Ezra Pound, Prose

“A Retrospect” and “A Few Don’ts” (1918)


There has been so much scribbling about a new fashion in poetry, that I may perhaps be pardoned this brief recapitulation and retrospect.

In the spring or early summer of 1912, “H. D.,” Richard Aldington and myself decided that we were agreed upon the three principles following:

  1. Direct treatment of the “thing” whether subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

Upon many points of taste and of predilection we differed, but agreeing upon these three positions we thought we had as much right to a group name, at least as much right, as a number of French “schools” proclaimed by Mr. Flint in the August number of Harold Monro’s magazine for 1911.

This school has since been “joined” or “followed” by numerous people who, whatever their merits, do not show any signs of agreeing with the second specification. Indeed vers libre has become as prolix and as verbose as any of the flaccid varieties that preceded it. It has brought faults of its own. The actual language and phrasing is often as bad as that of our elders without even the excuse that the words are shovelled in to fill a metric pattern or to complete the noise of a rhyme-sound. Whether or no the phrases followed by the followers are musical must be left to the reader’s decision. At times I can find a marked metre in “vers libres,” as stale and hackneyed as any pseudo-Swinburnian, at times the writers seem to follow no musical structure whatever. But it is, on the whole, good that the field should be ploughed. Perhaps a few good poems have come from the new method, and if so it is justified.

Criticism is not a circumscription or a set of prohibitions. It provides fixed points of departure. It may startle a dull reader into alertness. That little of it which is good is mostly in stray phrases; or if it be an older artist helping a younger it is in great measure but rules of thumb, cautions gained by experience.

I set together a few phrases on practical working about the time the first remarks on imagisme were published. The first use of the word “Imagiste” was in my note to T. E. Hulme’s five poems, printed at the end of my “Ripostes” in the autumn of 1912. I reprint my cautions from Poetry for March, 1913.


An “Image” is that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time. I use the term “complex” rather in the technical sense employed by the newer psychologists, such as Hart, though we may not agree absolutely in our application.

It is the presentation of such a “complex” instantaneously which gives that sense of sudden liberation; that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits; that sense of sudden growth, which we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art.

It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.

All this, however, some may consider open to debate. The immediate necessity is to tabulate A LIST OF DON’TS for those beginning to write verses. I can not put all of them into Mosaic negative.

To begin with, consider the three propositions (demanding direct treatment, economy of words, and the sequence of the musical phrase), not as dogma—never consider anything as dogma—but as the result of long contemplation, which, even if it is some one else’s contemplation, may be worth consideration.

Pay no attention to the criticism of men who have never themselves written a notable work. Consider the discrepancies between the actual writing of the Greek poets and dramatists, and the theories of the Graeco-Roman grammarians, concocted to explain their metres.


Use no superfluous word, no adjective which does not reveal something.

Don’t use such an expression as “dim lands of peace.” It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writer’s not realizing that the natural object is always the adequate symbol.

Go in fear of abstractions. Do not retell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose. Don’t think any intelligent person is going to be deceived when you try to shirk all the difficulties of the unspeakably difficult art of good prose by chopping your composition into line lengths.

What the expert is tired of today the public will be tired of tomorrow.

Don’t imagine that the art of poetry is any simpler than the art of music, or that you can please the expert before you have spent at least as much effort on the art of verse as an average piano teacher spends on the art of music.

Be influenced by as many great artists as you can, but have the decency either to acknowledge the debt outright, or to try to conceal it.

Don’t allow “influence” to mean merely that you mop up the particular decorative vocabulary of some one or two poets whom you happen to admire. A Turkish war correspondent was recently caught red-handed babbling in his despatches of “dove-grey” hills, or else it was “pearl-pale,” I can not remember.

Use either no ornament or good ornament.


Let the candidate fill his mind with the finest cadences he can discover, preferably in a foreign language [This is for rhythm, his vocabulary must of course be found in his native tongue], so that the meaning of the words may be less likely to divert his attention from the movement; e.g. Saxon charms, Hebridean Folk Songs, the verse of Dante, and the lyrics of Shakespeare—if he can dissociate the vocabulary from the cadence. Let him dissect the lyrics of Goethe coldly into their component sound values, syllables long and short, stressed and unstressed, into vowels and consonants.

It is not necessary that a poem should rely on its music, but if it does rely on its music that music must be such as will delight the expert.

Let the neophyte know assonance and alliteration, rhyme immediate and delayed, simple and polyphonic, as a musician would expect to know harmony and counterpoint and all the minutiae of his craft. No time is too great to give to these matters or to any one of them, even if the artist seldom have need of them.

Don’t imagine that a thing will “go” in verse just because it’s too dull to go in prose.

Don’t be “viewy”—leave that to the writers of pretty little philosophic essays. Don’t be descriptive; remember that the painter can describe a landscape much better than you can, and that he has to know a deal more about it.

When Shakespeare talks of the “Dawn in russet mantle clad” he presents something which the painter does not present. There is in this line of his nothing that one can call description; he presents.

Consider the way of the scientists rather than the way of an advertising agent for a new soap.

The scientist does not expect to be acclaimed as a great scientist until he has discovered something. He begins by learning what has been discovered already. He goes from that point onward. He does not bank on being a charming fellow personally. He does not expect his friends to applaud the results of his freshman class work. Freshmen in poetry are unfortunately not confined to a definite and recognizable class room. They are “all over the shop.” Is it any wonder “the public is indifferent to poetry?”

Don’t chop your stuff into separate iambs. Don’t make each line stop dead at the end and then begin every next line with a heave.

Let the beginning of the next line catch the rise of the rhythm wave, unless you want a definite longish pause.

In short, behave as a musician, a good musician, when dealing with that phase of your art which has exact parallels in music. The same laws govern, and you are bound by no others.

Naturally, your rhythmic structure should not destroy the shape of your words, or their natural sound, or their meaning. It is improbable that, at the start, you will he able to get a rhythm-structure strong enough to affect them very much, though you may fall a victim to all sorts of false stopping due to line ends, and caesurae.

The Musician can rely on pitch and the volume of the orchestra. You can not. The term harmony is misapplied in poetry; it refers to simultaneous sounds of different pitch. There is, however, in the best verse a sort of residue of sound which remains in the ear of the hearer and acts more or less as an organ-base.

A rhyme must have in it some slight element of surprise if it is to give pleasure, it need not be bizarre or curious, but it must be well used if used at all.

Vide further Vildrac and Duhamel’s notes on rhyme in “Technique Poétique.”

That part of your poetry which strikes upon the imaginative eye of the reader will lose nothing by translation into a foreign tongue; that which appeals to the ear can reach only those who take it in the original.

Consider the definiteness of Dante’s presentation, as compared with Milton’s rhetoric. Read as much of Wordsworth as does not seem too unutterably dull.

If you want the gist of the matter go to Sappho, Catullus, Villon, Heine when he is in the vein, Gautier when he is not too frigid; or, if you have not the tongues, seek out the leisurely Chaucer. Good prose will do you no harm, and there is good discipline to be had by trying to write it.

Translation is likewise good training, if you find that your original matter “wobbles” when you try to rewrite it. The meaning of the poem to be translated can not “wobble.”

If you are using a symmetrical form, don’t put in what you want to say and then fill up the remaining vacuums with slush.

Don’t mess up the perception of one sense by trying to define it in terms of another. This is usually only the result of being too lazy to find the exact word. To this clause there are possibly exceptions.

The first three simple prescriptions will throw out nine-tenths of all the bad poetry now accepted as standard and classic; and will prevent you from many a crime of production.

“. . . Mais d’abord il faut ětre un poète,” as MM. Duhamel and Vildrac have said at the end of their little book, “Notes sur la Technique Poétique.”

Since March 1913, Ford Madox Hueffer has pointed out that Wordsworth was so intent on the ordinary or plain word that he never thought of hunting for le mot juste.

John Butler Yeats has handled or man-handled Wordsworth and the Victorians, and his criticism, contained in letters to his son, is now printed and available.

I do not like writing about art, my first, at least I think it was my first essay on the subject, was a protest against it.





Rhythm.—I believe in an “absolute rhythm,” a rhythm, that is, in poetry which corresponds exactly to the emotion or shade of emotion to be expressed. A man’s rhythm must be interpretative, it will be, therefore, in the end, his own, uncounterfeiting, uncounterfeitable.

Symbols.—I believe that the proper and perfect symbol is the natural object, that if a man use “symbols” he must so use them that their symbolic function does not obtrude; so that a sense, and the poetic quality of the passage, is not lost to those who do not understand the symbol as such, to whom, for instance, a hawk is a hawk.

Technique.—I believe in technique as the test of a man’s sincerity; in law when it is ascertainable; in the trampling down of every convention that impedes or obscures the determination of the law, or the precise rendering of the impulse.

Form.—I think there is a “fluid” as well as a “solid” content, that some poems may have form as a tree has form, some as water poured into a vase. That most symmetrical forms have certain uses. That a vast number of subjects cannot be precisely, and therefore not properly rendered in symmetrical forms.

“Thinking that alone worthy wherein the whole art is employed” [Dante, De Volgari Eloquio]. I think the artist should master all known forms and systems of metric, and I have with some persistence set about doing this, searching particularly into those periods wherein the systems came to birth or attained their maturity. It has been complained, with some justice, that I dump my note-books on the public. I think that only after a long struggle will poetry attain such a degree of development, or, if you will, modernity, that it will vitally concern people who are accustomed, in prose, to Henry James and Anatole France, in music to Debussy. I am constantly contending that it took two centuries of Provence and one of Tuscany to develop the media of Dante’s masterwork, that it took the latinists of the Renaissance, Pleiade, and his own age of painted speech to prepare Shakespeare his tools. It is tremendously important that great poetry be written, it makes no jot of difference who writes it. The experimental demonstrations of one man may save the time of many—hence my furore over Arnaut Daniel—if a man’s experiments try out one new rime, or dispense conclusively with one iota of currently accepted nonsense, he is merely playing fair with his colleagues when he chalks up his result.

No man ever writes very much poetry that “matters.” In bulk, that is, no one produces much that is final, and when a man is not doing this highest thing, this saying the thing once for all and perfectly. . . . [H]e had much better be making the sorts of experiment which may be of use to him in his later work, to his successors.

“The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne.” It is a foolish thing for a man to begin his work on a too narrow foundation, it is a disgraceful thing for a man’s work not to show steady growth and increasing fineness from first to last.

As for “adaptations”; one finds that all the old masters of painting recommend to their pupils that they begin by copying masterwork, and proceed to their own composition.

As for “Every man his own poet,” the more every man knows about poetry the better. I believe in every one writing poetry who wants to; most do. I believe in every man knowing enough of music to play “God bless our home” on the harmonium, but I do not believe in every man giving concerts and printing his sin.

The mastery of any art is the work of a lifetime. I should not discriminate between the “amateur” and the “professional.” Or rather I should discriminate quite often in favour of the amateur, but I should discriminate between the amateur and the expert. It is certain that the present chaos will endure until the Art of poetry has been preached down the amateur gullet, until there is such a general understanding of the fact that poetry is an art and not a pastime; such a knowledge of technique, of technique of surface and technique of content, that the amateurs will cease to try to drown out the masters.

If a certain thing was said once for all in Atlantis or Arcadia, in 450 Before Christ or in 1290 after, it is not for us moderns to go saying it over, or to go obscuring the memory of the dead by saying the same thing with less skill and less conviction.

My pawing over the ancients and semi-ancients has been one struggle to find out what has been done, once for all, better than it can ever be done again, and to find out what remains for us to do, and plenty does remain, for if we still feel the same emotions as those which launched the thousand ships, it is quite certain that we come on these feelings differently, through different nuances, by different intellectual gradations. Each age has its own abounding gifts yet only some ages transmute them into matter of duration. No good poetry is ever written in a manner twenty years old, for to write in such a manner shows conclusively that the writer thinks from books, convention and cliché, and not from life, yet a man feeling the divorce of life and his art may naturally try to resurrect a forgotten mode if he finds in that mode some leaven, or if he think he sees in it some element lacking in contemporary art which might unite that art again to its sustenance, life.

In the art of Daniel and Cavalcanti, I have seen that precision which I miss in the Victorians, that explicit rendering, be it of external nature, or of emotion. Their testimony is of the eyewitness, their symptoms are first hand.

As for the nineteenth century, with all respect to its achievements, I think we shall look back upon it as a rather blurry, messy sort of a period, a rather sentimentalistic, mannerish sort of a period. I say this without any self-righteousness, with no self-satisfaction.

As for there being a “movement” or my being of it, the conception of poetry as a “pure art” in the sense in which I use the term, revived with Swinburne. From the puritanical revolt to Swinburne, poetry had been merely the vehicle—yes, definitely, Arthur Symons’s scruples and feelings about the word not withholding—the ox-cart and post-chaise for transmitting thoughts poetic or otherwise. And perhaps the “great Victorians,” though it is doubtful, and assuredly the “nineties” continued the development of the art, confining their improvements, however, chiefly to sound and to refinements of manner.

Mr. Yeats has once and for all stripped English poetry of its perdamnable rhetoric. He has boiled away all that is not poetic—and a good deal that is. He has become a classic in his own lifetime and nel mezzo del cammin. He has made our poetic idiom a thing pliable, a speech without inversions.

Robert Bridges, Maurice Hewlett and Frederic Manning are [Dec. 1911] in their different ways seriously concerned with overhauling the metric, in testing the language and its adaptability to certain modes. Ford Hueffer is making some sort of experiments in modernity. The Provost of Oriel continues his translation of the Divina Commedia.

As to Twentieth century poetry, and the poetry which I expect to see written during the next decade or so, it will, I think, move against poppy-cock, it will be harder and saner, it will be what Mr Hewlett calls “nearer the bone.” It will be as much like granite as it can be, its force will lie in its truth, its interpretative power (of course, poetic force does always rest there); I mean it will not try to seem forcible by rhetorical din, and luxurious riot. We will have fewer painted adjectives impeding the shock and stroke of it. At least for myself, I want it so, austere, direct, free from emotional slither.

What is there now, in 1917, to be added?


I think the desire for vers libre is due to the sense of quantity reasserting itself after years of starvation. But I doubt if we can take over, for English, the rules of quantity laid down for Greek and Latin, mostly by Latin grammarians.

I think one should write vers libre only when one “must,” that is to say, only when the “thing” builds up a rhythm more beautiful than that of set metres, or more real, more a part of the emotion of the “thing,” more germane, intimate, interpretative than the measure of regular accentual verse; a rhythm which discontents one with set iambic or set anapaestic.

Eliot has said the thing very well when he said, “No vers is libre for the man who wants to do a good job.”

As a matter of detail, there is vers libre with accent heavily marked as a drum-beat (as par example my “Dance Figure”), and on the other hand I think I have gone as far as can profitably be gone in the other direction (and perhaps too far). I mean I do not think one can use to any advantage rhythms much more tenuous and imperceptible than some I have used. I think progress lies rather in an attempt to approximate classical quantitative metres (NOT to copy them) than in a carelessness regarding such things. [Let me date this statement 20 Aug. 1917.]

I agree with John Yeats on the relation of beauty to certitude. I prefer satire, which is due to emotion, to any sham of emotion.

I have had to write, or at least I have written a good deal about art, sculpture, painting and poetry. I have seen what seemed to me the best of contemporary work reviled and obstructed. Can any one write prose of permanent or durable interest when he is merely saying for one year what nearly every one will say at the end of three or four years? I have been battistrada for a sculptor, a painter, a novelist, several poets. I wrote also of certain French writers in The New Age in nineteen twelve or eleven.

I would much rather that people would look at Brzeska’s sculpture and Lewis’s drawings, and that they would read Joyce, Jules Romains, Eliot, than that they should read what I have said of these men, or that I should be asked to republish argumentative essays and reviews.

All that the critic can do for the reader or audience or spectator is to focus his gaze or audition. Rightly or wrongly I think my blasts and essays have done their work, and that more people are now likely to go to the sources than are likely to read this book.

Jammes’s “Existences” in “La Triomphe de la Vie” is available. So are his early poems. I think we need a convenient anthology rather than descriptive criticism. Carl Sandburg wrote me from Chicago, “It’s hell when poets can’t afford to buy each other’s books.” Half the people who care, only borrow. In America so few people know each other that the difficulty lies more than half in distribution. Perhaps one should make an anthology: Romains’s “Un Etre en Marche” and “Priéres,” Vildrac’s “Visite.” Retrospectively the fine wrought work of Laforgue, the flashes of Rimbaud, the hard-bit lines of Tristan Corbiére, Tailhade’s sketches in “Poémes Aristophanesques,” the “Litanies” of De Gourmont.

It is difficult at all times to write of the fine arts, it is almost impossible unless one can accompany one’s prose with many reproductions. Still I would seize this chance or any chance to reaffirm my belief in Wyndham Lewis’s genius, both in his drawings and his writings. And I would name an out of the way prose book, the “Scenes and Portraits” of Frederic Manning, as well as James Joyce’s short stories and novel, “Dubliners” and the now well known “Portrait of the Artist” as well as Lewis’ “Tarr,” if, that is, I may treat my strange reader as if he were a new friend come into the room, intent on ransacking my bookshelf.



I am almost a different person when I come to take up the argument for Eliot’s poems.


“A. B. C. of Economics”

“Probably the only economic problem needing emergency solution in our time is the problem of distribution. There are enough goods, there is superabundant capacity to produce goods in superabundance. Why should anyone starve?” (234). (AD: Charlotte Perkins Gilman would have some things to say about this, re: man as woman’s environment and woman needing to work)

The first “clean cut to be made” is the “shortening of the working day” (236).

“Marx has aroused interest far less than the importance of his thought might seem to have warranted. He knew, but forgot or at any rate failed to make clear, the limits of his economics. That is to say, Marxian economics deal with goods for sale, goods in the shop. The minute I cook my own dinner or nail four boards together into a chair, I escape from the whole cycle of Marxian economics.

‘Can’t move ’em with a cold thing like economics,’ said Mr. Griffiths, the inventor of Sinn fein” (239). (AD: does woman escape Marxian economics by performing domestic labor? Does man escape Marxian economics by performing feminine labor? Is he escaping woman as imposer of Marxian economics?)

“Time is not money, but it is nearly everything else. That is to say… It is not money, food, raw materials, women or various fundamental necessities which  I cannot at the moment remember, including possibly health, but it is a very important lever to most of them” (243). (AD: both time and money are a “lever” to obtaining the “fundamental necessity” of women.)

“In practice it has been shown that families who do not overproduce, that is, who beget no more children than they can support, have been able to maintain decent standards of living, and that other families do not.

It is probably useless to propound theories of perfect government or of perfect economics for human beings who are too demnition stupid and too ignorant to acquire so rudimentary a perception of cause and effect” (245).

“Until we have decent economics the sane man will refuse to overbreed. And pity for the large poor family will continue to be pity for idiotic lack of precision.

It may be that all, or most, sciences start from suffering or from pity; but once a science is started these emotions have no place in that science.” (245).

Pound considers the possibility of “national dividends,” which sounds similar to CPG’s idea of paying women to perform maternal tasks (252).

“Personally I favor a home for each individual, in the sense that I think each individual should have a certain amount of cubic space into which he or she can retire and be exempt from any outside interference what so damn ever.

From that I should build individual rights, and as they move out from that cubicle or inverted trapezoid they should be modified by balancing and counterpoise of the same-sprung rights of others, up to the rights of the state or the congeries” (253). (AD: Woolf’s room of one’s own taken farther… Pound feels he can demand more, but interestingly demands it for women as well as for men. This also sounds oddly like the marital argument at the end of Herland)

“An economic system in which it is more profitable to make guns to blow men to pieces than to grow grain or make useful machinery is an outrage, and its supporters are enemies of the race” (263).

Political Bearing

Both in England and in America the new party should be a MATERIAL PARTY with three parts to its platform:

  1. When enough exists, means should be found to distribute it to the people who need it.
  2. It is the business of the nation to see that its own citizens get their share, before worrying about the rest of the world. (If not, what is the sense of being ‘united’ or organised as a state? What is the meaning of ‘citizen’?)
  3. When the potential production (the possible production) of anything is sufficient to meet everyone’s needs, it is the business of the government to see that both production and distribution are achieved” (264). (AD: do we see Fascist roots here?)


“The Wisdom of Poetry”

“The function of an art is to free the intellect from the tyranny of the affects, or, leaning on terms, neither technical nor metaphysical: the function of an art is to strengthen the perceptive faculties and free them from encumbrance, such encumbrances, for instance, as set moods, set ideas, conventions; from the results of experience which is common but unnecessary, experience induced by the stupidity of the experiencer and not by inevitable laws of nature” (360).

“What the analytical geometer does for space and form, the poet does for the states of consciousness. Let us therefore consider the nature of the formulae of analytics.

By the signs (a squared plus b squared equals c squared), I imply the circle. By (a-r) squared + (b-r)squared = (c-r)squared, I imply the circle and its mode of birth. I am led from the consideration of the particular circles formed by my ink-well and my table-rim, to the contemplation of the circle absolute, its law; the circle free in all space, unbounded, loosed from the accidents of time and place. Is the formula nothing, or is it cabala and the sign of unintelligible magic? The engineer, understanding and translating to the many, builds for the uninitiated bridges and devices, He speaks their language. For the initiated the signs are a door into eternity and into the boundless ether.

As the abstract mathematician is to science so is the poet to the world’s consciousness. Neither has direct contact with the many, neither of them is superhuman or arrives at his utility through occult and inexplicable ways. Both are scientifically demonstrable” (362).



“Energy creates pattern… emotional force gives the image. …Intense emotion causes pattern to arise in the mind–if the mind is strong enough. Perhaps I should say, not pattern, but pattern-units, or units of design… I want to get away from the confusion between ‘pattern’ and ‘decoration’… By pattern-unit or vorticist picture I mean the single jet. The difference between the pattern-unit and the picture is one of complexity. The pattern-unit is so simple that one can bear having it repeated several or many times. When it becomes so complex that repetition would be useless, then it is a picture, an ‘arrangement of forms'” (374).

Images can be “of two sorts. It can arise within the mind. It is then ‘subjective.’ …. [or] the Image can be objective. Emotion seizing up some external scene or action carries it intact to the mind; and that cortex purges it of all save the essential or dominant or dramatic qualities, and it emerges like the external original. In either case the image is more than an idea. It is a vortex or cluster of fused ideas and it is endowed with energy. If it does not fulfil these specifications, it is not what I mean by an image” (375).

“Even if his thought be very slight it will not gain by being swathed in sham lace” (375).

“Where the voltage is so high that it fuses the machinery, one has merely the ’emotional man; not the artist. The best artist is the man whose machinery can stand the highest voltage. The better the machinery, the more precise, the stronger, the more exact will be the record of the voltage and of the various currents which have passed through it” (376).

“The vorticist position, or at least my position at the moment is this:

Energy, or emotion, expresses itself in form. Energy, whose primary manifestation is in pure form, i.e., form as distinct form likeness or association can only be expressed in painting or sculpture. ITs expression can vary…. Energy expressing itself in pure sound, i.e., sound as distinct from articulate speech, can only be expressed in music. When an energy or emotion ‘presents an image,’ this may find adequate expression in words. It is very probably a waste of energy to express it it in any more tangible medium. The verbal expression of the image may be reinforced by a suitable or cognate rhythm-form and by timbre-form. By rhythm-form and timbre-form I do not mean something which must of necessity have a ‘repeat’ in it. ….

The vorticist maintains that the ‘organising’ or the creative-inventive faculty is the thing that matters; and that the artist having this faculty is a being infinitely separate from the other type of artist who merely goes on weaving arabesques out of other men’s units of form.

Superficial capability needs no invention whatsoever, but a great energy has, of necessity, its many attendant inventions” (377).


“Marianne Moore and Mina Loy”

“In the verse of Marianne Moore I detect traces of emotion; in that of Mina Loy I detect no emotion whatever” (424).

melopoeia, imagism, logopoeia

“It is possible, as I have written, or inteded to write elsewhere, to divide poetry into three sorts;

1) melopoeia, to wit, poetry which moves by its music, whether it be a music in the words or an aptitude for, or suggestion of, accompanying music; 2) imagism, or poetry wherein the feelings of painting and sculpture are predominant (certain men move in phantasmagoria; the images of their gods, whole countrysides, stretches of hill land and forest, travel with them); and there is, thirdly, logopoeia, or poetry that is akin to nothing but language, which is a dance of the intelligence among words and ideas and modification of ideas and characters. Pope and the eighteenth-century writers had in this medium a certain limited range. The intelligence of Laforgue ran through the whole gamut of his time. T. S. Eliot has gone on with it. Browning wrote a condensed form of drama, full of things of the senses, scarcely ever pure logopoeia.

One wonders what the devil anyone will make of this sort of thing who has not in their wit all the clues. It has none of the stupidity beloved of the ‘lyric’ enthusiast and the writer and reader who take refuge in scenery description of nature, because they are unable to cope with the human” (424).

(AD: Pound here obviously uses “logos” as “word” rather than in its logical basis, but still interesting that “logopoeia” seems to involve many of “feminine writing”s aspects.)


Moore and Loy “write logopoeia. It is, in their case, the utterance of clever people in despair, or hovering upon the brink of that precipice…. It is a mind cry, more than a heart cry” (424).

They are, to Pound, “interesting and readable,” but he imagines that these poems would “drive numerous not wholly unintelligent readers into a fury of rage-out-of-puzzlement” (425).



Ezra Pound, Cantos

Some critics argue that just as the aesthetic and political are merged in the early Modernist aspect of Pound’s poetry, in the later, the aesthetic and Fascist elements are merged. Futurist writers like Marinetti are the heirs and successors of Dante.

Marinetti and Dazzi feature as Dantesque shades or ghosts that appear to the narrator.

“Pound’s ‘Ideogrammatic Method’ as Illustrated in Canto XCIX.” Ben D. Kimpel and T. C. Duncan Eaves, American Literature: A Journal of Literary History, Criticism, and Bibliography, May 1979.

“Pound believed that almost all the [Chinese] characters are ideograms, that is, composed of two or more pictures which when put together create a new word; to choose a real ideogram as an example, ‘sun’ and ‘moon’ together mean ‘bright.’ He also believed that various elements put together in a canto (of in The Cantos as a whole) create a new concept” (205).

Ideogrammatic method “has not been unambiguously defined, either by Pound or by his critics, though everyone seems to agree that it involves juxtaposition of independent elements rather than logical or chronological development” (206).

“The Chinese character, Pound says, also begins not with abstractions but with concrete illustrations: the character for “red,” for example, is composed of pictures of a rose, a cherry, iron rust, and a flamingo. His illustration shows another difficulty in his use of the ideogrammic method if one conceives of the method as a mere collection of facts : there is no such Chinese character for “red,” there are not even pictograms of the four elements Pound imagined as composing it, and Fenollosa does not say that there is such a composite character or such pictograms, though he does make the same point Pound is making that “red” can be better defined by illustration than by abstraction” (207).

“There are genuine pictograms and genuine ideograms among the Chinese characters, but scholars of Chinese do not support Fenollosa’s claim and hold that the large majority of the characters have elements which contribute not to meaning but to sound. This fact would not have bothered Pound, with his distrust of stuffy academicians except when it suited him to consult the experts. He began interpreting the characters as ideograms before he had learned any Chinese to speak of and published some fanciful readings of them at the end of The Chinese Written Character; in some of his translations of the Confucian classics he expanded characters by interpreting their elements, as he did also in the Pisan Cantos” (209).

“Pound had become a reader rather than a speaker of Chinese, and his interest in the language was more visual than auditory to use his own terms, he was interested in its phanopœia rather than its melopœia, and most of all in the possibilities for logopœia afforded by the multiple meanings which could be extracted from the characters” (211).

What does the need for intonation in the Chinese language say about Pound’s poetry? Needs to be spoken?

“Some passages can be thought of as “enriched” paraphrase, that is paraphrase which takes advantage of all the suggestions of the words” (232).

“Almost everything in Canto XCIX can thus be logically explicated ; and yet the explication falls far short of the effect of the canto. Indeed, though many lines require explication, it is possible to hold that the canto as a whole can make its effect without explication and even loses some of the force of its effect if one remembers the details of the explication while rereading” (234-5).

“And Pound ends by resounding (as compressed apothegms expressed in accurate language) the themes of agriculture and education, reminding us briefly of the heterodox religions, and concluding, as he had begun, with man as a part of Nature. With the last word, “grows,” which is connected with agriculture, education, and Nature, he seems to lead us on beyond the Edict or any other fixed ideal. This effect is attained whether or not the reader knows what stimulated the phrases. ” (235).

“Many lines are so obscure that most readers can only skip over them with a shrug, which as far as the reader is concerned means that they “contribute” nothing and therefore violate the second principle of imagism: “To use absolutely no word that does not contribute to the presentation.”*^ But this principle was stated when Pound was concerned mainly with brief lyrics; per-haps a long poem can afford some lines of use only to a few readers. ” (237).

“Modernist Abstraction and Pound’s First Cantos” The Ethos for a New Renaissance” by Charles Altieri. Kenyon Review, September 1985

“Analogies to cubism and vorticism allow [Hugh] Kenner to describe clearly how Pound replaces vague symboliste correspondences with the foregrounding of precisely patterned energies” (80).

“Pound’s Vorticism as a Renewal of Humanism.” Charles Altieri, Boundary 2: A Journal of Postmodern Literature and Culture  March 1984.

