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Unit 8: The Nineteenth Century
Terms in this set (20)
How does Faust compare to other heroes of world literature?
FAUST - A ROMANTIC HERO:
In Goethe's Faust, the protagonist Faust exhibits many characteristics of a typical romantic hero. Apart from other literary characters of his time, Faust has obtained numerous advanced degrees (299), dabbles in alchemy, and conjures up spirits (302). In his attempt to go beyond his ample knowledge and gain further life experience, he strikes a bargain with the Devil. Compared to the people around him, he is not afraid of the Devil, or hell, and proves this by making the deal with Mephistopheles (326-327). Faust embodies what would be considered the best and worst of mankind. Even though he is a highly valued learned scholar and would be considered a Renaissance man, his lust for Margareta demonstrates the worst of mankind. This insatiable lust ultimately results in the death of Margareta, her brother, her mother, and her baby. Ultimately, Faust could be considered as an icon for all humanity. He is ambitious, continually struggling for more power, more knowledge, and more experience, and while this struggle continually leads to failure, Faust never gives up. It is through these failures that he is representative of humanity; notwithstanding, some may interpret these failures as Faust's tragedy, as everything he is involved in turns out badly. In the Prologue in Heaven, the Lord states that "man errs as long as he will strive" (298).
Faust is also versatile, often becoming morose when he can't obtain what he desires. Even a successful life has not satisfied him, but in fact, alienated him from those around him. He feels all his accomplishments are in vain. He is so melancholic that he is on the verge of suicide. However, when the bells of Easter ring and the singing from the Easter service reminds him of his youth, he decides against suicide and instead undergoes a resurrection or rebirth (308-309). Faust displays pride in many instances throughout Goethe's play, particularly when he summons the Earth Spirit. Faust is disenchanted by the fact the Spirit does not consider him an equal and rejects him (303). Another example of his pride is the deal made with Mephistopheles. When Faust signs his pact with the Devil, he hopes to experience all of life, to fulfill all human potential, at which point he would be like God (326). Obviously, anyone agreeing to such a deal is guilty of the sin of pride. In his relationship with Mephistopheles, we observe Faust as an arrogant and impatient man, who often views Mephistopheles as his servant to do his bidding. Faust also appears to be in touch with his emotions. This is evident in his emotional outburst when he and Wagner are walking on Easter morning. He weeps openly and begs to be sent to "between earth and sky" (313) to relieve him of his pain and misery. In Faust's dealings with Margareta, he shows his sensitive and intuitive side, while at the witches' celebration he is haunted by a vision of Margareta. He also becomes filled with anger and guilt when he learns of Margareta's fate (363-364). Faust's relationship with Margareta, which is passionate, but consuming because both of them give in to uncontrolled emotion. When he attempts to rescue her from execution, she refuses. Faust feels deep regret for the position he has placed Margareta in. Margareta is a naive, virtuous girl who Faust can physically have, but not form a permanent bond with which was the very notion of romantic love at that time.
ODYSSEUS - AN EPIC HERO:
In Homer's The Odyssey, the protagonist Odysseus, on the other hand, exhibits many characteristics of a typical epic hero. He is a combination of the self-made, self-assured man and the embodiment of the standards and mores of his culture. He is favored by a majority of the gods, in fact, Zeus himself affirms Odysseus' character (153), and respected and admired by the mortals. The pride in which Odysseus displayed in identifying himself to the Phaeacian hosts should not be mistaken with vanity, as one must consider that in the Homeric world, name and reputation are crucial. When Odysseus states that his "fame has reached the skies" (171), he is merely stating a fact, he is simply identifying himself. Odysseus is also a living representation of contradictions; he lives by his courage as well as his cunning tricks. Odysseus is an intellectual, however not as learned as Faust, and often openly evaluates a situation, demonstrating the logic he employs in making his choices. Odysseus has also been known to lie, cheat, and steal, traits that we would not expect in a traditional epic hero, and though he is self-disciplined, for example, refusing to eat the lotus (173), his curiosity and ego is sometimes the root of his troubles, which is evident in his encounter with the Cyclops (176-185). Odysseus can also be merciful, as when he spares the bard Phemius (209-210), or brutal, as he seems when dealing with the dozen disloyal maidservants (212). Odysseus establishes his own code of conduct through his adventures, though he is contemplative, he is still capable of explosive violence.
Unlike Faust, it is victory that motivates Odysseus in his actions. Odysseus main goal is to return home and live happily in Ithaca; unfortunately, every step along the way is another test, and on some occasions, another battle. Odysseus' concern with victory is also pragmatic, as well as cultural, for, in Homer's world, where there are no police or justice systems, it is the strong ones that prevail and are considered just. Odysseus often has only two choices: death or victory. On the occasion, when Athena intervenes on Odysseus' behalf, she often leaves the success or failure of such occasion up to Odysseus' actions alone. Evidence of this can be found during the battle with the suitors, Athena's skills could have easily and quickly prevailed over the battle, but instead, she makes Odysseus earn the victory (206-207). Appropriately, Odysseus' development as a character is complicated, he is perfectly described at the beginning of the story as, in every way, "the man of twists and turns" (152). While Odysseus does seem to evolve as a character throughout his journeys, the reader should not look at each event exclusively as a stepping stone towards knowledge and enlightenment for the hero. The Odyssey is not a road-map for personal growth; the episodes are not created as didactic examples of any particular significance, they are simply stories. Certainly though, Odysseus does evolve in wisdom and judgment throughout his adventures. For example, his self-control while dealing with the suitors' insults is impressive especially compared with his earlier irresistible urge to taunt and announce his name to the Cyclops (183). In other ways, however, he seems slow to learn from his situations. The struggles Odysseus faces make his evolution as a character more realistic and therefore more credible allowing him to represent that of a quintessential epic hero.
