A variety of things to relate to Dorian Gray

Dandyism

A Dandy is a man who has the belief that good looks, fine clothes and refined language are very important.

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In ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ Lord Henry is a Dandy, seeming to hold the view that people’s physical appearance are most important – and can somehow define their personality and how they think:

“Your mysterious young friend, whose name you have never told me, but whose picture really fascinates me, never thinks. I feel quite sure of that. He is some brainless beautiful creature..”

Lord Henry’s advice and thoughts turn Dorian into a Dandy, caring only for his physical appearance, so much that he could trade his soul to be youthful forever:

“If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that-for that-I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!”

William Morris and the Aesthetics Movement

William Morris was an artist famous for his floral patterns, used especially in wallpaper and curtains etc. He was one of the figures in the Aesthetics Movement, a movement concentrating more on aesthetics (looking good) than social/political themes. In essence it supported art for art’s sake, art to be pretty rather than express a view.   

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This was not only in art, this was in all forms – literature, dance, etc, meaning that many things became meaningless – it’s only meaning was to look good.

In ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ Dorian’s only concern is to ‘look good’ – and be aesthetic and youthful for as long as possible. As well as this Wilde portrays his opinion of art in the preface. This seems to support the aesthetic movement, saying that “An artist should create beautiful things, but should put nothing of his own life into them.” This suggests that the “beautiful things” need no meaning, their beauty is enough without themes or back-stories behind them. Wilde also states that “No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.” – suggesting that there is no need to prove beauty with an overarching social theme etc, it is good enough without it. Wilde seems to be of the impression that good art is “useless” – and that creating art is the only good thing that is useless: “The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.”

Thanks for reading,

Jack

 

A contextual overview.

A collection of notes from contextual overview of the book, ‘The Poems of W.B. Yeats’ by Michael O’Neill.  In these notes I have only included the facts and opinions that I thought were especially interesting or useful (I didn’t want to reword the whole thing – as you may as well read the chapter yourself to find it all out!)

Yeats grew up in a Protestant Anglo-Irish family, living as much in England as Ireland. He went to the west of Ireland in his early summers, for him a place a magic, fairies and dreams. From his youth he longed for a connection with tradition and ancient belief – partly due to his father’s lack of religion. 

Yeats dealt from the beginning with a colonial dilemma. Ireland was under the control of Britain, and wanted to establish a national identity. Yeats participated in the cultural aspect of this struggle as a young man. He associated closely with nationalist figures such as O’Leary and Gonne. Gonne was dedicated to the cause of violent political revolt in England, and Yeats hated this nationalist extremism. His relationship with Gonne was a cycle of intimacy and solitude. He first met her in 1889, and fell in love with her, proposing to her for the first time in 1891. Gonne refused his proposals many times, yet in 1898 they entered into an asexual commitment, as if they were brother and sister. Gonne had no sexual attraction towards Yeats and married John MacBride in 1903, much to Yeats’ disbelief and disappointment.  

In the early 1900s Yeats began to conceptualize his idea that the Irish poet’s task involved disdain of the crowd, loneliness and struggle. This struggle was explicitly against Catholic nationalism (a view easily viewed in ‘September 1913’ – the nationalist middle class are responsible for the death of “Romantic Ireland”). Yeats found refuge in Coole Park, the patron encouraged his interest in folklore – and his cultural and political vision moved to a growing appreciation of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy.

He was very interested  in the occult – undergoing seances and initiation rites. He’s been linked to a specific Anglo-Irish alternative to Catholic forms of spiritual knowledge, that some call ‘Protestant Magic’. Yeats wrote essays on the subject, where he says that “the borders of our mind are ever shifting, and that many minds can flow into one another, as it were, and create or reveal a single mind, a single energy.” He was also fascinated by how ‘symbols’ can evoke this ‘single mind’. Yeats’ interest in the occult links with his early research into Irish folklore and legend, which sparked a desire to establish a national literature. He wanted to free the word ‘celtic’ from the past – it was treated in a sentimental way, and he felt that Irish culture was considered inferior.

It’d be wrong to categorize Yeats’ political opinion too quickly. His initial response to the Easter Rising of 1916 was distress, that all the work had led to violence, yet the poem ‘Easter 1916’ reveals an openness to experience and a readiness to undergo inner conflict and emotional change. He appeared to think that extreme nationalist aspirations were the stuff of ironic comedy, yet after the executions of leaders he realised that a “terrible beauty is born”. Many of his poems show shift, growth, change and conflict.

Over the years Yeats’ work changed, it became harder and more assertive, leaving behind the dreamily lyrical nature of his earlier work. He had a Romantic conviction that a poet was a prophet, able to articulate deep forces at work within culture. Yeats also had a trust in the mind’s capacity to tap into collective mythic or historic experiences, these experiences often reached Yeats in the form of powerful images. A friend of Yeats once remarked that “he had an uncanny way of standing aside and looking on at the game of life as a spectator’. Identity for Yeats isn’t personal, it links with culture and politics in a wider sense. A feature of his literary career was his frequent involvement in controversy concerning Irish politics. These were often based around arguments on what form a new Ireland would take. Yeats wanted to recover a heroic and mythological past.

Thanks for reading,

Jack

 

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ under a multitude of headings

Feminism

In the novel women are quite often referred to as inferior, so it is obviously not feminist, quite the opposite. This is established early on with Lord Henry saying that “no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex” suggesting that women are but playthings for men’s enjoyment – a decoration to spice up life. The main female character is Sybil, who seems weak and dependent totally on her “Prince Charming” Dorian Gray. She doesn’t seem to have any personality at the beginning, assuming only the role of the character she is playing in ‘Romeo and Juliet’. Later on whenever she became herself she was obedient to Dorian, doing whatever he wanted. When Dorian insults her acting she feels that there is no reason to live, and thus commits suicide. This shows the powerlessness of women, and how Wilde may have thought them inferior. However Dorian is obviously very in love with Sybil, when he first talks to Lord Henry about her he has nothing but praise for her: “lips that were like the petals of a rose,” – this could be seen as an extension of what Lord Henry was saying though, Dorian only really compliments her looks and her singing, and doesn’t really know her – showing that he wants her in a more decorative sense.

Marxism

In the novel there are many examples of the class system, the opposite of Marxism, especially with Lord Henry’s high class friends, and then the lower class poverty in the East End. Dorian’s status was also based on his good looks and wealth, showing how the rich (not the clever) were high in society. Dorian exploits his status by controlling the poor, such as Sybil – and believed he could get away with immoral actions due to his high status. The novel suggests that life and society revolves around wealth & money, something that completely goes against what Marxism stands for.

Post-Colonialism

When looking up the subjects of post-colonialist literature I found that one of the subjects is “Misuse of power and exploitation” which I found related to the novel easily. Dorian misuses his power and exploits Sybil, controlling her. The book was written during the time of the colonies, in Victorian times, so this could even be interpreted as referring to Britain controlling a large portion of the world.

Thanks for reading,
Jack

**FUN FACT** I used to have a grey gerbil that had the name Dorian. That is all.

Thoughts due to informal blackmail.