“The description of vorticism quickly shifts into an autobiographical narrative—not as an assertion of the unified ego nor as a simple rhetorical distrust of abstraction, but as a way of confronting the fragmentation of self issuing from received humanist values: “In the ‘search for myself,’ in the search for ‘sincere selfexpression,’ one gropes, one finds some seeming verity. One says ‘I am’ this or the other, and the words scarcely uttered one ceases to be that thing” (GB, p. 85).”” (445).

“Yeats, Pound implies, preserves only the dead content of Renaissance values. The Vorticists, on the other hand, recover the energies informing the spirit of that movement, but this also entails breaking with established ways:

If these men set out to “produce horrors,” obviously it is not from ignorance or from lack of respect for tradition. No. The sum of their so called revolt is that they refuse to recognize parochial borders to the artistic tradition. That they think it not enough to be the best painter in Chelsea, SW Vorticism refuses to discard any part of the tradition merely because It is a difficult bogey…. Art comes from intellect stirred by will, impulse, emotion, but art is emphatically not any of these others deprived of intellect and out drunk on its ‘lone, saying it is the “that which is beyond the intelligence.” {GB, p. 105)

At stake ultimately are the principles allowing us to make art a basis for idealizing energies which one can then pursue in life. For Modernist artists the resulting cult of intelligence must begin by denying direct mimesis: “We have again arrived at an age when men can consider a statue as a statue. The hard stone is not the iive coney. Its beauty cannot be the same beauty” {GB, p. 107). Once this is achieved, we in fact get back to life more richly and deeply because the energies art organizes are not devoted to some substitute fantasy. Rather they are dynamic realities in the present and thus can enter a timeless world where all traditions speak and where Renaissances are reborn. An art devoted to arranging masses in relation “is not an empty copy of empty Roman allegories that are themselves copies of copies It is energy cut into stone making the stone expressive …” {GB, p. 110). Such energies give us the strength to persist in “an unwavering feeling that we live in a time as active and as significant as the Cinquecento. We feel this ingress and we are full of the will for its expression” {GB, p. 110)” (445-6).

“Form for Pound is the overall effect of stasis produced by expressive energy as it becomes manifest within a concrete structure and as it captures the power of that energy to permeate the seen or remembered. On this basis Pound can attribute social significance to art while evading the standard categorical claims to universality on which such attributions are usually based” (448).

“”Obviously you cannot have ‘cubist’ poetry or ‘imagist’ painting” (GB, p. 81). But one can define a single principle for the modern arts by basing it precisely on this 448 recognition of differences—the modern arts are devoted to the position that every concept, every emotion presents itself to the vivid consciousness in some primary form” {GB, p. 81). Vorticism in particular roots the vortex in the power of each art to capture this “point of maximum energy” by making the qualities of “primary pigment” their central locus of semantic energies, whether the pigment be images, design forms, color in position, or dance movement.” (447-8).

“For Pound, on the other hand, all traditions continue to live, to establish possible ways of being, to the extent that we know how to read expressions as permanent metaphors, exemplary as models of energy always capable of taking new forms. Thus one makes a Renaissance. I call the basis of this remaking the undoing of categorical judgment without anxiety about origins. The crucial factor is the recasting of ideals” (453).

“society, not influence the models it uses. Society as a material entity may require shared laws and shareable beliefs. But as a spiritual entity, as something productive of claims to nobility and dignity because of the symbolic intensiveness it makes possible, society must take the form of the exchange of creative energies. In Pound’s world such energies derive from a vision of experience as the risking and challenging of identities through processes of making claims upon one another. Social life becomes a matter of reciprocal assertions: “You find a man one week young, interested, active, following your thought and his thought, parrying and countering, so that the thought you have between you is more alive than the thought you have apart” (GB, p. 108).'” Since there is no common set of ideals, there is no point in making abstract judgments of what others do. Instead our task as social beings is to keep one another alive by cultivating even sharper, more intensive expressions of difference” (456).

“Gyre and Vortex: W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound.” Colin McDowel and Timothy Materer. Twentieth Century Literature: A Scholarly and Critical Journal. December 1985.

Critics of Modern poetry have often treated Yeats and Pound as “the poetic opposites of modern literature,” Yeats being the “last romantic,” and Pound as the “poet of the precise image, who believed that the natural object is always the adequate symbol, and who scorned the Romantic age as a ‘blurry, messy sort of a period'” (343).

“Like the great symbolist poet he was, Yeats is in search of correspondences in the outer world for an inner reality. The ‘whatever’ in Yeats’s mind might be the archetype of the Mother Goddess or a theory about the medieval age. The reality of the cathedral is meaningless to Yeats unless it interprets of corresponds to an inner, spiritual reality. Pound’s implied criticism is that the ‘whatever’ discovered by ‘dawdling’ is not precise enough to achieve an ‘exact rendering of the thing.’ He suspects that Yeats imposes rather than discovers poetic form” (344).

Both poets however were “deeply committed to occult studies and both attempted to go beyond merely personal versions of myth to find the recurrent patterns that underlie all myths” (345).

“The ‘sphere’ [in Yeats] is analogous to the eternal or divine spirit in Pound’s poetic world…We can also see that a gyre or spiral may be thought of as a figure for the methodical examination of the object: one starts out with a wide circle of perception, in which one grasps the gestalt, gradually narrowing one’s focus” (347).

Pound used the Gyre image in the (early) 1908 poem “Plotinus” and “Before sleep” has some gyre-like imagery

We can see “a spiral flight out of a spiritual hell” as the progression of the cantos (356)

[AD: we could see this perhaps in the outline Pound wrote his father:

Another approach to the structure of the work is based on a letter Pound wrote to his father in the 1920s, in which he stated that his plan was:

A. A. Live man goes down into world of dead.
C. B. ‘The repeat in history.’
B. C. The ‘magic moment’ or moment of metamorphosis, bust through from quotidian into ‘divine or permanent world.’ Gods, etc.]





Jessie L. Weston, From Ritual to Romance

“the main features of the Grail story–the Waste Land, the Fisher King, the Hidden Castle with its solemn Feast, and mysterious Feeding Vessel, the Bleeding Lance and Cup” (3). (AD: we begin with the Waste Land – what follows Eliot’s set up?)

“The Dead king may, as I have said above, be regarded as the Benefactor, as the Protector, of his people, but it is the Living king upon whom their actual and continued prosperity depends. The detail that the ruling sovereign is sometimes regarded as the re-incarnation of the original founder of the race strengthens this point – the king never dies–” (8).

In all the various traditions, the seeker “ought to have enquired concerning the nature of the Grail, and that this enquiry would have resulted in the restoration to fruitfulness of a Waste Land” (11). (does the modernist poet’s “asking” do something similar? Is it meant to?)

“The question is changed; the hero no longer asks what the Grail is, but whom it serves?” (14). (re:, perhaps, the War)

“The condition of the king is sympathetically reflected on the land, the loss of virility in one brings about a suspension of the reproductive processes of Nature on the other” (21). (AD: this seems like some sort of odd male generative fantasy of withholding)

Like Eliot, Weston draws on both Western and Eastern (Vedic) myths about fertility

“Their hymns and prayers…and their dramatic ritual, were devised for the main purpose of obtaining from the gods of their worship that which was essential to ensure their well-being and the fertility of their land–warmth, sunshine, above all, sufficient water” (24). (AD: how do poetry and dramatic ritual relate? Is Eliot’s poetry a dramatic ritual, serving this purpose? Does death by water mean an over-watering, did it succeed too much?)

The Lance or Spear represents male, and the cup female, reproductive energy (71)

The Tarot were originally not for telling futures but predicting the rise and fall of water for irrigation (79)

The Fisher King is killed and brought to life again (117). (How does this relate to Eliot’s invocation of “tradition”?)

The Grail mysteries are so secret and sacred that no woman may venture to speak of it (130).

exoteric v esoteric rituals 133

“The Grail romances repose eventually, not upon a poet’s imagination, but upon the ruins of an august and ancient ritual, a ritual which once claimed to be the accredited guardian of the deepest secrets of life” (176).

“…Ritual, having for its ultimate object the initiation into the secret of the sources of Life, physical and spiritual. This ritual, in its lower, exoteric, form, as affecting the processes of Nature, and physical life, survives to-day…” (191)

Mina Loy, Selected Essays

“The Sacred Prostitute” (drama)

FUTURISM: Love is a feminine conception spelt “Greed” with a capital “G”–this is female, all right! (197).


FUTURISM: Hurry up! And love me! (distractedly) There is no time to waste– life has got to be lived – There’s no time to stop to enjoy it! (201)


FUTURISM: Women are so illogical.

LOVE: So are you.

FUTURISM: Futurism is diametrically opposed to logic (204).


FUTURISM: I am sacrificing my life to make things new–and only succeeding in making them louder. As for this, it’s only the eternal axiom in waging the sex war–that “Man and Woman” are enemies. But that woman has one greater enemy than man–woman!

DON JUAN: Ah, now that’s recognizable–insult the sex, to catch the demonstrated exception?

FUTURISM: Precisely. This dodge covers the whole field–hitherto you stopped short at maternity–we annihilate woman completely! (205).


(NATURE comes on)

DON JUAN: Oh, Mammy, you must help us. Futurism has invented a new game–we want to make our own children, evolve them from our own indomitable intellects.

NATURE: Then do it–You can’t expect me to help you with your intellects, they’ve raced far beyond my control.

FUTURISM: Never mind the intellects–they’re our business. Your affair is the children–you’re the only person who understands them.

DON JUAN: You always do what we want, dear, are we not your favorite offspring? In fact, you would be the perfect mother, if only you had restricted your family to us–we don’t want a little sister–she’s remained a child too long!

NATURE: I have been looking into the feminist propaganda–and I am already seriously considering allowing her to grow up!

FUTURISM AND DON JUAN: Great Heavens! Anything but that!

NATURE: I made you entirely independent, except for this question of reproduction–and you have shown no filial gratitude whatever–and to tell the truth, I’m beginning to feel rather out of touch with you… now you’ve overeaten yourselves, you want me to make you a perfect world–with no temptations. Well, I shan’t–you’ll just go on the best way you can–until you’ve learnt a little self control.

FUTURISM: There’s nothing more to be got out of her! –Let’s identify ourselves with machinery! (205-7).


LOVE: …I assure you every time woman gives herself to man, it means a struggle between her pride and her desire. It’s so stupid this appearing to succumb to diplomacy–I know you’re going to win…But do fight me with new weapons–I do want to be amused (210).


Censor Morals Sex”

If as Freud infers–Religion and Sex are interchangeable–why not reintegrate both giving the people an impetus toward the equilibrium they require?

Sexual myths become the masters of civilization” (226).



“In psycho-analytic literature, at least, we are offered no escape from the post-natal womb of the Eternal Mother

And the Eternal Mother devours her literary kittens –––––– invariably…” (227).

“mechanized mysticism” related to the mother complex and the Absolute (228)

“The aim of the artist is to miss the Absolute–the only possible creative gesture–whereas the mystic impulse is to embrace a ‘ready made’ in the way of absolutes” (228).


“Gertrude Stein”

“Gertrude Stein is not a writer in any of the currently accepted senses of the word.

She does not use words to present a subject, but uses a fluid subject to float her words on” (233).


“History of Religion and Eros”

“The secret Universe of omniscient creative impetus comprises the power-house generating our obvious universe.

From this power-house science has induced innumerable demonstrations of its mathematical abstract potency” (237).

“Inversely to the direct co-operation of the ancients, the occidental scientist interposes between himself and the Power Universe gigantic machinery, microscopic instrumentation to indirectly contact it” (238).

“Whatever transpired in the ego-laboratory of mystic research proved so mysterious to the occidentals that finally they easily accepted it as the mystery to end all mysteries: the nothing-at-all” (239).

“Human emotion is become excessively confused owing to the scission of sex from religion.

Sex presented to the purity of youth as at once beatitude and secret filth

Religion, as sole security and total prohibition

Sex! This word, at last, so overflows with misassociations. To clarify its future significance, sex must be renamed” (247). For now, she substitutes EROS

“Freud is unnecessary to the future. His utile achievement lay in his solution of the problem, ‘To mention or not to mention.’ By making it, aided by the scientific aegis– fashionably polite to mention. Clearing a way out for inhibition” (252).


“The Library of the Sphinx”

“While the sphinx retains her secret, who shall reveal the unconsummated significance of the asterisk–––

Notwithstanding that the secret of the sphinx is not conveyed in words–the asterisk is an assumption that the secret is possessed by each of us and therefore need never be mentioned–

the asterisk is the signal of a treasure which is not there” (253).

“The secret–that the sphinx does not know her own secret–

Impossible–it would have been remarked upon ere now–

–Not so–for the sphinx has never spoken” (253).

“Let us examine your literature –

It was written by men–

And the sphinx never gave a sign.” (254).

“In the soggy atmosphere of T. S. Eliot is embedded the typist who fresh from the embraces of a stray acquaintance–

turns on the gramophone

and swallows her hairpins

(I am not quite clear in my recollection of the latter line)

Mr. Eliot has observed the typist and her combinations drying on the roof with the same disrespectfully acute ray of observation that he turns on classicism and pessimism alike” (257).


“The Logos in Art”

“The church–that ungainly edifice that so impoliment shuts out the divine ‘view'” (260)

“It is the unpresentable in presentation that causes it to exceed replica–” (261).

“Apparently because the proportions of their superficies are too great for their purpose–leading as they do to no altars–For there is no common-sense reason why a straight line should not have the same significance in the twelfth and the twentieth century–

The logos is insinuated Modern art–because there is a certain renaissance–evidently the masters they follow were of healthier contagion than those of some previous generations–

And there is no renaissance without breath–

The breathing upon the logos–” (261-2). (AD: breathing by whom?)


“The Metaphysical Pattern in Aesthetics”

“The pattern of a work of art is interposed between the artist’s creation and the observer in the mode of a screen formed by the directing lines or map of the artist’s genius.

This is the essential factor in a work of art” (263).


“Mi & Lo”

Hi- Lo, Mina Loy, me/my the, almost musical notation (do-re-mi-fa-sol)

This is a Platonic dialogue.


“Tuning In on the Atom Bomb” and “Universal Food Machine” about the wars

“You will nowhere find an individual who prays for War. Yet War would not come upon us if it were not invoked. By whom is it invoked? It seems impossible that it should be so–and yet it is so–War is not a scourge of destiny which falls upon us independently of our will” (291).



Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Women and Economics

“…these sorrows and perplexities of our lives are but the natural results of natural causes, and that, as soon as we ascertain the causes, we can do much to remove them” (1). (AD: and to mystify them is to refuse to remove them.)

“The food supply of the animal is the largest passive factor in his development; the processes by which he obtains his food supply, the largest active factor…. We are the only animal species in which the female depends on the male for food, the only animal species in which the sex-relation is also an economic relation. With us an entire sex lives in a relation of economic dependence upon the other sex, and the economic relation is combined with the sex-relation. The economic status of the human female is relative to the sex-relation” (2-3).

“Economic progress…is almost exclusively masculine. ….This is not owing to lack of the essential human faculties necessary to such achievements, nor to any inherent disability of sex, but to the present condition of woman, forbidding the development of this degree of economic ability” (5). (AD: who is the agent here? Language carefully masks cause of female subordination)

“Although not producers of wealth, women serve in the final processes of preparation and distribution. Their labor in the household has a genuine economic value. …The horse is an economic factor in society. But the horse is not economically, independent, nor is the woman” (6).

“we are told that the duties and services of the mother entitle her to support.

If this is so, if motherhood is an exchangeable commodity given by women in payment for clothes and food, then we must of course find some relation between the quantity or quality of the motherhood and the quantity and quality of the pay. …Are we willing to hold this ground, even in theory?” (8).

“The female of genus homo is economically dependent on the man. He is her food supply” (11). (AD: she cannibalizes woman!)

“To be ill-fed or ill-bred, or both, is largely what makes us the sickly race we are” (13).

Monogamy is “as natural a condition as polygamy or promiscuity” because it is found among other animals, and it is the most beneficial to the “Race” (13). However, “the moral quality of monogamous marriage depends on its true advantage to the individual and to society. If it were not the best form of marriage for our racial good, it would not be right” (14).

“The unnatural feature by which our race holds an unenviable distinction consists mainly in…a morbid excess in the exercise of [the sex] function” (15).

In a normal condition, “the amount of hunger we feel is exactly proportionate to the amount of food we eat,” but we as a “race, manifest an excessive sex-attraction, followed by its excessive indulgence, and the inevitable evil consequence” (16).

A vicious cycle is created in which “the more widely the sexes are differentiated, the more forcibly they are attracted to each other,” and the more they are attracted, the stronger the sex binary becomes (16).

The sex distinction should really only appear in “processes of reproduction” (18).

There are sex instincts, but they should “not appear till the period of adolescence” (29). Girls should not be feminine “till it is time to be,” nor men “aggressively masculine till it is time to be” (29). (i.e., in mating season)

“The sex relation is intensely personal. All the functions and relations ensuing are intensely personal… By confining half of the world to this one set of functions, we have confined it absolutely to the personal” (42).

Mothers do not explain to their daughters what their lives are going to hold. “The pressure under which this is done is an economic one. The girl must marry: else how live? The prospective husband prefers the girl to know nothing. He is the market, the demand. She is the supply. And with the best intentions the mother serves her child’s economic advantage by preparing her for the market” (44).

“Although marriage is a means of livelihood, it is not honest employment where one can offer one’s labor without shame, but a relation where support is given outright, and enforced by law in return for the functional service of the woman, the ‘duties of wife and mother.’ Therefore no honorable woman can ask for it” (45).

“Why should we blame the woman for pursuing her vocation? Since marriage is her only way to get money, why should she not try to get money in that way?” (47).

This schema turns man into a “Getter” rather than a “Doer” of things (57).

Unable to create anything herself, she becomes a consumer. she becomes “the priestess of the temple of consumption” (60).

“Maternal energy is the force through which have come into the world both love and industry” (63). … “the conserving force of female energy” (63).

“Maternal energy, working externally through our elaborate organism, is the source of productive industry, the main current of social life” (63). (AD: how does maternal energy relate to capitalism?)

“Most women still work only as they ‘have to’… Men, too, liking the power that goes with money, and the poor quality of gratitude and affection bought with it, resent and oppose the change, but all this disturbs very little the course of social progress” (76).

“Our belief that a thing is ‘natural’ does not mean that it is right” (103).

“If women did choose professions unsuitable to maternity, Nature would quietly extinguish them by her unvarying process” (121).


Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland

Chapter 1 entitled “a Not Unnatural Enterprise” (what they find is not unnatural, nor is their masculine desire to try to find it)

Terry’s “great aim was exploration. He used to make all kinds of a row because there was nothing left to explore now…” (3).

“None of them had ever seen it. It was dangerous, deadly, they said, for any man to go there” (4).”There was something attractive to a bunch of unattached young men in finding an undiscovered country of a strictly Amazonian nature” (7). (AD: still extremely androcentric; they are “attractive” to men)

Terry decides “let’s call it Feminisia” (9). (AD: masculine entitlement to name and categorize)

Jeff thinks the land will be “blossoming with roses and babies,” Terry “just Girls and Girls and Girls” (9). Narrator insists “you’ll find it’s built on a sort of matriarchal principle–that’s all” (9).

They can’t be all that dangerous despite their ability to defend themselves because “where there’s motherhood you don’t find sisterhood–not much” (10). Terry is confident he can use this division to get himself crowned king.

“Why, this is a civilized country! I protested. There must be men” (13). (AD: men = culture. Sherry Ortner)

“We’d better import some of these ladies and set ’em to parking the United States, I suggested. Mighty nice place they’ve got here” (20). (Assumption that woman’s place is to make life more beautiful for men. Also, assumption that women can be “imported,” that they have no nationality, a la Woolf)

“In all our discussions and speculations we had always unconsciously assumed that the women, whatever else they might be, would be young. Men do think that way, I fancy.

‘Woman’ in the abstract is young, and, we assume, charming. As they get older they pass off the stage, somehow, into private ownership mostly, or out of it altogether. But these good ladies were very much on the stage, and yet any one of them might have been a grandmother” (22).

“And now here they were, in great numbers, evidently indifferent to what he might think, evidently determined on some purpose of their own regarding him, and apparently well able to enforce their purpose” (23).

The women have a very simple, non-ornamental dress and hairstyle.

“It was not pleasant, having them always around, but we soon got used to it” (30).

“They don’t seem to notice our being men.. They treat us – well – just as they do one another. It’s as if our being men was a minor incident” (32). (AD: not only are men nothing special qua men, but also, the gender binary is not foregrounded as it is in our society)

The women are “impudent” and “uncomfortably strong” (35)

The women question the men’s conception of virgin and virginity and make the men uncomfortable as they explain how mating works so poorly in their country

“We have cats,’ she said. ‘The father is not very useful'” (49).

The cats only have a mating season once a year. Sex is used for reproduction only (52).

“They were inconveniently reasonable, these women” (57). (they access logos)

“…these ultra-women, inheriting only from women, had eliminated not only certain masculine characteristics, which of course we did not look for, but so much of what we had always thought essentially feminine. The tradition of men as guardians and protectors had quite died out….The power of mother-love, that maternal instinct we so highly laud, was theirs of course, raised to its highest power; and a sister-love…” (59).

“…as to everyone knowing which child belongs to which mother–why should she?’

Here, as in so many other instances, we were led to feel the difference between the purely maternal and paternal attitude of mind. The element of personal pride seemed strangely lacking” (77).

“When I dug into the records to follow out any line of development, that was the most astonishing thing–the conscious effort to make it better” (77). 

“To them the country was a unit–it was Theirs. They themselves were a unit, a conscious group; they thought in terms of the community. As such, their time-sense was not limited to the hopes and ambitions of an individual life. Therefore, they habitually considered and carried out plans for improvement which might cover centuries” (80).

The girls “train out, breed out, when possible, the lowest types” (83). This is how they have not had a criminal in 600 years. Reproductive eugenics. Only the fittest and best are allowed to reproduce.

Maternity is the highest honor, but education the “highest art, only allowed to our highest artists” (83). The care of babies is “Education” and is treated with the highest respect.

When he meets and offends the girls, Terry calls them “boys! nothing but boys, the lot of them” (87).

“To get an idea of their attitude you have to hold in mind their extremely high sense of solidarity. They were not each choosing a lover; they hadn’t the faintest idea of love–sex-love, that is. These girls–to each of whom motherhood was a lodestar, and that motherhood exalted above a mere personal function, looked forward to as the highest social service, as the sacrament of a lifetime–were now confronted with an opportunity to make the great step of changing their whole status, of reverting to their earlier bi-sexual order of nature” (89).

“When a man has nothing to give a woman, is dependent wholly on his personal attraction, his courtship is under limitations” (90).

“There was no sex-feeling to appeal to, or practically none. Two thousand years; disuse had left very little of the instinct; also we must remember that those who had at times manifested it as atavistic exceptions were often, by that very fact, denied motherhood.

Yet while the mother process remains, the inherent ground for sex-distinction remains also; and who shall say what long-forgotten feeling, vague and nameless, was stirred in some of these mother hearts by our arrival?

What left us even more at sea in our approach was the lack of any sex-tradition. There was no accepted standard of what was ‘manly’ and what was ‘womanly'” (93).

“All the surrendering devotion our women have put into their private families, these women put into their country and race. All the loyalty and service men expect of wives, they gave, not singly to men, but collectively to one another” (96).

they’re “neuters” (99), but this is NOT the neutral=masculine

When asked if they have respect for the past, Alina answers, “Why should we? They are all gone. They knew less than we do. If we are not beyond them, we are unworthy of them–and unworthy of the children who must go beyond us” (111).

The women do not want immortality because their children continue them

on sex v mating seasons: “I found that much, very much, of what I had honestly supposed to be a physiological necessity was a psychological necessity” (127).

“Here I was, with an Ideal in mind, for which I hotly longed, and here was she, deliberately obtruding in the foreground of my consciousness a Fact – a fact which I coolly enjoyed, but which actually interfered with what I wanted” (128).

Terry attempts to “master” (rape) Alina and he is taken out and banished from the garden. This is the unpardonable sin. Gilman notes that “in a court in our country he would have been held quite within his rights, of course” (131).

“When we say men, man, manly, manhood, and all the other masculine derivatives, we have in the background of our minds a huge vague crowded picture of the world and all its activities…. “the world.”

And when we say women, we think female –the sex.

But to these women, in the unbroken sweep of this two-thousand year feminine civilization, the word woman called up all that big background, so far as they had gone in social development; and the word man meant only to them male –the sex” (135).

Alice Duer Miller, Are Women People?

Our Idea of Nothing at All

(“I am opposed to woman suffrage, but I am not opposed to woman.”—Anti-suffrage speech of Mr. Webb of North Carolina.)

O women, have you heard the news

Of charity and grace?

Look, look, how joy and gratitude

Are beaming in my face!

For Mr. Webb is not opposed

To woman in her place!

O Mr. Webb, how kind you are

To let us live at all,

To let us light the kitchen range

And tidy up the hall;

To tolerate the female sex

In spite of Adam’s fall.

O girls, suppose that Mr. Webb

Should alter his decree!

Suppose he were opposed to us—

Opposed to you and me.

What would be left for us to do—

Except to cease to be?

The Revolt of Mother

(“Every true woman feels—-“—Speech of almost any Congressman.)

I am old-fashioned, and I think it right

That man should know, by Nature’s laws eternal,

The proper way to rule, to earn, to fight,

And exercise those functions called paternal;

But even I a little bit rebel

At finding that he knows my job as well.


At least he’s always ready to expound it,

Especially in legislative hall,

The joys, the cares, the halos that surround it,

“How women feel”—he knows that best of all.

In fact his thesis is that no one can

Know what is womanly except a man.


I am old-fashioned, and I am content

When he explains the world of art and science

And government—to him divinely sent—

I drink it in with ladylike compliance.

But cannot listen—no, I’m only human—

While he instructs me how to be a woman.


The Woman of Charm


(“I hate a woman who is not a mystery to herself, as well as to me.”—The Phoenix.)

If you want a receipt for that popular mystery

Known to the world as a Woman of Charm,

Take all the conspicuous ladies of history,

Mix them all up without doing them harm.

The beauty of Helen, the warmth of Cleopatra,

Salome’s notorious skill in the dance,

The dusky allure of the belles of Sumatra,

The fashion and finish of ladies from France.

The youth of Susanna, beloved by an elder,

The wit of a Chambers’ incomparable minx,

The conjugal views of the patient Griselda,

The fire of Sappho, the calm of the Sphinx,

The eyes of La Vallière, the voice of Cordelia,

The musical gifts of the sainted Cecelia,

Trilby and Carmen and Ruth and Ophelia,

Madame de Staël and the matron Cornelia,

Iseult, Hypatia and naughty Nell Gwynn,

Una, Titania and Elinor Glyn.

Take of these elements all that is fusible,

Melt ’em all down in a pipkin or crucible,

Set ’em to simmer and take off the scum,

And a Woman of Charm is the residuum!

(Slightly adapted from W.S. Gilbert.)

What Governments Say to Women

(The law compels a married woman to take the nationality of her husband.)


In Time of War


Help us. Your country needs you;

Show that you love her,

Give her your men to fight,

Ay, even to fall;

The fair, free land of your birth,

Set nothing above her,

Not husband nor son,

She must come first of all.


In Time of Peace


What’s this? You’ve wed an alien,

Yet you ask for legislation

To guard your nationality?

We’re shocked at your demand.

A woman when she marries

Takes her husband’s name and nation:

She should love her husband only.

What’s a woman’s native land?

Why We Oppose Votes for Men

1. Because man’s place is the armory.

2. Because no really manly man wants to settle any question otherwise than by fighting about it.

3. Because if men should adopt peaceable methods women will no longer look up to them.

4. Because men will lose their charm if they step out of their natural sphere and interest themselves in other matters than feats of arms, uniforms and drums.

5. Because men are too emotional to vote. Their conduct at baseball games and political conventions shows this, while their innate tendency to appeal to force renders them peculiarly unfit for the task of government.



“Mother, what is a Feminist?”

“A Feminist, my daughter,

Is any woman now who cares

To think about her own affairs

As men don’t think she oughter.”

The Unconscious Suffragists

“They who have no voice nor vote in the electing of representatives do not enjoy liberty, but are absolutely enslaved to those who have votes.”—Benjamin Franklin.

“No such phrase as virtual representation was ever known in law or constitution.”—James Otis.

“But these great cities, says my honorable friend, are virtually, though not directly represented. Are not the wishes of Manchester, he asks, as much consulted as those of any other town which sends members to Parliament? Now, sir, I do not understand how a power which is salutary when exercised virtually can be noxious when exercised directly. If the wishes of Manchester have as much weight with us as they would have under a system which gives representatives to Manchester, how can there be any danger in giving representatives to Manchester?”—Lord Macaulay’s Speech on the Reform Bill.

“Universal suffrage prolongs in the United States the effect of universal education: for it stimulates all citizens throughout their lives to reflect on problems outside the narrow circle of their private interests and occupations: to read about public questions; to discuss public characters and to hold themselves ready in some degree to give a rational account of their political faith.”—Dr. Charles Eliot.

