Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Two Nights of Feminist Theories

Two Nights of Feminist Theories




The governing matriarchy of the Elizabethan era contrasted with England’s established ideals of patriarchal male power. The ascension of Elizabeth to the throne of England dramatically changed society on many levels. Since Shakespeare incorporated societal discourse into his writings, this shift in power inspired him to write about women’s status. Through the comedic lens of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Twelfth Night,” the deeper subject of feminist consciousness was at work. Shakespeare exposed preconceived notions of women as obedient to their husbands, their fathers, and their gender roles. Sexual equality, a new subject to the centuries old male hierarchy, gave way to a multitude of feminist ideas. Although Shakespeare wrote at a time when feminism itself was just coming into mainstream society, his characters Viola and Titania exemplify two of the currently dozens of diverse types of feminism. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Twelfth Night” are as relevant today as they were at the times of their original production in regards to women’s status; except there are now hundreds of years of theory that can be applied to what was, at the time of Shakespeare’s writing, a new concept.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” begins with a stalemate between daughter and father. Hermia loves Lysander but her father, Egeus, wants her to marry Demetrius. To resolve the situation, they all go before Theseus, the Duke of Athens. Egeus demands, “Relent, sweet Hermia, and Lysander, yield / Thy crazed title to my certain right…And she is mine, and all my right of her / I do estate unto Demetrius” (I. i. 91-2, 97-8). Women of this time were thought to be property of men, with the power over them changing from their fathers to their husbands, but never within or unto themselves.

At court, both Egeus and Theseus remind Hermia of the Athenian law. Egeus airs his grievance that she has “turn’d her obedience (which is due to me)... As she is mine, I may dispose of her; / Which shall be either to this gentleman, / or to her death, according to our law” (I. i. 37, 42-5). Theseus agrees with Egeus but adds an option “either to die the death, or to abjure / For ever the society of men. / Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires, / Know of your youth, examine well your blood, / Whether (if you yield not to your father’s choice) / You can endure the livery of a nun” (I. i. 65-70). Both men utilize exclusionary phrases in their speeches. “Our law” and “the society of men” both point out, as a woman, she must abide by laws which have been established by her oppressors and cannot be overthrown. Her decision to run away with Lysander and not conform to the patriarchal laws of Athens would make Hermia a feminist. Hermia’s actions might not appear extreme today, but Egeus’ reaction to them represents the absolute outrage and disbelief among fathers that their daughters did not want to be considered property.

Titania’s existence in the fairy world allows for her to be a strong female although Oberon wants her to obey him. She separates herself from him, stating “I have forsworn his bed and company” (II. i. 63). Titania’s refusal to forsake her changeling boy to Oberon causes him to drug and trick her. These actions exemplified the extremes of what husbands in Elizabethan England would go to in order to maintain control over their newly liberated wives. The placement of this trickery in the fairy world makes the situation less menacing than if it were to have been in the human world where it would have been more likely for the audience to think of domestic abuse. Titania’s role in this play is representative of an ecofeminist. An ecofeminist wants to “focus on human beings’ domination of the nonhuman world, or nature,” along with the domination of females by males (Tong 237). Titania tells Oberon that their arguments are disturbing nature. She says that

“with thy brawls thou hast disturb’d our sport. / Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain, / As in revenge, have suck’d up from the sea / Contagious fogs; which, falling in the land, / Hath every pelting river made so proud / That they have overborne their continents. / The ox hath therefore stretch’d his yoke in vain, / The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn / Hath rotted ere his youth attain’d a beard./ The fold stands empty in the drowned field, / And crows are fatted with the murrion flock; / The nine men’s morris is fill’d up with mud, / And the quaint mazes in the wanton green, / For lack of tread, are undistunguishable” (II. i. 87-100).



The fairy world is affecting the human world just as the feminist struggle is affecting the male dominant status quo. Also, as a female fairy Titania is doubly oppressed in that she is not male nor human.

Viola’s cross-dressing in “Twelfth Night” is the most obvious defiance of preconceived gender roles because it is physical in nature. Her assumption of the role of Cesario allows for her to be free of the restraints women were under at the time. While acting as the messenger for Duke Orsino, Olivia falls in love with Cesario/Viola, and later when she is revealed as a woman, Duke Orsino falls in love with Viola/Cesario. To add to the confusion, each of the female actors was actually a prepubescent boy dressed in women’s clothing. Each of these situations has underlying tones of lesbianism and homosexuality. The multiple levels of disguise allows for lines to be blurred regarding male /female as well as homo- / hetero- sexuality. Feminism is concerned with the oppression of all people and this defiance of compulsory heterosexuality would have fallen right in line with the oppression of women by men.

Viola’s actions as Cesario closely correlate to a current type of feminism referred to as radical-libertarian feminism. Radical-libertarian feminists believe “an exclusively feminine gender identity is likely to limit women’s development as full human persons” (Tong 50). They encourage “women to become androgynous persons, that is persons who embody both (good) masculine and (good) feminine characteristics, or more controversially, any potpourri of masculine and feminine characteristics, good or bad, that strikes their fancy” (Tong 50). Viola’s transvestism allowed for physical change but she retained her identity, (if only to herself) as a woman. She also did not use her male alter ego for “bad” purposes. Even if she would have, however, she still would be considered a radical-libertarian feminist.

The plays’ endings also reflect societal ideals of the time of production. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” has such a dominant theme of patriarchy throughout the play, especially the theme of marriage as the ultimate achievement. The play ends with three marriages. The implication that children will follow ensures the continuation of male domination and women’s oppression. “Twelfth Night” however, has no domineering father or the heavy tone of patriarchy. The ending is disharmonious with the declaration of three marriages though they do not occur in the play. This is unsettling to an audience of the time because all is not resolved and order is not reinstated at the end of the play. This allows for the analysis of society’s changing ways and an audiences’ need for awareness of a shift occurring in the patriarchy.

Elizabeth’s crowning as Queen of England brought power to her female subjects. The male hierarchy was overthrown and the floodgates of feminist thought were opened. No longer were women to be thought of as property of fathers, submissive to husbands, and expected to fit centuries old ideals of gender roles. Shakespeare managed to capture a myriad of ways the status of women was being reconfigured without preference to any opinion of the time. His use of comedy allowed for an audience to be subjected to the situation without being serious. He gave multiple angles and changing outlooks to his characters to embody the many ways and differing opinions within society as a whole and within each individual.



































Works Cited

Johnson, Dean, ed. Shakespeare Riverside Anthology. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1997.

Tong, Rosemarie. Feminist Thought 3rd.ed. Boulder: Westview Press, 2009.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Degree and Order in Shakespeare’s History Plays

Degree and Order in Shakespeare’s History Plays


In Shakespeare’s England, degrees and orders prevailed. E.M. Tillyard addressed these issues in his work, The Elizabethan World Picture. Shakespeare incorporates Tillyard’s “chain of being,” cosmic order and the internal balance of the four humors into Richard II, I Henry IV, and Henry V.

Tillyard’s chain of being metaphor “served to express the unimaginable plenitude of God’s creation, its unaltering order, and its ultimate unity. The chain stretched from the foot of God’s throne to the meanest of inanimate objects” (Tillyard, 25-6). This order and unity is a hierarchy with many suborders, each with a primacy within the order. Tillyard references Richard II to exemplify these primacies with: “Be he the fire, I’ll be the yielding water” (III.iii.58). Then, “See, see King Richard doth himself appear, / As doth the blushing discontented sun / From out the fiery portal of the east, / When he perceives the envious clouds are bent / To dim his glory and to stain the track / Of his bright passage to the occident” (III.iii.62-7). York then adds, “Yet looks he like a king; behold, his eye, / As bright as is the eagle’s, lightens forth / Controlling majesty” (III.iii.68-70).

Shakespeare makes examples with “four of the traditional primacies: fire among the elements, the sun among the planets, the king among men, the eagle among the birds (Tillyard 31). This complex system was specific and allowed for the concept of divine right. A king was perceived as a degree between God and common man. Ignoring this order would not only bring chaos to the kingdom but to the entire “chain of being” in Shakespeare’s England and in his plays.

King Richard refers to his kingship as “my sacred state” (Richard II, IV.i.209. He believes his ascension to the throne is his divine right. This concern with lineage to ensure the rightful heir is continued in Henry V. Both scenes of the first act of Henry V are concerned with Henry’s inheritance of the throne. Henry calls on the archbishop of Canterbury to assure him that he is not wrongly assuming kingship. One could believe his is because Henry is unselfish but it is because he does not wish to defy what Tillyard refers to as the “chain of being.” The Duke of Exeter refers to his nephew’s kingship as one of “the borrowed glories that by gift of heaven” is bestowed upon Henry (Henry V. II. iv.79). Gaunt’s deathbed speech gives England a degree of her own. As “this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England / This nurse, this teeming womb of the royal kings,” England is considered a degree between kings and God. (Richard II, II.i.50-1). This belief shows the order of importance in regards to his country. His allegiance to England ranks second only to God.

Shakespeare incorporated this order into his history plays with allegiances. His characters each defend who they believe to be the rightful heir to a throne or rightful rulers of kingdoms. This “cosmic order was yet one of the master-themes of Elizabethan poetry” (Tillyard, 14). Shakespeare’s characters reflect the strong feeling of Elizabethans in regard to cosmic order at the time. “If the Elizabethans believed in an ideal order animating earthly order, they were terrified lest it should be upset, and appalled by the visible tokens of disorder that suggested its upsetting. They were obsessed by the fear of chaos and the fact of mutability; and the obsession was powerful in proportion as their faith in the cosmic order was strong” (Tillyard, 16). If kingship was a divine right, the people of the Elizabethan era were very concerned regarding which king was the rightful heir to the throne. The wrong choice could upset the cosmic order and lead to chaos.

