Ascension Day

Ascension Day

(The Second Coming – W. B. Yeats)

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Some links to ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ and Oscar Wilde

I have been set the task to identify some ideas/themes;

  • dandy-ism
  • William Morris
  • the aesthetic movement

and then to talk about how each of these have some sort of link or connection with the novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ or possibly the writer himself, Oscar Wilde. Here is some research and ideas I have come up with..

Dandy-ism 

When a man is said to be a ‘dandy’, it means he has excessive concern with elegance of their dress and manners. Historically, especially in late 18th- and early 19th-century Britain, a dandy, who was self-made, often strove to imitate an aristocratic lifestyle despite coming from a middle-class background.

So how does this link to writer, Oscar Wilde?

Well, Oscar Wilde included the use of dandy characters within his writing. In Wilde’s works, the dandy is a witty, overdressed, self-styled philosopher who speaks in epigrams and paradoxes and ridicules the cant and hypocrisy of society’s moral arbiters. To a very large extent, this figure was a self-portrait, a stand-in for Wilde himself.

Oscar: “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” 

Mary Jane: “Oh, Oscar, you’re SUCH a dandy!”

The dandy isn’t always a comic figure in Wilde’s work. In novels ‘A Woman of No Importance’ and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, he takes the form of the villains Lord Illingworth and Lord Henry Wootton, respectively. But in works such as ‘Lady Windermere’s Fan’, ‘An Ideal Husband’and ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, Wilde seems to be evolving a more positive and clearly defined moral position on the figure of the dandy. The dandy pretends to be all about surface, which makes him seem trivial, shallow, and ineffectual.

Dorian Gray is the protagonist of Wilde’s novel ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, and he is seen as the typical dandy,

 who thinks man should live his life in full, realizing his wishes and his dreams; if one checks one’s impulses, life is marred because every repressed impulse and all self-denial remain in one’s mind and poisons it. Dorian believes youth is synonymous with beauty and happiness.

Here are some other examples of a ‘dandy’ character which I found interesting during my research;

  • Jay Gatsby – ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Patrick Bateman – ‘American Psycho’ by Bret Easton Ellis
  • Lucius Malfoy – from the ‘Harry Potter’ series by J. K Rowling
  • Willy Wonka – ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ by Roald Dahl

 

 

William Morris

William Morris (24 March 1834 – 3 October 1896) was an English textile designer, artist, writer, and libertarian Marxist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and English Arts and Crafts Movement. As an author, illustrator and medievalist, he helped to establish the modern fantasy genre, and was a direct influence on postwar authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien. Morris wrote and published poetry, fiction, and translations of ancient and medieval texts throughout his life. His best-known works include ‘The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems’, ‘The Earthly Paradise’  and the fantasy romance ‘The Well at the World’s End’. He was an important figure in the emergence of socialism in Britain, founding the Socialist League in 1884, but breaking with that organization over goals and methods by the end of the decade.

William Morris age 53.jpg

The Aesthetic Movement

Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of art, beauty, and taste, with the creation and appreciation of beauty. The aesthetic movement is an art movement supporting the emphasis of these values more than social-political themes for literature, fine art, music and other arts. The artists and writers of Aesthetic style tended to profess that the Arts should provide refined sensuous pleasure, rather than convey moral or sentimental messages.

The Aesthetic Movement believed that art in its various forms should not seek to convey a moral, sentimental or educational message but should give sensual pleasure. Their aim was “to exist beautifully”: Art for Art’s sake. It ran from about 1860 to 1900.

In Britain, Oscar Wilde is famous as one of the best representatives of the aesthetes. He believes that art represents nothing but itself, and that art has its own life just as thoughts do. ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is often read as an explicit proclamation of the worthiness of living life in accordance with aesthetic values. This is due in part to the flourishing Aesthetic Movement of Victorian England at the time of the novel’s publication, as well as Oscar Wilde’s association with the movement itself. The Aesthetic Movement, which coincided with the Industrial Revolution at the end of the nineteenth century, emphasized the artistic aspect of a man’s work in producing a variety of goods, from furniture to machines to literature. Oscar Wilde, however, proposed that the principles of the Aesthetic Movement extend beyond the production of mere commodities.

