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Burning Daylight Volume III 2014

Burning Daylight
Volume III

Department of English Sonoma State University 2014

Burning Daylight is an annual scholarly journal, published through Sonoma State Universitys Department of English graduate program, dedicated to providing a place for up-and-coming voices in the field of literature. We publish original critical and theoretical essays from B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. students that represent the current work, trends, and thoughts in literary criticism, composition, and rhetoric.

Letter from the Editor

I have had the unique privilege to be part of Burning Daylight from the beginning first as a reviewer, then as managing editor and finally now as editor. Over these first three years I have watched Burning Daylight progress tremendously in expanding the horizons of student academic writers by offering new voices a professional peer-reviewed publication through which their fresh, unique perspectives can be heard. In this volume we are pleased to present four papers from diverse points of view and subject matter written by authors from places as far flung as Harvard University, University of Alabama at Birmingham and National Taiwan Normal University or as near to us as our own Sonoma State University. Burning Daylight plays an increasingly vital role in the diversifying and strengthening the field and academia as a whole. I am proud of how far this publication has come and anticipate its continuing ascent and future success with much excitement. Michaela Spangenburg, Editor Burning Daylight is eternally grateful for the support of Dr. Ruben Armiana, Dr. Andrew Rogerson, the English Department at Sonoma State University and Associated Students.

Burning Daylight Staff

Michaela Spangenburg


Managing Editors
Julie Anne Teixeira Melissa Vogt

Specialized Editors
Harker Brautighan Jordan Grout

Erica Darby Buckho Stephen Cosgrove A.L. Evins


Dr. Catherine Kroll

Faculty Advisor Founders

Nicole De Leon and Matthew E. Martin

Layout and Cover Design

Michaela Spangenburg

Mark Flores

Cover Art

Table of Contents
Lethal Film: The Cine-phile/Cine-fetish of Infinite Jest Julia Alekseyeva 9 Parallel Universe: As I Lay Dying and The Odyssey Michael Pitts 25 Freeing the Body: Body Imagination and Intertextuality in Susan Sontags Alice in Bed: A Play Yen-Chi Wu 43 Iago, Nature, and Society: Iagos Destruction of Truth through Nature Metaphors and Manipulation Tara Bowers 59

is a fourth year PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature at Harvard University

Julia Alekseyeva

Lethal Film: The Cine-phile/Cine-fetish of Infinite Jest One might say that David Foster Wallaces magnum opus Infinite Jest revolves around the topic of digital media. The title itself comes from the name of a film described in the book, but not just any filma lethal film so mind-numbingly great, so hypnotic that it immediately turns its viewer into a vegetable, incapable of tearing her eyes off the screen. Discourses concerning cinephilia abound throughout the text; some characters produce and make films, and some have an encyclopedic knowledge of films to the point of cine-obsession. Starting with a brief summary of various, specific definitions of the term cinephilia, this paper approaches the text of Infinite Jest through the theoretical approach of film and media studies in an attempt to delineate the line between classical cinephilia, the cinema buff, and cine-fetishism, to discover at what point a procreative film-love becomes nihilistic, obsessive, or psychotic in Wallaces work. However, cinephilia and film-art paradoxically also prove to have a redemptive quality in Wallace, one which in fact fights against this dystopian vision. Although the use of film and media studies to approach Wallaces novel might at first seem strange, I feel that because filmespecially avant-garde art filmis at the very center of the text, Wallaces novel begs for a film-centric analysis. By looking at the obsession with (digital) media in Infinite Jest, my paper shows how film, and cinephilia in particular, inevitably reveals aspects of human identity that have hitherto been ignored. Cinephilia, the state of film-love, has been researched to such an extreme that it demonstrates a clear anxiety over the film researchers own 10

nearly pathological cinephilia. As Mary Ann Doane writes, Cinephilia is usually considered a somewhat marginalized, furtive, even illicit relation to the cinema rather than a theoretical stance (225). Indeed, it appears that almost every major theorist of the silver screen has attempted to define cinephilia in an attempt to neutralize the private fetishization of film worksas if, by theorizing and compartmentalizing different types of cinephilia, ones own personal obsession is erased of any malicious or aberrant intent. However, on another level from mere film love, the obsession with film might turn sour and fetishistic, if not worse. What if, as in David Foster Wallaces work Infinite Jest, the love of cinema was even lethal? What if there came a work of art which was so psychologically compellingin Walter Benjamins terms, one might even say so innervatingthat one is physically incapable of tearing ones eyes away? Film theorists approach to cinephilia tends to vary widely, but can perhaps be summarized by separating the analysis of cinephilia into two overarching approaches that might be called the utopian and dystopian. The utopian approach is the definition of cinephilia as a procreative, sincere love of cinema, which, although occasionally lapsing into obsession, is by nature a beneficial force in which even fetishisms fit into a nearly utopian structure. Such is the cinephilia of Walter Benjamin in One Way Street and Christian Keathleys in Cinephilia and History. Keathley approaches cinephilia with the rhetoric of individual pleasure and personal testimony, seeing these as key elements of all cinephilic writing. (19) This approach fully recognizes cinephilia as a fetish of sorts, but nonetheless finds it essential for a serious 11

interest in cinema. Conversely, cinephilia as seen by theorists such as Susan Sontag and Paul Willemen, is haunted by ones libidinal, emotional, and affective attachment to a medium, according to Hagener and Valck (19). Such is the dystopian variety of cinephilia, a fear of ones own fetishization of film. Interestingly, both Keathley and Willemen find in cinephilia the fetishization of the moment, and that cinephiles find their punctum via discrete fragments only. This brand of cinephilic discourse also fears cinephilia as an elitist cinema, a cinema-love that has forfeited Benjamins concept of play and has become constricted and overly focused on the archival. Thus, Annette Michelsons analysis of the Anthology Film Archive also fits comfortably into this dystopian category. She writes: In this theatre, devoted to the museologically inflected constitution, preservation, and exhibition of a canonically conceived history of the cinema generated in the continuity of an international cinematic avant-garde, subtitles were not used. For foreign-language films of both silent and sound eras, translations of titles and of dialogue were available in printed translation, for no extraneous element, either visual or aural, be it that of the subtitle, was permitted to intrude within the pristine integrity of the image. Moreover, the current vogue of musical accompaniment for silent film involved in the search for a restored historical authenticity of projection was 12

here banned on the grounds that such accompaniment including that of specially or originally commissioned scores had been primarily the response to the demands of exhibitors, and not necessarily structurally intrinsic to the authors filmic project. (5) The tone here is quite critical of cinephilia. For Michelson, the projection should not hold a veil of authenticity and should focus increasingly less on the auteur-based importance of the filmic project. This dystopian cinephilia of museological preservation invokes the classical cinephiles obsession with the authenticity of the image. In opposition to this, Michelson wishes to veer into the direction of subtitles and translations, musical accompaniment, and the freedom of post-classical cinephilias digital and free-flowing interface, as well as a Benjaminian sense of play, with the importance placed on individual sensation. Although Walter Benjamin is fully lodged into the modernist utopian view of cinema as medium-of-the-future, and does not discuss the film-fetish, his early theoretical writings on cinema prefigure a later, more postmodern approach. Miriam Bratu Hansen writes that Benjamins early concept of innervation is essential in understanding his view of how cinema is able to dazzle and bewitch the viewer in a way that no medium has ever done before, in which we recover sensory affect in the age of mechanical reproduction. Innervation is a neurophysiological process that mediates between internal and external, psychic and motoric, human and mechanical registers, and it is of course cinema that is capable of this sort of mediation 13

(313). Via mediation and interplay between the cinematic object and the viewers sensory perception, cinema is thus capable of transforming the human mind, and therefore life itself. This is quite the task for cinema to follow, and Hansen is quite keen in seeing Benjamins concept of innervation as a hugely mystical and utopian vision. She writes, In Benjamins messianically inflected sciencefiction scenario, technology not only transforms but has the capacity to redress the discrepancies of human existence and history (322). The use of science-fiction as a means for describing Benjamins theories is quite telling, and there is certainly a fantastical, utopian side to this transformative, deeply penetrating side of cinema. Nonetheless, interestingly, it is not fantasy but science fictiona genre that tends to connote more dystopian than utopian perspectives. One cannot help but wonder at the dark side of this concept of innervationif a human was so deeply affected by cinema, so beheld by magic and wonder, that she is rendered immobile? The imaginary film Infinite Jest, from the dystopian novel of this same name, toys with the idea of this immobility. Film and digital art is at the center of the work. In a novel of over 1,000 pages, which also includes thousands of footnotes and over 100 pages of endnotes, the longest endnote is an eight-and-a-half page filmography of the films aprs-garde auteur filmmaker and father of the protagonist, James O. Incandenza. Likewise, film is mentioned on almost every page of the novel and almost all of the main characters are explicitly related to the filmmaking or film-loving enterprise. Indeed, the themes of the text can be condensed into two 14

separate addictions: drug use and film. James Incandenza is an auteur filmmaker who dreams, perhaps ironically (it is never quite clear), of creating a perfect cinemaa film which becomes Infinite Jest, his last film, also dubbed variously as the Entertainment and the samizdat. However, Incandenza does not allow anyone to view this film and it is buried with him after his suicide. The use of the term samizdat is interesting: it is the term used for dissident activity in the Soviet bloc countries in which banned publications were reproduced and transmitted by hand (etymologically it means to make by oneself or self-made: sam izdat); this gives both the novel Infinite Jest and the imaginary film version a peculiar political flavor. Indeed, the novel is hardly devoid of politics; after Incandenzas untimely death, Canadian terrorists then unearth this lethal cinema and mail it to unsuspecting American citizens, who, upon viewing the cartridge (as digital media are called in the novel), turn into hypnotized vegetables, unable to tear their eyes away from the screen. The film Infinite Jest is composed of three parts which play on loop, and opens with Joellea girl described as impossibly and hideously beautifulgoing through a revolving door. As she circles around she sees someone she knows and to meet up with that person, she pushes further around while that person also continues to go around, an establishing shot which, according to N. Katherine Hayles, makes clear the importance of recursive loops to the films design (692). The second part consists of her sitting naked at a table, patiently explaining to an unseen listener that she is Death, and the way Death works is to have the woman who kills you in one 15