This macrocosm of chaos is also present in the microcosm of the human body. Tillyard quotes the Pythagorean doctrine “Whence, being an amalgam of many and varied elements, we find our life difficult to order. For every other creature is guided by one principle: but we are pulled in different directions by our different faculties. For instance at one time we are drawn towards the better by the god-like element, at another time towards the worse by the domination of the bestial element within us (Tillyard 66-7). Elizabethans wanted to maintain a balance within themselves that would in turn make the cosmos themselves balanced. This belief would understandably be driven by a great amount of guilt. This “correspondence between macrocosm and microcosm, if taken seriously, must be impressive. If the heavens are fulfilling punctually their vast and complicated wheelings, man must feel it shameful to allow the workings of his own little world to degenerate” (Tillyard 93).

This internal balance was exemplified by humours with “a proper mixture of the humours being as necessary to bodily growth and functioning as that of the elements to the creation of permanent substances” (Tillyard 69). Elizabethans believed that “each humour has its own counterpart among the elements” (Tillyard 69). The element Earth corresponds to the humor melancholy, water with phlegm, air with blood and fire with choler. “When they used the words temperament or complexion they had consciously in mind the tempering of one humour…by another, or the intertwining of the humors that was the cause of character. If a man was of a phlegmatic temperament, they meant that the four humours were mixed in a way that allowed phlegm, the cold and moist humour, to be the most emphatic” (Tillyard 70). The belief of humours causing human moods or personalities was carried over into Shakespeare’s writings.

Shakespeare incorporates the use of humours to emphasize the need for balance within a character just as Elizabethans believed they themselves should have balanced humours. Prince Henry jokingly calls Falstaff a “trunk of humours” to emphasize Falstaff’s lack of balance in his life (I Henry IV, II. iv. 449). King Richard refers to humour when he exclaims: “Let’s purge this choler without letting blood” in regard to the dispute between Bullingbrook and Mowbry. (Richard II, I.i.153). This statement refers to the belief of the time that bleeding a patient would relieve them of excess bile, which caused one to have an angry disposition. Choler is Bardolph’s excuse as to why he is quick to anger and dangerous. He justifies his anger with: “Choler, my lord, if rightly taken” (I Henry IV, II.iv. 324). Kate tells Hotspur that “a weasel hath not such a deal of spleen” (I Henry IV, II.iii.78) because he has nervous energy and is being impulsiveness, both characteristics thought to be controlled by the spleen. King Henry validates his impulsiveness by “the start of spleen, / To fight against me under Percy’s pay” to refer to his ill temper (I Henry IV, III.ii. 125-6).















Works Cited

Johnson, Dean, ed. Shakespeare Riverside Anthology. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1997.

Tillyard, E.M.W. The Elizabethan World Picture. New York: Random House.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Portfolio Essay


Oppression



There are various forms of oppression and in this Women’s Studies class we were presented with forms specifically affecting women. While my four papers appear to be diverse: Captivity Narratives as Political Propaganda, Continued Militarization, Religious Persecution in Salem, and Sexuality in Caramelo, they each contain the underlying theme of oppression.

The two captivity narratives I showed to be political propaganda were Mary Rowlandson’s and Evangelina Cisneros’s. The victimization of these two females in their narratives was intended to incite hatred and anger against an enemy. This feminization of the situation further encouraged the belief of women as fragile creatures in need of being protected.

Continued Militarization drew from the work of Cynthia Enloe. I agreed with and drew on her stance toward America’s indoctrination toward militarization. This paper along with the Enloe readings helped me to realize the concept of military in everyday life. The lack of acknowledgement and indifferent acceptance of military ideals perpetuates a cycle of violence being seen as the answer. Especially women are indoctrinated into these beliefs when they are the told to be “good” wives, girlfriends, etc. and support their husbands, boyfriends, etc. serving in the military.

My third paper was my favorite because the general topic of the Salem witch trials has always fascinated me. The focus on I, Tituba gave a new lens to what I previously only thought was a hunt for white women in Salem. I was most troubled by the paradox of her religious persecution by people who were themselves persecuted for their religion. Tituba’s oppression was especially troubling because not only was she oppressed by her “masters” but because she went into slavery willingly.

Finally, with my paper Sexuality in Caramelo, I found that I most related to this text. The complexities of the sexuality within the family, community, and within each character made the book into a series of microcosms and macrocosms. The oppression trickled down from society to family and then from family to each character individually.

While at first glance my papers may not appear to have a linking theme, the fact that each character and situation I address is unable to fully express him/her/itself. The oppressive forces cause internalization of what is deemed “right” and “wrong” by society. The fact that each of these oppressions is also regarding women specifically shows the larger issue of gender in regards to oppression.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Eliminating Heterosexual Bias in Sex Education Programs


Eliminating Heterosexual Bias in Sex Education Programs




Programs regarding sex and sexuality education in public schools have, until recently, only focused on abstinence. However, abstinence-only education did just that: it abstained from educating. With a lack of results from the “abstinence-only” programs many groups rallied for change. Thirty years after its introduction and no results later most people favor a more comprehensive sex education program. Abstinence-only programs did nothing to lower teen pregnancy rates and are therefore being replaced with a more “comprehensive” form of sex education. What is generally agreed upon as a “comprehensive” sex education program is one that emphasizes abstinence but also includes information regarding contraception. The new curriculum offers basic information regarding reproduction, birth control, disease prevention and (hetero)sexuality. Just as the “abstinence–only” model did not work; the newer programs also fail to include necessary information concerning all sexualities (hetero, homo, and fluid). The new programs are heterosexually biased because they do not give information concerning non-heterosexual sex. The lack of information is both exclusionary and discriminatory.

While the format of abstinence only sex education has been deemed ineffective on many fronts, Hazel Glenn Beh, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Hawaii, and Milton Diamond, professor of anatomy and reproductive biology at the University of Hawaii, linked the program to increases in non-heteronormative sex. They claimed one particular problem was that young adults were engaging in non-coital activities in efforts to remain “abstinent.” They support the facts that not only were “abstinence education” programs not working but claim that they were driving adolescents to “riskier” behaviors. Beh and Diamond state:

“adolescents who have undergone abstinence-only education and who later engage in coital and non-coital activity, as most will prior to marriage, are ill-prepared to protect themselves; they may not use a condom because they do not know how or because they mistakenly believe that condoms are ineffective, may be unaware of the risks they experience when engaging in non-coital sexual activity as a strategy to remain "abstinent," and may be more vulnerable to adverse consequences of unprotected sex because they have not rehearsed and otherwise prepared for the contingency that they will not always be abstinent. (Beh, Diamond).

In 2002, Lambda Legal produced a toolkit “Tell Me the (Whole) Truth.” This was “the first action-oriented resource specifically addressing the anti-gay aspects of ‘abstinence-only’ programs and their effect on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth” (New Toolkit).

Beh and Diamond missed the fact that not all adolescents identify themselves as heterosexual. The assumption of their behaviors as “risky” because they are non-coital is off the mark. The risk factor lies in the lack of information as to how they can adequately protect themselves against diseases while engaging in non-heterosexual sex. Lambda Legal begins to offer information to non-heterosexual adolescents in its 2002 toolkit, but it focused on “abstinence-only” programs, and would need to be updated in order to be effective in the new programs. A majority of Americans believed that teaching “abstinence-only” until marriage was a disservice to our youth and have embraced the new comprehensive programs. However, some of these new programs fail to fully address the wide spectrum of sexual identities and needs associated with each. I will address the faults of a heteronormative program and offer solutions for inclusion of all sexualities. I will also show results that could be attained by following or incorporating aspects of the Dutch model of teaching sex and sexuality education. I will also offer suggestions for ensuring incorporation of a non-heterosexually biased sex education program.

A contributing factor to the problem of teen pregnancies was that the “abstinence-only” programs provided false information about the effectiveness of condoms (if they provided any information at all). This combined with a shifting definition of “abstinence” among teens may have lead heterosexual young adults to engage in alternatives such as oral or anal sex. This raised concern and was seen as “risky” behavior. However, sexually active homosexual teens would engage in these acts and need adequate information regarding disease prevention.

There is no need to fully scrape everything when forming a new program. A non-biased program could draw from the previous abstinence model. The program holds valid points. The “abstinence-only” education programs were born out of an eight point definition based on religious idealism. Unfortunately, the “comprehensive” programs are essentially incorporating the same standards with the addition of information regarding heterosexual sex, specifically STD and pregnancy prevention. I believe half of the “abstinence only” program’s outline should be saved and incorporated into new sex education programs, while the other half cannot be incorporated into any program that wishes to include all sexualities. The points that should remain are backed by science, not religious ideals. The expectation of marriage draws attention to the obvious exclusion of large groups of sexually active people. Laws regarding same-sex marriages support this point. The expectation of sex occurring only in marriage excludes not only pre/extra-marital heterosexual sex, but any and all non-heterosexual sex. I believe these aspects constitute indoctrination into religious ideals and a heteronormative culture without regard to nature or science. In order to fully educate our youth about sex and sexuality, we must rely on facts and proven effective programs, not standards of religion.

