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Basic Primer for the Therapeutic Uses of Literature (aka. Bibliotherapy) for Children and Adolescents (Part 5)

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

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   It is impossible to overestimate the capacity of children to feel, suffer, and understand.   This speaks to life problems including death, debilitating illnesses, or severe marital discourse.   Child can share their feelings though literature, but it must be in terms of action and plot.

What we bring to a story

Affects what we take from a story

That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.

~ Doris Lessing

1919

            As adults wrestle with what type of information we offer our children through reality-based literature, we would be well advised to understand that the story is viewed through each individual’s window of life experiences.   Note that if a description of an old woman sitting on a park bench included the notation that she grinned a crooked grin and spoke using only one side of her mouth, the juvenile reader would only understand that this person has probably been affected by a stroke if the child brings to the book a pre-existing understand of a cerebral vascular accident (stroke) and knew some of the more common after affects.   He could then incorporate this characters condition into his overall understanding of how this particular moment fits into the plot and meaning of the story.   If the child has no such reference the scene will be read, but in general be passed over unnoticed.   In the book, Bibliotherapy for Bereaved Children, they had ten children read the story Squib.   Six of the children were non-bereaved and four had experienced the death of a loved one.   All children were between the ages of 10 and 14.   After they had read the book their opinions and responses where tape-recorded and then transcribed.   There is an obvious difference in the way in which these two different groups of children spoke about and understood the book.   The ideas that they found interesting or insightful, frightening or sorrowful were obviously colored by their life experiences.   For example, one child found it interesting how the character spoke to the picture of her dead brother because she had done similar things.   She was living vicariously through this character, and one might even surmise, was taking comfort in the connection she had made with this person.   For another child this same scene was described as strange or weird, but seemed not to elicit any type of emotional response.   There is no doubt but that there has been an increase in the social realism present in today’s fiction.   Many of these books are reaching a teenage audience, but some are being read by younger children.   There is a group of professionals with a less-than-enthusiastic opinion of these books that deal with subjects such death, drugs and sex.

In general, however, most writers and educators believe that this growth in children’s literature has served the reader well.  

A successfully communicated thought,

from one human mind to another,

is one of the most powerful forces I know.

~ Peter McWilliams

1950 2000

How Reading Can Heal

            A strong relationship between reader and fictionalized characters can be forged through shared life experiences.   The power of these connections is often predicated on the skill of the writer as much as it is on the subject matter of the book.   Bereavement, created by the death of a friend or family member, arguably tops the list of emotionally charged issues that might be dealt with in a book with potential therapeutic value.   Death is considered an environmental issue.   There are other types of deaths and other environmental conditions that hold the potential to cause havoc in the mental stability of a child.   Divorce, serious illness, sudden disability and war are some other environmental tragedies that children can be forced to cope with.   By sharing common experiences with a character in a book the child is offered an opportunity to make an emotional link that may serve to bring to the reader many different kinds of benefits.    

Benefits

When you live in the shadows of insanity the appearance of another mind that thinks and talks as yours does is something close to a blissed event

~ Ani Difranci

1970 –

            Many benefits can be brought to a child who reads fiction where life problems are presented in a realistic fashion and are intertwined into a plot that is, at least in part, reflective of the reader’s life.   A common byproduct of such an encounter is a reduction in the sense of isolation.   Children may feel isolated for a host of reasons.   They may actually be cut off by a family who finds talking about the sorrowful even too draining and so the subject becomes taboo and off limits.   In the reverse context, the child may be afraid of their feelings and withdraw into a form of self-isolation.   The sense of aloneness is often accentuated by the near certain belief that no one could possibly understand how they are feeling.

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Basic Primer for the Therapeutic Uses of Literature (aka. Bibliotherapy) for Children and Adolescents (Part 6)

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

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  The link between the fictional subject and the bereaved reader may allow the child a huge sense of emotional relief when they realize that they are not alone.    The character’s actions may show the reader new ways to cope with unwanted feelings.   The vicarious experience may bring to light an idea that had been lying just below the level of consciousness, but never been given the needed words to formulate the concept.   This valuable piece of insight may go along way when it comes to the ability to communication.   Sharing feelings with others becomes critically encumbered if the child is groping for words they cannot find. The gift of words that accompanied any new insight will go a long way towards reaching out to and sharing with others.   A sense of empowerment and control may accompany the acquisition of new knowledge.   Empathy for others and themselves may be given life through the vicarious reading of a book that mirrors aspects of the reader’s life.   In the end there are two factors that play an enormous role in what type of positive rewards the reader will leave with.   The first is the reader and the second is the writer.   The reader brings to the story a preset range of knowledge that greatly affects how the story will be interpreted.   The writer is charged with the responsibility of writing an engaging story that reflects back to the reader a reality that is accurate and believable.   A poorly written book is likely to inspire no one, but a well-written book holds the potential to enrich the reader in many valuable ways.   

