Romantic love is celebrated as a source of strength in a world with some underlying sadness



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STUDY GUIDE

Sonnets

  • Romantic love is celebrated as a source of strength in a world with some underlying sadness.

  • The sonnets affirm the integrity and spirituality of love.

  • The poems are intensely personal.

  • Sonnets from the Portuguese have been valued as significant in the development of the sonnet in English studies. Browning’s manipulation of the sonnet form, based on the Petrarchan model, is highly skilled and acclaimed. She uses a traditionally male form to express a uniquely female voice. Her use of caesura in the form of unusual punctuation help establish the personal and conversational tone to many of the sonnets.

  • The highly religious Victorian context and Barrett-Browning’s personal religiosity allows her to believe in an eternal and metaphysical manifestation of love.

Gatsby

  • There is no place for transformative romantic love in a materialistic society.

  • Nick’s unreliable narration, which tends to be distant and clinical, forces the responder to examine the issues at hand.

  • Fitzgerald’s Modernist context is a secular one where capitalism dominates the values of the American public.

  • Materialism results in a lack of spiritual dimension and hence Gatsby's great love for Daisy can only be expressed and conceived of in materialistic terms.

  • Love, in the secular and the cynically materialistic context of Jazz Age, is an impossible dream because idealisation can only ever be based on physical and superficial elements.

Comparison

  • The contexts of Victorian England and post-World War I America can be contrasted with ease. Essentially this can be broken down to spirituality vs materialism.

  • Idealised love, hope and mortality are concerns common to the paired texts.

  • The function of personal voice in the sonnets and first-person narration in The Great Gatsby can be explored, evaluated and compared.

Sonnets From the Portuguese

Context

  • Victorian era is commonly associated with a society that was staid and conservative.

  • Victorian era was also one of great change and vitality

  • Underneath a frequently repressive social code was something far less austere and genteel. This kind of contradiction was typical of the Victorian period: Victorian values were proudly enshrines, but extraordinary social unrest was ignored; national success was boasted about, not the colonial and working class exploration upon which it was based.

  • 1830 – 48 saw significant social turmoil and the movement of people from rural to urban areas

  • 1848 – 70 was characterised by greater economical confidence, but religious uncertainty.

  • 1870 – 1901 marked a decay of Victorian values and apprehension about what would come next with the turn of the century.

  • The shift from rural to urban work accelerated with eh rise of mechanisation and factories.

  • Characterised by repression, abstinence, conservatism, gentility

  • Tightening of moral codes in a period of nationalism and legal freedom – celebrates moral abandonment

  • Moral uprightness, particularly in attitudes towards female sexuality – indiscretions would result in disgrace and personal ruin – pious ness was expected

  • Christian values: the belied in god, angels, heaven, hell

  • Personal context – scandalous epistolary romance; controversial elopement; paternal disinheritance; move to Rome; ailments and improving health

  • In the context of the 19th century, the sonnets were at first highly regarded for their intensity of expression and their representation of a woman’s perspective. After BB's death, the sonnets were increasingly read for the light they shed on her own life. These tensions within the 19th century context can enrich the study of the text and the context in this elective

  • BB was born in 1806. She was frail yet had no distinct problems until 1821. She was an accomplished woman who thrived on knowledge, particularly literature. She had tragedy in her life: mother died when she was 22, brother when 32. Her father was a dominant, domineering, demanding man who insisted in complete obedience from his adult children. Her father was a major barrier to her acceptance of Robert’s proposal of marriage. Her father thought very badly of marriage and disowned any of his children that married. After the marriage, her father disowned her and she never saw him again.

Form and Style

  • Italian sonnet

  • BB sonnet appropriates the male voice and changes it to a feminine voice

  • Italian sonnets was a form of expression romantic love of the male poet; it gave voice to male’s concerns and feelings; by giving this voice to the female, Barret Browning makes it feminine, helping express the liberating power of love

  • The sonnet form allows expression and reflections. The sequence communicates the love story between Barret and Browning; sequences were meditative exercises and expressions of feelings

  • Each succeeding poem introduces a new focus in the idea of love, therefore amplifies the romantic sensibility of the poem

  • Poem blend the real and the ideal

  • Heightened form of poetry used for heightened emotions

  • Challenges repression

  • BB doesn’t manipulate the responder – we are not invited into the text to infer meaning = we are told about her experiences with love

  • To offer some privacy to the intensely personal subject matter of the sonnets, she made their title ambiguus, so trick people to thin that they originally came from Portugal.

  • Petrachan sonnet, originally Italian that dividends into 14 lines, two parts octave (8 lines) sestet (6 lines).

  • The octet introduces a problem, express a desire, reflect on reality, or present a situation that causes doubt or conflict within the poet.