“The report "Births: Preliminary Data for 2006," prepared by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, and are based on data from over 99 percent of all births for the United States in 2006, shows that between 2005 and 2006, the birth rate for teenagers 15-19 years rose 3 percent, from 40.5 live births per 1,000 females aged 15-19 years in 2005 to 41.9 births per 1,000 in 2006. This follows a 14-year downward trend in which the teen birth rate fell by 34 percent from its recent peak of 61.8 births per 1,000 in 1991” (Ventura). So not only is the “problem” not being solved, it’s getting worse. Birthrates are actually rising rather than falling among teens. These statistics have proven the ineffectiveness of abstinence only programs in regards to not decreasing the rate of teen pregnancy, but the focus on this aspect alone shows the heteronormative bias of expectations. With pregnancy being an obvious result of heterosexual sex, the focus on these statistics draws attention from other sectors. While pregnancy may not be as pressing of an issue for lesbians or gays as it is for heterosexuals, disease prevention most definitely is.

After an “anti-choice, anti-sexuality education and anti-family planning” Bush administration, The Obama administration has promised change on many political fronts, sex education included (Osher). In his inaugural address he specifically stated that he “will stop funding education programs that don’t work.” This would obviously apply to unsuccessful “abstinence only” programs. Obama has a record of working toward more comprehensive sex education programs. “In 2007, as senator, Obama co-sponsored the Responsible Education About Life Act, which would have provided grants to states to provide abstinence-plus education”(Yoder). Abstinence-plus education would still emphasize abstinence as the only way to prevent pregnancy and STDs but it would also educate students about contraceptives and their proper use. Unfortunately, this bill, along with the Prevention First Act died in subcommittee.

When we begin to outline a new “all-inclusive” sex education program for the United States, we need to look to other programs that have succeeded. A great model that the United States could look to would be the Netherlands. I believe that the open forum of discussion about sex and sexuality as represented in the Dutch model is the framework that will lead to educated, healthy, wise-decision-making young adults. An “open-talk” curriculum has been embrace with great results. One example of a class exercise for twelve to fifteen year olds is: “How would you react if your boyfriend refused to use a condom? How do your friends feel about condoms? Write down what you think they will answer and ask them if you were right” (Guss). The program ensures that all students engage in the activities regardless of their sexual identity. For example, both males and females would have participated in the previous questions.

To anyone still unsure of whether the United States or the Netherlands are “winning” let’s look at the figures for teen pregnancies. In 1999, the United States teen pregnancy rates for fifteen to nineteen year olds was 87 per 1,000 (Reproductive), while the Dutch boast “the lowest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe: 8.4 per 1,000 girls between 15 and 19” (Guss). That’s right 87 versus 8, and in this “game” of young lives, a higher score does make us a winner. And while these statistics still focus on one heterosexual aspect of a more all-encompassing program, they should not be ignored. The open dialogue in this one area has yielded amazing results and can be applied to a curriculum that would include all sexualities.

While religious fundamentalists like to hold to the “slippery slope” argument that talking about sex makes youth more likely to engage in sex, some may believe presenting information about non-heterosexuality will encourage more youth to engage in non-hetero sex. We can look to the Dutch for a response to this argument. Jos Poelman of the Foundation for STD control in the Holland says: “Face the facts. We have the lowest number of teenage mothers [in Europe], and Dutch students do not start having sex at a younger age than their foreign counterparts.” With results like these, it’s hard to argue that talking about sex is going to result in rampant sexual outbursts. The same argument can thus be applied to the opponents of incorporating non-heterosexual health information. By providing youth with information the subsequent response is not to enact the practices they have learned but they are now equipped to protect themselves when / if the situations arise.

Beyond the reduction on teen pregnancies and STDs, the Dutch also encourage inclusion of all humans, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background or age. The Rutgers Nisso Groep, the Dutch Expert Centre on Sexuality, “dedicates itself to promoting sexual and reproductive health” and works in cooperation with school systems to give information regarding all types of sexuality” (Nisso Groep). The Dutch have proven that acceptance and education produce desirable results.

There are ways we can ensure that as we change to a more comprehensive format in sex education programs, there is no heterosexual bias. Local school boards are comprised of elected officials. Contact with the board and use of “open-mic” time at these meetings will establish your concerns regarding the need to implement non-biased sex education to our youth. This will also allow networking and rally support for the cause.

The United States prides itself on being an equal nation in regards to race, religion, and sex/gender. While equality in these areas is still widely debated, in regards to education discrimination in these areas would not be tolerated. We must recognize, address, and correct the heterosexual bias incorporated into sex education programs. The United States has been a role model to the world in many instances, but not in regards to teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease rates, or inclusion of all sexualities in Statistics of European nations in regards to these epidemics are admirable. The programs they use are yielding the results that we want in our own country. Children grow to adults and take with them sexual knowledge, or lack of, into their adult relationships. The consequences from not teaching about pregnancy and STD prevention grows exponentially with each group of young adults who go into the world having not been taught how to protect themselves and others. Excluding information regarding non-heteronormative sex endangers those who practice…

























Works Cited



Beh, Hazel Glenn, Diamond, Milton. (2006). THE FAILURE OF ABSTINENCE-ONLY EDUCATION: MINORS HAVE A RIGHT TO HONEST TALK ABOUT SEX. Columbia Journal of Gender and the Law, 15(1), 12. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from GenderWatch (GW) database. (Document ID: 1019127841).



Guss, Valk. The Dutch Model. July/Aug 2000. 20 March 2009.



New Toolkit Tackles Homophobia in ‘Abstinence-Only’ Education, Equips Communities to Fight for Real Sex Ed. 9 Sep 2002. 20 March 2009



Osher, Jason. SIECUS 2005 Annual Report. 2005. 20 March 09. http://www.siecus.org/_data/global/images/SIECUS%20Annual%20Report%202005.pdf



Reproductive Health Outcomes & Contraceptive Use among U.S. Teens. 20 March 2009.



Rutgers Nisso Groep. 2009. 20 March 2009. http://www.rutgersnissogroep.nl/english



Ventura, Stephanie. Teen Birth Rate Rises for First Time in 15 Years. 5 December 2007. 20 March 2009.



Yoder, Steve. Real Sex Ed Returns. 7 March 2009. 20 March 2009.








Thursday, January 17, 2013

Continued Militarization

Continued Militarization




Cynthia Enloe challenges readers to identify daily occurrences of militarization in her book The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire. The indoctrination of America with militaristic ideals closes off other options from public thought. Enloe points out that “the rationalization of the use of force has been used to justify militarism, which in turn normalizes and legitimizes secrecy, hierarchy, masculinism, and a culture of threat” (Enloe 184).

Enloe goes on to give examples (education, soldiers’ girlfriends and wives, beauty pageants and cars) of “sectors of U.S. culture [that] have also been increasingly militarized” (Enloe 146). Drawing attention to the enforcement of military ideals in daily life makes one question the true intent. We as Americans need to understand the impact that we have on the rest of the world. We are “forever lecturing other societies—Iraq, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Russia, Mexico, France—on how they should remake their cultures. U.S. citizens, however, have been loath to lift up the rock of cultural convention to peer underneath at the masculinized presumptions and worries that shape American foreign policies” (Enloe 129). If we don’t stop the rampant integration of militarism in our daily lives in America it will spread to other societies.

Consequently, the non-support of militarization is viewed as being unpatriotic. Enloe states what can be seen in the media: “since September 11, publicly criticizing militarization has been widely viewed as an ‘unpatriotic’ act, as an act of disloyalty” (Enloe 146). One can support military troops and be a pacifist. The point Enloe makes is that “militarism is an ideology. Militarization, by contrast, is a sociopolitical process” (Enloe 219). The fact that military ideals have spread beyond the confines of the military itself and embedded themselves into Americans daily lives is the problem. The glorification of the military causes a society to think in only military terms. Instead of exploring all options to a situation, this sort of society chooses to immediately “solve” any altercation with military force. While it is necessary to have a military we do not need instillation and indoctrination to a set of militarized beliefs that war and aggression are always the answer. As Americans, we are looked to by other countries in regards to conflict resolutions. The continuation of militarization in our society will spread to other societies who look to us as a model.

There are members of society who refuse to allow militarism to run rampant. The fact that “two nationwide activist groups, Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Mothers Against the War, reflects a new consciousness of the roles mothers—and fathers—are expected to play in building up a large military force, as well as a growing sense of the urgent need for alternatives to those scripted roles” shows that Americans are challenging militaristic ideals (Macho, Macho Militarism). The questions are being raised as to the indoctrination of supporting military support. Mothers and fathers have put away their feelings of dread in support of so called patriotism for centuries. Now the tide is shifting in thoughts on conflict resolution. There are many more groups questioning militarization. For example, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Women Waging Peace, and Women in Black, whose Athens chapter was accused of disrespecting soldiers when someone wore a U.S. Army uniform with pacifist buttons at a protest last year, are all looking for alternatives to war and aggressive actions.

Ironically, one of these groups advocating peace named themselves after the militarized homeland security alerts. “CODEPINK emerged out of a desperate desire by a group of American women to stop the Bush administration from invading Iraq. The name CODEPINK plays on the Bush Administration's color-coded homeland security alerts — yellow, orange, red — that signal terrorist threats. While Bush's color-coded alerts are based on fear and are used to justify violence, the CODEPINK alert is a feisty call for women and men to ‘wage peace’” (Code Pink). So, one has to question if this use of military terminology perpetuates militarism or diffuse its power? The paradox of adopting a name that employs a militaristic system can be viewed as taking power from the source or entirely redundant.