Backstory:

There has been a long-running argument between myself and a friend on whether Harry Potter is Literature (off topic: recently been wondering whether to post some writing on here arguing for the fact).  One of my English teachers says that it isn’t – the other says it is. The teacher who supports that HP is Lit, Miss Larkin, commented on a post of mine recently saying that she would tell my friend that Harry Potter isn’t Literature if I didn’t post a blog on my thoughts to a radio documentary on W.B. Yeats. To ensure that the reputation of HP (and my personal dignity) is upheld – here is a blog post on just that.

The radio documentary was called “A Terrible Beauty” and focused on the lives and works of W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney. In class we have been focusing on Yeats – and so I will not be blogging here very much about the segments of the radio broadcasts that were about Heaney. The broadcast, present by Finton O’Toole explored these poets, both of whom aspired to be the people and poets of Ireland – representing the nation.

The broadcast started by highlighting the fact that the idea of country is important to the Irish – as well as literary heritage. A poet is someone who speaks memorable truths in an authoritative way, One thing the broadcast emphasised at the beginning was the fact that poets have power. Both Yeats and Heaney had deep connections with Irish land and tradition, and wrote especially from conflicts within the country.  They were v. different people, Yeats was a Protestant middle class writing about Irish revolutions in the 1910s, whereas Heaney was a rural Catholic who wrote about the Irish troubles.

One of my favourite quotes from the broadcast was this:

“Yeats had a gift of beating the scrap metal of day to day life into a ringing bell”

When Yeats grew up the authority was held in the British state – and thus he was part of the revolution that wanted cultural authority. He was considered an urban intellectual speaker

I found it very interesting that the broadcast had recordings of Yeats introducing and reciting one of his poems. He almost sung that poem, chanting it. It was also interesting to hear Heaney’s impression of Yeats – and how Yeats inspired his writing.

What was central about Yeats was that he spoke for Ireland, yet was complicated and ambiguous. He was interested in the mythological west of Ireland, the Anglo-Irish country. He related to this heavily Protestant area naturally. He identified with the Protestant minority – embracing the area and was proud to be part of the Anglo-Irish community, especially due to other members of the minority – Emmet etc. He recites his Protestant heritage in ‘September 1913’ – “For this Edward Fitzgerald died, And Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone,” yet in ‘Easter 1916’ he cites those with a more Republican background, “I write it out in a verse – MacDonagh and MacBride And Connolly and Pearse”.

Having been the national poet of Ireland, identifying with this area soiled his reputation – and he was ridiculed by many and lost respect from his younger contemporaries. His relationship with the younger poets of his time varied – to some he was kind and affectionate yet to others he was fiercely and dismissively critical.  

Yeats was a part of a movement that believed that Irish authenticity was rooted in authentic Gaelic traditions that had been corrupted by English rule. Some cultural revolutionaries considered him unauthentic – as he hadn’t always lived in Ireland, he had an English family and didn’t speak Gaelic. Yeats contributed an outspoken voice about Ireland at the time, he wanted it to be more open. He was a great public poet, speaking directly about conflict, yet was also outside it.

In the broadcast we also heard the voice of Maud Gonne (which I found fascinating, she sounded completely different to my imagination) who reacted to accusations about Yeats, agreeing that he was a snob.

I found the broadcast to be very insightful and helped me understand more about Yeats’ life and the times he lived in.

Thanks for reading,

Jack

A wise and simple man.

‘The Fisherman’ by W.B.Yeats is a poem describing Yeats preconception that his readers were intelligent, cultural Irish citizens. Throughout this poem he realises that this is not the case. The poem is split into two stanzas, with simple language and rhyme scheme to highlight how Yeats wants his readers to be “wise and simple”. Yeats reflects on his ideal reader, then lists his actual readers, and at the end consigns to the fact that he will have to change his style of writing to educate the mundane ignorant public. Yeats thought that he was a man of the people, but the people do not appreciate art, there is no such thing as an everyday man of Ireland.

In the first section of the poem Yeats refers to his ideal reader, a simple fisherman. Yeats uses a lot of detail, “gray Connemara clothes” “freckled man” to show that he has put a great deal of thought into who he wants to write his poetry for. Yeats shows that he wants his readers to be skilled and intelligent by making the fisherman “cast his flies” – fly fishing being a very skilful art. Yeats refers to this man as “wise and simple”. This oxymoron highlights everything he wants his reader to be – wise and skilled, yet only needing to live simply, not wanting much. This fisherman gives a very pastoral image, the agricultural side of Ireland, showing that Yeats wants his readers to be engrossed in the culture and traditions of Ireland. Yeats suggests that he wants his readers to be of his “own race” – to be Irish to the bone, adhering to tradition and culture.

Yeats then displays the “reality” and lists the true nature of his readers, almost a list of things he despises them for. He references how he hates the “living men” and loves the “dead man” – a theme similar to ‘September 1913′ where he condemns the current Ireland and the people in it, and shows his love for “Romantic Ireland” and “O’Leary”. Yeats mentions how the public of Ireland have “beaten down” the “great Art”, showing their ignorance, how they’d prefer a “drunken cheer” than poetry. The use of the word “commonest” highlights this fact, that the people of Ireland are nothing special.

In the last stanza Yeats acknowledges that his “audience” is not what he wanted, and so he had to imagine “a man” – the simple fisherman described in the first section of the poem. This repetition of the “sun-freckled face” and “gray Connemara cloth” emphasises the idealistic reader of Yeats’ imagination.
In the last few lines of the poem Yeats says the same thing twice but in different ways, as if Yeats is telling himself, assuring himself:

“A man who does not exist,
A man who is but a dream;”

Yeats then promises himself that he will change his writing to become a ‘man of the people’ and relate to these ‘common’ people who don’t appreciate art, “I shall have written him one”.

Thanks for reading,
Jack

The Poetry of Yeats under a multitude of Headings

Feminism

Yeats does not appear in his poetry to be a particular feminist, yet we as readers have to realise that in those days it was frowned upon to do so. Yeats was living in a sexist and oppressive time, and seemed to realise that he couldn’t help women through his poetry, writing is not always about truth. However many of his poems suggest that he deeply admired women, and may have simply been a strong advocate for women who struggled to show his opinions in the time that he lived in. The woman he refers to most is Maud Gonne, the love of his life who didn’t love him back. His opinion of Gonne is obviously that of desire, yet also slight bitterness, as she does not love him. Gonne was very feminist, and stood up for women’s rights, and so Yeats most likely supported her views to try and win her affection. Yeats also mentions Constance Markiewicz and Eva Gore-Booth in several of his poems, revolutionary leaders who he seemed to admire deeply (at least enough to write poems specifically about them). Yeats was obsessed with the Occult, which rejected the sexist norms and was very pro equality, thus we can assume that he also took this stance.

A good source of information about Yeats and women:
http://writing.colostate.edu/gallery/phantasmagoria/poehler.htm

Post-Colonialism

To understand how Yeats wrote in a post-colonial style we must first understand definitions of post-colonialism itself. Post-Colonialism can be split into several subjects, though the subject I found that reflected in Yeats’ poetry the most is this:

Social and cultural change or erosion: It seems that after independence is achieved, one main question arises; what is the new cultural identity?

