LITERARY CRITICISM: Love, Desire and Class General Introduction
Outline • A prelude “Love Story” • What is Romantic Love and what’s wrong with it? • Course Outline at a glance; Section I • Three Traditional Love Poems & one Contemporary Song • Reference • Readings for next week
Love Story By Andy Williams Where do I begin to tell a story of how great a love can be the sweet love story that is older than the sea the simple truth about the love she brings to me Where do I start With her first hello she gave a meaning to this empty world of mine There'd never be another love another time She came into my life and made the living fineshe fills my heart
she fills my heart with very special thingswith angel songs,with wild imaginingsShe fills my soul with so much lovethat anywhere I go I'm never lonely.With her along who could be lonelyI reach for her handit's always there
How long does it last Can love be measured by the hours in a day I have no answers now but this much I can say: I know I'll need her till the stars all burn away and she'll be there (underline added)
Is this a poem? • It depends. Some poetic elements: repetition, rimes. But what is poetry? • A fine combination of sound (rime, rhythm, meter, etc.) and sense (figurative language, irony, personification, etc.)? No. • Shocking us into a new awareness? No. • Instead, it is a straightforward celebration of a “romantic” love which falls in the tradition of “Romantic love.”
What is Romantic Love? What’s wrong with it? • The desire for union or merger; • Idealization of the beloved; • Exclusivity; (e.g. always, never) • Emotional dependency or powerful concern for the beloved. (Cf. J. 5) Nothing wrong, but Romantic love is not “Love.” It is apparently a powerful feeling that seems to be unique and eternal, but actually --
Romantic love is • A cultural product with a lot of conventions (or some plot elements); • e.g. to deal with its transience: • carpe diem (seize the day); liebestod (love and death) • Part of the tradition of idealized love (e.g. courtly love, Platonic love, neo-Platonic love, Romantic love).
Romantic love is • Problematic because it is powerful and seemingly “natural” and thus disguises realities of inequality, commodification or the nature of our desire. Sometimes it (“true love”) can even be turned into rigid laws to support or justify some gender oppression. • Victorian society – pinnacle of Romantic love, from which S. Freud’s theories arises.
The problems with both the song and the ideas of R. L. • Both can be deceiving. • The “canonical” love poems are not exempt from some “ideology” of love.
Course Outline • Traditional Love Poems: New Critical Reading and Beyond • Love and Desire: Psychoanalysis • Love and Bread: Marxism • Love in Culture: Cultural Studies Note: we are not limited by this topic.
New Critical Readings and Beyond • New Criticism: close reading; practical criticism; the “Text and Text Only” approach. Form and content united into an “organic whole.” • Beyond: • Discussing the social context(s) it fails to see. • Challenging its underlying beliefs liberal humanism.
Selected Love Poems • Shakespeare: Sonnet 130“My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun” • Courting sonnet in Romeo and Juliet (1591?) • John Donne “To his Mistress: Going to Bed” • Leonard Cohen “I’m Your Man”
Sonnet 130 • Thesis: Instead of seeing his lover as a beautiful goddess, the speaker describe his mistress and define his lover in relative terms in order to finally confirm his love. • Two kinds of comparison: • Worse – e.g. less red, worse than perfume, less pleasing than music yet he loves it; • Unlike ( More real) e.g. eyes, hair, walk. • The “truest” -- his “love” and his “language.”
Sonnet 130 -- Context • Seen as a sequence: Sonnet 127 to 152 • bitter and wry reflections on the poet’s sexual entanglement with a woman—who is, in turn, entangled with the youth at the expense of Shakespeare’s relations with both of them.” • Match the sardonic, misogynistic flavour of the early Jacobean court. . . (Jacob 36)
Courting sonnet in Romeo and Juliet • Thesis: The youngsters court or stay coy with misplaced conceits. • Juliet’s Hands shrine; Juliet, a saint. • Romeo: lips = pilgrims a palmer (pilgrim) with palms • Witty twist with “let lips do what hands do” What? Pray kiss
Courting sonnet in Romeo and Juliet-- Context • The play: • Before the sonnet (their first conversation), Romeo, like Byron in "She Walks in Beauty," compares Juliet to light or jewels at night and describes her as "true beauty." • Romeo goes to the ball to find his girlfriend Rosaline, but not Juliet. 2. The film(s)
“To his Mistress: Going to Bed” • Thesis: As the speaker uses witty conceits to ask the lady to strip herself, the ideology of platonic love is challenged but not that of sex as male battle and conquer. • Witty challenge of Platonic love: • Combine the spiritual and sensual, but see the latter as more important or at least the same with the former. • Puns with sexual connotations – labour, standing, “still can stand so nigh”, “hairy diadems,”“flesh upright”
“To his Mistress: Going to Bed” 3. Spiritual and natural images showing the sensual as something “better” and “natural”: -- girdle as heaven’s zone, (body as a far fairer world) -- body as flowery meads; -- souls unbodied = bodies unclothed -- fools who stop at breast plate or gems (traditional poets?) -- innocence = birth clothes
John Donne in Context • Dr. Donne and Jack Donne • Neo-Platonic Love in Renaissance–Its governing ambiguity: “things and persons in the world are to be loved only for the sake of a spiritual beauty that transcends them, and yet the beautiful cannot be appreciated unless we love its manifestations in matter (Singer 195.) • Christianity (from being a Catholic to an Anglican prelate), • Neo-Ovidian: “artificial and self-conscious in their defense of sexual pleasures” (Singer 196)
John Donne in Context • e.g. “Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” – unlike “dull-sublunary lovers, separation of the bodies does not hurt the union of ‘true’ lovers’ souls. • “The Extasie,” -- implies that love is a religious experience, • “To his Mistris Going to Bed” sex is a religious experience
I’m Your Man: Close Analysis postmodern parody/collage of traditional and contemporary images of love and masculinity (courtly romance, painting, fairy tales and Valentine )
I’m Your Man -- Context • Canadianism parodied • Signs of the Canadian: The Group of Seven, Riding the Timber, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the maple leaf.
Reference • Romantic Passion: A Universal Experience? Ed. William Jankowiak. Columbia University Press, 1995. • Nature of Love, Vol. 2: Courtly & Romantic. Irving Singer. University of Chicago Press, 1998. • A beginner's guide to critical reading : an anthology of literary texts. Richard Jacobs. London ; New York : Routledge , 2001.
Readings for next week • Chap 2. • “Reading for meaning: practical criticism and new criticism” • EB Browning Sonnet 26 - I lived with visions for my company • “Barbara Allen” • R. Browning “Porphyria’s Lover” and