Many issues Many books

Books come at my call and return when I desire them; they are never out of humor and they answer all my questions with readiness. Some present in review before me the events of past ages; others reveal to me the secrets of Nature. These teach me how to live, and those how to die; these dispel my melancholy by their mirth, and amuse me by their sallies of wit. Some there are who prepare my soul to suffer everything, to desire nothing, and to become thoroughly acquainted with itself. In a word, they open the door to all the arts and sciences.

Petrarca Petrarch

1304 1374

            Environmental problems were used to describe how bibliotherapy might assist a child reader; however, there is a glut of other issues that might be addressed in books and provide similar therapeutic value.   There are some publishers that specialize in the publication of books that address only issues that are relevant to specific childhood problems.   Tales of bed wetting, racism, rudeness, or sharing are some topics covered by these specialized publishers.   In general these books are written with the therapeutic motive in mind, but when looking at the larger picture, most are written by authors who create believable characters engaged in well-developed plots that appeal to a large cross-section of the child and teenage population.   Whether written directly as therapeutic literature or as a general interest story the topics often move from one extreme the death of a parent, to another learning to share our toys.   These books offer an immense variety of topics that might be included within the world of bibliotherapy.  

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed on and digested.

~Francis Bacon~

1561 1626

How do you find these books?

            Therapists, teachers, librarians, or parents can find information about suitable books on the Internet and in books written just for the purpose of identifying titles that offer relevant story lines.   Reviews, topics and suggested age ranges are usually found in these sources.   The best selling book, The Lost Boy by David Peltzer, is an example of a book that might be considered valuable to a child-abuse survivor.   A review of this book might recognize its therapeutic value, but caution that the content is powerful and age appropriateness needs to be considered.   This harrowing biography may offer a teenage reader new knowledge, a sense of camaraderie, and a feeling of hope, but because of the intense details a younger reader nay feel more frightened than connected to the character.    Finding age-appropriate material is important and it can also be controversial.   Fortunately for the interested adult there is a large volume of information available to help choose good books that are interesting, applicable and age-sensitive.  

The press, the pulpit, and the stage,
  Conspire to censure and expose our age.

Wentworth Dillon, 4th Earl of Roscommon

1633 1685

Teenagers more bigger controversial issues

            Both six-year-olds and sixteen-year-olds can sustain trauma from similar life experiences, there are, however, issues that are faced by the teen population that a six-year-old might never encounter.     Drugs, alcohol, date rape, sexually transmitted diseases and similar topics are just such issues.   As children grow the pressures that confront them also grow.   So while the core goals of bibliotherapy remain the same, as do the potential benefits, the subject matter becomes more sophisticated and at times fraught with controversy.

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The Role of Hubris in Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

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The role of hubris, a theme commonly present throughout the works of Sophocles and particularly evident in Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus, not only exalts the Greek nationalism present at the date of composition but dictates the course of the story, evolving as its tragic hero works through his fated anguish. Hubris, defined as exaggerated pride or self-confidence, is the earmark character trait of Oedipus and perhaps Creon. However, it is the abandonment of his sanctimonious nature that distinguishes Oedipus as a true hero. The theme of the evolution and role in the downfall of men by this overly zealous pride may be traced throughout Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus, as it is only by his radical reversal of mind-set that one may deem Oedipus a hero.