In his exposition of aestheticism, Wilde applies the philosophy in a more universal sense, stressing the positive influences of aestheticism in one’s life beyond the craftsmanship. Just as the machines that produce materials with the intervention of human thought are labelled “evil,” Wilde similarly condemns men who act as metaphorical machines, programmed to behave in accordance with society’s ideas of decency rather than allowing themselves to act freely and achieve the greatest amount of happiness. Wilde’s expressive advocacy of an aesthetic lifestyle is paralleled in his depiction of Lord Henry in the novel. Lord Henry lectured to the impressionable Dorian,

“We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind, and poisons us. . . . Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden itself”

Wilde, through Lord Henry, laments the stifling nature of his contemporary Victorian society and how the supposed morality it boasts necessitates self-denial and rejection of life’s most beautiful aspects.

 

– I hope some of this information has been of some use to your further understanding of Oscar Wilde and his views and ideas at the time whilst writing ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ –

Thanks for reading 

 

 

 

‘Half-Hanged Mary’ – Margaret Atwood Analysis of 12am and 2am

‘Half-Hanged Mary’ is a ballad poem by feminist poet Margaret Atwood. It is written about Mary Webster, a resident of Puritan Hadley, Massachusetts who was accused of witchcraft in 1684. She was acquitted but later was hanged from a tree by the residents of Hadley. According to one of several accounts, she was left hanging all night. It is known that when she was cut down she was still alive and lived for another 14 years. Atwood believed Mary to be ancestor so dedicated this poem about her as well as her novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’.

12 Midnight

This is the time where Mary begins to despair and feels the presence of death very keenly. It begins with “My throat is taut against the rope”, showing the physical effect to the reader of Webster’s experience and showing that she is now beginning to lose her power of words. Atwood uses a lot of abstract ideas within this verse. With the use of a lot of concrete nouns such as “rope”, “heart”, “feathers”, “crow” and “sluts”. She uses these concrete nouns as a way of personifying death.

“Death sits on my shoulder like a crow; waiting for my squeezed beet; of a heart to burst; so he can eat my eyes” 

This is used as a metaphor to the image of death waiting for Mary’s body to ‘give up’ and die so that it can go on and take over her body.

“or like a judge; muttering about sluts and punishment; and licking his lips”

The abstract idea of death being a “judge” could not only be the ‘court’ judge, but also personifying death to the residents of Hadley also ‘judging’ her.

“or like a dark angel; insidious in his glossy feathers; whispering to me to be easy; on myself. To breathe out finally; Trust me, he says, caressing me. Why suffer?”

Now Atwood uses antithesis as she is personifying death to an “angel”, this is to enhance the idea presented in this stanza of death being somewhat ‘kind’ to Mary and seeing death as a good thing as she is no longer to suffer. “Caressing me” again gives the personification of death in a ‘kind’ manner.

Other devices used in 12am is alliteration “blood bulges in my skull”, this emphasizes the graphic image to the reader of Webster’s experience at that time to help understand the pain of her “clenched teeth holding it in”. Atwood uses biblical language in this verse, again, as an abstract idea, as the word “angel” gives the idea of the religious side to death and eternal life.

2am

Atwood uses more biblical language in this verse but now, Webster has more bitter thoughts directed at God. “Which you could confuse with prayer except that praying is not constrained”, meaning Webster’s voice is restricted of saying her prayer to God. Webster thinks more about prayer, comparing it to the strangulation that she is enduring, “maybe it’s more like being strangled than I once thought”. Atwood also compares her experience to the disciples at Pentecost, “Did those men at Pentecost want flames to shoot out of their heads?” almost ‘down talking’ God’s work in a way by suggesting an idea of the act of good turning out to be bad, “did they ask to be tossed on the ground, gabbling like holy poultry, eyeballs bugling?” She also says that the prayer of “the knees in the clean nightgown” “I want this, I want that” isn’t a true real prayer, but believes the only real prayer is the meaningful prayer for mercy.

“Call it Please. Call it Mercy. Call it not yet, not yet,” 

Atwood uses anaphora of the words “call it”, to convey the sense of force and determination in which she had in showing her Mercy to God.

Atwood’s writing style of graphic language is conveyed a lot throughout these two verses, “knotted muscle”, “heart to burst”, “strangled” and “shredded flesh” as a way of getting her point across on how strongly she feels about the subject, as well as creating a very harsh and graphic image into the reader’s head for a deeper understanding.

 

 

 

The Cambridge Companion to W. B. Yeats

This book has been very useful to me for further learning and understanding of William Butler Yeats and the aspects included within his poetry writing. I have picked up some notes from which I found most useful.

