Thoughts on Final Paper Topic

I’ve had this train of thought in the back of my mind these past few days about what Dr. Gates asked us to discuss in this post regarding our paper and research. After getting feedback for my topic proposal, I realized that I was being a bit too negative toward St. Leon. Obviously, that was not my original intent, but I guess when I was mentally comparing the novel to Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood (which is my favorite anime), I was ignoring what is actually important in regards to my paper. I don’t want to just slam St. Leon for not being what I had wanted which is honestly a bit more adventure, drama, and thrills like in Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. My research since writing my topic proposal has helped me to think more objectively about the novel.

I think what I want to answer with my paper is why St. Leon has survived two centuries and recognize the brilliance of it. Before my research, I had no idea some of what Godwin was critiquing or the other layers he had written into the novel. That’s because I’m not the original audience. Now that does not mean that the novel’s brilliance is lost on modern audiences necessarily, but it does require more research to understand what Godwin was doing. After all, that’s why when we read older novels, short stories, and poetry, we usually are doing so in a classroom setting or at least have to google some things to get what else the writer was doing.

After realizing my bias towards the anime and researching some more, I realized that there is a reason that I wanted to write about St. Leon before I had even considered its connection with my favorite anime. I had been emotionally involved when I read the novel and wanted to know what happened next despite my gripes with Reginald’s actions. So even though I’m not the original audience, Godwin was doing something there that transcended audience, time, and even country that I could resonate with. That’s what I want to answer. Using Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood as a lens/comparison, what was it about St. Leon that kept me going even with its faults?

(Word count: 370)

Mary Robinson’s Genius

Okay, how Mary Robinson argues in her A Letter to the Women of England is genius. The way that she questions that women are inferior to men due to being weaker to men is my favorite section. Robinson puts it so brilliantly when she says: “if woman be the weaker creature, why is she employed in laborious avocations?” (218). She points out that despite women being “weaker” than their male counterparts, women are performing jobs and tasks that take a lot of strength and energy to do. Robinson draws a direction comparison between the men’s work and the women’s work, suggesting that “men are employed in measuring lace and ribands; folding gauzes; composing artificial bouqets; fancying feathers, and mixing cosmetics for the preservation of beauty” (218). She is not pulling any punches at all. I love that section’s closing line as well: “are women thus compelled to labour, because they are of the weaker sex” (218).

Robinson is out to show a piece of the reason why women are not simply the weaker sex (and thus explaining why they are oppressed). If that was really the reason why, then she is right; why would women be allowed to do such hard labor? Why would they be allowed to do energy-draining, very demanding housework? Housework, especially concerning the time period in which Robinson lived, was not easy. Want a clean floor? Well, get on your knees and scrub it. Want to wash dirty laundry? Wash it all by hand and hang it up to dry. And that’s not even including dusting, cleaning general clutter, the kitchen, and so on. I think it was quite brilliant on Robinson’s part to not only point to labor outside the home but the work that a wife would perform inside the home as well. Because that was the point; that was the work that was labelled as “acceptable” work for women, but that did not mean it was not hard labor. After all, if the women were “weak,” then how did they get all this stuff done?

So, yeah, Mary Robinson is a genius.

(Word count: 348)

Tentative Source for Final Paper

Article: “(Fullmetal) Alchemy: The Monstrosity of Reading Words and Pictures in Shonen Manga” by Lesley-Anne Gallacha

Okay, I have this article listed as tentative because I’m uncertain it will help with my argument. I didn’t put it in my annotated bibliography due to that. Lesley-Anne Gallacha is more concerned about how manga and comic books tell compelling stories with just dialogue and hand-drawn pictures. However, Gallacha touches on that Ed and Al (the protagonists of Fullmetal Alchemist) are like “monsters” and that the audience has to be willing to “accept” monsters in order to get into the story. Honestly, it’s a bit odd because in reading the manga and watching Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, I did not see Ed and Al “monstrous.”

I can see what Gallacha is saying, though. Gallacha is referring to the fact that the brothers (Ed and Al) committed a taboo in attempting to bring their mother back to life and paid for that transgression in losing their bodies. Al loses his entire body, leaving only his soul. Ed loses his left leg due to their mistake and then his right arm in order to bind his brother’s soul to a suit of armor. This means that their physical appearance can be considered quite different and thus “monstrous.”

