CA4 Review: Her World

Lost in Translation

As with CA3, I didn’t mark quite enough scripts to provide a detailed evaluation of what went right and what went wrong. Expect this post to be a little more free form in its outlay of thoughts on the mind and self, Ayckbourn’s Woman in Mind and the methods contained therein. For memory’s sake, we will be responding to the CA4 question listed below:

Explore the play’s treatment of the ways in which the environment has an impact on an individual’s mind and self.

For efficiency, we will not repeat the question analysis and approaches that Ms Yeo shared with you during the lecture in T2 W10 — not in the conventional sense anyway. What we will be doing is to rustle up a few relevant ideas and methods that may prove useful at the upcoming Mid-Year Examination. Whatever the case, be warned: the questions will never be the same, so your (one?) job is to be extremely selective, adapt points and evidence skilfully and, duh of duhs, answer the question. Padding done, so let’s open up the windows to Susan’s mental universe.

Continue reading “CA4 Review: Her World”

Listen, If You’re Not Afraid


Whilst ransacking the internet for an e-text of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (to no avail), I chanced upon an audio recording of the Original Broadway Cast performance of the play, which you can and should check out here. It’s basically an audiobook that will make your reading of the text that bit easier and more engaging. Click the link below and there’s an option to download MP3 / OGG files of every part. We’ve also uploaded the files into our shared GoogleDrive folder, accessible via your address. 🙂

Confessional Poetry and ‘Lady Lazarus’

The debate suggests why confessional poetry’s blurring of distinctions between public and private worlds was freighted with social meaning that extended beyond matters of aesthetic value. Postwar social transformations – like the growth of corporations and the expansion of suburbs – seemed to corrupt Americans’ desire for autonomy and freedom. Often linked, these trends created two of the most familiar targets of 1950s social censure: the ‘organisation man’, who relinquished his individuality to the corporation, and the suburban homeowner, who sought perfect conformity with the neighbours. Continue reading “Confessional Poetry and ‘Lady Lazarus’”

A Psychoanalytic Reading of ‘Daddy’

Before its publication she read ‘Daddy’ for a BBC radio broadcast in October 1962, and later, in notes for the BBC on her new poems, described the poem as ‘spoken by a girl with an Electra complex. Her father died while she thought he was God.’ The girl’s ‘case’, Plath proceeds to explain, is difficult because the father was a Nazi, and the mother may have been ‘part Jewish’. These two inheritances meet in the daughter and ‘paralyse each other – she has to act out the awful little allegory once over before she is free of it’ (CP, p293, n183). Plath directs her reader to interpret the poem through the lens of a popular psychoanalytic narrative: a daughter with an Electra complex is one who desires her father sexually, her body incestuously devoted in this instance to a dead man’s, as Electra’s was to her father Agamemnon’s. In a state of unfulfilled and impossible desire, the daughter’s story might be one of static sexual frustration and father-worship; but Plath also insists on a paralysis of sexual roles historically derived from the Holocaust. Because the father is not just a dead God, but also a Nazi, and the mother ‘very possibly part Jewish’, Daddy is also a sadistic villain, and the daughter’s feminine sexuality is marked by the mother’s role as a victim, possibly in a masochistic relation to the father. As the speaker of ‘Daddy’ generalises, ‘Every woman adores a Fascist.’ Continue reading “A Psychoanalytic Reading of ‘Daddy’”

Reading ‘Portrait’ as a Young Man

Karl Ove Knausgaard
The New York Times

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” Its genesis was long and tortuous — Joyce began writing his novel in 1904 — and the road to its canonisation as one of the seminal works of Western literature was not short either: The reviews spoke of the author’s “cloacal obsession” and “the slime of foul sewers,” comments that seem strange today, insofar as it is the subjective aspect of the book, the struggle that goes on inside the mind of its young protagonist, that perhaps stands out to us now as its most striking feature. What appeared at the time to be unprecedented about the novel seems more mundane to us today, whereas what then came across as mundane now seems unprecedented. Joyce’s novel remains vital, in contrast to almost all other novels published in 1916, because he forcefully strived toward an idiosyncratic form of expression, a language intrinsic to the story he wanted to tell, about the young protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, and his formative years in Dublin, in which uniqueness was the very point and the question of what constitutes the individual was the issue posed. Continue reading “Reading ‘Portrait’ as a Young Man”

Consciousness of the Young Artist

PortraitPericles Lewis
‘The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’
Cambridge Introduction to Modernism

Like T.S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), though a work of youth, seems prematurely aged. Joyce treats his fictional version of his younger self with a mixture of irony and sympathy. The novel tells the story of Stephen Dedalus, a young Irishman, from earliest childhood until his decision to leave Ireland for Paris and become a writer. Before achieving his destiny as an artist, however, the young man experiences various epiphanies, mostly misleading ones.

The early chapters of the novel chronicle Stephen’s confusions as a small boy at a strict Jesuit school; in his adolescence, he visits prostitutes and wallows in sin; later, he becomes deeply religious and considers entering the priesthood; finally, he recognizes that his destiny is to become not a Catholic priest but a writer, “a priest of eternal imagination, transmuting the daily bread of experience into the radiant body of everliving life.” Joyce signals Stephen’s premature agedness when, after hearing the catalogue of his sins, “a squalid stream of vice,” at confession, a priest asks him his age and Stephen responds: “Sixteen, father.” Continue reading “Consciousness of the Young Artist”