life come back as your mother in the next life. This sets up the next part of the film, the third and last segment, which uses a newly invented lens with a milky, circular resolution that is supposed to mimic the sight of a newborn child. Here, the hideously beautiful Joelle is nude, hugely pregnant, and peers into the camera lens as one would a bassinet. She then apologizes to the camera, over and over again. According to Hayless postmodern and posthumanist reading of the film, this entertainment taps into the deep psychic structures of the viewer, causing a recursive feedback loop of pleasure supply and demand (692). She then likens this entrancing enrapturement of Wallaces Entertainment to science journalist Charles Ostmans theories of a commercial technology [which] will use the recursive feedback loops of intelligent agent programs to suture the consumer tightly into a circuit of pleasure, selling product and experience together as a commodity so compelling, enriching and rewarding that youll want to come back for more (683). For Ostman, the future of technology resides in sensory amplification; recalling the sensory amplification of Benjaminian innervation here specifically relates to the addicting quality of virtual environments. According to Frank Louis Cioffi, this same addicting quality is inherent in the physical act of reading Infinite Jest, a text that to Cioffi is not a novel, nor even what he calls a hypertext, but an encyclopedic heaping (161). Infinite Jest is capable of mesmerizing the reader because, due to the novels various diverging plot points and sheer difficulty, the plot becomes co-created by the reader and thus has the power to bind. Cioffi writes: 16

One is longing to know what will happen to this or that character, what strange new twist will emerge, or how one plot will ultimately intersect with the others reading Infinite Jest has the effect of dividing the readers consciousness to such an extent that the novel stuns and mesmerizes by blurring the boundary between a real world and a fictive one. (162-163) Reading Infinite Jest thus performs the exact activity that Wallace is describing with the film of the same name: a dividing of the readers consciousness, a nearly pathological merging of the reader/film-viewers mind with the virtual text presented before them. Again, Benjaminian innervation is taken to its logical end, in which the real and fictive worlds are blurred. The novels innervating qualities are presented as a kind of drug fix, but interestingly enough, a fix of which the reader is consciously and constantly being made aware (so much of the novel, after all, is about addiction itself ). Cioffi writes that the reader must come to a selfconscious realization that his behavior resembles that of the drug addicts Wallaces novel focuses on (170). There is thus an inherent difference in the film and novel Infinite Jest, since the human-vegetables who view the film do not come to such a realization. The viewers are not self-conscious addicts, but have fully surrendered themselves to their substance of choice, the Entertainment. Although theorists such as Cioffi point to a self-conscious addiction that the process of reading the book creates, the totalizing nature of Infinite 17

Jest is far more critical of contemporary society, and far more openly dystopian, than the fictional film of Infinite Jest. Although Wallace never reveals why his fictional film was titled as such by the Incandenza, its only actress, Joelle, assumes that Incandenzas quest for a perfect cinema was entirely ironic, and that the films capability to stun and mesmerize is in itself an ironic effect. The film Infinite Jest might have been, at most, an ironic gesture rather than a truly critical work of art. Not so, however, for Infinite Jest the novel. Although the novel describes a dystopian landscapethe literal meaning of dystopia, a counterpart to the concept of utopia and conceived by John Stuart Mill, is an imaginary bad place or bad no-wherelike other works of dystopian cinema and literature, it is not unhopeful for the human beings ability to change the dystopia circumstances imposed upon her, and therefore not a nihilistic text. Rather, in Infinite Jest we see what Paul Giles and N. Katherine Hayles dubbed Wallaces posthumanism, and what Robert L. McLaughlin called post-postmodernism. According to Giles, Wallaces fiction seeks to construct a more affective version of posthumanism, where the kind of flattened postmodern vistas familiar from the works of, say, Don DeLillo are crossed with a more traditional investment in human emotion and sentiment (330). Giles rightly points to the investment in emotion and sentiment in Wallace. Where Giles, Hayles, and McLaughlins disparate analyses of Infinite Jest intersect is in their claim that Infinite Jests dystopian landscape suggests a return to a grand narrativeone founded on basic human emotion and our relationships to one another. 18

As McLaughlin writes, [Post-postmodernism works] by engaging the language-based nature of its operations, to make us newly aware of the reality that has been made for us and to remind usbecause we live in a culture where were encouraged to forgetthat other realities are possible (67). Indeed, McLaughlin is quick to highlight that this grand narrative is not a reconstruction of the modernist grand narrative; it does not seek to rectify anything per se, but to make us newly aware of other realities and possibilities. One might think here of Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizeks text, In Defense of Lost Causes, and Zizeks insistence on rethinking the grand narratives of the twentieth century, or French philosopher Alain Badious concept of a fidelity to an event that constitutes his Ethicsboth theories of what McLaughlin might call post-postmodernism. A work such as Infinite Jest is post-postmodern because it disavows ironic detachment and emphasizes the necessary re-emersion of a grand narrative of human empathy. The work is also, importantly, posthumanist; according to Wallace, it is necessarily within the technological interface networks that have enveloped usevidenced by the crucial role of cinematic cartridges in the society of Infinite Jest, and the screens of the contemporary 21st century that humanity must find a way to return to basic human interaction. According to Hayles, authenticity in this vision is based on the recognition of profound interconnections that bind human beings together; we escape from the Entertainment by recognizing our responsibilities to each othera constructive approach to posthumanism (696). This last point is best illustrated by the character Mario in Infinite 19

Jest. Mario is the middle child of the filmmaker Incandenza, and the one to whom he is closest. Mario has a physical and perhaps mental disability of grotesque proportions that are never specifically elucidated in the text, and which the reader must herself imagine. Or, conversely, the description of Marios disabilities are often drowned in such overwhelming and neologismfilled scientific jargon, that any real descriptor is impossible to discern. His most important characteristic is a profound love of filmmaking and cinema. Even with an alleged mental disability, he has seen his fathers films innumerable times and is able to make highly sophisticated observations about them. Most importantly, however, he films nearly everything he seesso often, in fact, that he is only able to walk with a camera strapped to his body: a technological innovation of his fathers. Mario Incandenza thus becomes a kind of postmodern chimera, a half-human, half-movie camera whose physical capabilities are limited while his cinematographic and lens-manipulating abilities are apparently quite excellent. Interestingly, outside of his predilection for filmmaking, Mario is best characterized by a strange ability to empathize and relate to other people. He is one of the few people whom Hal Incandenza, the novels protagonist, admires and loves, and perhaps because of his grotesque innocence and friendliness, he is never treated as disabled by his community. This grotesque friendliness is perfectly illustrated in the second to last scene of the novel, in which a religious, male college student, in order to prove his faith in the human condition and human empathy to his older brother, pretends to be homeless and spends several months begging outside 20

of a Boston train station. Instead of begging for food or money, he only begs for human touch, asking passersby to please touch my hand in order to demonstrate some basic human empathetic capabilities. Months go by and the boy is not touched by a single person, while his faith diminishes and his religious belief grows nihilistic. At long last, it is in fact Mario Incandenza who, demonstrating this superhuman empathetic capability, touches him, and the formerly religious boys faith in human empathy (if not religion) is restored. It is thus within the postmodern chimera of Mario Incandenza that Wallace locates humanity within a dystopian universe. According to Paul Giles, Yet to be a human being in Wallaces world is not simply to relapse into a sclerotic humanism; instead, it is to search for fragments of authentic personality amidst the razzmatazz of scientific jargon and hip-hop slang, so that a novel such as Infinite Jest might be said to involve a putative humanization of the digital sensibility (335336). Such a humanization of the digital is illustrated by Mario, the only character where fragments of authentic personality are to be found. It is therefore immensely important that this most selfless and empathizing of Wallaces characters is also a kind of posthuman cyborg, and that, counter to most dystopian novels and films, it is the cyborg that is the most essentially human character. Interestingly, Mario also becomes a representation of the utopian approach to cinephilia, refusing to see his fathers films as merely ironic, instead finding them emotionally compelling. In addition, because the novels last scene ends in medias res, the last concluding image that the reader brings back with her is that of Mario touching the hand of 21

a homeless man, perhaps the only uplifting scene in the whole text. David Foster Wallaces often-quoted interview response, fictions about what it is to be a fucking human (quoted by Giles 335-336), is thus perfectly applicable to his oeuvre, and it is this concern for human emotion and interpersonal relation that marks post-postmodernism and its return to grand narrative. How, then, does this new grand narrative, arriving at the cusp of the 21st century, relate to cinephilic practices? Giles writes, Wallace takes the new worlds of computer science and global media as givens, but he seeks to open up spaces within these abstract grids of information technology where human emotion and identity can be explored (341). One might say that, as evidenced by the half-camera Mario, these human empathetic qualities are found within the construct of utopian cinephilia. Rather than the archive-based, classical cinephilia that Michelson found so overly fetishistic, and, one might say, so lethal, Marios cinephilia is allembracinga cinephilia that is, quite literally in Marios case, attached to the human body. Marios very bodily cinephilia makes tangible the concept of Benjaminian innervation, a cinema able to bring emotion back into the dulled human sensorium of our (post) modern world.