However, I think Gallacha is forgetting that the automail that replaces Ed’s lost arm and leg is not that uncommon; there are other people who have automail limbs. Think of it as prosthetic limbs that some people have in order to walk or for other parts of their bodies. Regarding Al’s armor body, it merely gets an eyebrow and people thinking it’s for protection and/or part of alchemy training. So it’s not so much as the existence of Ed’s automail and Al’s suit of armor that make the brothers “monstrous,” but really what the metal limbs and body mean when people tie their existence to the brothers’ alchemy and the fact that Al is essentially empty within the suit.

I think that Gallacha, with the wording of that section, glosses over the nuance of how people perceive the brothers’ appearance at first glance versus to how certain people make connections between the brothers’ bodies when they take into consideration of the brothers’ use of alchemy. This is why I am a bit cautious to use the article in my paper, but after writing this blog post, I think Gallacha does have an interesting perspective that I think I can use when I am comparing Ed and Al to Reginald as protagonists. If Ed and Al are “monsters,” then maybe Reginald is a kind of “monster” as well? As a class, we had issues with Reginald, but maybe that is the point. Reginald is a kind of “monster” that we have to accept in order to read and enjoy the story.

I’m honestly just spit-balling. I just thought of that connection so obviously I’m going to have think about it some more.

(Word Count: 494)

Wollstonecraft’s Published Travel Letters: To Be Literary or Not To Be

I can’t stop thinking about our class’ conversation about if Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters Written during a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark could be considered “literary” or not. What are the boundaries? We talked about guide books for fixing toilets isn’t “literary,” but where does that leave works like fanfiction? And a collection of letters? Diaries? We talked about publishing, but when Anne Frank wrote her diary, I don’t think she ever intended or knew that one day her diary would be published. So, to me, publishing does not necessarily factor into the idea.

Iris mentioned something about emotions and feeling something when reading (at least, that’s the bit that I heard and then I started down a rabbit hole in my brain). That got me thinking about the later letters that are assigned for Thursday and how political the letters get. As I recall, Wollstonecraft was a supporter of the French Revolution so it surprised me that she was so in favor of this prince as so wonderful, pure, and selfless that I was waiting to hear the Disney tune from the beginning of the VHS tapes. Yes, maybe he was just that great and perfect, but I did roll my eyes at her description and view of him. That is, until she gets to complaining about a king that, from what I understand and remember, was not all mentally there (connected to age, not mentally disabled since she mentioned he was old). That was when I could hear her frustration quite clearly and she invoked similar frustration within me. I was right there with her, angrily folding towels and muttering about stupid governments. (I should clarify that I was listening to the audio-book while I did housework.) Wollstonecraft got me to feel something about the country that had to deal with a king that had to be babysit by his son and others around him.

That’s the point I’m trying to make: she made me feel something in the midst of chatting (writing) about her travels and observations. It made me feel and think. Isn’t that one of things that “literary” works do for us? To make us see something far away by bringing it closer, cradling in their written words and burning our minds by feelings and stirring up opinions? To provoke the humanity that we sometimes set aside in order to get through our day-to-day lives?

Of course, this is just my opinion, but I think sometimes with labeling what is “literary” and what is not, we lose sight of what the words were trying to say and make us feel. However, I know that it is a conversation that can be fun to have and is, at times, necessary to have when writing academically and critically. As an English major, I am quite aware.

(Word count: 472)

Finding the Right CFP: Why Do I Do This to Myself?

Okay, so I knew that I would have a bit of difficulty finding a related CFP for my paper idea. My idea is to analyze and explain how the prophetic calling in St. Leon plays a major part of why our class (and others, I’m sure) experienced frustration with Reginald. What makes my idea a bit unconventional is that I will be using an anime called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood as a lens to help articulate and explain how and why the prophetic calling creates this frustration for a modern audience. I have a legit reason for wanting to use this anime: it’s plot is centered around the existence of and obtaining the philosopher’s stone just like St. Leon. However, due to the lack of prophetic calling (and actual opposition of it, actually), Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood tells a similar story involving the philosopher’s stone, but one that a modern audience can get behind. (There’s a lot more to this, obviously, but that is for another day.)