“But liberty is not the chief and constant object of their (the American people) desires: equality is their idol; they make rapid and sudden efforts to obtain liberty and if they miss their aim, resign themselves to their disappointment; but nothing can satisfy them without equality, and they would rather perish than lose it.”—De Tocqueville: Democracy in America, 1835.

“A government is for the benefit of all the people. We believe that this benefit is best accomplished by popular government because in the long run each class of individuals is apt to secure better provision for themselves through their own voice in government than through the altruistic interest of others, however intelligent or philanthropic.”—William H. Taft in Special Message.

“I have listened to some very honest and eloquent orators whose sentiments were noteworthy for this: that when they spoke of the people, they were not thinking of themselves, they were thinking of somebody whom they were commissioned to take care of. And I have seen them shiver when it was suggested that they arrange to have something done by the people for themselves.”—The New Freedom, by Woodrow Wilson.


I went to see old Susan Gray,

Whose soldier sons had marched away,

And this is what she had to say:


“It isn’t war I hate at all—

‘Tis likely men must fight—

But, oh, these flags and uniforms,

It’s them that isn’t right!

If war must come, and come it does

To take our boys from play,

It isn’t right to make it seem

So beautiful and gay.”

I left old Susan with a sigh;

A famous band was marching by

To make men glad they had to die.

John Crowe Ransom

Led by John Crowe Ransom, then a member of the university’s English faculty, these young “Fugitives,” as they called themselves, opposed both the traditional sentimentality of Southern writing and the increasingly frantic pace of life as the turbulent war years gave way to the Roaring Twenties.
proved to be in the vanguard of a new literary movement—Agrarianism—and a new way of analyzing works of art—the New Criticism
As far as Ransom and his fellow Agrarians were concerned, noted John L. Stewart in his study of the poet and critic, “poetry, the arts, ritual, tradition, and the mythic way of looking at nature thrive best in an agrarian culture based on an economy dominated by small subsistence farms. Working directly and closely with nature man finds aesthetic satisfaction and is kept from conceitedness and greed by the many reminders of the limits of his power and understanding. But in an industrial culture he is cut off from nature…His arts and religions wither and he lives miserably in a rectilinear jungle of factories and efficiency apartments.”
Thomas Daniel Young in a study of the poet. His themes, continued Young, emphasized “man’s dual nature and the inevitable misery and disaster that always accompany the failure to recognize and accept this basic truth; mortality and the fleetingness of youthful vigor and grace, the inevitable decay of feminine beauty; the disparity between the world as man would have it and as it actually is, between what people want and need emotionally and what is available for them, between what man desires and what he can get; man’s divided sensibilities and the wars constantly raging within him, the inevitable clash between body and mind, between reason and sensibility; the necessity of man’s simultaneous apprehension of nature’s indifference and mystery and his appreciation of her sensory beauties; the inability of modern man, in his incomplete and fragmentary state, to experience love.”
Emily Hardcastle, Spinster
We shall come tomorrow morning, who were not to have her love,
We shall bring no face of envy but a gift of praise and lilies
To the stately ceremonial we are not the heroes of.
Let the sisters now attend her, who are red-eyed, who are wroth;
They were younger, she was finer, for they wearied of the waiting
And they married them to merchants, being unbelievers both.
I was dapper when I dangled in my pepper-and-salt;
We were only local beauties, and we beautifully trusted
If the proud one had to tarry, one would have her by default.
But right across the threshold has her grizzled Baron come;
Let them robe her, Bride and Princess, who’ll go down a leafy archway
And seal her to the Stranger for his castle in the gloom.
Janet Waking
Beautifully Janet slept
Till it was deeply morning. She woke then
And thought about her dainty-feathered hen,
To see how it had kept.
One kiss she gave her mother,
Only a small one gave she to her daddy
Who would have kissed each curl of his shining baby;
No kiss at all for her brother.
“Old Chucky, Old Chucky!” she cried,
Running across the world upon the grass
To Chucky’s house, and listening. But alas,
Her Chucky had died.
It was a transmogrifying bee
Came droning down on Chucky’s old bald head
And sat and put the poison. It scarcely bled,
But how exceedingly
And purply did the knot
Swell with the venom and communicate
Its rigour! Now the poor comb stood up straight
But Chucky did not.
So there was Janet
Kneeling on the wet grass, crying her brown hen
(Translated far beyond the daughters of men)
To rise and walk upon it.
And weeping fast as she had breath
Janet implored us, “Wake her from her sleep!”
And would not be instructed in how deep
Was the forgetful kingdom of death.
Miriam Tazewell
When Miriam Tazewell heard the tempest bursting
And his wrathy whips across the sky drawn crackling
She stuffed her ears for fright like a young thing
And with heart full of the flowers took to weeping.
But the earth shook dry his old back in good season,
He had weathered storms that drenched him deep as this one,
And the sun, Miriam, ascended to his dominion,
The storm was withered against his empyrean.
After the storm she went forth with skirts kilted
To see in the hot sun her lawn deflowered,
Her tulip, iris, peony strung and pelted,
Pots of geranium spilled and the stalks naked.
The spring transpired in that year with no flowers
But the regular stars went busily on their courses,
Suppers and cards were calendared, and some bridals,
And the birds demurely sang in the bitten poplars.
To Miriam Tazewell the whole world was villain,
The principle of the beast was low and masculine,
And not to unstop her own storm and be maudlin,
For weeks she went untidy, she went sullen.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Concerning Children

“Individuals may improve more or less at any time, though most largely and easily in youth; but race improvement must be made in youth, to be transmitted. The real progress of man is born in him.

If you were buying babies, investing in young human stock as you would in colts or calves, for the value of the beast, a sturdy English baby would be worth more than an equally vigorous young Fuegian…because it was better bred… Education can do much; but the body and brain the child is born with are all that you have to educate” (4).

“The surest, quickest way to improve humanity is to improve the stock…” (4). (AD: we should practice selective eugenics)

“Not only that the child is father to the man, but the child is the father to the state–and mother” (21).

We train children is submission and obedience, but this isn’t necessarily the best way to go about education. (28)

“The early Hebrew traditions of God, with which we are all so familiar, picture him as as in a continuous state of annoyance because his ‘children’ would not ‘mind'” (34).

“The rearing of children is the most important work, and it is here contended that, in this great educational process, obedience, as a main factor, has a bad effect on the growing mind” (38).

“The distinctive power of man is that of connected action. Our immense capacity for receiving and retaining impressions gives us that world-stock of stored information and its arrested stimulus which we call knowledge” (54).

“Here comes in our universal error. We concern ourselves almost wholly with what the child does, and ignore what he feels and thinks” (57).

“The main purpose is that the child’s conduct shall be his own, — his own chosen course of action, adopted by him through the use of his own faculties, not forced upon him by immediate external pressure” (68).

“In glaring instance is the habit of lying to children. A woman who would not lie to a grown friend will lie freely to her own child. A man who would not be unjust to his brother or a stranger will be unjust to his little son. The common courtesy given any adult is not given to the child. That delicate consideration for another’s feelings, which is part of our common practice among friends, is lacking in our dealings with chil-dren. From the treatment they receive, children cannot learn any rational and consistent scheme of ethics” (102).

“As the mother is so prominent a factor in influencing the child’s life, it is pre-eminently necessary that she should be grounded in this larger ethics, and able to teach it by example as well as by description” (116).

The answer is a “public nursery” or “baby garden” (123)

“The mother of a young baby should be near enough to nurse it, as a matter of course. She should “take care of it”; that is, see that it has everything necessary to its health, comfort, and development. But that is no reason why she should admin-ister to its every need with her own hands” (125).

“We cannot have separately what we have collectively” (129).

“The kind of forcing we use in our educa-tional processes, the “attention” paid to what does not interest, the following of required lines of study irrespective of inclination, —  these act to blunt and lower our natural inclinations, and leave us with this mischievous capacity for doing what we do not like” (152).

“The mother-love is essential to the best care of the young, and therefore it is given us. It is the main current of race preservation, and the basis of all other love-development on the higher grades. But it is not, therefore, an object of superstitious veneration, and in itself invariably right. The surrender of the mother to the child is often flatly injurious, if carried to excess” (193).

“These six mothers divide the working days of the week among them, agreeing that each shall on her chosen day take charge of the children of the other five. This might be for a part of the day or the whole day, as is thought best” (201).

“When we apply the word to human conduct, we ought to be clear in our own minds as to whether we mean “natural” — i.e., primitive, uncivilised, savage — or natural, —suited to man’s present character and conditions…

It is natural to do what is easiest for the mother and best for the baby ; and our modern skill and intelligence, our knowledge and experience, are as natural to us as ignorance, superstition, and ferocity were to our primal ancestors” (257-8).

“Motherhood is as open to criticism as any other human labour or animal function. Free study, honest criticism and suggestion, conscientious experiment in new lines, — by these we make progress. Why not apply study, criticism, suggestion, and experiment to motherhood, and make some progress there .

“Progress in motherhood” is a strange phrase to most of us. We would as soon speak of progress in digestion.

That shows how we persist in confounding the physical functions of reproduction with the elaborate processes that follow…” (262).

“we are have urgent need of the unnatural mother…” (268).

“The mothers of the world are responsible for the children of the world ; the mothers of a nation, for the children of a nation ; the mothers of a city, for the children of a city” (288).



Aldous Huxley, Brave New World


The “surgical introduction” of embryo into womb is an “operation undergone voluntarily for the good of Society, not to mention the fact that it carries a bonus amounting to six months’ salary” (5). (AD: is this the “paid reproduction” Woolf asks for? In a grotesque form?)

“Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress… a prodigious improvement, you will agree, on nature” (6-7).

“Embryos are like photographic film…they can only stand red light” (11).

“…in the vast majority of cases, fertility is merely a nuisance… But we want to have a good choice. And of course one must always have an enormous margin of safety. So we allow as many as thirty per cent of the female embryos to develop normally. The others get a dose of male sex-hormone every twenty-four metres for the rest of the course. Result: they’re decanted a freemartins–structurally quite normal…but sterile Guaranteed sterile. Which brings us at least…out of the realm of mere slavish imitation of nature into the much more interesting world of human invention” (13). They “didn’t content themselves with merely hatching out embryos: any cow could do that” (13). (AD: or woman.)

This is the delineation of Alphas to Epsilons, engineered intelligence levels. In order to breed happiness and order: “that is the secret of happiness and virtue–liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny” (16).

“Primroses and landscapes, he pointed out, have one grave defect: they are gratuitous. A love of nature keeps no factories busy. It was decided to abolish the love of nature” (23).

Education: “at last the child’s mind is these suggestions, and the sum of the suggestions is the child’s mind” (29).

All games and amusement increases consumption: “Imagine the folly of allowing people to play elaborate games which do nothing whatever to increase consumption” (31).

The concept of a “viviparous mother” and “living with one’s family” laughed to scorn and fear (36). The mother “maniacally brooded over her children” (38)

“The world was full of fathers–was therefore full of misery; full of mothers–therefore every kind of perversion from sadism to chastity; full of brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts– full of madness and suicide” (39).

“Stability. The primal and the ultimate need. Hence all this” (43).

There is a “reservation” on which “children are still actually born” (102).

A slogan of the state is “civilization is sterilization” (110).

“You’ve got to choose between happiness and what people used to call high art. We’ve sacrificed the high art. We have the feelies and the scent organ instead” (220).


Olive Schreiner, Woman and Labour

Like Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex, Schreiner starts off by noting that in “the great majority of species on the earth the female form exceeds the male in size and strength and often in predatory instinct…even in their sexual relations toward offspring, those differences which we, conventionally, are apt to suppose are inherent in the paternal or the maternal sex form are not inherent” (12).

Birds have outstripped us in gender equality (12).

in African tribes with serious gender inequality, there was “a stern and almost majestic attitude of acceptance of the inevitable…the women of no race or class will ever rise in revolt or attempt to bring about a revolutionary readjustment of their relation to their society, however intense their suffering and however clear their perception of it, while the welfare and persistence of their society requires their submission” (14). (AD: the onus is on society, therefore, rather than on women. Women can’t change if society says don’t, because women care inherently about society and reproducing society.)

“the direction in which the endeavour of woman to readjust herself to the new conditions of life is leading today, is not towards a greater sexual laxity, or promiscuity, or to an increased self-indulgence, but toward a higher appreciation of the sacredness of all sex relations, and a clearer perception of the sex relation between man and woman as the basis of human society…” (25). (AD: The way forward is still in heteronormative schema.)

She demands: “Give us labour!” (33)

Man’s greater strength than woman used to be necessary for functions such as ploughing crops and war. Now factory farming and machine guns have rendered his strength useless. His intellectual faculties have been called upon instead (45).

Despite that man complains woman steals his work, never before has “man’s field of remunerative toil been so wide, so interesting, so complex, and in its results so all-important to society” (48-9).

Woman, on the other hand, has been robbed of childrearing by education, weaving by machinery, and cooking by supermarkets (50). We have no labor left. If kept from professions we are destined to become parasites.

While “incessant and persistent childbearing is truly the highest duty and the most socially esteemed occupation of the primitive woman,” this is no longer necessary or socially helpful, because now it takes a lot to educate a human and we don’t need his brute strength. (57).

“the past material conditions of life have gone forever: no will of man can recall them; but this is our demand: We demand that, in that strange new world that is arising alike upon the man and the woman, where nothing is as it was, and all things are assuming new shapes and relations, that in this new world we shall also have our share of honoured and socially useful human toil, our full half of the labour of the Children of Woman. We demand nothing more than this, and we will take nothing less. This is our “WOMAN’S RIGHT!” (68).

“We make this demand, not for our own sakes alone, but for the succour of the race” (72).

“Again and again in the history of the past, when among human creatures a certain stage of material civilisation has been reached, a curious tendency has manifested itself for the human female to become more or less parasitic; social conditions tend to rob her of all forms of active, conscious, social labour, and to reduce her, like the field-tick, to the passive exercise of her sex functions alone. And the result of this parasitism has invariably been the decay in vitality and intelligence of the female, followed after a longer or shorter period by that of her male descendants and her entire society” (79).

This creates a chasm between progressive male and regressive female that “even sexual love could not bridge” (85).

Sexual parasites give birth to men “as effete as” their mothers (92)

The female has “one all-important though passive function which cannot be taken from her, and which is peculiarly connected with her own person, in the act of child-bearing… she is liable in a peculiarly insidious and gradual manner to become dependent on this one sexual function alone for her support” (102).

Schreiner places the social reorganization that integrates women “in line with those vast religious developments which at the interval of ages have swept across humanity, irresistibly modifying and reorganising it” (125).

Schreiner notes that the entire race passes through “the body of its womanhood as through a mold,” branded with the size and mark of the cervix which determines forever “the size at birth of the human head, a size which could only increase… if the cervix of woman should itself” increase (129-30). Same with intelligence and expansion: you cannot transcend woman. She determines your limits.

Schreiner’s jellyfish 135-6

The “New Woman” isn’t new; she’s been around and fighting for two thousand years. “Our breed is our explanation. We are the daughters of our fathers as well as of our mothers” (147).

Like de Beauvoir, Schreiner notes that male and female bodies are “in the main identical..” (182). Though she maintains that “a real and important difference is found to exist, radical though absolutely complemental,” in the sex organs.

While woman’s contributions to the professions would likely be exactly parallel to men’s, in social spheres she has “something radically distinct to contribute to the sum-total of human knowledge” (192).

Man is deeply distressed not so much by “the labour or the amount of labour, so much as the amount of reward that interferes with his ideal of the eternal womanly” (204).

“…changed social conditions may render exactly those subtile qualities, which in one social state were a disadvantage, of the highest social advantage in another” (210).

the male and female are “two halves of one whole… bound organically” (250-1).

there is also a “New Man,” but no one seems to be talking about him. Perhaps because the Woman’s evolution is more radical in its existence (254).


William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity

Ambiguity is, for Empson, “any verbal nuance, however slight, which gives room for alternative reactions to the same piece of language.”

“The fundamental situation, whether it deserves to be called ambiguous or not, is that a word or a grammatical structure is effective in several ways at once” (2).

Empson finds nine ways to read Shakespeare’s line “Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang,” and each is effective. “these reasons, and many more…must all combine to give the line its beauty, and there is a sort of ambiguity in not knowing which of them to hold most clearly in mind. Clearly this is involved in all such richness and heightening of effect, and the machinations of ambiguity are among the very roots of poetry” (3).

“a word may have several distinct meanings; several meanings connected with one another; several meanings which need one another to complete their meaning; or several meanings which unite together so that the word means one relation or one process. This is a scale which might be followed continuously. ‘Ambiguity’ itself can mean an indecision as to what you  mean, an intention to mean several things, a probability that one or other or both of two things has been meant, and the fact that a statement has several meanings… To be less ambiguous would be like analysing the sentence about the cat into a course of anatomy” (6).

“…behind this notion of the word itself, as a solid tool rather than as a collection of meanings, must be placed a notion of the way such a word is regarded as a member of the language; this seems still darker and less communicable in any terms but its own. For one may know what has been put into the poet, and recognise the objets in the stew, but the juice in which they are sustained must be regarded with a peculiar respect because they are all in there too, somehow, and one does not know how they are combined or held in suspension. One must feel the respect due to a profound lack of understanding for the notion of a potential, and for the poet’s sense of the nature of a language…

It is possible that there are some writers who write very largely with this sense of a language as such, so that their effects would be almost out of reach of analysis” (6). (he cites Racine.)

“I propose, then, to consider a series of definite and detachable ambiguities in which several large and crude meanings can be separated out, and to arrange them in order of increasing distance from simple statement and logical exposition” (7). (AD: vs. feminine entrances into the texts without such strict guidelines or expectations of clear delineation)

Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism



“There is another reason why criticism has to exist. Criticism can talk, and all the arts are dumb. In painting, sculpture, or music it is easy enough to see that the art shows forth, but cannot say anything. And, whatever it sounds like to call the poet inarticulate or speechless, there is a most important sense in which poems are as silent as statues. Poetry is a disinterested use of words: it does not address a reader directly. When it does so, we usually feel that the poet has some distrust in the capacity of readers and critics to [4] interpret his meaning without assistance, and has therefore dropped into the sub-poetic level of metrical talk (“verse” or “doggerel”) which anybody can learn to produce. It is not only tradition that impels a poet to invoke a Muse and protest that his utterance is involuntary. Nor is it strained wit that causes Mr. MacLeish, in his famous Ars Poetica, to apply the words “mute,” “dumb,” and “wordless” to a poem. The artist, as John Stuart Mill saw in a wonderful flash of critical insight, is not heard but overheard. * The axiom of criticism must be, not that the poet does not know what he is talking about, but that he cannot talk about what he knows. To defend the right of criticism to exist at all, therefore, is to assume that criticism is a structure of thought and knowledge existing in its own right, with some measure of independence from the art it deals with.”

“The poet may of course have some critical ability of his own, and so be able to talk about his own work. But the Dante who writes a commentary on the first canto of the Paradiso is merely one more of Dante’s critics. What he says has a peculiar interest, but not a peculiar authority. It is generally accepted that a critic is a better judge of the value of a poem than its creator, but there is still a lingering notion that it is somehow ridiculous to regard the critic as the final judge of its meaning, even though in practice it is clear that he must be. The reason for this is an inability to distinguish literature from the descriptive or assertive writing which derives from the active will and the conscious mind, and which is primarily concerned to “say” something.”

“It is hardly possible for the critical poet to avoid expanding his own tastes, which are intimately linked to his own practice, into a general law of literature. But criticism has to be based on what the whole of literature actually does: in its light, whatever any highly respected writer thinks literature in general ought to do will show up in its proper perspective. The poet speaking as critic produces, not criticism, but documents to be examined by critics. They may well be valuable documents: it is only when they are accepted as directives for criticism that they are in any danger of becoming misleading.”

“Once we admit that the critic has his own field of activity, and that he has autonomy within that field, we have to concede that criticism deals with literature in terms of a specific conceptual framework. The framework is not that of literature itself, for this is the parasite theory again, but neither is it something outside literature, for in that case the autonomy of criticism would again disappear, and the whole subject would be assimilated to something else.”

“If criticism exists, it must be an examination of literature in terms of a conceptual framework derivable from an inductive survey of the literary field. The word “inductive” suggests some sort of scientific procedure.”

“Either literary criticism is scientific, or all these highly trained and intelligent scholars are wasting their time on some kind of pseudo-science like phrenology.” (AD: literary criticism is LOGOS.)

“The development of such a criticism would fulfil the systematic and progressive element in research by assimilating its work into a unified structure of knowledge, as other sciences do. It would at the same time establish an authority within criticism for the public critic and the man of taste.” (vs. the chaotic feminine method of reading)

“Art, like nature, has to be distinguished from the systematic study of it, which is criticism.”

“We have no real standards to distinguish a verbal structure that is literary from one that is not, and no idea what to do with the vast penumbra of books that may be claimed for literature because they are written with “style” or are useful as “background,” or have simply got into a university course of “great books.””

“A theory of criticism whose principles apply to the whole of literature and account for every valid type of critical procedure is what I think Aristotle meant by poetics. Aristotle seems to me to approach poetry as a biologist would approach a system of organisms, picking out its genera and species, formulating the broad laws of literary experience, and in short writing as though he believed that there is a totally intelligible structure of knowledge attainable about poetry which is not poetry itself, or the experience of it, but poetics.”

“The first step in developing a genuine poetics is to recognize and get rid of meaningless criticism, or talking about literature in a way that cannot help to build up a systematic structure of knowledge. This includes all the sonorous nonsense that we so often find in critical generalities, reflective comments, ideological perorations, and other consequences of taking a large view of an unorganized subject. It includes all lists of the “best” novels or poems or writers, whether their particular virtue is exclusiveness or inclusiveness. It includes all casual, sentimental, and prejudiced value-judgments, and all the literary chit-chat which makes the reputations of poets boom and crash in an imaginary stock exchange.”

He frames his work as basically annotating T. S. Eliot

“The critic is similarly under no obligation to sociological values, as the social conditions favorable to the production of great art are not necessarily those at which the social sciences aim.” (AD: no necessity to comment on social issues like, say, women)

“Value-judgements are subjective in the sense that they can be indirectly but not directly communicated. When they are fashionable or generally accepted, they look objective, but that is all. The demonstrable value-judgement is the donkey’s carrot of literary criticism, and every new critical fashion, such as the current fashion for elaborate rhetorical analysis, has been accompanied by a belief that criticism has finally devised a definitive technique for separating the excellent from the less excellent. But this always turns out to be an illusion of the history of taste. Value-judgements are founded on the study of literature; the study of literature can never be founded on value-judgements.”

“The reader may sympathize with some of these “positions,” as they are called, more than with others, and so be seduced into thinking that one of them must be right, and that it is important to decide which one it is. But long before he has finished his assignment he will realize that the whole procedure involved is an anxiety neurosis prompted by a moral censor, and is totally devoid of content.”

“Finally, the skill developed from constant practice in the direct experience of literature is a special skill, like playing the piano, not the expression of a general attitude to life, like singing in the shower. The critic has a subjective background of experience formed by his temperament and by every contact with words he has made, including newspapers, advertisements, conversations, movies, and whatever he read at the age of nine. He has a specific skill in responding to literature which is no more like this subjective background, with all its private memories, associations, and arbitrary prejudices, than reading a thermometer is like shivering.”

“It should hardly be necessary to point out that my polemic has been written in the first person plural, and is quite as much a confession as a polemic. It is clear, too, that a book of this kind can only be offered to a reader who has enough sympathy with its aims to overlook, in the sense not of ignoring but of seeing past, whatever strikes him as in adequate or simply wrong. I am convinced that if we wait for a fully qualified critic to tackle the subjects of these essays, we shall wait a long time.” (AD: this is a more feminine than logocentric reading method he’s asking of us.)

Third Essay: “Archetypical Criticism: Theory of Myths”

“We begin our study of archetypes, then, with a world of myth, an abstract or purely literary world of fictional and thematic design, unaffected by canons of plausible adaptation to familiar experience. In terms of narrative, myth is the imitation of actions near or at the conceivable limits of desire. The gods enjoy beautiful women, fight one another with prodigious strength, comfort and assist man, or else watch his miseries from the height of their immortal freedom. The fact that myth operates at the top level of human desire does not mean that it necessarily presents its world as attained or attainable by human beings. In terms of meaning or dianoia, myth is the same world looked at as an area or field of activity, bearing in mind our principle that the meaning or pattern of poetry is a structure of imagery with conceptual implications. The world of mythical imagery is usually represented by the conception of heaven or Paradise in religion, and it is apocalyptic, in the sense of that word already explained, a world of total metaphor, in which every thing is potentially identical with everything else, as though it were all inside a single infinite body.

Realism, or the art of verisimilitude, evokes the response “How like that is to what we know!” When what is written is like what is known, we have an art of extended or implied simile. And as realism is an art of implicit simile, myth is an art of implicit metaphorical identity. The word “sun-god,” with a hyphen used in stead of a predicate, is a pure ideogram, in Pound’s terminology, or literal metaphor, in ours. In myth we see the structural principles of literature isolated; in realism we see the same structural principles (not similar ones) fitting into a context of plausibility. (Similarly in music, a piece by Purcell and a piece by Benjamin Britten may not be in the least like each other, but if they are both in D major their tonality will be the same.) The presence of a mythical structure in realistic fiction, however, poses certain technical problems for making it plausible, and the devices used in solving these problems may be given the general name of displacement.

Myth, then, is one extreme of literary design; naturalism is the other, and in between lies the whole area of romance, using that term to mean, not the historical mode of the first essay, but the [136] tendency, noted later in the same essay, to displace myth in a human direction and yet, in contrast to “realism,” to conventionalize content in an idealized direction. The central principle of displacement is that what can be metaphorically identified in a myth can only be linked in romance by some form of simile: analogy, significant association, incidental accompanying imagery, and the like. In a myth we can have a sun-god or a tree-god; in a romance we may have a person who is significantly associated with the sun or trees. In more realistic modes the association becomes less significant and more a matter of incidental, even coincidental or accidental, imagery. In the dragon-killing legend of the St. George and Perseus family, of which more hereafter, a country under an old feeble king is terrorized by a dragon who eventually demands the king’s daughter, but is slain by the hero. This seems to be a romantic analogy (perhaps also, in this case, a descendant) of a myth of a waste land restored to life by a fertility god. In the myth, then, the dragon and the old king would be identified. We can in fact concentrate the myth still further into an Oedipus fantasy in which the hero is not the old king’s son-in-law but his son, and the rescued damsel the hero’s mother. If the story were a private dream such identifications would be made as a matter of course. But to make it a plausible, symmetrical, and morally acceptable story a good deal of displacement is necessary, and it is only after a comparative study of the story type has been made that the metaphorical structure within it begins to emerge.”

“We have, then, three organizations of myths and archetypal symbols in literature. First, there is undisplaced myth, generally concerned with gods or demons, and which takes the form of two contrasting worlds of total metaphorical identification, one desirable and the other undesirable. These worlds are often identified with the existential heavens and hells of the religions contemporary with such literature. These two forms of metaphorical organization we call the apocalyptic and the demonic respectively. Second, we have the general tendency we have called romantic, the tendency to suggest implicit mythical patterns in a world more closely [139] associated with human experience. Third, we have the tendency of “realism” (my distaste for this inept term is reflected in the quotation marks) to throw the emphasis on content and representation rather than on the shape of the story. Ironic literature begins with realism and tends toward myth, its mythical patterns being as a rule more suggestive of the demonic than of the apocalyptic, though sometimes it simply continues the romantic tradition of stylization. Hawthorne, Poe, Conrad, Hardy and Virginia Woolf all provide examples”




I. A. Richards, Practical Criticism

The objective of his work was to encourage students to concentrate on ‘the words on the page’, rather than relying on preconceived or received beliefs about a text. For Richards this form of close analysis of anonymous poems was ultimately intended to have psychological benefits for the students: by responding to all the currents of emotion and meaning in the poems and passages of prose which they read the students were to achieve what Richards called an ‘organised response’. This meant that they would clarify the various currents of thought in the poem and achieve a corresponding clarification of their own emotions.


Practical Criticism, Richards wrote, was “the record of a piece of field-work in comparative ideology.”[1] Such field-work had three goals:

First, to introduce a new kind of documentation to those who are interested in the contemporary state of culture…Secondly, to provide a new technique for those who wish to discover for themselves what they think and feel about poetry…Thirdly, to prepare the way for education methods more efficient than those we use now…to understand what we hear and read. (3)

The method Richards employed to achieve these goals was fairly straightforward but unprecedented in literary criticism: Richards would present to his seminar of undergraduates at Cambridge thirteen poems wholly stripped of any identifying marks and then examine the ways his students interpreted these decontextualized texts. Richards hope was to move literary criticism away from historical and psychological studies of authors and reconvene it around the cognitive processes of “the general reader.”


That new type of work is of course New Criticism.

Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, No Man’s Land

Volume I

Thesis: “…we will argue here that, especially in the twentieth century, both men and women engendered words and works which continually sought to come to terms with, and find terms for, an ongoing battle of the sexes that was set in motion by the late nineteenth-century rise of feminism and the fall of Victorian concepts of femininity.

In particular, we will suggest that the literary phenomenon ordinarily called ‘modernism’ is itself–though no doubt overdetermined–for men as much as for women a product of the sexual battle that we are describing here, as are the linguistic experiments usually attributed to the revolutionary poetics of the so-called avant garde” (xii). (AD: vs. Perkins’ thesis that Modernism came from the war)

“Mid-Victorian writers of both sexes tended to dramatize a defeat of the female, while turn-of-the-century authors began to envision the possibility of women’s triumph” (4).

