Summative Entry – Nineteenth Century Literature

The Nineteenth Century gives me real insights into human and social issues that are still current in the 21st century.

If you had told me at the beginning of the semester that every single one of the texts we would be studying in this Nineteenth Century Literature unit has relevance to my life today, I would have replied, “Surely not. How can the people who lived so long ago, who didn’t have iPhones or drive cars or eat McDonald’s provide that much insight into the social issues we face today in the 21st century?” But I would have been proven wrong. The poetry, novels, short stories and drama of the Nineteenth Century not only illuminate the wider social issues and problems of the human condition that you and I experience today, but also provide solutions to these issues and alternative ways of living that I believe we could all greatly benefit from.

Winslow Homer, ‘Girl Reading Under a Tree’ (1879). Image from here.

Working chronologically from the start to the fin de siècle of the Nineteenth Century, we began by exploring the Romantic movement (1770-1820) which championed human emotion, imagination, and a connection to nature in revolution against the spiritual destructiveness of the Age of Enlightenment. Studying the poetry of William Blake, Percy Shelley and Samuel Taylor Coleridge proved that the Romantics were concerned with many of the same human and social issues that we are today. I wrote about this my first blog post, explaining how the film ‘Pandaemonium’ expresses the Romantics’ desire for spiritual connectedness with and presence in the natural world. My post illustrates that this Romantic desire is emulated in our current society through climate change action and the ‘wellness’ movement that promotes meditation, but it is paradoxically also rejected by a culture of instant gratification and materialism.

We continued exploring the impact of Romanticism, looking particularly at the poetry of William Wordsworth who encouraged his contemporary humans not to seek out knowledge from science and books but to practise “wise passiveness”, letting stillness and reflection in nature be our teacher. Indeed, Wordsworth’s poem ‘My Heart Leaps Up’ (1807) inspired my best blog post, a Letter to my Child-Self, in which I explain to a younger me why Wordsworth’s appreciation of nature as the ultimate teacher and view that children are inherently insightful is important to remember as I grow up, social structures preventing me from maintaining my connection of wonder with the natural world. Indeed, if they were alive right now I am sure that the Romantic poets would revolt against our ‘Age of Technology’, pleading for us to reconnect with our child-selves and with nature.

Moving into the literature of the expansive Victorian Age (1837-1901), we read Charles Dickens’ Hard Times (1854) which satirises and critiques the rapid industrialisation and education system of Victorian England. The novel, set in the fictional Coketown, brings to light the ways in which humanity is ruined when society values material production, factual knowledge and utilitarianism over individuality, kinship and spirituality. Finding that today’s society mirrors Dickens’ fictitious town, I adapted his description of Coketown to the 21st century in my third blog post, as I believe that the people he describes in Hard Times who lack individuality and feeling can be found today in our disconnection and material dependence.

Indeed, Matthew Arnold’s poem ‘The Scholar Gypsy’ (1853) offers a still pertinent solution to the problems of Victorian (and today’s) society described by Dickens. My final blog post for the semester discusses the ways in which Arnold conveys the meaninglessness of life that was prolific in Victorian society, while also giving his reader hope in the form of the mythical Scholar Gypsy, who literally absconds from the pressures and confines of society by living an alternative lifestyle with gypsies. Arnold’s illustration of escape from what he calls “this strange disease of modern life” is certainly relevant in the 21st century, whose diseases continue to grow stranger.

In the final weeks of the semester we examined two short stories of Leo Tolstoy, ‘The Death of Ivan Ilych’ (1886) and ‘Master and Man’ (1895), both of which demonstrate an appositeness to the social issues of the 21st century by conveying the corruption of classed society and the transformative power of suffering and death. Bringing us to the fin de siècle of the Nineteenth Century was Oscar Wilde’s satirical play The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), which parodies the grandiosity and pomposity of the Victorian Era and exposes the triviality and superficiality of its middle-class values. Wilde’s wit and humour perfectly captures the human issues of Victorian society, and the fact that it is still incredibly funny to audiences today demonstrates its continuing relevance.

Studying these works of the Nineteenth Century this semester has demonstrated to me that writers all respond to the human and social issues that define their epoch – and that these issues presented by Nineteenth Century writers are highly relevant still today. The Romantic and Victorian writers we explored were intensely perceptive of society’s pitfalls and sought to ameliorate them through the communicative powers of literature, inspiring change in the lives and societies of their contemporaries. And I am sure that any students reading the same works in two hundred years from now, or even hundreds more, will also be inspired by these writers to change their own lives and societies for the better.

