The Taming of the Shrew: Misogynistic or Just ‘Of Its Time’?

Taming of the Shrew

This post is a response to Pages Unbound’s Classic Remarks meme.

The Taming of the Shrew is Shakespeare’s family-friendly romp about a tough, street-wise hero who falls in love with and marries a fast-talking heroine. They decide to play an elaborate prank on their friends and family, so the pair pretend to hate each other and the hero torments the heroine, in order to highlight the atrociously misogynistic attitudes of early modern England.

Hmm. Maybe not so much. Although there’s been some debate about the extent to which Taming of the Shrew is in fact a misogynistic play (some people even argue that it’s just the opposite) I think it’s fair to say that it’s pretty problematic. It includes a great many jokes about women needing to be ‘tamed’, not to mention scenes of abuse: Katharina, the ‘Shrew’, is abducted and starved by her new husband Petruchio. Continue reading

Top Ten Unread Books That Have Been On My TBR Shelf Since Before I Began Blogging

Not my catchiest title, I’ll admit. But this week’s Top Ten Tuesday forces me to admit which books I’ve been putting off reading for far too long. As you’ll see, mostly my excuse is just plain, good old-fashioned laziness….

Top Ten Unread Books That Have Been On My TBR Shelf Since Before I Began Blogging

1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot – Eliot seems like the natural choice for readers making their way through the most famous English female writers, from Austen to the Brontës to Gaskell. I’ve done all three of those authors, but I’ve yet to build up the enthusiasm to face Eliot’s grimmer style of writing. Plus I’m sad to say that The Mill on the Floss kind of bored me to tears.

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How to Write an English Literature Dissertation, in 21 Easy Steps

I feel myself to be a bit of a self-taught expert when it comes to English Literature dissertations. I’m now into the last few days of my Masters dissertation, and having spent the last few months navigating a veritable emotional rollercoaster, I thought it only right that I share some of the things I’ve learnt over the past few months (if only because drafting blog posts is an entirely welcome relief from reading literary theory for five straight hours at a time). So, with that in mind, I present you with:

How to Write an English Literature Dissertation, in 21 Easy Steps

Step 1: Pick a book or an author you like a lot. After all, you’re going to be reading it over and over! For an extra challenge, choose something particularly obscure and complicated so that you can look progressive and experimental. Also there’s less chance that the markers have read the book and can therefore contradict your ideas.

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Wherein I Take A Crack At ‘The Problem of Susan’

Narnia Susan

This week’s Classic Remarks prompt from Pages Unbound is brought to you by Susan Pevensie, problem child of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series. So, as you might expect:

Warning: major spoilers for the Narnia series ahead!

I always found the ending of The Last Battle so unbearably crappy and depressing. The Pevensies were in a terrible train accident and then got transported to the apocalyptic end of the Narnia they had known and loved to live in a suspiciously small-looking walled garden with all the people they’d met in Narnia, ever? (Remember, as a kid I had no idea that the series was an allegory, but even knowing that fact doesn’t make it any less of a crappy and depressing allegory.) Continue reading

Warlords, Vampires, and Spatial Genetic Multiplicity: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Dracula PosterWarning! It is highly recommended that potential viewers of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 version of Dracula are fully equipped with a few necessary items. These include: (1) the ability to follow an incredibly confusing plotline; (2) a sketchy knowledge of Bram Stoker’s novel; and (3) a plentiful supply of cold water (buckets or cold showers both acceptable). Also, this review contains spoilers.

The fact that Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula is littered with eroticism and religious imagery is nothing new. It’s informed the way we write and perform the vampire myth over the course of an entire century. But in Coppola’s 1992 adaptation of the book (‘adaptation’ is here used in the loosest possible sense) this is taken to a whole new level.

‘Bram’s’?

