Engl 410 unessay


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Engl 410 unessay

  1. 1. Deciphering Ideologies of Feminine Sex and Gender in Elizabethan Love Poetry Kate Beaton, http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=282
  2. 2. Content Note  Although this presentation does not extensively address rape or sexual violence in Elizabethan “love” poetry or contemporary culture, these topics do come up in the presentation, and there are references to rape and non-consensual sex in the material being shared and discussed.
  3. 3.  Elizabethan love poetry represents a specific social moment and ideology but does not exist in a bubble.  We can draw a line from Sappho to Spenser as writers of epithalamions (Wheeler 207) and from Ovid to Whitney as writers of female complaint poems (Stapleton 492). We can also draw a line from Spenser to Stephanie Meyer as writers of passive loved women, and from Whitney to Erma Bombeck (Berlant PAGE) as subversive writers of the female complaint. The specific Elizabethan moment exists within a long history of literature-as- ideology. Sappho's recently discovered poem on old age (lines 9–20), assigned to Book IV based on its meter. 3rd-century BC papyrus (P.Köln XI 429), from a 2007 exhibit of the Altes Museum. From wikipedia. Sappho’s poetry
  4. 4. Why we’re here  What is poetry for?  Like all media, poetry is for the negotiation of power.  What are its aims and purposes?  To reinforce or subvert hegemonic norms and existing systems of power, privilege, and marginalization.  Are they stable and universal?  The hegemonic norms? Will we ever smash the patriarchy? My heart says yes, history says maybe not. F*ck history.  The purpose of poetry being to negotiate power? Yes.
  5. 5. Poetries, Apologies  “For who would once dare to oppose himself against so many Alexanders, Caesars, Scipios (to omit infinite other princes)… I think I say truly, that there are many good lessons to be learned out of [poetry], many good examples to be found in it, many good uses to be had of it, and that therefore it is not, nor ought not to be, despised by the wiser sort, but so to be studied and employed as was intended by the first writers and devisers thereof, which is to soften and polish the hard and rough dispositions of men, and make them capable of virtue and good discipline.”  Sir John Harington, A Brief Apology of Poetry (1591) (404)
  6. 6. Those “infinite other princes”…  Patriarchal culture reinforces and perpetuates patriarchy, and patriarchy supports and creates patriarchal culture. Regardless of which came first, they are a self-perpetuating cycle now (and have been for a long time).  Ovid echoes in Elizabethan poetry, Elizabethan poetry echoes in contemporary culture.  As long as patriarchy has been oppressing women, women have been resisting. The invisibility of women in Harington’s apology does not mean that women were not relevant or present within Elizabethan poetic culture.
  7. 7. Patriarchy  [P]atriarchy [is] a social structure in which men are the dominant group and are benefactors of many privileges in all fields of life by sole virtue of being gendered as men… it reflects a social structure in which men have both material and symbolic control over every sphere in life.  …Patriarchy means men controlling women and their bodies…; patriarchy means men controlling women’s reproduction…; patriarchy means that masculine language is the rule and feminine language the exception (“mankind”, “he”, etc.); patriarchy means that men are encouraged to express themselves while women are encouraged to be silent; patriarchy means male control and validation above all else, at the direct expense and on the backs of women, in all of these ways and in many others.  Shiri Eisner, radicalbi.wordpress.com
  8. 8.  “If I had a hammer… I’d SMASH Patriarchy”
  9. 9. Kyriarchy (when patriarchy isn’t enough!)  [P]atriarchy specifically refers to control held and wielded by a very particular group of men over all others. This particular group consists of white, native/citizen, college/university-educated, cisgender, heterosexual, monogamous, middle and upper-class, nondisabled men of ages usually ranging between 30 and 50. … In feminist terminology, this is also sometimes called kyriarchy, referring to the complex and intersectional character of oppression wherein a person who is oppressed in one context might be privileged in another.  Shiri Eisner, radicalbi.wordpress.com
  10. 10. Genre: Female Complaint  “[T]he “female” complaint is a uniquely gendered sub-genre... that announces the dissatisfaction of dishonored women in a patriarchal social context. … [T]he complaint tradition frequently addresses issues of gender, particularly in the complaints voiced by women and written by men” (Diaz 15).
  11. 11. Genre: Epithalamium  Standard elements: praise of the bride and groom, good wishes and/or predictions for the future, jesting, hope for offspring, and a stylized poet- speaker... All of these generic markers were inherited from the Greek and Roman traditions” (Eastwood 20).  Shared cultural understandings about marriage and its relationship to the nation-state… provide the ideological framework for the epithalamic form (Eastwood 19).
