A Work of Artifice by Marge Piercy | Poetry Analysis

a work of artifice

The meaning of Piercy’s poem is simple. It uses metaphor to show how the female gender role can confine women and stop them from reaching their full potential.

“The bonsai tree / in the attractive pot / could have grown eighty feet tall” A bonsai tree can grow to be quite large. But when it’s in the pot it can only grow so big, especially when it’s branches and leaves are being trimmed away at.

This is also true for many women throughout history who were regulated to domestic life. They were kept in a nice, pretty house but it kept them from growing. “Growing” mainly means it kept them from expanding their knowledge and succeeding in the outside world.

The women may have been well-taken care of, but much like the bonsai tree, they couldn’t grow beyond what the “Gardener” allowed.

Again, the bonsai tree gets to live in a pretty pot and the woman gets a pretty house. Because of this many would tell them they are lucky as seen with this line: “how lucky, little tree, / to have a pot to grow in.” But this isn’t true because they aren’t able to choose their own path.

I think the poem is saying that there should be a matter of choice. But instead, women were trained from the very beginning to be confined the home.  In order for them to expand their minds and intellect they need the opportunity to succeed outside of that.

This is why there is a mention of the “Crippled brain,” by limiting the options the brain can only know domestic skills. The poem is showing that women have the potential to go beyond that, and they should have the right to do so.

 

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Eliza Haywood (c.1693-1756) | Author Exploration

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Eliza Haywood (1693? – 1756) was a prolific British author of the 18th century. She published over 70+ works, and was primarily known as a novelist. Many details of her life seem to be disputed, including the year she was born.

Haywood enjoyed a successful writing career. Her first and most famous novel, was Love in Excess. However, she did eventually fall into obscurity and wasn’t rediscovered until the 1980s.

The most important part of her legacy is that she helped to innovate the romance novel. This can be seen because Love in Excess has a lot of the tropes you find in modern historical romance novels.

Fantomina; or Love in a Maze is another important work of hers – it’s a short story that follows a woman that takes on various identities to observe how differently a man will treat her. This was the first work I read by her – I thought it was enjoyable to read although it did end poorly.

Throughout the story the power of female sexuality is shown but by the end it becomes a typical fallen woman story. However, I wouldn’t say the story is all that pro-woman anyway since the main character is a woman desperate for the attention and validation of a man.

Fantomina along with Love in Excess probably get studied the most. Although, you can find some of her other work in anthologies and such.

Even though some scholars are fascinated by Haywood, I’ve noticed that reaction to her work online seems to be mixed to negative. For example, Love in Excess has low ratings on both Goodreads and Amazon.

However, I think if you’re interested in women and literature she is a good figure to check out due to the fact she was fairly innovative and successful.

Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women by Aemilia Lanyer | Poetry Analysis

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Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women is a poem by Aemilia Lanyer (1569-1645) that comes from her work Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum and when I first read it I was fascinated – the poem basically makes an argument that blaming all women for Eve’s sin is silly, and that if she is to be blamed then Adam is just as at fault. She also makes a defense for Eve’s actions.

Lanyer is very bold with this work and that’s what I like about it. She turns societal notions about women upside down by using them in her argument.

Here are some excerpts from the poem:

“Till not your indiscretion sets us free,
And makes our former fault much less appear;
Our mother Eve, who tasted of the tree,
Giving to Adam what she held most dear,
Was simply good and had no power to see;
The after-coming harm did not appear:
The subtle serpent that our sex betrayed
Before our plot had laid”

Here, the speaker argues for Even’s innocence – she was ignorant of the consequences and only offered Adam the apple out of love for him.

“But surely Adam cannot be excused;
Her fault though great, yet he was most to blame.
What weakness offered, strength might have refused;
Being lord of all, the greater was his shame;
Although the serpent’s craft had her abused,
God’s holy word ought all his actions frame;
For he was lord and king of all the earth,
Before poor Eve had either life or breath,”

So, basically Adam is more at fault because he should have known better. Still, it could be that the speaker’s goal is to show if you’re going to blame one, you can blame the other. The conclusion should be that either both are punished for their actions or no one takes the blame for what another committed.

“Whom, if unjustly you condemn to die,
Her sin was small to what you do commit,
All mortal sins that do for vengeance cry
Are not to be compared unto it;
If many worlds would altogether r try
By all their sins the wrath of God to get,
This sin of yours surmounts them all as far
As doth the sun another little star

The speaker’s argument turns to discussing how it was men who betrayed Jesus — the greatest sin of all.