“The entrance of the ‘gentler sex’ into unknown territory…was not only figurative but literal, sot hat a world that had previously been a male empire might now become a no man’s land, disputed domain” (17).

Marinetti links militarism with misogyny 22

“Prufrock’s obsession with the fact that women could freely ‘come and go,’ not only ‘talking of’ but also gazing and and metaphorically possessing the paintings and sculptures of Michaelangelo…illuminates twentieth-century men’s heightened anxiety about women’s invasion of culture” (32).

“It is significant that these modernist formulations of societal breakdown consistently employed imagery of male impotence and female potency” (36).

Henry Miller declared in reference to Rebecca West’s work, “the loss of sex polarity is part and parcel of the larger disintegration, the reflex of the soul’s death, and coincident with the disappearance of great men, great causes, great wars” (43).

“Victorian women writers could not imagine female characters who might win sexual struggles through their own direct actions… Such women writers as Bronte, Barrett Browning and Eliot clearly understood that their heroines were embroiled in sexual contests, but they plainly believed that only a madwoman would attempt to win such a battle through ‘virile force'” (72).

Beerbohm’s short story “The Crime” details a narrator who flings a woman writer’s novel into the fireplace but “cannot seem to burn the book up” (126). Her book dampens his flames, and he is left alone. He has to admit that she has “scored again” (128).

“Where literary men had traditionally looked for inspiration to the idealized mother or mistress whom convention metaphorized as a muse, turn-of-the-century and twentieth-century men of letters suffered from a disquieting intimation that the goddess of literature, like the literary women male readers now encountered in increasing numbers, might reserve creative power for themselves” (130).

Beerbohm’s “futile rage became fertile rage, fueling the innovations of the avant garde in order to ward off the onslaughts of women” (131).

Modernist male writers may have felt “disturbed by their economic dependence on women as they were troubled by women’s usurpation of the marketplace…” (147. Many were sponsored by women *Yeats with Lady Gregory, etc)

“both men of letters and women of letters devised a variety of strategies for defusing anxiety about the literary combat in which they often felt engaged. Among male writers, such strategies included mythologizing women to align them with dread prototypes; fictionalizing them to dramatize their destructive influence; slandering them in essays, memoirs, and poems; prescribing alternative ambitions for them; appropriating their words in order to usurp or trivialize their language; and ignoring or evading their achievements in critical texts” (149).

Williams on HD 150

In “A Lecture on Modern Poetry,” T. E. Hulme complained that “imitative poetry springs up like weeds, and women whimper and whine of you and I alas, and roses, roses all the way. It becomes the expression of sentimentality rather than of virile thought” (154).

“it is possible to hypothesize that a reaction-formation against the rise of literary women became not just a theme in modernist writing but a motive for modernism” (156).

“…even when these literary men celebrate female contemporaries and precursors, they tend to single out a token woman for attention, or to qualify in one text the compliment expressed in another” (158)

The 20th century is unique in that women writers have both grandfathers and grandmothers… “both a matrilineal and patrilineal inheritance” (167).

according to Freud, there may be no possibility for a woman artist (183)

some women had a “master-muse” (Dickinson) this could be subversive or show allegiance to the man

women writers have “complex allegiances: first, each wishes to be a decorous daughter protected by a maternal presence who facilitates the neat endings of romance; second, each longs to be a singular and originatory figure who escapes the subjugation of heterosexual love while usurping the traditional patriarchal privilege of giving the daughter in marriage; third, each fears that to become such a figure is to be isolated from the comforts of the heterosexual community” (192).

Although there is no “mythic paradigm of Jocasta and Antigone which would parallel Bloom’s archetype of Laius and Oedipus, strong equals at the crossroads, most literary women do ask” who their rivals are, partially because we are fighting or a few coveted places in the approbation of the father… this approbation is almost always accompanied by revulsion, however, and “The autonomy of the mother is frequently as terrifying as it is attractive… it has been won at great cost” (195).

Metaphorically speaking, literary history “functions like a biological family, albeit a socially constructed one…” but “female genealogy does not have an inexorable logic because the literary matrilineage has been repeatedly erased, obscured, or fragmented. Thus, when the woman writer ‘adopts’ a mother… or an ‘aunt’…she is creating a fictive family whose romance is sufficient for her desire” (199).

Each woman “must inevitably ask, ‘Have I chosen the right–the most empowering, the most authoritative–ancestors? … Have I betrayed by ‘biological’ family?… Will I be engulfed or obliterated by the primacy of the foremothers whose power I need to invoke?” (200).

Muriel le Sueur remarked, “fortunately, Eliot didn’t speak of hollow women” (216).

G&G suggest that “Woolf used what was essentially a fantasy about a utopian linguistic structure–a ‘woman’s sentence’–to define (and perhaps disguise) her desire to revise not woman’s language but woman’s relation to language…. The utopian concept of woman’s grammatical sentence is thus for Woolf…a veil that conceals the more practical idea of woman’s legal sentence” (231). Also ambiguity of the phrase–who is being sentenced, and who is sentencing? “woman, who has been sentenced by man, will now sentence man; and woman, who has been sentenced to confinement and dispossession, will now sentence herself to freedom and five hundred pounds a year” (231).

In Joyce, women can’t talk about their own bodies, and babble rather than construct logical sentences (232).

“For Joyce, woman’s scattered logos is a scatologos, a Swiftian language that issues from the many obscene mouths of female body” (232).

“Eliot transcribes female language in order to transcend it, thus justifying Joyce’s claim that the Waste Land ended the ‘idea of poetry for ladies'” (236).

Where male writers seem to define ‘woman talk’ as a contaminated subset of the general category ‘language,’ women writers tend to assume that men’s language is language. Hence the female linguistic project is in many ways more urgent, more radical, and – as we shall see – more contradictory than the male one, for the women’s revisionary imperative frequently involves a desperate effort to renovate the entire process of verbal symbolization, a process that, they feel, has historically subordinated women” (236).

witchcraft: 241

“materna lingua” vs. the “patrius sermo” – men try to conquer and obscure materna lingua by imposing regulation of patrius sermo over it. (258). (Walter Ong) This is the difference between “jouissance” and “puissance”

Volume II

Ezra Pound explains in his translator’s postscript to Remy de Gourmont’s Natural Philosophy of Love (1931) that “the brain itself is only a sort of great clot of genital fluid… [and] went on to conceptualize originality as “the phallus or spermatozoid charging, head-on, the female chaos,’ adding in a confessional aside, ‘Even oneself has felt it, driving any new idea into the great passive vulva of London.’ Indeed, to the extent that he believed that the ‘mind is an up-spurt of sperm,’ which is the ‘form creator,’ Pound linked modernity with masculinity: “without any digression on feminism…one offers woman as the accumulation of her hereditary aptitudes… but to man, given what we have of history, the inventions, the new gestures, the extravagance, the wild shots, the new bathing of the cerebral tissues” (xi). (AD: !!!!!!! in comparison to H.D.’s jellyfish concept of vision and creativity, this is shocking)

“We are accustomed to a Yeatsian mysticism that locates history’s turning points in the bodies of such mythic heroines as Leda, Helen, and Mary, but it is nevertheless surprising to find that this major modernist introduces and defines the canon of the new with an evocation of female priority and primacy that, at least covertly, figures history itself a feminine.

We will argue here, however, that male writers from Pater to Wilde to Yeats, along with many of their descendants, linked a new perception of what they saw as the archaic power of the feminine with the reactive urgency of the modern aesthetic they were themselves defining because… women were in some sense… the cause of modernism” (5).

Olive Schreiner and mysticism (69)

in Gilman’s Herland , “there is no She, but there are many Hers,” (73). (re: H.D. and HERmoine and the novel She that constructs women in patriarchal terms)

Herland is an “experimental opportunity to restore ‘bisexuality.’ What Gilman seeks to call into question is the idea that there is or should be a single definition of what constitutes the female. There is no Kor or core in Herland. Historically such a core definition has fixated on eroticism, and therefore Gilman gives us women with no sexual desire at all” (74).

“Gilman would replace the parasite-siren with the fruitful mother” (74).

“…motherhood completely transformed, divorced from heterosexuality, the private family, and economic dependence… Motherhood therefore becomes a paradigm of service so that childbearing and nursing are models for labor. Similarly, what Gilman saw as all the evils of a private home…are avoided not by destroying the idea of home but by extending it so the race is viewed as a family and the world as its home. Redefinitions of work, of the home, and of motherhood itself confuse the male visitors who had initially insisted that in any ‘civilized’ country there ‘must be men’… Eventually they are forced to renounce not only this assumption but the definition of ‘civilization’ that makes it possible” (75).

“Because the all-female Herlanders define the human as female, mother earth is no longer an antagonist. The implications of the mother as landscape, the landscape as other, suggests the author of Herland, are quite different for the two sexes” (75).

“…the naming of ‘the thing not named’ probably became less possible precisely because the new language could be, and often was, used as a weapon against autonomous women” (217). (lesbian double-talk)

“The residence of lesbian modernists in foreign countries thus symbolized their alienation from all countries, their realization that, as lesbians, they had been banished from or had had to withdraw from the ground of their origins, the supposedly native land that is heterosexuality” (219). (AD: re: Woolf on women having no country of their own, being a race of their own.)

“…lesbianism itself was imagined as a perpetual, ontological expatriation” (219).

“H. D. uses Sappho’s verse to deal with the relationship between poetic ambition and heterosexual desire… she implicitly demonstrated that lesbianism furnished her with a refuge from the pain of heterosexuality and with the courage necessary to articulate that pain” (231).

“While it is certainly true that H. D. writes obsessively about her desire for the mastery of such men as Ezra Pound, Richard Aldington, and D. H. Lawrence, her poetry was motivated less by their presence than by their absence… For H. D., then, inspiration and abandonment were inextricably intertwined” (233).


Amy Lowell and Sappho: “…despite her attraction to Sappho, Lowell also implies that the gulf between the ancient tenth muse and the modern woman poet may not be negotiable: Lowell does not actually talk with Sappho; she wishes that she could” (235).

Gertrude Stein asks “what does it mean to write ‘as,’ ‘for,’ and ‘with’ one another?” (238).

“Unmaking is a form of composition that confers masculinity even more inexorably than making does” (247).

“If writing guarantees masculinity, what is written is female: ‘She is my wife. That is what a paragraph is'” (247).

“Wilfred Owen’s ‘Greater Love’ bitterly parodies a conventional erotic lyric,” personifying Love as a young girl and telling her with scathing hostility that her red lips are not so red as “the stained stones kissed by the English dead” (280).

The Great War made men feel “increasingly abandoned by the civilization of which they had ostensibly been heirs” (263).

Women became the threatened heirs, since they were at home, unscathed, and working as men worked.

While men were “now unreal ghosts, wounded invalid, and maybe in-valid, their sisters were triumphant survivors and apparently destined inheritors” (285).

Does the mother at the end of Jacob’s Room inherit what Jacob lost in the war?

Adrienne Rich: “there is no no man’s land,” which is to say there is still no Herland


A History of Modern Poetry, David Perkins

“The poetry of this period [the 1890s] forms the immediate background and matrix of th[e Modernist] work, so much that unless one keeps the later nineteenth century in mind, one cannot fully understand how and why modern poetry took the directions it did” (3).

Modernist poets in America had the special advantage that “they were coming into a scene of traditional poetry that was also weak,” which accounts for the “boldness, elan and rapid spread of the Modernist movement” (3).

On the other hand, British poetry had a strong late 1800s avant-garde against which the Georgians reacted, against whom the Modernists reacted.

“Picasso’s statement ‘I am not interested in beauty,’ comes from a state of mind that sharply differentiates Modernism from the Romantic tradition” (5). Poetry is not meant as Keats said to “soothe the cares, and lift the thoughts of man” (5).

Modernist poets mocked both aestheticism and its ideas about Beauty, but “shared the aesthete’s opinion that the first duty of the poet is to his art” (7).

Modernist poetry was like Marianne Moore’s “hedgehog,” “whoever was put off by it was not wanted anyway,” and it was an “antipopular” more than  unpopular mode (7).

“Here is a fundamental difference in situation between English and American poetry in the modern period…” while London was the cultural center of English poetry, America did not have the same type of “literary center,” and “the better poets tended to form styles on their own” (14).

William Sharp wrote poems under the pseudonym of Fiona MacLeod. “It was for the sake of this mysterious poet of the Hebrides that Yeats named the movement Celtic rather than Irish” (29). (AD: while poets like George Eliot take male pseudonyms to seem reputable writing in a logocentric tradition, Celtic poets take female pseudonyms to seem to have reputable access to the “feminine” spirit)

The Victorian spirit tended to “assume the rational character of the human mind and its capability not only to find out truth but also to govern emotion and behavior. With this basic faith in human nature there was naturally a tendency to optimism: intellectual, moral, and social progress had been and would be taking place” (31).

The avant-garde gained its identity through a negation of this: anti-Victorian rather than post-Victorian (31)

Symbolism (of the 90s) expressed “a religious feeling or hope, and, though the distinction between symbolism and mysticism was well understood, the two modes of quasi-religious experience were often presented in the same writer, so that in practice ‘symbolic’ and ‘mystical’ tended to become interchangeable epithets. Impressionism, on the other hand, presupposed skepticism and relativism. Nothing can be known in itself; one has only the impression of the particular observer from his particular relation to the object” (33). (aD: and impressionism was the forerunner of Modernism and imagism)

In Modernist works, “nature could not suggest a process of composition, for organic form and emotional spontaneity were distrusted and abjured. Above all, nature could supply no criterion of the beautiful, and art was the opposite of nature–formal, conventional, traditional, artificial and studied” (36).

“For Yeats, symbols may be more than traditional. They may be supernatural. They express or, perhaps, they summon a reality beneath or beyond mortal life…. the symbol is charged with meanings deeper, wider, and more precise than anyone can say… though unanalyzable, the symbol is not vague” (49).

Poets like Kipling wrote a “thoroughly accessible, deliberately popular poetry” (62). One reason why Kipling’s readers admired him was that he admired them. There was spiritual rapport” (66).

For Pound, poetry should not be played-at as an amateur hobby, but should be a craft, a profession. “one studies it, he said, in several languages; one labors at technique; one weighs and ponders in conscious self-criticism” (89).

The English poets of the first world war “began as Georgians, and their poetry gradually changed as they underwent the appalling conditions and experiences of combat in the trenches” (142).

T. S. Eliot said Georgian poetry “is inbred… it has developed a technique and a set of emotions all of its own” (207). Most popular Georgian was Rupert Brooke.

Georgians loved to express themselves though “images and scenes of landscape and of the natural or rural world” (215). Clinging to tradition or looking for beauty despite grimness of modern reality?

Robert Frost’s poetry resembles Georgian poetry; he “belongs essentially to the Romantic tradition, but as a critique” (228).

Poets were making an effort to write in a less “poetic” language

“The relatively direct voicing of mystical feelings poses an utmost challenge to poetry, simply because of the weight and delicacy of the feelings to be expressed. For at least the last two hundred years most poetry of this kind is crudely insensitive, sometimes unbelievably so. Usually the trouble lies, I believe, in the poet’s experience as well as in his language. There are more poets writing about mystical experience than having it, and there is considerable eagerness, in our post-Romantic literary culture, to mistake any queer, often self-induced state of mind for mystical communion” (256).

The folk movement in Irish literature positioned the life and thought, traditions, sensibility and imagination of the Irish peasantry against the English colonizers (261).

Since Yeats, Lady Gregory, Synge did not belong to the peasantry their work is often “complicated by condescension” (262).

Georgian poetry seemed particularly “unprepared to confront the mechanized horror” of the war (267).

“The [Georgian] poets responded with shock and protest, not with the helpless moral anguish of, for example, The Waste Land. To the end of the war and afterward the Georgians retained essentially that prewar state of mind in which the worst horrors that people do and suffer are viewed as anomalies. The War’s deeper impact on literature came in the Modernist writing of the postwar years. But in this writing the impact, though it must have been profound, is practically invisible; it merged with many other intellectual and cultural influences…” (269).

“if the first twenty years of the century might be called the age of Yeats, the next two decades, from 1922 to the end of the Second World War, frame that of Eliot” (294).

“discontinuous structure” in Modernist Lit: 

“If we notice the orientation in much modern literature to the arts of painting and sculpture, we can describe discontinuous structure as an outcome of the attempt to create ‘spatial form’ in poetry. The poem, in other words, is not to be regarded as an utterance–or imitation of an utterance–taking place through time. Instead, all the parts of the poem are conceived to be present at the same moment, coexisting as if in space. There is no transition fro one unit of meaning to the next, but between the discrete units of meaning there are multiple interrelations. Perceiving these, the reader obtains a complex total impression. Above all, discontinuous form was sometimes felt to be mimetic of the ultimate character of reality itself…” (309).

“Discontinuous structure promotes effects and states of mind, such as surprise, wit, nimble intellection, and irony, which differ characteristically form those achieved through continuous transition…” (309).

Using free verse, poets could no longer “give first priority to stuffing stanzaic boxes” and call a poem finished once this had been done (310).

Whitman’s “yawp” was respected all over the world, but we can’t stop there, says Pound (325)

Imagism “became a relatively accessible way to be in on the ‘new’ and the ‘modern'” (330).

Imagism was conceived when Ezra Pound “informed two young poets, H.D. and Richard Aldington, that they were Imagistes” (330).

Imagist Doctrine, as laid out in March 1913 Poetry by Ezra Pound:

  1. Direct treatment of the “thing,” whether subjective or objective.
  2. To use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation.
  3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome.

Other rules from “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste,” include: “use no superfluous word, no adjective, that does not reveal something; go in fear of abstractions; don’t be ‘viewy’; don’t chop your stuff into separate iambs” (334). This was eventually watered down to “simplicity and directness of speech; subtlety and beauty of rhythms; individualistic freedom of idea; clearness and vividness of presentation; and concentration” by Amy Lowell in Tendencies in Modern American Poetry (336)

Amy Lowell wrote in what she called “polyphonic prose,” a “way of writing, she explained, that uses cadence, assonance, alliteration, rhyme, echo effects, and even ‘perhaps true metre for a few minutes,’ but handles them in a more varying and flexible way than is possible in traditional verse” (344).

“By the end of the 1920s the most significant single feature in the situation of younger poets was, from their point of view, that they were coming after Eliot” (419).

Pound called a quality in Laforgue “logopoeia,” which means “a play in the shading of the words themselves… it employs words not only for their direct meaning, but it takes count in a special way of habits of usage, of the context we expect to find with the word” (471). He finds this in Eliot, Marianne Moore, Pope

“Pound juxtaposes successive passages, lines, or parts of lines As the years passed, he increasingly tended to describe these structures of concrete, heterogeneous materials as ‘ideograms'” (487).

Eliot said “instead of narrative method we may now use the mythical method. It is, I seriously believe, a step toward making the modern world possible in art” (511).

“…the premises and methods of the New Critics were much influenced by the poetry and critical writings of Eliot… Eventually this approach to literature began to seem ‘academic,’ to separate literature from life. Rebelling against this, young writers after world War II looked about for alternative premises and styles. They found [William Carlos] Williams” (551).

Marianne Moore’s technical or stylistic innovations: “syllabic verse on a new principle, light rhyme, inorganic stanza forms, and miscellaneous quotation.”

Syllabic verse: line is measured by counting not the number of accents but the number of syllables. (no way of knowing meter until same number of syllables counted in lines in each stanza… focus on prose rhythm)

Hélène Cixous, “In October 1991…”

Cixous, Helene. Stigmata. 

“…as a woman, if I am a woman–and I believe that I can say I’m a woman only because, from time to time, I have experiences that belong to that universe–the idea comes to me that perhaps the two great intimate and strange experiences of life that have to do with childbirth (I purposely use an uninterpretable word), would be: childbirth itself and then: dischildbirth [désenfantement]. It just so happens that we can be dischilded. It’s the experience of mourning. I believe that in mourning, no matter who the person we’ve lost, our grandfather, our old mentor, our friend, we always lose the child” (43).

“At times, woman and mother go together. In my case, I tend to think that way. I tend to maternalize woman. To feel that a woman is all the more woman as she is mother… I prefer to speak of myself, because it’s less dangerous than generalizing: if I’m mistaken, I’m mistaken only about myself” (43).

“I sometimes think that, ‘fundamentally,’ in a human being, what makes the difference, his or her difference, is the mother. Who the mother was, how she left her mark. At times I tell myself that we ought to set down the invisible meridian not between men and women, but between vengeance and patience, between the insatiable and the nourisher.

I am inclined to use ‘mother’ as a metaphor, yet at the same time it is not a metaphor. This is the secret and decisive figure that one feels living and writing in those who write… Those who have the mother in them meet the other with circum-spection. Or else with circumfession. The mother is a quality” (45).

[going to school] “I finished crying and I would go in. Other times, I wouldn’t finish crying. I cried for my mother. At times I could get over my mother, at times not. And it didn’t depend on me. It was beyond all control. It was an all-powerful force that was unleashed like a magic ray…” (46).

She “can’t talk about her” mother, but can say that she “was a young girl” and “has always been a young boy” (46.) Can’t talk about the mother but can talk about what the mother has done to her. Mother is another.

“Thus, my first memory brings together the imagined death of my mother and school. And since then, I have never ceased crying, going to school, learning, crying, exchanging. Pouring out and taking in. Never ceased forgetting, getting over the loss of my mother’s body. Or on the contrary: not getting over it. Inventing it. Picturing to myself the horror of that loss. All the while asking myself who’s crying” (46).

“Curiously, I know that it’s not my mother whom I lost; it’s my father who died and whom I didn’t weep for, my father whom I loved…” (47).

T. S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”

“We cannot refer to ‘the tradition’ or to ‘a tradition’; at most, we employ the adjective in saying that the poetry of so-and-so is ‘traditional’ or even ‘too traditional.’ … it is vaguely approbative.”

“[Tradition] cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour. It involves, in the first place, the historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable to anyone who would continue to be a poet beyond his twenty-fifth year; and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional.”

“… [the poet] will be aware also that he must inevitably be judged by the standards of the past.”

“The mind of the mature poet differs from that of the immature one not precisely in any valuation of ‘personality,’ not being necessarily more interesting, or having ‘more to say,’ but rather by being a more finely perfected medium in which special, or very varied, feelings are at liberty to enter into new combinations.”

“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.”

How might Eliot’s ideas about the objective correlative relate to “writing with the body”? Can the body be an objective correlative?

Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room

Introduction by Vara Neverow

“…it is a classic example of high modernism and is usually considered Woolf’s first truly experimental long work” (xxxvii).

“As Woolf writes in a diary entry, having completed the manuscript of Jacob’s Room: ‘There’s no doubt in my mind that I have found out how to begin (at 40) to say something in my own voice” (xxxviii).

“Woolf envisioned Jacob’s Room as something radically different from the contemporary literary template, a new form for a new novel” (xxxviii).

“the reader’s encounters with Jacob himself are transitory, and his absences foreshadow his inevitable death. Even the title itself refers not to Jacob, the protagonist, but to his room” (li).

one might view the narrator “as a composite of the mythic Greek Fates” (lii).

Novel opens with Betty Flanders writing, “there was nothing for it but to leave,” and her eyes slowly filling with tears (3). She’s looking for Jacob and asks “where is that tiresome little boy?” (3).

“JA––COB! JA–COB!” Archer shouts, fragmenting his name

“Sobbing, but absent-mindedly, he ran farther and farther away until he held the skull in his arms” (6). He is lost, and so he runs toward a symbol of death, literal death, a memento mori. Mother demands he drop it. Corpses are banal, though; they are everywhere

Lullabying her children to sleep, Betty Flanders says “shut your eyes and see the old mother bird with a worm in her book. Now turn and shut your eyes…” (9). (AD: banality of violence)

“The child’s bucket was half-full of rain-water; and the opal-shelled crab slowly circled round the bottom, trying with its weakly legs to climb the steep side; trying again and falling back, and trying again and again” (11). (AD: modernism’s objective correlative)

Mr. Flanders dies vaguely and absurdly, because he “had gone out duck-shooting and refused to change his boots” (13). The narrator asks, “Had he, then, been nothing? An unanswerable question…” (13).

“…if you looked out at dawn you could always see two badgers. Sometimes they knocked each other over like two boys fighting, she said” (22). (AD: inverse also true: grown men fighting are ubiquitous and animalistic)

Mrs. Jarvis is smart and trapped in a marriage where she has little intellectual freedom. “If someone could give me… if I could give some one…” but she does not know what she wants to give, nor who could give it her” (25).

Causality seems random and confused. Captain Barfoot decides to run for council, and “Jacob Flanders, therefore, went up to Cambridge…” (27).

In the railway carriage, a woman is nervous about Jacob and he doesn’t even notice that she is there. “Nevertheless, it is a fact that men are dangerous…. he didn’t notice her” (28).

“Nobody sees any one has he is, let alone an elderly lady sitting opposite a strange young man in a railway carriage. They see a whole–they see all sorts of things–they see themselves…As this was Cambridge, as she was staying there for the weekend, as she saw nothing but young men all day long, in streets and round tables, this sight of her fellow-traveller was completely lost in her mind, as the crooked pin dropped by a child into the wishing-well twirls in the water and disappears for ever” (29). (People we come into contact with disappear like bodies in war, they die to us)

women are dogs 31

“The stroke of the clock even was muffled; as if intoned by somebody reverent from a pulpit; as if generations of learned men heard the last hour go rolling through their ranks and issued it, already smooth and time-worn, with their blessing, for the use of the living.

Was it to receive this gift from the past that the young man come to the window and stood there, looking out across the court? It was Jacob” (44). (the blessing/inheritance that Jacob receives from the history of mankind, from his male lineage, is war and death by war.)

“Loveliness is infernally sad,” and this sadness “is brewed by the earth itself…. To escape is vain” (48).

“Edward’s death was a tragedy,” said Miss Eliot decidedly” (60). (no indication of who Edward is… this diminishes the tragedy and makes it banal.)

sex makes words more difficult (73-4)

“The problem is insoluble. The body is harnessed to a brain. Beauty goes hand in hand with stupidity” (83).

Chapter seven opens with a discussion of the “paper flowers” brought to market by merchants of the East. “Their fortunes were watched by eyes intent and lovely. It is surely a great discovery that leads to the union of hearts and foundation of homes. The paper flowers did no less. IT must not be thought, though, that they ousted the flowers of nature” (85). The reminder of mortality and the mortality of beauty leads to love and homes. We need to remind ourselves of the insoluble problem of beauty dying. “…real flowers can never be dispensed with. If they could, human life would be a different affair altogether. For flowers fade;  yellow chrysanthemums are the worst; perfect over night; yellow and jaded next morning–not fit to be seen” (85). We “marvelled at their brief lives” (87).

Women like Mrs. Jarvis write letters since they cannot participate in literary letters (97).

“As for the beauty of women, it is like the light on the sea, never constant to a single wave. They all have it; they all lose it. Now she is dull and thick a bacon; now transparent as a hanging glass. The fixed faces are the dull ones. …beauty glowing, suddenly expressive, withdrawn the moment after. No one can count on it or seize it or have it wrapped in paper” (121).

“And for ever the beauty of young men seems to be set in smoke, however lustily they chase footballs, or drive cricket balls, dance, run, or stride along roads. Possibly they are soon to lose it. Possibly they look into the eyes of faraway heroes, and take their station among us half contemptuously, she thought (vibrating like a fiddle string, to be played on and snapped)” (123).

Mrs. Jarvis never pities the dead because while they are “at rest,” we “spend our days doing foolish unnecessary things without knowing why” (138). Betty Flanders is silent. Mrs. Jarvis “is not liked in the village.”

“the wild horse in us” (149)

“Though the opinion is unpopular it seems likely enough that bare places, fields too thick with stones to be ploughed, tossing sea-meadows halfway between England and America, suit us better than cities. There is something absolute in us which despises qualification” (152).(like graveyards or battlefields)


“With equal nonchalance a dozen young men in the prime of life descend with composed faces into the depths of the sea; and there impassively (though with perfect mastery of machinery) suffocate uncomplainingly together. Like blocks of tin soldiers the army covers the cornfield, moves up the hill-side, stops, reels slightly this way and that, and falls flat, save that, through field-glasses, it can be seen that one or two pieces still agitate up and down like fragments of broken match-stick.

These actions, together with the incessant commerce of banks, laboratories, chancellories, and houses of business, are the strokes which oar the world forward, they say. And they are dealt by men as smoothly sculptured as the impassive policeman at Ludgate Circus. But you will observe that far from being padded to rotundity is face is stiff from force of will, and lean from the effort of keeping it so… The buses punctually stop.

It is thus that we live, they say, driven by an unseizable force. They say that the novelists never catch it; that it goes hurtling through their nets and leaves them torn to ribbons. This, they say, is what we live by–this unseizable force” (164).

The Acropolis survives in Athens after Jacob’s departure; England survives his death–we are killed to defend monuments that outlive us (169)

Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas

Introduction by Jane Marcus

The response to Three Guineas at the time was “essentially violently mixed in pros and cons–no one was luke-warm” (xxxvi).

“one might say that the pound sign is the most important signifier in the book” (xliii).

“Q.D. Leavis called her savage review of Three Guineas ‘Caterpillars of the Commonwealth, Unite!'” (xlvii).