REFLECTION OF THE AUTHORS TIME:
In order to understand the rationality behind their character development as well as the true message of both of these stories, we need to look at the cultural context of the works and at the authors' own lives. Goethe wrote Faust within the context of the Age of Enlightenment as well as the Romantic period. Goethe sought to incorporate these two positions, to reunite reason and passion. Under the mindset of Goethe, the ideal person is neither rigidly rational nor undisciplined in their passion, but rather someone who uses reason and emotion together as to act positively and purposefully within the world, as well as to understand it better. Goethe found in the culture of Classical Greece, as created by poets like Homer and philosophers like Aristotle, a quintessential model for just such an amalgamation. Goethe believed that the Greeks refined passion as mitigated by reason, and reason vitalized by passion, mirroring how the Greeks balanced the needs of the individual with the needs of society as a whole. The play of Faust, when viewed from this perspective, can be presumed as depicting its protagonist's development from a magic-wielding Romantic hero, who acts on passion with often tragic consequences, into, a spirited but nevertheless rationally moderate man who later realizes that human nature, reason and imagination together, is our salvation from the forces of evil, a fulfillment of the Classical ideal.
Although Faust and Odysseus share similar journeys, these characters arrive at very different understandings of their worlds. Odysseus, in surviving all his dangers and trials through his use of wits, learns that human resourcefulness and loyalty to family can triumph over even the dangerous storms and problems sent to him by the gods. Faust, by selling his soul to the devil and giving into temptation after temptation, learns that choices don't matter, but human nature. These two similar yet tremendously different heroes' journeys essentially oppose two different ideologies against one another. While these two protagonists couldn't be any more different, Faust embodies the traits of introspection, alienation, and melancholy, while Odysseus holds the strength, bravery, and loyalty they are still interpreted as heroes in their own rights. It seems that the authors have felt it necessary to create a hero that could embody and explain the current society in which they exist, which suggests that the representation of the heroes in Goethe's Faust and Homer's The Odyssey directly correlates to the time period in which the respective works of literature are written.
As an exploration of the darker side of human nature, is Faust comparable to any other work of world literature in this course?
Both Faust and Inferno contain extensive references to Christianity, and both are concerned with the destiny of the human spirit. Although they are seemingly similar works, and at face value it seems that they say the same thing, Goethe and Dante have very differing views concerning the philosophies of good and evil.
Dante's universe is constructed on several texts from the Bible taken literally. It contains Purgatory, a concept found in the Catholic religion of his day, as well as Eden, the terrestrial paradise, residing on top of Mount Purgatory. It portrays Hell as a real place, although it?s structure is fashioned to represent the nature of sin, rather than the actual destiny of the sinners.
Dante uses mythological references in his work. This adds a surrealistic sense and was possibly intended to help the reader interpret the poem symbolically. It also ties the poem to other works and ideas which previously existed and allows it to immediately strike a chord in the minds of the reading audience. Dante uses mythological characters as symbols for sin itself, and uses the punishments as symbolic of the mindset of the sinner. In the third circle of the Inferno sinners guilty of Gluttony are punished in a constant deluge of rain, mud, and general filth representative of their own corrupted spirits.
The basic philosophical implications of the Inferno are that Satan, representing evil, is the center of gravity, and because of this all humans are naturally drawn to him. God, representing perfect salvation, resides beyond the highest sphere of heaven in the Empyrean, and is the most difficult thing in the universe to reach. The three beasts eternally block the right path: The leopard of treachery, the lion of violence, and the she-wolf of incontinence. These creatures represent their respective sins, and that they block the right path for all souls residing on the earth. The fact that the right path is vacant tells us that no man is capable of right living, and so the journey through the inferno is necessary.
Goethe's play concerns Mephistopheles' attempts to corrupt Faust so that he may find pleasure in worldly things, which the Devil can offer.
Goethe uses Christian references as a background for the story. He is not entirely faithful to the doctrines of the church.
Goethe uses mythological references (other than Christian ones) for more than one reason. At times, he uses them to display that Faust is no longer following Christianity and is instead delving into heathen lore in search of truth. The dropping of the name Helena is a mythological, but perhaps also classical, reference that is used to portray an idea. When Mephistopheles says that Faust will ?see a Helena in every girl he meets?, we know from past readings of Homer that Helen is the most beautiful woman in the world, and so we understand what the potion Faust is about to drink will do. Just like Dante, Goethe uses mythological references simply because they are well known.
The symbolism in Faust is very intricate, and only sometimes stoops to the level of simple allegory. The Prologue in Heaven is a comical device and an introduction, which follows closely with the Stage Managers Prelude on the stage.