Thank you, Michael, for a great semester, and I’m looking forward to what the literature of the Twentieth Century has in store for us soon!

19th Century Literature Blog Post #4 – Matthew Arnold’s ‘The Scholar Gypsy’ (Critical)

Image from here.

For my fourth and final blog post for 19th Century Literature, I wanted to discuss Matthew Arnold’s poem ‘The Scholar Gypsy’ (1853) because it perfectly summarises the problems of 19th Century England and indeed is still very relevant today. Inspired by Joseph Glanvill’s 17th Century tale of an Oxford scholar who one day absconds from his intellectual life to live with the mystical gypsies, Arnold’s narrator daydreams about this Scholar Gypsy’s life until he remembers that “Two hundred years are flown / Since thy story ran through Oxford halls” (131-2). The stanzas that follow juxtapose the life of the Scholar Gypsy with the narrator’s life and the lives of ordinary men and women who live in Arnold’s industrialised era.

Arnold interrupts his lengthy description of how the Scholar Gypsy is now long dead, imagining his body “in some quiet churchyard laid” (137), with a startling dash: “—No, no, thou hast not felt the lapse of hours!” (141). Here the exclamation mark and repeated “no” interrupts the idyllic flow of the poem, and the narrator corrects his previous statements about the Scholar Gypsy being dead. This self-correction, also known rhetorically as ‘metanoia’, is the beginning of Arnold’s thesis in ‘The Scholar Gypsy’, expressing to us that those who live like the Scholar Gypsy will never truly feel “the lapse of hours” and have death slowly consume us. Arnold then contrasts the Scholar Gypsy’s inability to feel the passing of time with the lives “of mortal men” (142), asking what “wears out” our lives. Instead of posing a rhetorical question, the narrator answers himself hypophorically, explaining that mortal humans are worn out from “change to change” and “repeated shocks, again, again” (143-4). Here Arnold’s form mirrors his content, the repetition of words creating the image of a human life wearing out over and over, like a cog spinning in a machine.

Photograph of Matthew Arnold. Image from here.

The poet continues to juxtapose the Scholar Gypsy with Victorian men and women, describing the Scholar Gypsy as possessing “powers / Fresh, undiverted to the world without, / Firm to their mark, not spent on other things; / Free from the sick fatigue, the languid doubt” (161-4). Arnold’s use of the alliterative ‘F’ sound emphasises the Scholar Gypsy’s freshness, firmness and freedom of spirit, and his ability to devote himself to his life with the gypsies because he truly values their lifestyle and spirit over the lifestyle of academia and intellect. By contrast, all of these qualities are what Arnold’s contemporary English men and women lack entirely: they are “spent on other things” like material goods, and their lack of decision and spirit causes “sick fatigue” and “languid doubt.” Arnold’s use of a multitude of phrases that connote indecision and emptiness over the next two stanzas, such as “fluctuate idly”, “half-believers”, “casual creeds”, “vague resolves” and “hesitate and falter”, clearly express what the poet believes is wrong with Victorian society: the lifestyle of utilitarianism and fast-paced industrialisation in which everyone is working and spending creates meaningless lives.

Indeed, reading these stanzas from Arnold’s poem reminded me of T. S. Eliot’s poetry, which would be published 70 years later. To me ‘The Scholar Gypsy’ evokes some of the same themes in Eliot’s poem ‘The Hollow Men’ (1925) in which he describes the same inability of modern humans to live life to the fullest, and instead lead empty, meaningless, fragmentary half-lives of indecision:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’. Image from here.

Evidently, what Arnold describes in ‘The Scholar Gypsy’ wasn’t a one-time phenomenon. Humans in the western world continue to lack spirit, meaning and conviction, unable to connect to matters of the heart and enjoy life for what it really is because of materialism and conformity. Unlike Eliot, however, Arnold gives us hope. He presents us with the life of the Scholar Gypsy as inspiration, as a way out of “this strange disease of modern life” (203), and encourages us to flee the conventions and pressures of the world we live in. Arnold dares us to escape the deathly infection of modernity and live entirely for ourselves.