“Like the ellipses or three dots in A Room of One’s Own, signifying women’s absence from history, that send the curious reader to the library to look up her allusions, Woolf’s notes in Three Guineas provide a reading list for an alternative history that includes the domestic with the national and international” (lix).

Three Guineas

frame for the argument: letter. “One does not like to leave so remarkable a letter as yours–a letter perhaps unique in the history of human correspondence, since when before has an educated man asked a woman how in her opinion war can be prevented?–unanswered. Therefore let us make the attempt; even if it is doomed to failure” (5). (AD: of course the addressee is a fiction; no one did in fact ask woman, although someone should have.)

“Arthur’s Education Fund” into which families have paid at the expense of their daughters. Sisters made their contribution not only by foregoing education but by foregoing many simple small pleasures like better food and clothing, and travel. “The result is that though we look at the same things, we see them differently” (7).

“So magically does it change the landscape that the noble courts and quadrangles of Oxford and Cambridge often appear to educated men’s daughters like petticoats with holes in them, cold legs of mutton, and the boat train starting for abroad while the guard slams the door in their faces” (8).

“Marriage, the one great profession open to our class since the dawn of time until the year 1919” (9). (AD: women are a class.)

“For though many instincts are held more or less in common by both sexes, to fight has always been the man’s habit, not the woman’s… it is difficult to judge what we do not share” (9). (AD: war is your fault, men.)

“Obviously there is for you some glory, some necessity, some satisfaction in fighting which we have never felt or enjoyed” (9).

an airman wrote in a book that if permanent peace were achieved, there would be “no outlet for the manly qualities which fighting developed, and that human physique and human character would deteriorate” (10).

“Here, immediately, are three reasons which lead your sex to fight; war is a profession; a source of happiness and excitement; and it is also an outlet for many qualities, without which men would deteriorate” (10). (AD: to stop war, fix these attributes of masculinity.)

Even the church of England is of two minds (13)

Men can take up arms in defense of peace, but “at any rate that method is not open to us,” as women are barred from army and navy (15).

Women can exert “neither the pressure of force nor the pressure of money… We cannot preach sermons or negotiate treaties… thus all the weapons with which an educated man can enforce his opinions are either beyond our grasp or so nearly beyond it that even if we used them we could scarcely inflict one scratch” (16).

“Our class is the weakest of all the classes in the state. We have no weapon with which to enforce our will” (16).

The educated man’s daughter has been encouraged to exert her will by influencing men. Now, however, that she is becoming educated and monetized herself, she is able to exert “an influence from which the charm element has been removed” (21). She is no longer dependent on the feminine mystique to earn money.

Woolf notes that in many of the male rituals surrounding the church, the army, men dress up like women (23).

“Besides the prime function of covering the body, it has two other offices–that it creates beauty for the eye and that it attracts the admiration of your sex” (24). (AD: like peacock plumage. Sets it up like an animal mating ritual, but a homosocial one)

“If then we express the opinion that such distinctions make those who possess them ridiculous and learning contemptible, we should do something, indirectly, to discourage the feelings that lead to war” (27). (AD: unmasking masculinity and masculine rituals as ridiculous will help to staunch war-leanings.)

Woolf notes that the education of women must produce capitalists in order to be sustainable in our society, even though this is not very desirable and in fact may lead to war. (45).

Women also loved war because it gave the the chance to escape fathers and husbands and instead work in hospitals, productively (49).

Poverty has its advantages to the generous: “the right of potential givers to impose terms” (51). (AD: this is obviously related to the male desire to keep women impoverished.)

“How much peace will 42,000 pounds a year buy at the present moment when we are spending 300,000,00 annually upon arms?” (56). (AD: women cannot help you buy peace because capitalism is part of the problem. Peace needs to happen on other terms.)

“The sex distinction seems…possessed of a curious leaden quality, liable to keep any name to which it is fastened circling in the lower spheres” (59).

“Is the work of a mother, of a wife, of a daughter, worth nothing to the nation in solid cash?” (66).

“Husband and wife are not only one flesh; they are also one purse. The wife’s salary is half the husband’s income… The bachelor then is paid at the same rate as the unmarried woman?- it appears not…Your reply that the law leaves these private matters to be decided privately is less satisfactory, for it means that the wife’s half-share of the common income is not paid legally into her hands, but into her husband’s” (67).

Men spend this income on pleasures which she does not share (69)

“It sees that the person to whom the salary is actually paid is the person who has the actual right to decide how that salary shall be spent” (70).

“For we have to ask ourselves, here and now, do we wish to join that procession, or don’t we? On what terms shall we join that procession? Above all, where is it leading us, the procession of educated men?” (76).

“Let us never cease from thinking–what is this civilization in which we find ourselves? What are these ceremonies and why should we take part in them? What are these professions and why should we make money out of them?” (77).

If you enter this circle, you will have to spend your life in the same way that men before you did (85). You will likely become a slave to money and spend all your time on it.

“How can we enter the professions and yet remain civilized human beings; human beings, that is, who wish to prevent war?” (91). (AD: civilization then is the desire to prevent war; men are not necessarily inherently civilized)

women exist “between the lines” of men’s biographies (93)

The teachers of women are poverty, chastity, derision, and “freedom from unreal loyalties” (94).

“You must earn enough to be independent of nay other human being and to buy that modicum of health, leisure, knowledge and so on that is needed for the full development of body and mind. But no more. Not a penny more.

You must refuse to sell your brain for the sake of money” (97).

Freedom from loyalties to nationality, religion, school, family, sex. These try to “bribe you to captivity” (97)

We should transmute the old ideal of bodily chastity into one of mental chastity (move focus from women’s bodies to our inds) (99)

It appears Arthur’s education fund has been badly applied or misused.

“The word ‘society’ sets tolling in memory the dismal bells of a harsh music: shall not, shall not, shall not” (124).

“We believe that we can help you most effectively by refusing to join your society; by working for our common ends–justice and equality and liberty for all men and women–outside your society, not within” (125).

Woman must question “how much of England in fact belongs to her” – is she even a citizen? (127)

“as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world” (129).

Woman should press the state to pay mothers for motherhood (130-1).

“It seems to me that to be passive is to be active; those also serve who remain outside. By making their absence felt their presence becomes desirable” (141).

“One daughter longed to learn chemistry; the books at home only taught her alchemy” (163).


Virginia Woolf, Women and Writing

Introduction by Michele Barrett

Woolf may have been so heavily criticized during her own time because she dared to enter not only the world of literature but that of criticism as well (2).

F. R. Leavis complained in Scrutiny in 1942 that Woolf “seems to shut out all the ranges of experience accompanying those kinds of preoccupation, volitional and moral, with an external world which are not felt primarily as preoccupation with one’s consciosness of it” (29).

“Women and Fiction”

We know nothing of our mothers recorded in history but “the dates of their marriages and the number of children they bore” – their relations to men, in other words” (44).

It is significant that “of the four great women novelists… not one had a child, and two were unmarried” (45).

“Fiction was, as fiction still is, the easiest thing for a woman to write.. Nor is it difficult to find the reason. A novel is the least concentrated form of art. A novel can be taken up or put down more easily than a play or a poem” (46). (AD: vs. Audre Lorde’s assertion that poetry is the most economical form of creation)

“The desire to plead some personal cause or to make a character the mouthpiece of some personal discontent or grievance always has a distressing effect, as if the spot at which the reader’s attention is directed were suddenly two-fold instead of single” (47). (AD: “social art” is bad art.)

“Again and again one finds it in the work of the lesser women writers–in their choice of a subject, in their unnatural self-assertiveness, in their unnatural docility. Moreover, insincerity leaks in almost unconsciously. They adopt a view in deference to authority. The vision becomes too masculine or it becomes too feminine; it loses its perfect integrity and, with that, its most essential quality as a work of arT” (48). (aD: perfect integrity = bisexuality)

“…before a woman can write exactly as she wishes to write, she has many difficulties to face. To begin with, there is the technical difficulty–so simple, apparently; in reality, so baffling–that the very form of the sentence does not fit her. It is a sentence made by men; it is too loose, too heavy, too pompous for a woman’s use… this a woman must make for herself, altering and adapting the current sentence until she writes one that takes the natural shape of her thought without crushing or distorting it” (48).

“It is probably, however, that both in life and in art the values of a woman are not the values of a man” (49).

“If, then, one should try to sum up the character of women’s fiction at the present moment, one would say that it is courageous; it is sincere; it keeps closely to what women feel. It is not bitter. It does not insist upon its femininity. But at the same time, a woman’s book is not written as a man would write it” (50). (AD: these seem like meta-syntactical rather than sentence-level differences.)

“We may expect that the office of gadfly to the state, which has been so far a male prerogative, will now be discharged by women also… but there is another ore interesting to those who prefer the butterfly to the gadfly–that is to say the artist to the reformer. The greater impersonality of women’s lives will encourage the poetic spirit, and it is i poetry that women’s fiction is still the weakest. It will lead them to be less absorbed in facts and no longer content to record with astonishing acuteness the minute details which fall under their own observation” (51). (AD: turn to bisexual writing = turn outward from the self. Oddly woman barred from poetic spirit because she engages logos too strongly)

“sophisticated arts” are criticism, essays, history; soon woman can engage these too (52).

“Professions for Women”

“The cheapness of writing paper is, of course, the reason why women have succeeded a writers before they have succeeded in the other professions” (58).

“I discovered that if I were going to review books I should need to do battle with a certain phantom. And the phantom was a woman, and when I came to know her better I called her after the heroine of a famous poem, The Angel in the House… It was she who bothered me and wasted my time and so tormented me that at last I killed her… in short she was so constituted that she never had a mind or a wish of her own, but preferred to sympathize always with the minds and wishes of others. Above all– I need not say it– she was pure” 59).

She slips behind Woolf as she writes and whispers to her that she should flatter and use the “arts and wiles of her sex,” never letting anyone “guess that you have a mind of your own. Above all, be pure” (59).

“I did my best to kill her. My excuse, if I were to be had up in a court of law, would be that I acted in self-defence. Had I not killed her she would have killed me. She would have plucked the heart out of my writing” (59).

“I took up the inkpot and flung it at her… It is far harder to kill a phantom than a reality… the struggle was severe; it took much time that had better have been spent upon learning Greek grammar; or in roaming the world in search of adventures. But it was a real experience; it was an experience that was found to befall all women writers at that time. Killing the Angel in the House was part of the occupation of a woman writer” (60).

“…now that she had rid herself of falsehood, that young woman had only to be herself. Ah, but what is ‘herself’? I mean, what is a woman? I assure you, I do not know.I do not believe that you know. I do not believe that anybody can know until she has expressed herself in all the arts and professions open to human skill” (60).

“I want you to imagine me writing a novel in a state of trance. I want you to figure to yourselves a girl sitting with a pen in her hand, which for minutes, and indeed for hours, she never dips into the inkpot. The image that comes to my mind when I think of this girl is the image of a fisherman lying sunk in dreams on the verge of a deep lake with a rod held out over the water” (61). (AD: vs. HD’s jellyfish)

“She was indeed in a state o the most acute and difficult distress. To speak without figure she had thought of something, something about the body, about the passions which it was unfitting for her as a woman to say. Men, her reason told her, would be shocked” (61).

“The first–killing the Angel in the House–I think I solved. She died. But the second, telling the truth about my own experiences as a body, I do not think I solved. I doubt that any woman has solved it yet” (62).

“Men and Women”

Of female characters represented by men, From Ophelia to Dora and Helen: “Some are plainly men in disguise; others represent what men would like to be, or are conscious of not being; or again they embody that dissatisfaction and despair which afflict most people when they reflect upon the sorry condition of the human race. To cast out and incorporate in a person of the opposite sex all that we miss in ourselves and desire in the universe and detest in humanity is a deep and universal instinct on the part both of men and of women. But though it affords relief, it does not lead to understanding. Rochester is as great a travesty of the truth about men as Cordelia is of the truth about women” (65). (AD: This also presupposes an essential tension between the sexes (which itself presupposes two distinct sexes.))

Bathsheba in Hardy’s Far from the madding crowd says, “I have the feelings of a woman but I have only the language of men” (67).


No woman “ever loved Byron; they bowed to convention… ran mad to order” (73). Byron is intolerable because he is “condescending, ineffably vain… compound of bully and lap-dog, now hectoring, now swimming in vapours of sentimental twaddle, tedious, egotistical, melodramatic, the character of Byron is the least attractive in the history of letters. But no wonder that every man was in love with him… to enjoy Don Juan and the letters to the full, obviously one must be a man; or, if of the other sex, disguise it” (73).

“…the men have been supposed to remain men, the women women when they write. They have exerted the influence of their sex directly and normally. But there is a class which keeps itself aloof from any such contamination. Milton is their leader; with him are Landor, Sappho, Sir Thomas Browne, Marvell. Feminists or anti-feminists, passionate or cold–whatever the romances or adventures of their private lives not a whiff of that mist attaches itself to their writing. It is pure, uncontaminated, sexless as the angels are said to be sexless” (75). (AD: Bisexual writing. Is the neuter gendered, though?)

“Dorothy Richardson”

“She has invented, or, if she has not invented, developed and applied to her own uses, a sentence which we might call the psychological sentence of the feminine gender. It is of a more elastic fibre than the old, capable of stretching to the extreme, of suspending the frailest particles, of enveloping the vaguest shapes. Other writers of the opposite sex have used sentences of this description and stretched them to the extreme. But there is a difference. Miss Richardson has fashioned her sentence consciously, in order that it may descend to the depths and investigate the crannies… It is a woman’s sentence, but only in the sense that it is used to describe a woman’s mind by a writer who is neither proud nor afraid of anything that she may discover in the psychology of her sex” (191). (AD: feminine writing)

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. 1924, 2010. Houghton Mifflin.

“The title women and fiction might mean, and you may have meant it to mean, women and what they are like; or it might mean women and the fiction that is written about them; or it might mean that somehow all three are inextricably mixed together and you want me to consider them in that light. But when I began to consider the subject in this las way, which seemed the most interesting, I soon saw that it had one fatal drawback. I should never be able to come to a conclusion” (195). (AD: conclusions are linear, phallic; questions about women are more diffuse. Re: Cixous, Irigaray)

“…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved… women and fiction remain, so far as I am concerned, unsolved problems” (196). (AD: recalls Irigaray’s invocation of Freud calling women a “problem”– women are not a problem to women except insofar as they are men’s problem and this affects them in the real world)

“…when a subject is highly controversial–and any question about sex is that–one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. One can only give one’s audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker. Fiction here is likely to contain more truth than fact” (196). (AD: non-logos truth, diffuse truth)

“Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to seek out this truth and to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping. If not, you will of course throw the whole of it into the wastepaper basket and forget all about it” (196). (AD: lecture format is non-logo-centric :interested in diffusion of truths rather than a linear progression of facts that leads to a conclusion. This is a radical reading method–can we do this with Shelley for example if we don’t think it’s worth keeping?)

“The river reflected whatever it chose of sky and bridge and burning tree… It swayed, minute after minute, hither and thither among the reflections and the weeds, letting the water lift it and sink it, until–you know the little tug–the sudden conglomeration of an idea at the end of one’s line: and then the cautious hauling of it in, and the careful laying of it out?” (197). (AD: contrast to H.D.’s Jelly-fish vision)

“…however small it was, it had, nevertheless, the mysterious property of its kind–put back into the mind, it became at once very exciting, and important; and as it darted and sank, and flashed hither and thither, set up such a wash and tumult of ideas that it was impossible to sit still… Instantly a man’s figure rose to intercept me” (197-8).

“Instinct rather than reason came to my help; he was a Beadle; I was a woman. This was the turf; there was the path. Only the Fellows and Scholars are allowed here; the gravel is the place for me….though turf is better walking than gravel, no very great harm was done.. ..in protection of their turf, which has been rolled for 300 years in succession, they had sent my little fish into hiding” (198). (AD: for Woolf, vision is chasing a fish or fishing rather than the mind itself turning into a jellyfish-womb that births thoughts itself)

“…then one would have to decide what is style and what is meaning, a question which–but here I was actually at the door which leads into the library itself. I must have opened it, for instantly there issued, like a guardian angel barring the way with a flutter of black gown instead of white wings, a deprecating, silvery, kindly gentleman, who regretted in a low voice as he waved me back that ladies are only admitted to the library if accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction. That a famous library has been cursed by a woman is a matter of complete indifference to a famous library… never will I ask for that hospitality again” (200).

“But the outside of these magnificent buildings is often as beautiful as the inside. Moreover, it was amusing enough to watch the congregation…” (200). (AD: she takes what she can get for inspiration. If you don’t let me into your library I will watch you instead, and the observations I make will not be particularly flattering, though they will be accurate. I will use my powers of observation and analysis one way or another.)

“Once, presumably, this quadrangle with its smooth lawns, its massive buildings, and the chapel itself was marsh too, where the grasses waved and the swine rootled” (201). (AD: is this grass and swine rootling a matrixial space on which man built institutions to cover it up and contain it?)

“It is part of the novelist’s convention not to mention soup and salmon and ducklings, as if soup and salmon and ducklings were of no importance whatsoever, as if nobody ever smoked a cigar or drank a glass of wine. Here, however, I shall take the liberty to defy that convention and to tell you that the lunch on this occasion began with…” (202).

“…if things had been a little different from what they were, one would not have seen, presumably, a cat without a tail. The sight of that abrupt and truncated animal padding softly across the quadrangle changed by some fluke of the subconscious intelligence the emotional light for me. It was as if someone had left fall a shade… as I watched the Manx cat pause in the middle of the lawn as if it too questioned the universe, something seemed lacking, something seemed different…” (203). (AD: the cat, with its “Truncated” tail, seems like the woman as a  “Truncated” man in Irigaray. This throws the institution and the universe into question. The question of woman and what she lacks throws everything into question.

“There was something so ludicrous in thinking of people humming such things even under their breath at luncheon parties before the war that I burst out laughing, and had to explain my laughter by pointing at the Manx cat, who did look a little absurd, poor beast, without a tail, in The middle of the lawn. Was he really born so, or had he lost his tail in an accident? The tailless cat, though some are said to exist in the Isle of Man, is rarer than one thinks. It is a queer animal, quaint rather than beautiful. It is strange what a difference a tail makes…” (205). (AD: Tennyson = ludicrous (this is brave). ALSO, a “tail” is phallic and it is indeed strange what a difference it makes. Was woman born castrated or is it an accident of philosophy that she became so? (essentialism v social construction) or is it not an accident at all?)

“In a sort of jealousy, I suppose, for our own age, silly and absurd though these comparisons are, I went on to wonder if honestly one could name two living poets now as great as Tennyson and Christina Rossetti were then. Obviously it is impossible, I thought, looking into those foaming waters, to compare them” (206). (AD: she dismisses the modern poets.)

“The very reason why the poetry excites one to such abandonment, such rapture, is that it celebrates some feeling that one used to have (at luncheon parties before the war perhaps), so that one responds easily familiarly, without troubling to check the feeling, or to compare it with any that one has now. But the living poets express a feeling that is actually being made and torn out of us at the moment. One does not recognize it in the first place; often for the reason one fears it; one watches it with keenness and compares it jealously and suspiciously with the old feeling that one knew. Hence the difficulty that one cannot remember more than two consecutive lines of any good modern poet” (206). (AD: perhaps the problem isn’t that modern poetry isn’t able to construe modern life but that it does in fact construe it, and it’s too hard to see because so much less beautiful, and poetry is about beauty.)

“Fiction must stick to facts, and the truer the facts the better the fiction–so we are told” (208).

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. The lamp in the spine does not light on beef and prunes” (210).

“All that lies beneath the colleges down there, I said; but this college, where we are now sitting, what lies beneath its gallant red brick and the wild unkempt grasses of the garden? What force is behind the plain china off which we dined…” (211). (AD: in part a feminine force because woman prepares the food that goes on the china)

“At the thought of all those women working year after year and finding it hard to get two thousand pounds together, and as much as they could do to get thirty thousand pounds, we burst out in scorn at the reprehensible poverty of our sex. What had our mothers been doing then that they had now ealth to leave us? Powdering their noses?” (212).

“If only Mrs. Seton and her mother and her mother before her had learnt the great art of making money and had left their money, like their fathers and grandfathers before them, to found fellowships and lectureships and prizes and scholarships appropriated to the use of their own sex, we might have tined very tolerably up here alone…” (213).

“Making a fortune and bearing thirteen children–no human being could stand it. Consider the facts… Every penny I earn, they may have said, will be taken from me and disposed of according to my husband’s wisdom… so that to earn money, even if I could earn money, is not a matter that interests me very greatly. I had better leave it to my husband” (215).

“what effect poverty has on the mind and what effect wealth has on the mind” (215).

“If truth is not to be found on the shelves of the British Museum, where, I asked myself, picking up a notebook and pencil, is truth?” (218).

“Have you any notion how many books are written about women in the course of one year? Have you any notion how many are written by men? Are you aware that you are, perhaps, the most discussed animal in the universe?…How shall I ever find the grains of truth embedded in all this mass of paper, I asked myself…” (219). (AD: re: Irigaray’s discussion of Freud’s discussion of women. She will not find herself in the mass of paper not only because she is not writable by men but because she is not paper. She is not a man’s object.)

“Women do not write books about men– a fact that I could not help welcoming with relief… Why are women, judging from this catalogue, so much more interesting to men than men are to women?” (219).

“If, unfortunately, one has had no training in a university, the question far from being shepherded to its pen flies like a frightened flock hither and thither, helter-skelter, pursued by a whole pack of hounds” (220). (AD: maybe we should run with it, or just be it, instead of trying to master it.)

“Wherever one looked men thought about women and thought differently. It was impossible to make head or tail of it all, I decided, glancing with envy at the reader next door who was making the neatest abstracts, headed often with an A or a B or a C, while my own notebook rioted with the wildest scribble of contradictory jottings. It was distressing, it was bewildering, it was humiliating. Truth had run through my fingers. Every drop had escaped” (222). (AD: feminine writing, diffusion rather than logocentric telos-oriented research)

“I had unconsciously, in my listlessness, in my desperation, been drawing a picture where I should, like my neighbour, have been writing a conclusion” (223). (AD: this is the only training we have.)

“They had been written in the red light of emotion and not in the white light of truth. Therefore they must be returned to the central desk and restored each to his own cell in the enormous honeycomb. All that I had retrieved from that morning’s work had been the one fact of anger” (225). (AD: logos is always inflected by pathos, no matter how objective it says that it is.)

“The most transient visitor to this planet, I thought, who picked up this paper could not fail to be aware, even from this scattered testimony, that England is under the rule of a patriarchy… his was the power and the money and the influence” (225).

“Yet it seemed absurd, I thought, turning over the evening paper, that a man with all this power should be angry. Or is anger, I wondered, somehow, the familiar, the attendant sprite on power” (226).

“Life for both sexes–and I looked at them, shouldering their way along the pavement–is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusion as we are, it calls for confidence in oneself. Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradle. And how can we generate this imponderable quality, which is yet so invaluable, most quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to oneself… Hence the enormous importance to a patriarch who has to conquer, who has to rule, of feeling that great numbers of people, half the human race indeed, are by nature inferior to himself… [feminism] was a protest against some infringement of his power to believe in himself” (227).

“…if she begins to tell the truth, the figure in the looking-glass shrinks; his fitness for life is diminished. How is he to go on giving judgment, civilising natives, making laws, writing books, dressing up and speechifying at banquets, unless he can see himself at breakfast and at dinner at least twice the size he really is” (228).

“Society gives me chicken and coffee, bed and lodging, in return for a certain number of pieces of paper which were left me by an aunt, for no other reason than that I share her name” (229).

“Therefore not merely do effort and labour cease, but also hatred and bitterness. I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me” (230).

“[The patriarchs] had money and power, but only at the cost of harbouring in their breasts an eagle, a vulture, for ever tearing the liver out and plucking at the lungs–the instinct for possession, the rage for acquisition which drives them to desire other people’s fields and goods perpetually; to make frontiers and flags; battleships and poison gas; to offer up their lives and their children’s lives” (230).

“…as I realised these drawbacks, by by degrees fear and bitterness modified themselves into pity and toleration; and then in a year or two, pity and toleration went, and the greatest release of all came, which is freedom to think of things in themselves. That building, for example, do I like it or not? Is that picture beautiful or not? Is that in my opinion a good book or a bad? Indeed my aunt’s legacy unveiled the sky to me, and substituted for the large and imposing figure of a gentleman, which Milton recommended for my perpetual adoration, a view of the open sky” (231).

“It was disappointing not to have brought back in the evening some important statement, some authentic fact” (233).

“For it is a perennial puzzle why no woman wrote a word of that extraordinary literature when every other man, it seemed, was capable of song or sonnet. What were the conditions in which women lived, I asked myself; for fiction, imaginative work that is, is not dropped like a pebble upon the ground, as science may be; fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners” (233).

“these webs are not spun in mid-air by incorporeal creatures, but are the work of suffering human beings, and are attached to grossly material things, like health and money and the houses we live in” (234).

“It was certainly an odd monster that one made up by reading the historians first and the poets afterwards–a worm winged like an eagle; the spirit of life and beauty in a kitchen chopping up suet. But these monsters, however amusing to the imagination, have no existence in fact” (236).

“…suggest to the students of those famous colleges that they should re-write history, thought I own that it often seems a little queer as it is, unreal, lop-sided; but why should they not add a supplement to history? (237). (AD: diving into the wreck)

“Let me imagine, since facts are so hard to come by, what would have happened had Shakespeare had a wonderfully gifted sister, called Judith, let’s say… Perhaps she scribbled some pages up in an apple loft on the sly, but was careful to hide them or set fire to them… How could she disobey him? How could she break his heart? The force of her own gift alone drive her to it?” (238-9).

“yet a genius amongst women must have existed…but certainly it never got itself on to paper. When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman. It was…a woman who made the ballads and folk songs, crooning them to her children…” (241).

The woman given the gift of poetry “was an unhappy woman, a woman at strife against herself” (242).

The world’s “notorious indifference” toward works of art is even stronger toward women (244).

“It was a thousand pities that the woman who could write like that, whose mind was turned to nature and reflection, should have been forced to anger and bitterness. But how could she have helped herself?” (252).

Aphra Behn is a foremother, even if she is deprecated by mothers and fathers of those who want to write (256)

Why are all the works by women novels, if “the original impulse was to poetry,” and “the ‘supreme head of song’ was a poetess?” (258).

Novels are more interested in feeling and relations than poetry. Women are trained in observation.

“Literature is open to everybody. I refuse to allow you, Beadle though you are, to turn me off the grass. Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind” (268).

“they had no tradition behind them, or one so short and partial that it was of little help. For we think back through our mothers if we are women” (268).

Only the novel was “young and soft” enough for woman to shape into the writing a woman needs to produce (269)

There are no marks by which we can measure women (277)

Women’s “creative power differs greatly from the creative power of men” (279).

bisexual writing:

“…it is natural for the sexes to co-operate. One has a profound, if irrational, instinct in favour of the theory that the union of man and woman makes for the greatest satisfaction, the most complete happiness. But the sight of the two people getting into the taxi and the satisfaction it gave me made me also ask whether there are two sexes in the mind corresponding to the two sexes in the body, and whether they also require to be united in order to get complete satisfaction and happiness… The normal and comfortable state of being is that when the two live in harmony together, spiritually co-operating. If one is a man, still the woman part of the brain must have effect; and a woman also must have intercourse with the man in her. Coleridge perhaps meant this when he said that a great mind is androgynous. It is when this fusion takes place that the mind is fully fertilised and uses all its faculties” (290).

“virility has now become self-conscious–men, that is to say, are now writing only with the male side of their brains” (293)

“Poetry ought to have a mother a well as a father” (295).

“…it is fatal for any one who writes to think of their sex. It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be  woman-manly or man-womanly. It is fatal for a woman to lay the least stress on any grievance; to plead even with justice any cause; in any way to speak consciously as a woman. And fatal is no figure of speech; for anything written with that conscious bias is doomed to death. It ceases to be fertilised” (296).

“I do not believe that gifts, whether or mind or character, can be weight like sugar and butter” (297)

“Intellectual freedom depends on material things. Poetry depends on intellectual freedom. And women have always been poor, not for two hundred years merely, but from the beginning of time. Women have had less intellectual freedom than the sons of Athenian slaves. Women, then, have not had a dog’s chance of writing poetry” (300).

“When I rummage in my own mind I find no noble sentiments about being companions and equals and influencing the world to higher ends. I find myself saying briefly and prosaically that it is much more important to be oneself than anything else. Do not dream of influencing other people…”(303).

Langdon Davies says that when children cease to be desirable women will cease to be necessary 303



Luce Irigaray, Speculum of the Other Woman

Irigaray, Luce. Speculum of the Other Woman. 1974.

Opens with “Woman, Science’s Unknown,” by quoting Freud addressing a group about the problem of femininity. Women are ourselves the problem. Spoken by and to women, this takes on a different valence.

“The enigma that is woman will therefore constitute the target, the object, the stake of a masculine discourse, of a debate among men, which would not consult her, would not concern her. Which, ultimately, she is not supposed to know anything about” (13).

“One can only agree in passing that it is impossible exhaustively to represent what woman might be, give that a certain economy of representation–inadequately perceived by psychoanalysis, at least in the ‘scientific discourse’ that it speaks–functions through a tribute to woman that is never paid or even assessed. The whole problematic of Being has been elaborated thanks to that loan. It is thus, in all exactitude, unrealizable to describe the being of woman” (21).