Faust is representative not of mankind in general, but of mankind ideally. His quest for wisdom through normal means is futile, but he is still trying to gain wisdom. This suggests that, although the best of us will thirst for knowledge, it is a difficult task to undertake. As Faust begins to despair, his self-control and sanity in general begin to lose their power. This allows Mephistopheles, representing Faust?s primitive soul, a chance to appear. The incident with the pentagram restricting Mephistopheles? movement is a demonstration that Faust is still in control, but when Mephistopheles? put Faust to sleep and escapes, we know that Faust has now given in to his own chaotic nature. Once the pact is made, Mephistopheles stands in for Faust in dealing with a student, the scene that follows is a foreshadowing event that closely parallels the use of ?The Dumb Show? in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (Stoppard, NY, 1991). The remainder of Part One deals with the life and times of one whom the Devil is trying to corrupt. Each scene follows sporadically, illustrating various ways in which Mephistopheles tries to tempt Faust to decadence, but always Faust keeps to his higher goal of obtaining experience, and narrowly evades corruption.
While The Divine Comedy was written in a time when the church had much power and an absolute following; Faust was written in a time when faith in church dogma was decreasing and knowledge of the natural sciences was increasing. Each work portrays the aura of its own time, and both depart from the generally accepted conventions in a way that betrays the authors own personal beliefs, as well as their personal vendettas. The Divine Comedy strives to adequately represent the truths of human nature and spirituality. At times it manages to fulfill the question of ?Why? something is bad with a more satisfactory response than ?Because God said so.? Faust achieves the same purpose, not to justify religion, but to belittle it.
In The Divine Comedy salvation is symbolic of divine grace, and is in fact very nearly meant literally. Salvation is based on repentance and faith in Christ as a savior, however Dante does not let souls off that easily. Souls must first examine their own state of sin, and then they must repent and atone for their sins. Those who commit no blatant sins, but do no considerable good either are destined for the vestibule of Hell. This is where those souls without infamy or fame reside for the rest of eternity chasing the shifting banner. This is the punishment Dante allots to those who live without purpose or goal, and they will not be resurrected at the time of the apocalypse. Furthermore, souls in Hell are incapable of repentance because it is a divine grace that is not present in Hell, where not even the name of God or Jesus may be spoken.
In Faust, salvation is an indicator of whether or not a person has lived well or had the right priorities in Goethe?s eyes, and therefore some people are saved in ways that the Bible does not condone. Each individual is either good or bad, but few individuals are perfect. Any individual who is imperfect can be swayed by Mephistopheles? (Primitive thought) power. Those whose goals are righteous will invariably be saved, regardless of their stance on religion, and those who succumb to primal urges will fall. Gretchen is saved despite her fall from grace in a very deus ex machina style turn of events, but this is not very strange when you consider that once Gretchen fell, she was able to see how arrogant and condescending she was as a sinless person. Faust is saved at the end in another deus ex machina turn of events because, unbeknownst to Mephistopheles, he repents. This is not consistent with the rest of the poem because Mephistopheles is part of Faust?s lower nature, and Faust cannot escape him.
In Dante?s Time, evil was considered to be an outside force. All that we call sin, destruction, or evil, was thought to be the work of Satan. Satan is blamed for illness, corruption, and for tempting men to sin. Evil is a thing to which men are subjected, and the trial is whether or not they can withstand its corrupting touch. Satan is seen as a universal force striving to defile and claim part of God?s perfect creation, tempting men to sin for no reason other than to spite God. This is demonstrated symbolically in The Divine Comedy by the fact that man inhabits the Earth, which is at the point of equilibrium between Heaven and Hell. Man then must work to fight the gravitational forces pulling him toward Satan to avoid damnation, and must exert much effort to scale Mount Purgatory and reach the Heavens. In Dante?s world evil is inescapable, and it is necessary to face it. This is why it is only by climbing on Satan?s hair that Virgil is able to extricate Dante from the inferno and take him on the path of repentance.
In Faust no such implications are present. Man is born into an ever-changing world with the capacity for righteousness or decadence. It is through experience, knowledge, or self-control that man overcomes his primitive and base nature to achieve salvation, but he is not necessarily damned at the start. The entire thing seems to be more of a shot against religious doctrines than an observation of mankind itself.
It shows that the fault of evil lies on man himself, because even a devil is angered by man?s abuse of Gods gifts. It is then left to each human individually to make the most of what they have, and the next level above righteousness is godliness. This is what Faust strives for; he is willing to entertain the devil to get the opportunity to experience all things.
Despite the fact that evil is interpreted as an outside force in Inferno it's presence is considered absolute and inescapable. This is in alignment with the concept that salvation can only be achieved through faith in Christ. The implication of this is that it must be impossible to avoid sin; else it would be possible to enter Heaven without Christ.