Yeats examines the idea of change very often in his poetry, especially considering change in Ireland and change in people. For example, in ‘September 1913’ Yeats compares the Ireland of 1913 to “Romantic Ireland”, and in ‘Easter 1916’ Yeats compares the “vainglorious lout” of MacBride who abused Gonne to the revolutionary hero – “transformed utterly” from what he was due to his brave and heroic actions. ‘Easter 1916’ is heavily about change, “all changed, changed utterly” and how the revolution has changed the society of Ireland.

Good sources of information about Yeats and Post Colonialism:

Click to access A-post-colonial-look-Yeats-and-War-Poems.pdf


http://postcolonialstudies.emory.edu/w-b-yeats-and-postcolonialism/

Thanks for reading,
Jack

Early Morning Hanging

An analysis of ‘Half Hanged Mary’ by Margaret Atwood, from 3am to 6am. If you haven’t read my other post on HHM, poke around my blog and you’ll find it eventually (I hope!)

3am

The voice of Webster in this section seems insane yet determined, she has got this far and can’t give in to death now. There’s no punctuation in this section, and no stanza form, to show the confusion in Webster’s mind. Atwood uses lots of repetition, as if Webster is losing her mind and is forgetting what she’s already said:

“Wind seethes in the leaves around

me the tree exude night

birds night birds yell inside”

As well as repetition Atwood uses homonyms and synonyms to suggest Webster’s lack of control of her mind, “I was born I have borne I bear I will be born”.

Atwood uses lots of vivid verbs, yet mainly violent ones, “yell” “stabbed” “clench”, suggesting that Atwood is thinking violently. Despite this, some of the verbs are more gentle, “fluttering”, which contrasts heavily with the violent verbs, insinuating confusion. Some verbs also have connotations with ways of killing witches, “dangle” “drowning” to reiterate the theme of the poem.

6am

The voice of this section is calmer, and talks almost as if Webster is having a timeless out of body experience, “Time is relative,”. The section is split into 6 short stanzas, which shows that Webster has regained control of her mind, she is less confused. 

There are again references to nature, yet Atwood remarks that the sun is “no longer a simile for God” – showing that Webster is questioning her faith (reminding me of Wilfred Owen’s ‘Futility’). Later on, in the fourth stanza of this section Atwood mixes the semantic field of religion and the semantic field of science to show how Webster is doubting everything, “listening to the gospel of the red-hot stars”.

The use of language and punctuation in the stanzas suggest that time is slowing down, like an out of body experience, “when you drift in space”. The use of verbs and abstract nouns highlights the odd, almost hallucinogenic nature of this experiene (reminding me of “Bayonet Charge” by Ted Hughes), “Pinpoints of infinity riddle my brain a revelation of deafness”.

Atwood talks about death, and how Webster hasn’t died physically, her hair hasn’t “turned white”, but she has died spiritually, her “heart” is gone, “bleached out”, suggesting that she has lost all of her love and goodness due to the hate of others.

Atwood writes:

“At the end of my rope”

This is a common feature of Atwood’s poetry in which she twists an idiom. She twists the common idiom ‘at the end of my tether’ which means to get frustrated to refer to the rope that Webster is being hung with. This suggests that Webster may be getting frustrated with life and feels like giving in to the temptation of death, she wants to “testify to silence” – silence being a euphemism for death. Yet in the last two lines of this section Atwood shows that Webster will not give in, saying that she will not only have one death, she “will have two.” The use of language in these last two lines are vain, almost as if Webster is showing off.

Thanks for reading,
Jack

Songs to conjure images.

I personally love to listen to specific pieces of music to relate to ideas in poems. I thought that I would share some pieces of music that have helped me get into the mindset of Yeats and Atwood.

Yeats

Any songs from the battles in Les Misérables helps me envision the revolutionaries in Ireland, but some songs stick out particularly:

Red and Black/Do You Hear the People Sing

These are two songs (one after the other) in which the revolutionaries stir up hope and realise that they can stand up to the French government. ‘Do You Hear the People Sing’ (sometimes referred to as ‘The People’s Song’) is a classic tune which embodies the spirit of revolutionaries and has been used in many protests and strikes. It illustrates the point that people will not stand by and let bad things happen any more, which helps associate it in my head with the Irish Revolution in some of Yeats’ poetry.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7cZ8VkQStMk

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Do You Hear the People Sing (Reprise)

This song is sung at the end of Les Mis – taking place in heaven, with all the dead revolutionaries singing about heaven and the afterlife, which conveys messages in ‘The Cold Heaven’ and the idea of wasted lives in ‘Easter 1916’. When I hear it I can imagine Wolfe, Emmet, Tone, Markiewicz, Pearse etc singing among them.

Atwood

This song is specific to ‘Half Hanged Mary’ and is from the musical Wicked. I feel that the persecution of Webster in the poem is parallel to the persecution of Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) in Wicked. This song is called ‘March of the Witch Hunters’ and is the Witch hunters (lead by Boq/the Tin Man) singing about their hunt. I feel it personifies the ‘show of hate’ against Webster.

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If you want to listen to more music of the same type, Les Mis, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera & The Lion King are my personal favourites!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this music! 

Jack

An Analysis of Half-Hanged Mary by Margaret Atwood – From 7pm til 10pm

‘Half-Hanged Mary’ is a poem detailing the unsuccessful hanging of Mary Webster, a woman accused of being a witch due to her “cure for warts” and her gender. The poem’s main focus is witchcraft and the persecution of women. It is a ballad with irregular stanza lengths, showing that we don’t know whether she will live. It is a first person narrative, from the thoughts of Webster herself. The poem is separated into hours, showing that the thoughts are over a long period of time, and also showing the fact that Mary is ‘half-hanged’ – she hasn’t died.

7pm

This set of stanzas details the rumours leading up to Webster’s accusation. The idea that “Rumour was loose in the air” gives the image and impression of a gas, yet the word “hunting” gives it a purpose, a malevolent nature, as if this gas is poisonous and isn’t hovering harmlessly, but sweeping over a village. The use of the words “neck” and “loose”  already conjure up images associated with hanging. It is ironic that Webster is participating in a pastoral act of nurture at this time, “milking the cow”, showing that she is responsible and not evil.

The use of imagery in stanza 2 shows that words can be used as weapons :”the aimed word”, “soft bullet”, almost alluding to the idiom ‘The pen is mightier than the sword” – that words can be more of a weapon  than any physical weapon. Atwood also subtly mentions two other methods of death in this stanza, “like water” – the idea of witches being drowned, and “thrown stone” – the idea of witched being stoned to death. 

Stanzas 3 and 4 detail why she was sentenced to hang. “A surefire cure for warts” shows that she was lucky in helping someone get rid of warts and was thus thought of as a witch. This is ironic as if she were a doctor or a priest it would be considered medical, or miraculous – yet because she is a woman who lives “alone” she is persecuted. She then highlights the fact that she is accused of being a witch because she is a woman, “and breasts”. The imagery of a “sweet per hidden in my body” representing the womb also highlights her feminine nature, but also conjures up images of the Biblical idea of forbidden fruit. 

