Well, here we are once again! A new semester has begun and so with it, as you can see, comes new scenery! This terms blog is all about one of my favorite topics, zombies! I know most people think of half rotting corpses limping along, arms outstretched, mouths agape as they moan and groan, looking for the nearest piece of live flesh to dine upon, but, if you think about it, there is so much more to the genre then that.
This term, we’re going to get all up inside as we take a closer look at what really drives what has become quite a popular thing in the past few years, especially with the big TV hit AMC’s The Walking Dead launching the zombie genre into forefront, despite it’s late night time slot, which I will yammer on about a lot because it is one my my all time favorite shows ever (YAY DARYL!).
My friends and I have spent more hours than I care to admit discussing how we would get to whomever’s house we thought would last the longest, or how we would best fortify our own when should this happen . It is pretty amazing what you can come up with. Also, the adult beverages may have helped.
I hope that you enjoy this time as much as I do and I look forward to sharing more of my midnight rambling with you.
In today’s rambling, we’ll be talking about The Female American. While not horrible to read, this is probably the least interesting choice and not something I’d ever read in my spare time, compared to The Lais.
I found it quite difficult to get into and will openly admit I struggled to get through it. I tried to like it, but it just isn’t quite there. I can appreciate the themes in the novel, how the Englishman held tight to his love for Unca’s mother and as a result of tragedy; her mother turning her back on her people and being murdered by her own sister, Unca was given opportunities she would not have otherwise had access to, travelling to England to study.
Shortly after her arrival back home, her father dies, leaving her all alone in the world, shunned by her mother’s people, at least I felt like she was shunned. Determined to go back to England, she convinces an old captain to take her. Unlucky for her, after refusing to marry him after numerous advances, he leaves her stranded on an island. Nothing gentlemanly about that!
After being cleverly resourceful, with the help of a book she finds from a previous occupant of the island (convenient?) and proceeds to lure the local tribe into thinking she was some sort of prophet as she introduces them to Christianity. Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this picture? Honestly, why do people need to be “converted” to anything? As long as no on harms anyone, I say let them do as they will.
But that is a whole other kettle of fish.
Well, that sums up this weeks reading! Until next time lurkers!
I had not realized it had been such a long time since I had been here but boy time sure does fly! The end of the semester has almost arrived and time gives no quarter. We have covered much since my last blog post and I can’t wait to share it all with you in tonight’s rambling post!
Did you know what the Blue Stocking movement was? I did not, but I learned about it when reading Millenium Hall by Sarah Scott, along with an interesting presentation by a classmate. The Blue Stocking movement encouraged women to gather and discuss literature, something only men seemed to do at the time. For this I am grateful as I cannot imagine a world without books and having the ability to read and discuss them at my own leisure. It’s unfathomable, and yet women wanting to broaden their horizons was unheard of.
This book was surprisingly easy to read and was quite enjoyable. It was well done, the way the characters were written with one physical or mental “flaw” of one kind or another; those deemed “outcast” for whatever reason, how they all came together, without men, to forge a life that suited them and met most of their needs. How friendships were forged, bonds made and a happy life born of hardships. Given the time period, this could not have been an easy task, as women have been, and still are to some extent, looked upon as inferior to men. *gasp!*
This book reminds us that no matter what “flaws” or imperfections you have, no matter how society looks at you, you are worth something and can find meaning in your life. To me, this is a powerful message as sometimes we lose sight of that.
As a secret, though not so secret now I suppose, hopeless romantic, Sofia by Charlotte Lennox is a guilty pleasure. I really had a great time reading this books and had a lot of fun dancing back and forth between “I hate you!” to “Omg just tell her already!” to “FINALLY!”. Harriot reminded me of someone I knew once and honestly, I just wanted to throat punch her.
Sofia is a bit of a roller coaster but by the end, all is as it should be, as the adorable yet frustrating rake turns into a gentleman and the nice girl finishes first, sort of like Cinderella.
In class this week, we’d begun talking about the Libertine and what the term actually meant. If you don’t know what that means, allow me to enlighten you. A Libertine is someone who is free in their thinking as opposed to being religious and they want to view life’s wonders through the use of their senses, mostly through means of sexual acts as they provide the most physical pleasure, with little care. As it turns out, with no surprise, being a Libertine as a woman versus a man, were two very different things.
Men, as it were, were able to be dashing rakes, making all the ladies blush and titter and think of clandestine affairs. Ladies however, none of that for you. If you carried these views, you were viewed as ‘loose’ or ‘without morals’, which is far more a stigma then any young lady should want.