“…this is an organized system whose meaning is regulated by paradigms and units of value that are in turn determined by male subjects. Therefore, the feminine must be deciphered as inter-dict: within the signs or between them, between the realized meanings, between the lines…and as a function of the (re)productive necessities of an intentionally phallic currency…” (22).

“the feminine will be allowed and even obliged to return in such oppositions as: be/become, have/ not have sex organ, phallic/ non-phallic, penis/vagina… plus/ minus, clearly representable / dark continent, logos / silence or idle chatter, desire for mother/ desire to be the mother, etc. All these are interpretive modalities of the female function rigorously postulated by the pursuit of a certain game for which she will always find herself signed up without having begin to play. Set between–at least–two, or two half, men” (22).

“The little girl is (only) a little boy” (25) – she is “A disadvantaged little man… A little man who would have no other desire than to be, or remain, a man” (26).

“…the desire for the auto… the homo… the male, dominates the representational economy. ‘Sexual difference’ is a derivation of the problematics of sameness, it is, now and forever, determined within the project, the projection, the sphere of representation, of the same. The ‘differentiation’ into two sexes derives from the a priori assumption of the same, since the little man that the little girl is, must become a man minus certain attributes whose paradigm is morphological…A man minus the possibility of (re)presenting oneself as a man = a normal woman” (27).

“The pleasure gained from touching, caressing, parting the lips and vulva simply does not exist for Freud” (29).

“That is the point at which the ‘change to femininity’ has to occur, with the vagina becoming the indispensible instrument of male pleasure” (30).

“In the course of time, therefore, a girl has to change her erotogenic zone and her object–both of which a boy retains…” the girl is “biologically destined” for a feminine state according to Freud (31).

Love is really homo-sexual: it is what the “phallus feels for the phallus” (32).

“But of course the paths marked out for the two sexes are not the same, and cannot obey the same law, whatever Freud would like. At best they may obey Law itself, the law of the same, which requires that the little girl abandon her relation to the origin and her primal fantasy so that henceforth she can be inscribed into those of men which will become the ‘origin’ of her desire. In other words, woman’s only relation to origin is one dictated by man’s” (33).

“And it would certainly be very interesting to raise the question of the ‘phallus’ and its power in these terms: it would not be the privileged signifier of the penis or even of power and sexual pleasure were it not to be interpreted as an appropriation of the relation to origin and of the desire for and as origin” (33).

“…she already experiences a tropism that is both centripetal and centrifugal, and that her sexual organ of reference is not simply the clitoris” (35).

Freud is interested in “trapping sex in a logos, a logic…” and this “Idea” of sex “shapes Freudian ‘discourse'” (36-7).

“…with only one sex being desirable, it becomes a matter of demonstrating how the little girl comes to devalue her own sex by devaluing her mother’s” (40).

“…in the beginning was the end of her story, and that from now on she will have one dictated to her: by the man-father. Woman would thus find no possible way to represent or tell the story of the economy of her libido” (43).

“Now the little girl, the woman, supposedly has nothing you can see. She exposes, exhibits the possibility of a nothing to see. Or at any rate she shows nothing that is penis-shaped or could substitute for a penis. This is the odd, the uncanny thing, as far as the eye can see, this nothing around which lingers in horror, now and forever, an overcathexis of the eye, of appropriation by the gaze, and of the phallomorphic sexual metaphors, its reassuring accomplices” (47).

“In her having nothing penile, in seeing that she has No Thing. Nothing like man. That is to say, no sex/organ that can be seen in a form capable of founding its reality, reproducing its truth. Nothing to be seen is equivalent to having no thing. No being and no truth” (48).

“Anatony is ‘Destiny’… In the beginning… the little girl was (only) a little boy. In other words THERE NEVER IS (OR WILL BE) A LITTLE GIRL” (48).

Woman is “a hole in men’s signifying economy” (50).

“If woman had desires other than ‘penis-envy,’ this would call into question the unity, the uniqueness, the simplicity of the mirror charged with sending man’s image back to him–albeit inverted. Call into question its flatness. The specularization, and speculation, for the purpose of (his) desire could no longer be two-dimensional. Or again: the ‘penis-envy’ attributed to woman soothes the anguish man feels…” (51).

“Woman’s fetishization of the male organ must indeed be an indispensible support of its price on the sexual market” (53).

“….if this ego is to be valuable, some ‘mirror’ is needed to reassure it and re-insure it of its value… Woman will therefore be this sameness” (54).

“Better than mother, then, is the working out of the idea of the mother, of the maternal ideal. Better to transform the real ‘natural’ mother into an ideal of the maternal function which no one can ever take away from you” (81).

la mystérique: the mystic-hysteric

Structure of the book:

“The blind spot of an old dream of symmetry”


takes on Freud, Plato, Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, Mystics, Kant, Hegel

“Plato’s Hystera”


Luce Irigaray, “When Our Lips Speak Together”

Irigaray, Luce. “When Our Lips Speak Together.” Signs 6.1 (Autumn 1980), 69-79.

“If we continue to speak the same language to each other, we will reproduce the same story. Begin the same stories all over again. Don’t you feel it? Listen: men and women around us all sound the same. Same arguments, same quarrels, same scenes. Same attractions and separations. Same difficulties, the impossibility of reaching each other. Same … same… always the same” (69).

“We have fled into proper names, we have been violated by them. Not yours, not mine. We don’t have names. We change them as men exchange us, as they use us. It’s frivolous to be so changeable so long as we are a medium of exchange” (69).

“Try to be attentive to  yourself. To me. Don’t be distracted by norms or habits” (70).

“Let them have oneness, with its prerogatives, its domination, its solipsisms: like the sun. Let them have their strange division by couples, in which the other is the image of the one, but an image only. For them, being drawn to the other means a move toward one’s mirage: a mirror that is (barely) alive. Glacial, mute, the mirror is all the more faithful. Our vital energies spent in this wearisome labor of doubling and miming. We have been destined to reproduce–that sameness in which, for centuries, we have been the other” (71).

“The unity, truth, and propriety of words comes from their lack of lips, their forgetting of lips. Words are mute, when they have been uttered once and for all, neatly tied up so that their sense–their blood–can’t escape. Like the children of men. But not ours. Besides, do we need or desire a child? Here and now, in our closeness? Men and women have children to embody their closeness and their distance. But we?” (72).

“Open your lips, but do not open them simply. I do not open them simply. We–you/I–are never open nor closed. Because we never separate simply, a single word can’t be pronounced, produced by, emitted from our mouths. From your/my lips, several songs, several ways of saying echo each other. For one is never separable from the other. You/I are always several at the same time. How could one dominate the other? Impose her voice, her tone, her meaning? They are not distinct, which does not mean that they are blurred. You don’t understand a thing? No more than they understand you” (73).

“They neither taught us nor allowed us to say our multiplicity. That would have been improper speech. Of course, we were allowed–we had to?–display one truth even as we sensed but muffled, stifled another. Truth’s other side– it’s complement? its remainder?–stayed hidden. Secret. Inside and outside, we were not supposed to be the same. That doesn’t suit their desires. Veiling and unveiling, isn’t that what concerns them, interests them? Always repeating the same operation–each time, on each woman” (74).

Between us, there is no rupture between virginal and nonvirginal. No event that makes us women” (74).

“You have come back, divided: ‘we’ are no more. You are split into red and white, black and white. How can we find each other again? Touch each other? We are cut into pieces, finished: our pleasure is trapped in their system, where ‘virgin’ means one as yet unmarked by them, for them. Not yet a woman in their terms. Not yet imprinted with their sex, their language. Not yet penetrated or possessed by them. Still inhabiting that candor which is an awaiting, a northing without them, a void without them. A virgin is but the future for their exchanges, their commerce, and their transports. A kind of reserve for their explorations, consummations, and exploitations–the future coming o their desires. But not ours” (74).

“If you/I are reluctant to speak, isn’t it because we are afraid of not speaking well? But what is ‘well’ or ‘badly’? What model could we use to speak ‘well’? What system of mastery subordination could persecute us there and break out spirits? Why aspire to the heights of a worthier discourse? Erection doesn’t interest us: we’re fine in the low-lands. We have so many spaces to share. Because we are always open, the horizon will never be circumscribed. Stretching out, never ceasing to unfold ourselves, we must invent so many different voices to speak all of ‘us,’ including our cracks and faults, that forever won’t be enough time. We will never travel all the way round our periphery: we have so many dimensions. If you wish to speak ‘well’ you constrict yourself, become narrower as you rise” (75).

“Don’t fret about the ‘right’ word. There is none. No truth between our lips. Everything has the right to be. Everything is worth exchanging, without privileges or refusals. Exchange? Everything can be exchanged when nothing is bought. Between us, there are no owners and no purchases, no determinable objects and no prices. Our bodies are enriched by our mutual pleasure. Our abundance is inexhaustible: it knows neither want nor plenty. When we give ourselves ‘all,’ without holding back or hoarding, our exchanges have no terms. How to say this? The language we know is so limited…” (76).

“If we don’t invent a language, if we don’t find our body’s language, its gestures will be too few to accompany our story. When we become tired of the same ones, we’ll keep our desires secret, unrealized. Asleep again, dissatisfied, we will be turned over to the words of men–who have claimed to ‘know’ for a long time” (76).

“You? I? That’s still saying too much. It cuts too sharply between us: ‘all’.” (79).

Hélène Cixous, “The Laugh of the Medusa”

Cixous, Hélène. “The Laugh of the Medusa.” Signs 1.4 (Summer, 1976): 875-893. Trans Keith Cohen and Paula Cohen. University of Chicago Press. 

first sentence: “I shall speak about woman’s writing: about what it will do. Woman must write her self: must write about women and bring women to writing, from which they have been driven away as violently as from their bodies–for the same reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. Woman must put herself into the text–as into the world and into history–by her own movement” (875).

“I write this as a woman, toward women. When I say ‘woman,’ I’m speaking of woman in her inevitable struggle against conventional man; and of a universal woman subject who must bring women to their senses and to their meaning in history” 875-6).

“…what strikes me is the infinite richness of their individual constitutions: you can’t talk about female sexuality, uniform, homogeneous, classifiable into codes–any more than you can talk about one unconscious resembling another. Women’s imaginary is inexhaustible, like music, painting, writing: their stream of phantasms is incredible” (876).

“Who, feeling a funny desire stirring inside her (to sing, to write, to dare to speak, in short, to bring out something new), hasn’t thought she was sick? well, her shameful sickness is that she resists death, that she makes trouble” (876).

“…writing is at once too high, too great for you, it’s reserved for the great–that is for ‘great men’; and it’s ‘silly.’ Besides, you’ve written a little, but in secret. And it wasn’t good, because it was in secret, and because you punished yourself for writing, because you didn’t go all the way; or because you wrote, irresistibly, as when we would masturbate in secret, not to go further, but to attenuate the tension a bit, just enough to take the edge off. And then as soon as we come, we go and make ourselves feel guilty–so as to be forgive; or to forget, to bury it until the next time” (877).

“I write woman: woman must write woman. And man, man. So only an oblique consideration will be found here of man; it’s up to him to say where his masculinity and femininity are at: this will concern us once men have opened their eyes and seen themselves clearly” (877).

“Men still have everything to say about their sexuality, and everything to write. For what they have said so far, for the most part, stems from the opposition activity/passivity, from the power relation between a fantasized obligatory virility meant to invade, to colonize, and the consequential phantasm of woman as a ‘dark continent’ to penetrate and to ‘pacify'” (877, footnote 1).

“Your continent is dark. Dark is dangerous. You can’t see anything in the dark, you’re afraid. Don’t move, you might fall. Most of all, don’t go into the forest. And so we have internalized this horror of the dark.

Men have committed the greatest crime against women. Insidiously, violently, they have led them to hate women, to be their own enemies, to mobilize their immense strength against themselves, to be the executants of their virile needs. They have made for women an antinarcissism!” (878).

Women who write “Aren’t afraid of lacking” (878).

“I maintain unequivocally that there is such a thing as marked writing; that, until now, far more extensively and repressively than is ever suspected or admitted, writing has been run by a libidinal and cultural–hence political, typically masculine–economy…” (879).

“…writing is precisely the very possibility of change” (879).

“Nearly the entire history of writing is confounded with the history of reason, of which it is at once the effect, the support, and one of the privileged alibis. It has been one with the phallocentric tradition. It is indeed that same self-admiring, self-stimulating, self-congratulatory phallocentrism” (879).

“There have been poets who would go to any lengths to slip something by at odds with tradition– men capable of loving love and hence capable of loving others and of wanting them, of imagining the woman who would hold out against oppression and constitute herself as a superb, equal, hence ‘impossible’ subject, untenable in a real social framework” (879).

“But only the poets–not the novelists, allies of representationalism. Because poetry involves gaining strength through the unconscious and because the unconscious, that other limitless country, is the place where the repressed manage to survive: women, or as Hoffmann would say, fairies” (880). (AD: Re: Cixous’s focus on Joyce as poet in Exile)

“To write. An act which will not only ‘realize’ the decensored relation of woman to her sexuality, to her womanly being, giving her access to her native strength; it will give her back her goods, her pleasures, her organs, her immense bodily territories which have been kept under seal; it will tear her away from the superegoized structure in which she has always occupied the place reserved for the guilty (guilty of everything, guilty at every turn: for having desires, for not having any; for being frigid, for being ‘too hot’… for having children and for not having any…”

“We must kill the false woman who is preventing the live one from breathing. Inscribe the breath of the whole woman” (880). (AD: Or, as Woolf says, throw the inkpot at her before you kill the Angel in the House)

“It is by writing, from and toward women, and by taking up the challenge of speech which has been governed by the phallus, that women will confirm women in a place other than that which is reserved in and by the symbolic, that is, in a place other than silence. Women should break out of the snare of silence. They shouldn’t be conned into accepting a domain which is the margin or the harem” (881).

“Listen to a woman speak at a public gathering (if she hasn’t painfully lost her wind). She doesn’t ‘speak,’ she throws her trembling body forward; she lets go of herself, she flies; all of her passes into her voice, and it’s with her body that she vitally supports the ‘logic’ of her speech. Her flesh speaks true… Her speech, even when ‘theoretical’ or political, is never simple or linear or ‘objectified,’ generalized: she draws her story into history” (881).

“Even if phallic mystification has generally contaminated good relationships, a woman is never far from ‘mother’ (I mean outside her role functions: the ‘mother’ as nonname and as source of goods). There is always within her at least a little of that good mother’s milk. She writes in white ink.

…There always remains in woman that force which produces/is produced by the other–in particular, the other woman. In her, matrix, cradler; herself giver as her mother and child; she is her own sister-daughter…. Everything will be changed once woman gives woman to the other woman. There is hidden and always ready in woman the source; the locus for the other. The mother, too, is a metaphor. It is necessary and sufficient that the best of herself be given to woman by another woman…” (881).

“Text: my body” (882).

“In women there is always more or less of the mother who makes everything all right, who nourishes, and who stands up against separation; a force that will not be cut off but will knock the wind out of the codes. We will rethink womankind beginning with every form and every period of her body” (882).

“Woman un-thinks the unifying, regulating history that homogenizes and channels forces, herding contradictions into a single battlefield. In woman, personal history blends together with the history of all women, as well as national and world history” (882).

“The new history is coming; it’s not a dream, though it does extend beyond men’s imagination, and for good reason” (883).

“It is impossible to define a feminine practice of writing, and this is an impossibility that will remain, for this practice can never be theorized, enclosed, coded–which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. But it will always surpass the discourse that regulates the phallocentric system; it does and will take place in areas other than those subordinated to philosophico-theoretical domination. It will be conceived of only by subjects who are breakers of automatisms, by peripheral figures that no authority can ever subjugate” (883).

Men sometimes say their writing is “bisexual, hence neuter,” or “the classic conception of bisexuality, which, squashed under the emblem of castration fear and along with the fantasy of a ‘total’ being (though composed of two halves), would do away with the difference experienced as an operation incurring loss, as the mark of dreaded sectility” (884). (AD: re: H.D.’s logos-womb combination)

“To this self-effacing, merger-type bisexuality, which would conjure away castration (the writer who puts up his sign: ‘bisexual written here, come and see,’ when the odds are good that it’s neither one nor the other), I oppose the other bisexuality on which every subject not enclosed in the false theater of phallocentric representationalism has founded his/her erotic universe. Bisexuality: that is, each one’s location in self of the presence–variously manifest and insistent according to each person, male or female–of both sexes, nonexclusion either of the difference or of one sex, and, from this self-permission, multiplication and the effects of the inscription of desire, over all parts of my body and the other body” (884).

“In a certain way, ‘woman is bisexual’; man–it’s a secret to no one–being poised to keep glorious phallic monosexuality in view” (884).

We have no womanly reason to pledge allegiance to the negative. The feminine (as the poets suspected) affirms: “…And yes,’ says Molly, carrying Ulysses off beyond any book and toward the new writing; ‘I said yes, I will Yes.'”

The Dark Continent is neither dark nor unexplorable. – It is still unexplored only because we’ve been made to believe that it was too dark to be explorable. And because they want to make us believe that what interests us is the white continent, with its monuments to Lack. And we believed. They riveted us between two horrifying mythsL between the Medusa and the abyss. That would be enough to set half the world laughing, except that it’s still going on” (885).

“Wouldn’t the worst be, isn’t the worst, in truth, that women aren’t castrated, that they have only to stop listening to the Sirens (for the Sirens were men) for history to change its meaning? You only have to look at the Medusa straight on to see her. And she’s not deadly. She’s beautiful and she’s laughing” (885).

“I’ll give you your body and you’ll give me mine. But who are the men who give women the body that women blindly yield to them? Why so few texts?” (885).

“Such is the strength of women that, sweeping away syntax, breaking that famous thread (just a tiny little thread, they say) which acts for men as a surrogate umbilical cord, assuring them…” (886).

“…new women, after whom no intersubjective relation will ever be the same. You, Dora, you the indomitable, the poetic body, you are the true ‘mistress’ of the Signifier” (886).

“Now, I-woman am going to blow up the Law: an explosion henceforth possible and ineluctable; let it be done, right now, in language” (887).

“Nor is the point to appropriate their instruments, their concepts, their places, or to begrudge them their position of mastery. Just because there’s a risk of identification doesn’t mean that we’ll succumb. Let’s leave it to the worries, to masculine anxiety and its obsession with how to dominate the way thins work– knowing ‘how it works’ in order to ‘make it work.’ For us the point is not to take possession in order to internalize or manipulate, but rather to dash through and to ‘fly’.” (887). (AD: re: double meaning of the word  VOLER)

Unlike man, who holds so dearly to his title and his titles, his pouches of value, his cap, crown, and everything connected with his head, woman couldn’t care less about the fear of decapitation (or castration), adventuring, without the masculine temerity, into anonymity, which she can merge with without annihilating herself: because she’s a giver” (888).

“If there is a ‘propriety of woman,’ it is paradoxically her capacity to depropriate unselfishly: body without end, without appendage, without principal ‘parts.’ If she is a whole, it’s a whole composed of parts that are wholes, not simple partial objects but a moving, limitlessly changing ensemble, a cosmos tirelessly traversed by Eros, an immense astral space not organized around any one sun that’s any more of a star than the others” (889).

“Her libido is cosmic, just as her unconscious is worldwide. Her writing can only keep going, without ever inscribing or discerning contours, daring to make these vertiginous crossings of the other” (889).

“Her language does not contain, it carries; it does not hold back, it makes possible” (889).

“Begetting a child doesn’t mean that the woman or the man must fall ineluctably into patterns or much recharge the circuit of reproduction. …Either you want a kid or you don’t– that’s your business. Let nobody threaten you; in satisfying your desire, let not the fear of becoming the accomplice to a sociality succeed the old-time fear of being ‘taken'” (890).

“Let us demater-paternalize rather than deny woman, in an effort to avoid the co-optation of procreation, a thrilling era of the body. Let us defeishize. Let’s get away from the dialectic which has it that the only good father is a dead one, or that the child is the death of his parents. The child is the other, but the other without vilence, bypassing loss, struggle” (890).

“Oral drive, anal drive, vocal drive–all these drives are our strengths, and among them is the gestation drive–just like the desire to write: a desire to live self from within, a desire for the swollen belly, for language, for blood” (891).

“…when pregnant, the woman not only doubles her market value, but – what’s more important – takes on intrinsic value as a woman in her own eyes and, undeniably, acquires body and sex” (891).

“beware, my friend, of the signifier that would take you back to the authority of a signified! Beware of diagnoses that would reduce your generative powers” (892).

“In one another we will never be lacking” (893).

James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake

Joyce, James. Finnegan’s Wake

summary: “difficult vitality”

Introduction by John Bishop:

“There is no agreement as to what Finnegan’s Wake is about, whether or not it is ‘about’ anything, or even whether it is, in any ordinary sense of the word, ‘readable'” (vii).

“…the work which Joyce considered his greatest, and on which he rested his reputation…” (vii).

“…as his materials coalesced and a book took gradual shape, it evolved under the name of work in progress…” (vii).

“Its admirers see in it a comprehensive summa of twentieth-century culture and letters; its detractors, an arrogant compilation of arcane materials eccentrically patched together for the amusement of a literary elite” (viii).

“…any reader can enter Finnegan’s Wake and find something to absorb him–as long as he or she doesn’t expect to find it all in one place or, complementarily, understand everything else that appears around it” (ix).

“If, however, one surrenders the need to be master of everything–or even most things–in this strange and magnificent book, it will pour forth lots of rewards. As it says in the Irish American ballad from which Joyce derived his title, after all, ‘There’s lots of fun at Finnegan’s wake” (ix). (AD: see Cixous on ‘mastery’)

“…the book is not narrative-driven (Joyce pointed out that ‘the book really has no beginning or end… It ends in the middle of a sentence and begins in the middle of the same sentence’) it is theoretically possible to start reading Finnegan’s Wake anywhere and still derive pleasure and reward from it. Perhaps the only way not to enjoy Finnegans Wake is to expect that one has to plod through it word by word making sense of everything in linear order” (x).

“Though no one knows precisely how many languages Joyce worked into Finnegans Wake (the estimate is somewhere between sixty and seventy), finding them and puzzling over them is part of the book’s fun” (xi).

“It also even happens commonly enough that readers with specialistic kinds of expertise will discover in Finnegans Wake elaborate treatments of matters of which Joyce could not possibly have been aware… There is nothing in the least wrong with this infinitely accommodating and pluralistic openness to meaning: part of the glory of Finnegans Wake, it demonstrates in yet another way how catholically the Wake invites the participation of all readers in common, and it also surely reflects the kind of preordained discovery that no doubt goes on in any act of reading and interpretation” (xii).

“…it even encourages the expansion of our understanding of what exactly it means–or can mean–to read” (xii).

” ‘Reading’ turns out to be as pluralistically malleable a procedure in Finnegans Wake as are interpretation and the discovery of meaning” (xiii).

“…many readers have compellingly argued that the best and most valuable way to read Finnegans Wake–perhaps the only way–is in a group, collectively, where the individualized expertises of all participants can be made to enliven and illuminate the text, and where the text in turn can illuminate for the benefit for everyone else the peculiar talents and idiosyncrasies of each participant… the common reader looking for some guidance in getting through the book is more or less at the mercy of anyone who wants to explain it” (xiii).

Richard Ellman’s biography James Joyce: Joyce said “Having written Ulysses about the day, I wanted to write this book about the night” (xiv).

“…as Freud and other students of the dream have noted, ‘at bottom, dreams are nothing other than a particular form of thinking, made possible by the conditions of the state of sleep” (xv).

“…thinking about Finnegans Wake as a study of ‘the night mind of man’ will help to explain and justify Joyce’s decision to write the book in a stream of fluid and multiply signifying neologisms, since his interest in ‘reconstructing the nocturnal life’ would have required him to evoke things happening on several places at once, and since in all but the most mechanistic accounts of dream formation, dreams are ‘overdetermined’: the images of which they are particled together, that is, mean at least ‘two thinks at a time'” (xvi). (AD: the ‘night life of man” sounds a lot like the dark continent of woman and feminine rhetoric (re: Freud and Cixous)

Finnegans Wake asks its reader to undergo a wholesale mental adjustment: to ‘suit the aesthetic of the dream,’ the book does away with characters, sequential plotting, and other narrative conventions. As Joyce puts it, ‘there are, so to say, no individual people in the book–it is as in a dream, the style gliding and unreal as is the way with dreams” (xvi).

“A patriarch and the head of a family… Less a character, properly speaking, than a psychic state…” (xvii).

“…some readers have striven to derive a ‘plot’…” (xviii). Instead, the structure is one of ‘deepening embedment (Book I) and resurrection (Books II-IV). The book follows the course of a downward-plunging parabola, in this view, descending from the fall into sleep at its beginning into a darkest center and then reascending toward dawn, light, and reawakening as it nears its end” (xix).

“his recumbent body swims into and out of view throughout the chapter” (xx).

“…if the maintenance by day of a solid patriarchal male identity necessitates the repression of outlawed, feminine, and childish qualities, those qualities precisely–and aspects therefore of HCE’s unconscious–are what come to the fore in the next sequence of four chapters in Finnegans Wake” (xxi).

the valence of the word “wake” can be funereal as well as resurrective

“…even the briefest contact with the Wake tends to put one into reverie gear and to induce internally the process of bewildering self-loss, semantic recuperation, and eye-opening reawakening that is mapped out over the book as a whole” (xxv).


JAMES JOYCE: DEFINITION OF EPIPHANY An excerpt originally published in James Joyce’s Stephen Hero, edited by Theodore Spencer (New York: New Directions Press, 1944). Reprinted here from a new edition, eds. John J. Slocum and Herbert Cahoon (New York: New Directions Press, 1959), by permission of The Society of Authors as the literary representative of the Estate of James Joyce, the executors of the James Joyce Estate, the editor, and Jonathan Cape Ltd.

He [Stephen Hero] was passing through Eccles’ St one evening, one misty evening, with all these thoughts dancing the dance of unrest in his brain when a trivial incident set him composing some ardent verses which he entitled a “Vilanelle of the Temptress.” A young lady was standing on the steps of one of those brown brick houses which seem the very incarnation of Irish paralysis. A young gentleman was leaning on the rusty railings of the area. Stephen as he passed on his quest heard the following fragment of colloquy out of which he received an impression keen enough to afflict his sensitiveness very severely.

The Young Lady-(drawling discreetly) … 0, yes … I was … at the … cha … pel …

The Young Gentleman- (inaudibly) … I … (again inaudibly) … I …

The Young Lady-(softly) … 0 … but you’re … ve … ry … wick … ed .

This trivialit*y made him think of collecting many such moments together in a book of epiphanies. By an epiphany he meant ‘ a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether in the vulgarity of speech or of gesture or in a memorable phase of the mind itself. He believed that it was for the man of letters to record these epiphanies with extreme care, seeing that they themselves are the most delicate and evanescent of moments. He told Cranly that the clock of the Ballast Office was capable of an epiphany. Cranly questioned the inscrutable dial of the Ballast Office with his no less inscrutable countenance:

-Yes, said Stephen. I will pass it time after time, allude to it, refer to it, catch a glimpse of it. It is only an item in the catalogue of Dublin’s street furniture. Then all at once I see it and I know at once what it is: epiphany.


-Imagine my glimpses at that clock as the gropings of a spiritual eye which seeks to adjust its vision to an exact focus. The moment the focus is reached the object is epiphanised. It is just in this epiphany that I find the third, the supreme quality of beauty.

-Yes? said Cranly absently.

-No esthetic theory, pursued Stephen relentlessly, is of any value which investigates with the aid of the lantern of tradition. What we symbolise in black the Chinaman may symbolise in yellow: each has his own tradition. Greek beauty laughs at Coptic beauty and the American Indian derides them both. It is almost impossible to reconcile all tradition whereas it is by no means impossible to find the justification of every form of beauty which has ever been adored on the earth by an examination into the mechanism of esthetic apprehension whether it be dressed in red, white, yellow or black. We have no reason for thinking that the Chinaman has a different system of digestion from that which we have though our diets are quite dissimilar. The apprehensive faculty must be scrutinised in action.

-Yes …

-You know what Aquinas says: The three things requisite for beauty are, integrity, a wholeness, symmetry and radiance. Some day I will expand that sentence into a treatise. Consider the performance of your own mind when confronted with any object, hypothetically beautiful. Your mind to apprehend that object divides the entire universe into two parts, the object, and the void which is not the object. To apprehend it you must lift it away from everything else: and then you perceive that it is one integral thing, that is a thing. You recognise its integrity. Isn’t that so?

-And then?

-That is the first quality of beauty: it is declared in a simple sudden synthesis of the faculty which apprehends. What then? Analysis then. The mind considers the object in whole and in part, in relation to itself and to other objects, examines the balance of its parts, contemplates the form of the object, traverses every cranny of the structure. So the mind receives the impression of the symmetry of the object. The mind recognises that the object is in the strict sense of the word, a thing, a definitely constituted entity. You see?

-Let us turn back, said Cranly.

They had reached the corner of Grafton St and as the footpath was overcrowded they turned back northwards. Cranly had an inclination to watch the antics of a drunkard who had been ejected from a bar in Suffolk St but Stephen took his arm summarily and led him away.