In Faust it is said that evil is an internal thing, and yet it is portrayed by the wholly independent character of Mephistopheles. This seems to indicate that, although the primitive spirit is part of us all, it is not in any way connected to who we really are. It simply lurks in the background, awaiting its opportunity to sow discord. The lower spirit in Goethe's world is a dormant quality that exists within each human being, which is not the cause of temptation, but is awakened by it. In Goethe's world, all sin is comparable to Dante's "Sins of incontinence", and the notion of true evil is a concept born of narrow perspective and is a caricature more befitting a devil than an actual person. Goethe's view of the world is by no means black-and-white, and in fact may not contain any of either. It would be folly to describe Goethe?s perspective as one of shades of gray, though, it would be more fitting to say that it is green. Faust is green with the infinite diversity of an organic world, devoid of set rules or boundaries. Life is only what you make of it, or rather, what you make of yourself.
The image of good and evil is one of mankind confronting their own imperfections. Dante's view is that the imperfections are inflicted upon men by the will of God and the presence of Satan. Goethe sees God and the Devil as constructs of man?s imperfection, and that, in the end, souls judge themselves?
What is it about the language of Faust that makes it so expressive?
Unique to Goethe's sense for the human is the way he always foregrounds ordinary people against larger contexts of nature, culture, and history. Nature is not only the object of veneration, as for Rousseau, or the eternal ground of human existence, as for Wordsworth, but the essential creative force that makes all things exist in time. It embraces the entry of all things into life, their departure from it, and all their developmental transformations in between. Nature encompasses all being from the inanimate, the geological and elemental up the entire chain of being. All manifestations of nature are connected by a web of analogies that can be described with the same basic spiral of development: the forces that Goethe names polarity and enhancement govern phenomena as diverse as the polarization of light, the development of plants, and the weaving of damask linen. All around us, nature is nevertheless ineffable, not fully accessible to human understanding. In the human sphere its force is often represented by love. Animal spirits, sexual attraction, the desire for knowledge, the mystique of childhood, and above all the eternal feminine - these are all forms of the teeming life of nature.
Nature's creative power, in turn, finds a conscious equivalent in culture; as a result art becomes an object worthy of the same attention as nature. Faust discovers that he must learn about nature through representations of it, mostly plays-within-plays, that he himself constructs, and that are preceded by the elaborately stagy Prelude on the Stage and the Prologue in Heaven that follows.
In Faust Goethe evokes and often parodies a vast range of styles: the Bible, Greek tragedy and comedy, medieval troubadour lyric, Dante, Shakespeare, sixteenth century German comedy, folk song, Renaissance masque, Spanish Golden Age drama, French neoclassicism, the sentimentalism of eighteenth-century Germany and England all the way up to Lord Byron. That every age and society is a distinct culture with its own value was one of the great insights of the late eighteenth century. Goethe's friend Herder was one of the great early proponents of this "historicism" that refused to judge different societies by a uniform yardstick, while Goethe gave it its most memorable poetic incarnation.
How is the feminine represented in Faust?
In Goethe's Faust, women are present, but they are not really given characters of their own. For the most part, they are the subject of folly or present only in the background as objects of love and tryst.
The first important "woman" (if you want to call her a woman) is the witch who makes Faust young again. It is no accident that this character is female-- the witch represents magic and superstition, which are irrational things. At this point in time (and, perhaps, still today...), women were often considered to be irrational creatures. This is paralleled by Faust, the man, who represents science and knowledge, i.e. the rational, therefore depicting men as reasonable and logical beings in opposition of the irrational feminine.
In all the text that we have read, we never hear about Faust's mother. This is to say that Faust, having no female associates, represents the pure masculine. Margarete, therefore, being pure and innocent at the time that she meets Faust, represents pure femininity and the expectations of a pure woman at the time. In a fairy tale, the convergence of these two characters would end in completion, but Faust isn't quite the fairy tale prince she's been looking for. Goethe also depicts women as the preservers of moral values (think of Margarete when Goethe first meets her) that can be corrupted by men (as Faust) but still may be redeemed (as Margarete was at the very end of Faust I).
There is also this theme of "das Ewig-weibliche," the eternal feminine. The last line of Goethe's Faust reads: 'Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan,' the eternal feminine draws on us. This represents the power of women to inspire and spiritualize mankind, indicating that women are, throughout, an underlying power that can captivate man and direct or mislead according to their whim.
What is the significance of Goethe's secularization of the Faust myth?
Faust began as a morality tale in a Protestant-leaning region of what is now Germany. In a time and place which believed in the literal Devil on Earth, it was a frightening tale, and warned against godlessness, worldly ambition, and of course, magic. For the audience, Faust's religious salvation was at stake. It is said the Devil himself appeared at one of Marlowe's performances, so even the audience feared the Devil's notice.
Today, the name "Faust" has become attached to tales of persons of power who betray principles and values for the knowledge and power to achieve their goals. But with their ambition and their power more than they can handle, predictable doom is made more tragic by their inability to seek forgiveness. However, there are also Faustian tales of redemption, where Faust has been the better man, overcome his human nature, and won God's approval. That was the Faust of forward-looking, idealistic Europe becoming like a god.
The possible plot outcomes reflect attitudes of Europe through the ages. Five hundred years ago it was unthinkable that Faust could be saved; hundreds of years later, it had become essential. Europe changed, and so did Christianity.
Faust is also Europe itself, organically changing from being a religious society and culture in the "Dark Ages" to a secular civilization through five hundred years. It, like Faust, has turned away from God and personal salvation, to ambitiously take its chances in the material world, dependent upon science and technology to achieve salvation for all—in time. So the Faust story appears to also be the story of western civilization, and its destiny, prophetically written as the change began. The result of success is utopia; of failure, is destruction.
What makes Faust so intensely human, and how is this indicative of the age in which it was written?
Goethe wrote Faust within the context of the Age of Enlightenment as well as the Romantic period. Goethe sought to incorporate these two positions, to reunite reason and passion. Under the mindset of Goethe, the ideal person is neither rigidly rational nor undisciplined in their passion, but rather someone who uses reason and emotion together as to act positively and purposefully within the world, as well as to understand it better. Goethe found in the culture of Classical Greece, as created by poets like Homer and philosophers like Aristotle, a quintessential model for just such an amalgamation.
Goethe believed that the Greeks refined passion as mitigated by reason, and reason vitalized by passion, mirroring how the Greeks balanced the needs of the individual with the needs of society as a whole. The play of Faust, when viewed from this perspective, can be presumed as depicting its protagonist's development from a magic-wielding Romantic hero, who acts on passion with often tragic consequences, into, a spirited but nevertheless rationally moderate man who later realizes that human nature, reason and imagination together, is our salvation from the forces of evil, a fulfillment of the Classical ideal.
Goethe's concerns thus extend from the depths of the human psyche to the limits of the universe, from the most profound kind of interiority to the most patient and attentive external observation. All objects of knowledge for Goethe are at once external and internal, objective and subjective. Like all the Romantics, Goethe grappled unceasingly with the division between self and world opened up by Kant's metaphysics, and he reflects the dominant philosophy constantly in the opposed pairs that people Faust. A work that stretches "from heaven, through the world, right down to hell," that ranges from the mythic origins of classical antiquity to modern industrial society, that mixes popular and ritual forms with the latest in theatrical fashion and technical advances, is the prototype of what has come to be known, not surprisingly, as cosmic drama.
How does The Tale of Kieu transform historical and classical material into a national romance?
Nguyen Du turned to a sixteenth-century novel called The Tale of Chun, Yun, and Ch'iao. Its author, Hsu Wei, had taken part in a campaign in China to suppress a revolt a populist rebel named Tu Hai. Tu Hai proved too powerful for the Ming emperor to defeat directly, but Tu Hai had a favourite concubine named Wang Ts'ui-ch'iao. She persuaded Tu Hai to surrender, whereupon the emperor had him murdered; Kieu then threw herself into a river. In the original version of the novel, she drowned, but Hsu Wei revised the story in a sequel and had her rescued and reunited with her family.
Nguyen Du took up this material and remade it into an extraordinary tale, focusing not on the rebel leader but on Kieu, whom he made into a picaresque heroine, a consummate survivor in a chaotic world. Sudden death and political violence first deprive Kieu of her betrothed and then force her into prostitution, followed by a series of abrupt reversals in fortune. All too trusting of the various shady characters who promise to help her, mourning her lost love yet also quite ready to fall in love again - and again - Kieu rises to every challenge and does what she must, aware that her sufferings play out faults in past lives recorded in the underworld Book of the Damned. Among her many talents, Kieu is presented as a superb poet, and her poetry gets her out of more than one tight situation.
Kieu has long been understood as a stand-in for Nguyen Du himself, struggling to stay afloat - and to express himself - in a swiftly changing political situation. In this, Kieu can be compared to Byron's Don Juan and Pushkin's Eugene Onegin, poet's alter egos whose romantic misadventures provide the basis for a broad-based, tragicomic survey of European social and political upheavals in these same years.
Both Nguyen Du and his heroine came to symbolize Vietnam as a whole, through depending on the political needs of the moment, Kieu and her creator could be praised as survivors or excoriated as immoral and disloyal.
What is the significance of Du's adaptation of old forms and well-known themes with respect to reader reception?
Nguyen Du's masterpiece continues to resonate on many levels. In addition to the direct political implications that can be drawn from the story, it has long served more generally as a model of the adaptation of classical themes to a modern context. Nguyen Du repeatedly refers to the Confucian classics and China's great T'ang dynasty poets, yet the old images and techniques served decidedly new purposes, as Kieu fashions a path for herself from the dramatic beginning of the story to its surprising end, bending to circumstances without betraying her highest values, always refusing to take the expected way out. Nguyen Du gives rich and psychologically nuanced portrayals of Kieu, her family, friends, lovers, and her many scheming enemies, in a swift-paced and often humorous narrative that carries heroine and reader alike through shocking events in a disintegrating world.
How does the characterization of Kieu communicate themes common to world literature as well as politics directly relevant to the modern history of Vietnam?
Both Nguyen Du and his heroine came to symbolize Vietnam as a whole, through depending on the political needs of the moment, Kieu and her creator could be praised as survivors or excoriated as immoral and disloyal. The relevance of their story only increased as Vietnam lost its independence to France, becoming absorbed in the 1880s into colonial French Indochina, at which point the Vietnamese elite had to face the choice of cooperation or ostracism.
Recurrent efforts for national liberation gained momentum during and after World War II. Drawn-out conflicts ensued, first with France and then between the Chinese-supported north and the American-supported south in the Vietnam War of 1965-1973. After a further period of civil conflict, an independent, united Vietnam was established by the communist government of Ho Chi Minh - himself a poet and someone who could quote long stretches of The Tale of Kieu from memory.
Is "The Bronze Horseman" a celebration of Russia, or does it transcend nationalist propaganda?
The conflict between Tsar and citizen, or empire and individual, is a key theme of "The Bronze Horseman". Critics differ as to whether Pushkin ultimately sides with Evgenii — the little man — or Peter and historical necessity. The radical 19th-century critic Vissarion Belinsky considered the poem a vindication of Peter's policies, while the writer Dmitri Merezhkovsky thought it a poem of individual protest.
The Bronze Horseman symbolizes "Tsar Peter, the city of St Petersburg, and the uncanny reach of autocracy over the lives of ordinary people." When Evgenii threatens the statue, he is threatening "everything distilled in the idea of Petersburg." At first, Evgenii was just a lowly clerk that the Bronze Horseman could not deign to recognize because Evgenii was so far beneath him. However, when Evgenii challenges him, "Peter engages the world of Evgenii" as a response to Evgenii's arrogance. The "statue stirs in response to his challenge" and gallops after him to crush his rebellion. Before, Evgenii was just a little man that the Bronze Horseman would not bother to respond to. Upon Evgenii's challenge, however, he becomes an equal and a rival that the Bronze Horseman must crush in order to protect the accomplishments he stands for.
What is the role of industrialism in "The Bronze Horseman," and is this a theme that comes up in other works of the period?
n 1937 the Red Archive published a biographical account of Pushkin, written by E. N. Cherniavsky. In it Cherniavsky explained how The Bronze Horseman could be seen as Pushkin's attack on the repressive nature of the autocracy under Tsar Nicholas I. Having opposed the government and suffered his ruin, Evgenii challenges the symbol of Tsarist authority but is destroyed by its terrible, merciless power.
Cherniavsky was perhaps also using the analysis to attack the Soviet system under Stalin. By 1937 the Soviet intelligentsia was faced with many of the same issues that Pushkin's society had struggled with under Nicholas I. Cherniavsky set out how Evgenii was a symbol for the downtrodden masses throughout Russia.
By challenging the statue, Evgenii was challenging the right of the autocracy to rule over the people. Whilst in keeping with Soviet historiography of the late Tsarist period, Cherniavsky subtly hinted at opposition to the supreme power presently ruling Russia. He assessed the resolution of the conflict between the personal and the public with praise for the triumph of socialism, but couched it in terms that left his work open to interpretation, that while openly praising Soviet advances, he was using Pushkin's poem to criticise the methods by which this was achieved.
Do Ghalib and Baudelaire use poetic language similarly?
Baudelaire's The Flowers of Evil, expresses the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the 19th century. Baudelaire's highly original style of prose-poetry influenced a whole generation of poets. He is credited with coining the term "modernity" (modernité) to designate the fleeting, ephemeral experience of life in an urban metropolis, and the responsibility art has to capture that experience.
The dialectic of Ghalib's poetry is double-edged. He uses current
imagery, but makes new use of it, and shows its hollowness as
it has become empty of thought and is inadequate to reflect the reality. His imagination is esemplastic. Perception and thought are continuously fused in his mind. But then, Ghalib expresses an attitude, not an emotion. There is no room for sentiment in his poetry. His approach is through the mind: it is a state of mind. He is a poet not of the past, but of the present: He is not interested in a philosophy, and attempts at finding in him adherence to this mystical belief or that religious doctrine are beside the point. He is primarily concerned with communicating his experience, sensing his thought and turning his ideas into sensations.
Ghalib possessed the quality of absolute curiosity, love. of comprehension, and a sense of beauty which led to a capacity for: acute impressions, heightening of imaginative feeling and perception of beautiful images, even in such social concepts as the hmee, for it is the awareness of the presence or absence of an emotion, an object, that beauty resides.
What role does the theme of love play in the poetry of each?
Many of Baudelaire's "love poems" seem more like poems about lust and desire. Indeed, his obsession with women and sex leads him down the path of unrighteousness. He loses himself and his capacity for autonomy and reason, indulging in his desires without care for the status of his soul. Interestingly, though, his contemplation of these women's eyes, hair, scent, body, and/or jewels leads him to moments of transcendence in which his senses blend together and he has a glimpse of beauty in its purest form. Other times his lust is connected to death and the release that comes from sex is akin to the release that comes from vacating one's mortal body. He is morbidly curious about the body, about sex, and about death.
'Death' is a very dominant theme in Ghalib's poetry. His life portrays a very clear picture of the reasons why he talked about death more often. The pension that Ghalib used to get was stopped during the 1857 revolt which led to debts but he continued to get a little percentage of the original afterwards, all his children died during infancy, and his work wasn't appreciated during his lifetime.
How are the poems of each informed by intended readership and/or social circumstances?
Baudelaire's disgust with politics led to a rejection of reality in favor of an obsessive fantasy world inspired by drugs, the exotic beauty of the Mediterranean, and the search for love. He was strongly influenced in this regard not only by his experiences along the Mediterranean but also by Edgar Allen Poe, whose writings he translated into French.
Baudelaire was fascinated by Poe's evocation of the dark side of the imagination, and he found a comparably sinister seductiveness in the paintings of Eugene Delacroix and Edouard Manet, as well as the music of Wagner. These themes and influences play a predominant role in Baudelaire's 1857 collection of poetry, The Flowers of Evil, which juxtaposed the negative themes of exile, decay, and death with an ideal universe of happiness.
Ghalib's poems build up a powerful persona of a witty, sophisticated, melancholy commentator on his own life and on life in general. Ghalib is typically indirect in his social and political references, but his verses reflect his ambivalent skepticism toward secular power and religious orthodoxy. Seen in the context of his times, his poems become a personal mirror of the declining decades of the Mughal Empire, at a time when British involvement in India was rapidly increasing.
Ghalib was deeply critical of the harshness of British rule, yet he also admired the city planning and prosperity they had introduced in Calcutta. He didn't support the 1857 revolt against colonial rule, and was shocked at the extent of British reprisals, in which many of his friends were hanged or exiled. An added personal loss was the destruction of the homes and libraries of two friends where many of his poems were housed.
How does reading such vastly different uses of verse side by side contribute to our understanding of world literature?
Are there similarities between John in "The Yellow Wallpaper" and Torvald in A Doll's House that point to cross-cultural issues?
While reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman's short story "The Yellow Wallpaper", I found that it was similar to Henrik Ibsen's play A Doll's House, mainly in terms of characters. Both stories are set during a time where men were seen as dominant over women, therefore there are comparisons between John from "The Yellow Wallpaper" and Torvald Helmer from A Doll's house.
Torvald and John treated their wives like children by belittling and controlling them. In "The Yellow Wallpaper", John takes care of his wife because of her illness, but does it in a condescending way. "He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction" (Gilman 26), the reader is able to see that John does love his wife and assures that she is receiving the proper care needed to treat her illness, however, his controlling behaviour comes through by not allowing here to do things without his approval. Similarly, in A Doll's House, Torvald and his wife, Nora, have a relationship that is also male dominant. Torvald infantilizes Nora by giving her money like a father giving his child an allowance. "Ten shillings—a pound—two pounds! Thank you, thank you, Torvald; that will keep me going for a long time" (Ibsen 80). Both situations demonstrate how the wives are portrayed as inferior to the husbands.
The wife in "The Yellow Wallpaper" states, "Then he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose," (Gilman 28). The use of animal names regards the wife as less than the husband because animals were seen as lesser to humans. Also, pet names are mainly used when referring to children. We can compare this to A Doll's House when Torvald says to Nora, "When did my little squirrel come home?" (Ibsen 35). Both quotes showcase the two marriages are unequal.
Another comparison that is clear between Gilman and Ibsen's work are the endings; both wives escape the holds of their husbands. In "The Yellow Wallpaper" the wife finally tears down the wallpaper, which also means her disease got the best of her, but she free is from her husband. "I've got out at last, in spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so now you can't put me back!" (Gilman 42) shows this. The wallpaper represents her husbands control he had over her to which she is now liberated from. In A Doll's House Nora ends up leaving Torvald because of his controlling ways so she is able to find herself, the readers can see this in the quote, "You are not to be bound in the slightest way, any more than I shall. There must be a perfect freedom on both sides. See, here is your ring back. Give me mine" (Ibsen 790).
How is the representation of marriage in "The Yellow Wallpaper" and A Doll's House used to call for the emancipation of women?
In the Yellow Wallpaper, the thematic question is, "How does the socio-political, psychological, and philosophical environment affect one's mental mindset?" The narrator lived during the Victorian Era, a time when women were forced/ expected to stifle their opinions/ desires. They were even treated like children.
At one point, the narrator's husband calls her, "Little girl." He treats her like Torvald treats Nora in a Doll's House, how Torvald calls her his little squirrel, little lark. etc. The narrator's husband makes all her decisions for her and stifles any attempt at being imaginative. Being forced to stifle feelings, desires, etc. would have made any go insane. Sigmund Freud's theory was that the Victorian society caused British women to have mental illnesses, because they were forced to stifle their desires and opinions. At the end, the narrator's husband comes barging in when she's done ripping off the wallpaper and she yells, "I've got out at last, in spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back." This hints that metaphorically, she was free from her husband's control and that he couldn't treat the same way anymore.
How does the relationship between Faust and Margaret in Faust compare to that of Torvald and Nora in A Doll's House?
Both males fall in love with the illusion of these women and not really them.
Gretchen is a simple, innocent, and pious maiden who develops into a figure of genuine tragic stature. She is essentially pure and innocent, but becomes a willing victim of Faust's seduction due to loneliness, inexperience, resentment of her mother's strictness, and an idealistic naiveté that leads her to assume that Faust's love will be as permanent and unselfish as her own. In a sense her crimes are the result of her innocence, although this does not negate her own responsibility for her downfall. Gretchen has an innate religious sense, and one critic has called her the only true Christian in the poem. This is why she is able to accept her punishment at the end of Part One, and also explains her intuitive aversion to Mephisto and her insight that Faust's plan for escape would be morally unbearable. Gretchen is admitted to Heaven at the close of Part One because, despite her acts, she was never motivated by evil intentions and had acted according to her natural instincts. Although in Goethe's view, positive action is better than negative action, nonetheless humans are basically creative and good, and action is better than non-action, so this entitled Gretchen to an opportunity to find salvation.
Nora is by far the most interesting character in the play. Many critics have pointed out that such an immature, ignorant creature could never have attained the understanding and revolutionary qualities that Nora has at the time she leaves her home. Ibsen, however, has carefully constructed Nora so that her independence and farsightedness have always shown through her adolescent capriciousness. Although her father and husband have seriously injured her practical education, Nora has retained enough native wisdom to confront an emergency. That she bungles the situation by a careless forgery provides further credence to her independence of thought as well as to her lack of sophistication. This mixture of wisdom and childishness is Nora's strongest quality. It enables her to oppose the knowledge of books and the doctrines of her worldly husband and to test by experience the social hypothesis which declares that duties to the family are the most sacred. Only an innocent creature can brave the perils of the outside world to find her identity.
Shocked audiences who objected to Nora's solution of her marital impasse and critics who considered her character unable to withstand the severe trial neglected to take account of the artistic truthfulness of the slammed door and its aftermath. One of the most common themes enduring in folklore and in less spontaneous works of art is this notion of the innocent journeying through the world to discover basic human values. The significance of these mythic themes is that only an innocent, fearless creature has the power of vision to see through the false values of sophisticated society. In Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, the story of Siegfried, Fielding's Tom Jones, and even in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, we find the recurrent idea of youthful inquiry prevailing over worldly experience. Ibsen's Nora, though deriving from a much closer and realistic setting, is raised to a mythic level as she too accepts her inevitable quest, the sacred pursuit of her identity.
Which of the two outcomes is the more shocking—the wife's insanity in "The Yellow Wallpaper" or Nora's liberation in A Doll's House?
While both outcomes are shocking.
I personally found Nora's liberation in A Doll's House the most shocking. This is due to the following:
- it was not common for women to leave husband (men left wifes)
- at this time, women were defined by the role they played in the household and she was abandoning this role
- it was not common for women to leave their children
- money and security was a huge motivator for the character
How might the late nineteenth century shift to realism have proven more effective than romantic idealism as a means to challenge readers' understanding of social norms?
Realism and Romanticism vary in terms of visual goals and political agenda. The distinctions between the movements denote that their inspirations evolved from artistic styles of the past, but were responsive to the changing political climate. Both movements evolved and shaped the affairs of state. Similarly to how Romanticism flowered
during the royal restoration of Napoleon Bonaparte's reign from 1815 to 1830, Realism gained political fervor during the Revolution of 1848. Each movement led social change, but differed in terms of
While Romanticism glamorized foreign lands and idealistic landscape, Realism depicted the struggles of the working class and Europe's socio-economic inequality. Stokstad indicates, "Romanticism describes not only a style but also an attitude. It is chiefly concerned with imagination and the emotions, and is often understood as a reaction against the focus on rationality" (Stokstad, 2008:956). Romanticism is derived from the language of Latin, and bases
its objectives on a poetic or melancholic spirit.
Whereas Realism, "reflected the positivist belief that art should show
unvarnished truth, and realists took up subjects that were generally regarded as not important enough for a serious work of art" (Stokstad, 2008:1017). In hindsight, both movements challenged the artistic limitations of the time.
The dominant paradigm in novel writing during the second half of the nineteenth century was no longer the Romantic idealism of the earlier part of the century. What took hold among the great novelists in Europe and America was a new approach to character and subject matter, a school of thought which later came to be known as Realism. On one level, Realism is precisely what it sounds like. It is attention to detail, and an effort to replicate the true nature of reality in a way that novelists had never attempted. There is the belief that the novel's function is simply to report what happens, without comment or judgment. Seemingly inconsequential elements gain the attention of the novel functioning in the realist mode.
Realism came under attack largely because it represented such a bold departure from what readers had come to expect from the novel. The fascination with things falling apart was unpleasant to many, and critics sometimes accused the practitioners of Realism of focusing only on the negative aspects of life. Additionally, the intense focus on the minutiae of character was seen as unwillingness to actually tell a story. Readers complained that very little happened in realistic fiction, that they were all talk and little payoff. Henry James in particular was criticized for his verbosity, especially in his later years. By the end of the nineteenth century, Realism in the pure sense had given way to another form called Naturalism. With Naturalism, authors looked to heredity and history to define character. Ironically, many of the qualities that people found distasteful in realism - the obsession with character, the superficially mundane plots - were all intensified in Naturalism.
Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.
The movement emphasized intense emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such emotions as apprehension, horror and terror, and awe—especially that experienced in confronting the new aesthetic categories of the sublimity and beauty of nature. It elevated folk art and ancient custom to something noble, but also spontaneity as a desirable characteristic (as in the musical impromptu). In contrast to the Rationalism and Classicism of the Enlightenment, Romanticism revived medievalism and elements of art and narrative perceived as authentically medieval in an attempt to escape population growth, early urban sprawl, and industrialism.
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