 

Yeats and Romanticism 

Yeats started his long literary career as a romantic poet and gradually evolved into a modernist poet. When he began publishing poetry in the 1880s, his poems had a lyrical, romantic style, and they focused on love, longing and loss, and Irish myths. Yeats uses the term “romantic” in two of his most famous proclamations. ‘September 1913’ for instance, appealing to John O’Leary the political leader whom he looked up to, against the background of the Dublin strike and lockout of 1913, “Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone, it’s with O’Leary in the grave”. Also in ‘Coole Park and Ballylee, 1931′ in honor of his literary patron and collaborator Lady Gregory shortly after her estate at Coole Park had been sold to the government in 1927, “We were the last romantics – chose for theme”. Yeats uses romanticism links these two terms from these poems – one political and one literary’ because he saw literature and politics as intertwined. For him, “Romantic Ireland” meant that large minded attitude beyond economic and political advantage that he saw at that time.

Yeats and gender

Yeats was a strong advocate for women, struggling to define what form that should take. And although he was living in an extremely oppressive and sexist time, his poetry did not always reflect this thought. In fact, he preached against such writing. For women in general, and specifically for the women in Yeats’ life, “spiritualism and occultism offered a mode of behaviour for women which signalled that they would no longer accept the prescribed roles that society had determined for them in suburban isolation from political and social power” (Brown, 39). And this upsetting of prescribed gender roles influenced Yeats in a profound and lasting way, a way that is played out in his own poetry and prose. Yeats understood that passion, and not sincerity or originality, has the most value in the writing of poetry. So when reading his poetry about women, we must be suspect. Yeats’ the man is not writing of his own opinion in his poetry. He is not writing from his own personal experience, for “it is never safe to draw conclusions about the life from the poems unless we possess external evidence regarding the events or emotions in question”. As Yeats himself explains: “A poet writes always of his personal life” observing that “all that is personal soon rots: it must be packed in ice or salt” 

Yeats and politics

At the age of twenty, Yeats was a nationalist and Fenian sympathizer. After the fall of Charles Parnell in 1891, Yeats hoped to fill an apparent political vacuum with cultural work. He was dedicated to revamping an outmoded literary nationalism that has taken its colours from the propagandist simplicities  of Thomas Davis and the writers of Young Ireland. He admred powerful men like Parnell, and argued, throughout his career, for bold leadership by the few over the many. As Yeats became more involved in Irish politics—through his relationships with the Irish National Theatre, the Irish Literary Society, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and Maud Gonne—his poems increasingly resembled political manifestos. Yeats believed that art could serve a political function: poems could both critique and comment on political events, as well as educate and inform a population.

 

Havisham – Carol Ann Duffy

This poem was composed in 1998 and is a response to Charles Dickens’ character ‘Miss Havisham’ from the novel ‘Great Expectations.. so before I go on to some poem analysis, I will first post some of the background information I have picked up from this character!

Miss Havisham was in love with a man named Compeyson, who which her cousin had warned her to keep away from as he was only out to swindle her of her riches, but she was too much in love to listen. When it came to her wedding day she received a letter informing she had been defrauded by her fiancé and ‘left at the altar.’ Humiliated and heartbroken, from that day on she never removed her wedding dress only wearing one shoe leaving the wedding breakfast and cake uneaten on the table and allowing only a few people to see her. She even had all of the clocks in her mansion stopped at twenty minutes to nine – the exact time when she had received the letter.

Havisham is Miss Havisham’s story in her own words. She reflects on her feelings for the man who left her, and the effect it has had on her. It explores how she could have come to be the woman she is. The poem provides another insight into Miss Havisham, which gives the reader some empathy into her situation. It is also about obsessive love gone wrong.

This poem is written as a dramatic monologue. Duffy writing in first person as if she was taking on the role of Miss Havisham, “Not a day since then I haven’t wished him dead”, this enables the audience to understand her true thoughts ad if she was speaking to them directly. It has no regular rhyme pattern or line length written in free verse containing enjambment, suggesting to me an ongoing tone of conversation. It is, however, arranged in four stanzas of equal length, suggesting some control in its speaker, undermining the madness the character is known for, which is the focus of the poem.

The first sentence in the poem is simply 3 nouns in a row creating a sense of anger, also with the oxymoron of the 3 nouns “beloved sweetheart bastard”, and again used later in the poem “love’s hate” these portray the ambivalence and restless uncertainty of the character, while a sexual fantasy reveals both the unrequited love and the passion that remains within Havisham following the wedding, a devastation from which her heart has never recovered. 

