)
A Father's Legacy to his
Daughters by Dr John Gregory (1772) (Wollstonecraft directly addresses Gregory on several occasions.)
On being weak and passive: "they affect to
be incapable of lifting the smallest burdens, and would blush to be thought
robust and strong"
On mutual dependence: "We could subsist
better without them than they without us"
On submission: "They must be subject all
their lives to the most constant and severe restraint, which is that of
decorum. It is therefore necessary to accustom them early to such
confinement, that it may not afterwards cost them too dear; and to the
suppression of their caprices, that they may the more readily submit to the
will of others."
On being pleasing to men: "girls ... are
fonder of things of show and ornaments ... from whence we see their taste
plainly adapted to their destination ... almost all of them learn with
reluctance to read and write; but readily apply themselves to the use of
"I would have a young Englishwoman cultivate her
agreeable talents, in order to please her future husband, with as much care
and assiduity as a young Circassian cultivates hers to fit her for the harem
of an Eastern bashaw."
On education: "the education of women
should always be subject to men. To please us, to be useful to us, to make
us love and esteem them, to educate us when young and take care of us when
On being weak and passive: "... in your sex
manly exercises are never graceful ... a tone and figure of the masculine
kind are always forbidding ... men of sensibility desire in every woman soft
features ... a form not robust and demeanour delicate and gentle ... Nature
appears to have formed the (mental) faculties of your sex, for the most
part, with less vigour than those of ours, observing the same distinction
here as in the more delicate frame of your bodies."
On submission to neglect: "I am astonished
at the folly of many women who are still reproaching their husbands for
leaving them alone, for preferring this or that company to theirs, when, to
speak the truth, they have themselves in a great measure to blame ... had
you behaved to them with more respectful observance ... studying their
humours, overlooking their mistakes, submitting to their opinions in matters
indifferent, ... giving soft answers to hasty words, complaining as seldom
as possible ... your house might be the abode of domestic bliss."
On being pleasing to men: "Never perhaps
does a fine woman strike more deeply than when composed into pious
recollection ... she assumes without knowing it superior dignity and new
graces ... the beauties of holiness seem to radiate about her."
On being ignorant: "Be ever cautious in
displaying your good sense. It will be thought you assume a superiority over
the rest of the company. But if you have any learning, keep it a profound
secret especially from the men, who generally look with a jealous and
malignant eye on a woman of great parts and a cultivated understanding."
On being pleasing to men: "When a girl
ceases to blush, she has lost the most powerful charm of beauty.
The men will complain of your reserve. They will assure
you that a franker behaviour would make you more amiable. But, trust me,
they are not sincere when they tell you so. I acknowledge that on some
occasions it might render you more agreeable as companions, but it would
make you less amiable as women; an important distinction, which many of your
sex are unaware of."
On reserve and modesty: "One of the chief
beauties in a female character is that modest reserve, that retiring
delicacy, which avoids the public eye ..."
On concealing one’s love: "Violent love cannot subsist, at least cannot be expressed, for any time together, on both sides, otherwise the certain consequence however concealed, is satiety and disgust."
Notes on the Rights of Woman
- Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
- Wollstonecraft's Biography
- grows up in abusive household—protects mother from tyrannical father
- becomes lady's companion but returns to nurse mother
- leaves home for good; works as seamstress then schoolmistress
- turns to writing to pay off debts after school fails
- Thoughts on the Education of Daughters published in 1786
- Meets Joseph Johnson who publishes Mary, A Fiction (1788)
- becomes part of Johnson's circle (Blake, Paine, Priestley, Fuseli, Godwin, Barbauld and Joel Barlow)
- A Vindication of the Rights of Men published anonymously in 1790; with her name in 1791 and earns her reputation
- Publishes A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792
- Her public behavior stigmatizes her and her argument
- enamored of Fuseli and publicly pursues him
- goes to Paris in 1793 to forget Fuseli; meets and "marries" Gilbert Imlay
- has child with Imlay (Fanny); they split
- returns to England and finds Imlay living with actress; attempts suicide
- he sends her to Scandinavia; she returns in Oct 1795 to find him living with a different actress; attempts suicide by jumping into the Thames
- publishes her letters to Imlay in attempt to win him back; letters win admiration of Godwin
- pregnant with Godwin's child, they marry; child born (Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Mary Shelley); Wollstonecraft dies
- Godwin publishes his Memoir of Wollstonecraft, which details all of the above; his attempt to honor her ends up scandalizing her