8pm

These stanzas detail the actual act of hanging her. Atwood starts by saying that the “rope” was an “improvisation” – suggesting that they’d use a more brutal act of “axes” if they had thought about it. The use of the word “improvisation” and later on “show of hate” makes the whole thing sound like a piece of drama, a piece of theatre, highlighting the fact that in those days hangings were public entertainment. 

Atwood uses several images to describe her ascent, “a windfall in reverse”. The phrase “a flag raised to salute the moon” references the common belief at the time of Mary Webster that witch’s powers came from the moon. The image “a blackened apple stuck back onto the tree” has several connotations. The idea of a “blackened apple” gives ideas of black magic and the idea that magic can make you rotten. The “tree” also gives Biblical ideas of the Tree of Life, the birthplace of sin. Atwood also raises the idea of original sin by using the phrase “old original”.

“Their own evil turned inside out like a glove

and me wearing it.”

This image shows that it’s the executors who are evil, not Webster’s – yet she is the one that the public believe is evil. This is very powerful and conveys the message perfectly.

9pm

This selection of stanzas shows the reaction of the people and Webster’s reaction to them. She describes the puritans (“the bonnets”) and the nuns/priests (“the dark skirts”) as “lipless” – showing that they’re too scared to speak in case they associate themselves with the witch as they think “Birds of a feather burn together”. Atwood has deliberately twisted an idiom into this for effect. 

Atwood shows that Webster was a helpful woman, curing babies and helping those with unwanted ones, the “non-wife” who needed an abortion to “save” her life. And yet these people do not help her, not even offering a “hand, “bread” or a “shawl”. These three items conjure up Christian ideas, especially of the parable of the goats and the sheep. Atwood almost mocks the religious by saying “Lord knows” – these people are religious to the bone, and yet they’re selfish, they “need it all” and do not help Webster.

 

Thanks for reading,

Jack

A Chilly Paradise (An analysis of ‘The Cold Heaven’ by W.B. Yeats)

The whole of ‘The Cold Heaven’ is a dramatic metaphor for Yeats’ emotion, having realised that Maud Gonne (the love of his life) will probably never accept him. The poem is a 1st person narrative, with one stanza of free verse. Enjambment makes the poem sound like a rush of thoughts, as does the irregularity of the line lengths, yet this also gives Yeats space to explain his emotions. The fact that the poem itself is short reflects the fact that Yeats now believes life is short, his life has ended now that Gonne has gone. It is made up of one sentence of Yeats looking up at the sky and pondering about unrequited love and then another reflecting on the idea of the afterlife. The poem is in a Romantic style, heavily influenced and inspired by the works of other poets, such as William Blake.

The title itself is a paradox, heaven should be seem warm and gentle, whereas the use of the word “cold” makes it sound harsh. “Cold” is also the equal and opposite to the ‘hot’ of hell. This title immediately shows that Yeats opinion of heaven has changed now he’s lost Gonne, he imagined he would spend eternity with her there, but now it just seems lonely.

The poem brings you straight into the Yeats’ thoughts with the use of the word “Suddenly” and immediately expresses how Yeats’ opinion of heaven has changed as he has lost Gonne, “rook delighting heaven”. The rook is a death omen, which makes it sound like heaven is delighted by death. Yeats also refers to his relationship with Gonne by using an oxymoron:

“ice burned”

This seems doubly torturous, two extremes linking together. This could be interpreted as symbolising the idea that some relationships do not work, such as his relationship with Gonne.

Yeats refers back to the times he had with Gonne, of the “memories” they’d shared. He reflects back on the “hot blood of youth” – showing how he was much more energetic and passionate when he believed Gonne may have loved him back. Now he has realised that this is not the case, he has lost any energy or passion he previously possessed. Yeats also references “love crossed long ago” which could refer to the fact that his love of Gonne just passed her, she didn’t notice it, yet it could be alluding to the ‘star crossed lovers’: Romeo and Juliet in the works of Shakespeare. 

This poem could almost be seen as a symbolisation for sexual purgatory, as Yeats is not able to now engage in sexual activites with Gonne, and so he uses a variety of sexual terms, “hot blood”, “cried and trembled”, “rocked to and fro”.

Yeats questions his faith in the last few lines, suggesting that people only seem to accept things “as the books say” – a reference to the Bible and the strict faith of the Catholics at the time. He then questions God himself, talking about the “injustice of the skies” – almost saying; ‘Who is God to judge us?’. The poem ends with a rhetorical question, which shows that there is no answer to life – only questions.

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Thanks for reading,

Jack

Yeats in 2012/2013

This blog is such a good resource for AS Literature for WB Yeats! Check it out!

aterriblebeautyisborn

A new academic year will see many new (and some old!) students sitting the OCR AS English exam on W.B Yeats. We are here to help your study and we always appreciate your comments on our revision notes. If you have great ideas (or want to challenge some of our ideas!) please leave comments on our pages; your comments will only add to the quality of this resource. All comments are subject to moderation.

 

 

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Poet Vs Poet…

Actually love this interpretation of the task
By the way – title similarities were apparently completely coincidental!

The Room of Requirement.

Writing styles of different poets differentiate which is also the case for both Margaret Atwood and Carol Ann Duffy. They are both different, but very easy to recognise once you understand some of their techniques.

Margaret Atwood.

One of Atwood’s strongest techniques is the way in which she uses her grotesque verbs and nouns for example: ‘jammed’; ‘broken’; ‘ripped sack’ and ‘scraped the flesh’.

Along with her use of grotesque verbs and nouns she also uses ampersand to highlight how close the words are with their meaning ‘perfect & intact’ and also ‘raped & pregnant’, this portrays the maturity of her writing and also perceives the close relationship between the two words either side of the ampersand.

Another technique Atwood uses is that of her enjambment she uses this in a way which allows her lines to flow into one another, but keeps her versus separate. This then highlights that…

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A Woman’s Issue

‘A Woman’s Issue’ is a poem by Margaret Atwood which focuses on Atwood’s negative opinion of rape and abuse in war. The poem is split into 6 stanzas, giving four different gruesome images and then ending on a reflection. The poem is spoken as if someone is describing objects in a museum, “Exhibit A”. This conveys the fact that in some cultures women are objectified by men. The language is very simple and blunt, almost emotionless, so that anyone can read it and understand Atwood’s message. The blunt language could almost be seen as scientific and emotionless to show that men do not have sympathy for the women they rape, “The ones that die are carefully buried.” . Through this poem Atwood questions whether wars are fought for sex, “Is this why wars are fought?”.

The title immediately makes the reader think. The use of the word “Issue” in the title ‘A Woman’s Issue’ is a homonym, the phrase ‘a woman’s issue’ in medieval times was used to mean a woman’s time of the month, but the word ‘issue’ means a problem. This automatically makes the reader assume that the fact that women get pregnant is a problem.

Atwood uses grotesque descriptions to describe the abuse the girls received, “the spiked device”. The main device that makes these descriptions so graphic are the verbs; “jammed”, “scrape”, these show the pain that the women went through. As well as this the women are de-humanised, referred to as ‘exhibits’, they are objects there for man’s pleasing, “Men like tight women.”