  12. 12. Amoretti and Epithalamion Edmund Spenser
  13. 13. The Poems To Her Unconstant Lover  One part of Isabella Whitney’s Copy of a Letter (1567), a four- part verse polylogue wherein “the four epistles together establish a resonance based on thematic images and opposing ideological concerns [regarding gender]” (Marquis 317). Two by Isabella Whitney, two by male poets. Epithalamion  One part of the two-part Amoretti and Epithalamion, published by Edmund Spenser in 1595 to celebrate his marriage to Elizabeth Boyle in 1594.
  14. 14. Deciphering Ideology in Poetry  Harington gives us a lens through which to view multiple meanings in the poems.  “[S]o young men… do like best that philosophy that is not philosophy, or that is not delivered as philosophy – and such are the pleasant writings of learned poets, that are the popular philosopher and the popular divines” (Harington 405).  “[F]or the weaker capacities will feed themselves with the pleasantness of the history and sweetness of the verse, some that have stronger stomachs will… take a further taste of the moral sense; a third sort… will digest the allegory” (Harington 409).
  15. 15. Agency in theText  Both poems present a vision of active masculinity and passive femininity, of men who act and women who are acted upon.  Both concern marriage, during which “[t]he wedding ceremony initiated men and women into a patriarchal social order in which they would be expected to become responsible and productive members of their communities, and their country” (Eastwood 10).
  16. 16. Agency (con’t)  Taken together, these two poems demonstrate clearly the “distinction… between being a subject of and being subject to an authority. That is, "subject of signifies only subjectivity ” while subject to suggests subjection (ie. servility). The [male] poet-lovers create discourses of which the beloved seems to be the subject. As a captivating woman, she ensnares and subjects him to her authority and desires. In fact, the woman is subjected to (and consequently constructed by) the poet-lover's desires while he himself is the actual subject of the sonnets” (Aspinall 3).
  17. 17. Agency (con’t) Whitney  Subject to (but resisting/subverting) patriarchal expectations of femininity  The active “you” – the masculine audience and the passive “me” – the feminine narrator  “take me to your wife” (24)  “Wed whom you list, I am content, / Your refuse for to be.” (83-4)  Although the feminine narrator is passive, she speaks, acts and makes choices throughout the poem Spenser  Subject of love’s overwhelming/demanding nature (echoes of chivalric/courtly love)  The bride is asleep for the first 6 stanzas, never speaks, is acted upon  “And the chast wombe informe with timely seed” (386)  The groom/narrator gives directions, speaks and acts throughout  “lende me leave to come unto my love” (279)
  18. 18. BUT! (More on agency…)  Though Whitney remains in the hegemonic mode of “active man, passive woman” in one sense, her poem also makes an extremely subversive demand when she suggests that the lover leave his current fiancée/wife in order to be with the narrator.  “As close as you your weding kept yet now the trueth I here: … And if you cannot be content to lead a single lyfe? (Although the same right quiet be) then take me to your wife.” (1-2 & 21-4)
  19. 19. BUT! (More on agency…)  This suggestion puts the lover in the position of Jason (Marquis 318), who “two ladies did begile” (42), and whose “falsenes is/made manyfest in time” (65-6), and who deserves perpetual shame. There is no way for the lover to emerge from the situation without breaking a vow, and the (female) narrator is the one who presents this dilemma and lays the blame at the lover’s feet. She claims agency and action outside the normal scope by aligning herself with the god Neptune as a worthy judge of the infidelity.
  20. 20. Still more on agency  As Paul Marquis points out, “[t]he remarkable public interrogation of the duplicitous lover… establishes the subversive nature of the epistle in relation to sixteenth-century texts which insist that women remain silent about the abuse inflicted upon them by men” (315).
  21. 21. Authorial Agency:Whitney  That Whitney is published, during her lifetime, at her own urging (Marquis 314), challenges the idea of “men who act, women who are acted upon,” and the existence of her text deconstructs hegemonic power dynamics simply by existing.  Although Whitney is working within a male- dominated literary tradition and is influenced by male authors such as Ovid and his Heroides, “Whitney provides an example of a thinking, feeling, emoting woman, a Tudor herois” (Stapleton 492).
  22. 22. Authorial Agency: Spenser  “In Spenser’s amatory poetry, [the epithalamic] progression dovetails with issues of authorship, assuring Spenser’s place as privileged poet and patriarch, if not courtier” (Eastwood 174).  “Spenser, in a move that is perhaps more politically radical than has been previously thought, presents in his Epithalamion a model of authority that privileges the private, Protestant patriarch above even the monarchal authority of the queen” (Eastwood 173).