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In the opening scene of the first play in the trilogy, Oedipus the King, Sophocles depicts Oedipus as a man of great stature, ruling his lands justly but hints at his own catastrophic fate condemned by his overly arrogant conduct. Initially, Oedipus exhibits intelligence, love and concern for his subjects, and deep-rooted wisdom, upholding a reputation of high moral standards. His wisdom, however, becomes self-righteous, his arrogance becoming very clear on the eighth line of his opening monologue, “Here I am – myself – you all know me, the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus. ” (159). The irony of this statement rests behind the notion that Oedipus’s fame will be known and surpass the ages, but it is his complacent nature that will not allow him to realize this fate already set for him. Viewed as a pillar of strength, Oedipus has a penetrating way of looking at people, judging them so as to keep them below him in his mind. Upon sending Creon, his third in command, to hear the prophecy of Apollo’s oracle, Oedipus remains so confident in his distance from the cause of the terrible hardships of Thebes that he commands Creon to speak of the oracle to the crowd gathered. King Oedipus accuses this man, Creon, of conspiring with Tiresias, the blind prophet, to seize power soon after this messenger returns, becoming jealous and fearful that anyone might begin to take hold of his glory. He then vows to find Laius’s killer to purify the city of its evil presence, but only with intentions of making himself look better. Oedipus places the burden of truth in locating this murderer in saying, “I’ll start again – I’ll bring it all to light myself! ” (167), imposing the idea that only he possesses the wit to find the real killer. In the opening of Oedipus the King, Oedipus appears very cocky and self-righteous, but it is not known until later how this build up of pride was generated.

In the next few scenes it is manifested that Oedipus has a right to claim a certain degree of pride for his accomplishments, but has taken this beyond a reasonable level, even placing himself at a level only succeeded by the gods, showing defiance towards them. He kills a man in the street on his flight out of Corinth, citing his rationale as being one of self-defense. Although this may seem to be an appropriate explanation, it is learned that the entourage accompanying this traveler was in no way harmful. One could conclude that Oedipus slaughtered the traveler he encountered, later identified as King Laius, his own father, for the power that it provided him internally. After killing this man, Oedipus enters into the city of Thebes, solving the riddle of the Sphinx, a monster who guards the gates of the city, and by doing so, ensures the fate of the city. The citizens of Thebes reward their hero with the title of king and give him the hand of the recently widowed queen Iocaste in marriage. Correctly solving the riddle of the Sphinx brings about an important self-confidence in Oedipus, later moving him to the notion that he can solve the mystery of who killed the king. This immense pride in his own intellectual capacity, however, leads to certain doom as he discovers that although he has been too stubborn up until this point to believe anyone who dare hold a conflicting viewpoint, he has fallen into the trap of the gods by attempting to outwit them. It had been prophesied that Laius and Iocaste would give birth to a child who would grow up to murder his father and marry his mother. Fearing the possibility of this prophecy coming true, Laius and Iocaste chained their son to the mountainside, leaving him alone to die. He, of course, was saved by a nearby shepherd and brought to the household of Polybos and Merope, the sovereigns of Corinth, where he was raised as if he were their own son. Once Oedipus had learned of this prophecy, he foolishly assumed that the parents he was fated to kill were Polybos and Merope, and thus fled Corinth to avoid this ill-willed destiny. Vainly Oedipus had supposed that he had outwitted the gods altogether because he had left what he had thought to be his homeland and was not in contact with his mother and father any longer. He is so full of personal hubris that he actually believes as cited that he has succeeded in escaping his fate. It is by defying the gods and trying to escape his fate that he walks directly into it. By enveloping pride fueled with actual, admirable accomplishments, Oedipus condemns himself to suffering a most unpleasant fortune.

Oedipus the King closes leaving a pitiful man helpless and broken down by his suffering, completely void of his former hubris once his disasterouw destiny has been revealed.

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The Role of Hubris in Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus (Part 2)

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

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Ashamed and unable to live with such guilt pressing upon her soul, Oedipus’s wife and mother, Iocaste hangs herself. Oedipus, feeling this same variety of shame and disgrace, instead blinds himself so that he may not have to see those who he has harmed as a consequence of impending fate and so that he may also face a proper punishment for his deeds in incest. In responding to the news born by the prophets, Oedipus feels that he has now become a man of misfortune instead of luck in stating, “My destiny, my dark power, what a leap you made! ” (238). He prays to the gods, demonstrating his own acceptance of his fate to those immortal and omnipotent, humbly asking for mercy upon his tortured soul. This is a radical change from his previous overly self-confident attitude in that he use to believed that he could overcome any obstacle alone but now admits that fate rests in the hands of the gods. Abolishing the formerly overbearing hubris that he once possessed, Oedipus exits humbly out of Thebes a pitiful demoralized creature upon having been stripped of his political power and blinding himself.