Another device that Atwood uses is the use of ambiguous language. Atwood refers to a woman with “a net window”, probably referring to a veil, yet also conjures up images of being trapped in a net, a metaphor for women being trapped in their gender, not able to reach their full potential. The fifth stanza has lots of ambiguous language in it, comparing war to rape, and birth to death, “no man’s land to be entered furtively”, “doctor’s rubber gloves greasy with blood, flesh made inert”. The whole of the fifth stanza is a reflection on the fact that all these things are due to what is “between the legs”, and Atwood questions whether sex is “why wars are fought”.

The last stanza reveals that “This is no museum,”. Until now we assume that these horrific acts are tales of history, and yet Atwood now reminds us that these things still happen today. This is one of the main messages of the poem, that rape and abuse in war still occurs today, and that “love” is not part of it.

Thanks for reading,

Jack

Poet vs Poet (A title that sounds like a Cheesy educational TV Show)

The writing styles of Margaret Atwood and Carol Ann Duffy are very different yet both very recognisable. In this piece of writing I will attempt to convey their writing styles to you.

Atwood

Margaret Atwood mainly talks about women’s rights in a variety of forms, and whether it be rape, abortion, education or voice they all share common features.

The main device that Atwood uses throughout almost all of her poetry is that of grotesque imagery. Most of the poems of hers that I have read include at least one snapshot of a gruesome story, using graphic images, “punctured herself with kitchen skewers”. The main device that makes these descriptions so vivid is the use of graphic verbs, “scrape”, “jammed”,”ripped”. Aswell as this these words are slightly onomatopoeic which gives the reader a sound to associate with their mental image. 

Another feature of Atwood’s poetry is her use of punctuation. Throughout most of her poetry the punctuation is sparse and enjambment is heavily used. In “Christmas Carols” Atwood mainly starts sentences in the middle of lines to give a theme that the topic still goes on today, not only being held in the past. Despite the enjambment Atwood always capitalises at the beginning of each line.

 

Duffy

I personally haven’t read much of Carol Ann Duffy’s poetry, yet the two poems I have read, “Havisham” and “Valentines” both have similar techniques used. Both are on the topic of love but have contrasting stances. “Havisham” is about a woman in an unhappy marriage, whereas “Valentines” is about a woman who wants to find the right way to express her love – albeit in an unconventional way.

A main feature in “Havisham” is enjambment, with sentences running over lines both within stanzas and even over stanzas giving the whole poem a disjointed feeling, just like the marriage that is obviously not due to love, “hate behind a white veil;”. Duffy, in contrast to Atwood, doesn’t capitalise the beginning of a line unless it’s the beginning of a sentence. Duffy uses punctuation less sparsely than Atwood, “slewed mirror, full length, her, myself,” and also uses very short sentences to emphasise a point, “Take it.”.

Duffy also uses specific semantic fields, for example in “Valentines” she uses the semantic field of love; “possessive and faithful”. As well as this she uses onomatopeia, “Bang”, this can have different effects, surprising the reader, or even recreating sounds, such as “the heart that b-b-b-breaks”. The extended ‘b’s replicate the sound of a heartbeat.

Lets go deeper. An analysis of ‘Christmas Carols’ and ‘Spelling’

Yesterday in class we gave a further look into some of Margaret Atwood’s poetry. I found this extremely helpful and I’m going to share some new-found knowledge of two of these poems.

‘Spelling’

‘Spelling’ is a poem that focuses mainly on the impact of education, especially in the eyes of a female. The title is a simple way of expressing the fact that women need education – they need a voice. The whole poem is a reflection from an educated mother who’s observing her child play, it moves from a description of the scene to a more philosophical reflection. There is a strong rhythm in this poem, with sparse punctuation and lots of enjambment that emphasises certain words. There are nine stanzas of varying lengths, from one line to ten, this instability shows Atwood’s opinion that women are less stable without education.

The poem starts with the mother describing her daughter playing – the first words, “My daughter” establishes the voice of the poem, and gives the whole poem a more personal feel. Atwood describes the “plastic letters” simply, “red, blue & hard yellow”. These are primary colours which can be used to make every colour, like letters are used to make every word. The use of the ampersand (&) joins the colours together, and shows that they’re associated with each other. At the end of this stanza Atwood uses the phrase, “how to make spells” which is a direct reference to Mary Webster – a woman accused of being a witch. This highlights Atwood’s opinion that spelling, education, and reading is magical, while also referencing the persecution of women.

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The next stanza leaves the scene and turns into a reflection. Atwood asks how many women “denied themselves daughters” so they could learn – referring to the fact that many women have to give up education to have children and get married. My favourite Margaret Atwood phrase is in the last line of this stanza:

“so they could mainline words”

This suggests that the women who choose education over children take in words like a drug, yet they’re not smoking it or snorting it – they’re ‘mainlining’ it – taking it straight to the bloodstream. Similarly the next stanza also highlights the fact that in some cultures you can’t have both education and children, “A child is not a poem, a poem is not a child.” A poem is abstract, a work of art, yet a child is physical, it grows up and is demanding.

Atwood then returns “to the story” – giving a snapshot of a grotesque image, about a woman “in labour, her legs tied together by the enemy so she could not give birth”. This is a true story which makes the reader feel horrified – it was a Nazi experiment on Jewish women. This could be interpreted as a metaphor for women not being allowed to speak, just like this woman was not allowed to give birth. The next image given is another reference to Mary Webster, “the burning witch”. Her mouth is “covered” by a “leather” strap to “strangle words” – another representation of the society of some cultures preventing women’s voices being heard.

The next stanza is short:

“A word after a word

after a word is power” 

This gives a very simple message – as a child learns, so does his/her outlook on the world, and his/her knowledge grows too. This could be a reference to the common idiom, ‘knowledge equals power’, and so as these women learn “word after a word” they become more powerful. The phrase could also be viewed as an excuse to be burning the witch – the people who burnt her at the stake didn’t want her ideas to continue, and didn’t want her to become more powerful.

The next stanza is the longest and is a long image, comparing the witch burning to a volcano. Atwood talks about “language” falling “away from the hot bones” – the woman’s ideas are now gone – she is dead. Atwood then graphically describes the intense heat of the fire, using language that makes us think of a volcano – “where the rock breaks open”, “at the melting point of granite”. At the end of this stanza Atwood says that “the body itself becomes a mouth” – this shows that the dead body tells a story – deterring other women from making the same ‘mistake’ of using their voice – but also the story that many people are scared of women using their voices.

Atwood then singles out one fact to be a one line stanza:

“This is a metaphor”

This is an obvious fact, though the words tie in with the idea of literacy and education, the uneducated wouldn’t know what a metaphor is and so she’s explaining it. She then asks a rhetorical question, “How do learn to spell?” and answers it immediately, “Blood, sky & the sun”. I interpreted this in two ways – you learn from your surroundings, the “sky and sun”, pointing things out and asking your family, your “blood” . She then repeats the words “your first” making it personal to the reader, talking about your first words, “your own name first” – highlighting that your name is a large part of you, and then ends with “your first word” – an important moment in a child’s life.