So, what do you think? Are you ready to drop out of uni like the Scholar Gypsy and live in a caravan for the rest of your life, never doing an essay again? It definitely seems tempting at this time in the semester.

19th Century Literature Peer Review #3

This week I am reviewing Courtney’s blog post which you can read here.

Hi Courtney,
I really enjoyed reading your blog about inspired by the prompt ‘Describe a contact you have had with some marginalized group (gypsies/ circus people etc). Has it shown you the deficiencies of your own world view?’ It was a really beautiful and engaging story you told about the woman you met in Parramatta one night who once, as you wrote, “sat inside the seams of society, who thrived within its confines,” and was now without a home, family and food. Not only the content of your story but the way you chose to write it was haunting and personal, and I felt like I was right there with you at the food festival that cold night.
I loved your use of sentence structure, how you varied the pace of the piece with long sentences with many commas, and then would change things up with smaller, sharp sentences like “No shoes on her feet. Hair clipped short but ragged.” It really conveyed to me the uneasiness and shift in mood of that night once the woman approached your date. Your use of anaphora throughout the story was also captivating, using ‘I’ and ‘She’ to begin many sentences.
One thing that really stood out to me was your use of light and dark imagery, particularly the phrases about how the woman’s eyes “only shone when the lights above us flashed onto them,” and how she walked away under the glow of McDonald’s – the very image of wealth that she has no part in any more.
My only suggestion to you would be to have another proofread over your work before you post it. I noticed a couple of minor grammatical errors throughout, but that is all.
Thank you for sharing this experience with me – it has also reminded me to be more grateful, especially in this time of global pandemic when it is so easy to forget how hard other people have it and to focus on our own problems.
Best of luck for the rest of the semester!

19th Century Literature Blog Post #3 – Charles Dickens’ Coketown in the 21st Century (Creative)

An illustration of Dickens’ fictional Coketown from ‘Hard Times’. Image from here.

For my blog post this week I have taken Charles Dickens’ satirisation and critique of the industrious Victorian England in his creation of Coketown in ‘Hard Times’ (1854), and adapted it to our 21st Century life. I chose to rewrite Dickens’ clever description of Coketown from Chapter II of the novel, in which he employs incredibly poetic language and symbolism to paint a picture of the monotonous, destitute, painful conditions that the working class of Victorian England endured due to intense industrialisation.

Personally, while the Western world has dramatically changed for the working class since the Victorian era, I believe Dickens’ portrayal of work, education and society in ‘Hard Times’ contains many truths about our world today. What was interesting to me when writing this passage was noticing that much of what Dickens wrote still applies to a description of our cities and suburbs today – both symbolically and literally. For instance, his description of the streets that all look alike and the people who all look alike, if I’m honest, didn’t need much editing to be applicable to today’s world. Moreover, his portrayal of the citizens of Coketown who all think and act the same, with no individuality and no ability to escape their unfeeling society, can also be seen in the people today who are incredibly disconnected from the world in many ways.

When I wrote this passage, I tried to imagine how Sydney CBD normally looks and feels, particularly around George Street and (very fittingly) the Queen Victoria Building.

* * * * * * *

It was a city of red brick, or of brick that would have been red if the polyethylene and cement had allowed it; but as a matter of fact it was a city of synthetic surfaces and harsh artifice like the face of the receptionist at the cosmetic surgeon’s. It was a city of business suits and construction hats, out of whose respective left hands descended streams of cigarette butts and protein bar wrappers, while out of the right beamed flat screens of bright, white light which illuminated the holders’s wide, white eyes that shifted left to right to left to right to left to right for ever and ever, and never unlocked from their gaze. It contained sky scrapers and vast underground mazes which stayed illuminated every day and every night, and beside which cars would sit tail-to-tail impatiently, their exhaust pipes adding to the cloud produced by the monotonously buzzing air-conditioners and power stations. It contained a hundred large streets all very like one another and a thousand small streets still more like one another, on which walked people equally like one another, who all walked with the same quick steps upon the same footpaths, with all of their heads bent downwards looking at their screens, and with their thumbs all scrolling downwards, and who all went home each evening to sit on the same couches and watch the same television shows, and to whom every day was the same as yesterday and tomorrow.