From our knowledge and understanding of the character from the opening paragraph of my blog, we know that when Duffy talks of the dress, we know it is a wedding dress, just as we understand that the bastard of the first line is the man who left her at the altar, without having to be told. The effects of this are physical as well as mental: Duffy uses the images of “dark green pebbles” and “ropes on the back of my hands” as metaphors to show how Havisham has hardened over the years. There is violence in this metaphor too, as they are ropes Havisham could strangle with. This violence is also later picked up towards the end of the poem, In the midst of her dream she suddenly bite awake, taking implied revenge despite the sexual connotations of the dream. Also the “red balloon bursting” and “stabbed at a wedding cake” again add to this sense of violence.

Another technique used by Duffy to add to this sense of violence is the onomatopoeia in the word “bang” of the balloon bursting and stabbing of the wedding cake. Similarly, the repetition of the letter ‘b’ in “Don’t think it’s only the heart that b-b-b-breaks” to create the effect of stammering on the last word of the poem is powerful, suggesting both the length of time her heart has been broken and the possibility of a stabbing, violent action towards the bridegroom.

From the past I have remembered my English teacher to see the title of any poem just like a ‘floating line’, meaning it is just as important – in this case, it is significant for the title to be ‘Havisham’ dropping the word ‘miss’ from her name because although being left at the altar caused her problems, losing the label ‘miss’  makes an assertion that she is her own person. It also provides a small distance from the Dickens novel and enables the poem to opera seperately.

‘September 1913’ & ‘Easter 1916’ – W.B Yeats compared and contrasted

Throughout many of his poems, W.B Yeats portrayed important aspects of Ireland’s history especially around the 1900’s when Ireland was fighting for independence. The poems ‘September 1913’ and ‘Easter 1916’ both reflect the political, cultural, and societal atmospheres that were found in Ireland at this time. 

‘September 1913′ focuses on displaying Yeats’ new stance of belief exploring his new political mind during the time where the Irish Independence was also at it’s highest. This poem is about what Yeats sees as a lack of compassion in his countrymen and a reaction to their apathy

In ‘Easter 1916′, however, the focus is mainly on working through Yeats’ personal feelings about the revolutionary movement and is almost used as an elegy to the leaders executed whilst trying to prevent Great Britain from ruling Ireland. 

The way in which Yeats names many political leaders in both of these two poems makes them similar. In ‘September’, he mentions “O’Leary” at the end of each stanza, John O’Leary was an Irish separatist who focused on getting the greatest good for Ireland. He uses him in this poem as a symbol of national integrity. The repetition of O’Leary makes it clear Yeats looked up and admired him and that he wishes for a return to the less egotistical and self-driven politics of a bygone era. The line “It’s with O’Leary in the grave” projects Yeats’ idea of O’Leary’s death linking to the ‘death’ of Ireland as he no longer is able to guide it. Yeats also mentions Edward Fitzgerald, Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone in the third stanza, all Irish revolutionists and leaders (whom Yeats idolised), so that they stand out from the rest of the nation.

‘Easter’ similarly includes the key figures (this time involved in the Easter uprising), but contrasting to ‘September’ by alluding to them without actually listing names. “That woman’s days were spent” refers to Constance Markiewicz, an Irish revolutionist and politician. Yeats expresses a negative opinion of Markiewicz calling her “ignorant”. “Until her voice grew shrill”, I think Yeats is trying to put across here the idea of Markiewicz being almost ‘spoilt’ by politics with the use of this negative language, as he was a long-time friend to her before. The reference to “harriers” also backs up this idea as it can be seen as a symbol of attacking innocence (meaning politics attacking innocent Markiewicz). The man who “kept a school / And rode our winged horse” is a reference to Patrick Pearse, and the lines about Pearse’s “helper and friend” allude to Thomas MacDonagh, again both Easter rising leaders. In Yeats’s description of the three, his torn feelings about the Easter uprising are most keenly communicated. He contrasts the “shrill” voice of Countess Markievicz as a revolutionary, with his remembrance of her incomparably “sweet” voice when she was a young woman; and he contrasts the haughty public personae of Pearse against his impression of his “sensitive” nature, describing how “daring and sweet” his ideals were even though he and MacDonagh had to resort to “force”.

‘Easter 1916’ has a noticeable pattern in it’s form, stanza 1 and 3 both having 16 lines to represent 1916, and stanza 2 and 4 having 24 lines representing the date in which the uprising began April 24th (4 stanzas being the 4th month, April). This to me is a clever way of Yeats expressing the deep, meaningful thoughts he has over the rising. ‘September 1913’, however is simply written in a 4 stanza 8 line poem with an alternating rhyme rhythm throughout. This to me, suggests the stability and regularity that Yeats wanted to return to Ireland at that time, as well as setting an accusatory and conversational tone.