This March 8, International Women’s Day, we should all look for ways to diffuse the militarization of daily life and look for alternatives. As a model for non-militarized conflict resolution we can be looked to as example by the rest of the world. By changing our militaristic thinking we can change other countries’ thinking as well. As Enloe so hopefully states, “I don’t think that it’s mere fantasizing to envision a world without war” (Enloe 144). We need to look toward the activist groups as inspiration. By challenging the indoctrination of military ideals in our daily life we will begin to diffuse the unquestioning authority it uses in perpetuating violence. With alternative options available, they merely need to be pursued here in America and the effects will be worldwide.



































Works Cited

Enloe, Cynthia. The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire. 2004.

University of California: California.



Enloe, Cynthia. Macho, Macho Militarism.

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060320/enloe/print



Code Pink for Peace

http://www.codepinkforpeace.org/article.php?list=type&type=3

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sexuality in Caramelo

Sexuality in Caramelo




Sandra Cisneros’ novel, Caramelo, grapples with the many societal and cultural rules imposed on the Reyes family. Most notable among these rules is sexuality. Each member of the Reyes family struggles with their sexuality in terms of what is deemed acceptable by standards of society. Premarital sex, children born out of wedlock, unrequited love, and voyeuristic family members places the Reyes family in culturally unacceptable situations. Also, while most family members find themselves in situations due to their sexuality, there is a clear gender divide as to how these situations are handled.

Soledad’s sexuality is the most complex. What could be read as a psychological problem due to her mother’s death, her abandonment by her father, and her leering uncle, she attaches herself to Narciso. Her need for love causes her to abandon societal expectations of female chastity and she becomes pregnant. Narciso ignores this fact while Soledad is tormented by her “heartsickness.” Narciso only marries her after prompting from his father. The two conform to the expectation that a pregnancy resulting from premarital sex is to be solved by marriage.

Narciso continues to step outside of convention when he has an affair with Exaltacion Henestrosa. Narciso’s love for Exaltacion is not mutual. The fact that she runs off with Panfila Palafox from the traveling circus can be read as a punishment for engaging in an extramarital affair. The addition of the fact that he is jilted for another woman exemplifies the expectation of heterosexuality in Mexican culture at this time.

Narciso and Soledad’s son, Inocencio, is not exempt form problems resulting from his sexuality. His affair results in the child, Candelaria. Soledad knows Candelaria’s paternity yet holds on to the information until it can be used to inflict the most damage on Inocencio’s wife. The gender divide is most prominent in this situation because Narciso carries on with his family while Candelaria and her mother become family servants.

Passing right down the familial line, Celaya finds herself outcast because of both her sexuality and her implied sexuality. Her interest in leaving her family to live on her own is met with resistance by her father. The expectation of a woman to remain at home until marriage causes Inocencio to respond that if his daughter left, she would be no better than a prostitute. When Celaya does run off with Ernie to Mexico City, her family is so stunned upon her return that they do not speak to her. In the meantime, her brother has gotten his girlfriend pregnant before marriage and it is not regarded with as much shame as what Celaya has brought on herself and her family.

While the double standards of sexuality are far from erased in current society, Cisneros uses the Reyes family to exemplify the expectations of family and society. Showing over and over how the men are not punished or held accountable for their actions but the women must suffer the consequences is a tool used by Cisneros to draw attention the societal standards at the time of the story and illuminating the double standards that still exist.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Captivity Narratives as Political Propaganda

Captivity Narratives as Political Propaganda


The captivity narratives of Mary Rowlandson and Evangelina Cisneros were written for intended audiences as forms of political propaganda. Mary Rowlandson’s narrative was published for a Puritan audience in order to encourage anti-Native American sentiments, while the narrative of Evangelina Cisneros was published to encourage anti-Spanish movements in America among Cuban supporters. The divisions were already established between the groups previous to each of these narratives, but publication and distribution of Mary Rowlandson’s and Evangelina Cisneros’ narratives were examples of political propaganda being used to feminize the situations. These narratives appealed to large audiences because stories of female victims evoke feelings of sympathy and necessary protection. Unfortunately, this play on emotion can warp an opinion of the situation. These narratives urge action in response to the victimization of the female captives and are used as a tool to gain support of a cause.

Mary Rowlandson’s narrative documented her daily struggle to maintain her Puritan ethics in the face of adversity. While she told of many differences between her and her captors, her major theme was the paganism of her captors. The intense detail of the violent siege of her settlement and allusions of sexual advances by her captors were devices used to evoke protective feelings regarding female honor. The killing of the naked pregnant woman even incorporated sex and violence into a single scene. These graphic devices were included in her narrative to evoke the protective impulses settlers felt for women.

With her narrative being published for a Puritan audience, the story represented the battle of colonial Puritans against pagan Native-Americans. These anti-Native American sentiments were already present among the colonists, but this narrative was used to reaffirm their fears. The narrative served as political propaganda by achieving two goals. The first goal ensured the continuation of Native American hatred and the second, reaffirmed maintenance of Puritan ideals and religious faith.

Over two hundred years later, the narrative of Evangelina Cisneros’ also served as political propaganda. Published during the emergence of “yellow journalism,” the sensational story of a young girl imprisoned in Cuba had already caught the attention of Americans. Many Americans knew her story and events leading up to her captivity from newspaper articles, but there was still a desire to know what happened, in her own words. There was an audience waiting, meaning an opportunity to shape the narrative. Now her story could be altered in the interest of Cuban supporters.

The appeal of Cisneros’ narrative was that it took on the theme of a fairy tale with America as the knight-in-shining-armor and Spain as the evil villain. The themes of sex and violence were again incorporated just as they were by Mary Rowlandson. Like a fable, Evangelina’s thwarted rape scene stands a metaphor for the need of American intervention to prevent the rape of Cuba. Readers absorbed the propaganda in disguise

The questions surrounding whether or not these narrative were altered have effect as to how their situation is perceived. Mary Rowlandson’s narrative may have had the plethora of biblical references added by her preacher husband and Evangelina Cisneros’ story may have been altered by her translator or Hearst publications. The emotional effects aroused from the captivity narratives of Mary Rowlandson and Evangelina Cisneros drew attention to their situations because they were female. The formula of a helpless woman in captivity drew the attention of women and men. This formula is still used as a tool for political propaganda. One need not look any further than Jessica Lynch to see this formula still put to use during the first invasion of Iraq. Through a feminist lens these narratives are now seen as tools used to incite hatred of an “other.” The response to the situation around the capture becomes skewed because of emotional connection to the “victim.” One must take a step back and ask what media manipulations have brought us to the conclusions we are so quick to jump to.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Gertrude's Patriarchal Muzzle in Shakespeare's "Hamlet"

Project 3, Theoretical Analysis


Gertrude's Patriarchal Muzzle





Abstract

The patriarchal oppression of Gertrude's voice in Hamlet is remediated in John Updike's Gertrude and Claudius. Through this remediation Updike gives the previously passive character a voice and agency. This allowance of expansion on a character gives new insight into the original work. The intertexuality provides for a more multidimensional Gertrude, rather than the previously conceived notion of Gertrude as a flat character.



The remediation of literature allows for new interpretations on previously written texts. One aspect to this reworking of texts is the allowance for shifts in character agency. The power structures present in the original text can become reconfigured or erased altogether. Feminist scholars can not only interpret texts to exemplify underlying social norms and expectations regarding social acceptance in a work, now they can rewrite the text to eradicate the perceived slights. Remediation may be “more interesting to feminist thought because it embeds a more 'deviant' way of looking, endowing a multiplicity of viewpoints” (Hoofd). For example, the phallocentricism of Shakespeare’s Hamlet can be analyzed and addressed, but the story can also be rewritten to give agency to the female characters. John Updike's Gertrude and Claudius remediates Shakespeare's Hamlet giving agency to the character of Gertrude. Updike's “engagement with Shakespeare’s play integrates implications that express feminist values within the larger framework of intertextuality” (Savu 23). This prelude to Shakespeare's play gives Gertrude agency and lends explanation to her passive disposition in Hamlet.

In Hamlet Gertrude does not speak often and readers are unable to receive any personal insight on her husband's death or her remarriage. This lack of female voice in Hamlet corresponds to the play's setting. The structure of Shakespeare's text reflects Elsinore's patriarchal setting, which in turn mimics Renaissance society. Ophelia and Gertrude are the only female characters in the play, but they are only passive participants to the actions surrounding them. Shakespeare shaped his play according to Renaissance gender roles, giving the female characters very little in the way of speech. Gertrude asks Hamlet to stay, tells him to stop mourning his father's death, and welcomes his friends to Elsinore. Her actions and speech are passive. She gives the illusion of maternal doting while simultaneously causing suspicion. Her lack of speech regarding her quick marriage to her husband's brother raises questions regarding motive and knowledge of Claudius's actions.

Updike actively recovers the “female experience from the realm of Shakespeare’s play and, in a more abstract sense, from the realm of “nonbeing” to which patriarchy relegates it” (24). The remediation gives agency to Gertrude. Her thoughts and opinions are expressed in a manner which is believable. Her actions still follow a prescribed and expected course for women of her time but the mere window onto her thoughts, provided by Updike, adds dimension to a previously flat character. The assumption of women as unable to make their own decisions or critically analyze a situation is exemplified in Hamlet by the lack of insight into the female characters. “Thus, the myth displaced in Gertrude and Claudius consists of a controlling set of patriarchal assumptions behind Shakespeare’s delineation of female characters in Hamlet” (Savu 24). The implication that the female characters were having thoughts throughout the play, but in true Renaissance form, no one noticed.