  • The sestet introduces a pronounced change in tone in the sonnet, and its purpose is to comment on the problem or to apply a solution to it.

BB has chosen this male verse form, reversing the conventional position of the woman as an object of love who explores love from the position of one inside, looking out.

Purpose Values and Perspectives

Romantic love is celebrated as a source of strength in a world with some underlining sadness and difficulties

The sonnets affirm the integrity and spirituality of love

The poems are intensely personal



  • Asserts that Romantic love sublimates in a state of bliss

  • Suggests that transcendence is propelled by the romantic experience

  • Shows that her poems are connected to her cultural context = BB takes faith in the individual and transfers it to an understanding of love

  • Her perspective of love changes – she questions what love is and comes to understand it. She moves from idealised love to real love. She defines love as consequence of her experiences = she is seen to be extraordinary in her context

  • Love shown to be liberating

The secret epistolary romance between B and Browning followed their controversial elopement and fairytale ending of a happy marriage complete with child has fascinated readers from her contemporaries to the present.

Love story began in 1945 when Robert wrote ti Barrett in praise of her poetry. After 20 months of correspondence and meetings they eloped and moved to Italy.

For the Victorian reader, the sonnets were the epitome of appropriate poetry for women to write because they showed a woman in her best role – loving and expressing sentiments of love.

The poems were met with reticence, not praise, and the sonnet’s success would not come until later, when her biographical connection to the poems was known – people were more interested in the mystery and love story.

Her value was seen in her capacity as a woman to express love and devotion to her lovers and husband.

The sonnets can be read critically as poems without taking into account the courtship context but considering some of the tensions in the sequence in the light of actual circumstances can influence our interpretation of them. We can better appreciate and accept the intensity of the poetic voice and its rhetorical stance in examining love, death and intimacy when we consider what sorts of experiences the sonnets reflect.

Barrett Browning was doing more than simply expressing a woman’s capacity for love. The voice in the sonnets is an empowered one, asserting the right of a woman to be assertive, passionate, playful and ironic. She is no longer unattainable, distant object of male desire but the centre of conscious feeling and action.


  • Positive expression of love from a 19th century woman’s perspective

  • The power of live to transform and exploration of this experience

  • Victorian spiritual values, offers transcendence and makes love possible = SPIRITUALITY allows love to be real

  • These sonnets reverse the Courtly Love sonnet convention of the male persona and its desire for the unattainable.

  • The inevitable limitation of love is death, not love itself.

  • 19th century values, strong belief in capacity, woman has to love

Analysis

Language

  • Distance and proximity between the lovers

  • Intimacy

  • The sense, especially the tactile

  • Possession and loss

  • The duality of body and soul

  • Limited time. Eternity

  • Silence/speech

Structure

  • Manipulation of the sonnet form

  • Patterns of imagery

  • Question/answer

  • Contrasts between heaven and either

  • Contrasts between time and eternity

  • The sonnet as a form can be ‘structure by an evolving Inner emotional dynamic, as the fictive speaker is shown to ‘see more’”

  • The fictive speaker is the female voice of the poems

  • She is sown as seeing more as the sequence develops

  • She changes her mind in the sense that she reflects on her thoughts and feelings and reshapes them

  • She also passes from description to analysis

  • Emotional shifts within and between poems

  • Patterns of words and images

  • Changes in ways of thinking about experience within and between poems

I “I thought once how Theocrates had sung…”

The opening reference to Theocractes, the 3rd century BC Greek pastoral poet that catches a sense of nostalgia for the past, a kind of mediation, which is echoed in the lines: “of the sweet years, the dear and wished for years”. This allusion also commences BB’s analysis of love, portraying that Love will be the theme in the sonnets to follow.

The personal tone, particularly the use of first person in the first sentence, is indicative of intimate experience, and the intimacy portrayed in the poems.

She has never experiences love, and has only read about it, hence the discussion of Theocrates and the “antique tongue”, specifically love in its idealistic state.

Her inexperience is commented on in the resolution as she realizes she has misinterpreted death for love. Her recognition of this event, and her reflection upon it alludes to her act of altering her mindset for the future.

XIV “If thou must love me…”

This poem is an expression of unconditional love. It is a subversion of the typical sonnets as BB tells the experiences from the female perspective. We see the other side of the classical male Petrachan sonnet. The first lines mock the courtly kind of love, as do the unrealistic measures of love that often occur in love sonnets.

The speaker demands that she be loved for love alone. She rejected being loved for any attributes that are elements that could pass or fade in their appeal for him, and thereby, loving her for those his love for her would similarly diminish. “I love her for her smile”

Adds force to this list by putting the words into the man’s mouth, as if these might be the sorts of qualities he would list – a kind of courtly love often expressed in Petra Chan poems.