19th Century Literature Peer Review #2

For this peer review, I’m looking at Laura‘s post titled ‘The Gordon Riots 1780‘.

Hi Laura,
Firstly I just wanted to say that your Ekphrastic description of John Seymour Lucas’ painting ‘The Gordon Riots 1780’ was fantastic – it completely mesmerised me and I found myself having to read it over and over again.
I love how you presented yourself viewing the painting with your opening line “On a tiny little screen in a darkened room I stare into the the blue-white glare,” and then went on to almost insert yourself in the scene. I also enjoyed how you connected the ‘trying times’ of the Gordon Riots to our trying times today in the middle of a global pandemic.
Something that really captured my attention was how poetic your prose was and how delicately crafted each sentence was – I loved your rhyme scheme throughout, and how you directly address the painter himself and the soldiers, asking them why they have done what they did, and at what cost. You made a painting which I previously had given very little thought into something that I now really connect with.
My only suggestion for improvement would be to please write more because I enjoyed it so much.
Thank you for writing such a great post and looking forward to reading your final blog for the semester.
Georgia

19th Century Literature Blog Post #2 – Letter to my Child-Self (Creative)

“My heart leaps up when I behold / A rainbow in the sky” – William Wordsworth. Image from here.

Dear Child Georgia,

I know it might be a bit strange to read a letter from me, Adult Georgia, but there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. I know you’re probably wondering what I can tell you about your life to come, and what the next ten or twenty years have in store for you, but I’m not writing to you about that. In fact, the very last thing I want you to do is to get caught up in the excitement of growing up. Right now I know you are both nervous and excited about going to school, about getting older and becoming a big kid, but I’m writing to you to ask you to enjoy just being a little kid.

You see, just this week I read a poem by a man named William Wordsworth, who lived in England about two hundred years ago. His poem is called ‘My Heart Leaps Up’ (1807), and it goes like this:

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

It might be a bit tricky for you understand right now, but what Wordsworth is saying is that when he sees a rainbow, or perhaps a flower like your favourite frangipanis, he is filled with complete happiness, and it reminds him of what it is like to be a child. He hopes that he still is able to see the sky, trees and plants, and all the wonders of the natural world from this same perspective of his child-self for the rest of his life. Most people believe that adults are far smarter than children, but what Wordsworth believes is that children like you have so much more to teach adults about the right way to see the world.

Little Georgia, the way you look at the world right now, the way you look at the glowing stars in the night sky, the way you look at the snails climbing over dewy leaves, the way you look at those pink frangipanis in late summer… it is incredibly special. As you get older, as you start to grow up, these things won’t seem as amazing to you. You will forget to be excited about animals and plants and the sky because you will be taught that other things are more important: school and homework and how you should look and act.

So, as you get older, I want you to remember that you can always come back to how you are right now. The wonder and amazement you feel when you play outside, when your family goes to the beach, when dad takes you to the observatory to look at the stars and planets, it is here with you forever. Right now you are beginning to become preoccupied with all the things you feel like you need to learn: how to write your name and sound out words, how to count to one hundred, but remember that everything you need to know is right here with you. You see the magnificence of the natural world, and it will be your greatest teacher if you let it.

Keep letting your heart leap up.

Love always,
Adult Georgia

19th Century Literature Peer Review #1

For my first peer review this semester I’m reviewing Lilly’s post “Wise Passiveness”, which is available here.

Hi Lilly,
I really enjoyed reading your ideas on what William Wordsworth meant when he described “wise passiveness” in his poem ‘Expostulation and Reply’. I certainly agree with you that Wordsworth is explaining to both us and his friend that learning from books and the minds of the past will never offer us complete wisdom. Rather, as you say, nature can “teach one plenty.” Just by spending time in nature and allowing ourselves to be present and thoughtful in it, we can gain far more wisdom and self-understanding than books can ever teach us.
What I really enjoyed about your post was how you went beyond this understanding of “wise passiveness” to delve into a further implication of Wordsworth’s idea: that in times where we lack inspiration or guidance, we can literally turn to nature to help us. Just like how you sometimes “lay in the grass for hours” when you need to clear your mind or solve a tough problem, I find that whenever I am stuck creatively, struggling to think of ideas, or feeling helpless, if I go for a walk out in the sun and under the trees, everything suddenly feels ok. Nature certainly does provide a “wise passiveness” that cannot be created elsewhere.
Thank you for your thoughts and looking forward to your future blogs!