  23. 23. Feminine Desire Whitney  Feminine desire, expressed by the female narrator, is entirely desexualized. The only reference to sexual contact is to rape in line 76.  Feminine desire is presented as a desire for integrity, stability, home, separate from physical lust. Spenser  Tension between Protestant rejection of sexual desire and matrimonial necessity of sex. “[T]he relationship between poet and lady is defined by male sensuality and female innocence, not mutual need and companionship” (Sanchez 15).
  24. 24. Chastity, Modesty, Fertility  The tension between female innocence and male sensuality in the Epithalamion is resolved by keeping the beloved passive and asleep, though this results in the implication of sexual coercion, especially in stanza 20, lines 353-371.  The beloved is impregnated through a divine act, Cinthia is asked that “the chast wombe informe with timely seed” (386).  Throughout the poem, the beloved’s modesty and chastity are praised.
  25. 25. Classical References Whitney  Sinon, Eneas, Dido, Theseus, Jason, Medeas, King Aeolus, Neptune, Paris, Troylus, Helen, Penelope, Lucretia (Lucres), Thisbie, Peto, Cassandra, God, King Nestor, King Xerxes, King Cressus, Spenser  Muses, Orpheus, Eccho, Hymen, Nymphs of Mulla, Aurora (Rosy Morne), Tithones, Phoebus, Hesperus, Jove, Aphrodite (Cyprian Queen), Venus, Phoebe, Angels, Bacchus, St. Barnabus (Barnaby), Maia, Alcmena, Hercules (Tirynthian groome), Pouke, Cinthia, Cupids (sonnes of Venus), Endymion (Latmian shepherd), Juno, Genius, Hebe, Saints
  26. 26. Feminine Sexual Consent Whitney  An allusion to sex in the discussion of Jason: For when he by MEDEAS arte, had got the Fleece of Gold And also had of her that time, al kynd of things he wolde. (45-8)  Reference to the “Grecian Rape” in line 76. Spenser  No active consent, but implied consent through passivity. References to gods and women, given the frequency of rape in those contexts, hint at divinely granted permission to sexual coercion.
  27. 27. Whitney’s classical references  The narrator hopes her betraying lover’s wife will have the face of Helen, chastity of Penelope, constancy of Lucrece, integrity of Thisbe.  Lucrece is raped, and both she and Thisbe both die by suicide. Helen is abducted and raped.  If the lover is to be constant, then “…unto me a Troylus be” (77).  Troylus, lovesick and “forsaken” dies. There is no happy ending available in this poem.
  28. 28. Works Cited  Aspinall, Elizabeth. Creating the Beloved. Thesis. University of Calgary, 1988. U of C Repository. Web. 15 Mar. 2014.  Beaton, Kate. Song of Love. 2010. Webcomic. Hark, A Vagrant!. Hark, A Vagrant!, 2010, 282. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.  Diaz, Joanne Teresa. Grief as Medicine for Grief: Complaint Poetry in Early Modern England, 1559-1609. Ann Arbour: ProQuest, 2008. Google Books. Web. 15 Mar. 2014.  Eastwood, Adrienne L. “Before the threshold: The Elizabethan epithalamium and negotiations of power.” Diss. University of California, San Diego, 2004. ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.  Eisner, Shiri. “Feminism 101: Patriarchy and the Single Standard.” radicalbi. RadicalBi, 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.  Harington, John. “A Brief Apology of Poetry.” Sidney’s ‘The Defense of Poesy’ and Selected Renaissance Literary Criticism. Ed. Gavin Alexander. London: Penguin, 2004. 401-415. Google Play Book.
  29. 29. Works Cited (con’t)  Marquis, Paul. “Oppositional Ideologies of Gender in Isabella Whitney's "Copy of a Letter.”” The Modern Language Review 90:2 (1995): 314-324. JStor. 10 Mar. 2014. Web.  Sanchez, Melissa E. “"Modesty or comeliness": the Predicament of Reform Theology in Spenser's Amoretti and Epithalamion.” Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 65.1 (2012): 5+. Academic OneFile. Web. 23 Mar. 2014.  Spenser, Edmund. “Epithalamion.” Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse 1509-1659. Ed. H.R. Woodhuysen. London: Penguin, 1992. 234-237. Print.  Stapleton, M.L. “Edmund Spenser, George Turberville, and Isabella Whitney Read Ovid's Heroides.” Studies in Philology 105:4 (2008): 487-519. Project Muse. Web. 1 Mar. 2014  Wheeler, Arthur Leslie. “Tradition in the Epithalamium.” The American Journal of Philology 51:3 (1930): 205-223. JStor. Web. 21 Mar. 2014.  Whitney, Isabella. “To Her Unconstant Lover.” The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse 1509- 1659. Ed. H.R. Woodhuysen. London: Penguin, 1992. 187-191. Print.