Works Cited Cioffi, Frank Louis. An Anguish Become Thing: Narrative as Performance in David Foster Wallaces Infinite Jest. Narrative 8:2 (May 2000): 161-181. Doane, Mary Ann. The Instant and the Archive. The Emergence of Cinematic Time: Modernity, Contingency, the Archive. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2002. 206-232 + 262-266. Giles, Paul. Sentimental Posthumanism: David Foster Wallace. Twentieth Century Literature 52:3 (Fall 2007): 327-344. Hagener, Malte and Valck, Marijke de. Cinephilia in Transition. Mind the Screen: Media Concepts According to Thomas Elsaesser. Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP, 2008. 19-31. Hansen, Miriam Bratu. Benjamin and Cinema: Not a One-Way Street. Critical Inquiry 2 (Winter 1999): 306-343. Hayles, N. Katherine. The Illusion of Autonomy and the Fact of Recursivity: Virtual Ecologies, Entertainment, and Infinite Jest. New Literary History 30:3 (Summer 1999): 675-697. Keathley, Christian. Cinephilia and History, or The Wind in the Trees. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2006. McLaughlin, Robert L. Post-Postmodern Discontent: Contemporary Fiction and the Social World. symplok 12:1/2 (2004): 53-68. 23

Michelson, Annette. Gnosis and Iconoclasm: A Case Study of Cinephilia. October, Vol. 83 (Winter, 1998): 3-18.


is transitioning into doctoral work after completing his masters in English with a concentration in American literature from the University of Alabama at Birmingham

Michael Pitts


Parallel Universe: As I Lay Dying and The Odyssey Returning from the Trojan War, King Agamemnon greets his

family as a hero and chief of spoils. This seemingly glorious victory comes to an abrupt end at the hand of his wife and her lover revenging the sacramental murder of their daughter. Speaking to Odysseus sent by Circe to the underworld, Agamemnon recounts that as he lay dying his wife, Clytemnestra, turned her face aside, and could not even bring herself to shut his eyes or mouth in preparation for the afterlife (Aeschylus 151). Faulkner chooses a very disastrous scene from the classic epic, The Odyssey, to set the pace for As I Lay Dying a novel concerning a rural family embarking upon a dark, modern epic. This choice to reference the tragic implosion of an illustrious family shows in many ways the writers subscription to the modernistic philosophy of literature. By analyzing this echo of classical writing, the nature of this literary connection will be examined within the context of the modern novel. Specifically, Faulkners use of literary cubism and the mythic method will be considered while analyzing the parallel qualities of the characters from each text. This connection enhances a central theme of the novel concerning the Southern family unit and its implosion in the modern South. Adopting the mythical method promulgated by T.S. Eliot and made famous by The Waste Land and Joyces Ulysses, Faulkner builds a framework within which his modern tale may thrive and grow. Resulting from a loss of faith in the contemporary novel, this writing method seeks to work within a classical framework not similar to the perceived disorderly style of the 26

modern world. Citing the works of W.B. Yeats, Eliot describes this manner of writing as a simple way of ordering, of controlling, of giving a shape and a significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history (177). It is important to point out that this writing technique does not seek to produce a carbon copy of classical texts. By nurturing its roots in this archaic soil, the author is able to produce a novel that critiques the modern plight of man and draws various comparisons between modern and classical society. In a recent essay analyzing Eliots view toward the use of this method, scholar James Nohrnberg contends that the greatest works rooted in this theory of writing subordinate correspondence with (and allusion to) a mythic or archaic or legendary original to their own particular histories, even while they allusively and wittily maintain contact and correspondence with a specific and select archetypal narrative as it were a scripture overtly or covertly acknowledged or disclosed by the story during the course of its own telling (272). Other scholars such as Philip Rule point out that the novel bears many connections to the Old Testament, namely its spirit of despair, hope, endurance tensions as old as mankindwith which man faces the darkness and mystery of the world around him (120). Similar to Faulkners hinting nature in Absalom, Absalom!, this title provides the clue necessary to connect the text to its ancient source. Considering the way in which Faulkner subtly discloses the archaic original to his modern story, the importance of this source may be easily overlooked but nonetheless provides invaluable insight to the overall meaning and purpose 27

of the text. The nature of this correspondence between new and old yields still contrasting opinions over the purpose or meaning of the modern epic bookend. In her careful analysis of the connection between Faulkner and Homer, scholar Doreen Fowler proposes that this connection signifies the death of the mother as the truly original myth of Western civilization. The connection then between As I Lay Dying and the death of Agamemnon is significant in that it retells this story of matricide within the scope of the modern world. According to Fowler, Faulkner titled his novel As I Lay Dying because this allusion to Agamemnons murder evokes matricide and a mothers revenge (316). While there is truth in this claim, this proposition too conservatively limits the meaning of the text as it ignores a greater theme conveyed in its pages: the implosion of the modern family. Hauntingly similar to its classical counterpart, the House of Atreus, the Bundren family is destroyed from within by its own members. It is a story of the demise of the modern family and cannot be limited to the western significance of Addie Bundrens death. Understanding the limitations of this interpretation, this article further develops the key point that the mythical method is being used within the pages of this text in order to add breadth and depth to the story of the Bundren family and their slow, haunting funeral march. Among the countless meanings and facets of the text, this connection to the classical also highlights the attempt to assert the primacy of the father and to dematerialize the world with the mother as the central 28

project of patriarchal structure (Fowler 319). By considering the echoes of the classical myth of matricide, it is made clear that the traditional patriarchy survives with the death of the mother. In order for the traditional way of life and order to continue, her life must end as a sacrifice for those connected to her. This idea of matricide shifts from the classical to modern as her perspective clearly poses a belief that her life has been drained from her veins by her offspring. This matricide is the cause of friction and destruction within the family as each member fights to understand their relationship to the family and their deceased mother. This limited perception of the mythical meaning of the text highlights what Nohrnberg views as the central problem with the literary uses of myth which just like interpretations, stabilize it, by specifying a given myths meaning, even as they also problematize it, insofar as they depart from or advance upon previously received meanings, and so call them into question (20). Since Faulkners use of the mythical method does not clearly depart from the meaning of the original text, it can be assumed that his retelling of the epic is also centered upon the destruction of the family and not specifically the matricide of Addie Bundren. The text seeks instead to highlight the demise of the modern family from within its own borders. This connection between the classical and modern also highlights an important characteristic possessed by the text. As Michael Millgate points out in his offering concerning the portrayal of the South in literature, there is a popular misconception that Faulkner was essentially a simple country boy unaccountably struck by the divine fire and with some fluctuations of 29

current and that he wrote of his native environment, its obsessions, and its problems, not of choice but of necessity, because he could do no other (33). While Faulkner clearly had a unique gift, his work is not restricted to a Southern tradition but echoes across cultural and historical boundaries and has its roots at the birth of Western civilization. Although set in the American South, the novel exists within a fictional time and place and serves, at its root, as a medium by which its creator, the author, may spin a modern mythos in which the struggle of man is the central focal point not the historical or regional accuracy of the works passages. Faulkner explains this transition from the actual to the apocryphal as a means to create a cosmos of his own. In this created realm, he explains, I can move these people around like God, not only in space but in time too (Millgate 37). Similar to the classical poet, he creates his own private world not entirely dissimilar to that from which he lives in order to raise and wield characters who will act as members of a modern tragedy. This role of the author as creator and god echoes the gods of Greek mythology and their role in the creation and destruction of man. As a playwright or storyteller of myth, classical figures such as Homer and Aeschylus play a similar role in the creation and demise of their characters. While each characters fate is determined by the forces within the story, it is the author who ultimately exercises power of this universe between the pages. The mythical story of the House of Atreus is one dominated by carnage, revenge, and tragedy. Beginning with the revenge of the Athenian people, which fueled the Trojan War, the family is divided by the actions 30

of the patriarchal leader, Agamemnon. His sacrifice of his daughter, Iphigenia, and taking of Cassandra as his concubine are believed to be the main reasons for the murderous revenge of his wife, Clytemnestra. Analyzing the actions and characters of this classical story, several similarities quickly surface that Faulkner echoes in his novel. These similarities are not directly parallel to the classical text but, instead, merely adopt this original as a framework within which the tragedy may breathe life. Key to this reading are the similarities between Cassandra and Addie Bundren, and Agamemnon and Anse Bundren, respectively. In an analysis of Cassandra as the feminine corrective in this myth, Andrea Doyle of the University of Johannesburg describes Cassandra as the most complex character of the story, maintaining the characteristics of three core archetypes: the Virgin Bride, the Sacrificial Virgin, and the Wife (57). Similar to the case of Addie Bundren, Cassandra is removed from her home and relocated to a foreign land in which she is expected to adopt the role of noble wife and sacrificial partner. Her purpose and desires are subordinated to those of her husband, Agamemnon a man who, similar to Anse, places his trust and blame on the gods of fate. The key to both Addie and Cassandras disillusioned notions of the spiritual world involves their sexual and spiritual experiences. Both feel they have been tricked by their perceived purposes and have lost their identities as a result. Tormented by her connection with Apollo and resulting punishment, Cassandra, like Addie, is fated to perceive the true nature of things while living an empty existence. During the siege 31

of Troy, Cassandra is granted the power of prophecy by the god Apollo but, as a result of her betrayal of him, is cursed so that no one hearing her prophetic statements will believe their validity. This curse echoes the resentment of both Cassandra and Addie toward the futility of language and words. Realizing the negating reaction of those around them, both become reclusive and passive to the actions of those dominating their lives. Remarking on the futility of words and communication, Addie Bundren laments that at the time of the birth of her first child, she had been used to words for a long time and that words was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldnt need a word for that anymore than for pride and fear (Faulkner 164). Disenchanted with the words of both god and man, these abused female counterparts adopt apathetic attitudes towards the course of their lives. Faulkner also adopts the love of mother and child from this myth, incorporating the jealous and betrayed characteristics of Clytemnestra into the relationship between Jewel and Addie. Like Agamemnon, Anse is willing to sacrifice the well-being of his own children in order to achieve a goal he believes to be noble. Responding to this neglect, Addie withholds the one thing she is able to protect from her husband her devotion. Her infidelity and the resulting birth of Jewel mimic the actions of Clytemnestra the core difference being that Addie dies in anguish in place of her husband. It is crucial to highlight the mutual hatred of words both Jewel and Addie share. Both are outsiders in their home and do not believe the words of their family nor the notion that love abides in this house far from the shores 32

of where they believe they belong. The story of Addie Bundren and her place in Faulkners novel also brings up the question of the texts focus and purpose with consideration for the archaic source. The search for the focal character in Faulkners novel often produces

varying results from the scholarly world. Many scholars believe Addie Bundren to be the pivotal character of the text, representing the struggle against the tyrannical patriarch of the family. In a recent article from The University of Ottawa, Marc Hewson argues that, although she dies fairly early on, the importance of intuitive love and of languages inadequacy to express it that she instills in her sons solidifies her position at the novels center (551). However, a close read of the text demonstrates her isolation from the family with the exception of Jewel. While this detachment is a reaction to the overbearing and foolish nature of her husband, she nevertheless does not maintain a position of intimate love or connection with most of her family members, negating the support for this particular claim that she is the central character of the novel. A second major contributing factor to this argument is the title of the novel. Many members of the academic community argue that the title informs the reader of the focal character. While this claim appears sound and somewhat obvious, a closer analysis of the classical text reveals that Faulkner may have chosen this title for a starkly different purpose. This reference to the classical text or point of mythic interference is

unique among other works of the mythic method in that it only references the original in its title (Nohrnberg 274). While works such as Ulysses and 33