Why is this you ask, well, because misogyny was at an all time high in this era and god forbid a woman step a toe out of line, lest she be called out for it. Look at Amelia Behn, for example,who was called a ‘Punk’, meaning ‘prostitue’, for her writing, simply because she was one of the first women to make a living writing. One of her works ‘To the Fair Clarinda…” which causes some to speculate as to whether or not she was a lesbian as she writes of her attraction to another woman, who may or may not be aware. Another of her works, Oroonoko is abolitionist in nature as it speaks to the treatment and punishment of a slave, who was once a prince and the tragedy that befalls he and his beloved due to the cruelty of man, causing speculation that she might have journeyed to the Colonies at one point because of the way she describes the wildlife and Natives. These caused some of her contemporaries to lash out. Imagine that.
Eliza Haywood is another, her works and others are known as the ancestor to the ‘bodice ripper’, one of my guilty pleasures. In her story ‘Fantomina’, we meet a young who indulged in the Libertine lifestyle without going to far until…She meets a charming rake. There’s where the happy stops. As it turns out, after denying her marriage, while she’s giving birth, the man goes on his marry way and she is sent to a convent and her child raised , by someone else. Moral of the tale? Naughty women get punished, and men get off scott free. Sound familiar?
Katherine Phillips writes beautiful poetry about the love she has for her friends…But is it platonic or is she writing in code about lesbianism, more subtle than Aphra Behn? That depends on how you look at it as everyone has their own opinion, but in ‘A Married State’, she does urge women to stay single. Some food for thought.
Lastly, we look at Ann Finch, a respectable, yet fiesty woman writer as she issues a public acceptance to Andrew Pope’s apology, however, she also stakes her claim in doing so by telling him that men think they rule the world, but it is actually the women. Truer words have never been spoken, at least in my opinion. Too bad we didn’t always remember that.
While I don’t think I would have let my skirts fly, so to speak, I feel like I would have been a Libertine, as I would like to think the fact that I have no problem voicing my opinion now wouldn’t have changed if I lived back then, although it would really depend on my living circumstances and what sort of life I’d been born into, I suppose.
Well, that’s it for me! Hope you’ve enjoyed my rundown of this week’s ladies!
We have now left the medieval period and are entering into the Renaissance. Bring on the print press! We touched on 3 different authors this week, Amelia Lanyer, Rachel Speght, Lady Mary Wroth, and Margaret Cavendish.
I have to say, Amelia Lanyer and Rachel Speght laid it down! In a time when people were starting to look back at the Classics and come out of the “Dark Ages”, women authors started to become a little more passive aggressive in their writing, or in the case of these two, just aggressive, using the Bible as their weapon.
It is absolutely brilliant. And they made some good points about Adam and Eve. Let’s look at just a few of those as I think it is a pretty sound argument.
In “Eve’s Apology”, Amelia Lanyer touches on the root of women being the ‘femme fatal’, though that term hadn’t yet been coined; forever being the temptress. But…
If men are supposed to be smarter than women, why did Adam not resist the temptation and say no when Eve offered him the apple? He is the King of the Earth and is supposed to be superior. Another point that is made is that Eve ate the apple for the sake of knowledge, Adam ate it because it looked good. Hmmmm. Eve loved Adam and wanted him to share in the knowledge but he didn’t try to dissuade her from eating it. It seems as though Adam is deferring responsibility of his part in falling from Eden.
Rachel Speght continues this line of thinking when she criticizes another author’s work in the defense of women. In her work, she makes the point of showing that God punished Adam first, not Eve and it was because of Adam that the Earth was punish and not Eve. Also, nakedness was never an issue until Adam ate the apple and made it an issue.
Unlike Adam, Eve was made from living flesh, not dust. Are men stronger? Sure, but women were created to be helpmates, not servants. Sure some women were bad, but not all of them were and to think otherwise is ridiculous. If women are the crown, then why are they being so disrespected?
For the time period, this was very forward thinking as both women pointed out very valid facts, using religion as their rebuttal.
Lady Mary Wroth and Margaret Cavendish got their digs in, but in a much more subtle way, choosing instead to use metaphors to point out the treatment of women. Margaret Cavendish was very modest about her writing and was maternal towards it, creating a bleak picture of a ‘poor’ child, meaning the under privileged and how she was angry over not being able to have a proper education.
These women and more were the beginning of the rise of women in the literary circle being taken seriously as more would emerge over time, tired of the way they were being treated. The original “Girl Power”.
I am a little behind, so I figured now is as a good time as any to get caught up, so tonight will be a two-fer, so prepare for some late night ramblings!
So, last week we were introduced to Gwerful Mechain, a Welsh poet from 1460-1502. She is the most well known female poet from Welsh in the medieval period. She is also absolutely hilarious. Her poems are witty and bawdy, as she spars with another poet of that time, Dafydd Llwyd. This may seem a little surprising since her poems “Christ’s Passion” and “Death and Judgement” are anything but, centering around the crucifixion of Christ and the fact that death finds everyone, rich or poor.
“Christ’s Passion” is graphically written but, whether you believe or not, it touches you regardless, or at least it did me. You could almost feel the pain along with the emotion.
