Posts Tagged ‘Victorian’

  • 2008-09 Winner: “The French Lieutenant’s Woman: The Underscore on “Freedom” within Restriction, Fowles’ Bridge between Realities” by Prisca Youn

    Date: 2010.04.17 | Category: Selected Essays | Response: 0

    “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” by Prisca Youn PDF

    Fiction usually pretends to conform to the reality…But the chief argument…is to show one’s readers what one thinks of the world around one…
    –John Fowles

    The vast verdure, the whispering sea, the azure of the heavens; Lyme Regis in all its deceitful beauty, masking the harsh and bitter reality of Victorian society, is a fixture of John Fowles’ multi-layered, artfully crafted novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman.  The social struggles within this small pocket of Victorian Britain distinctly portray a much darker image. Fowles weaves the unspoken boundaries of the nineteenth century throughout his work just as they were nuanced in the Victorian attitude. The elements of postmodern literature, such as multiperspectivism, allow The French Lieutenant’s Woman to break through the limits of the Victorian social infrastructure and bring forth the evolutionary characteristics of Charles and Sarah. As the reader pictures their struggles with a twenty first century framework, Fowles’ twentieth century perspective grapples with distant Victorian society to create a bridge between three centuries of shifting ideologies.

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  • 2008-09 Winner: “Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market: Finding the Middle Ground” by Jasmine Yeh

    Date: 2010.04.17 | Category: Selected Essays | Response: 0

    “Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market” by Jasmine Yeh PDF

    “Lizzie with an open heart,
    Laura in an absent dream,
    One content, one sick in part;
    One warbling for the mere bright day’s delight,
    One longing for the night.”
    –Christina Rossetti

    Since its publication, literary and social critics have interpreted Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market in many ways.  Some critics uphold it is a masterpiece empowering women.  Others think much less of it due to the inconsistencies within the text.  This fairy-tale poem portrays two girls, Lizzie and Laura, tempted by goblin men selling a generous variety of fruits in a glen. Lizzie chooses to resist their cries of “Come buy, come buy,” while Laura gives in and trades a lock of her golden hair for the taste of their harvest, becoming insane with longing for it afterwards.  At the end, Lizzie breaks the spell of the goblins on Laura by withstanding their torture and hazing. Most of the critics’ interpretations are focused on either sexuality or the gender war between men and women. However, by assuming Peter Cominos’s Innocent Femina Sensualis in Unconscious Conflict as a basis for analysis, a new reading of the text emerges that embodies both interpretations. Rossetti’s poem depicts two “sisters”[1] who share a bond stronger than the bond between a man and a woman claiming, “For there is no friend like a sister/ In calm or stormy weather” (58).  With the two girls, Lizzie and Laura, Rossetti acknowledges the two extreme perceptions of women as passionless angels and whores (Cominos 163, 165).  Through the poem, she reconciles the two extremes by suggesting that there is a middle ground between the pure and the impure due to that bond of sisterhood.

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  • 2008-09 Winner: “Turning the Intrinsic Screw: Henry James and Human Nature” by Caitlin Harding

    Date: 2010.04.17 | Category: Selected Essays | Response: 0

    “Turning the Intrinsic Screw” by Caitlin Harding PDF

    In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow revealed to the world his theory of human motivation, what he called the “hierarchy of needs.”  The pyramid-shaped hierarchy’s five levels of human desires start with the most basic drives and end with the most difficult desire to attain: self actualization, the stage which gives rise to such fantastic concepts as gods, deities, purity, and ecstasy.  The ability of humans to conceive such ideas seems to speak tremendously to the unselfishness of human nature.  Yet the truth is quite the opposite; these concepts are merely constructs that humans create in order to seek and idolize an absolute.  Ideas of pure and beautiful absolution are a way to escape the reality that in fact, human beings are innately self-obsessed and corrupt any possibilities for divinity around them.  Such texts as Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw illustrate how these destructive faults in human nature destroy purity and innocence.  Each step in the journey of the novel’s main character represents the screw-turning and deepening of her greed as she descends through Maslow’s stages, until finally only corruption is left in her wake.  Much like the Victorian era’s Walter Pater and his coined term that each person has within them “molten lava” of selfishness that harms others if released, these displays ultimately prove the disastrous consequences when humans act at the expense of others.

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