After spending much time out of the grasp of society grieving the outcome of his own fate, Oedipus finally owns up to the actual role he has played in his fate by formerly pompous attitude, and makes a decisive effort to bring some good about his newly found self-realization in the play Oedipus at Colonus. Oedipus is to be commended for pursing the truth to the end with respect to the fate of himself and his city, choosing to endure in the face of certain defeat and revealing the true nature of suffering. Upon stumbling into a field outside of Colonus with his daughter, Antigone, by his side, he asks for sanctuary for he is tired and desires a place to die peacefully. Theseus, the king of this unknown land, grants the poor wretched soul this luxury, revealing his knowledge of Oedipus’s past. Soon a new prophecy of the gods is being foretold which excites Theseus and deems Oedipus more desirable to have residing in his kingdom. This prediction discloses that whatever city has the grave of Oedipus will be assured of eternal prosperity forever. It is here that one can fully appreciate the humbled level that Oedipus has lowered himself down to, having relinquished all of his selfish pride for further self-glorification. Instead of killing himself as his wife had done in the previous play, Oedipus blinded himself so that he would be punished but will not be given the luxury of killing himself to end the pain. He knows that he must not die before he atones for some of his sins by saving a deserved city, Colonus, stating, “I will reach my goal, my haven where I will find the grounds of the Awesome Goddess and make their home my home. There I will round the last turn in the torment of my life” (289).

The role of hubris dictates the path which the story follows as its tragic hero manipulates his own fate through his arrogance and evolves as he works through his fated anguish in both Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus. Oedipus, after careful analysis, can be deemed a tragic hero in the end because he overcomes his error in judgment, his own personal exaggerated pride, through suffering the consequences of his deeds. Sparked by the actualization of his true identity and ignited by the damnation of Thebean society which sends him into exile, the original self-righteous and smug attitude of Oedipus is burnt away, setting him apart from those ultimately hubristic in spirit.

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Summary of Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

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Roddy Doyle’s depiction of a working class Irish family focuses on the evolution of the parental relationship between a father, Jimmy, Sr. and his eldest daughter, Sharon, as they struggle to accept the responsibilities of an unexpected pregnancy and the social implications that result. Detailing the trial and tribulations encountered by a poor working family of six children, the Barrytown Trilogy embarks on a passage into overall maturity by an entire family as Sharon must come to terms with her pregnancy by one of her girlfriends’ fathers, George Burgess. The attitudes expressed by Jimmy, Sr. particularly in response to his daughter’s pregnancy, continue to evolve as he learns more about his role as a parent and provider through Sharon’s example, manipulation, and his own guided self-discovery. In the opening pages of this novel, one will note that Jimmy seems to be unable to grasp and get a handle on his own opinions and feelings, though as the narrative progresses through confrontation and patience, Sharon will educate her father on what it means to be a parent, as she steps up to the position herself.

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At the onset of this novel, a notable and quite evident strain in the relationship between Jimmy, Sr. and his daughter, Sharon, exists, as each attempt to adjust and come to terms with their own emotions regarding the upcoming arrival of her illegitimate child. Upon finding out that Sharon may be pregnant, Sharon’s father acted much more ambivalently than the average loving father, hinting at an unforeseen distance in familial connection between his daughter and himself; Sharon appears to be anything but “daddy’s little girl” as is made obvious by his reaction. Speaking to her mother about her pregnancy first, an authentic reaction is observed through the frustrated and anxious tears of Veronica, as “She thought that Sharon’s news deserved more attention, and some sort of punishment. As far as Veronica was concerned this was the worst thing that had ever happened to the family. ” (150). Jimmy, however, is unable to embrace his feelings relating to Sharon’s pregnancy; for some unknown reason he seeks to banish his emotions and remain strong for the family. Despite any noble intentions of pushing his feelings aside, Jimmy incites more mental suffering upon himself and his daughter, as she is unable to understand why he does not feel more strongly about her pregnancy. Jimmy, Sr. cannot be true to his own feelings and cannot rationalize how his role as the father figure of the family must evolve. Perhaps it is a positive attribute that he can remain so indifferent to the opinions and rumors, which will inevitably circulate throughout his hometown, Barrytown. Nevertheless, he cannot avoid the turmoil within himself that these criticisms will later rouse. Instead of telling Sharon exactly how he feels about this situation, he swallows his disappointment and heartache to be strong for her, but instead brings about confusion, as he appears to not be a very strong patriarchal figure. Jimmy Sr. goes on so far as to say that he believes Sharon to be a modern girl, a free-thinking woman who should not have to get married because of unwanted pregnancy, an obvious dodging of how he really feels. As Sharon grows up and matures in order to raise her baby properly, so must Jimmy, Sr. as he strives to develop into a more acceptable head of the household through many trails with his daughter and his own self.