This technique gives immediacy to the idea and animates the speaker’s request that such attributes not be admitted. So her instruction that she be loved is demanding, showing her growth from the insecure woman unable to understand love, to a woman knowing exactly what she wants from her love.

The last couplet: “But love me for love’s sake, that evermore/ Thou may’st love on through love’s eternity –“ the repetition of love throughout the sonnet intensifies the sense of idealism.

The poem is an expression of the difficulty of finding and keeping true love that is not based on some less than adequate attraction, bit also a celebration of love which, if rightly inspired but the love of love itself, will last for “eternity.”

XXII “when our two souls stand up…”

Affirmation between the spiritual and material world. This love is mystical, yet grounded in reality, morality as a factor.

BB juxtaposes the earthbound world and heaven or eternity. This tension reflects one of the most pressing matters for intelligent Victorians: the matter of faith and doubt.

The speaker imagines their upright souls aspiring to heaven in powerful imagery as they transcend the earth and any “bitter wrong” earthly life can do to them. His Imagery almost equates them to angels. A sublime image and overwhelming sense of awe is the tone of the sonnet. The two lovers in a sense of rapture. It seems a celebration of the desire to escape from the spatiotemporal domain into eternity.

The rhetorical question, followed by the punctuation (important in BB poetry) gives the sense of contemplation at the image that she has presented u with.

By ‘mounting higher’ angels “would press on us.” The image of oppression juxtaposes and confront her readers whose image of angels are of beauty and kindness. BB recognizes the beauty associated with angels, as she goes on to create a beautiful image “some golden orb of perfect song” speaking positively of the experience, before contradiction with the impression that this will interrupt the lover’s “deep dear silence.”

The decisive: “let us stay” is the start of the sestet, introducing the solution. It is a testament to the power of their love that she should invest it with this confident strength to with stand whatever assault “darkness and the death-hour” of human existence and mortality might bring.” She suggests that time can destroy their love, but for it to be real love must be experienced in the present.

Juxtaposes the earthly world with heavenly world with an extended metaphor of she and her lover being almost equated to angels as they transcend the earth. She adds another level of juxtaposition by negatively presenting the angles “press[ing] on” the lovers with, “some golden orb of perfect song” which will ruin their “deep, dear silence” and the perfection that they have on earth

Negative images, such as “unfit”, “contrarious” describe earth in comparison to the perfection of heaven, but she is convinced that on earth, their love will have “a place to stand

XLIII “How do I love thee?”

This sonnet is a celebration of joyous love – love as a saviour. She speaker is confident and sees love as a liberating source. Love becomes a saviour because of spiritually that characterizes her life. Encompassing the worldly and spiritual elements. It is in the form of a catalogue of the ways in which she loves her love. It is a celebration of joy and confidence of love, and delight in the existence of the loved

To the second line, “depth, breadth , height” the poet adds and repeats “and: which augments the sense f the wide-ranging an all-encompassing quality of her love.

The capitalization of “Being” and “Ideal” links the poem to god, speaking of the spirituality of her love, although it still remains entrenched in reality.

Series of elements introduced by that simple phrase:” I love thee” where the repetition intensifies the affirmation, she declares that her love is free and pure and possesses the passion, which she brought. Most importantly her love is liberating for her The Great Gatsby

Context

The America of the great Gatsby is not an egalitarian or homogeneous society. It is a world divided on wealth-based class, on geographical bases, on moral values. The East is the setting for America’s reinvention of itself following the horrors of WW1. The West, the traditional frontier, has been abandoned to its small town mentality.

The selfish moralities of consumerism are the country’s new moral code and the pursuit of wealth and pleasure its new religion.


  • Characterized by riotous and reckless behaviors

  • Tensions between

    • Cit and country; traditional and new trends; old manners and new morals’ old world and rise o the new world

  • Benchmarked by WW1 and the depression

  • Velocity of change documented by Fitzgerald

  • An era of consumer power; the doctrine of consumption; the new woman

  • In 1919 the year of WW1 ended, Prohibition was introduced in America. Losing their respect for the law and enriching gangsters.

  • An era of changing values – hedonism; riotous behaviors; extravagance immorality shallowness

The American Dream

Fitzgerald explores the tensions that exists between tow variant definitions of the American Dream:

An ideal version, preserving the sense of wonder and limitless possibility at the heart of what America means – the embodiment of human potential, free from any limits set by past experience.

The other, a materialistic version that the process of creating one’s self is equated with becoming rich. It is the corrupt means by which Gatsby has achieved wealth and his vulgar exhibitions of affluence that provoke Nick’s scorn.

Gatsby’s desire was to create an ideal self, held together by hope and wonder. But this ideal is tainted by the criminal means he employs to attain his evident wealth

The tension here may be formulated in terms of success and failure. Fitzgerald presents a paradox with success in material terms; inescapable means failure in the terms of ideal.



Background

The 1920’s were a period of expansion, driven by a social creed of upward mobility. The period is usually identified with money and gaiety. Gatsby’s flashy cars, his lavish parties, the reckless conduct of his guests and the carelessness of the Buchanan’s are all part of this atmosphere of carelessness and reckless enjoyment.

Related to this atmosphere was the rise of organized rime, which led to widespread corruption. And it is this background of crime and illegal dealing that prevails in The Great Gatsby.

Mid West

The Midwest is identified with the hopeful spirit which Gatsby represents, a certain old fashioned stability which resist of the comfit of old, unchanging values and close relationships where some of the old pioneer spirit of industry and purpose still lingers.

Te Buchanan’s have lost that “gift for hope” having surrendered totally to a careless, aimless way of life, occupied only with material things:

East + Midwest between materialistic concerns and spiritual purpose that destroys Gatsby.



Form and Style

  • Urbanizes the novel = composes a modernist text characterized by its realism

  • Wrote in an age that questioned the value of literature

  • He offers elevated and romantic description of consumption, products, parties and food rather than natural landscapes

  • modernist writer = he condenses his ideas into the essence, manipulated the novel form

  • Fitzgerald manipulated the responder as awe are presented with a version of love from a flawed narrator – Fitzgerald invited us into the texts to question love

  • The narrative frame of the first person voice, retelling events and reflecting on them

  • The locations and values associated with the settings

  • Interaction of past and present

  • 9 chapters, each one with more dramatic scene

  • The structure of novel includes the narrative frame of Nick who brings his own perspective to the novel.

  • Narrative voice

  • This first person narrative structural device puts Nick firmly in control of the narrative

  • “He told me all this very much later, but I've put it down here with the idea of undoing those first wild rumors about his antecedents which weren’t even remotely true.”

  • Retrospective

  • Narration of the love relationship of Gatsby and Daisy is interrupted by other events and observations

  • Novel is a comparatively small structure build of nine chapters like bog blocks. The fifth chapter, is the centre of the narrative, the sevenths is its climax.

  • This way of looking at the narrative structure emphasizes that the novel plot s a dramatic rise and fall, which memories and reflections to explains and interpret the events.

Purpose Values and Perspective

  • Assert that it doesn’t matter what the dream is, it is unattainable because it is artificially constructed = it is not realistic as it is a dream f the past; dream has been destroyed by a world in which idealism has been corrupted.

  • Represented love as commodified = turn into an object rather than a spiritual experience or emotion = love is secularized

  • Constructs a protagonist who fails to question what love is = Gatsby is shown to be ordinary in his context

  • Spiritual; crisis is at the heart of the text. There is a sense that there is no guide and the moral rules have changed – this is why love fails.

  • Love is tainted by materialism, secularized, negative perspective and experience of disillusionment of love, love is dooms

  • Problematic love relationships represented in the novel

  • Reflect loss of spirituality if post WW1 society. Spiritual values sought but shown to be fragile in the word of the novel – the godless world, shown through the eyes of T.J Eckleburg

  • The ideal of courtly love fails in context because world is depicted with serious moral and spiritual problems. Hope is eradicated

  • Time presents a limitation because it taints love

  • The context which changes gender relations and the conspicuous pursuit of pleasure and consumerism makes idealistic love problematical. Daisy fails to give Gatsby the commitment and devotion of the women in the sonnets.

  • Courtly love dealt with ironically is it destroyed and damaged

  • Daisy isn’t worthy of love

Analysis

Language

Distance between east and west egg

The romantic view and its failures

The glamour of possessions

The security of homely values

The impossibility of recreating the past

Harsh social realities



Purpose

  • Condemn the ethical shallowness and recklessness of his context

  • Question the fruits of society through Nicks character who is challenged by society’s failing further and accuses society of carelessness

  • Asserts love isn’t liberating power in his context

  • Create a didactic text that illustrated social and personal failings

  • Examine a soulless, mechanized world where love without caring is delirious and destructive

  • Suggest that one cannot escape on the wings of love as Barret did – individuals are trapped by their changing values

  • Assert that in a faithless, loveless world everything is compromised

  • Suggest that the love of 1919 is temporary

Themes



  • The human need to love and be loves

  • The futility and emptiness of idealistic love

  • The power of dreams, hope and aspirations

  • The power of illusion over reality

  • The failure of the American dream

  • Materialism and corruption

  • The destructive power of selfishness and greed, spiritual vacuity ad moral blindness.

  • The importance of self-awareness


Motifs and Symbols
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