 

‘Christmas Carols’

The focus of the poem ‘Christmas Carols’ is abortion and women’s rights. The poem is almost a monologue – but is a reply. It is a direct address to the anti-abortion lobby in the USA, the voice being someone who is campaigning for women to have the right to abort their child. There is enjambment all through this poem, most of the sentences actually start in the middle of lines, giving a rhythm and a theme that the sentences run through, showing that the horrific things discussed in the poem are still going on today.

The title itself contradicts the attitudes in the poem, ‘Christmas Carols’ makes it sound jolly and festive, yet actually it is the opposite, suggesting that the holy birth was unique, not all births are as holy as Jesus’. The poem begins with a statement that directly challenges the anti-abortion lobby:

“Children do not always mean hope. To some they mean despair.”

This is a reference to the holy birth, which gave hope to the people of Israel who were told that the Saviour had been born.

The poem continues immediately with a grotesque image of “This woman”. The use of the word ‘this’ points directly to the scene and the “woman” herself, establishing a relationship between her and the reader. The reader is then shocked by the fate of the woman, who had her “hair cut off so she could not hang herself”. Having a woman’s hair removed is the ultimate act of humiliation, it removes them of their gender, a woman’s hair is a symbol of their femininity. Atwood then tells us that she’s “thirty times raped & pregnant” – the use of the ampersand makes the two run as one, the rape and pregnancy were simultaneous due to the lack of contraception.

Atwood then gives us another example, she uses the phrase “This one” not “This woman” to de-humanise them, like the men did to them when they raped and abused them, they were objects to them. The fact that this woman’s pelvis was “broken by hammers” makes her seem even more like an object. Another example is given, of a woman who “punctured herself with kitchen skewers” to self abort. She’d prefer to do this than “bear again”, the use of the word bear is ambiguous, meaning both bear as in to give birth and bear as in to tolerate giving birth to a rapist’s child, and tolerate both emotionally/financially. The use of the phrase “past the limit” could be a reference to the one-child policy in China. This is immediately broadened out with the rhetorical question, “There is a limit, though who knows when it may come?” which could refer to limits emotionally, biologically and financially. Another shocking grotesque image is shown, with the idea of “small wax corpses” in “ditches” – children who were literally dumped as the mother couldn’t handle any more. 

Atwood then refers to nature, “the mother eats her young” saying that there’s even a form of abortion in nature, and so says to those at the anti-abortion lobby to “think twice” before they “worship turned furrows” – so that they don’t think that nature is perfect. Atwood says that abortion “too is Nature.”   

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Atwood also tells them to think twice before they “single out one girl to play the magic mother” which is a reference to the Virgin Mary – a woman considered “magic” due to the fact that she was pregnant and a virgin. Atwood identifies Mary by saying that she’s in “blue & white”, the traditional Catholic uniform for Mary, and then says that she’s on a “pedestal”.  The use of the word ‘pedestal’ is ambiguous, it references both to the literal pedestal a statue would stand on, and the idea that she is considered better than most women as she was a pregnant virgin. She is “perfect & intact”, a virgin, and “distinct from those who aren’t” – this is Atwood challenging Catholics who say that a woman’s job is to procreate and produce good Catholic children, and yet those who have had sex seem to be considered ‘not perfect’, almost sinful.

Atwood then says that motherhood is a matter of “food and available blood” – saying that all a baby needs is food and it’s family, it’s blood relations. This could be a reference to many men going off to fight in wars, and so mother’s struggled. Then Atwood directly challenges the anti-abortion lobby, saying that if “mother hood is sacred, put your money where your mouth is.” – suggesting that they should make every pregnancy a wanted one, an impossible task. She then mocks them slightly, saying that what they want, what they “sing about” would be some kind of “miracle” – a day “when every child is a holy birth” which is a direct reference to Christmas, as there’s only been one holy birth – the birth of Jesus. 

 

Thanks for reading,

Jack

An analysis of Easter 1916

‘Easter 1916’ is a poem written by W.B. Yeats about the Easter Rising, where Irish Revolutionaries tried to prevent Great Britain ruling over Ireland. Many of the leaders were executed for their part, and this poem is almost an elegy for them. The 1st and 3rd stanzas have 16 lines to represent 1916, the 2nd and 4th stanzas have 24 lines to represent April 24 , the day the rising started. There are 4 stanzas to represent April, the 4th month. 

Yeats uses a first person narrative in the first stanza to show his opinion of the people he sees on his journey, this emphasises that it’s his personal view. The poem immediately begins with Yeats differentiating himself from “them” – the “vivid faces” of young revolutionaries. He talks to them with “polite meaningless words” showing that he thinks they’re insignificant. Yeats also mocks them, while walking he thinks of a “mocking tale or a gibe” to tell his friends at “the club”. He also calls the revolutionaries clowns, “where motley is worn” which shows he has little respect for them. At the end of this stanza Yeats uses an oxymoron:

“A terrible beauty is born.”

The ‘terrible beauty’ is the revolution, it is terrible as it will cause bloodshed and needless death, but it is beautiful as it is uniting Ireland and creating a common dream of independence.

The second stanza is elegiac, talking of three leaders of the revolution who died (and one who didn’t). Yeats firstly speaks of a “woman”, Constance Markiewicz, a revolutionary and politician. Yeats obviously doesn’t think highly of her – calling her “ignorant”. He also condemns her for spending her “nights in argument” – I think this means she didn’t fight as much as some, she said her views in secret, at night. The next person Yeats talks about is Pearse, who had “kept a school”, he was both a teacher and writer. Yeats also mentions Pearse’s “helper and friend” MacDonagh. Yeats mentions their jobs to show their humanity – they weren’t just heroes. This also shows that common citizens can make a difference if they rise against conformity.

The last person Yeats mentions in this stanza is described as a “drunken, vainglorious lout”. This person is Major John MacBride who Yeats hated as he was an abusive husband (he had done ‘most bitter wrong’) to his wife Maud Gonne (who was loved by Yeats, was ‘near’ his heart). Yeats puts him “in the song” anyway, overcoming his personal emotion, and shows that MacBride should be respected for helping the cause. He remarks that MacBride has “transformed utterly” – he has overcome his weakness’ and established himself as a hero in the memory of Ireland. He also refers to life as a “casual comedy” – showing how it is undervalued.

The third stanza is heavily based around nature. Yeats uses the imagery of a “stone” that “troubles the living stream”. This is a metaphor for the revolutionaries, they are the stones, they have hard and rigid views, and are troubling the “living stream” of Ireland by starting a revolution. This image could also be interpreted to represent those who are too scared to fight, they are stopping the revolution from succeeding like a stone stops a stream from flowing. Yeats also uses the image of “cloud to tumbling cloud” to represent change, and the “shadow of cloud on a stream” to represent a storm ahead, the revolution. Another image he uses is that of a “horse” that “slides on the brim” of a river, disturbing the natural habitat of the “moor-hens” – also to represent the revolution.