19th Century Literature Blog Post #1 – Romantic Spirituality in ‘Pandaemonium’ (Critical)

Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge admires the frost in ‘Pandaemonium’ (2000). Image from here.

Are the concerns expressed in the film Pandaemonium still relevant in the 21st century? 

Watching excerpts from the 2000 film Pandaemonium in our first classes for the semester has been a great way to begin understanding who the proponents of the Romantic Period were and what they revolted against. The film is also a good platform to start considering how the Nineteenth Century literature that we are studying this semester might still be incredibly relevant today in the 21st Century. While the film gave me an insight into many Romantic principles and their historical contexts such as the freedom of the individual, idealism, and the importance of imagination, what stood out to me most significantly was the Romantics’ profound spiritual connectedness with and presence in the natural world — and I believe that this aspect of Romantic thinking has relevance today.

One scene from Pandaemonium depicts English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge hushing his infant son to sleep in his arms as he examines the icy windowpanes: the evident inspiration for his poem ‘Frost at Midnight’ (1798). Coleridge’s voiceover begins the poem, “The Frost performs its secret ministry, / Unhelped by any wind,” and he steps out into the freezing winter night with his son to admire the world around them. Father and child gaze up at the moon together, and the poem continues, Coleridge directly addressing his son:

But thou, my babe! shalt wander like a breeze
By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags
Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds,
Which image in their bulk both lakes and shores
And mountain crags: so shalt thou see and hear
The lovely shapes and sounds intelligible
Of that eternal language, which thy God
Utters, who from eternity doth teach
Himself in all, and all things in himself.
Great universal Teacher!

For me this scene and poem express the Romantics’ intense connection to the natural world and to the present: two things our lives today in this modern world simultaneously reject and desire.

Coleridge and his inspiration for the poem ‘Frost at Midnight’ in ‘Pandaemonium’ (2000). Image from here.

Coleridge here is completely lost in the moment – he takes his newborn out into below-minus temperatures simply because he is so struck by his surroundings and what they mean to him, disregarding rational fears for his son’s health. Evidently, Coleridge wants his son to experience the world physically and gain a spiritual connection to it rather than be sheltered and distant from it. The poem itself expresses how Coleridge desires to raise his son to “wander like a breeze / By lakes… ancient mountain… beneath the clouds,” and nature will be his “Great universal Teacher!” Just like in William Wordsworth’s poems ‘Expostulation and Reply’ and ‘The Tables Turned’ that we examined last week, the Romantics clearly extol nature as the greatest source of knowledge and champion the “wise passiveness” of being still in nature.

Indeed, before he turns to head back into the warm house, Coleridge says, “This is the most wonderful time of my life. I wish it was always now and here.” This intense appreciation of the present, of the here and now, rather than focusing on the future and moving constantly onwards and upwards, is a Romantic principle which rejects Enlightenment thought. For the Romantics like Coleridge and Wordsworth, being present in nature is all we need.

But how are these Romantic concerns relevant today? For me, our current society both rejects and aspires to Romantic presentness and spirituality in nature. Our modern lives have us constantly searching for the next best thing: working harder, making more money, planning ahead. However, the recent ‘wellness’ movement that advocates ‘mindfulness’ and meditation calls for a more Romantic perspective on life that Coleridge sought. Mindfulness asks us to live in the present, to focus our attention on one thing, and also to have gratitude for the things we normally take for granted – all to promote our inner happiness. Moreover, the growing action against climate change and towards sustainable living is a relevant Romantic concern. The Romantics clearly saw the natural world as all we need to grow and become wise, and how it is essential that we value it over books, and indeed, consumerist products and Instagram.

I think we could all benefit from letting ourselves get caught up in the moment, literally stopping to smell the roses, and thinking about what we can learn from them. So, what do you think? Does Coleridge’s ability to get lost in the frosty evening have relevance to your life today?

Summative Entry – American Literature

“America is a nation of paradoxes.”