Anyway, so with my idea, I knew that searching for a CFP was going to difficult. I tried searching for CFPs related to Godwin or St. Leon, but there wasn’t any that I could find. Then I searched for CFPs regarding British Romanticism, but I could not find any that were actually related to what I wanted to talk about. Some were a bit related, but were not enough to satisfy me. I then searched CFPs for anime related topics and found absolutely nothing that was related to my topic. What a shocker.

Thankfully, I found a suitable CFP in one of the links that Dr. Gates gave us in her email. It’s outdated, of course, but suits me fine for this assignment. It’s for NASSR’s 2019 conference: https://nassrchicago2019.wordpress.com/cfp/. They were looking for proposals about Romanticism “elements,” how to articulate them, what we are supposed to do with them, and how to address them. Though there was no mention of anime or pop culture, what they were asking for is related to my topic. I want to tie down a Romanticism element of St. Leon and what we’re supposed to do with it as a modern audience. Yeah, I want to use an anime to help with that, but this is the closest I’ve gotten to finding a CFP that mostly works.

So, thank you, Dr. Gates!

(Word count: 392)

“Woman and Fame” by Hemans: Fame As Masculine (Back Then)

When I read “Woman and Fame” by Felicia Hemans, the emphasis on womanhood versus fame was hard to miss, but it was not until I read Hemans’ biography in the anthology that I realized that “fame” could be read as masculine during Hemans’ time. Of course, this meant that I returned to the poem and reread it to see how Hemans coded “fame” as masculine.

Before her poem even starts, Hemans refers to a previous work of hers and paraphrases lines 45-48 of her poem “Corinne at the Capitol”:

“Happy—happier than thou,

With the laurel on thy brow;

She that makes the humblest hearth,

Lovely but to one on earth.”

At first glance, I did not think much of it, but after rereading it with the idea of “fame” being masculine, I realized that she is talking to “fame” and is positioning it as opposite of women. This opposition does not necessarily mean that “fame” is masculine, but the opposition is developed further in the poem to the point that a person could interpret “fame” as masculine. For instance, there is a emphasis on the speaker as a woman: ” . . . to me—a woman—bring/Sweet waters from affection’s spring” (ll. 5-6). Hemans wrote it so that “a woman” would be separated on either side by a dash, creating a pause and isolating the label to draw attention to it.

The idea of “a woman” versus “fame” is furthered when there is once again attention drawn to the speaker as a woman instead of whatever “fame” is: “But mine, let mine—a woman’s breast/By words of home-born love be bless’d” (ll. 17-18). Again, Hemans utilizes the dash to separate “woman” from the rest of the line, drawing attention onto the idea. Since Hemans had created such opposition of “a woman” and “fame,” it stirs up ideas of what “fame” could be interpreted as.

After reading her biography, I would say that “fame” is masculine due to men being an obvious opposite of a woman (especially in the early 1800s in England). Hemans does support this idea in the poem with mentioning masculine experiences. For instance, the speaker talks about “fame’s” voice: “as when a trumpet’s note hath blown/Calling the brave to meet” (ll. 15-16). What I found particularly masculine was “the brave.” It made me think of like heroes and soldiers, which would have been only men in Hemans’ time. Thus, I read that part with a masculine overtone.

Despite that instance, I think it is interesting that currently “the brave” would not necessarily reference only men. In some places (like the US), women can now enlist and serve their country. So while I think that “fame” was meant to read as masculine, that overtone and interpretation can be lost nowadays if someone does not think about the publication date and original audience.

(Word count: 470)

“Beachy Head:” A Lack of Understanding is Bliss

As I was reading Charlotte Smith’s “Beachy Head,” I came across a passage that puts a spin on the idea that ignorance is bliss:

“Yet they are happy, who have never ask’d

What good or evil means. The boy

That on the river’s margin gaily plays,

Has heard that Death is there—He knows not Death,

And therefore fears it not . . .

. . . he climbs the boll

Of some tall pine; and of his prowess proud,

Is for a moment happy” (ll. 259-268)

At first I thought that the speaker was saying that ignorance was bliss, but after reading it over and over, I realized that the speaker was making the case that a lack of understanding was bliss. There is a distinct difference as ignorance refers to not having the knowledge while understanding is about comprehension of information.