The image of the stone changes in the last stanza to represent how the hearts of the revolutionaries (and to an extent the hearts of Ireland) have been hardened by the fighting:

“Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart,”

Yeats questions when bloodshed is necessary throughout this stanza, “O when may it suffice?”, “Was it needless death after all?”, asking many rhetorical questions to make the reader think. I personally think that there is a very strong message in lines 60 – 64, where he says that it is “our part” to “name” each other “as a mother names her child when sleep at last has come”. I believe that this is a reference to blessing, a mother blessing her child before death, and therefore we must bless the memory of the revolutionaries with respect. Yeats also uses a euphemism (using ‘sleep’ instead of death) backwards to emphasise that it is death we’re discussing, “No, no. not night but death;”. The end of this stanza is a lasting legacy for the leaders of the revolution who were killed. Yeats says that it was their patriotism, their ‘excess of love’ that lead them to their death, and this is almost a warning to the reader, to not be ‘bewildered’ by love for where we live, because it doesn’t always end well. Yeats then lists the names of four leaders who died as a lasting legacy for future readers. He then suggests that whenever and ‘wherever green is worn’ to represent the spirit of Ireland these leaders and the revolutionaries will be remembered and will live on to influence and inspire future generations – they themselves are the ‘terrible beauty’ born in Easter 1916

Thanks for reading,
Jack

Feminism

I bet all the people in my class are sick of seeing posts named ‘Feminism’ but I didn’t want to dwell too much on a more imaginative name! Before I start to talk about feminism ‘properly’ I’m going to share a quote that I enjoyed:

“Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”

Mary Shears

Feminism is a collection of movements that aims at political/social rights for women which includes seeking to establish equal rights for women. 

We’ll start at the beginning (apparently a very good place to start) with Genesis, the Judaic creation story. This is probably the most widely known creation myth in which God creates the world, and then creates man (many mistranslations in the Bible, ‘Adam’ means man, and so Adam was assumed to be his name). He made woman (Eve) second, which is the basis of the sexist idea that women are ‘second-best’. God made man in His image, and so humans were perfect and immortal. Later on, the Snake tempts Eve to eat from the Tree of Life. Eve tempts Adam and God gets angry, strips them of their ‘immortality’ and banishes them from the perfect Garden of Eden. The fact that Eve got tempted by the snake and the attitudes that followed are the Biblical, cultural, social and historic reason for women being treated as inferior.

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In Biblical times women were either pre-pubescent, or married and thus pregnant a lot of the time. Women who had been through puberty and didn’t marry were unwanted in these times as they had a period, they were banned from places of worship as there were no toiletries so literally stank due to it.

Traditional jobs for women were wife/mother style jobs for widowers who had to look after children. Thus jobs included cleaning, wet-nursing, and  to an extent, prostitution. Until the Industrial Revolution education for girls was mainly for rich girl’s pleasure. Boys were sent to learn skills for their future career, but girls were mainly taught basic skills (sewing, cleaning etc) by their mother. Children of both genders were good in factories – they were small and inexpensive. This meant that girls being educated basic skills by their mother to clean were unnecessary. This meant that during the Industrial Revolution girls started to get a small amount of education, but not as much as the boys as at that time it was believed that girl’s brains were literally smaller.

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women‘ to show that women aren’t inferior, they were only thought of like that due to social and religious attitudes. She gave arguments for equality which triggered off the first wave of feminism.

 The first wave of feminism was the fight to allow women to both vote and go to university. Many women wanted to reach their full potential, e.g. become Doctors, not nurses. This was also due to WW1, many men went to war and so women had to take over their jobs.
The second wave of feminism took place in the 1920s where women tried to be more like men, wearing trousers, smoking, drinking etc. They made themselves practical in the workplace, wearing sensible clothes (i.e. not long dresses in factories) and drove.
The third wave took place in the 1960s and 70s and was when women took control of contraception (oral contraceptives – the morning after pill), this meant they could choose to work, not have children. The 1970s also brought movements for equal pay so that women didn’t have to be dependent on a husband.

Thanks for reading,
Jack

100 years ago…

‘September 1913’ is a poem written and set 100 years ago by W.B. Yeats.

This poem was written as part of the ‘Responsibilities’ collection and is in essence comparing the Ireland of 1913 to ‘Romantic Ireland’ – the Ireland that he loves. The poem itself is a reaction to the apathy of the Irish at the time, many were involved in the bigoted Nationalist movement that Yeats hated. It contains four regular stanzas and has a regular rhythm, this could be interpreted to represent that he wants stability and regularity in Ireland. The language of the poem is very simple and mainly monosyllabic, this is so that the whole country could read and understand it, and Yeats’ message could be heard by all.

The first stanza starts with a direct address to the reader, “What need you,” – the use of the first person means Yeats is talking directly to the greedy Nationalists at the time, it is very personal. In this stanza Yeats mocks the Catholics for being overly pious and actually stealing. They may add “prayer to shivering prayer” but they are actually fumbling in a “greasy till”, taking all of the money. Yeats accuses them of taking the money, and thus the life out of Ireland:

“You have dried the marrow from the bone?”

This is a very vivid image that gives the reader a real sense of how these people are killing Ireland. 

Yeats ends every stanza with:

“Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone,

It’s with O’Leary in the grave”

This phrase is a contrast to the rest of the stanza as it describes the good times. Its repetition emphasises how upset Yeats is and it’s a constant reminder of the past. O’Leary was a politician who was a hero of Ireland that inspired Yeats, and was also a father figure to him. The line suggests that because O’Leary’s dead Ireland is too, as O’Leary isn’t there to guide it.

In the second stanza Yeats immediately differentiates between the people in 1913 and the people in “Romantic Ireland” – “a different kind”. He then references those who fought before as “names that stilled your childish play” which could suggest that the fighters were taught about in school or even sung about in nursery rhymes.  Unfortunately these people and what they had fought for have been forgotten, “They have gone around the world like wind”. Yeats then condemns the pious Catholics by saying that the fighters had “little time” to pray, as they were fighting for Ireland, basically saying that they actually did something, not just act holy. Yeats also implies that the Catholics should be ashamed for hiding behind their faith and being greedy, as the Saints and heroes they look up to were martyrs who died for what they believed in:

“For whom the hangman’s rope was spun,”

Yeats then suggests that what they did couldn’t save Ireland, “what, God help us, could they save?” – this makes me think that the Nationalists were ruining the great reputation of Ireland.

In the third stanza Yeats references the men who fought abroad, “the wild geese spread” and questions why they fought, as nothing was achieved, and so many died “all that blood was shed”. Yeats also mentions three heroes “Edward Fitzgerald”, “Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone” who died for Ireland, and in Yeats’ opinion died in vain. He then suggests that all that effort was for nothing, “All that delirium of the brave?” as the people of 1913 haven’t learned from what the brave men of the past had suffered.

In the fourth stanza Yeats changes his stance. Yeats says that he doesn’t want the past to come back, he doesn’t want the fallen dead, Fitzgerald, Emmet or Tone to return because they’d be disgusted to see what had happened to Ireland after all the “loneliness and pain” they went through. Yeats suggests that they would think “some woman’s yellow hair” had distracted all the men – as everything had gone so badly downhill. He ends the poem on the lines:

“But let them be, they’re dead and gone,

They’re with O’Leary in the grave”

This makes the reader realise that even though he loved the past, he doesn’t want to think about it too much as it saddens him when he returns to 1913. 