The Wasteland contain numerous references to their classical sources, As I Lay Dying only contains one overt reference to The Odyssey, leaving many critics to ponder its significance. An interesting parallel that, as Eliot points out, demonstrates the effectiveness of the mythic method is the way in which both the classical and contemporary stories are presented. Using a form of literary cubism, Faulkner crafts a complicated narrative told through the eyes of fifteen separate narrators who, from their distinct vantage points, interpret meaning in contrasting ways. This format echoes the manner in which the reader of the classical text receives the tragic story of Agamemnon. This story is not presented to the reader by an omniscient narrator but is recounted with considerable bias by a character involved in the tragic sequence, Agamemnon. This same story is chronicled in The Agamemnon by Aeschylus, using the omniscient narrator, but is not the source of Faulkners text. The use of the chosen text forms a bridge with Faulkners work and illustrates another achievement made while incorporating the mythic method the link of narrative style with the classical source. Considering this facet of the text, the option of Addie Bundren as focal character of the novel once more comes under criticism. While the focus of the contemporary work necessitates scholarly

deliberation, few scholars dispute the focus of The Odyssey or the identity of its main protagonist. As a classic tragedy, the source text clearly points to Odysseus as its protagonist and hero. The story of Agamemnon is so far removed from its plot that no one would consider him to be a main character. Accepting the connection between the story of Odysseus and 34

the play by Aeschylus chronicling the tragic demise of Agamemnon, it is reasonable to consider the perspective and format of the play to decipher its focus. Given the classical perspective of the text and its relationship to the other plays included in the Oresteia trilogy, it is clear that the focus of the text is not upon Agamemnon. Scholars such as Rachel Wolfe believe the main driving force of the play to be Clytemnestra, whose role as a woman, tyrant, mother, and murderess dominates the drama (692). Considering the nature of the play as only a member of a greater work, many scholars equally contend that the main character of the story is Orestes. However, this perspective does not account for the focus given to each character involved in the plot and ultimately falls short. The focal point of the play is the family and its implosion under the burden of revenge and familial hatred. The House of Atreus again is the subject of this Grecian tragedy as its members rage war against each other in hopes of relief. The parallels between the Bundren family and the House of Atreus strongly demonstrate the reliance of the contemporary text upon the classical. Compared often to the eagle and snake in mythology, the members of Atreus fought bitterly among themselves and with others to serve the purpose of Zeus. Ironically, it was the gods desire to see the fall of both Troy and the Atreus family, and his desires were fulfilled once the ravenous desires of each member were properly manipulated. These deceitful actions do not stop after the fall of Troy or the murder of Agamemnon. Using their son, Orestes, as a vessel of retribution for the murder of a loyal servant, Zeus orchestrates the matricide of Clytemnestra, the snake of the House 35

of Atreus. Thus, the revenge of a mother for the murder of her daughter is attained by her son. The dysfunctional characters of this mythical family are drawn upon

in Faulkners work. While asserting their presence in the contemporary text, they do not fully restrict or govern the characters of the contemporary counter piece. As previously discussed, there are multiple connections between the adult characters in both novels. The children of both Atreus and the Bundrens are also broadly united by the turbulent essence of their families and the strong influence their faith has upon their fate. The relationship between Jewel and Darl, one of the most conflicting of the story, begins the novel and acts as a driving force throughout the story. While Jewel is a motivating and relentless factor behind the familys journey, Darl acts, according to scholar Elizabeth Hayes, as the journeys saboteur, in part because his detachment allows him to recognize the journeys ludicrous and painful qualities, and in part because his role as saboteur places him in direct opposition to Jewel (49). The conflict between these two characters is perhaps the most heightened of the text. Darls obsessive observance of his brothers attributes and features demonstrates his innate ability to perceive truth in a family denoted by chaotic, insane notions. Understanding the true nature of Jewels background, Darl continuously chides his brother and moves him to anger throughout the text. It is purposeful that these two brothers are introduced in the opening chapter as Darl watches and analyzes his brother. He compares him to a cigar store Indian with his pale eyes like wood set into his wooden face and records 36

his every movement as he crosses through the cotton house and out the other side (Faulkner 5). The tumultuous nature of these two characters will continue until the family unit is in ashes and Darl has been taken from their midst. As in the House of Atreus, there are multiple complications and

sources of strife between members of the Bundren family. The relationship between Anse and Addie is one of bitterness and disconnect which echoes that of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra the central difference being that the mythical counterpart acted upon her feelings toward her husband. Among the children of the Bundren household, each relationship is a complicated, tireless exercise acted out by each from a perceived necessity to continue until their mother rests in the earth. The mythical, prophetic vision of Darl adds considerable complexities to each relationship. While Jewel despises Darl, Dewey Dell perceives the extraordinary abilities of her brother and reacts in a manner incorporating both angst and confusion. Without words, the two communicate the truth of the matter and, from that point forward, Dewey Dell depends upon, and is confused by, the nature of her brother. Besides this connection, no other member of the family knows of her dilemma. Expressing this feeling of isolation, she compares herself to a wet seed wild in the hot blind earth (Faulkner 61). It is central to the comparative study of these two texts to realize a common motivating factor, which brings about the tragic episodes of both Dewey Dell and her family and the members of the House of Atreus. The impact of fate is ever present in the lives of the Bundren family. 37

The presence of fate and foretelling is a key factor of both mythical

literature and its contemporary counterpart. Ruled by their visceral passions and lusts, Agamemnon and his brother Menelaus use the bidding of the gods as a loophole for the immorality of their actions. After upsetting the goddess Artemis, Agamemnon sacrifices the life of his daughter in a bargain for safe passage to Troy. This quest itself acts as a symbol of arrogance and pride as they seek to destroy Paris for escaping with the wife of his brother. Remarking on this situation, Clytemnestra explains that to take such an action would be to trade something held most dear for something of no value. Anse is prideful as a result of his faith and paradoxical belief in Gods injustice and intention to make all things equal in the afterlife. Anse is convinced that God and man have forsaken him and he places his faith in the hope that equality will one day be achieved. Perhaps the character from Faulkners novel most dependent upon

fate is the young and foolish Dewey Dell. Deciding her actions by the outcome of an arbitrary game, she places herself in the arms of fate and does not accept blame for the final result. Considering the options before her, she states it was full when we came to the end of the row and I could not help it (Faulkner 26). This reluctance to take responsibility for the future echoes the childish actions of the archaic counterpart. Dewey Dell, exemplifying the classical dependence on a supernatural will, believes that this game she has devised while in the cotton field will act as a sign from God, dictating her course of actions and relationship with others. Similar to the characters found in the Oresteia trilogy, she believes herself to be innocent of any 38

self-destructive actions and does not blame any other person for her state. Her dependence upon the spiritual world is made clear in reaction to this situation. Like Cora Tull and her father, Anse, she piously places no blame on her fellow man or herself. As a mortal, her life is in the hands of her god who has apparently decided that pregnancy belongs in her future. This comparative dependence upon fate and the spiritual world bridges the modern and classical texts and demonstrates the continued plight of the modern man echoing the misfortunes of the ancient past. The many parallels between the two texts point to a greater purpose than any central character or action. As Nohrnberg points out, it is important when discussing a text grounded in this method of writing to pinpoint some places in the texts of select fictions where the crossover between ancient myth and modern novel occurs (272). Specifically, the reader needs to analyze the portion of Faulkners text where coincident hereupon turns into design; the fiction loses its innocence or naivet and becomes ironic in so far as this form of obliquity entails a double consciousness (Nohrnberg 272). This feeling of dj vu is found at the climax of the tragic novel as Darl is forced to leave his family after burning the barn. Similar to the modern text, the son of Agamemnon, Orestes, has been sent into exile and is separated from his family. The crucial connection made in this passage is the symbolic destruction of the Southern livelihood. As the House of Atreus symbolizes the classical culture of the mythical text, the barn of the Southern family represents the fortune and well-being of the Southern familial culture. This is the story of the modern Southern family 39

and the challenges they face both individually and as a unit. The South is changing and the strain of this shift is felt most of all upon the family unit. The Bundren family, like the House of Atreus, is brought to its demise by violence, deceit and insanity. By utilizing the mythical method and modern writing methods such as stream of consciousness and, specifically, literary cubism, Faulkner was able to present a text that, according to Eliot, is able to face the anarchic atmosphere of the modern world. Rooted in the classical tradition and bridged to the plight of the modern Southerner, the novel successfully reveals several central issues plaguing Southern culture. The connections observed between the characters and drama of the texts demonstrates the aesthetic value of this writing method. By analyzing classical references laid forth in the text and within the context of modern and classical cultures, a core meaning of the novel may be further investigated.