As an example of remediation, Updike’s Gertrude and Claudius exemplifies “the refashioning of canonical texts, through which novelists turn their literary forbears to new uses, enhancing, extending, or critiquing the meaning of the primary text” (22). Gertrude's lack of voice and agency in the original Shakespeare play frustrates readers in that they question her knowledge and intentions. Updike opens the world of her thoughts, such as the fact that she thinks “no woman wants to be a mere piece of furniture, to be bartered for and then sat upon” (Updike 5). This revelation is shocking to the reader who previously thought of Gertrude as something of a piece of furniture in Hamlet. As a woman void of agency she is merely inherited by her husband's brother.

After combining the Shakespeare play Hamlet and the Updike novel Gertrude and Claudius a new amalgamation of the character of Gertrude emerges. It becomes understandable why she does no t express herself in Shakespeare's play. She can now be viewed in a form of self-isolation. Being partly responsible for her husband's death has rendered her speechless toward any suspicions and accusations. The remediation changes a reader's perception of the original. Therefore, “Updike’s novel gains importance for putting Shakespeare’s play in a fresh perspective—a perspective that forces readers to reconsider their assumptions and responses to the play,”(Savu 24-5). As any feminist scholar knows, the reconsidering of assumptions is the first step towards change. The point Updike made is that just because Gertrude's voice was not heard does not mean she did not have one.

The use of remediation may be viewed negatively as reworking another author's original text to make it one's own. It can also be viewed as a possibility to re-establish power that may have been taken or excluded. The “refashioning [of]one's predecessors is key to understanding representation in earlier media” (Bolter, Grusin 49). While Shakespeare may have been fashioning his work to the society he saw, he may also assumed that a patriarchal structure was necessary. By remediating previous works, questions can be answered and a multitude of viewpoints can be explored.



















Works Cited

Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin. Remediation. Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2000.



Hoofd, Ingrid. “Rewriting Feminisms.” http://www.cyberartsweb.org/cpace/gender/hoofd/introduc/why.html 29 Nov 2009.



Savu, Laura Elena "In Desire's Grip: Gender, Politics, and Intertextual Games in Updike's Gertrude and Claudius." Papers on Language & Literature 39.1 (2003): 22. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 29 Nov. 2009.

Updike, John. Gertrude and Claudius. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Analysis of YouTube Shakespeare


Project 1, Analysis of YouTube Shakespeare

Ophelia's Immortality

Abstract

The character Ophelia in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet symbolizes the patriarchal oppression

forced on most Renaissance women. Ophelia has since become an icon and point of reference for many

feminist scholars by representing adolescent girls on the cusp of womanhood. This project shows

Shakespeare's application of Renaissance gender roles to the character Ophelia and the evolution of

those gender roles through the present, specifically the YouTube genre. YouTube enables adolescent

females the freedom to express their views toward Ophelia's prescribed gender role, thus giving voice to

a generation of “modern Ophelias.” These videos show a divided generation: those that still feel the

pressure of prescribed gender roles and those who believe that Ophelia's oppression is a thing of the

past.

Ophelia is represented in music, paintings,and photography. The subject of numerous psychoanalytic and feminist critiques, generations of women identify with Ophelia because she epitomizes lost female youth and the difficult transition

into womanhood. Her continued appeal lies in the fact that “literature changes and is changed by

popular culture over time” (Murfin 213). Interpretations of Ophelia come to represent the evolution

of female agency and voice. Sexual expectations of women were and are wrapped in the

representation of Ophelia. Susan Shifrin states that “Ophelia's language and her story are ambiguous

enough in terms of her sexual status that commentators, censors, illustrators, actors, and audiences

alike have historically focused on exactly this aspect of her character and its significance”(Shifrin

105). Interpretations of Ophelia's representation change over time and throughout cultures, while the

textual Ophelia represents Elizabethan gender roles. Her patriarchal oppression becomes symbolic in

most feminist theories, but the YouTube genre specifically allows adolescent girls to have a voice, and

by doing so they become the “modern Ophelias.”

Hamlet was written in 1601 and reflected the gender roles of the time. Judith Cook points out

that “there is never anything patronizing about Shakespeare's attitude to the intelligence of his

women” (146). Shakespeare was merely portraying the assumption of prescribed gender roles.

Women's sexuality was feared and repressed at this time thus, “it is the male characters who perceive

free choice on the part of the female character as an inevitable sign of irrational lust, and as the

inevitable prelude to disorder and disaster” (Jardine 72). A woman with agency would be perceived

to be outside of societal norms and “the impulsive offer of love by a woman is most likely to be a sign

of unreliableness and untrustworthiness if the male characters are allowed to the final say in 'reading'

that offer” (Jardine 73). Hamlet, as well as most of Renaissance society, held a madonna / whore

complex regarding women. “Ophelia is honest (chaste) or a bawd (a whore) depending on how

Hamlet now chooses to describe his own behaviour towards her. If he loved her, declared that love to

her, and she accepted his gifts and embraces, then she is chaste. If he never loved her, but attempted

to seduce her only, then she is lewd and lascivious, because Hamlet trifled with her. Either way she

should 'get [her] to a nunnery'--Shakespeare plays on this belief with his double meaning of nunnery.

“'[N]unnery' ... meant both a convent and a brothel in Elizabethan colloquial expression” (Jardine 73).

The use of this double meaning shows Shakespeare's acknowledgement of the double standard in

society regarding women's sexuality. He further states this point with the speeches of Laertes,

Ophelia, and Polonius.

Laertes's speech epitomizes the fact that although Laertes is Ophelia's sibling, he believes he is

able to tell her what to do because he is a male.

Then weigh what loss your honor may sustain

If with too credent ear you list his songs

Or lose your heart or your chaste treasure open

To his unmastered importunity

Fear it, Ophelia; fear it, my dear sister,

And keep you in the rear of your affection (I. Iii. 33-8).

The hypocrisy of the “double standard” is heard in Ophelia's response. This speech voices Ophelia's

recognition of the double standard, regarding sex, that applies to her and her brother.

I shall the effect of this good lesson keep

As watchman to my heart. But, good my brother,

Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,

Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,

Whiles, (like) a puffed and reckless libertine,

Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads

And recks not his own rede(I. Iii. 49-55).

Ophelia points out the hypocrisy of telling one to be chaste while they themselves are not.

Polonius is both the figural and literal representation of patriarchy. While he lectures Ophelia

about his expectations of his daughter's behavior, he holds his son in high esteem and supports his

wishes to travel. He lectures Ophelia:

...In few, Ophelia,

Do not believe his vows, for they are brokers,

Not of that dye which their investments show,

But mere (implorators) of unholy suits,

Breathing like sanctified and pious bawds

To better to (beguile.) This is for all:

I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth

Have you so slander any moment leisure

As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.

Look to 't, I charge you. Come your ways. (I. iv. 135-144)

Ophelia's response to her father's speech exemplifies the fact that she, representative of most women

of this time has no free will. Her only voice is one of obedience. Her response sums up the expected

role of women at this time, “I shall obey, my lord” (I. iv. 145).

Obedience to father and brother must come first for a woman of Shakespeare's time. Polonius

demands filial obedience and Laertes assumes his privilege to demand the same. Polonius' use of

Ophelia as a decoy also exemplifies the notion of women as objects. She is merely a tool used to

obtain information valuable to Polonius. The assumption of male dominant Renaissance gender roles

allowed women no “voice” and therefore no agency.

Although gender roles are still questioned and challenged today, progress has been made in the

area of women's “voice.” The many waves of women's movements have brought attention to

previously unquestioned societal norms. The continued sexual expectations of women (Ophelias) are

still widely believed to hold a double standard. Non-normative behavior is frowned upon in society.

Adolescent women are expected to. The traditional expectation and symbol of a white dress at a

wedding encompasses the two divergent expectations of women to be sexy but not have sex.

In a world of overwhelming media enforcing these ideals, no single type of media can

encompass every viewpoint but YouTube is a great example of an unbiased social study because there

is no charge, criteria, etc. for posting. The allowance of anonymous postings also allows for a wider

demographic to be seen and heard. YouTube could easily be considered the “voice” of the “Internet

generation” While accepting that YouTube gives voice to “modern Ophelias, one must acknowledge

that “in exposing the ideology of representation, feminist critics have also the responsibility to

acknowledge and to examine the boundaries of our own ideological positions as products of our

gender and our time” (Showalter 238). Interpretations of Ophelia will evolve but currently the

YouTube video representations of Ophelia's death are one of three types: those that conform to

original text, those that represent continuation of patriarchal oppression, and those that through use

parody to dispute sexual inequality.

Three videos that closely following Shakespeare's original text are tccinnamon's “Ophelia's

Death,” Kathyhere's “Lacrimosa: Shakespeare's Ophelia,” and magnificitaliani's “Hamlet—Ophelia's

Drowning.” All of these videos have Ophelia wearing a white dress and are set in the woods. The

fact that she is always depicted in a white dress supports the notion of purity and virginity.

tccinnamon's video is a sepia-toned production complete with a professional dancer / actor and

classical music. Kathyhere's contribution watches more like a music video. The night-time woods

setting has modern music, subtitle screen shots, and changes between color and black and white shots.

magnificitaliani's video is a student production with a dubbed voice reading from the original text.