-Now for the third quality. For a long time I couldn’t make out what Aquinas meant. He uses a figurative word (a very unusual thing for him) but I have solved it. Claritas is quidditas. After the analysis which discovers the second quality the mind makes the only logically possible synthesis and discovers the third quality. This is the moment which I call epiphany. First we recognise that the object is one integral thing, then we recognise that it is an organised composite stru ‘ cture, a thing in fact: finally, when the relation of the parts is exquisite, when the parts are adjusted to the special point, we recognise that it is that thing which it is. Its soul, its whatness, leaps to us from the vestment of its appearance. The soul of the commonest object, the structure of which is so adjusted, seems to us radiant. The object achieves its epiphany.

Having finished his argument Stephen walked on in silence. He felt Cranly’s hostility and he accused himself of having cheapened the eternal images of beauty. For the first time, too, he felt slightly awkward in his friend’s company and to restore a mood of flippant familiarity he glanced up at the clock of the Ballast Office and smiled:

-It has not epiphanised yet, he said.

Hélène Cixous, The Exile of James Joyce

Cixous, Hélène. The Exile of James Joyce. 

“In real life, James became accustomed to insecurity, and probably profited from it in the form of experience to be used artistically; the difficulty of everyday life led him to the building of imaginary replacements” (4). Joyce existed in a “sort of no-man’s-class” (4). (AD: women find inspiration here, also.)

“He becomes attached to himself and gives himself a world from which no father can disinherit him. He sets up a permanent place in a universe over which history has no power, the universe of art and culture. Indeed, it would not be wrong to suppose that even Joyce’s metaphors are responses to the unpleasant nature of real images. Necessity makes him walk, and he is to create a character who dreams of flying. The complete lack of actual space belonging to him is doubtless at the origin of the need for infinite space manifested in the character of the artist” (4). (AD: these are feminine experiences: disinheritance from the Father, embodying Nature’s unpleasant, the complete lack of space belonging to one. Feminine experience breeds feminine writing?)

– also, “as the eldest, it must be he who bears the crushing burden of family responsibility for his father” (7). (AD: this is also a traditionally feminine activity; managing the domestic for the Father)

According to Cixous, family for Joyce means 1) a succession of births and deaths that he must watch and 2) quarreling between men and women (5).

“The family as a unity does not exist in Joyce’s work until Finnegan’s Wake; in Portrait and Ulysses, it appears as a rather cahotic arrangement centred around the father and constantly threatened with collapse” (9). (AD: This seems like a bit of a stretch: nothing is exactly a “unity” in the Wake; it is more coherent at best)

“This decentralization of the family [in Portrait and Ulysses] and this move toward the creation of archetypes (Adam and Eve) constitute the first step toward Finnegan’s Wake” (13).

This is part of Joyce’s “progress toward the universal mean,” or men and women who are no longer individuals but represent “the suppression of all possibility of difference, either by virtue or by vice, by any accidental good luck or misfortune” (13).

Finnegan’s Wake is, according to Cixous, an “archetypal world” (14).

“His vision of the world concerns an un-historicised human race, and his ethical views correspond curiously with the morality of a man trained and influenced by theologians. The city disgusts him, but there are still the people; if he dislikes the people, there i still Man” (16).

Joyce creates “micro-histories” in his novels in order to escape from the actual, disappointing history happening around him (17).

“Joyce finds his place in movement, in a perpetual ‘progress’ which seeks no end because the only end is death and every halt an image of death. The ‘progress,’ in the sense of projection towards the future, is practice, is work (17). (AD: this style may be matrixial insofar as it is un-concentrated (as Cixous later says, polycentral) movement, but may still be phallic insofar as it seems to enact a linear progression forward)

Finnegan as an ark to contain all human myths and types; the world, in its blind lust to seek its own destruction, could wipe itself out, for Finnegan’s Wake had saved its symbols, its notations, and its cultural patterns” (18). (AD: when you smoosh all of them together, though, it becomes illegible to individual myths/types (“polycentral”))

“…the slaughter of ‘literature,’ like a ritual memory…the passage from political murder to sexual aggression” (164).

“The young Joyce’s relations with the language were already charged with sinister overtones, and this may explain the importance he attributes at beginning of his autobiographical meditation to a capture of the world by means of words; this is why the epiphany it exerted an irresistible attraction on the young artist. Phrases petrify into objects, so that he who perceives them can possess and make use of them” (165). (AD: Cixous emphasizes Joyce’s desire to objectify and possess and master words even as he enacts feminine linguistic schema.)

“Far from enmeshing himself in the obscure retreats of sentimentality and being satisfied with the contemplation of a safely protected inner world, he was always in touch, open to the outside world, taking sides and supporting causes” (167). (AD: sounds like Irigaray and ‘radical openness’)

“…his critical essays prior to 1904 are superbly constructed and already pregnant with the aesthetic theories of the mature Joyce” (171). (AD: Cixous constructs his writing as able to access the feminine insofar as it can be pregnant)

“Joyce used to say of himself, quite justly, that he had no imagination, but simply a good memory and the gift of observation, and for him the ‘ineffable’ was the enemy, because Joyce wished to be a writer who said everything” (171). (ADFinnegan’s Wake then is not an ineffable expression, but a deliberate exercise in the effable.)

Strong focus on Joyce as poet rather than novelist–something special about poetry, écriture féminine, (in)effability

– “Poetry is founded on metaphor and its correspondences, and the novel on narrative that follows the order of spatial and temporal contiguities” (633). (AD: Joyce’s work does the former rather than the latter. Wake is a poem.)

“When the emotion has passed, the theoretical man takes up the dreams, and once for all places poetry, the superior form of lyric art, outside, and away from, actuality:

Poetry, even when apparently most fantastic, is always a revolt against artifice, a revolt, in a sense, against actuality. It speaks of what seems fantastic and unreal to those who have lost the simple intuitions which are the tests of reality; and, as it is often found at war with its age, so it makes no account of history…History of the denial of reality, for they are two names for one thing, may be said to be that which deceives the whole world” (173). (AD: poetry and history are at odds; Joyce chooses poetry perhaps not necessarily out of inherent belief in poetry but out of distaste with history. The second paragraph is Joyce’s words, the first Cixous’s.)

Joyce feels that an “impatience” lies at the “origin of the work of art. Art (that is, ‘every method which concerns itself with present things to transform and fashion them in such a way that a quick intelligence may overtake them and reach the profound meaning that is not yet expressed’) must not do any violence to this impatience… [this formulation] is close to the formulation of the ‘epiphany'” (174).

For Joyce, “literature” is interested only in history and historical events while “art” is interested in human nature (175).

Joyce was “treated as a madman or a heretic” (177).

“His horror of the hypocrisy of the flesh, which formed part of his intense need for honesty to himself, was certainly excessive, because it constituted a reply to the excessive denaturing of the human which took place in Ireland…” (180).

“But it was necessary for Ireland to be still the ungrateful old woman who kills her children, for otherwise Joyce might have felt obliged to fight for her cause” (265).

The idea of the “antiportrait”(264)

illegible characters make us question their being entirely.

“He has long considered his fellow-citizens as ‘beingless beings’; and the problem of how a living man could be non-existent, like a dead man, had preoccupied him…” (277).

“Parnell is only a name now, and behind that name there is death; but it is not so simple as that, for it is not merely a matter of Parnell’s being dead and buried, for his name also is dead; and the death of that name has caused the boy Stephen also to ‘wander out of existence.’ In earlier days, at the mere mention of Parnell’s name, Ireland was in turmoil, in action; the name was magic, calling the soul of Ireland to its awakening… He discovers that the Word itself may be mortal, may be reduced to a mere sound, closed, self-contained, and with no more significance than its literal meaning. God is not he who is, but he who speaks, whose word is the infinite space of all men’s dreams” (279).

(in Portrait) “To say, in such a void, ‘I am Stephen Dedalus,’ is simply to register the fact that one has moved one’s tongue and exhaled, that one has experienced the metaphysical anguish of non-existence, and that one knows that no one has listened” (280).

“Joyce was able to establish that the relationship between word and reality, between sound and sense, depended as much on the hearer as on the speaker. The symbol, i.e., the fullness of sense that comes after the actual noise, is fragile, and it is not sufficient merely to speak; in order to exist one must also be received, listened to, understood…

On the sexual level, which in Joyce’s thought must always be present in all metaphysical meditation, the fragility of the symbol and of the fullness of meaning signifies that the man to whom woman does not respond is a mere nothing, scarcely extant at all…. On the aesthetic level, this thinking makes Joyce will all his speaking to be intelligible, since he is so acutely conscious of the need to be read and well, correctly, read. It eventually brings him to the attempt to save his work from death through inaudibility, gradually reducing the distance between the word and its appeal to the senses, and trying, particularly in Finnegan’s Wake, to create a full kind of writing–a language that would be immediately understood and meaningful” (281). (AD: Is Wake then actually meaningful/intelligible? If so, this must be a different kind of intelligence/intelligibility than what we are used to. This is what Joyce thinks will save him in posterity, though.)

“the sympathy Joyce feels for the freely-thinking man dominates his idea of exile–which is simply a necessary condition for the exercise of free thought” (356).

In Portrait, Dedalus attempts to impose order on the universe and delineate his space within it through written words:

“Stephen Dedalus

Class of Elements

Congowes Wood College


County Kildare



The World

The Universe” (361)

“Everyday language has to be seen as artistic substance. Joyce attempts to renew the power of everyday words, in order that the ordinary may be both its banal self and revelatory of something other than its outward appearance; the outer surface has in fact become so worn that it is virtually invisible. This renewal can only be achieved by means of comparison and modification, by the introduction of an element or form that catches the attention. Thus, the banal when placed in a literary context takes on the full force of its vulgarity and plainness…” (600).

“in Finnegan’s Wake, the words themselves contain the meaning carried by an ordinary sentence, while the linear construction of the latter is burst asunder and replaced by a kind of verbal galaxy” (606). (AD: matrixial rather than phallic construction of both argument and text)

“The dream [in Portrait], transcribed without comment, is in fact one of Joyce’s own. The unconscious is allowed to speak, or rather the unconscious produces wordless images; this is a recognition by Joyce of the existence of non-verbal zones, but also an absolute negation of the original definition of ‘epiphany’ as the claritas of an object or emotion” (617).

“Joyce does not hesitate to move from the almost therapeutic rationalism of Aristotle to the mystic experience of the Romantic poet; he finds himself at the other limit of language, on the boundaries of the ineffable, close to that absent but guessed-at word that so charmed the symbolists, and the epiphany comes forth from an ordered mediaeval universe in which everything has its place, meaning, and function, whose imaginary representation could be made into a three-dimensional model. …the artist ‘sees’ the object in such a way that his action is one of possession rather than recognition, and this is at once followed by the extinction of the static light and by a feeling of despair and dispossession” (618).

The epiphany makes its revelation in a language without words; any words that are heard are those the subject attributes to the object. Curiously enough, people stop, as though concretely to carry out that stasis which emotionally corresponds to their recognition of the phenomenon. And the artist’s work is to comprehend the extent and the significance of the scene, to reproduce the sad eloquence of silence and howls. It is as though the dog or the object were expressing the very souls of the passers-by; in their act of recognition there is tacitly a surprised admission of the fact that it is the world that expresses man, and not man who makes the world by his word” (620).

Joyce’s “occult parallel world” and Thoth 631

“This vision in the dark behind closed eyelids is not an isolated one; it fits into a vast network of correspondences which spreads its ramifications out to Finnegan’s Wake, forming a meaningful whole of baroque richness of detail” (659).

“In spite of the establishment of a symbolism which implies the existence of a double reality, language remains an intermediary between subject and object in Portrait, and the ‘other side’ is only project through the subject and then at once given fixed form in prose” (662).

“Language establishes the continuity between the two worlds until Stephen feels himself exiled from the one by excess ugliness and from the other by excess of loneliness. At this point he passes into the third world, that of words, where the streets are sentences and the palace are poems, and the poor quarter are disconnected speeches. This is where what Stephen calls the ‘soul’ resides” (664).

Ulysses is written in a language which is attempting to live by its own phonetic substance and at the same time is written partly in the sickly language of classical literature, which strives to repeat and transmit the same ancient messages of the human mind… After the diagnosis of Ulysses, the only thing to do is to set out again. And Joyce moves on to the world of dream and of the infinity of possibles, playing with an unlimited language which is the only space where one is not required to leave: the only ‘place’ which is truly his own. Here the artist is an outlaw beyond every law, including those of grammar, and he can move around freely, indefinitely, without needing to fear that at the mouth of the labyrinth reality may be lying in wait for him. Finnegan’s Wake is, in short, the final statement of the artist as heretic, and the admission with if one wishes not to be subject to the control of theology, there is only one solution–not to come out, not to be born, to refuse to answer ‘present,’ to refuse to represent the world in the traditional terms which are already dictated by the Divine… ‘Realism,’ from this point of view, is nothing but art obeying the orders of Creation, reciting or quoting from the work of an Other who holds all the copyrights” (672). (AD: accepting logos and logical methods of narrative construction means accepting the Institutions of which logos forms the base. Feminine writing is subversive.)

Ulysses as polyvocality, multiplicity 674

“There is an intellectual order hidden within and beyond the apparent chaos of details” (678). (AD: is the intellectual “order” here necessarily logos-driven, or can there be a feminine “order”?)

“The manner of writing, what Joyce calls the ‘technique,’ depends not on the moment of creation but on the object of the work; writing is intended to be a comprehension of reality, and the form of what is written is a language which resembles the reality, not the writer” (688).


“If we admit that the author of Ulysses … has created his characters and then refined himself out of existence and that his story is built up in a ‘natural’ fashion, according to its own laws, with no point of view indicated for the reader’s guidance, then if the book is to remain a book rather than a filmed documentary we must choose before we read some centre of reference, some character plot, place, or time, which will give a relative meaning to the vast amount of material confronting us. If the hypothesis of the disappearance of the author is set aside, most readres would agree on a number of points–for instance, that Ulysses does not relate one story, and that it has no ‘unity.’ But it has a limited polycentrality, rather than an unlimited formless multiplicity” (696).

“Joyce also tries to replace the imagery common to Western thought, with its implications of a beginning and an end, a here and a there, a past and a present, a self and an other, by a world without history, a continuous world of osmosis. Space is then no longer defined by personal landmarks, and one’s surroundings are not a line separating the known and visible from a beyond which is different and strange. …This is not chaos, but the polycentrality that has replaced egocentricity or theocentricity” (701). (AD: smacks of Irigaray’s diffusion)

“the idea of hierarchy is destroyed by the apparently equal status of all the fragments, just as the establishment of a generalised time present in which future and past are mingled destroys the ideas of development and becoming; and there is no system of values because the pattern of correspondences does not proceed from ‘below’ to ‘above,’ and because its terms are all reversible” (722).

“The world is no longer that space ruled by hierarchy in which the animal functions are inferior to the operations of reason, but rather an horizon made up of chains of insignificant factors” (728).

Finnegan’s Wake, which is not a finite book but an example of this writing that withholds the last word, that is intended to last forever, mouthing a breath that never ceases to be…” (735).

H.D., Notes on Thought and Vision

Doolittle, Hilda. Notes on Thought and Vision.

First sentence: “Three states or manifestations of life: body, mind, over-mind. Aim of men and women of highest development is equilibrium, balance, growth of the three at once” (17).

“All reasoning, norma,, sane and balanced men and women need and seek at certain times of their lives, certain definite physical relationships. …To shun, deny and belittle such experiences is to bury one’s talent carefully in a napkin” (17).

“That over-mind seems a cap, like water, transparent, fluid yet with definite body, contained in a definite space. It is like a closed sea-plant, jellyfish or anemone.  Into that over-mind, thoughts pass and are visible like fish swimming under clear water” (19).

“I first realised this state of consciousness in my head. I visualise it just as well, now, centered in the love-region of the body or placed with a foetus in the body” (19).

“Is it easier for a woman to attain this state of consciousness than for a man? For me, it was before the birth of my child that the jelly-fish consciousness seemed to come definitely into the field or realm of the intellect or brain. Are these jelly-fish states of consciousness interchangeable? Should we be able to think with the womb and feel with the brain? …Vision is of two kinds–vision of the womb and vision of the brain. In vision of the brain, the region of consciousness is above and about the head; when the centre of consciousness shifts and the jelly-fish is in the body…we have vision of the womb or love-vision” (20).

“The majority of dream and of ordinary vision os vision of the womb. The brain and the womb are both centres of consciousness, equally important” (21).

“The love-brain and over-brain are both capable of thought. This thought is vision.

All men have possibilities of developing this vision” (23).

“Memory is the mother, begetter of all drama, idea, music, science or song” (23).

“My sign-posts are not yours, but if I blaze my own train, it may help to give you confidence and urge you to get out of the murky, dead, old, thousand-times explored old world, the dead world of overworked emotions and thoughts. But the world of the great creative artists is never dead” (24).

First you must read and enjoy with  your body, and then try your intellect. Then your over-ind (30-1).

“Yet to understand dung chemically and spiritually and with the earth sense, one must first understand the texture, spiritual and chemical and earth, of the rose that grows from it… If you can not be seduced by beauty, you cannot learn the wisdom of ugliness” (32). (AD: re: the Moderns who are obsessed with ugliness and the disjointedness of the world)

“To accept life–but that is dangerous.

It is also dangerous not to accept life.

To every man and woman in the world it is given at some time or another, in some form or another, to make the choice.

Every man and woman is free to accept or deny life–to accept or reject this questionable gift–this thistle” (39). (re: personal symbology of thistle & serpent)

“This thistle–life, love, martyrdom–leads in the end–must lead in the logical course of events to death, paradise, peace.

That world of death–that is, death to the stings of life, which is the highest life– may be symbolised by the serpent.

The world of vision has been symbolised in all ages by various priestly cults in all countries by the serpent.

In my personal language or vision, I call this serpent a jelly-fish” (40). (there’s the key!)

H.D. v. young scholar: while her vision moves upward (sub-conscious mind, conscious mind, over conscious mind), his moves downward (conscious mind, sub-conscious mind, universal mind)

“The body, I suppose, like a lump of coal, fulfills its highest function when it is being consumed… We cannot have the heat without the lump of coal. Perhaps so we cannot have the spirit without body, the body of nature, or the body of individual men and women” (47-8).

“These jelly-fish, I think, are the ‘seeds cast into the ground.’ But as it takes a man and a woman to create another life, so it takes these two forms of seed, one in the head and one in the body to make a new spiritual birth. I think that is why I saw them as jelly-fish. They are really two flecks of protoplasm and when we are ‘born again,’ we begin not as a child but as the very first germs that grow into a child” (50).

“Probably we pass through all forms of life and that is very interesting. But so far I have passed through these two, I am in my spiritual body a jelly-fish and a pearl. We can probably use this pearl, as a crystal ball is used, for concentrating and directing pictures from the world of vision” (50).

“It is necessary to work, to strive toward the understanding of the over-mind. But once a man becomes conscious of this jelly-fish above his head, this pearl within his skull, this seed cast into the ground, his chief concern automatically becomes his body. Once we become concretely aware of this pearl, this seed, our centre of consciousness shifts. Our concern is with the body” (50-1).

“I image it has often been said that the body is like an oyster and the soul or spirit, a pearl. But today I saw for myself that the jelly-fish over my head had become concentrated… I understood exactly what the Galilean meant by the kingdom of heaven, being a pearl of great price.

Then in the same relation, the body was not a very rare or lovely thing. The body seemed an elementary, unbeautiful and transitory form of life. Yet here again, I saw that the body had its use. The oyster makes the pearl in fact. So the body, with all its emotions and fears and pain in time casts off the spirit, a concentrated essence, not itself, but made, in a sense, created by itself” (51).


Richard Aldington, Death of a Hero

In a letter to Halcott Glover, he writes: “This book is not the work of a professional novelist. It is, apparently, not a novel at all. Certain conventions of form and method in the novel have been erected, I gather, into immutable laws, and are looked upon with quite superstitious reverence. They are entirely disregarded here. To me the excuse for the novel is that one can do any damn thing one pleases” (vii).

“I suppose this is a jazz novel” (viii).

Opener: “The casualty lists went on appearing for a long time after the Armistice–last spasms of Europe’s severed arteries. Of course, nobody  much bothered to read the lists. Why should they? The living must protect themselves from the dead, especially the intrusive dead… a good deal of forgetting had to be done” (3).

“Religious convictions are such an easy excuse for being nasty” (5).

Winterbourne’s cheating mother with her lover:

“They’ve killed hi,m, those vile, filthy foreigners. My baby son.”

Sam Browne, still mystified, read the telegram. He then stood to attention, saluted (although not wearing a cap) and said solemnly:

“A clean sportin’ death, an Englishman’s death” (6).

“So much for George’s father and George’s death. The ‘reactions’ (as they are called) of Mrs. Winterbourne were different. She found it rather exciting and stimulating at first, especially erotically stimulating” (9). .. “The effect of George’s death on her temperament was, strangely enough, almost wholly erotic. The war did that to lots of women. All the dying and wounds and mud and bloodiness–at a safe distance–gave them a great kick, and excited them to an almost unbearable pitch of amorousness. Of course, in that eternity of 1914-18 they must have come to feel that men alone were mortal, and they immortals; wherefore they tried to behave like houris with all available sheiks – hence the lure of ‘war work’ with its unbounded opportunities. And then there was the deep primitive psychological instinct–men to kill and be killed; women to produce more men to continue the process” (11).

“Elizabeth and Fanny were not grotesques. They adjusted themselves to the war with marvelous precision and speed, just as they afterwards adapted themselves to the post-war. They both had that rather hard efficiency of the war and post-war female, veiling the ancient predatory and possessive instincts of the sex under a skillful smoke-barrage of Freudian and Havelock Ellis theories. To hear them talk theoretically was most impressive. They were terribly at ease upon the Zion of sex, abounding in inhibitions, dream symbolism, complexes, sadism, repressions, masochism, Lesbianism, sodomy, etc.Such wise young women, you thought; no sentimental nonsense about them. No silly emotional slip-slop messes would ever come their way. They knew all about the physical problem, and how to settle it. There was the physical relationship and the emotional relationship and the intellectual relationship; and they knew how to manage all three, as easily as a pilot with twenty years; experience brings a handy ship to anchor in the Pool of London. They knew that freedom, complete freedom, was the only solution. The man had his lovers, and the woman had hers. But where there was a ‘proper relationship’ nothing could break it. Jealousy? It was impossible that so primitive a passion could inhibit those enlightened and rather flat bosoms. Female wiles and underhand tricks? Insulting to make such a suggestion. No, men. Men must be ‘free’ and women must be ‘free'” (17)

But then when something goes wrong with Elizabeth’s period and she thinks she’s going to have a baby, she freaks out and makes George marry her. Fertility breeds conservativism in women (18).

“Then there was a blazing row, Elizabeth at George, and then Fanny at George, and then–epic contest–Elizabeth at Fanny. Poor old George got so fed up he went off and joined the infantry” (19). Neither of them even want him. Female fertility drives man to war. Man is the battleground of the female ego. “they only fought for Geroge in a desultory way as a symbol, more to spite each other…” (20).

“Friendships between soldiers during the war were a real and beautiful and unique relationship which has now entirely vanished, at least from Western Europe. Let me at once disabuse the eager-eyed Sodomites among my readers by stating emphatically once and for all that there was nothing sodomitical in these friendships” (23).

“The last batallion buglers blew that soul-shattering, heart-rending Last Post, with its inexorable chains of rapid sobbing notes and drawn-out piercing wails. I admit I did a lot of swallowing those few minutes. You can say what you will against the Army, but they treat you like a gentleman when you’re dead…” (27). (AD: re: Woolf on the pomp of the Army. When you are dead, the Army uses you as an inspirational symbol. Like women do.)

“The death of a hero! What mockery, what bloody cant. What sickening putrid cant. George’s death is a symbol to me of the whole sickening bloody waste of it, the damnable stupid waste and torture of it…George and his death became a symbol to me, and remain a symbol. Somehow or other we have to make these dead acceptable, we have to atone for them, we have to appease them” (28).

“What can we do?…It has got to be something in us. Somehow, we must atone to the dead, the dead, murdered, violently-dead soldiers. The reproach is not from them, but in ourselves. Most of us don’t know it, but it is there, and it poisons us. It is the poison that makes us heartless and hopeless and lifeless–us the war generation and the new generation, too. The whole world is blood-guilty, cursed like Orestes, and mad, and destroying itself, as if pursued by an endless legion of Eumenides. Somehow we must atone, somehow we must free ourselves from the curse–the blood guiltiness… That is why I am writing the life of George Winterbourne, a unit, one human body murdered, but to me a symbol” (29).

George’s creativity stunted in boyhood (by  his mother – not manly enough. Beat out of him also at the institution/the school)

The head of the school “invariably quoted” Rudyard Kipling, “you’ll be a man, my son. It is so important to know how to kill. Indeed, unless you know how to kill you cannot possibly be a Man, still less a Gentleman” (77). This “made a corpse of him” but it is not too high a price to pay to become a “manly gentleman” (77)

“They set out to produce a ‘type of thoroughly manly fellow,’ a ‘type’ which unhesitatingly accepted the prejudices, the ‘code’ put before it, docilely conformed to a set of rules” (81).

“his country did not need his brains, but his blood” (111). (AD: George is less important than his country. People are less important than institutions.)

lovers are like monkeys p 119

“Pre-war London was comparatively sober. Numbers of women did not even drink at all, and cocktails and communal copulation had not then been developed to their present state of intensity” (122).

“Poor Mrs. Shobbe! Her life must have been very unhappy. Her well-off Victorian parents…had given her a good education of travel and accomplishments, and had systematically and gently crushed her. It was chiefly the mother, of course, that abominable mother-daughter “love” which is compact of bullying, jealousy, parasitism and baffled sexuality. With what ghastly pertinacity does a disappointed wife ‘take it out’ on her daughter! Not consciously, of course, but the unconscious cruelty and oppression of human beings seem the most dreadful. To escape, she had married…” (130).

“Oh yes, you’ll get it, as long as that subtle female instinct warns them there is potency in your loins…” (135).


“Most animals hate their mature young” (139) and humans are no different. “The State exploits the love of a man for a woman and his tenderness toward her children–even she may not know whether they’re his or not. And so she’s taught to say: ‘Be careful, step warily, don’t offend any one, remember your first duty is to provide for me and the children…’ with the result that the poor man very soon becomes a member of the infinite army of respectable commuters…” (139).

Nature worship p 145

love is “rather primitive and humiliating” (147)

“Infinite subtlety of females! One must admit they need it” (153).

“Let us abandon these abstruse and arid speculations. …The point is, did George and Elizabeth (consider them for the moment, please, rather as types than individuals) come better prepared to the erotic life than their predecessors, were they more intelligent about it, did they make a bigger mess of things? … Liberty versus Restraint. Wise Promiscuity versus Monogamy” (158). (AD: it appears not, since it drove George to die in the war and drove his women to hate each other.)

Fathers, mothers, babies, conservatism 161

“fewer and better babies” 162

“Maybe we can learn something from the adulteries of others… They had seen in their own homes the dreadful unhappiness and suffering caused by Victorian, and indeed Edwardian, ignorance and domestic dennery and swarming infants, and they reacted violently against it. So far, good . But they failed to see that in the way they went about it, they were merely setting up another tyrrany–the tyrrany of Free Love” (167).

“Alas! With human nature what it is, the love-lives of most people will always alternate between brief periods of happiness and long periods of suffering…we can only look on and sigh at the ruined live; and reflect that men and women might be to each other the great consolation, while in fact they do little but torment each other…” (168).

And yet without lovers “how dreary the world would be” (169).

“Your whole adult life depends on how you deal with the two primitive foes, Hunger and Death” (171). For the “primitive, the proletarian, the common man and woman solution is merely one of quantity” (171).

rape, sex, money p 172-3

“They used their intelligence, they actually used their intelligence before embarking o n a joint sexual experience. That’s the great break in the generations. Trying to use some intelligence in life, instead of blindly following instincts and the collective imbecility of the ages as embodied in social and legal codes” (174).

elizabeth’s pride in deflowering 177

there’s logic in Free Love but George doesn’t really like the idea of Elizabeth actually doing it (179) Theory blinds us to reality, and we stick to theory rather than to what we want out of some sort of painful attempt to supersede ourselves

“And suppose he did deliberately get himself killed, ought we, ought I, to attach any blame to Elizabeth and Fanny? I don’t think so. There were plenty of other things to disgust him with life” (197).

Fertility leads to dementia 199

207 monologue “What right have I to live” when so many others have died? Absurdity of war and guilt on those it leaves. “What right have we to live? And the women?” Even though women worked, they don’t really have a right to live and should feel more guilty about being the one left behind.

“If there is a war,” said George, “it will be a sort of impersonal, natural calamity, like a plague or an earth-quake. But I should think that in their own interests all the governments will combine to avert it…” (224).

227 commoners shouting WE WANT WAR

sexual life is important and we don’t talk about it in the context of the War 229

“Good-bye, Bert. Good-bye, Harry. Good-bye, Tom. Good-bye, Jack. Good-bye” (246). (AD: re: Ophelia)

“I don’t believe the wretched governments really wanted it–they were shoved on by great forces they’re too timid and too unintelligent to control. It’s the superstition of more babies and more bread, more bread and more babies… this is fundamentally a population war–bread and babies, babies and bread. It’s all oddly mixed up with the sexual problem we were battling…” (252). Incredible monologue about “breeding” and the Army breeding.