Works Cited Aeschylus. The Oresteia. New York: Dell, 1965. Print. Chappel, Deborah K. Pa Says: The Rhetoric of Faulkners Anse Bundren. The Mississippi Quarterly 44.3 (1991): 273. Print. Doyle, Andrea. Cassandra: Feminine Corrective in Aeschyluss Agamemnon. Acta Classica 51 (2008): 57. Print. Eliot, T S. Ulysses, Order, and Myth. New York: Dial Publishing Co., 1923. Print. Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. New York: Random House, 1957. Print. Fowler, Doreen. Matricide and the Mothers Revenge: As I Lay Dying. The Faulkner Journal 4.2 (1989): 113-25. Print. Hayes, Elizabeth. Tension Between Darl and Jewel. The Southern Literary Journal 24.2 (1992): 49. Print. Hewson, Marc. My Children were of Me Alone: The Maternal Influence in Faulkners As I Lay Dying. The Mississippi Quarterly 53.4 (2000): 551. Print. Homer. The Odyssey. New York: Penguin. Print. Millgate, Michael. Faulkners Portrayal of the South. Readings on William Faulkner. Ed. Clarice Swisher, Bruno Leone, Bonnie Szumski, and Brenda Stalcup. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 1998. 32-38. Print. 41

Nohrnberg, James. The Mythical Method in Song and Saga, Verse and Prose: Part 2. Forum for World Literature Studies 2.2 (2010): 270. Print. Rule, Philip C. The Old Testament themes in As I Lay Dying. Readings on William Faulkner. Ed. Clarice Swisher, Bruno Leone, Bonnie Szumski, and Brenda Stalcup. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven, 1998. 32-38. Print. Wolfe, Rachel M.E. Woman, Tyrant, Mother, Murderess: An Exploration of the Mythic Character of Clytemnestra in All Her Forms. Womens Studies 38.6 (2009): 692-719. Print.


is a doctoral student at Taiwans National Taiwan Normal University

Yen-Chi Wu


Freeing the Body: Body Imagination and Intertextuality in Susan Sontags Alice in Bed: A Play

ALICE: Is there a hole I can fall into. Do I have to go to sleep first. Susan Sontag, Alice in Bed

It was much pleasanter at home, thought poor Alice, when one wasnt always growing larger and smaller, and being ordered about by mice and rabbits. I almost wish I hadnt gone down that rabbit-holeand yetits rather curious, you know, this sort of life! I do wonder what can have happened to me! [] Lewis Carroll, Alices Adventures in Wonderland The book cover of Susan Sontags Alice in Bed puts side by side two pictures of two famous Alices in the literary world: a photograph of the historical Alice James, on whom the play is based, lying in her sickbed, brooding; and from Lewis Carrolls Alices Adventures in Wonderland, John Tenniels illustration of the girl protagonist Alice growing too big and stuck in the white rabbits house. The book cover, presenting two confined female bodies, invites an intertextual reading between the two fantasy texts. The two epigraphs above, from Sontags fantasy-drama (Fanger 14) and Carrolls fantasy tale, are only one of the many intertextual references between the two texts. Following this intertextual reading of Sontags play, one does become curious: if the historical Alice James were freed from her ailing body and sickbed, what could have happened to her in the wonderland down the rabbit hole? To this hypothetical question, Sontag gives a gloomy answer. The Alice James in her play remains bedridden, a career invalid, as Sontag calls her (Alice in Bed 115);1 the only scene in which Alice frees herself is in her
1 For the German production of her play, Susan Sontag wrote an afterword, or A Note on the Play, for Alice in Bed. Quotations from the play and Sontags afterword will hereafter be referred to in parentheses as AB.


imagination, in which she roams the streets in Rome. Therefore, in sharp contrast to Carrolls Alice whose changeable body shrinks and enlarges and whose neck elongates, Sontag presents a most physically confined Alice: sick in bed, with multiple layers of mattresses on top of her (AB 7). Significantly, in the afterword to her play, Sontag alludes to Virginia Woolf s A Room of Ones Own, in which Woolf also proposes a hypothetical question: what should have happened had Shakespeare had a wonderfully gifted sister, called Judith[?] (46). To this question, Woolf offers a gloomier picture; for a woman in Shakespeares time, pursuing a literary dream is simply impossible. Woolf wrote: For it needs little skill in psychology to be sure that a highly gifted girl who had tried to use her gift for poetry would have been so thwarted and hindered by other people, so tortured and pulled asunder by her own contrary instincts, that she must have lost her health and sanity to a certainty [emphasis added]. (49) Woolf s imagination of the physically and mentally troubled female artist in an accommodating time certainly applies to the historical Alice James, who suffered from both hysteria and cancer. Sontags astute allusion to Woolf s imagination adds another layer of intertextuality to Sontags play. Via Woolf, writing in the 1920s, Sontag, writing in the 1990s, connects Alice James in the nineteenth century with Woolf s imagined Judith Shakespeare in the sixteenth century. Sontags play thus weaves a delicate feminist intertextuality in her fantasy play. This essay, drawing from the theory of intertextuality, argues that Sontag borrows the trope of body from Carrolls fantasy book, and with a feminist twist, renders her protagonist Alice James as a metaphor2 that exposes the
2 Admittedly, to posit a historical figure as a metaphor is semantically questionable. I choose to use this term as an allusion to Sontags Illness as Metaphor, in which Sontag examines the metaphorical meanings associated with certain illness. Here, Sontags treatment of metaphor is akin to a more general idea of symbolic meaning or cultural representation. For the purpose of this essay, I will follow Sontags use of metaphor in her book, which I will discuss in later sections in relation to her play.


societal repression of the female body in the Victorian era. Feminist Intertextuality: Weaving the Text The term intertextuality first appeared in 1960s France when poststructuralism was at its height. It was an idea that aims to challenge a texts independent meaning.3 Seeing a text as produced in relation to other texts, the theory argues that to interpret a text is to trace the network of textual relations. Therefore, the idea of intertextuality not only undermines the fixed meaning in a text, but also challenges the ways readers read, and writers write. As Graham Allen states rather grandly in his critical monograph Intertextuality: the term intertextuality promotes a new vision of meaning, and thus of authorship and reading: a vision resistant to ingrained notions of originality, uniqueness, singularity and autonomy (6). In other words, foregrounding inter-textual relations, the idea of intertextuality not only unchains the meanings of a text, it also liberates and complicates both reading and writing: readers no longer just sit down in front of a text and try to uncover the ingrained meaning in a text; they can now take a more active role and develop meanings from the textual relations. Writers, on the other hand, can no longer claim originality, for their work is inevitably produced in relation to previous texts. Intertextualitys new vision of meaning, authorship and reading are equally crucial. For the purpose of this essay, however, I will focus on intertextualitys vision of authorship to examine how Sontag, as a female writer, reacts to the theory of intertextuality. Accentuating intertextual relations, the theory of intertextuality resists a texts originality and uniqueness. New writers in particular find it difficult to assert their works originality, because they are faced with the greatest writers and the greatest work that had come before them. They cannot help but feel they have come to the game too late. Nevertheless, this
3 Julia Kristeva has been credited as the one who coined the term intertextuality. Nevertheless, Kristeva owed much to previous theorists, such as Ferdinand de Saussures linguistic theory, M. M. Bakhtins dialogism and Roland Barthess theorization of text. See Allen.


inevitable belatedness induces different reactions from male and female writers. Harold Bloom, combining intertextuality with Freudian theories, contends that writers would feel anxieties of influence toward their literary forefathers, as the latter writers are unable to claim priority (12). Using Freudian ideas, however, Bloom falls short of gender perspective, as he sees the relationship between early writers and their predecessors only in terms of father and son (11), thus excluding the female experience. From a feminist perspective, Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar contend that Blooms lack of gender perspective reveals exactly the male dominance and conceptualization of literary genealogy. They propose that, unlike their male counterparts who suffer from the anxiety of influence, female writers would feel anxiety of authorship (49). Female writers, according to Gilbert and Gubar, were unable to take up the pen, which, like penis, is symbolic of male generative power (6). Hence, female writers anxiety of authorship is a radical fear that she cannot create, that because she can never become a precursor the act of writing will isolate or destroy her (49). To counter this anxiety, a female writer usually begins her struggle by actively seeking a female precursor (49). Therefore, intertextuality is perceived in drastically different terms by male and female writers; as Gilbert and Gubar brilliantly put it: The son of many fathers, todays male writer feels hopelessly belated; the daughter of too few mothers, todays female writer feels that she is helping to create a viable tradition which is at last definitively emerging (50). In short, intertextuality, as perceived by a female writer, is a helpful means to claiming lineage to her literary mothers, and to being part of a female writing tradition in the making. Graham Allen further argues, the notion of intertextuality, with its connotations of webs and weaving, constitutes an opportunity for such a feminization of the symbolics of the act of writing (146). That is, the feminist take on intertextuality has created its own symbol of writing; instead of taking up the phallus-pen to write a work, a female writer weaves her text. Such a feminist intertextuality is prominent in Susan Sontags Alice in Bed, as Sontag puts the historical Alice James in the center of her play and weaves a text that honors her literary mothers and sisters. 47

