Honestly, i have moments at Smith in which i feel this way, i just feel like i've been having them more frequently here, with my Modern Self class. Given that they're "moments" they may well fade from memory just as the Smith ones do, but i do think it's interesting that i'm feeling it more on a summer course than at my prestigous college of choice
. And if it keeps up, it's definitely worth all the money i've paid to be here.
Perhaps more accurately i'm learning (as i do at Smith) just what i like about literature and what interests me to study about literature.
I'm really big on allusions, probably because i love myth and religion [wow, typing that i realized for the first time that duh, my love of greek mythology and my passion for learning about different religions actually have a big connection] so much.
We started talking about the final line of The Mill on the Floss
, the line on their tomb: And in their death they were not divided
, which comes from 2 Samuel 1:23 and the resonance of the David/Saul/Jonathan relationship (reading this book
has ruined me of course, but i didn't talk about that) and how readers of the time would also hear the preceding line, "they were lovely in their lives," and how that has a dissonance given what kind of person Tom was and all that.
Other major Biblical allusions related to Maggie's self-destructive tendencies -- she cuts off her own hair in a twisting of Samson&Delilah, and her behavior with her Fetishes is directly linked in the text to the story of Jael (Judges 4:17-22).
Then there's Philip's slighly inaccurate rendering of the story of Philoctetes.
He listened with great interest to a new story of Philip's about a man who had a very bad wound in his foot, and cried out so dreadfully with the pain, that his friends could bear with him no longer, but put him ashore on a desert island, with nothing but some wonderful poisoned arrows to kill animals with for food.
'I didn't roar out a bit, you know,' Tom said, 'and I daresay my foot was as bad as his. It's cowardly to roar.'
But Maggie would have it that when anything hurt you very much it was quite permissible to cry out, and it was cruel of people not to bear it. She wanted to know if Philoctetes had a sister, and why she didn't go with him on the desert island and take care of him.
I don't need to tell you how many issues i have with Maggie's way of thinking there, but Valentine's line of thinking was that while Maggie wonders if Philoctetes had a sister, what if he were
a woman? He is othered in much the same wasy as women are. In the real story, his wound will not heal and it stinks so much that people cannot bear to be around him. This has very obvious parallels to how women were traditionally seen as contaminating presences because of menstruation and such. And Valentine said that when Odysseus and Diomedes go to retrieve Philoctetes, the first thing they see are his bandages hanging up drying.
Also, he said there was the idea that Philoctetes' phenomenal strength was linked to his wound, and that that was a common theme in myth, about strength being dependent upon a wound, and Philoctetes' is the title story in an early Freudian book The Wound and the Bow
which asserts that early trauma leads to literary greatness. (I'm not going to get into that argument at the moment.)
There's also the story of the witch of St. Ogg's and the drowning and the parallels to Maggie and the issues surrounding her and water throughout the book. I love stuff like that, retelling stories, parallel stories. That must relate to my fascination with not so much fairy tales themselves but the retellings of them (and often the originals, because our common versions have been so changed -- usually sanitized -- that they seem to be themselves retellings).
Valentine also talked about Feuerbach's Essence of Christianity, which George Eliot translated
. He mentioned the phrase "work is worship," which made me want to look for the book in the library to use as additional reference material for my Robinson Crusoe
paper and mentioned that another big thing of Feurbach's was the idea that all meals are sacramental and stuff, which got me interested in his actual theology.
A. S. Byatt, in his Introduction to my edition of The Mill on the Floss
writes of Feuerbach:
His central theory was that man had created God in his own image by personifying, or projecting, those human quantities he most valued in the human species onto eternal Figures. It was now time, he considered, to unlearn the language and understand the needs that had given rise to the creeds and codes of Christianity.
That pretty much sums up my take on religion (complicated by the fact that i insist on a belief in a loving Creator for my own sanity) so i really want to track down a copy of that book.
Valentine edited the World's Classics Adam Bede
and mentioned casually that if we buy a copy while we're here he'll autograph it. Anyone want? (I'm thinking mainly of my mother here, but anyone can respond.)
(Searching Amazon for him, i found this book
, which looks really interesting and reminded me of another thing he was talking about in class today, about writers having an idea as to what a novel is and how to do it is fairly recent [which got me thinking about Jessica's talk about Joyce reinventing the novel or whatever] and their big three women writers -- George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Iris Murdoch -- were critics/theorists before they were novelists. Plus i tend not to be so big on literary theory. Definitely wanna procure a copy of that book at some point.)