In studying the literature of America this semester, it has become clear to me that America is indeed a nation of paradoxes, in a constant battle between freedom and oppression, individuality and conformity. The undeniable common thread running through all the works we have looked at is the desire to be a completely free individual and to escape the oppressive conventions of American society. This desire demonstrates the paradoxical nature of America: it is not the land of freedom, where “all men are created equal” that it so proclaims in the United States Declaration of Independence. At the same time however, this defiance of their country becomes even more of a paradox when these American writers also celebrate and “sing America” (to quote Langston Hughes who references Walt Whitman in his poem ‘I, too’).

Image from here.

We dove headfirst into this American paradox through the lens Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, the latter’s Walden (1854) urging us all “to live deep and suck all the marrow out of life,” to think for ourselves rather than be conformists. This was a great entry point into American literature for me as I was already able to see the enduring effect that Emerson and Thoreau have had on the American psyche, and I wrote my first blog post about exactly this, explaining how the 1989 film ‘Dead Poets Society’ reincarnates Transcendentalist self-reliance and non-conformity in today’s America.

These Transcendentalist ideals were also greatly influential on the next generation of American writers, and I am incredibly glad that we explored the work of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, two poets I have never had the chance to study before. The pure individualism of Dickinson and Whitman struck me – they are both vastly different in their poetic subjects and styles, but they both defiantly celebrate themselves as unique and unconventional while also celebrating America itself. I even had a go at writing a poem in the style of Whitman, aiming to write my own “Song of Myself” which celebrates my connection and equal value to the world around me – I only hope that Whitman would approve.

We then delved into the most horrific part of the American paradox: America’s championing of freedom and equality while oppressing racial difference. Exploring both Native American and African American literature was eye-opening for me, as every piece of work we examined was, and always will be, scarred by this paradox. For me, the most influential work we read was James Baldwin’s short story ‘Going to Meet the Man’ (1965), which inspired by best blog post in the form of a letter to Baldwin expressing to him that the deeply embedded racism and police brutality against African Americans he depicts in his story unfortunately still continues today.

Heading into Modernist America, we read William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying (1930), which is a great example of how the literature of this time reflected the paradoxical advancement yet dislocation of modern society, the post WWI America booming in many respects yet breaking apart psychologically. As I explain in my blog post about the novel, Faulkner’s work excellently mirrors this fragmentation of society through its fragmented structure and stream-of-consciousness form.

In the last weeks of the semester we explored The Beat Generation and Postmodernism, two movements which once again sought to break away from convention and the confines of social norms. This paradox can be found in Postmodern and Beat Generation literature such as Allen Ginsberg’s poem ‘A Supermarket in California’ (1956), which I wrote about in my final blog post. The poem ties together this paradox of America beautifully by imagining Walt Whitman shopping in a 1950s supermarket one evening. In doing so, Ginsberg laments the lost America of Whitman’s time that has now become the land of mass production and consumer capitalism.

Just as Ginsberg asks in his poem, I too ask “Where are we going, Walt Whitman?” Where does the future of America head? America surrounds me – even though I have never stepped foot upon its shores, I cannot deny that America is not part of me too, for it enters my consciousness every day, whether it be through literature, or television, or in the news. America’s paradox is also my paradox. It is every human’s paradox. We are all constantly trying to defy ourselves and become greater than we were yesterday (but this is often a futile journey). Yet, if this unit has taught me anything, it is that these wonderfully human paradoxes should be celebrated. I am free but I am oppressed, I am an individual but I am a conformist, I defy my world yet I am in love with it. But in spite of this, just as Whitman did, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself!”

American Lit Peer Review #4

For my last peer review for American Literature this semester, I am reviewing Victoria’s blog post, which is available here.

Hi Victoria,
I really enjoyed reading your opinion on American modernist writer Mina Loy’s belief that all females should undergo “unconditional surgical destruction of virginity”. I definitely agree with you that the notion of this unconditional surgical destruction is indeed just another way for the patriarchy to control women’s bodies – very much the way that the criminalisation of abortion is a way the patriarchy controls our choice to do what we want with our bodies.
I also like how you wrote that “Women and men should both undergo the ‘unconditional surgical destruction of virginity’ in order to highlight equality” – but equality isn’t the same as equity. Might I suggest that men should undergo not only their own unconditional surgical destruction of virginity but also be forced to experience every single other form of inequality that women face daily in myriad ways, so that we can truly destroy the concept of virginity and everything attached to it? If only it were that easy!
Thank you for your interesting thoughts, Victoria, and good luck for the final weeks of the semester.
Georgia