Unable to deal with his anger over harsh words spoken about his daughter in a rational way, Jimmy, Sr. becomes violent in one instance and cries childishly in another, offering tainted justification which Sharon uses to prove him a hypocrite, and all of which establish a role reversal between Jimmy and his daughter. Seeking out to defend Sharon’s honor, Jimmy gains a bloody nose in a fight with some of the fellows down at the bar, and comes back home proud of his injury. His actions infuriate Sharon as she is unable to grasp why he would feel the need to take such childish measures; violence certainly would not hinder the mocking of her reputation. Most parents will recommend to children who are being bullied that, “You’re a fucking eejit, Daddy. Why couldn’t yeh just ignore them? ” (277); Sharon proves beyond her years by explaining this to her father, who apparently does not think rationally in regard to dealing with these jeering, drunken men he associates with. It does not even appear that Jimmy, Sr. understands her reasoning for not wanting him to lowering himself to their methods, especially in saying, “All Jimmy Sr had wanted was value for his nosebleed. But something had gone wrong. A bit of gratitude was all he expected. ” (278). It is painfully obvious from this statement that Jimmy, Sr. has learned nothing from the lesson Sharon has tried to impart to him, but she hopes that he will act differently the next time this situation arises, as it inevitably will. Also, when told that Sharon was a good ride by some of his bar pals, Jimmy, Sr. begins to cry and commences telling his daughter about it as a warning for her to know what is being said about herself. Sharon points out, however, that her father has considered other young ladies “rides” themselves, and wants him to realize this is no different, because they are all someone’s daughter. This is a hard lesson for Jimmy, Sr. to take in, but through his daughter’s actions and criticisms, he is able to being to understand what actions he must take, and what actions he definitely must steer clear of in his role as an active father for this pregnant young woman.

The earlier avoidance of conflict and confrontation of true emotions during the opening scene manifests itself into a childish evasion of Sharon altogether following her reprimands, as Jimmy attempts to make her feel guilty for the sin she has committed. By only speaking to her in casual passing and “enjoy[ing] his depression when Sharon was around or when he thought she was around and he could enjoy a few pints with the lads as well. ” (283), Jimmy sought to gain leverage against her claims, to make her remorseful for having sexual intercourse outside of wedlock. However, this plan backfires through the careful manipulation of her father with the threat of moving out, and Sharon is able to bring out his embarrassment due to presence of her unborn child. In this elaborate role reversal, Sharon is the one to confront her father about his less than friendly behavior in an attempt to correct the situation. She twists the situation back on him by demanding “Did I do somethin’ to yeh? I’m pregnant. I saw yeh lookin’ at me. —I’ve disgraced the family. ”(286), but this forces him to admit that he in fact is ashamed of her deeds. When Sharon apologizes to Jimmy, all he really wanted to hear from her to reconcile his differences with her, he insists that she not leave the family. This incidence represents a prime turning point in the evolution of their relationship as the father is, for the first time, truly able to open up to his daughter and make peace with her pregnancy, despite that she must take on the parental role for these results to come about. Examples of such a role reversal abound in this novel as one finds Jimmy, Sr. volleying back and forth between acting as an adult and acting as a child, although, after this scene, he no longer finds it imperative to hide his emotions.

As the novel’s storyline progresses, Jimmy, Sr. makes many very serious, whole-hearted attempts to create a stronger and more intimate bond between his daughter and himself, first by educating himself about her pregnancy. While Veronica seems to desire no part in her pregnancy despite the fact that she herself has been through this occurrence as she is a mother of six children, Jimmy, Sr. takes great interest in Sharon’s health and well-being, perhaps an attempt in making amends for his lack of sentiment upon her initial announcement of pregnancy. Jimmy, Sr. purchases books about pregnancy and becomes relatively educated, even explaining that “Hormonal changes are perfectly normal…But sometimes, like, there are side effects. Snottiness or depression or actin’ a bit queer. ” (306). By suggesting these consequences of pregnancy Jimmy, Sr. makes allowance for any strange behavior coming from Sharon, and therefore, expresses to her that he understands that she may be moody at times but won’t take it personally, although sometimes he should. This is a small step of him coming forward and opening himself up to her in his path to maturing as a father figure. He now also has a new concrete conversation topic to share with his daughter, without having to get too deep into emotional issues, and she feels he is the only one who really cares about this pregnancy. In addition, her father checks up on her when she is vomiting from morning sickness and drives her to work so that she will not have to walk. He even escorts her to Hikers one night so that they may talk, but sends her off to her friends so that he may join his bar mates, much as a teenager would send his parents off when he tired of them. Overall, Jimmy, Sr. affirms his position as father and head of the household in his assistance and concern for Sharon