- Even some modern feminists still upset over the damage Wollstonecraft did to women's rights. While her writing advanced the cause, her lifestyle tainted it for decades if not centuries
- Dedication to M. Talleyrand-Perigord (who advocated female education but along Rousseau lines—trained for subservience to men)
- Refers to wives as slaves (305)
- Sees women as coerced into their domestic role (305)
- offers no apology for treating women "like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood" (308)
- women's education creates weak women
- women "are rendered weak and wretched"—not naturally so but made (306)
- "false system of education" to blame (306-7)
- women's treatment makes them dependent
- treating women softly softens them; treating them as dependents trains them to be dependent (308)
- women "objects of desire" (309)
- women's "artificial weakness" (the weakness they have been trained up to) "produces a propensity to tyrannize, and gives birth to cunning" (309)
- The Rights and Involved Duties of Mankind Considered
- Society must be judged by how well it enables (310)
- How would we (Europe) be judged? (not in Longman 3rd or 4th or 5th )
- slavery (235)
- a history showing power gained through vice (236)
- subordination of man to man
- monarchy (310)
- example of army and navy (310-1)
- clergy and universities (311)
- The Prevailing Opinion of a Sexual Character Discussed
- Women are assumed to not have enough Reason to acquire Virtue (311)
- and yet they must be virtuous
- this lack is the product of a poor education (311)
- frequently compared with children—yet children can grow into rational beings while women cannot (312)
- Example of Milton
- He makes women subservient to men because they lack reason (312)
- He has Adam argue for an "rational" partner (312-3)
- Women enslaved by their lack of proper education
- education by snatches if at all (313)
- always secondary to beauty (313)
- compared to soldiers
- gallantry like coquetry (314)
- both acquire manners (rules) without morals (thought) (314)
- Enslavement desired by the "sensualists"
- Rousseau a sensualist—woman as plaything (241-2) (not in Longman 3rd or 4th)
- sensualists claim that the "whole tendency of female education ought . . . to render them pleasing" (315)
- Dr. Gregory's conduct book
- assumes certain traits in women "natural" (316)
- encourages lying, weakness, dependence (316)
- Wollstonecraft refutes
- encourages friendship over love (316)
- speaks against passion (316)
- goal is to get a husband
- women must look beyond a husband
- proper education—"a well stored mind would enable a woman to support a single life with dignity" (317)
- "Teach them, in common with man, to submit to necessity, instead of giving, to render them more pleasing a sex to morals" (319)
- The Same Subject Continued
- Different education and treatment of boys and girls (320)
- refutes claim that girls naturally like sedentary activities while boys like active activities
- Her evidence and experience—gender differences socially constructed not natural
- Dependence of body leads to dependence of mind (320)
- women encouraged to be "delicate"
- a kind of tyranny exercised by the weak
- "It is time to effect a revolution in female manners" (321)
- Men compared to viceregents (colonial?) (321)
- because they rule the weak they are bound to become tyrannical
- Women trained to dependence are left defenseless when they lose their protectors (fathers, brothers, husbands)
- Women trained to be coquettes cannot be adequate teachers of the young
- Man and woman must be the same
- there are no "sexual" virtues (i.e. virtues that belong to one gender and not the other)
- wealth and female softness debase mankind
- Concluding Reflections
- Sexual distinction is arbitrary (325)
- From the tyranny of man, the greater number of female follies proceed (325)
- Compares women to dissenters (325)
- "Asserting the rights which women in common with men ought to contend for, I have not attempted to extenuate their faults; but to prove them to be the natural consequence of their education and station in society. If so, it is reasonable to suppose that they will change their character, and correct their vices and follies, when they are allowed to be free in a physical, moral, and civil sense" (326).
- Some Discussion Questions
- Describe Wollstonecraft's conception of human nature -- what are the main human faculties or characteristics, and how should they be ranked and otherwise related?
- According to Wollstonecraft, how are women seen in relation to these conceptions of human nature?
- What does it mean to call something "natural"? How does Wollstonecraft use this key term?
- On 308, Wollstonecraft opposes "virtue" to "elegance." How does she define virtue, and how is it opposed to elegance?
- How does Wollstonecraft's style and manner of argumentation generate authority for her as a writer addressing inequities in gender relations?
- On 312 and elsewhere, what does Wollstonecraft suggest is the key to men's continuing domination over women? (treat them like children)
- What is Wollstonecraft's criticism of Milton on 312-3 and elsewhere?
- Why is education so important a concept to Wollstonecraft on 320 and elsewhere? You might relate this question to her view of human nature.
- Explain Wollstonecraft's analogies between women and soldiers on 313-4. What do such comparisons allow Wollstonecraft to argue about the "naturalization" of perceived gender differences?