Thanks for reading,

Jack

 

 

 

Defining Margaret Atwood…

Today I read three Margaret Atwood poems, ‘Spelling’, ‘Christmas Carols’ and ‘A Woman’s Issue’.
These three poems all have the same overall theme, mistreatment of women and rape in war. Aswell as this they all use similar features (not surprising as they’re all written by the same writer).

The titles are used cleverly in all three poems. The use of the word “Issue” in the title ‘A Woman’s Issue’ is a homonym, the phrase ‘a woman’s issue’ in medieval times was used to mean a woman’s time of the month, but the word ‘issue’ means a problem. This automatically makes the reader assume that the fact that women get pregnant is a problem.

The title ‘Christmas Carols’ has connotations with festive times and joy, though the poem is much more serious. Throughout the poem there are references to Christmas, and the constant reminder that children are not always “holy”, and they don’t always mean good things, a direct references to unwanted pregnancies due to rape.

“Children don’t always mean hope. To some they mean despair.”

Later on in ‘Christmas Carols’ they also reference Mary, the mother of Jesus, another association with Christmas, “the magic mother, in blue and white,”. In my opinion Atwood could be drawing a comparison between the raped pregnant women and the pregnant Mary, both of whom were not pregnant by choice, though this comparison is quickly removed as Mary is described as “distinct” from those who aren’t as “perfect and intact” as her, “everyone else”.

Atwood uses very grotesque language and graphic imagery to emphasise how badly the women are treated, “…her pelvis broken by hammers”. Atwood especially uses graphic verbs to give the reader a sense of how much pain is inflicted by ‘the enemy’, “punctured”, “scrape”. This makes the reader have sympathy for the women. This kind of language contrasts with the almost scientific, blunt language used when describing women as ‘exhibits’. This objectifies the women and makes them sound disposable, just playthings for the men. In all of these poems men are referenced negatively, “eighty men a night” rape one girl – which shows how girls were treated as nothing.

The poem ‘A Woman’s Issue’ uses a lot of ambiguous language, used to describe both rape and war at the same time, “No man’s land, to be entered furtively,” aswell as death and childbirth, “doctor’s rubber gloves greasy with blood,” – this shows how war was intertwined with rape, rape was a normal thing to do to the enemy during war.

Margaret Atwood makes the reader empathise with the victims of these horrific war crimes which is what I think makes her poems so poignant, she evokes emotion, which is her greatest tool in conveying her opinion to the reader.

Thanks for reading,
Jack

What is Literature?

What is Literature?

A small question with a massive answer.

Literature portrays the attitude of the writer more often than what the writer is talking about. For example Steinbeck, in writing ‘Of Mice and Men’, wasn’t just telling the story of George and Lennie, he was also displaying his own personal opinions on the life of itinerant workers and American life at that particular time. This topic reminds me of what I consider a ‘classic Ms Morgan life advice rant’ – in which she instructed the class that:

“People don’t say bad things to you because you’re bad, they say bad things because they’re bad”

Similarly when you read a piece of literature you are reading an opinion, you’re both forming your own while taking into account someone elses. Each individual writer has their own way of conveying their opinions and ideas, each writer has their style. This style is a collection of writing characteristics and techniques that could tell an educated mind who wrote it. To use Steinbeck as an example again, if I read another novel with lengthy descriptive passages setting the scene at the beginning of each chapter I could easily assume Steinbeck had written it. Each person’s style is like a different way of cooking something, I might add a different spice or cook something in a certain way that I prefer, which makes it uniquely different to any others.

Thanks for reading,
Jack

Welcome !

Well isn’t this exciting!

English Literature Rules

Well done finding our class blog.

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We are a Year 12 English Literature class studying the OCR A level syllabus. This blog is administered by one of our English Literature teachers: you can see and follow our individual blogs listed on this page. The best posts will be reblogged here.

Our individual blogs are intended to be online ‘scrap books’ of thoughts, ideas and interesting personal research to enhance our understanding and enjoyment of the novels, plays and poetry we will be studying in class. We hope you enjoy the range of posts and hopefully some lively discussions.

Year 12 Students: to introduce yourselves to each other, please post a few sentences about a novel, poem or play you have read or seen recently. Try to encourage others to read or see this text.

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Another one.

Another set of YouTube videos that you probably don’t care about but I think is worth a watch if you’re a literature geek. This may not have much to do with my course, but is a modern adaptation of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen developed by Hank Green (brother of John Green, co-founder of Vlogbrothers, and founder of DFTBA records). ‘The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’ is basically the story of Elizabeth but set in modern day and using a ‘vlog’ (video blog) style. 
I haven’t watched all of them yet (there are 100 episodes in all) but I know my friends in my Lit class will like it, and my teacher will too, so I thought it’d be good to introduce all my dear reader chums to it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KisuGP2lcPs&list=SP6690D980D8A65D08 

And I know. Second post in one day. I’m getting obsessed with this blogging lark!

Thanks for reading,

Jack

 

 

A few sentences..

So my English teacher just posted to write ‘a few sentences’ about our favourite poem, play or novel and I thought I’d do a little bit about my favourites!

My favourite series of books is the ‘Harry Potter’ series. People seem to assume that these are almost children’s books, and thus lack a great deal of substance, but I personally believe we can find many mature messages throughout the series as a whole, and the books individually. If my readers are lucky they may even find a few essays I wrote about various elements Harry Potter last year on this blog over the coming weeks, the result of me and a friend telling our Head of Year we’d be able to write a good essay based on them. I personally find the Harry Potter series to be a great creation as the world is mixed with our own. I love books in which there is a world to be immersed in, which I really am when it comes to the Wizarding World that JK Rowling so brilliantly created.

(Hufflepuff – if anyone was wondering)

Another author I am a great fan of is John Green – who I originally discovered through his shared Youtube channel, Vlogbrothers. He has written a wide variety of books of which I enjoy including ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ (TFiOS) and ‘An Abundance of Katherines'(AAoK). Both are superbly written and Green himself is a massive nerd – so most of his writing is based on nerdy things. TFiOS is based on two cancer patients falling in love through a book, so there are many literature references, and AAoK is about a heartbroken young boy trying to find a mathematical theorem for love throughout a roadtrip with his friend. Aswell as this both of them are very funny.

I know this was meant to be a few sentences and I went on a bit of a roll, so this not be fitting to the criteria my teacher wanted, but I really enjoyed writing it and showing my appreciation of these great books.
And for the reference – my favourite play is the musical Wicked (but I won’t go on about that one like I did with the others)

Thanks for reading,

Jack

Er…. hello.

The site is telling me to create my first blog post – so I assume that’s what I’ll have to do.
Great.
This is basically a blog to go alongside my A Level English Literature course, so you can expect me to be ranting and raving about various books and poems! I figured it’d be a good idea to post a Youtube Channel because I know my English Teacher will love it and I rather enjoy it myself! This channel does a series on English Literature – and is presented by one of my favourite authors: John Green, author of ‘The Fault in our Stars’, ‘An Abundance of Katherines’, ‘Looking for Alaska’ and many others!

Here is the first of the series:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSYw502dJNY

Jack