With that difference in mind, the idea of the lack of understanding is bliss becomes clear in especially this section of the passage: “Has heard that Death is there—He knows not Death/And therefore fears it not” (ll. 262-263). This quote is referring to the boy and explains that despite hearing about Death, the boy is not scared and thus is able to happily go about playing. There is the acknowledgement that the boy does not know Death, but I think that is talking about having any experience with Death. For instance, maybe the boy has not gone to a funeral or had a relative that he knows die. If no one has died in his proximity, then that would explain how the boy would have “heard” about Death without actually “knowing” Death. This state of the boy’s knowledge leaves him in a place of semi-knowing of the Death concept without comprehending what the Death concept is and means for him.

Looking back at the difference between ignorance and understanding, that means that an interpretation of the passage can be that it is not ignorance that is bliss, but instead a lack of understanding is. The boy is happy because while he has heard of Death, he does not actually comprehend what Death is. This means that while he has heard of Death, “he knows not Death” (ll. 262).

(Word count: 365)

“Sonnet [I am]” by John Clare: Freedom and Agency, Not Suicide

In class, we briefly discussed how John Clare’s “I Am” poem can be read as the speaker wishing that he were dead, but that it did not truly seem like it due to a reference to being between the sky and the grass. Because “Sonnet [I am]” has a lot of the same tone and similarity in name (also could have been a previous draft of “I Am”), I went back to “Sonnet [I am]” and think I have a better grasp on the suicide question.

I admit that even after reading the poem a few times, I still felt like the speaker was suicidal in “Sonnet [I am]” like in “I Am.” After reading it some more and looking at the lines very carefully, I think that it is not so much suicidal idealization as it is the yearning for freedom. For instance, the speaker says:

“A spirit that could travel o’ver the space

Of earth and heaven,—like a thought sublime,

Tracing creation, like my maker, free,—

A soul unshackled—like eternity” (ll. 9-12)

Now, yes, “spirit” could be a reference to the speaker being dead and having the ability to go wherever (because, you know, he’s dead and all; no boundaries or limitations), but I think the important parallel to remember is that the speaker says “like my maker.” Assuming that the speaker is referencing God, the implication can be that the speaker was to be free like God. God has the freedom and agency to do whatever He wants; no one can make him do anything or keep him anywhere. With this idea of freedom and agency in mind, the speaker’s true desire is seen: instead of being stuck in “Earth’s prison,” he wants to be have the ability to go and do what he wants (ll. 3). He does not necessarily want to commit suicide. It was just the word usage of “spirit” and “soul” with the mention of God that a person could draw the conclusion that the speaker means that death would be the solution.

(Word count: 342)

Wordsworth: The “Whiteness” in the Arab

I know that I talked a lot of the problematic handling of the Arab in the Prelude, but when asked about how to take/interpret the fact that the Arab was “not the Knight/But was an Arab of the desert, too/Of these was neither, and was both at once,” I didn’t really have an answer (ll.123-125). My first thought was that maybe Wordsworth was trying to understand a person that exists outside of British society and someone he would have never had any personal interaction with. I did not necessarily see Wordsworth’s description as positive or negative, but more problematic with an acknowledge that it was a step in the right direction (and was not era-typical racist depiction of a non-white, non-British person). However, my Studies in American Literature class had a discussion about the protagonist of Their Eyes Were Watching God that has made Wordsworth’s Arab even more disturbing to me.

In the class, we were discussing how Janie from Their Eyes Were Watching God was not completely black (and may not be as dark as the other African American characters) and perhaps the African American, male characters loved Janie for her “whiteness” (at least in some capacity; not necessarily entirely for her “whiteness”). We discussed that perhaps her hair was not that typical of African Americans since all of Janie’s love interests seemed so in love with her hair. The reason that I bring this up is because thinking of “whiteness” in a non-white character made me look back at the Arab and how he is described.

