Strip the Willow and Rip the Bodice

Because everyone needs a hobby …

The Norton Anthology Has Arrived June 23, 2010

Drumroll …

The Norton Anthology of English Literature - Volume 2 - Eighth Edition - aka: MY LOVER

So, in The Seduction there are several references to contemporary texts. The first mentioned is easy enough to explain away.

One could even say it’s really annoying because it’s just … seriously? Like, we get that you know the period but don’t be so obvious.

Anyway, here’s the quote:

“Vanessa eyed Damien curiously. ‘The books I saw in your library seemed to have been well perused. Did your secretary read them all?’

‘No, I am the culprit, I’m afraid. I tend to read great deal here. There is little else to do.’

‘You actually read Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women?’

‘Yes. Have you?’

‘Yes.’ Her chin rose somewhat defiantly. Mary Wollstonecraft’s publication arguing against the subjection of women by men was considered seditious among the noble class. ‘And I found myself in accord with a number of her convictions regarding marriage. Especially those refuting the divine rights of husbands.’

‘She made some interesting points about the social tyranny exercised by men,’ Damien agreed, ‘but I thought some of her opinions stretched credibility.’ p.100-101

And blah blah blah, right?

I mean, Wollstonecraft is awesome – not saying anything against Wollstonecraft. But using her here is just … cheesy. One of the – I suppose you could say – motifs in this novel are the choices of women. Vanessa is reminding Olivia (Damien’s sister) that she has more choices than Vanessa had when she was younger and had to marry for money.

It comes down to choice – the novel concerns a lot of choices: when to finally succumb to Damien, when to tell the truth about this or that, when to take a lover back – but the one really spoken about is the choice Vanessa never had.

Or … didn’t have before the novel.

“‘Mr. Naysmith,’ Vanessa interrupted with impatience, ‘I have not yet considered where I wish to live once Miss Sinclair becomes mistress here, but that is hardly any of Lord Sinclair’s concern. And certainly fails to explain the reason for his … generosity.’

The solicitor nodded solemnly. ‘To put the matter delicately, my lady, he wished you to be financially independent so that you might be free to choose your own future – particularly whether or not to wed again.'” p.336

“If she understood correctly, she was now independently wealthy, completely free to make her own decisions about her future. Her fate was entirely hers to decide, unlike when Damien had obligated her to become his mistress, or when she had married a reckless rogue to satisfy her father’s debts.

Independence was Damien’s gift to her.” p.337

Again, are we surprised? Damien has finally turned away rom his rakish ways and is making amends where he can – including giving Vanessa the chance to make her own decisions to end the ‘male tyranny’ – to use his own quote there.

Personally, I like to think Wollstonecraft can be used for more than just going ‘yay women!’ There’s a lot more to Vindication – I always feel using it this way, though, is just a cop out. What are you going to do though?

It’s the next literary reference I really take issue with, though – and I’m so happy that I do as I was worried what poem of Wordsworth’s this particular bit came from (I’m not that smart – I knew it was Wordsworth but he’s not a huge favorite of mine so I had to google the line).

First – here’s the quote in the context of the novel (setting: Damien, Olivia, and Vanessa are on a picnic – they brought along Lyrical Ballads with them):

“It had not been an easy task, overcoming her vulnerability, but she was no longer cool and guarded in his presence. Instead, she responded to him with a passion that still startled him.

”In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,” her musical voice intoned softly.