Two videos that represent the theme of continued patriarchal oppressions are twirlibird's

“Reviving Ophelia” and nightshift368's “Ophelia Drowning.” Twirlibird's video shows an adolescent

girl in a plaid miniskirt walk directly into a pond. This signifies the helplessness and surrender to

overwhelming societal expectations. The song “Whisper” by Evanescence plays and lends deeper

meaning to the video via the lyrics of the song. nightshift368 chooses to record without sound at a

suburban swimming pool This Ophelia wears the expected white dress and her tears symbolize her

acknowledged oppression. When the actor opens her eyes underwater it can be interpreted as an act

of defiance regarding her death. These two videos support the theories of progress being made in

regards to gender roles, yet emphasize the need of continued work for change.

The third type of video to interpret Ophelia's death are parodies. These videos dismiss the

concept of gender inequality and ultimately work toward equality by the very act of their production.

causeobviouslyx posts the video “Hamlet: Ophelia's Death #13”of girls giggling at “drowning” a

Barbie doll in a tub of water. The metaphor of Barbie is particularly strong and allies with women as

sex objects. krabbiepattie15 uses the role reversal of a female playing a male role in a Shakespeare

play. While using the classic devices of disheveled hair and inappropriately applied make-up to show

insanity, the actors incorporate modern colloquial speech to further express their interpretation of the

scene. The use of a straight jacket and water wings as prescriptions draws attention to adolescent

girl's mental health issues, and the fact that Gertrude kills Ophelia in this video opens an

interpretation of “harm” done to women with feminist movement. BaaBumMum chooses to portray

Ophelia as happily floating down a creek. She dons a red bikini top and black swim trunks. The outfit

choice itself represents an equality of gender roles. This rewriting of the scene to allow Ophelia to

live expresses Ophelia's plight as an antiquated notion no longer applying to the video's producers.

It is important to note that many of Shakespeare's female characters “with rare exceptions, like

Ophelia,[are] girls [that] defy their families and marry for love, disguise themselves as boys and

follow their hearts, [and] play a decisive part in determining their own fate” (Cook 1). Shakespeare

created Ophelia to represent the Renaissance expectations. As those expectations change and

continually evolve, Ophelia becomes a reference point to foil current expectations or perceptions.

Continued interpretations allow Ophelia to morph, adapt, and defy. Ironically, interpretations of her

textual death allows her immortality.

Works Cited

BaaBumMum.“Ophelia Floating Down Eli Creek.” YouTube. 16 September 2009.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cSoDfPObWE (accessed 20 September 2009).Murfin,

Causeobviouslyx.“Hamlet: Ophelia's Death #13.” YouTube. 16 September 2009.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhA9TkCEG0c (accessed 20 September 2009).

Cook, Judith. Women in Shakespeare. Harrap & Co. Ltd. London 1980.

Jardine, Lisa. Still Harping on Daughters: Women and Drama in the Age of Shakespeare.

Barnes & Noble Books Totowa 1983.

Kathyhere.“Lacrimosa: Shakespeare's Ophelia.” YouTube. 16 September 2009.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FE3YYJCsSug (accessed 20 September 2009).

Krabbiepattie15.“Hamlet Missing Scene: Ophelia's Death.” YouTube. 16 September 2009.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zm3a4erxE8s (accessed 20 September 2009).

magnificitaliani. “Hamlet—Ophelia's Drowning.” YouTube. 16 September 2009.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7TeQQi915E (accessed 20 September 2009).

Nightshift368. “Ophelia Drowning.” YouTube. 16 September 2009.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyMtrZ0pukQ (accessed 20 September 2009).

Pipher, Mary. Reviving Ophelia. G. P. Putnam's Sons: New York 1994.

Ross C. Feminist Criticism and Hamlet. Hamlet Shakespeare Bedford Books: Boston 1994.

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Folger: New York 1992.

Shifrin, Susan edited by. Women as Sites of Culture. Ashgate: Burlington 2002.

Showalter, Elaine Representing Ophelia: Women, Madness, and the Responsibilities of

Feminist Criticism. Same citation as Murfin?

Tccinnamon. “Ophelia's Death.” YouTube. 16 September 2009.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpcOV3ATVaQ (accessed 20 September 2009).

Twirlibird.“Reviving Ophelia.” YouTube. 16 September 2009.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=af-A1TjIxNo (accessed 20 September 2009).

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ramatoulaye: A Link between Two Worlds in Mariama Ba’s "So Long a Letter"

Ramatoulaye: A Link between Two Worlds in So Long a Letter




Mariama Ba’s novel, So Long a Letter, gives insight into one Muslim woman’s life in postcolonial Senegal. Ba’s use of the epistolary form allows Ramatoulaye to express her feelings and shed light on this new world from a female perspective. While surrounded by encroaching modernity, there is constant need to balance old and new. Established Islamic customs and new French ideas mix to make an uncharted territory, specifically for women. Ramatoulaye’s life blends modern feminist thinking and established Islamic expectations. Her statement that “it was the privilege of our generation to be the link between two periods in our history, one of domination, the other of independence” can be applied to both colonialism and feminism (25). Her marriage, her husband taking a second wife, and her subsequent “single” motherhood are each presented in the novel as situations where modernity and custom clash.

Ramatoulaye reminisces to Aissatou about her original love for her husband, Modou. While her mother wants her to marry the doctor, Daouda Dieng, Ramatoulaye chooses to marry Modou. She recalls everyone’s shock that “our marriage was celebrated without dowry, without pomp, under the disapproving looks of my father, before the painful indignation of my frustrated mother, under the sarcasm of my surprised sisters, in our town struck dumb with astonishment” (17). The fact that the marriage was chosen by the couple themselves, with no dowry being paid exemplifies a modern, romantic way of thinking of marriage. This deviation from the Islamic customs of prearranged marriages and dowries shows Ramatoulaye and Modou as a modern couple.

Unfortunately, Modou courts and marries a second wife without his first wife’s knowledge and proceeds to abandon Ramatoulaye. She laments that “with consternation, I measure the extent of Modou’s betrayal. His abandonment of his first family, myself and my children, was the outcome of the choice of a new life. He rejected us. He mapped out his future without taking our existence into account” (10). As a Muslim, the practice of polygamy has parameters such as equality among wives, which Modou rejects. He not only chooses to engage in polygamy after thirty years of monogamy, but he rejects the Islamic tenets involved with taking a new wife. The betrayal is comparable to what may be called today a mid-life crisis. He discards his older wife for a much younger one. These actions more closely mimic stories of Western betrayal. Ramatoulaye angrily responds: “and to think that I loved this man passionately, to think that I gave him thirty years of my life, to think that twelve times over I carried his child. The addition of a rival to my life was not enough for him. In loving someone else, he burned his past, both morally and materially. He dared to commit such an act of disavowal” (13). The fact that he can reject his marriage to Ramatoulaye and take a second wife exemplifies how Modou wishes to have his cake and eat it, too. He both utilizes and rejects certain Muslim traditions as he sees fit. He utilizes Islamic custom to obtain Binetou and rejects the Islamic custom of ensuring equality and acceptance among his wives. Modou combines both the modern world and established customs to create his own set of rules.

Ramatoulaye contemplates leaving Modou. Her thoughts of: “Leave? Start again at zero, after living twenty-five years with one man, after having borne twelve children” resemble a modern way of thinking (41). The fact that she does not accept the second marriage and contemplates leaving Modou embraces a modern feminist outlook. Her decision to stay in an unhappy marriage however, presents Ramatoulaye as far from a liberated woman. Her perception of herself is that she is “one of those who can realize themselves fully and bloom only when they form a part of a couple” and that she has “never conceived of happiness outside marriage.” This outlook on life outside of marriage does not represent a modern, feminist way of thinking (58).

After Modou’s rejection of her and their children, Ramatoulaye must still carry on as a mother. She devotes herself to her children. She finds “joy and sadness together: joy in being loved by my children, the sadness of a mother who does not have the means to change the course of events” (56). She is both on her own and still married, an interesting new position for women that has evolved from customs blending with modernity. Ramatoulaye becomes a hard-working “single” mother. She tries to be involved with her children’s lives but is also busy providing for her family. This allows for some of her children’s actions to slip by unnoticed. The discovery of her daughters smoking cigarettes foreshadows her daughter Aissatou’s pregnancy. Shocked, Ramatoulaye asks herself: “how could I guess that my daughter, who had calmed my anger during the cigarette affair, was now indulging in an even more dangerous game?” (85). An unwed pregnant daughter is to be disowned by a family but the fact that Ramatoulaye “could not abandon her, as pride would have me do” can be viewed as another example of Ramatoulaye’s modernity (87).

Ramatoulaye represents women trying to make sense of where they are considered to belong and where they wish to belong. Society’s expectations of a woman and a woman’s expectations of society are a constantly evolving state in every culture. Ramatoulaye exemplifies the struggles of post-colonial Senegalese women, but her struggles transcend her time and location. Women are always trying to blend customs and modernity into their own personal recipes for happiness and success. Ba draws our attention to the microcosm of Ramatoulaye’s experience and prompts one to think of the macrocosmic blend of modernity and custom in all women’s lives.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Summary and Analysis of Ania Loomba's Critique of Shakespeare's "The Tempest"

Summary and Analysis of Loomba Critique




Ania Loomba writes from a feminist viewpoint in her critical essay to show how both gender and racial inequality are represented within the play. She focuses her essay on “the black rapist”, Sycorax, and Miranda’s schooling. These topics address colonialism and patriarchal oppression. Loomba gives us a closer critical analysis of the inequalities Shakespeare acknowledges with the play.