In Alice in Bed, Sontag borrows from Lewis Carrolls Alices Adventures in Wonderland and re-creates her version of the mad tea party, at which Sontag summons ghosts of female literary figures to consult her heroine Alice James. The party guests include Margaret Fuller, one of the first American feminist activists, Emily Dickinson, the genius female poet recluse, Myrtha, the vengeful Queen of the Wilis from Giselle, and from Parsifal the guiltridden Kundry who takes on the role of dormouse and sleeps through the tea party. In a sense, Sontags female version of the mad tea party becomes a literal representation of feminist intertextuality, where the literary mothers are convened to console their daughter Alice. More significantly, in this scene, Sontags Alice James becomes a double of the child protagonist in Lewis Carrolls fantasy tale, through a shared name. Alice as Metaphor The fact that Sontags heroine and Carrolls child-protagonist share the same name has been considered a happy coincidence (Walker 143). Nevertheless, considering the cultural context, the two womens shared name is not so coincidental after all. Carrolls muse for the Alice books is his childhood friend, Alice Pleasance Liddell, who was a close contemporary to Alice James. Alice James was born in 1848 and died of breast cancer in 1892. Alice Liddell was born four years later than James in 1852 and enjoyed a long life till her death in 1934. Notably, only a few years before these two women were born, Queen Victoria gave birth to her third child in 1843 and named her Alice. In honor of the baby Princess, Alice became a popular girls name in the mid-Victorian era. Although there is no direct evidence that either Alice James or Alice Liddell was named after the Princess, there is no doubt that they are part of the trend.4 Against this backdrop, Alice is more than
4 It may worth a footnote to mention that, according to biographer Jean Strouse, Alice was the only of the five James children not named for a relative or family friend (22). This fact may give credibility to the idea that Alice is named in her contemporary fashion to honor the baby Princess Alice. In addition, Alice Jamess eldest brother William is married to a woman named Alice; another of her brothers, Wilky, also names his daughter Alice (Strouse 22). This shows that Alice is indeed a popular girls name in the Victorian era.


a mere girls name; it has become a cultural signifier, or a metaphor, that represents Victorian women. Nevertheless, the two Alices with whom this essay is concerned had very different lives. They represent the two different faces of Victorian woman: the woman who enters into marriage and dutifully plays domestic roles, and the genius woman who spends her whole life resisting societal expectations of women. The younger Alice, Alice Pleasance Liddell, was born into an uppermiddle-class family. Her father was Dean of Christ Church in Oxford, where she befriended the mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll). Mr. and Mrs. Liddell favored marriage over education, as many Victorian parents did, when planning their daughters future (Jones and Gladstone 25, 158), so Alice and her sisters were educated at home. In lieu of an eventful school life, Alice developed an interesting romance: it is generally believed that she had a short romance with Queen Victorias eighth child, Prince Leopold, when he studied at Oxford.5 Alice was eventually married to Reginald Hargreaves, with whom she lived a rich and comfortable countryhouse life (Jones and Gladstone 158). Although her later years were marred by the loss of two of her sons who died during World War I, Alice Liddell dutifully played her female roles as a mother and a wife; she had a life that Queen Victoria would have approved of. In contrast, the elder Alice, Alice James, led an unhappy life. The little sister of the psychologist William and the novelist Henry James, Alice had no worldly accomplishments in her lifetime like her two elder brothers did. She made her name when her diary was published posthumously in the 1940s, and was instantly lauded as a female genius and likened to Emily Dickinson (Strouse 325). In short, as Iris Fanger suggests, Alice James is generally remembered with a sigh for what might have been (14). With the imaginary Judith Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson in mind, one may easily align Alice James with her genius literary sisters whose talents were never appreciated
5 As interesting anecdotes, Prince Leopold names his daughter Alice. Alice Liddell also names her second son Leopold after the Prince (Jones and Gladstone 160).


and realized in their lifetimes. Alice James thus represents an unsung talent, a female genius constricted to the domestic domain which other Victorian women, like Alice Liddell, had enjoyed. Nevertheless, unlike her literary sisters, Alice suffered from long-term illness all her life. At the age of nineteen, Alice had her first nervous breakdown (Strouse xiii), which developed into hysteria that troubled her throughout her life until breast cancer took her life at the age of forty-four. And as Susan Sontag demonstrates convincingly in Illness as Metaphor, illness abounds with metaphoric meanings. Alice Jamess ailing body too abounds with metaphoric meanings; her bedridden body represents the societal repression of women in the Victorian era. In Illness as Metaphor, Sontag aims to purge the metaphoric meaning of illness. She indicates that tuberculosis is generally considered as a romantic epidemic that tends to strike the sensitive; cancer, on the other hand, is prone to occur to people who are depressed. Such metaphoric thinking of illness counts the patients responsible for their diseases, as if they deserve the illness by disposition. Sontag argues that this metaphorical thinking of illness would weaken the patients understanding of his/her condition and may prevent them from seeking proper medical treatment (Illness 45-46). Therefore, Sontag maintains that the truest way of regarding illness is to resist the metaphorical thinking (Illness 3). Nevertheless, when it comes to creative writing, the metaphoric meaning of illness is hard to resist. Alice Jamess ailing body is full of metaphoric meanings to a playwrights advantage, because her illness indicates a cause. Sontag, in Illness as Metaphor, points out that cancer is often perceived as caused by depression (49), which seems true in the case of Alice James, who suffered from chronic hysteria and developed cancer in her later years. Sontag even quotes Alice writing in her diary, referring to her breast cancer as this unholy granite substance in my breast (qtd. in Illness 13). From this perspective, the cancerous tumor is another substance growing inside Alices body, feeding on her depression and frustration. Her depression and frustration, moreover, is caused by societal repression of females. From this perspective, Alice Jamess ailing body, troubled by both mental illness and


cancer, neatly represents the repressed female body in Victorian era. In Alice in Bed, Sontag presents her Alice as a bedridden patient. Her condition is both physical and mental. She can not and will not leave the bed. In addition to her immobility, Sontag deliberately makes her heroine appear small. In the stage direction, Sontag describes her middle-aged Alices appearance as childlike (AB 7); she also designs the furniture to be disproportionately large so that [Alice] seems very small on stage (AB 78). At one point in the play, Alice James remarks, Im trapped inside this turbid self that suffers, that closes me in, that makes me small (AB 103). In this aspect, Sontag relates immobility to physical size as a trope to represent Alices repression. Significantly, this trope of body is also evident in Lewis Carrolls Alice, whose altering size is related to her frustration. Sontag suggests that the arbitrary changes in physical size and scale of Carrolls Alice reflects the child-protagonists perplexities about her feelings (AB 115). This observation is shared by many critics, who also see Alices changing body in Wonderland as her perplexed identity. Alices Curious Body in Wonderland In Alices Adventures in Wonderland, Alice undergoes twelve occasions where she alters her size (Gardner 17; note 10).6 Critics have seen her changing size in relation to the problem of identity. Jan Gordon, for instance, indicates that [o]nce thrust into a strange kingdom, a relativism of size and language forces her to be literally at sea (26). In the fantasy tale, Alices altering size does confuse her identity. In Chapter Five of the book, Alice seeks advice from a Caterpillar who throws the question at her: Who are you? (AA 47), which Alice is unable to answer. She remarks that being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing (AA 48). Alices identity crisis is further enhanced by her encounter with the Pigeon when her neck
6 Quotations of Alices Adventures in Wonderland are from the definitive edition of The Annotated Alice, with introduction and notes by Martin Gardner. Citations from Carrolls Alice book will be referred to as AA in parentheses hereafter, while citations from Gardners notes will be referred to under his name with the number of the note specified.


shoots off her shoulders, reaches through the branches and startles the bird. Upon seeing Alice, the Pigeon screams Serpent! (AA 54). Despite Alices efforts to assure the Pigeon that she is a little girl, the Pigeon insists that she is a serpent. In the Pigeons reasoning, serpent eats eggs, and since Alice admits that she too eats eggs, she must be a serpent. In this sense, Alices altering body is constantly questioned and misidentified by other animals in the wonderland. In other words, Alices adventures in the bizarre world can be read as a girl-childs quest for identity. Notably, although Alice goes through twelve transformations, most of time she remains smaller than her actual size. Her smallness signifies her lack of power. Her relativism of size therefore signifies her identity problem; she is constantly defined by others who tell her who she is. She does not have a say in it. It is not until the end of her dream, when Alice grows to her full size in the courtroom that she manages to regain her power and to challenge the Queen of Hearts: Who cares for you? [] Youre nothing but a pack of cards! (AA 124). From this scene, Nina Auerbach suggests, her sudden growth gives her the power to break out of a dream that has become too dangerous (34). Resuming the full size of her body, Alice regains her stable identity and becomes the child dozing off by the riverbank. In this reading of Alices altering body in wonderland, the relativism of size signifies the girl-childs identity problem. In Alice in Bed, Sontag borrows this trope of body imagination and renders it with feminist critique. Virginia Woolf, in A Room of Ones Own, argues that [w]omen have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size (35). In this sense, the relativism of body size reflects the unequal power between men and women. Women are made smaller to compliment mens huge egos. Following this trope of body, Sontag makes her heroine appear smaller on stage. Nevertheless, unlike Carrolls Alice, whose changing body wanders in the imaginary wonderland, Sontags Alice is intended to be put on stage in front of real audience. 52