- Barbauld's "The Rights of Woman"
- Read as refutation of Wollstonecraft
- opening stanzas sarcastic
- focus on womanly qualities
- native empire o'er the breast (feeling)
- soft melting tones (sentiment)
- blushes and fears (womanly persuasion)
- subjugation of man by too-potent women
- commanding is not itself freedom
- but this empire will also end (similar to Eighteen Eleven argument)
- Barbauld though criticizes same expectations of women
- Woman as "angel pureness which admits no stain" speaks to expectations of women's behavior
- Women turned oppressors is no better than male oppressors
- End of Empire?
- note frequency of empire, imperial
- one oppressor or another doesn't matter—oppression itself must end
- higher level synthesis
- separate rights are lost in mutual love
- not ruled and rulers, but mutuality
- submission and humility defeat pride; replace rule with respect
- Southey's "To Mary Wolstoncraft"
- How does Southey's poem honoring MW reinscribe common attitudes towards women?
- stock images from love poetry at beginning
- "turn not thou away" motif of conventional love poetry
- invocation of female figures problematic
- Joan of Arc to a British audience
- Roland confused with medieval romance—maybe even worse, Madame Roland, a victim of the terror
- Corday—more French Revolutionary types
- Female patriots (1814 Taunton celebration where women participated), but what kind of patriots
- Position of Women
- Marriage laws
- women lose all property
- become property of husband
- Women worked
- urbanization created larger servant class
- presence of servants in middle-class tradespeople households meant greater leisure time for women
- Cult of maternity
- especially during war
- "Increase of Children a Nation's Strength" (240)
- Separate Spheres
- Urbanization and servant class
- Leisure time for women
- "masculine women"—women dressing like men
- Women having a public presence
- Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
- "unnaturalness" of her participation in election
- Irony—Fox's slogan "man of the people" if adopted by the Duchess ("woman of the people"?) would have made her a prostitute
- Paradox—anxiety over perceived freedom increased the determination to restrain them
- Colley's point—the separate spheres were so constantly being prescribed because they were so constantly being violated
- French feminized and British masculinized (252)
- Public role of French women seen as collapse of deference (and therefore order)
- French threat
- war portrayed as the loss of a way of life (a way of life that women were mostly in charge of maintaining)
- Women victims of French violence (Marie Antoinette) often figured as violation
- British women portrayed as safe (for now)
- Cult of heroism
- Women jeer Leicestershire militiamen who refused to fight in Ireland
- Women form subscription to support statue of Wellington in Hyde Park (so much resplendent male nudity)
- Patriotic activism
- Traditional female virtues (domestic) transformed into public activities
- making flags and banners
- organizing charities
- why we fight—to protect the women and children
- Separate Spheres
- Women's place in home
- where she was center of morality
- because civic virtue was connected with the family, women were now justified in intervening in politics
- Women must stay in the private sphere and yet exercise moral authority in the public sphere
- This clearly seen in women's involvement in anti-slavery campaign
First a quick review. Some terms:
- Revolution and tradition
- Reason and Feeling
- Imagination and Nature
- Common language and common people: art and the subject(s) of art
- From the Preface to Lyrical Ballads: "the feeling therein developed gives importance to the action and situation, and not the action and situation to the feeling."
- Memory and Identity: Who am I? What am I? How do we fit? Where do we belong? What is our home?
- Rights, Freedom, Liberty or Wilhelm von Humboldt wrote (and was quoted by J. S. Mill: "the end of man, or that which is prescribed by the eternal or immutable dictates of reason, and not suggested by vague and transient desires, is the highest and most harmonious development of his powers to a complete and consistent whole;" that, therefore, the object "towards which every human being must ceaselessly direct his efforts, and on which especially those who design to influence their fellow-men must ever keep their eyes, is the individuality of power and development;" that for this there are two requisites, "freedom, and a variety of situations;" and that from the union of these arise "individual vigor and manifold diversity," which combine themselves in "originality."
- Economics, rights, justice, tradition (as in Wordsworth's Michael)
- Urbanization and the loss of community (or the refashioning of new communities (the project of the 19th century in Britain)
- Economics, rights, justice, and an oppressive tradition (as in Blake's Songs)
- Slavery and race
- Industrialization and the Industrial Revolution
Notes on Industrialization
Here follows a bit of history for those interested in such things.