Loomba draws from Octave Mannoni’s “Psychologie de la Colonisation” to show that “Caliban does not complain of being exploited: he complains of being betrayed” and that he is “an eager partner in his own colonization” (325). Caliban’s desire to integrate with Prospero and Miranda is representative of natives adopting colonist lifestyles and beliefs. It was thought that natives would either force themselves on white women in order to be looked at as fully assimilated to their new culture or because they could no longer assert their supremacy in society after colonization. Either way, the myth of the “black rapist” was formed.

While the black male, Caliban, is to be feared because of his rapist tendencies, the black woman, Sycorax, is to be dominated. Although Sycorax dies before the play begins, reflections on her character give insight into the oppression brought with colonization and the institution of patriarchal ideals by the colonists. Caliban tells Prospero “This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother, / Which thou tak’st from me” (I. ii. 334-35). Many African and Caribbean cultures conformed to maternal inheritance laws. Prospero’s colonization of the island and calling it his own represents both “racial plunder and a transfer to patriarchy” (329). Another example of a transfer to colonial ideals is the juxtaposition of “Sycorax’s illegitimate pregnancy” with “Miranda’s chastity and virginity” (329). Prospero views Sycorax as a “foul witch” (I. ii. 258). Loomba believes “Prospero’s descriptions of Sycorax emphasize both her non-European origins and her fertility” (328). Miranda represents patriarchal ideals, while Sycorax represents freedom and independence. This contrast conforms to the stereotypical paradigm of woman as virgin / whore, or goddess / witch.

Finally, Loomba focuses on Miranda’s schooling. Prospero teaches Miranda to be obedient. He orders her to “sit down,” “obey, and be attentive,” “Dost thou attend me?” “I pray thee, mark me,” “Thou attend’st not,” and “Dost thou hear?” while he is story-telling (I. ii). She is also ordered to “sleep, awake, come on, see, speak, be quiet, obey, be silent, hush and be mute” (331). Miranda is not viewed as an equal by Prospero, instead he sees her as “property to be exchanged between father and husband” (331). Prospero tells Ferdinand, “then, as my gift, and thine own acquisition / Worthily purchas’d, take my daughter” (IV. i. 13-14). Prospero views Miranda as property that he controls. She conforms to his ideas because they are the only ideas she knows.

Shakespeare shows many forms of oppression in his play “The Tempest.” It is no wonder that as a feminist looking to show Shakespeare’s keen perception of gender and racial inequality, Loomba chose to critique this work. While the topics raised were relevant to oppression by colonization and patriarchal ideals at the time of production, these topics are still problematic in today’s society. There is still work to be done to eliminate the myth of the black rapist, ensure equality for all people, and dismantle the patriarchy. Loomba draws attention to the fact that hundreds of years later these issues are still at the forefront of discussion by anyone seeking an egalitarian society.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Miranda's Oppression in Shakespeare's "The Tempest"

Miranda's Oppression


The England of Shakespeare’s time had only recently become a matriarchy. This new female power created a shift in the centuries-old male hierarchy. Thus, Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne created a feminist awakening among English women. Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” addresses the expectations of women in a patriarchal society. Prospero’s indoctrination of Miranda with patriarchal ideals is still problematic in some Muslim societies. Miranda is stranded on an island for the play’s entirety, forced to be attentive to her father, and is referred to as property. The refusal to let their daughters be educated, the isolation of their daughters from society, and their view of their daughters as property, are opinions shared by Prospero and many Muslim fathers. Therefore, a modernization of Shakespeare’s play, reset in Iran with a dominating father and cloistered daughter exemplifies the patriarchal order still at work in the world.

Prospero asserts his dominance over his daughter by stating his superiority. He tells Miranda that “I have done nothing, but in care of thee / (Of thee my dear one, thee my daughter), who / Art ignorant of what thou art, nought knowing of whence I am, nor that I am more better” (I. ii. 16-19). He orders her to “sit down,” “pluck my magic garment from me,” and demands she “obey and be attentive” during his storytelling ( I. ii. 32-3, 23, 38). She is also ordered to “sleep, awake, come on, see, speak, be quiet, obey, be silent, hush and be mute” (Loomba 331). His physical orders and insistence for her attention ensures continuation of his patriarchal beliefs as does her education. Miranda’s learning relies solely on what her father chooses to teach her; he controls her intelligence. Her desire for “more to know / Did never meddle with [her] thoughts” (I. ii. 22-23). Miranda’s obedience training ensures that she will not question what lessons her father tells her. A young woman in Iran is taught to be obedient to all men. The Iranian Miranda sadly obeys her father’s commands. Her father’s story of family betrayal causes Miranda to drift into a daydream. Her father’s, “Dost thou hear?” wakens her (I. ii. 106). Miranda’s sarcastic retort, “Your tale, sir, would cure deafness” includes reverential respect for her father while showing her annoyance at the story’s repetition (I. ii. 107). There are no books in their home except the Quran. When Miranda chooses passages regarding women’s education, her father redirects to another passage regarding a woman’s place as wife and mother. Her father emphasizes that education is not necessary for these roles. Both Miranda and the Iranian woman internalize their father's teachings.

These teachings include the thought of women as property. Prospero's assumption of contrrol of Miranda represents the white male hierarchy within England at the time of the play's original production. Male English explorers claimed land for their country just as they claimed ownership of English women. Prospero sees Miranda as “property to be exchanged between father and husband” (Loomba 331). Prospero tells Ferdinand, “then, as my gift, and thine own acquisition / Worthily purchas'd, take my daughter” (IV. I. 13-4). Prospero views Miranda as property that he controls. She conforms to these ideas because they are the only ones she knows. The Iranian daughter knows she will be controlled all her life by men. According to Islamic law she is to answer to her father, then her husband, then her son. Both fathers view their daughters as property, and due to their isolation from an outside world of alternate thought, both daughters internalize this way of thinking.

In order to maintain control of their daughters, each father must keep them isolated. Prospero keeps Miranda isolated even though he has powers that could allow them to leave the island. Miranda's isolation from Milan and all of society allows for complete control by her father. The Muslim father keeps his daughter locked in the house away from the world outside. This isolation ensures the father's control over all aspects of their daughter's lives, with no possibiliy of free thinking and independent decision making.

Just as the consciousness among Elizabethan women was raised, so too are Muslim women's. The centuries-old indoctrination of Muslim women by Muslim men in regards to their education, being regarded as property, and their isolation from society is being addressed within their own communities. To demonstrate a new, feminist ending the Muslim daughter must leave Iran to pursue an education and live independently. She throws off the mantle of male oppression by doing these things and especially by not marrying Ferdinand. Prospero liked Ferdinand so much because Miranda's marriage to him would ensure continuation of the patriarchal order. Miranda not marrying Ferdinand and wanting an egalitarian relationship represents her enlightenment.

Shakespeare's keen perception of gender inequality is shown with the gender dynamic between Miranda and Prospero. The hierarchal disorder Elizabeth's ascension to the throne created among the sexes centuries ago is still relevant today. This inequality is revisited in Loomba's critique of “The Tempest” and draws attention to the fact that hundreds of years later these issues are still at the forefront of discussion with anyone seeking an egalitarian society. The fact that “The Tempest” can be reworked feasibly into a modern setting proves that the gender inequality of Shakespeare's time is still alive.





Works Cited

Johnson, Dean, ed. Shakespeare Riverside Anthology. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1997.

Loomba, Ania. “Gender, Race and Renaissance Drama” Bedford: St. Martin's.

Representation of Class in The Importance of Being Earnest

Representation of Class in The Importance of Being Earnest




Oscar Wilde’s society play, The Importance of Being Earnest, examines the issue of class in Victorian London. The play is Wilde’s satirical interpretation of English high society as one big act. As described by Abrams, this play is the “supreme example” of a farce comedy because the “exaggerated character-types find themselves in ludicrous situations in the course of an improbable plot, but which achieve their comic effects […] by the sustained brilliance and wit of the dialogue” (Abrams 40). Wilde uses his characters to parody class expectations, by using humor. The function of the witty dialogue is meant to make the subject matter lighter and more approachable. The dialogue, along with the actions of the characters Lady Bracknell, Cecily Cardew, and Gwendolyn Fairfax, are used to represent the knowledge of one’s class. These characters use their knowledge and presumed membership of the upper class to judge those they do no believe to be of equal status to themselves. The significance of these characters is to show three different female viewpoints to the rules of proper society.

Lady Bracknell represents the high society matron of the time. She is knowledgeable that proper conduct and adherence to rules represents a “correct” upbringing. She self-centeredly thinks Algernon can persuade Bunbury to not have a relapse on Saturday. A relapse would keep Algernon from arranging music for her party. This example proves her concern for what only directly affects her. Her dialogue exhibits the rules of society, no matter how backward. In response to Gwendolen’s news of her engagement, Lady Bracknell responds, “Pardon me, you are not engaged to any one. When you do become engaged to some one, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact. An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be. It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself” (Wilde, 12). Lady Bracknell represents the upper class of Victorian London concerned with her daughter marrying for status, not love. The upper classes of this time looked at marriage as a business matter that should be decided by a girl’s family, not by the girl herself. Lady Bracknell has a list of appropriate men to marry her daughter and although Jack Worthing is not on that list, she is willing to add him if he answers a few questions to her liking. After inquiring as to his income, houses, and politics she decides to move on to the subject of his lineage. The importance of heritage and family lines are to ensure no drop in social status by those involved. Upon discovering that Jack is found in a handbag and has neither parent, Lady Bracknell is mortified. Without a lineage to assert Jack as being from an appropriate class to marry Gwendolyn, Lady Bracknell informs Jack that she will not let her daughter “marry into a cloak-room, and form an alliance with a parcel” (Wilde, 15). This ridiculous extreme is used by Wilde to symbolize the importance of “proper” family background in the upper class.