“Come back whole, or not at all. But how these men love life, how blindly they cling to their poor existences! You wouldn’t think they have much to live for” (260).

Winterbourne happy amongst men who are men, soldiers who are men fighting (263)

the war animal vs the sexual animal (275)

“To be out of the piercing cold wind in the shelter of walls of earth was an immediate relief. Overhead shone the beautiful ironic stars” (282). (AD: beauty can only be absurd in this climate. War is the opposite of the creation of beauty)

“He saw that intellectually he was slowly slipping backwards…He saw that even if he escaped the War he would be hopelessly handicapped in comparison with those who had not served and the new generation which would be on his heels. It was rather bitter” (301).

He incites the goddess to avoid prostitutes/animal sex (307)

“It was too violent a thing to get accustomed to” (310).

“He shaded his eyes more carefully and saw they were ranks and ranks of wooden crosses. Those he could see had painted on them R. I. P.; then underneath was a blank space for the name…Excellent forethought, he reflected as he filled his bucket and his water-bottle; how well this War is organized!” (325).

The war turns Winterbourne from a sensitive child unable to wring a bird’s neck into a man who plays at trying to shoot rats in the barracks and laughs when they explode (339).

“Winterbourne began to feel as if he had made a pact with the Devil, so that other men were always being killed instead” (354).

“A chorus of girls in red pre-war military tunics sang a song about how all the girls love Tommy, kicking up their trousered legs in unison…” (368-9). Women / fertility used as bait to get men to fight wars.

It was an accident of his last name starting with W that he gets put in the battallion he dies in (384). Absurd.

“Something seemed to break in Winterbourne’s head. HE felt he was going mad, and sprang to his feet. The line of bullets smashed across his chest like a savage steel whip. The universe exploded darkly into oblivion” (392).



H. D., End to Torment


“H.D.’s last letters to Pound are signed ‘Dryad,’ the name he had given her when they were young” (vii).

“Pound contrived the school of ‘imagiste’ poetry at least partly to describe the specific qualities of H. D.’s early poems and to help get those poems into print (vii).

“This publication is a project sponsored by the Center for the Study of Ezra Pound and his Contemporaries, in the Beinecke Library of Yale University” (xii). (AD: so it is Pound rather than H.D.-centric)

relationship represented in mythical terms 17

she conceptualizes similarity bw their works 32

“Am I stealing, have I stolen? Is my own magpie nest a manger?” (47).


H. D., The Gift

Introduction written by Perdita Schaeffer, “Unless a Bomb Falls…”

“H. D. needed structure, total privacy, and the strictest schedule. Notebooks laid out in neat piles, pencils sharpened the night before. Everything ready, set to go–unless a bomb fell o the building… the times were ‘disintegrating’–one of her key words” (x).

“Mama–my grandmother–had a talent for painting. She was musical too; she sang in the choir. A fortune-teller predicted that she would have a child who was exceptionally gifted. She withdrew from the competition. She never painted or sang again.

The gifted child was, of course, Hilda. Little Hilda, who had no inkling of it for many years to come. The book is written entirely from a child’s point of view” (xii-xiii).

“The Gift provided escape” (xiv).

Epigraph at the beginning of the text: The brain comes into play, yes, but it is only the tool… the telephone is not the person speaking over it. The dark room is not the photograph. Death and its Mystery, Camille Flammarion (AD: is the telephone the gift? It invades her, it has some sort of autonomy over her)

First sentence: “There was a girl who was burnt to death at the seminary, as they called the old school where our grandfather was principal” (1). (AD: invokes history of witchcraft; smart girls being burnt because they don’t quite fit in with what the grandfathers demand)

“the girl who was burnt to death, was burnt to death in a crinoline. The Christmas tree was lighted at the end of one of the long halls and the girl’s ruffles or ribbons caught fire and she was in a great hoop” (1). (AD: literally killed by her feminine signifiers. Christ tree kills future witch)

“I was the inheritor….I inherited Fanny [who had died and caused some sorts of laughing hysteria] from Mama, from Mamalie, if you will, but I inherited Fanny. Was I indeed, Frances come back? Then I would be Papalie’s own child, for Papalie’s name was Francis; I would be like Mama; in a sense I would be Mama, I would have important sisters, and brothers only as seemly ballast. Why was it always a girl who had died? Why did Alice die and not Alfred? Why did Edith die and not Gilbert? I did not cry because Fanny died, but because I had inherited Fanny. Mama cried (although I had seldom seen her cry) because Fanny died, so Mama had cried. I did not cry. The crying was frozen in me, but it was my own, it was my own crying. There was Alice–my own half-sister, Edith–my own sister, and I was the third of this trio, these three Fates, or maybe Fanny was the third. The gift was there, but the expression of the gift was somewhere else.

It lay buried in the ground” (4).

[Papalie] “He was a minister, he read things out of the Bible, he said I am the light of the world…” (9).

“There were the others before these, who went back to the beginning of America and before America, but…. we were none of us ‘gifted,’ they would say… They didn’t think any of us were marked with that strange thing they called a gift, the thing Uncle Fred had had from the beginning, the thing Papalie (they said) wasn’t sure about, so Uncle Fred was put in a drugstore” (11).

“Mama gave all her music to Uncle Fred, that is what she did. That is why we hadn’t the gift, because it was Mama who started being the musician, and then she said she taught Uncle Fred; she gave it away…she should have waited and given the gift to us. But there were other gifts, it seemed” (12).

“The dog is now a myth, for that reason he appears in dreams, unmistakably and in the most satisfactory manner…

Mythology is actuality, as we now know. The dog…is of course none other than our old friend Ammon-Ra, whose avenue of horned sphinxes runs along the sand from the old landing-stage of the Nile barges to the wide portals of the temple at Karnak. He is Ammon or her is Amen, forever and ever. I want you know he is as ordinary as the cheap lithograph that used to hang in nursery bedrooms” (25). (AD: we can become myth, and myth can become us. There is overlap between the world of myth and mythical ideals & the world of reality and particular instances.)

“We may actually be reminded of our own or a friend’s dog, or we may know that we have seen, in the flesh, the Lion of Saint Mark’s or the Lion of Saint Jerome, or we may recognize our indisputable inheritance, Ammon, Amen from time immemorial, later Aries, our gold-fleece Ram” (26). (AD: golden fleece, searching and searching. Myth to quotidian in next sentence: “Our Ram, however, had not gold fleece…”)

“Men worshipped crocodiles in the days when men’s minds were not more developed than the minds of this row of children.

Papalie is leading them out of Egypt but they do not know that” (27). (Ad: how different is the child-man of the past from the religious now? Men, not women worshipped crocodiles)

“it would be impossible, even if you wanted to, to shut out the ‘thing’ that the fallen pine needles on the table conjured up; there was the moment when it began to happen, when indeed it had happened” (30). (AD: use of vague words like “it,” “that,” “thing”)

“The ‘thing’ was that we were creating. We were ‘making’…As we pressed the tin mold of the lion or the lady into the soft dough, we were like God in the first picture in the Doré Bible who, out of chaos, created Leo or Virgo to shine forever in the heavens. ‘We’ were like that, though we did not know it. Our perception recognized it, though our minds did not define it. God had made a Child, and we children in return now made God; we created Him as He had created us, we created Him as children will, out of odds and ends; like magpies, we built Him a nest of stray bits of silver thread, shredded blue or rose or yellow colored paper; we knew our power. We knew that God could not resist the fragrance of a burning beeswax candle!” (31).

[re: the wild ‘lady’ in the portrait p 38] “There was a picture of Pandora and her box in the Tanglewood Tales that Miss Helen read us, Friday after-noons if we were good, instead of lessons. Pandora let all evil things out of the box, but there was one good thing left; Miss Helen explained it was a myth. The good thing left was hope.

Everything would turn evil in the box but there was hope left, after everything evil had flown out” (39).

She has her father’s hands; physical parity with father. “They said, ‘She is quiet like her father.’ They said, ‘It’s funny the children aren’t gifted with such a brilliant father.’ What was this gift?” (42). (AD: syntactically, the father is part of the non-gift and the disapointment)

mercy has to die when a little girl p 42

Papa’s work is “very important” but nobody understands it. “Some day, I would ask Papa. I did not want to know really. What it was, was that he was separate, he was not really part of this table with the glass balls, with the tinsel paper, with the work-basket, with the paste pot, with the old gilt fir cones that Mama said we could paint over with some new gilt that she would get when she went in to shop in Philadelphia” (43). (aD: absent from domestic home sphere, this is all children register of him. Her father turns the magic of stars into capital, into the patriarch’s right to work and come home to quiet, into a salary, into something the children are barred from)

Mythology embedded in her even without books that her mother gives away: “That was the book, it had gone anyway now; Grimm was the children’s Bible… It was the same kind of thing, it was real. It went on happening, it did not stop” (48).

A serpent crawls into Mama and Papa’s bed and then children come… p 56

“Is it only a boy who may rub the wishing-lamp? I try it on the lamp on the stand in the parlor, but my wish does not happen, so maybe it is only a boy who may have the wish” (57).

The snake springs at her…. feels really traumatic and sexual and oral p 57, 59

“Helen, Hellas, Helle, Helios…” (58) (AD: linguistic alchemy)

witch in the nightmare: “Look at its face if you dare, it is meant to drive you crazy. It is meant to drive you mad so that you fall down in a fit like someone in the Bible and see a light from heaven. It is terrible to be a virgin because a virgin has a baby with God” (60).

“The lamp shining over our heads is the pillar-of-fire, and the snow is the pillar-of-cloud and never, in-time or out-of-time, can such children be lost, for their inheritance is so great. Gilbert must go to France, for Gilbert must inherit the pistol from Papa who was in our Civil War. Harold will inherit the mills and steel and numbers too… Hilda has inherited too much but she cannot let it go. There is the lamppost and the pillar-of-fire, and there is the cloud-by-day, the mystery, and Papa far ahead, a dark shape in the snow” (66). (AD: Harold inherits capitalism; Gilbert death; Hilda the Gift. Mills – pistol – too much. Feminine inheritance is never monetary, physical, practical; she makes her own work. If she didn’t inherit the gift she would have inherited nothing instead of too much. Anything is too much if you are meant for nothing.)

Mamalie had to trick her husband into leaving the secret with her, for the inheritance to be passed on (like Jacob and Esau) (79).

“I am in the word, I am gnadenhuetten the way Mamalie says it, though I do not know what it means… the word is like a beehive, but there are no bees in it now. I am the last bee in the bee hive, this is the game I play. The other bees have gone, that is why it is so quiet. Can one bee keep a beehive alive; I mean, can one person who knows that wunden eiland is a beehive, keep wunden eiland for the other bees when they come back? …but wunden eiland is not a thing you learn, it’s not a thing that anyone can teach you, it just happens” (83).

“Now Mamalie told this story which I did not altogether understand but pieced together afterwards–I mean long afterwards, of course, because the ‘thing’ that was to happen, that was in a sense to join me in emotional understanding, in intuition anyway, to the band of chosen initiates at Wunden Eiland, had not yet happened.

The ‘thing’ that was to happened, happened soon afterwards…I cannot date the time of the thing that happened, that happened to me personally, because I forgot it. I mean it was walled over and I was buried with it. I, the child was incarcerated as a nun might be, who for some sin–which I did not then understand–is walled up alive in her own cell or in some anteroom to a cathedral” (85). (AD: gift comes from a repressed trauma – connected to her father’s injury and perhaps also a sexual trauma; wound of female genitalia)

“Ritual of the Wounds. Christian, who was no mean scholar, glimpsed here a hint in Hebrew or followed a Greek text to its original, and so pieced out the story of the meeting…” (86). (AD: intelligence initiates the gift but then you have to work for it)

“I am sure it is not [Mamalie’s] fault, whatever it is. Maybe she was afraid they would burn her for a witch (like they did at Salem, Massachussetts) if she told them that she could sing Indian songs, though she didn’t know any Indian languages, and that she and her Christian had found out the secret of wunden eiland which, the church had said, was a scandal and a blot.

Maybe it was all shadows and pictures in Mamalie’s mind, maybe there never was a parchment, maybe there never was such a meting at wunden eiland, maybe there never was a wunden eiland ” (89). (AD: either way, it still matters and is still an inheritance, because it takes tangible reality to HD through the inheritance)

“Oh, Mamalie, there is such a lot I want to know…there is Anna von Pahlen, my dear, dear Anna who was Morning Star like the Princess with the nine brothers in the story that was lost, and she had lilies too, like I had a lily, only it was the short stem like a white cup, like a goblet, not like the branch of lilies the Madonna has on Easter cards or Jesus has on Easter cards when He comes out of the tomb” (99).

“Mamalie, don’t go away. Because the thing that will happen, will happen to me this winter…Mamalie wait, there is so much I want to ask you” (99). (AD: women need women foremothers; are often abandoned to figure it out ourselves because if we talk about it we are burned as witches)

Section titled WHAT IT WAS : “it” is inexctricably tied not as much with the ontology of “is” but of “was” ness

“What it was, was not appreciable at the moment. What happened did not take long to happen” (101). (ad: in a poem, we could parse out different units of meaning here: what it was was not, was not appreciable)

“That is not just what I mean, but that is what I mean” (106). (AD: the gift = getting as close as possible to meaning? What she means as a human as well as her words meaning)

gifted child foretold even before marriage: gifted fertility predates male contribution to childbirth (specialized fertility predates man and marriage)

section called “MORNING STAR” fast forward to London with Bryher

“I had learned a trick, lying on my bed, through the closed door, not ten feet away from my right elbow… there would come that moment when I had left myself lying secure and it did not matter what happened to the frozen image of myself lying on the bed, because there was a stronger image of myself; at least I did not see myself, but I was myself, whether with attributes of pure abstraction or of days and in places that had been the surroundings of my childhood…now all the accumulated wealth of being and impression would go down with the ship that was rising and falling” (133). (AD: the gift is traumatic dissociation? Dissociation that unravels self into history?)

alchemy where she transforms into different people and historical situations while remmebering her grandmother p 134-5

“I could visualize the very worst terrors, I could see myself caught in the fall of bricks, and I would be pinned down under a great beam, helpless… I was sick of fanatic courage, my own and that of those about me. We had had too much. The mind, the body is not built to endure so much. We had endured too much. I was tired of it” (136-7).

“It’s not just this raid,” I said, “it’s remembering all the others” (138). (AD: trauma recalls trauma which recalls trauma… her inheritance means that she recalls her own traumas as well as those of her foremothers)

“It had been worthwhile to prove to oneself that one’s mind and body could endure the very worst that life had to offer–to endure–to be able to face this worst of all trials, to be driven down and down to the uttermost depth of subconscious terror and to be able to rise again” (138).




H. D., HERmoine

Doolittle, Hilda. HERmoine. New York: New Directions, 1981.

[Copyright 1981 Perdita Schaeffer]

Introduction by Perdita Schaeffer: “Pandora’s Box”

“It’s all over now, I tell myself… but the past will not leave me alone. It pulls me back and under. It surrounds me. The more remote it may be, the closer the encirclement” (vii).

” ‘Your mother is working.’ In her room, behind a locked door. Funny kind of work; endless silence, followed by a barrage of typing. I wanted to be in that room. I resented being hauled away. I didn’t know what I know now: that small children and literary endeavor do not mix” (viii).

“I had two mothers. My real mother, H.D., who lived on an exceedingly rarefied plane. And her surrogate, Bryher, who took care of reality” (viii).

“Eugenia Gart, Hermoine’s mother. My mother’s mother, not yet my grandmother. The tale is set in an era before I was born. I also met ‘Ezra and the Pound,’ as the impetuous suitor, George Lowndes. And the ‘dangerous’ Frances Gregg, alias Fayne Rabb–the counterpoint of the love story. Not an easy book. IT shifts and jumps, and repeats itself. The voice is frequently overwrought–just like the author’s in real life. Yet there is a strange hypnotic force. I’m caught up in the momentum” (xi).

“Names, people; split dimensions…Hermoine of Greek mythology, daughter of Menelaeus and Helen. Also, most significantly to me, Shakespeare’s misunderstood heroine of The WInter’s Tale, mother of Perdita” (xi).

“I recognize one certainty in my future. I’ll never escape the past” (xi).

First sentence: “Her Gart went round in circles” (3). (AD: The ontology of “Her” is femininity, possession. She calls herself a shortened first name rather than the patronym.)

“I am Her,” she said to herself; she repeated, “Her, Her, Her.” …She cried in her dementia, ‘I am Her, Her, Her.” Her Gart had no word for her dementia, it was predictable by star, by star-sign, by year. But Her Gart was then no prophet” (3).

“She could not see the way out of marsh and bog. She said, ‘I am Hermoine Gart precisely.’ She said ‘I am Hermoine Gart,’ but Her Gart was not that. She was nebulous, gazing into branches of liriodendron, into network of oak and deflowered dogwood… The green that, each spring, renewed her sort of ecstasy, this year had let Her down. She knew that this year was peculiarly blighted. She could not predict the future but she could statistically accept the present. Her mind had been too early sharpened (3). (AD: is “Her” abstracted out into a pronoun for women generally? Is she an exact instance of an archetype?)


Her- me (Italian) – ne (negation)

Her- my – ne (negation)

“Hermoine Gart could not then know that her precise reflection, her entire failure to conform to expectations was perhaps some subtle form of courage” (4).

“She found that ‘I am Her Gart’ didn’t let her hold on. Her fingers slipped off; she was no longer anything. Gart, Gart, Gart and the Gart theorum of mathematical biological intention dropped out Hermoine. She was not Gart, she was not Hermoine, she was not any more Her Gart, what was she?” (4).

“I am Her Gart, my name is Her Gart…Nothing held her, she was nothing holding to this thing: I am Hermoine Gart, a failure” (4). (ADam = name ; ontology = nomination)

“She said, ‘I’m too pretty. I’m not pretty enough.’ She dragged things down to the banality, ‘People don’t want to marry me. People want to marry me I don’t want to marry people.’ She concluded, ‘One has to do something'” (5).

Names are in people, people are in names. Sylvania. I was born here. People ought to think before they call a place Sylvania… I am part of Sylvania… Trees are in people. People are in trees … Pennsylvania had her. She would never get away from Pennsylvania” (5). (AD: naming fertility causes fertility. People, names, nature, fertility all bound up with each other. Concentrating on the Sylvania she forgets Penn, the other name, the colonizer of the Sylvania. His name is also in the trees and in the being of the state. Colonization has something important to do with patronyms and therefore with ontology.)

“She felt herself go out, out into this water substance. Water was transparent, not translucent like this celluloid treestuff. She wanted to see through reaches of sea-wall, push on through transparencies. She wanted to get away, yet to be merged eventually with the thing she so loathed. She did not struggle toward escape of the essential” (7). (AD: sounds like her jellyfish theories in Notes on Thought and Vision).

“Tree walls were visible, were to be extended to know reach of universe. Trees, no matter how elusive, in  the end, walled one in. Trees were suffocation. ‘Claustrophobia’ was a word that Her Gart had not yet assimilated” (7). (AD: trees in people vs. sea in jellyfish. ‘assimilating words’ in order to become part of them and make them part of you.)

“She was not of the world, she was not in the world, unhappily she was not out of the world. She wanted to be out, get out but even as her mind filmed over with grey-gelatinous substance of some sort of nonthinking, of some sort of nonbeing or of nonentity, she felt psychic claw unsheathe somewhere, she felt herself clutch toward something that had no name yet. She clung to small trivial vestiges, not knowing why she so clung. Like a psychic magpie she gathered little unearthed treasures, things she did not want, yet clung to” (8).

“She realized in some atavistic cranny of her numbed brain that she would be herself and at peace if she had that great hound. Jock, breathing in her face, was an ungracious substitute… her instinct was to beat him off as he was not her dog but she saw instantly the inanity of her idea” (10). (AD: mystic ideal vs. actual substance – desire to destroy non-ideal physical counterpoint)

“Her took the short way” (11). (AD: “Her” disrupts the sentence. Her does not fit into linguistic structures; Her looks and sounds just off. Also emphasizes that language is not “Hers.”)

“Her mathematics and her biology hadn’t given her what she dreamed of” (12).

“Demigods were far off…but gods were watching. She had the temerity to boast some sort of odd mind, the sort of thing that, in Philadelphia, could not see cones of light set within cones, as of darkness” (12).

“Her did not realize that the watching-near God had slammed a gate so that she should attain a wider vision. In Philadelphia people did not realize that life went on in varying dimension, here a starfish and there a point of fibrous peony stalk with a snail clinging underneath it… There was a sort of ‘composition’ of elements that her mind, fused to the breaking point, now apprehended… she could put no name to the things she apprehended, felt vaguely that her mother should have insisted on her going on with music… it had not occurred to Her to try and put the thing in writing” (13).

“Words that had not (in Philadelphia) been invented, beat about them: Oedipus complex, inferiority complex, claustrophobia. Words beat and sizzled and a word bent backward like a saw in a sawmill reversed, turned inward, to work horrible destruction. The word ‘father’ as M innie spoke it, reversed itself inward, tore at the inner lining of the thing called Her Gart” (15). (AD: part of the gift is assimilating rather than weaponizing words)

pg 21 they discuss a stillborn child 

“The mind of Her Gart was a patchwork of indefinable association” (24).

“Things make people, people make things… Words beat and formed unformulated syllables. Her didn’t understand Gart and Bertrand and Carl and the acid, acid Minnie that ate into them… call it life so imply. I’m not at home in Gart. I’m not at home out of Gart” (25).

“I am out of the Temple Shakespeare. I am out of The Winter’s Tale. … Lilies of all kinds… I am out of this book… I am the word AUM. Hermoine dropped the volume. This frightened her. God is in a word. God is in a word. God is in HER. She said, ‘HER, HER, HER. I am Her, I am Hermione…I am the word AUM. This frightened her…She tried to forget the word AUM, said ‘UM, EM, HEM,’ clearing her throat, wondered if she had offended something, clearing her throat trying to forget the word… I am the word… the word was with God… I am the word… HER” (32). (AD: Alchemically God becomes female because she is a word that is God and she is female.)

“Hermoine Gart hugged HER to Hermoine Gart. I am HER. The thing was necessary. It was necessary to hug this thing to herself. It was a weight holding her down, keeping her down. Her own name was ballast to her light-headedness” (33). (AD: dissociation between Hermoine, Her, Gart, HER (God-name).)

“There are of course bits of colour to be thrown down like counters in a banking house, or chips across a poker table. All your life you will retain one or two bits of colour with which all your life will be violently or delicately tinted. You will have an infinitesimal grain of purple dye or a flat counter to hoard or to risk in one reckless spend-thrift moment. There are gamblers of the spirit as there are gamblers of the mind, passions of the psyche as well as passions of the body” (52).

[talking with Nellie]

“Your mind seems to have a definite octopus quality. Do you assimilate anything?’ ‘Assimilate?’ her Gart came to as from an anesthetic… Her words now were a gambler’s heritage, heady things, they would win for her, they would lose for her. Now as she realized that these very words must stand forever, her counters win or lose…” (62). (AD: is the gift of the jellyfish to not assimilate? Or is the octopus distinct from the jellyfish? Does Nellie get uncomfortably close to but not quite reach the jellyfish metaphor? Does the magpie assimilate or simply associate? Does the magpie-jellyfish create an assimilated cohesion or simply express the confusion of naming?)

“She wanted George as a child wants a doll, whose other dolls are broken. She wanted George as a little girl wants to put her hair up or to wear long skirts. She wanted George with some uncorrelated sector of Her Gart, she wanted George to correlate for her, life here, there. She wanted George to define and to make definable a mirage, a reflection of some lost incarnation, a wood maniac, a tree demon, a neuropathic dendrophil” (62). (AD: she wants a man, a heteronormative relationship with a man, in order to help her assimilate/ create cohesion?)

“George was the only young man who had ever kissed Her. George was the only person who had called her a ‘Greek goddess.’ George, to be exact, had said ruminatively on more than occasion, ‘You never manage to look decently like other people. You look like a Greek goddess or a coal scuttle.’ …There was that about George, he wanted to incarnate Her, knew enough to know that this was not Her.” (64).

“George was out of the Famous Painters’ Volume… George was made. He tricked up the George that was there all the time, in harlequin words, harlequin language. Was George made? Was there a George at all? ‘Is there a George at all?’

‘You’re nothing, George. I mean precisely nothing'” (69).

“Tree on tree on tree. TREE. I am the Tree of Life. Tree. I am a tree planted by the rivers of water. I am… I am… Her exactly.

Her caught Her to herself, swirled dynamically on flat heels and was off down the trickle of earth-colour that was the path cutting earth-colour through green pullucid water” (70). (AD: linguistic alchemy. Physical trees to the sign/signifier TREE to the Tree of Life (garden of Eden; man/woman) to the Psalms, to ontology, to her own being.)

“Hermoine let octopus-Hermoine reach out and up and with a thousand eyes regard space and distance and draw octopus arm back, only to replunge octopus-arm up and up into illimitable distance” (71). (AD: The saying she is like an octopus makes her like an octopus, creates Octopus-Hermoine. The many eyes and many reaching elements part of the Gift.)

“I am in the word TREE. I am TREE exactly… George could never love a tree properly” (73).

“Her mind, could she have so formulated thought, would have conceded: I have tasted words, I have seen them. Never had her hands reached out in darkness and felt the texture of pure marble, never had her forehead bent forward and, as against a stone altar, felt safety, I am now saved. Her mind could not then so specifically have seen it, could not have said, ‘Now I will reveal myself in words, words may now supercede a scheme of mathematical-biological definition. Words may be my heritage and with words I will prove conic sections a falsity and the very stars that wheel and frame concentric pattern as mere very-stars, gems put there, a gift, a diadem, a crown, a chair, a cart or a mere lady. A lady will be set back in the sky. It will be no longer Arcturus and Vega but stray star-spume, star sprinkling from a wild river, it will be myth; mythopoeic mind (mine) will disprove science and biological-mathematical definition.

She did not think this for her mind was too astonished to perceive how she could turn, perceive as a mirror the whole of the fantasy of the world reversed and in that mirror a wide room opening” (76).

“I am a tree. TREE is my new name out of the Revelations. He shall have a new name… written on his forehead. The mark of the beast. I have the mark of the beast” (82). (AD: Being re-named marks you as Satan, as the beast from the end times. Satan marks her nature, fertile, female. What does it mean to be marked by Satan?)

“George doesn’t know what trees are… Herself, branch wilted, repeated this, ‘George doesn’t know what I am.'” (84).

Mother prattles about having a baby in unrelated circumstance: 89

[George] “never tells me what to say. I never say anyhow what anyone ever tells me to say” (95).

George/Ezra calls her “hamadryad” 107

“I am Hermoine Gart and will be Hermoine Lowndes…. it wasn’t right. People are in things, things are in people. I can’t be called Lowndes” (112). (AD: objection to the patronym because she understands fully that naming is ontology and the owner of the names is the owner of the person)

“Some plants, some small water creatures give a sort of jellyfish sort of birth by breaking apart, by separating themselves from themselves.’ George’s kisses stopped her. ‘Oh God, hamadryad, forget all that rot'” (118).

“Undine was not her name, would never be her name, for Undine (or was it the Little Mermaid?) sold her sea-inheritance and Her would never, never sell this inheritance, this sea-inheritance of amoeba little jellyfish sort of living creature separating from another creature… sold her glory for feet…I will not sell my glory” (120). (AD: the jelly-fish way of thinking predicated on acts of separation (things from names, women from men). How does this work with assimilation and linking together?)

“well-bred” 122

discussion of maternity 145

all these children are terrible and tragic 157-8

“Things are not agacant now I know her. I know her. Her. I am Her. She is Her. Knowing her, I know Her. She is some amplification of myself like amoeba giving birth, by breaking of, to amoeba. I am a sort of mother, a sort of sister to Her” (158, about Fayne)

witchcraft 165

George says “your melic chorosos aren’t half so bad as simply rather rotten” (167).

“I am not playing false to George, not false to Fayne. I am playing false to Her, to Her precisely. Her became an external objectified self, a thin vibrant and intensely sincere young sort of unsexed warrior. The Hermoine that sat there, thought patronizingly of that Her as from an endless distance” (187).

George tells her “don’t always talk such nonsense.” She says “it wasn’t what she said. It was the way she said it” (193).

“I should give away Her but I keep Her out of some outworn sense of old association. Paints worn thin with holes in the middle. I don’t want Her. I am tired of Her…” (195).

“You had only to address it by its name and it would do anything. Remove mountains” (200).

When Hermoine is ill, the physical illness makes her subconscious speech explode into the exterior, and she talks without cease (~210).

George says she is “heartless” (219). “Heartless means without a hear.t Less a heart. Hermoine. Less-a-heart. What is Hermione less-a-heart? Hermoine heartless is this thing. Tossed like a winter branch on a snow bed. I am Hermoine stripped of blossoms… you are essentially feminine, said George Lowndes, dance and dance for you make me feel like a devil.

I was not what George wanted. He wanted fire to answer his fire…” (219).

[the forests] “were virginal for one purpose, for one Creator. Last summer the Creator had been white lightning brandished against blackness. Now the creator was Her’s feet, narrow black crayon across the winter whiteness” (223).

“this will be y marriage. The thought sustained her” (234). (this = her trousseau, so she can go work)