Damien’s brows drew together as he watched her. The blood and the heart, indeed. He’d gotten more than he had bargained for when he demanded she become his mistress to satisfy her brother’s debt. He had intended for her to assuage his physical needs, of course, but he’d never expected her to arouse such fiery hunger in him … or such inexplicable feelings of tenderness.” p.169

Poor Tintern Abbey

Here’s the line in the context of the poem:

“These beauteous forms,

Through a long absense, have not been to me

As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:

But oft, in lonely rooms, and ‘mid the din

Of towns and cities, I have owed to them

In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,

Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;

And passing even into my purer mind,

With tranquil restoration: – feelings too

Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,

As have no slight or trivial influence

On that best portion of a good man’s life,

His little, nameless, unremembered, acts

Of kindness and of love.” ll.22-35

Okay – so, first off, this poem is a sort of recollection. It begins “five years have past” – so we’re in a position of reflecting on the past in this present moment in the same spot. Now, if you’re just joining my 19th century mind, Wordsworth’s big thing was nature … obviously. Nature, poetry without form – just a sort of free flow – nothing flowery … blah blah just read Lyrical Ballads.

To go on a small tangent, when I was at St. Andrews a little over a year ago, I was in a tutorial where we were reading the ‘Lucy’ poems (wiki is your friend, and I am not your babysitter). I chose to talk about the poem ‘A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal’ and the following passed between me and my tutor (paraphrased since it was a while ago).

Tutor: I don’t know. I just feel like he’s trying to hard to be simple in the last line: ‘with rocks and stones and trees.’ I mean that’s just my opinion but it sounds forced.

Silence in the room.

Me: No. I completely agree.

Anyway, tangent over. But I also studied Tintern Abbey when I was over there – and using that particular line is … curious. What makes me suspicious about this particular line is that it’s from Tintern Abbey to begin with: it’s one of the more well known poems of Wordsworth’s.

To me, at the very first reading (and still a little now), I feel as though the author took the popular poem, found a line that applied and stuck it in. But when you look at the actual poem, it sort of doesn’t make much sense.

I really really had to read into Tintern Abbey and The Seduction to find out why – perhaps – this line was chosen purposefully. One of these reasons stem from Wordworth’s sister – she was with him five years ago, but not when the poem was written. This could be related to Damien and Olivia’s relationship.

Okay. Plausible enough.

The idea of nature. Damien is an excellent rose gardener we learn – in fact, he leaves roses on Vanessa’s pillows and uses them during sex at one point (just go back and look at the cover – roses). So – nature. Covered? A little, I guess … they’re on a picnic, so I guess that adds to it.

But the thing is, Wordsworth is reflecting on ruins. Could this be Damien’s family? I don’t really think so – mostly because he works against them and rights their wrongs in his life (makes his own amends blah blah). Could this be Vanessa’s past life with her husband? I don’t think so either because you could say her ruin was rebuilt by Damien.

In these lines, Wordsworth is reflecting on the ruins and nature – the effects these have on him – the little things – the ‘nameless, unremembered, acts.’ Could you make a case for that with Damien? Maybe. But I feel like everything in The Seduction is overemphasized that using a poem that touches on the sublime, inner feelings nature stirs in the narrator makes everything clash. Tintern Abbey seems delicate put against this novel.

Reading on in this poem, there’s a lot more you could talk about – not just the ruins, but the oncoming industrial revolution that is taking over the countryside – the poem is packed. That’s why I don’t like random quotes from poems – they better be darned researched or I’m going to be picking them apart like this and getting well …

annoyed.

I’ve ranted enough about this, I think. I probably made absolutely no sense and really – this is all up for debate like everything else. But, as a writer myself, when I use quotes or make allusions, I’m careful – I don’t want it to just match the period, I make sure to take account of the whole work before I use it – like many other authors, of course. And I am in no way claiming any sort of superiority. I’m merely saying that there is more to it that just picking a poem that fits the period, may fit the story, and pulling a line from it.

Because people like me will enjoy ripping it apart and screaming: NO! STOP!

Hey, but at least it wasn’t Coleridge – we’d have more of an issue if he was the one quoted.

Yeah ... wouldn't blame you, if you were making a face like Amy's right now ...

Anywho,

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References

The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Eighth Edition, Volume Two. Stephen Greenblatt, ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2006.

Jordan, Nicole. The Seduction. New York: Ballantine Books, 2000.

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