Lady Bracknell repeats her disapproval with a sarcastic reference to Cecily Cardew’s lineage when she asks Jack if “Miss Cardew [is] at all connected with any of the larger railway stations in London?” (Wilde, 46). After initially dismissing Cecily Cardew, she in informed of the young lady’s funds and changes her opinion of her. Lady Bracknell had no money herself and married into society, yet is hypocritical of Jack trying to marry into high society by wedding her daughter. When Algernon makes a dismissive remark about society, Lady Bracknell responds “never speak disrespectfully of society, Algernon. Only people who can’t get into it do that” (Wilde, 47). This statement implies Lady Bracknell includes herself in proper society and is thereby authorized to inform Algernon of the rules.

Gwendolen is a sophisticated, yet shallow young lady. She adequately represents the privileged Victorian woman. By analyzing her diary entries, her self-absorption is evident; all of her entries are about herself. Wilde uses Gwendolen’s obsession with the name Earnest as a metaphor for the upper class’s fixation on acceptable and admirable characteristics. She is looking for a man to fit a model, rather than looking at each suitor’s qualities individually.

When meeting Cecily Cardew, Gwendolen asks if she can look at her with her lorgnette. Wilde is using this instrument as a symbol of “society’s eye.” Through this instrument, Gwendolen can study and judge Cecily, just as one class judges another. During their tea, Cecily tries to remain dignified although she is given sugar in her tea and cake after asking for bread and butter because she has been raised to be polite. After arguing over who is engaged to Earnest, Gwendolen tries to upstage Cecily’s announcement that her engagement will be in the county newspaper. Gwendolen asserts her higher social standing by declaring that her engagement to Earnest will be in the “Morning Post.” The “Morning Post” is obviously a more elevated newspaper than a country one. This verbal “one-upping” by Gwendolen is not only done to show Cecily that she is who Earnest is truly engaged to but, to also show Cecily that she considers herself to be of a higher class.

Cecily Cardew represents the bourgeois society of London. She has money, but no parents, and therefore no lineage. Without an established family association she is not considered to be of equal class by Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen. Cecily living in the country represents the stereotype of rural Londoners as common and unpolished. Gwendolen boasts her superiority by scoffing at the characteristics of the country. Cecily tries to entertain Gwendolen and show her that she is her equal with the tea ceremony. When Merriman asks if he should serve the tea as usual, Cecily’s stern, calm command of: “Yes, as usual” is her assertion as the lady of the house and therefore she is to be respected (Wilde, 37). Cecily scandalously puts sugar in Gwendolen’s tea and gives her cake to retaliate for her derogatory comment of Cecily’s knowledge of spades. Gwendolen says: “I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different” (Wilde, 37). This statement clarifies Gwendolen’s opinion of herself as a proper young lady and Cecily as ignorant country girl.

The Importance of Being Earnest represents interaction among the social strata of Victorian London. Wilde was able to address a situation in a way that would make people talk by twisting and turning dialogue and situations. Confronting the stereotyping of classes in a comical way opened the situation up for discussion. Victorian ideals were prudent and serious. Wilde used his characters to function as starting points for conversations. After seeing the play, audience members could then discuss what was and what was not tolerated among the classes. This angle of approaching a problem was significant because one of the rules of the upper class was to not talk about class. Wilde made discussions possible because no one had to be serious.

Victorian London had divisions among its classes, but within these was also the division among the sexes. The dialogue Wilde gave to his female characters was legendary. Women of Victorian London were not generally outspoken. The snappy, and snippy, repertoire by the female characters addressed the issue of a male dominated society. This gender equality within the play was also significant starting point for discussions. Women could bring about the subject of their inequality on a light note. This representation of outspoken women was probably admired by female audience members who were encouraged to be quiet and reserved.

Wilde’s conception of character in The Importance of Being Earnest is relatable to the audience because his characters represent different societal classes. His blending of class lines with questions of acceptability could transfer to the audience member’s personal lives. Wilde exposes the ludicrous standards and rules of the upper class in a humorous way. This led them to think of the standards and rules themselves as ludicrous. This play opened the door to discussions about class and opened minds to question what class truly entailed.













Work Cited

Wilde, Oscar. The Importance of Being Earnest. 1899. New York: Dover, 1990.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Balance and Authenticity in Don Belton's "My Soul is a Witness"


http://justicefordonbelton.com/



Balance and Authenticity




Don Belton's “My Soul is a Witness” describes the struggle between the public and private life of a performer. Her identity crisis stems from her personal sacrifice for the advancement of her career. The loss of balance between her public and private worlds causes her to be regarded as a purely public persona. Her true self becomes forgotten and she becomes a character for public consumption. The parallelism between the performer and the apartment along with the evolution of her music symbolizes this loss of balance. The performer's rebirth in the story can be related to current celebrity turmoils and transformations.

The performer's apartment serves as a symbol for the performer herself. The original reasons for purchasing her apartment, which is now her headquarters, were personal. She “craved a life filled with books, [her] own cooking, and other people's music” (66). She imagined living a fulfilled life in the apartment. She hoped to share it with a man “who would admire [her] secret face” (66). The apartment represents the life and love she hoped for. Instead, “[t]he apartment is a prop, a part of the machinery that throws [her] outside image at the world. The original concept of the apartment as a home has evolved to become quite the opposite. It parallels the performer, in that it is no longer the original. They have each evolved to an untrue state.

Her music also evolves into a similarly untrue state. She originally had the “sound [her] soul made in [her] body to reach an audience” (68). There was an authenticity to her song. She “would have wrenched it from the center of [her] breasts if need be to work up a feeling” (68). Her records now come “clothed in jarring hooks and computer-programmed crashes” instead of from her heart where she originally connected with her audience. Now she “record[s] music [she] no longer love[s]” and has “become a simulator” (67) (68). Her performance authenticity is lost because she loses her personal authenticity while “the audience drains the performer without making spiritual repayment for the performance” (Miller). The disconnect with her audience grows exponentially and she becomes concerned about her career beginning to end. The intimacy with the audience during the original performances allowed a “conversion of emotional energy” (Miller). The technological advancements of her performances take her further away from her audience.

The power of water in the story exemplifies the power of transformation and regeneration. She twice rises from water in the story. Her emergence from the bathtub makes her feel “sick and longing” (66). The bath has physically transformed her into a performer, ready to entertain, but she is mentally “between worlds...waiting for [her] transformation” (66). This departure from a physical tub of water juxtaposes against the performer's hallucinatory birth from “hours on the watery floor” (69). After her bath she needs a Valium, wine, and cigarettes, whereas after her rebirth she “simply rise[s]” (69). The bath is a precursor to a theatrical evening. The rebirth, although theatrically described by Belton, is authentic in that she had a personal experience not for public consumption.

The loss of personal and public life balances is prevalent in current American society. The proliferation of gossip magazines, dailies, glossies, proves the desire of the American public to know about their entertainers private lives. These in addition to internet and around the clock news channels prove the public's constant need for consumption that causes celebrities to feel as if they live on a stage at all times. This causes an identity crisis to arise in them regarding their personal authenticity. Just as the performer's neurosis consumes her to the point that she experiences a physical, emotional, and spiritual breakdown, so too do many celebrities. As a reader of the performer's story, one is left at the end wondering what she will do now. The rebirth hopefully functions as a new beginning and a time to examine her life; an epiphany. If that is true, the reader is left to wonder what this dinner party will turn into and if she will change how she is living.

The implications of the loss of the true self of celebrities results in neurosis and bounded authenticity. Just as the performer “consider[s] the drama of [her] public life-- [her] magazine covers, industry awards, record-breaking sales, [her] marriages and remarriages and the lovers who turn in to soul-murderers in the dark” so too do today's celebrities(67). The blossoming career so soon turns in to the “new album and a seventeen-city concert tour, product endorsements, hotel rooms, private jets, parties. Oblivion” (67). The disconnect begins with the audience and the original authentic self. The allure of multiple vices contributes to the personal fall of the celebrity. The performer's “voice strains under the burden of cigarettes and isolation” (67). the destruction of the original continually spirals out of control.

The ultimate contradiction of the story is the opening description of the performer exiting her limousine and entering her apartment. She wraps her “face and head in a tulle black veil [and] put[s] on the dark glasses” (65). As she passes the paparazzi her “teeth flash inside the veil”(65). This scene is the ultimate paradox in that it is the performance of privacy. The line becomes even more blurred because even privacy becomes an act, but for who? Is the celebrity truly trying to retain privacy or merely alluding to privacy's possibility? One need not look further than some of unbelievable attempts to convince the public of one's privacy while simultaneously performing the opposite.

The story serves to explicate the repetition of the same situation for all celebrities and performers. While some performers are reborn and sustain the new life, some are continually reborn, and some simply die. The possible rebirth may simply become an overdose. The performer in the story “remember[s] [her]self”(69), just as adoring fans hope that many of their flailing celebrity interests will. Just as in the story, once the balance and authenticity are lost the personal self is not far behind.







Works Cited

Belton, Don. The Soul is My Witness. Breaking Ice. Penguin. New York: 1990.