These religious pieces are a stark contrast to her other works, such as “Poem to the Vagina” or “To her maid as she shits”. I really couldn’t get through those without giggling. “To jealous wives” was also another one I found entertaining and suggests that, at least in Wales, women were able to join the literary culture if they had the means and the ability, which Gwerful Mechain did.
This is important because it shows that maybe the outlook on women writer’s wasn’t as bleak as Virginia Wolfe thought, and that given the proper support, they could be just as serious or as spirited as their male counterparts and not be frowned upon for it.
I do find it disappointing that there are few other Welsh women poets from that time that we know of, as I think that it would be interesting to see if they were all as open and as witty as Gwerful was.
In light of our upcoming class on Gwerful Mechain, it seemed fitting to add in a little nod to her home country, which is rich in history, culture and language; a place I’ve always wanted to visit even before I’d heard of her. To begin, let’s set up a simple timeline:
500 B.C is when the Celts settled in Wales.
From 43 A.D-78 A.D The Romans invaded and finally conquered Wales.
In 100 A.D, Irish raiders settled down in southwestern Wales.
In 500 A.D The Saxons invaded Wales.
In 784, a boundary was created, separating Wales from England.
In 1040 those boarders were secured by the first Prince of Wales, Gruffydd ap Llywelyn, who was later killed in 1063 by English invaders.
In 1284, Wales was officially part of England as a result of the Statute of Rhuddlan.
1349 saw the “Black Death” take out approximately 40% of their population.
In 1402, there were laws passed to prohibit Welsh from holding office, carrying arms or gathering.
In 1410 King Henry IV saw the end of the war between England and Wales.
All in all, as we see from this bare bones timeline, the Welsh people have gotten a raw deal from England, as did so many other countries back then, and this was all before the industrial era which swept through in 1750, when Wales became the largest producer of copper and iron.
Fun Fact: There is wide spread belief that Stonehenge, which resides in England, actually originated from Wales and was built from the blue stone quarry in Craig Rhos-y-felin, before it was dismantled and moved to Wiltshire, England, where it stands in all its ancient glory.
Fun Fact: Tintern Abbey is found next to the village of Tintern in Monmouthshire and was founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow, on May 9, 1131. It is also the object of one of Wordsworth’s most memorable poems of the same name.
Let’s take a look now at the language and traditions of Wales. Believe it or not, the term “Celtic” was coined in the 18th century and is used to classify a bygone and endangered European cultural tradition.
The British Isles gave rise to the allowance of a diversion of Bretons into two distinctive groups; The Anglo-Saxons who thought themselves “better” and Celts, who were beneath their notice. This brought about many dialects under one umbrella (Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish, etc.).
In Haunted English by Laura O’Connor, she writes “To declare ‘I am a Celt’, is to allude to a personal ethnicity; a way to identify themselves as something ‘other’ and embrace it”.
In the 18th century, Methodist settlers, most of them Puritans, tried to forbid ancient Celtic traditions, but failed. Today, traditions are kept alive by “The Welsh Speakers”, approximately 600, 000 people, 6000 or so of whom gather at the Royal National Eisteddfod, the largest and most important festival that celebrates the Welsh language and tradition, and is held in a different location each year.
The Welsh Folk Museum, located in St. Fagan’s in Glamorgan, holds the most important records of early myth, legend, folklore and language, known as the “Mabinogion”. It holds 11 stories; manuscripts from Medieval Wales and pre-Christian Celtic mythology and traditions and is broken into two sections, “The Four Branches” and “The Three Romances”. These tales mention a revolting Roman emperor (Magnus Maximus) in Breuddwyd Macsen Wledig or The Dream of Macsen Wledig, as well as what could be the first known link to Arthurian legends in Culhwch ac Olwen and Breuddwyd Rhonabwy or, Culhwch and Olwen and The Dream of Rhonabwy respectively.
This is one of history’s most important pieces of literature and shows how oral traditions were passed down until the author, who is unknown even now, wrote them down. While the actual dates of the tales aren’t known, and is still debated today, it is generally agreed upon that it lies somewhere between late 11th century into the 12th century.
The first translation was worked upon by William Owen Pughe (1759-1835), who is best known for his Welsh/English dictionary. Lady Charlotte Guest took up the mantle and in 1838, the first of her 7 parts was released in 1845, the final revised edition being in 1877. This was widely accepted until 1948 when Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones released their translation and is the one most used today, though there are several others.
This is just the tip of the iceberg and is a only small, minuscule portion of what makes this majestic yet quaint country interesting and historic, and one day I hope to be able to journey there to experience the history left to us.
Diolch am ddarllen!
Want to learn more?
O’Connor, Laura. Haunted English: The Celtic Fringe, The British Empire and De-Anglicization. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.
Matthews, Cerys, et al., Directors. The Mabinogion. DCD Media (Firm), 2015.