In the final scene, Sharon’s father drives her to the hospital when her labor begins, instructing her on her breathing and solidifying a more parental relationship with her, trying to prove that he has stepped up to the plate and is prepared to take care of her and her child. This act completes the evolution of the relationship between father and daughter in this novel, although it will later continue to develop in The Van, however, much less drastically.

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Summary of Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy (Part 2)

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

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As a whole, Sharon’s pregnancy has vastly improved her relationship with her entire family, particularly with Jimmy, Sr. establishing for the first time a close parental bond between the two as her father assumes his role as caretaker of his family.

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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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Feminist Themes in the Works of Anne Bradstreet (Part 3)

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

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Courtly Love in Dante’s The Divine Comedy

June 15th, 2010 Comments off

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Based on the definition of courtly love from The Lais de Marie de France, both Dante the Pilgrim and Dante the Author judge courtly love in a different way; however, in the end, both view it in the same negative light. The Pilgrim starts his journey with a favorable view of courtly love, but by the time he reaches Paradise, he understands that there is a higher love and courtly love is not the answer. Dante the Author, however, judges courtly love as wrong the entire time, as can be seen by his placement of Francesca de Rimini in hell. This differentiation of the Author from the Pilgrim leads to a higher understanding of love, especially the differences between courtly love and a higher love.

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Courtly love is defined best in The Lais of Marie de France. In her Lais, she defines courtly love as desire and longing for someone, and personal suffering by loving this person. Her description of desire and longing can be seen in her Lai, Lanval, “Fair lady, if it were to please you to grant me the joy of wanting to love me, you could ask nothing that I would not do as best I could, be it foolish or wise. I shall do as you bid and abandon all others for you. I never want to leave you and this is what I most desire” (Lais, p. 74). In this example of courtly love, Lanval is proclaiming his desire and longing for his princess. This desire is a recurring theme, also seen in Yonec: “I have loved you for a long time and desired you greatly in my heart. I never loved any woman but you, nor shall I ever love another” (Lais, p. 87). This idea of desire and longing, especially when there is separation, such as in Yonec, is a key idea in to courtly love as it is a recurring theme in The Lais, and it is also a key theme in the description of courtly love in The Divine Comedy. Another key factor of courtly love is suffering. In Lanval, his suffering comes with the separation from his love: “Alone in his chamber, distraught and anguished, he called his beloved repeatedly, but to no avail. He lamented and sighed, fainting from time to time; a hundred times he cried to her to have mercy, to come and speak with her beloved” (Lais, p. 77). Here the suffering of courtly love is best illustrated. Lanval is “anguished” from being apart from his loved one. This theme also recurs in Yonec: “He who loved her deeply took her in his arms and lamented his misfortunes repeatedly” (Lais, p. 91). All the lament and sorrow is a central idea of courtly love. So suffering, along with desire and longing, forms the idea of courtly love. And it is this idea of courtly love is judged throughout The Divine Comedy.

One of the most famous examples of courtly love in The Divine Comedy occurs when The Pilgrim is journeying through hell. It is here where he encounters the love story of Francesca de Rimini. This scene is the most clear cut example of courtly love because it clearly shows all three aspects of courtly love: desire, longing, suffering. The desire between the lovers can be seen with the lines: “Time and again our eyes were brought together by the book we read; our faces flushed and paled” (p. 31). The fact that their eyes would meet and their faces would flush and pale shows how there is a secret desire for the other, and a longing to be with each other romantically. This scene further depicts courtly love by showing how they suffered: “And all the while the one of the two spirits spoke these words, the other wept, in such a way that pity blurred my senses” (p. 31). This sad sorrow they feel for each other continues to express that fact that the love they shared was courtly love. But simply calling it courtly love does not imply whether it is a good thing or a bad thing. By analyzing Dante the Pilgrim’s reaction, it appears that courtly love is a good thing: “I swooned as though to die, and fell to Hell’s floor as a body, dead, falls” (p.

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