Yeats uses irony in both of these poems, in ‘September’ by the use of religious language, “prayer” and “born to pray”, this language is used as a mockery to the Catholics as they ‘took from Ireland’ -being responsible for apathy. “Fumble in a greasy till”, Yeats accuses the Catholics of being the reason of the workers having little money taking from them, and the life out of Ireland. This gives a very clear idea of these people killing Ireland. In ‘Easter’, “fire at the club” is an English saying, this irony is also used to mock the English, also the line “where motley is worn”, motley being the clothes of a jester suggests Yeats’ disrespect towards the revolutionists almost calling them clown-like.

‘September’ begins with Yeats immediately directing to the reader being the middle class workers, in first person, “What need you”, this instantly projects a sense of anger. ‘Easter’ is written in first person narrative, “I have met them”, this instantly distances Yeats from the rest of the people. 

Both poems also use rhetorical questions, which could mean this is a technique Yeats is a big user of. “Could they save?” and “She rode to harriers?” the constant use of rhetorical questions in these poems could be to convey a sense of confusion, or the idea that the questions can never be truly answered.

I hope this has been some use to you in either your notes on ‘Easter 1916’ or ‘September 1913’, looking at these comparisons has helped me to understand Yeats further and his writing techniques and feelings. In my opinion, I think it is most interesting in reading ‘September’ before looking at ‘Easter’ as (apart from being written earlier) shows us the change in Yeats’ feelings about the changes that were occurring in Ireland at that time.

 

My Notes On Feminism

“The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”

 

Inception of feminism lies within Genesis’ story of creation (Adam & Eve). In which over the last thousands of years has been misinterpreted into this common idea of women being seen as ‘evil’. Adam, being a representation of all man and Eve said to be a representation of the fundamental character, and identity of ‘all women’. In both form and symbol, Eve is woman, and because of her, the prevalent belief in the West has been that all women are by nature disobedient, weak-willed, prone to temptation/evil, deceitful, seductive, and motivated in their thought and behaviour purely by self-interest. And that she used her sex to tempt, or seduce, Adam into disobedience. Such damning commentary has long supported the wide-spread conviction that Eve tempted Adam to sin and was therefore responsible for Adam’s fall.

So no matter what women may achieve in the world, the message of Genesis warns men not to trust them. Whoever she might be and whatever her accomplishments, no woman can escape being identified with Eve, or being identified as her.

This myth has been spread and adopted by the Roman Catholics along with the rest of the bible across the world, which explains the many misinterpretations leading to this negative view of women.

This misinterpretation continued until the Industrial Revolution 1750 (before this women’s only ‘job’ was of a wife/motherly style only). The Industrial Revolution in part was fuelled by the economic necessity of many women, single and married, to find waged work outside their home. Women mostly found jobs in domestic service, textile factories, and piece work shops. They also worked in the coal mines. For some, the Industrial Revolution provided independent wages, mobility and a better standard of living.

Mary Wollstonecraft was the first philosopher and advocate of women’s rights. During her brief career Wollstonecraft wrote novels, and  is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman(1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason. From this time onwards, feminism and the argument of women’s rights exploded into the early 20th century, involving 1918 women over the age of 30 gained the right to vote, following 1928 the gained voting equality to all men.

From then on, women were treated more and more as equals to men, allowing to drive aswell as working in factories and smoking,equal pay,etc (things we don’t even give a second thought in doing these days). During 1960/70s women we were then introduced to women’s contraception, which stands for a larger idea of men not being the only ones in control of everything also the fact it gives women the right to chose to be mothers.

 

Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) one of the most well known American painters, is also considered by some to be the fore mother of the feminist art movement. She worked in a discipline dominated by male artists, critics, gallery owners, and curators, who were critical of women artists. Despite these obstacles, O’Keeffe launched a successful career, developing a distinctive painting style that employed organic vulvar forms and floral imagery. Her life experiences influenced her art; imagery from her time in New York and New Mexico reappears in her painting.

She is is mostly known for her flower paintings with which she sought to share the beauty she witnessed, through magnification. Some art historians believe that O’Keeffe moved away from abstract painting in order to distract the theorists who at the time were interpreting her work from a Freudian perspective. O’Keeffe never admitted to painting female genitalia, although her sensual art was often interpreted in this way. According to the artist she was revealing vital parallels between animate and highly sensual forces in nature and humans.