Alices Ailing Body on Stage Susan Sontag writes in the afterword to her play, I think I have been preparing to write Alice in Bed all my life (AB 117). Alice Jamess life story is symbolic and inspirational for creative writing, but what is more significant is the medium with which Sontag chooses to tell her story: the theater. Sontag was a versatile writer: she made her name as an essayist; she wrote award-winning novels; she also directed and wrote several plays. Julia Walker convincingly argues that the theaterwith its ability to stage the dialectical relationship between bodies and wordswas a principal concern of Sontags (135). The theater, in this sense, allows Sontag to embody her words and thoughts on stage; the actress on stage materializes Alice Jamess ailing body that serves metaphoric meaning. Walker argues that Sontags special interest in theater as her artistic expression correlates with her belief that art has a cathartic power to inspire its audience to take moral and political action (129). In a similar vein, Robert Brustein also acknowledges Sontags choice of theatrical presentation; he states, [o]n the page, Alice in Bed looks slight and underwritten, meandering, even a little precious. On the stage, it is an engrossing and sometimes moving experience (26). In this aspect, both Walker and Brustein consider that Alice in Bed possesses strong power on stage; the actresss performing body that materializes Sontags words wields a cathartic power that could move the audience to action. According to Walker, theater allows Sontag to explore the aspect of active identification which concerns the ability of a work of art to engage and activate its viewers sympathies (136). Sontags theatrical representation of Alice Jamess ailing body invites her audience to identify with her Victorian career invalid, and to imagine a state of freedom beyond the patriarchal disciplines imposed on womens bodies (Walker 150). The historical Alice James was a victim of patriarchal discipline. In the play, Sontag tries to free Alice from her sickly body in her imagination. In Scene Six, after the tea party scene, Alice appears on stage in bed, but her imagination runs wild to the streets in Rome, where Margaret Fuller, one of her consultants at the tea 53

party, and her brother Henry James have traveled. In her imagination, Alice tastes the possibility she never realized in life; in her mind, she is freed from her bedridden body. At the end of this scene, Alice declares, I wont say how big or how small anything is. My mind doesnt have a size. One size fits all (AB 85). Reiterating the body imagination borrowed from Carrolls fantasy tale, Sontag has her Alice triumph over the relativism of size in her fantasy: Alices imagination helps her battle the dire reality in which she is always too small. However, Sontag states in her afterword to the play, the victories of the imagination are not enough (AB 117). Alice in Bed, by staging Alice Jamess sickly body on stage, sends a strong feminist message to its audience. And hopefully, the female body will be freed, not only in imagination and on stage, but in reality. Intertextuality and Body Imagination By way of feminist intertextuality, Susan Sontag links her story to Virginia Woolf s imaginary Judith Shakespeare and Lewis Carrolls Alice in the imagined Wonderland. The feminist intertextuality and the trope of body allow Sontag to render Alice James with metaphoric meanings, through which Sontag reaches back to her literary mothers, paying homage to them and joining the delicate web of feminist intertextuality. In the end, it is crucial to return to Carrolls Alice book and see how Sontags feminist intertextuality might facilitate a feminist reading to Carrolls classic childrens book. Carl Rollyson compares Alice in Bed with Alices Adventures in Wonderland in that, like Sontags Alice James triumphing over her imagination, Carrolls Alice speaks to the world of imagination that saved her from a dull and demeaning childhood (39). Jo Elwyn Jones and J. Francis Gladstone also remind us that Alices adventures begin with boredom, because she has nothing to do (25). A girl of Alices class in the Victorian era is not expected to do much; as Jones and Gladstone further explain, [w] ith marriage as their mothers only goal for them, education of girls like the Liddell sister took a secondary place (25). In this aspect, Alices boredom is the result of societal expectations of Victorian women; as a girl-child, her 54

future has been planned for her. Therefore, Alices boredom triggers her dream of a Wonderland where she can alter her size and experience adventures that are impossible for her in the real world. Alices dream and imagination are her escapes from her dreary Victorian girlhood. Significantly, in the end of the fantasy tale, the narrative focus shifts to Alices elder sister, who in turn dreams her little sister growing up in the future. She lovingly imagines that Alice will share this dream of Wonderland with her little children (AA 127). In this short final scene, Alices sister is imagining Alice taking up the role of a mother. This confirms the fact that Alice will grow up some day. And as an adult woman, Alice can no longer shun the societal expectation which is the source of her boredom, by escaping into her imaginary Wonderland. This ending of the fantasy tale, with an older sisters perspective on the younger, echoes a sense of sisterhood which is embedded in the feminist intertextuality. Imagination offers Alice an escape from her boredom in Alices Adventures in Wonderland and from her ailing body in Alice in Bed. Imagination is power: it weaves feminine texts into feminist intertextuality, and it frees the female body from confining reality. But as Sontag reminds us, the victories of imagination are not enough. Action must be taken.


Works Cited Allen, Graham. Intertextuality. London: Routledge, 2000. Auerbach, Nina. Alice and Wonderland: A Curious Child. Lewis Carroll. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. 31-52. Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1973. Brustein, Robert. Deconstructing Susan. The New Republic 11 Dec. 2000: 25-26. Carroll, Lewis. The Annotated Alice: Alices Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. The Definitive Edition. Intro. and Notes by Martin Gardner.New York: Norton 2000. Fanger, Iris. Alice James Faced Life in a Nightgown. Christian Science Monitor 88.104 (1996): 14. Gilbert, Sandra M. and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979. Gordon, Jan B. The Alice Books and the Metaphor of Victorian Childhood. Lewis Carroll. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. 17-30. Jones, Jo Elwyn, and J. Francis Gladstone. The Alice Companion: A Guide to Lewis Carrolls Alice Books. New York: New York UP, 1998. Rollyson, Carl. Reading Susan Sontag: A Critical Introduction to Her Work. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2001. Sontag, Susan. Alice in Bed: A Play. 1993. London: Vintage, 1994. ---. Illness as Metaphor. New York: Vintage, 1979. 56

Strouse, Jean. Alice James: A Biography. 1980. New York: New York Review of Books, 2011. Walker, Julia A. Sontag on Theater. The Scandal of Susan Sontag. Ed. Barbara Ching and Jennifer A. Wagner-Lawlor. New York: Columbia UP, 2009. 128-54. Woolf, Virginia. A Room of Ones Own. 1929. New York: Harcourt, 1989.



is an undergraduate student at Sonoma State University.

Tara Bowers


Iago, Nature, and Society: Iagos Destruction of Truth through Nature Metaphors and Manipulation Iago may be a villain, but every villain has a story. What drives

Iagos crude nature metaphors and poisonous manipulation? As an ecocritic, I find there are many pieces of dialogue in Othello that stand out as relating to nature in some way, whether it is the weather, the scenery, or animals. With a little study it quickly becomes apparent that the majority of this dialogue belongs to Iago. Before proceeding further, I would like to define nature in this paper as referring to any element from the natural world, outside of humans. In this case, nature does not pertain to natural emotions exhibited by characters in the play, but it does include the forces of nature; plants and animals, and could also be referred to as wilderness or the wild, (Strickler). This aside, there are many questions that Iagos dialogue brings up that I would like to answer with this paper. In this work I am exploring Iagos use of nature metaphors to gain power over both the agency of nature that he fears and the social situations he wishes to control. This manipulation of nature through metaphors mirrors Iagos manipulation of other characters and thereby corrupts the search for truth by Desdemona and Othello. To begin, I want to establish a system of analysis developed by

the ecocritic Frederick Waage. Since ecocriticism is fairly undeveloped in its theory and lacks, for the most part, terms specific to its study. Waages system begins with choosing a topic which can be a definable entity, process, behavior, or issue that is related to human interaction with 60

the environment (140). In this paper my topics will be concerned with process and behavior as related to Iago and his nature metaphors. To clarify, Waage considers process to be an interactivity between entities, including humans, in ecosystemic (or guild) relationship. and behavior to be, action, generalized or entity-specific, within or contributory to, the dynamic or ecosystemic process (140). From an ecocritics point of view, one can, rather than looking specifically at the social situation that is being created, look at how the outer, natural world is viewed, and how the natural world is being used in relation to a social situation. While keeping this system of analysis in mind, we will begin with the first question from above, considering how Iago actually feels about nature. It would seem at first that Iago is disrespectful of nature, and so he

uses crude nature metaphors to disrespect the people and social situations with which he comes in contact. This idea is compounded by one of Iagos early pieces of dialogue, when he is speaking to Brabantio about Desdemonas elopement, youll have your daughter covered with a Barbary Horse, youll have your nephews neigh to you, youll have / coursers for cousins, and jennets for germans. (I.i.109-112) But what if there is something more to how Iago feels about nature that shows itself more subtly in his speech? What if, he is actually spiteful of nature; or, to use an ecocritical term; ecophobic? Simon Estok defines 61

ecophobia as An irrational (often hysterical) and groundless hatred of the natural world, or aspects of it. Such fear of the agency of Nature plays out in many spheres (112). In addition to this definition, Estok says that ecophobia is about power (113), which is something that Iago is very concerned with throughout the play In every way, Iago is trying to create and maintain power over other people in the play. He wishes to take Cassios place in the military to displace Othello, and to ruin the happiness of all the characters, whether directly or indirectly. He even shows us that he is clearly aware of the harm his actions and words cause others in the line, The Moor already changes with my poison (III.iii.328). Iago knows his words can be poisonous to the minds of others, but his need for control is strong. This control amounts to having more power over the world he lives in, both the natural world and society. However, there is also the aspect of phobia. At first one might baulk at the thought of Iago fearing anything, but with a little analysis something like fear can be discovered in Iagos speech. If we look at Iagos nature metaphors as derogatory not just towards people, but towards nature as well, ecophobia is hinted at. Iago wants power, so he uses his metaphors to control people and to control nature. Being derisive about nature, he puts it under his control, at least symbolically. In fact, in Iagos speech about how our bodies are gardens, to the which our wills / are gardeners (I.iii.321-322), he is saying that, as humans, we may have bodies from nature but our minds are strong enough to control nature. Therefore, Iago must not see nature as something to be respected, but rather something to be controlled. As Estok explains, 62

anything that amputates or seeks to amputate the agency of Nature and to assert a human order on a system that follows different orders is, in essence, ecophobic (112). In general, humans try to control that which they fear; Iagos attempts to control through his metaphors are a direct result of his fear of that which, really, is uncontrollable. This idea is further reinforced by Gary Snyders argument about wildness from The Practice of the Wild, as expressed by Strickler: wildness is a culture all its own, a powerful force that can shape human culture (123). Further into Stricklers argument, this idea is brought back more specifically to Othello, and shows us right where Iagos fear of losing control is coming from. Strickler says, The drama of Othello is founded upon the wilds attempt to recolonizeor rewildthe human through the agency of Othello and Desdemona (124). Iago sees that nature has power over human culture, and because of his own ecophobiahis own need for powerIago feels he must control what he fears so that it cannot control him. This leads to Iagos use of language to corrupt those around him. With this new understanding of how Iago views nature, we can consider other characters reactions to Iagos metaphors. One of the major differences between Iago and other characters in

Othello is how they feel about and react to nature. We are presented with Montano and two Gentlemen in awe of the power of the ocean, Methinks the wind hath spoke aloud at land; A fuller blast neer shook our battlements What ribs of oak, when mountains melt on them, Can hold the mortise? 63