“Then let us have our liberty again,
And challenge to yourselves no sovereignty.
You came not in the world without our pain,
Make that a bar against your cruelty
Your fault being greater, why should you disdain
Our being your equals, free from tyranny?
If one weak woman did offend,
This sin of yours hath no excuse nor end.”

Again, this emphasis that men have committed a greater sin – and that if women are to be punished for there’s then men should be punished as well.

This poem is a pretty harsh one but I didn’t really get “punish men” out of it, I got the idea that entire groups shouldn’t be punished for the actions of a biblical figure. I imagine this was a radical idea in Lanyer’s time.

Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti | Poetry Analysis

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Goblin Market is probably one of the most interesting and strange poems I have read. I mean it terms of lyricism and prose it doesn’t wow me. But the little story the poem tells and how drips with erotic undertones does.

Come on it’s hard not to think of sexual innuendos when reading this poem. I mean look at this:

“She suck’d and suck’d and suck’d the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore;
She suck’d until her lips were sore;”

I’m not saying this is a bad thing I find it quite entertaining. I even wrote a paper on this poem for one of my classes. It was a psychoanalytic analysis, and wow this poem gave me a lot of material to work with. Now I’m going to write some of my thoughts here.

According to Sigmund Freud’s theory of psychosexual development there are these stages: Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latency, Genital.  A person is supposed to pass by these stages normally, but sometimes if something goes wrong a person can become stuck in one of the early stages.

Now the oral is the first stage and starts in infancy. I bring this up because in Goblin Market there’s a lot of oral fixation going on. Laura, especially has not advanced past the oral stage of development and so her sexual fantasies fixate on it.

The image of Goblins and fruit is childlike imagery – both of the sisters in the poem are naïve and inexperienced. Therefore, their sexual temptations are taking the form of childhood fantasy creatures. Laura is the one who gives into the temptation and Lizzie has save her.

Because of the childishness in association with sex – this is why there is so many references to the mouth within the poem such as the quote above. Here’s some more examples from different parts of the poem:

“Stamp’d upon her tender feet,
Held her hands and squeez’d their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.”

“Lizzie utter’d not a word;
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in:”

“Shaking with aguish fear, and pain,
She kiss’d and kiss’d her with a hungry mouth.”

“Her lips began to scorch,
That juice was wormwood to her tongue,”

And so on. After Laura had given into the goblin’s temptation she begins to rot away – this gives reference to the societal idea that a woman is “used” up after she has given into temptation.

Lizzie has to win back her sister’s virtue – she faces the goblins and is able to refuse their advances. But Lizzie is also a woman in control of her sexuality. She takes what she wants from the goblins and is able to return to her sister.

In the end, sisterhood beats the goblins.

My Favorite Female Writers | International Women’s Day

FAVORITE FEMALE WRITERS

So for International Women’s Day I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite female writers. I looked at how they influenced culture and such for a lot my choices but the list is primarily based on how they influenced me. A couple in the mix aren’t really “influential” on a wide scale but they inspire me in some way. Here is the list:

Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823)

Notable Works: The Mysteries of Udolpho, The Romance of the Forest

Ann Radcliffe doesn’t seem to be read by many readers of today. However, her work was very influential and popular in her own time. She’s basically one of most important writers when it comes to the development of the Gothic Novel. Radcliffe’s work might be hard for modern readers to enjoy but she inspires me due to her great influence on some of the best writers of all time. I’m also a big fan of the Gothic novel myself.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Notable Works: Various Poems

In my eyes, Emily Dickinson is the greatest poet in history. I don’t write a lot of poetry myself but Dickinson still inspires me whether I’m writing a short story, poem or novel. Her poetry has so much freedom but at the same time it’s controlled. That’s something I greatly admire.

Joyce Carol Oates (1938- )

Notable Works: Zombie, Black Water

Zombie is the first book I read by Oates and it’s one of my favorites novels of all time. Joyce has written a wide variety of things but Zombie is my personal favorite. Oates is a great writer that’s clearly not afraid to take risks.

Kate Chopin (1850-1904)

Notable Works: The Awakening, Various Short Stories.

I did a little tribute to Kate Chopin recently: https://mixedupsaydee.wordpress.com/2016/02/28/kate-chopin-tribute/

Elizabeth George Speare (1908-1994)

Notable Works: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Sign of the Beaver

Some may see books like Sign of the Beaver and Witch of Blackbird Pond as the type of books kids are forced to read in school. Well, I don’t believe that. The two books are brilliant by any standard. Children should be reading books with deeper themes and such. I sure didn’t have trouble reading Sign of the Beaver or Blackbird Pond as a kid. They remain my favorites even today.

VC Andrews (1923-1986)

Notable Works: Flowers in the Attic, My Sweet Audrina, Heaven

In some people eyes, VC Andrews’ novels are the epitome of trash fiction. Some may even argue she gives female writers a bad name. However, I feel that Andrews deserves respect as a writer because she knows how to tell an engaging story like no other. In my opinion, her writing is not simply “trash.” She’s one of my favorite writers and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Lauren Oliver (1982- )

Notable Works: Before I Fall, Delirium

Lauren Oliver isn’t just another YA author, as some might view her to be. She is an amazing writer with beautifual prose that knows how to create emotionally complex and amazing characters.

Mary Shelley (1797-1851)

Notable Works: Frankenstein

Even today women are underrepresented in horror fiction.  Since I write horror, it makes me happy to know that a woman wrote one of the most influential novels in horror. This is why I feel obligated to include Shelley within my list.

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965)

Notable Works: The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Shirley Jackson has also had immense influence on horror, so that’s why I include her as well. As a female writer of horror fiction myself, I feel I owe her a great deal of respect.

J.K Rowling (1965 – )

Notable Works: Harry Potter

Harry Potter is an obvious choice on a book list. But Rowling deserves all the respect she gets. It’s amazing that she wrote a series that captivated and influenced so many people.

Kate Chopin Tribute

 

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Kate Chopin (1850-1904) was a writer of short stories and two novels. Her work would fall into the category of realistic fiction/realism. Her short stories were popular during her time but her career went downhill after the publishing of The Awakening due to the novel’s controversial subject matter. However, she was later considered one of the best writers of her time and is often studied in literature classes.

The short stories widely considered her best include: “The Storm”, “The Story of an Hour”, “Desiree’s Baby”, “A Pair of Silk Stockings.”

Kate Chopin wrote two novels, At Fault and The Awakening. At Fault was a critical failure and even today it’s not read or studied very much.

The Awakening was controversial and condemned when published during Chopin’s time because of its themes. The publishing of the novel also ended her career. But the book was later republished and proved to be influential. There’s now a lot of scholarly work that deals with it.

Much of her writing is “local color.” As in it deals with the setting of certain areas in detail. In Chopin’s case, her work often took place in Louisiana and she wrote much about Creole culture.

The themes of her writing often dealt with women’s place in society and how they could rise as individuals.

What does Kate Chopin Mean to me?

I did a full length paper on The Awakening. I was impressed with the novel’s boldness and masterfully woven plot and themes. It’s a short novel yet it has so many layers beneath the surface. Chopin’s work fascinates me so much I love to analyze and explore it.

It seems a lot of casual readers don’t like The Awakening…criticism I often hear is “Edna [The main character] is selfish!” I have the ultimate pretentious response to this: “They just don’t get it.”

Kate Chopin’s short stories interest me a lot as well. My favorites are “Regret”, “Desiree’s Baby”, “The Story of an Hour.” I feel these stories capture her themes and style the best. I like the “The Storm” too but feel it’s overrated…it’s just too “romantic” for my taste.

As for At Fault: Let’s just I can understand why it was never and hasn’t been a success, I am sad to say.

Most of all, I thank Kate Chopin for being one of the first writers to help expand my literary tastes. Exploring The Awakening, made me want to explore other works of literature and see what they hold beneath the surface as well.

The Rights of Women by Anna Barbauld (Poetry Analysis)

Rights Of Woman Anna Baurbauld

Now, upon first glance Barbauld’s poem might seem like she’s empowering women and cheering them on. Well, she’s not. Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743-1825) didn’t support women’s rights activism and this poem is a response to Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Most can probably sense the sarcastic tone by the end of the poem.

But it’s not fair to view Barbauld as petty right off the bat. She seemed to hold pretty pacifist views and was clearly against war. In fact, writing a criticism of Britain’s involvement in war quickly ended her career. So, she likely wanted peace, not for women to be oppressed. She was, after all, seen as an oddity for being a female writer at the time.

It seems like Barbauld just wanted people to get along. “Make treacherous Man thy subject, not thy friend;Thou mayst command, but never canst be free.” This clearly suggests a fear of the ‘oppressed’ rising up only to oppress the other group. This sarcastic line, says she wanted friendship and companionship to be the end goal. She felt that this wasn’t being worked towards. Instead, one was being painted as the oppressor and the other the oppressed. That sort of thinking can oversimplify a situation too much, so her argument isn’t completely invalid.

However, one could argue that pacifist thinking like Barbauld’s is, unfortunately, only ideal and doesn’t work with human nature. But either way, Barbauld’s argument and beliefs are worth listening to.

Also, despite popularity in her time, Barbauld largely fell into obscurity. That was until her and many other female writers were re-discovered by feminist scholars. Irony?