【文讀assignment #3】Biography Speculates Emily Dickinson Had Epilepsy (deadline: 5/8)

A genuis unrecognized in her lifetime, Emily Dickinson is now acknowledged as America's most original poet. Because she never married and rarely went outside her house in the last twenty years of her life, biographers and critics are interested in her mysterious private life and make many speculations about her sexuality and reclusivity. In the following interview, Lyndall Gordon (the author of Lives Likfe Loaded Guns: Emily Dickinson & Her Family's Feuds) talks about the possibility that Dickinson may have been elipeptic, Dickinson's relationship with her brother, her sister-in-law, and her posthumous legacy. Listen carefully and use 200-250 words to write down anything that inspires you.

from npr.org (Fresh Air; July 6, 2010)
A week after Emily Dickinson died in 1886, her younger sister Lavinia opened drawers in the reclusive poet's bedroom and found a veritable treasure trove: nearly 1,800 poems, meticulously crafted by Dickinson during her lifetime.
But the discovery of the poems set off a multi-generational family feud within the Dickinson family over the poet's posthumous publication and her legacy. Writer Lyndall Gordon, a senior research fellow at St. Hilda's College, Oxford, describes the fight between Dickinson's sister-in-law Susan, and Susan's husband's mistress, Mabel Loomis Todd, in a new biography of Dickinson, Lives Like Loaded Guns.
"It would have seemed natural to everyone that Susan, who had been Emily Dickinson's support as a poet and keenest reader, should be the one to edit and publish the poems," Gordon tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "[But] after Emily Dickinson's death, she sent a poem to the foremost New York editor of the day, Richard Watson Gilder ... [and] he rejected Emily Dickinson's poem."
Nine months later, Mabel Loomis Todd — the mistress of Emily Dickinson's brother Austin — took matters into her own hands. Every few days, she typed up several of Dickinson's poems and started to send them to publishers. And she was successful: Four years after Dickinson's death, the first volume of her poetry was published.

Todd heavily edited Dickinson's poems, Gordon says. It wasn't until 1955, when Thomas H. Johnson published the Complete Poems, that Dickinson's writings were published without alteration from the manuscript versions.
Gordon says that several of those unaltered poems offer clues about why Dickinson rarely left her home: She may have had epilepsy. Several of her poems touch on a handicap — and, Gordon says, certain lines within those poems indicate that Dickinson may have had spells.
"I think that we have no way of knowing for certain," Gordon says. "But if it's true, it would explain everything. If there was this stigma associated with epilepsy, the best solution for her would have been for her to remain in what she called 'my father's house.' ... She was protected by her father and by her sister Lavinia. She had a comfortable room. She had the time and space to write poetry. If she had married, she would have had babies every year and many more domestic duties."
Lyndall Gordon has previously written biographies of T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Charlotte Bronte and Mary Wollstonecraft.


【THE CRACKED LAMP CINÉMATÈQUE 電影放映4/24, Tuesday】You, the Living (by Roy Anderson)


放映時間:每週二 18:30 準時放映

放映地點: 人社二館第五講堂 (共五講堂)

主持人: James Callow老師

4/24(二)影片: You, the Living  by Roy Andersson




【文讀assignment #2】Sylvia Plath and the Electra Complex(deadline: 4/25)

In an introduction to "Daddy" prepared for the BBC, Sylvia Plath explained that

"the poem is spoken by a girl with an Electra complex. Her father died while she thought he was God. Her case is complicated by the fact that her father was also a Nazi and her mother very possibly part Jewish. In the daughter the two strains marry and paralyze each other--she has to act out the awful little allegory once over before she is free of it."

The figure of "Electra" used by Plath is a Greek daughter whose relationship to her tyrannical father--Agamemnon, who sacrificed his other daughter, Iphigenia, to Artemis--is erotically charged. After Agamemnon is killed, Electra's mother, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus, abuse Electra because of her loyalty to the memory of her father. Out of her hatred toward her mother and her love for her father, Electra urges her exiled brother to return and to kill Clytemnestra and Aegisthus.

The conflation of Agamemnon-father-Hitler-husband is both haunting and powerful in "Daddy," in which the pull of patriarchy is so strong that the daughter/speaker needs to kill her father/husband in order to free herself from them. However, even when she has resolved to kill her father, she is still half in love with him. Use 200-250 words to describe/analyze some lines or imageries that for you illustrate this emotional ambivalence.


【英史assignment #3】Taboo and Transgression: Forster and Woolf (deadline: 4/24)

The desire to shape a docile body based on notions of "discipline," "repression" or "exclusion" always produces an opposite effect--the return of the repressed. For modernist writers who long for intellectual/spiritual/sexual freedom, the Victorian conceptions of the family, education, and religion are abominably oppressive. Reacting against these restrictions, they seek to break taboos and to uncover the dimensions of the repressed and the distorted. In Conrad's Heart of Darkness, we see how the hitherto unchallenged Western imperialism and its "civilizing mission" are unmasked and revealed to be despicably evil and corrupt; in Forster's "The Other Boat," we see how the British imperial norms of order and discipline are exposed to be racist and homophobic; in Woolf's A Room of One's Own, the seemingly neutral history is debunked as misogynist and anti-woman.

In other words, modernism is an age of transgression and boundary-crossings. Transgression entails the exploration of the exclusions and the taboos that both define the modern identity. For this assignment, you have to analyze the taboos and transgressions in Forster's "The Other Boat" and Woolf's A Room of One's Own. Please choose one from the following questions and write an essay of 200-250 words.

1)Look for the articulations of racial and class prejudices in "The Other Boat." How does the Mater's racist bigotry influence her son? How does Forster depict Lionel as a complex character who obeys and internalizes the Mater's teachings but somehow transgresses her puritanism as well?

2)If there were a message in Forster's "The Other Boat," what would that be for you?

3)In A Room of One's Own, the narrator, remembering a bishop who declared that a woman could never possess the genius of Shakespeare, begins to imagine what would have been the likely biography of Shakespeare's sister had she too been as gifted as her brother. What's the purpose of imagining the possible fate of Judith Shakespeare?

4)In the chapter one of A Room of One's Own, Woolf describes the difference between women's and men's meals. Analyze their differences. What does food have to do with privilege, elitism, and achievement in Woolf's thinking?

5) What are the relations between writing fiction and the concrete conditions of its production? How does "gender" play in them?