(II.i.5-9) With the words wind hath spoke, Montano is giving nature life and power through the ability of speech; a human attribute. By speaking of nature in this way, Montano is showing his understanding of natures innate power, a power that could match humanitys own. In addition, the line What ribs of oak, when mountains melt on them, / Can hold the mortise? (II.i.8), gives the reader the sense that Montano believes that nature has the power to destroy what humans have made. In this case he recognizes that the giant waves of the storm could break apart even a very strong ship. This sets us up to believe that, in general, the people in the play understand that nature is powerful and so they must work to stand strong against it, but are also respectful and in awe of its power. So how do they react to Iagos crude and disrespectful metaphors? In the scene mentioned earlier where Iago describes Brabantios daughter as being covered by a Barbary horse, Brabantio responds by calling Iago a profane wretch (I.i.113) and a villain (I.i.116). What we dont know is if Brabantios response is to the crudeness of the metaphors in relation to his daughter, or to the fact that Iago uses nature in relation to his daughter. In Economies of Nature in Shakespeare, Jean Feerick suggests that in the pre-modern society of Othello, nature and culture, human and non-human, have never been the hard divisions that moderns often presume them to be (34). In other words, in the time of Othello, people saw human and non-human as intermingling, such that nature metaphors 64

in themselves would not be a bad thing, but to disrespect nature would be. Feerick continues by saying, For the pre-modern world of which Shakespeare was a part, the social, the cultural, and the human were still perceived to be inside nature (35-36). In addition Waage backs up this claim by suggesting that, for pre-modern people, Body and earth are interchangeable (154). This explains the awe shown by Montano and the two Gentlemen mentioned above: they see their own power reflected in nature. For Brabantio the crude nature metaphors alert him to the reason for Iago and Roderigos visit, and the news of his daughters leaving with Othello is more important than how he was told the news. Also, the nature metaphors give Brabantio a full report of the situation in a form that is easily understandable, though crude. The characters understand the use of nature as a metaphor about their lives, even if they find the crudeness of some of Iagos metaphors distasteful and disrespectful. For example, when Iago is talking to Roderigo about how the love between the Moor and Desdemona will soon dissipate, Iago references plants, The food that to him [the Moor] now is as luscious as locusts [fruit of the carob tree] shall be to him shortly as bitter as coloquintida [colocynth or bitter apple]. (I.iii.343-346) Roderigo takes these references in stride, seemingly at ease with them Plants and food are a part of everyday life, so Roderigo is familiar with the good taste of locusts and the bitter taste of coloquintida. Therefore, Iagos 65 use of these foods in relation to Othellos love helps Iago show Roderigo

what he wants him to see by using an association to something familiar. This easy incorporation of nature references and metaphors leads to my final question about Iagos manipulation of nature and of people. Due to Iagos frequent use of nature metaphors as his way of

establishing a symbolic control over nature, it is not a far leap to consider that Iago also manipulates people through this very same speech. Whether it is Roderigo being reassured with food and plant metaphors, Brabantio being spurred on by the crude, Even now, now, very now, an old black ram / Is tupping your white ewe (I.i.87-88)., or Othello being incited to doubt about Desdemonas loyalty, Iago uses his words and metaphors of nature to manipulate people, and his manipulation works. As I mentioned above, Iago manipulates Roderigo in one part of

the play by reassuring him that Othello and Desdemonas love will not last; but that is not the only moment that Iago manipulates Roderigo. Iago convinces Roderigo to sell all he has and put money in thy purse (I.iii.340)., for the day Roderigo will have Desdemona. But Roderigo is continuously denied Desdemona, just like Iago is denied a higher-ranking position in the military. Catherine Shaw supports this by arguing, Iago has infected Roderigo by transferring his own sense of injured worth (professional and sexual) to the gullible Venetian (307). Therefore, Iago is effectively causing those he manipulates to feel what he has felt. His manipulation does double duty. Iago is able to give others a taste of what he has been through as well as causing them to do what he wants. This brings me back to Iagos line, our bodies are gardens, to the which our 66

wills / are gardeners (I.iii.321-322). Iagos manipulations that affect the other characters actions could be an extension of this same metaphor. Not only does Iago control his own garden, but he seems to regularly play groundskeeper for other peoples gardens by influencing their will. Iago does this with Othello also, as Erin Minear suggests, Iagos manipulation through language becomes apparent when we see Othello burst out in a similar crude verse when welcoming Lodovico to Cyprus: You are welcome, sir, to Cyprus. Goats and monkeys! (IV.i.263). Minear says, Iagos crude language of lustful animals, used to wake Brabantio in the opening scene, now erupts from Othello (358). Thus, creating the discord that Iago hoped for. In the article Music and the Crisis of Meaning in Othello, The line from the play above, demonstrates how by the end, Iago has corrupted Othello down to his very speech. Perhaps Iago has even created in Othello the same distrust and disrespect for nature that Iago himself has, setting up one aspect of Othellos fall. For what would be better to create distrust between Othello and Desdemona than distrust in nature? Since Desdemona is still linked to nature like the other characters, as can be seen in her singing of the Willow Song, a distrust in nature creates an inherent disconnect and distrust with her for Othello. If he cannot trust nature, how can he trust someone who does? Therefore, Iagos symbolic manipulation of nature is successful in the actual manipulation of people. There is one character, however, which is an exception to Iagos voracious manipulations; Cassio. Shaw suggests, It is perhaps fitting that 67

Cassio, who survives to become governor of Cyprus, is least permanently affected by Iagos knavish words (312). Cassio, though he falls prey indirectly to Iagos manipulation through other characters, does not seem to be affected by Iagos metaphors. And interestingly, as Shaw notes, he is one of the few characters to come out the better at the end of the play. Shaw gives the reason for Cassios escape from Iago as being, a deliberate rejection of Iagos invitation to barracks humor (312). However, I would argue that it is also Cassios similarity to Iago in how he views nature that he escapes. For example, when Cassio gets in a fight with Montano in act two, Cassio says afterwards that by these actions he has lost his reputation, and that, I have lost the immortal part of / myselfand what remains is bestial (II.iii.259-260). Cassio rejects his bestial nature, the part of himself that is left when his reputation is gone, as unworthy. Without his good reputation, a human construction, Cassio feels all that is left within him is bestial, a term for the wild part of himself that Iago would likely use. Cassio looks down upon this part of himself, thus showing that he might look down upon nature as well. This aspect of Cassio could be part of what allowed him to pass by Iagos metaphors unaffected. By already rejecting nature, perhaps fearing it, as Iago seems to, Cassio could not be manipulated by Iago directly, the way Iago manipulated other characters. However, with Cassio being the only one to escape Iago, we can see that Iagos manipulation really is quite effective. Now, there is one last aspect of ecocriticism, in relation to Iago, that I would like to explore here. Strickler, in his article, puts importance on 68

location, saying that the focus on place as something socially constructed and as a force affecting social constructions (120). Iago, being a foreigner in Cyprus, with cityas opposed to naturalinfluences, could be said to corrupt the nature of Cyprus and its social order. This relationship is clarified by Othello and Desdemonas natural influences. Othello is considered wild due to his otherness and the location of his birth (122). Desdemona falls in love with Othellos wildness, and because Strickler considers the wild to be truth then it follows that there is conflict between Iago and these two characters, as the truth and power of nature is something Iago seeks to control and corrupt. Strickler says, They [Desdemona and Othello] ultimately seek the truth, whether in the city or on the battlefield (122). Therefore, the dissonance that is created by Iagos crude nature metaphors and his manipulation makes sense. Iago corrupts nature through his metaphors, thus destroying truth for all the characters in the play, especially Othello. Othello and Desdemona seek the truth in the nature of Cyprus, but Iago brings the city to Cyprus, causing chaos by manipulating nature and therefore truth. Further in Stricklers article, this idea of Iago manipulating the truth of natureand those characters who follow and respect nature is given further support: Iago makes his famous allusion to an old black ram tupping your white ewe (lines 88-89) [87-88] and the beast with two backs (lines 116-17) [115], both of which corrupt the truth and reputation of Othello and Desdemona (129). With lines like these Iago is able to tear down the power and place of nature and replace it with his 69

city influences, thereby claiming control. Iago pulls from his sense of place in the world and uses it against nature and people. Whomever or whatever stands in his way, Iago will use his language to manipulate it. Now that we have viewed Iagos dialogue from an ecocritical

perspective that involves nature in a new way, we have learned that nature plays a significant role in this play. The interconnectedness of nature with society in the lives of the characters and Iagos own ecophobiaand therefore his will to have power over naturecreates a certain conflict that underlies the overt conflicts of the play. Ecocriticism benefits the analysis by giving a view of the location as important to social situations and a fuller understanding of how the setting is used in the work. Ecocriticism also opens the way for analyzing the language used for indications of how characters view nature, are influenced by nature and how they feel about the natural world versus the human world. This form of analysis gives an important new perspective on the characters and conflicts within the play. Without the perspective of ecocriticism, the nuances of the use of nature metaphors and the characters varied relationships with nature might easily go unnoticed by the reader.


Works Cited Estok, Simon. An Introduction to Shakespeare and Ecocriticism: The Special Cluster.Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment12.2 (2005): 109-17. Feerick, Jean E. Economies of Nature in Shakespeare.Shakespeare Studies39 (2011): 32-42. Minear, Erin. Music and the Crisis of Meaning inOthello.SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-190049.2 (2009): 355-70. Shakespeare, William. Othello. Ed. E. A. J. Honigmann. 3rd ed. Walton-on- Thames: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1997. Print. Shaw, Catherine M. Dangerous Conceits Are in Their Natures Poisons: The Language of Othello.University of Toronto Quarterly49.4 (1980): 304-19. Strickler, Breyan. Sex in the City: An Ecocritical Perspective on the Place of Gender and Race in Othello.Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment 12.2 (2005): 119-37. Waage, Frederick O. Shakespeare Unearthd.Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment12.2 (2005): 139-64.