1) What does it mean to say the Industrial Revolution “broke out”?
a) Some time in the 1780s, and for the first time in human history, productive power of human societies became capable of constant, rapid and up to the present limitless multiplication of people, goods and services—what economists call the “take-off into self-sustained growth” (29)
b) “To ask when it was complete is senseless, for its essence was that henceforth revolutionary change became the norm.” (29)
2) Revolution initiated by Britain (29)
a) The source of Britain’s advantage?
i) Not scientific and technological superiority
ii) Not educational or theoretical—an educated person would read Adam Smith, yes, but also French economists as well.
b) The Right Conditions (31)
i) Some power vested in people (certainly since 1649)
ii) Private profit and economic development seen as the primary object of government policy
iii) Agricultural advances
(1) increased production and productivity to feed a rapidly increasing non-agricultural workforce
(2) surpluses for cities and towns
(3) provide a mechanism (land) for the accumulation of capital
c) 1793-1815 War eliminated all rivals
3) The Example of British Cotton(33)
a) Cotton industry created and nourished by colonial trade
i) Cotton and slavery linked (34)
(1) money from Indian cotton goods used to buy slaves
(2) Slaves worked the cotton plantations of the West Indies
(3) Planters used their money to buy cotton checks (a kind of fabric)
b) The triumph of the export market over the home (35)
i) by 1814 Britain exported four yards of cotton cloth for every three used at home
ii) by 1850 the ratio was thirteen yards to eight
c) Exploitation of colonial and semi-colonial markets
i) Britain’s monopoly established by war, other people’s revolutions and her own imperial rule (35)
ii) The Case of India (35)
(1) systematically de-industrialized
(2) former net exporter turned into net importer
(a) in 1820 imported 11 million yards
(b) in 1840 imported 145 million yards
d) Exploitation of labor
i) In colonies, slavery could be used to expand production (36)
ii) In British Isles, mechanization introduced because of lack of labor (36)
iii) Putting out system, domestic labor
i) transition to new economy created misery and discontent (38)
(1) Luddites (machine-breakers)
(2) reaction against “fund-holders” (those who bought war bonds and were guaranteed a high rate of return for their investment)
b) Economic flaws of the new economy (according to capitalists)
i) Boom and bust cycle—seized on by critics of capitalism
ii) Falling profits over time
(b) lowered production costs due to mechanization
(i) substitute cheaper workers
(iii) wages can go only so low—capitalists blame Corn Laws (tariffs attached to grain to shield them from foreign competition)
iii) Shortage of profitable investment opportunities
(1) Iron, coal and steel (43)
(2) railway (44)
(a) began as means of transporting coal
(b) later became a consumer of coal pushing for greater coal-mining
(3) comfortable and rich classes accumulated income so fast and in such vast quantities that they could not spend or invest it (45)
(a) No attempt made to redistribute this wealth for social purposes
c) Redeployment of Economic Resources (47)
i) labour shifted from agriculture to industry (47)
ii) agriculture mechanized and rationalized (due to fewer labourers)
iii) enclosure to put more land under the plow (48)
iv) rural destitution increases rural flight of workers (49)
v) the right kind of worker (49)
(1) factory life—the time clock; mechanized not seasonal
(2) women and children seen as more tractable and cheaper (50)
a) “In this rather haphazard, unplanned and empirical way the first major industrial economy was built. By modern standards it was small and archaic, and its archaism still marks Britain today. By the standards of 1848 it was monumental, though also rather shocking, for its new cities were uglier, its proletariat worse off than elsewhere, and the fog-bound, smoke-laden atmosphere in which pale masses hurried to and fro troubled the foreign visitor . . . And both Britain and the world knew that the Industrial Revolution launched in these islands by and through the traders and entrepreneurs, whose only law was to buy in the cheapest market and sell without restriction in the dearest, was transforming the world. Nothing could stand in its way. The gods and kings of the past were powerless before the businessmen and steam-engines of the present” (51-52).
Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience
"The Little Black Boy"
"The Chimney Sweeper" (from Innocence)
"The Chimney Sweeper" (from Experience)
"A Poison Tree"
Edmund Burke, from Reflections (Longman 113)
This king, to say no more of him, and this queen, and their infant children, (who once would have been the pride and hope of a great and generous people,) were then forced to abandon the sanctuary of the most splendid palace in the world, which they left swimming in blood, polluted by massacre, and strewed with scattered limbs and mutilated carcases. Thence they were conducted into the capital of their kingdom. Two had been selected from the unprovoked, unresisted, promiscuous slaughter, which was made of the gentlemen of birth and family who composed the king’s body guard. These two gentlemen, with all the parade of an execution of justice, were cruelly and publicly dragged to the block, and beheaded in the great court of the palace. Their heads were stuck upon spears, and led the procession; whilst the royal captives who followed in the train were slowly moved along, amidst the horrid yells, and shrilling screams, and frantic dances, and infamous contumelies, and all the unutterable abominations of the furies of hell, in the abused shape of the vilest of women.
Arthur Young, Travels in France
See Longman, p. 161
Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell