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The representation of the father within media texts: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis.

June 30th, 2010 Comments off

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Abstract.

Since the 1970’s discursive practices have been employed when analysing issues within personal identity. This study aims to do just that by analysing the discursive constructions identified within gender differences and approaches to parenting. For this purpose a number of texts were employed and a Foucauldian approach to discourse analysis was carried out on selected articles. Several discursive constructions were identified such as the primary use of female expert opinions, the textual imagery of the father as inane and refreshingly the emergence of a non-gender specific magazine aimed at both parents.

Keywords: Foucauldian discourse analysis, parenting, father, gender.

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Introduction.

Within the subject of social psychology exists two distinct yet very different approaches, that of experimental social psychology and critical psychology. It is important to note that while experimental social psychology is indeed theoretical, essentially critical psychologists refer to this area of psychology as an approach rather than a theory (Stainton Rogers et al. 1995). While experimental social psychology is concerned with the theory as a definite science (Stainton Rogers, 2003), critical psychology is concerned with various sub-disciplines and is considered to be unable to form one solid theory or practice (Hook, 2004). One of the main approaches within critical psychology is that of social constructionism as it underpins all of the approaches within critical psychology such as post-structuralism and discourse analysis, and is the main theoretical framework for the research carried out within critical psychology (Burr, 1998).

Discourse analysis is concerned with the construction of language within society (Burr, 1998). There are two types of discourse analysis; discursive resources and discursive practices. The latter is concerned with language as a system of symbols which can be used to construct social realties to make meaning of the world and the use of language to manipulate in order to achieve a particular goal (Stainton Rogers, 2003: 81). The former is most commonly referred to as Foucauldian discourse analysis and is concerned with the construction of language and its influences over a period of time such as the rise of feminism as a challenge to patriarchy (Stainton Rogers, 2003: 313).

Foucauldian discourse analysis emerged in the latter part of the 1970’s as a response to the ideas of Michael Foucault. Its main use was to analyse the use of language as a discursive resource or essentially to underpin the relationship between the interpretation of language as suited to the interpreter and the involvement it may find within critical psychological research (Willig, 2001). At the same time it makes the assumption the world is made up of many discourses that influence the way in which one sees it (Willig, 2001).

Foucauldian discourse analysis can be a very useful tool when deconstructing gender identities within text as it allows the analyst to approach the text with several different ideas in mind such as the placement of certain pieces of information in relation to others and the ways in which the reader may respond. This form of discourse analysis indeed proved to be a useful tool when analysing articles within parenting magazines as it allowed for exploration into the discourses that emerge when studying gender roles within parenting and the impact the broader discourses may have on the reader.

Background:

The area of gender chosen was that of gender representations in parenting magazines therefore several parenting and pregnancy magazines were selected such as Prima Baby, Junior, Parenting Magazine, Practical Parenting and Mother and Baby. From these, three magazines were chosen and within these magazines two articles and two advertisements were selected. As the analytic strategy to be used was that of the Foucauldian method of discourse analysis, particular attention was paid to the construction of the texts and the way in which they may be interpreted differently dependant on the gender of the person that read them. Many discursive constructions were identified and it seemed that just as they formed an identifiable construction of their own, further material would emerge that compared closely with identified material and caused a new, broader, discursive construction to arise. It was this general area of difficulty in pinpointing only one very simple area of text that gave need for the Foucauldian approach to discourse analysis. Through being able to identify not only the discursive constructions but also the subjectivity within these articles made for a much more in depth and reliable analysis.

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The representation of the father within media texts: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. (Part 5)

June 30th, 2010 Comments off

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Burr, V. (1998), ‘An Introduction to Social Constructionism’ London: Routledge.

Hook, D. (ed), (2004), ‘Critical Psychology’ South Africa: UCT Press.

Martin, C. K. Matta, D. S. (2006), ‘Father Responsivity: Couple Processes and the Coconstruction of Fatherhood’ Family Process, Volume 45 (1): 19-37.

Pauwles, A. Winter, J. (2006), ‘Men staying at home looking after their children: feminist linguistic reform and social change’ International Journal of Applied Linguistics, Volume 16 (1): 16-36.

Skevik, A. (2006), ‘Absent fathers or reorganized families? Variations in father-child contact after parental break-up in Norway’ The Sociological Review, Volume 54 (1): 114-132.

Stainton Rogers, R. Stenner, P. Gleeson, K. and Stainton Rogers, W. (1995), ‘Social psychology. A Critical Agenda’ Cambridge: Polity Press.

Stainton Rogers, W. (2003), ‘Social Psychology. Experimental and Critical Approaches’ Berkshire: Open University Press.

Willig, C. (2001), ‘Introducing Qualitative Research in Psychology:Adventures in Theory and Method’ Buckingham: Open University Press.

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The representation of the father within media texts: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. (Part 2)

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Analysing the text was interesting yet difficult at times due to contradictory discursive constructions and changing approaches throughout the magazines which will be explained later. Choosing a particular article was not so challenging as for the most part the tone of the content was similar however one particular magazine stood out for a variety of reasons which are explored in the analysis, and it was found that no particular article as such could be chosen.

Analysis:

All parents are women and only the female opinion of child rearing is valuable.

Interestingly, when analysing the articles it emerged that whenever a statement of parental experiences was made it was made by a mother.

“When Violet was 2, she started to have nightmares so I’d let her get into our bed, says mum Kelly”

From ‘Practical Parenting’

“Nothing will ever compare to our first Christmas with Molly, admits Amanda Langley, mum to Molly 12 months”

From ‘Mother and Baby’

The construction of the text in this way gives the impression that it is primarily aimed at women but more interestingly that the opinion of a mother has a greater value than the opinion of a father. This also positions the mother, rather than the father, as the main carer of the children. Furthermore it may make the reader feel that, if a mother, only their experiences and opinions are of any relevancy or if the reader is a father that their experiences are of no interest. This may also make the reader, if male; lose interest in any experiences that they associate with their children. While this view may seem extreme, the supposedly superior opinion of the female surfaces again when any experts are called upon, particularly within Mother and Baby magazine.

“Of course, if you’re happy to share your bed, then don’t lose sleep over it, suggest Helen Ball senior lecturer in anthropology”

From ‘Mother and Baby’

“If your child is ill, stay with her in her room if you feel you should, recommends Mandy Gurney”

From ‘Mother and Baby’

“Plan Christmas with your partner in advance, advises relationship expert Gladeana McMahon”

From ‘Practical Parenting’

The positioning of primarily female experts within this magazine is, in part, understandable due to the fact the magazine is entitled Mother and Baby however this may also suggest that females and in particular, mothers, are gender bias and would value the opinion only of another female or give a females opinion a higher value than that of a males. It would seem that these texts have an ‘all parents are women’ discourse and ‘only the female opinion is valuable’ discourse running throughout them. This is, however, a highly idealistic view of parenting. Although, historically, the male figure within the family has been seen as the breadwinner (Matta and Martin, 2006) that spends most of their time at work rather than at home contributing to the upbringing of the children, particularly within industrial society, presently the role of the male has changed dramatically. Increasingly, fathers are being rendered as involved in the upbringing of their children (Skevik, 2006). Fatherhood has become a central focus of social change and social attitudes portray expectancy for both parents to be equally involved in every aspect of their children’s lives (Hawkins and Amato and King, 2006). With this in mind perhaps the magazines should be aiming to include both parents rather than singling out the female as the main carer. Practical Parenting seems to address this issue though only on a very small scale (and somewhat contradictory to the almost constantly used female related terms) by sometimes using the term ‘parents’ or ‘mum and dad’;

“When there are two parents in a bed”

From ‘Practical Parenting’

“It might end up with mum or dad being relegated to the sofa”

From ‘Practical Parenting’

At the same time, surprisingly, and perhaps an attempt to include the male within the role of parenting, Mother and Baby includes the expert opinion of a male;

“It is vital to remember that you have new roles as parents, says life coach Peter Barnard”

From ‘Mother and Baby’

However the context in with this opinion is given is fairly ‘common sense’ as it will be obviously apparent to parents that they have become just that; parents which is clearly a role change from husband, wife or partner. It is from this that the next discourse arises.

When it comes to parents, best let the women get on with it as the men are inane.

The above title gives strong suggestion for the next identified discursive construction. Mother and Baby magazine, as its title suggests, is predominantly aimed at women.

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The representation of the father within media texts: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. (Part 4)

June 30th, 2010 Comments off

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The first advertisement was for a new buggy from the Graco range that had been specifically designed not to scratch women’s shoes and had also been made available in a variety of colours to match women’s shoes.

“Sensible shoes…with this buggy, who needs them? ”

From ‘Junior’

“Mojo. Available in a range of frivolous colours – just like your shoes! ”

From ‘Junior’

While this advertisement may indeed be suggesting that parental responsibility falls predominantly on the female when one considers the context of the rest of the magazine one may then be swayed to consider that this advertisement represents working mothers or business women who need to look respectable regardless of their parental role and indeed may give a mother the reassurance that they can look good as mothers, working or otherwise. At the same time one may feel that this advertisement is addressing the issue that not all mothers are ‘stay at home’ mums and that it reinforces the idea that a female can be a mum and a professional.

As mentioned above, within Parenting magazine, for every reference that was made to a mother, one was also made to a father. This is illustrated excellently with an advertisement for another buggy but this time aimed at men. The advertisement entitled “Daddy Cool” is for the Diablo buggy that has been designed with fathers in mind. The Diablo buggy has a masculine design making it appeal to fathers. This advertisement seems to take note of the new role of the father within contemporary society and at the same time one might consider that it also acknowledges the importance of the inclusion of the father within the upbringing of children. This advertisement may give a male the feeling that they do have an important role as fathers and are just as entitled to contribute to the upbringing of their children as mothers are, however it was here that it may have proved more fruitful to adopt a semiotic form of investigation rather than a Foucauldian discourse analysis, simply because more analysis could have been carried out on the imagery as signs.

Discussion.

It can clearly be seen from the broader discourse as outlined above that the opinion of the father is poorly represented. Moreover it suggests that when it comes to parenting, often, fathers are pushed by the wayside within media texts with mothers being the main focus of attention. Whilst the texts are predominately aimed at women this is no reason to exclude the opinion of fathers. In addition it is unfair and extremely gender bias to construct the textual image of a man as inane when it comes to parenting. In a world where the role of the father is becoming ever more important (Matta and Martin, 2006), the image of men as inept at child rearing may serve only to cause a reversal in the emergence of the father as equal to the mother as it may cause men who read it to reconsider any attempts at pro-involvement within parenting. Significantly the use of the father’s actions as anecdotal within the text could have serious implications to the confidence of a father adapting to this role. It was certainly evident that the mother being more competent at parenting was the broadest discourse, evident over both articles. Perhaps it is magazines such as Junior that may serve to compliment gender equality in parenting and furthermore by doing so, help to get the message across that parenting is as much for fathers as it is for mothers.

By adopting the Foucauldin discourse analysis as the primary tool of examination, multiple discourses could be identified and explored further. It was also found that objectivity did not exist in any if the texts as they all seemed to influence the way in which a person may react, and dependant on their sex the subjectivity they derived from it. At the same time, the Foucauldian method has been criticised for the emphasis it places on subjectivity as it has been argued that essentially discourse cannot provide a full construction of the self as a number of other factors such as socio-economic status should be taken into account when finding a sense of identity (Willig, 2001). Furthermore arguments have been made that in order to truly construct reality further theoretical frameworks within social constructionism should be consulted other than discourse analysis in order to gain a valid insight into social realities, gender specific or otherwise.

Bibliography.

Amato, P. R. Hawkins, D. N. King, V. (2006), ‘Parent-Adolescent Involvement: The Relative Influence of Parent Gender and Residence’ Journal of Marriage and Family,
Volume 68 (1): 125-136.

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The representation of the father within media texts: A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis. (Part 3)

June 30th, 2010 Comments off

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However it seems that perhaps in light of this the magazine portrays mothers as superior to fathers (as shown above) but on deep analysis it also seems that Mother and Baby also seem to portray the father as inane.

“Men aren’t telepathic, so give him clear tasks like buying the drinks and, if he complains, tell him it’s only fair that he does his share”

From ‘Mother and Baby’

This piece of text seems to position the father firmly within the role of the child. The way in which the text mentions that the father may complain serves to undermine the role of fatherhood in contemporary society. Furthermore if a male were to read this, one might suggest that subjectively, this particular discourse may make a male feel as if they need not help on the more difficult tasks and that perhaps he should stick to the mundane tasks, as that is all that is expected of him. This particular discourse of the father as an additional child surfaces again;

“My husband, Daryl, was so excited about Jake’s first Christmas, he got dressed up as Santa before hanging his stocking at the end of his cot, says Jill Preston, mum to Jake 13 months. Unfortunately, Jake woke up and started screaming when he saw this bearded man in his bedroom, now we hang all our stockings off the mantle piece! ”

From ‘Mother and Baby’

The placement of this text is immediately after a piece of advice from expert Gladeana McMahon concerned with being sensible at Christmas. The placement of the above quote, immediately after the advice from McMahon seems to highlight the story and one might consider that it serves to illustrate further the position of how inane fathers may be. It would seem that the efforts of the father to make Christmas special for his child has been dismissed and the context of the story is almost an anecdote that may make a mother laugh and possibly position them to feel superior to the father. The way in which the mother tells of the baby waking up and screaming when he saw his father dressed up as Santa may bring inferences to the readers mind of what a silly thing the father did. Perhaps one would suggest that the father had acted like a child and had caused his son to become upset. Furthermore a father may pick up on this discursive construction and feel that they may be ridiculed if they try to interact with their children in a fun way. This is illustrated further;

“We’re so used to ‘the wheels on the bus’ by now that on our last trip my husband David found himself humming a verse while filling the car up with petrol! He got some strange looks”

From ‘Mother and Baby’

Again it could be argued that the father is being made to look inane for singing ‘the wheels on the bus’ in public. The selected texts seem to give the impression that when it comes to parenting; men simply aren’t able to manage without making themselves look injudicious. In fact, this is not the case as now gender neutralisation is occurring with regards to men staying at home to care for their children as an occupation (Winter and Paules, 2006). Furthermore men are now seen as equally capable of child rearing as women (Matta and Martin, 2006). Interestingly a magazine was found, quite by accident, that recognizes the importance of the role of father and the gender equality now present within parenting.

Fathers are just as important as Mothers.

When it came to selecting an article within Junior magazine that showed a discursive construction of the female as a better parent, admittedly (and perhaps refreshingly), nothing could be found. In contrast to the other magazines for every reference to a mother, there was a reference to a father. At the same time for every female expert opinion called upon, a male was called upon also. The magazines contained stories and experiences as much from fathers as it did from mothers and every opinion was considered valuable regardless of which gender it originated from. Whilst there was plenty of text available to analyse, two advertisements stood out as they were gender specific.

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William Shakespeare’s Commentary on Female Political Rulers through the Character of Lady Macbeth

June 28th, 2010 Comments off

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The authorship of William Shakespeare frequently places the ultimate power in the hands of female protagonists, and in doing so, implicitly suggests that women’s involvement in politics at the sovereign level represents a danger to society at large. To gain credibility as an autonomous leader, or the means behind the “puppeting” of a male in power, each female character must be stripped of every ounce of femininity, just as was the case in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In his characters, particularly Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare explores gender anxieties; in his plot, he embraces conflict and turmoil stemming from this anxiety, and in his play’s resolution, he bestows power back into a patriarchal system, satisfying the desires of the people for governmental stability. It is through the evolution of Lady Macbeth’s nature that Shakespeare offers an indirect commentary of his time concerning female leadership capabilities.

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The control of Lady Macbeth throughout the play, first possessing a strong grip upon her husband but diminishing as he becomes increasingly independent, reflects the social circumstances and governmental situation of the time of its composition. Lady Macbeth can be viewed as an allegorical Queen Elizabeth I of England, holding vast amounts of power because she does not embody the typical characterization of aristocratic women. The suicide of Lady Macbeth, which renders to the reestablishment of a patriarchal monarchial system, mimics the transition, although bloodless, from Queen Elizabeth I to James VI of Scotland, her chosen successor, reinstalling the line of male sovereignty. Written between the years 1605 and 1606 to be performed before King James VI shortly after the death of Queen Elizabeth in March of 1603, the story of Macbeth along with the characterization of its leading lady offers a celebration to the restoration of male-dominated normalcy in Renaissance England.

The instability of the Tudor monarchy, plagued by events preceding the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, is presumed to be a result of female rule and thus is inherently dangerous for the state. The belief that a woman can not effectively lead a nation into war, exercise power over male subjects, or become wed without transferring her power to her husband and to his family all produce anxiety regarding the ability of women to rule and thus left it a culture yearning for the stability represented by a king, not a queen. To cure this insurgent hesitance and to express confidently the needed attributes to occupy power, Queen Elizabeth, much like her counterpart, Lady Macbeth, could not act in a womanly manner. The “Virgin Queen” as Elizabeth I was dubbed, resulting from her desire to strip herself of feminine sexuality, could nevertheless escape her femininity because of her appearance and the bias that existed against women in power at the time. Through the examination of the political attitudes against the late Queen of England, one can identify the parallels that Shakespeare conveyed through his character, Lady Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth possesses unbridled ambition and an insatiable hunger for power, typical male sentiments which are deemed unladylike when compared to the traditional characterization and role of women. Women during this era are expected to be quiet and opinion-less in speech, gentle individuals who watch over home and servants, functioning to primarily please their husbands. This idea is further concurred by Joan Klein in her essay entitled “Lady Macbeth: ‘Infirm of Purpose,” as a result from Eve’s original seduction of Adam, all “women were bound by nature and law to obey their husbands as well as their God,” distinguishing Lady Macbeth as an oddity (168). Instead of fitting this mold, Lady Macbeth operates as the manipulative character in this play, pushing to obtain great power for personal gain through her husband’s lethal deeds. Following the slaughter of Cawdor in battle, Macbeth becomes alarmed when he learns that King Duncan’s son, Malcolm, not himself for his heroic actions, will be the next heir to the throne. After this meeting, Macbeth composes a letter to his wife, informing her of his resentment, and quickly she learns that King Duncan will be paying a royal visit to their castle, Inverness. To hasten the prophecy outlined in her husband’s letter, one that proclaims Macbeth will first be named Thane of Cawdor and then king, Lady Macbeth devises a plan to murder the King. Through the derision of her husband’s weakness, and the brilliancy of her plan, which seems to be fated by destiny, Lady Macbeth convinces Macbeth to commit regicide against a king he once followed. Such manipulation of events and the greed, which drew her to seek out to kill the king, are ultimately characteristics are typical of a man, rather than a woman. With this ploy, Lady Macbeth assumes the absolute power of the state, behaving as if she is to not be held accountable and deserves no blame. Her disruption of political stability stems from her own ambition, and it is this ambition that makes her standout as unnatural for her gender.

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William Shakespeare’s Commentary on Female Political Rulers through the Character of Lady Macbeth (Part 2)

June 28th, 2010 Comments off

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To gain credibility in her abilities and in the confidence that although she is a woman, she is capable of hungering for such power and seizing this power from others, Lady Macbeth must remove all aspects of femininity from herself. If the lady wishes to sway others into believing that she is perfectly competent of exercising leadership, she feels that the spirits must literally deprive her of femininity, thicken her blood, and halt her ability to weep openly. She begs these specters to strip away the attributes that make her a woman in crying out, “Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top full Of direct cruelty. ” (I, v, 41-44). She desires for her blood congeal so that she can no longer be harmed by her own guilty conscious, “Make thick my blood, Stop up the access and passage to remorse, That no compunctious visiting of nature Shake my fell purpose nor keep peace between The effects and it! ” (I, v, 44-48). If Lady Macbeth is able to halt any inhibitions of guilt that may result from any of her deeds, she can consider herself more of a man, as men do go out into battle and kill without inflicting their souls with compunction. She then begs that the physical characteristics that make her a woman be removed, “Come to my woman’s breasts, And take my milk for gall, your murthering ministers wherever in your sightless substances You wait on nature’s mischief. ” (I, v, 48-51). When Lady Macbeth desires to be “unsexed” in both emotional and physical terms, her words reveal the noted discordance between the supposed archetype of feminine nature and political ambition. Despite this, Klein suggests, “[She] is never able to separate herself completely from womankind – unlike her husband, who ultimately becomes less and worse than a man,” (169). Shakespeare must de-feminize Lady Macbeth to some extent to give her ambitions credibility and, therefore, maintain in the minds of the audience that she as a character to be taken seriously.

  Through the bullying and chastising of her husband, Lady Macbeth drives Macbeth to dismiss his own fears, which ultimately leads to his own downfall.   Shakespeare transforms the longing of Lady Macbeth into that of a masculine nature and by doing so, through her actions and words, places Macbeth in a passive role.   The playwright allows Lady Macbeth to dominate her husband to show that such reversal of sexual relations is also a reversal of political order, reflecting the issues of female involvement in the government and the aptitude possessed by women to reign over men as a monarch.   Throughout the first portion of the play it can be noted that Macbeth is continuously forced to assert his manliness to his wife, first in writing a letter to her from the battlefield hailing his accomplishments and then by murdering King Duncan.   The initial probing exposes a more feminine side of Macbeth, one of doubt and hesitation, when he asks, "If we fail? " (I, vii, 58).   Lady Macbeth replies sharply, "We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking-place And we’ll not fail. " (I, vii, 59-61), attempting to assuage his fears.   Lady Macbeth continuously berates her husband for his lack of conviction, deeming him a weak man who can easily be exploited.   She becomes angered when Macbeth determines that he will not claim the crown by treacherous means, "If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me Without my stir. " (I, iii, 143-144).   Although a man well versed in the sentiments of the battlefield, having hunted down traitor Macdonwald and "unseamed him from the nave to the chaps and fixed his head upon our battlements," Macbeth is plagued by the insistence of a guilty conscious.   Lady Macbeth proceeds to mock him because of his apparent remorse following the murder of King Duncan saying, "My hands are of your color [blood], but I shame To wear a heart so white. " (II, ii, 62-63).   Lady Macbeth finishes the deed of her husband herself, considering him not manly enough to go back and place the bloody daggers in the dead monarch’s bedchamber.   It is through the frequent insults and stabs against his manhood, that Shakespeare brings to light what a strong personality that Lady Macbeth possesses, one strong enough to assume the masculine role of acquisition of power. Upon asking the spirits to unsex her otherwise feminine emotional state and body to gain standing as a power-craving individual, Lady Macbeth acknowledges the single trait that still separates her from masculinity, at least in her mind, the ability to bear children. To remove this capacity would eliminate every aspect which would be considered womanly and, therefore, leave her a neutral ruler, unable to be influenced by the prospect of having children, which was condemned a weakness by the society.

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William Shakespeare’s Commentary on Female Political Rulers through the Character of Lady Macbeth (Part 3)

June 28th, 2010 Comments off

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The disgust Lady Macbeth holds for any child who originates from her flesh can be noted in, “I have given suck, and know How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, Heave pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done to this. ” (I, vi, 54-59). This astonishing revelation also reflects the manner in which she treats those she judges more vulnerable than herself, both man and child alike, influencing them to do horrific crimes for her personal gain. To distance herself from every preconceived notion regarding womanhood, Lady Macbeth has chosen to remain a “barren scepter”, (II, i, 62) denying herself the right to give birth in exchange for a masculine mystique, which allows her the power she is searching to gain. Macbeth, on the other hand, insists that she bear an heir to the throne if he is to occupy it, taking a more practical, parental role a compared to his wife. “Bring forth men-children only! ” he proclaims, “For thy undaunted mettle should compare Nothing but males. ” (I, vii, 72-74). The allusions made to the childlessness and the demands for a son to ascend the throne in this marriage can be found echoing in the minds of the first audience following the death of Queen Elizabeth, who died without hereditary heir. Devoid of the capacity or desire of neither Queen Elizabeth nor Lady Macbeth to yield children, each female ruler in the position of power maintains her credibility as a leader through a masculine form and nature.

Once Lady Macbeth succeeds in convincing Macbeth to undertake the unspeakably horrendous act of murdering King Duncan, her domineering nature can no longer keep him under her spell. Macbeth realizes his strengths stemming from the initial regicide and no longer needs her to fuel his ambition. As in all of human nature, a manipulative mind must have a weak soul by which to prey on, but once this soul loses its inhibitions and gains independence, the manipulative mind shall crumble. Admitting to having killed the guards of the king’s chamber, Macbeth breaks free from the original plan devised by his wife and thus emerges out of her scheme a self-sufficient figure, causing Lady Macbeth to faint in disbelief. While Lady Macbeth is seen to be reexamining the events of the previous murder, Macbeth looks ahead, anticipating the next murder, that of Banquo, which he has not informed his wife of yet. Gradually Macbeth distances his mind from the grip of Lady Macbeth, tasting the spoils of victory independently, and then actively seeking them out, ending the lives of Banquo and Macduff’s wife and children, securing that his wife have no place in the masculine acts of treason and revenge. Upon ascending the throne, “he, the man, so fully commands Lady Macbeth that he allows her no share in his new business. No longer his accomplice, she loses her role as housekeeper. ” (Klein, 175). Once Macbeth realizes his strength and no longer needs her or is in awe of her, Lady Macbeth, stricken and without an object to carry out her manipulation through, falls into periods of madness and sleepwalking. She becomes obsessed with removing the blood from her hands, as to her they appear stained, signifying a personal trial underway upon her soul. Lacking an individual to bestow upon her evil intentions and to achieve her ambitions, Lady Macbeth is forced to turn the evilness upon herself, eventually culminating into suicide as a result of relentless guilt. After losing the power of manipulation over her husband, Lady Macbeth loses her rank in the political institution of the monarchy and, therefore, ultimately ceases to exist, without the control.

The anxieties of gender role manifested in Shakespeare’s Macbeth decisively present that even such a powerful character as Lady Macbeth, or Queen Elizabeth herself, can not overcome the traditions of a patriarchal system through acceptable means. In the conclusion, Malcolm, son of Duncan, is restored to the throne and thus re-establishing normalcy in the line of succession, as deemed appropriate by the British people during Shakespeare’s time. Through the allegorical representation of the political ethos of Renaissance England, Shakespeare examines and resolutely determines that positive involvement of women within the political structure is not feasible, as demonstrated by the evolution of his character, Lady Macbeth.

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Feminist Themes in the Works of Anne Bradstreet

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

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Anne Bradstreet’s "The Prologue" was intended to introduce her lengthy epic poem entitled Quaternions and by doing so, persuade male readers that she, although a woman, possessed enough talent to be worthy of their attention and contemplation. In this poem Bradstreet defended her sex against the disdain that men had shown toward female writers as a whole. The basic theme of her well-known text was the ability of female poets and their lack of acknowledgement by men. Much of the poem was self-deprecating, echoing the kind of criticism aimed at female poet like herself. She seemed to accept reluctantly the general attitude toward female authors, although demonstrating that she could use poetic devices with skill and had a firm grasp of a broad range of literature, including classical Greek and that of Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas, a writer of religious epics from France.

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Much tension between different systems of values was expressed in Bradstreet’s poem, "The Prologue," reflecting the nature of her Puritanical background. Personally Bradstreet views herself as an equal to any male writer of the day, but is forced by society to remain submissive and humble, systems of values clashing at this epicenter. In one instance on the third line, Anne begins, "For my mean pen. " (stanza 1, line 3), emphasizing that she viewed her ability to write about war and other manly ideas as "lowly or humble. " She was claiming that since she was a woman, she would be unable to write about great events that concern male poets "of wars, of captains, and of kings, Of cities founded, commonwealths begun," (1,1-2).

Anne Bradstreet refused to pretend to be a man but rather profess herself as an educated woman of the world, not feeling the need to hide her identity. On the fourth line Bradstreet continues, "Nor can I, like that fluent, sweet-tongued Greek Who lisped at first, in future times speak plain. By art he gladly found what he did seek;" (4, 19-21), referred to Demosthenes, an ancient Athenian who overcame a speech impediment by practicing with a rock in his mouth. Practice or as stated "art" could not make up for the lack of talent or for the fact that nature had made her a woman. Each critic said that Bradstreet should tend to her knitting and be content doing the typical work of a Puritan woman as stated on lines twenty five through twenty six, "I am obnoxious to each carping tongue Who says my hand a needle better fits;". Many other instances of tension are well noted including the idea that all nine of the Greek Muses were female deities.

Calliope was the muse of heroic or epic poetry, a form of expression that Anne Bradstreet was attempting in he Quaternions. By stating, "But she the antique Greeks were far more mild; Else of our sex why feigned they those nine, And Poesy made Calliope’s own child? " (6, 31-33) Bradstreet further affirmed her belief that women should be treated as equals for if the muses were female, then women should possess this ability. In lines thirty-seven to forty two she says, "Let Greeks be Greeks, and women what they are; Men have precedency and still excel. It is but vain unjustly to wage war; Women can do best, and women know well. " Here she deferred to male superiority but insists that she has her place also. Men need not be threatened by her works and poetic abilities, although her strong tone and apparent attitude towards Puritan traditions may bring about another conclusion.

The tension displayed in Anne Bradstreet’s poem was a direct consequence of her Puritan up-bringing; therefore many Puritanical elements can be found in her poetry with metaphysical qualities. Members of the Puritan society understood that all men and women were not equal. Men were given dominion over their families, ministers and church leaders exercised authority over communities, and women ruled over children and servants. A woman’s power came from her position in the community due to her husband’s social status, her personal character, and her roles as a wife, mother, and church member. Bradstreet’s social authority comes from her role as a daughter and wife of two Massachusetts leaders and wealthiest men, not her own talents for writing. Anne Bradstreet’s poem contained many metaphysical qualities, including her reacting against the traditions of Puritanical society and writing with witty, ironic and passionately intense verses. "The Prologue" shed light on the injustices happening to female poets in the 17th century as we view them today.

Anne Bradstreet used "The Prologue" to defend herself against the views of influential Puritan leaders and to show that through her literary style, she was worthy of respect. Bradstreet used her understanding of modern and ancient poetic devices to display that she was an educated, well-read woman of her time. Among these devices were rhyme-pattern, rhythm, and tone. The last word of the first line of every stanza rhymes with the last word of the third line.

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Feminist Themes in the Works of Anne Bradstreet (Part 2)

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

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Likewise, the last word of the second line of every stanza rhymes with the last word of the fourth line. The fifth and sixth lines form a slant rhyme, in that their endings look similar but they do not actually rhyme when pronounced out loud. Anne Bradstreet used iambic pentameter, an ancient rhythm meter used during the age of the Greeks. The syllables "Sure, an, Greeks, far, mild" are emphasized while the syllables "But, tique, were, more" remain unstressed. This poetic device followed suit on the first line of each stanza. Bradstreet used a somewhat cynical tone, in which she hoped to force her readers to consider her own value as an author. On lines twenty-five and twenty-six Bradstreet affirms her tone, "I am obnoxious to each carping tongue Who says my hand a needle better fits. " Bradstreet seemed to resent her own unimportance. She became upset not because she was a woman, but because women were treated improperly in her mind. Using tone, rhyme-pattern, and rhythm, Anne Bradstreet displayed her own intelligence and ability in her work, "The Prologue", showing to her male counter-parts that she felt no inferiority.

Many other elements of literary style could be found in Anne Bradstreet’s "The Prologue", including metaphors, similes, and personification. Anne Bradstreet displays her own talent in saying, "And O ye high-flown quills that soar the skies, And ever with your prey still catch your praise," (8, 43-44), a very strong and apparent metaphor. The male poet as a bird of prey, used his quills to catch his "praise", his metaphorical prey, something that Anne Bradstreet felt that she could not hope for. By contrast she claimed that her poetry is low, deserving of only crowns of kitchen herbs and metaphorically compared to ore, minerals hidden deep in the ground. "If e’er you design these lowly lines your eyes, Give thyme or parsley wreath; I ask no bays. This mean and unrefined ore of mine. " (8, 45-48), further reaffirmed the current view of women in the

Puritanical society. One simile, a type of metaphor using the words "like" or "as" to link two dissimilar objects, could be found in Anne Bradstreet’s introductory work. This example may be found on the nineteenth line, " Nor can I, like that fluent, sweet-tongued Greek," where Bradstreet compared herself to Demosthenes. Personification, the treating of an abstract quality or thing as if it were human which is also a literary term very similar to the metaphor, can be found on more than one occasion in Anne Bradstreet’s poem. "Their dates have run;" (1, 4) gave time the ability to move forward in a human style of progression and "High-flown quills that soar the skies," (8, 43) tells of a quill pen, an item used to write with, flying in the air, something that it could not possibly do. The tools of metaphors, similes, and personification were used heavily in "The Prologue" to prove to the readers that she, in fact although a woman, possessed enormous talent as a writer and should be taken seriously.

A myriad of other literary elements was used in Bradstreet’s "The Prologue", many of which were abstract and less common in her time. Allusion, symbolism, allegory, connotation, denotation, and paradox could all be found in her lyric poetry, a type of poetry that expressed the thoughts and feelings of the author. Allusion was used when discussing Demosthenes in "Nor can I like that fluent, sweet-tongued Greek. " (4, 19-22). Also "Of wars, of captains, and of kings, Of Cities founded, commonwealths begun," (1, 1-2) appeared to be a reference to The Aeneid by Virgil, an ancient epic describing the founding of Rome. Anne Bradstreet’s poetic art also discussed Calliope, a muse often called upon during invocation for inspiration during epic poems, including Homer’s The Odyssey. Connotation and denotation are demonstrated in the word "quills" (8, 43), the literal meaning of the word being a quill pen, an instrument used in writing, and the figurative meaning being a big bird of prey with quills as feathers. Symbolism was often used in poetry of the Puritan time very heavily. Calliope symbolized the women who had the ability to write, but were not allowed to because of social restrictions set on them. The treatment of women as described in this poem was an allegory of how slaves and people who were not "visible saints" in the Puritan community were looked upon. Anne Bradstreet used great poetic license and by doing so, showed the world that women, including herself, were just as capable writers as men.

Through style and content Anne Bradstreet attempted to break down pre-set barriers of Puritan society, which prohibited the literary expressions of women from being taken seriously. She presented areas of tension with an untimely perspective, and literally slapped the faces of male poets who believed that they were superior. "The Prologue" defended Bradstreet’s sex against the disdain men had shown toward female writers in general and herself in particular by using lavish styles and intense content.

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