When I reread the passage dealing with the Arab, I found a passage that is reminiscent of “whiteness” in a non-white character:

“. . . Lance in rest,

He rode, I keeping pace with him; and now

He, to my fancy, had become the knight

Whose tale Cervantes tells; yet not the Knight

But was an Arab of the desert, too;

Of these was neither, and was both at once” (ll. 120-125)

My first thought was that Wordsworth was attempting to understand the Arab by using his own culture’s equivalent because of his lack of actual interaction with actual Arabs and terminology. I did not think it was necessarily a good thing, but I did not think was necessarily an awful thing either. With the idea of “whiteness” in a character and Janie in mind, however, my opinion and interpretation has shifted a bit. I still give Wordsworth brownie points for not making the Arab a violent person (as I was expecting when I started reading the Arab’s section), but what Wordsworth has done is given the Arab a “whiteness” for a British audience to like.

For instance, we as a class (in Senior Seminar) discussed how the lance could be a biblical reference. During Wordsworth’s time, Christianity was very much a “white” person religion with Jesus depicted as a “white” person. I will be completely honest when I say that I am not completely sure what religion an Arab  would have practiced during that time period, but I am willing to bet that the British audience would assume it was either Islam or some kind of “savage” religion. On top of the lance, the fact that Wordsworth thinks of the Arab as knight-like also reads as “whiteness” because the knights that the British audience (and possibly Wordsworth himself) would think of are white and British, not really Arab or non-white. So, what Wordsworth has done between the lance and connecting the Arab to knights is injected items of the white, British culture into a non-white character, giving the Arab some “whiteness” to go with his “Arab-ness.”

(FYI: Maybe I want to do this for my final paper instead?)

(Word count: 615)

 

“The Two Part Prelude” and St. Leon: Nature as a Guiding Force

As we were talking in class today, Dr. Gates said something that got me thinking: in “The Two Part Prelude,” nature is a constant guardian for the speaker in the poem; that nature (the parent) would outlive the mortal parents. I find the concept fascinating, especially when it is applied to Reginald in St. Leon.

Reginald had never known his father because the man had died before Reginald was born. He had his mother until he was about seventeen or eighteen, losing her to death. He then had his maternal uncle for a couple of years until the uncle died. Reginald also had a kind of relationship with the king (if I am remembering correctly), but the king was kept prisoner and Reginald is never able to rekindle that relationship. Without a guiding force, Reginald succumbs to his vice of gambling and righted only when taken under the wing of his wife’s father. He, of course, loses this guardian as well, and Marguerite stepped up in fulfill that role by marriage. After this, Reginald is at peace until he is once left without a guardian and wrecks his life. His wife takes the reins, Reginald finally rights himself, and they manage to build a peaceful life once again. That is, until the stranger appears who, like Marguerite’s father, assumes a parental authority over Reginald.

Like how Marguerite’s father saw Reginald’s gambling as a problem, the stranger is upset with how Reginald is living his life under the “thumb” of his wife. The stranger continues in the man’s footsteps by attempting to “fix” Reginald’s relationship with his wife (along with getting Reginald to take care and listen to him, but that is irrelevant to my point). Much like Reginald’s other guardians, the stranger is successful and dies as well.

Once I looked at the line of succession for Reginald’s guardians and thought nature as a guardian, I realized that Reginald once found comfort in nature when he had gotten himself and his family exiled from France. He was distant from his family and walked for long stretches of time in nature. Nature actually functions as the other guardians do and gets Reginald to clean up his act. If I remember correctly, Reginald pulls himself together in that section because of a natural disaster and realizes the error of his ways. I don’t recall Reginald taking comfort and being disciplined by nature again further in the novel, but I think nature shows up in another way: he follows in the footsteps of nature.

Much like how he did what his mother wanted him to, attempted to follow his father’s footsteps as a soldier, straightened himself as Marguerite’s father wanted, and did as the stranger wanted, Reginald became a constant much like nature and now watches humanity like nature does. He is separated from humanity, no longer mortal and instead is a circular immortal like nature (starting young, growing old, and starting young again like the seasons). Though Reginald did sort of follow the stranger’s example, Reginald attempts to help and better humanity which I see akin to how nature (despite how we don’t like ice, tornadoes, and such) grows and tries to provide what mortals need to survive. Reginald just does not do it as well.

(Just an FYI, I think I might want to run with this for my final paper so any comments are welcome.)

(Word count: 567)