This seems an obvious place to start, but the way that Coppola chooses to present his film to audiences is interesting. The film’s full title is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but readers of the book may find themselves a touch perplexed; apart from the characters the film seems to have little in common with Stoker’s story. A case of postmodern irony, or just a marketing strategy? I leave it for you to decide. The opening shots present viewers with Dracula’s (Gary Oldman) backstory, something which Stoker only hints at in the novel. Continue reading

Victorian Superheroes (Minus the Tights): Dracula (1897), by Bram Stoker

DraculaI vant to suck your blood… and varn you about ze spoilers ahead! (And also tell you zis book is #56 on my Classics Club list, bleh bleh).

On a dark and stormy night, in a castle in Transylvania, an English clerk named Jonathan Harker discovers a terrible secret about his host. It leads to an epic chase across the whole of Europe, from East to West, and back again. It’s the plot of Dracula, one of the most recognisable literary villains in history. Decades of literary criticism have shown us just how much there is to uncover in a book like Dracula. There’s no way I can possibly cover everything there is to find in a book like this, so I thought I’d start with some of the things which really caught my attention while I was reading.

Men Writing About Women Writing About Men (And Why It Always Makes Me Laugh)

In Dracula, women are everywhere. The plot revolves around two women in particular: Lucy Westenra and Mina Harker, the wife of Jonathan. In his characterisation of them, Stoker articulates anxieties about a range of issues, from Victorian sexuality to the fear of foreign invasion.* Continue reading

Insta-Love and Innuendo: Just How Romantic is Romeo and Juliet?

Romeo Juliet Fishtank

Romeo and Juliet: distorting our understanding of romantic love since 1597.

Last week, I came across a fabulous post by Emily from Roseread, which discussed the question: should Jane Austen be included in the canon? It led me to the wonderful meme Classic Remarks from Pages Unbound, which poses weekly questions about literature. I was keen to try my hand at one of the questions, and this week’s prompt is particularly interesting:

Is Romeo and Juliet a tragic love story or an ironic comedy?  Should we take the play seriously when its protagonists are so young? Continue reading

Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn

Luna Patronus

Just one of the reasons reading is so awesome: you get to live in the shoes of characters who are usually infinitely more talented than you are. This is why The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday prompt is, this week, another great one. Today they’re asking what books have made you want to learn or do after reading them.

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Austen in Edinburgh: A Lecture at the NLS

Emma FlyerI don’t normally write about lectures and seminars that I go to, but I recently had the opportunity to attend a rather interesting lecture at the National Library of Scotland that I thought I’d share with you all. The lecture has some fun bookish connections: organised by the Edinburgh-based author Alexander McCall Smith, the Isabel Dalhousie lecture is dedicated to one of Smith’s beloved characters, Isabel Dalhousie, philosopher and amateur sleuth, and (naturally) lover of Edinburgh and Scottish culture. This year’s lecture just happened to be on a topic I’m particularly interested in. Juliette Wells, an American scholar, gave a talk on the first American edition of Jane Austen’s Emma and its significance for Austen scholarship and the study of Austen’s reception in America. I read Wells’ book, Everybody’s Jane, for Austen in August last year (I was also supposed to re-read Emma itself for that particular event, but as I mentioned in my review of the novel, that turned out to be a massive bust…) so I was curious to hear her talk. Continue reading

Some Things I Thought About Emma (1815) by Jane Austen

Austen EmmaI am thoroughly ashamed of myself. Emma was supposed to be one of my Austen in August reads last year, given that it was published at the end of 1815. Sadly, thanks to university deadlines and the tiny inconvenience of moving halfway across the world, I wasn’t able to complete it. But after more time than I’m prepared to admit, I finally come to you with my thoughts on my re-read of Emma. If it seems incomplete, ill-informed, or just plain wrong, I’m going to go ahead and blame that on the fact that it took me about six months to finish. If I hadn’t caught the flu a few weeks ago – Austen being one of my go-to illness cures – I might still be ‘reading’ this book (by which I mean it would have been sitting by my bedside silently judging me, as only the best books can). I hope you find it interesting. I hope you don’t come away from this silently thinking I really should give up studying literature. I know I found myself wondering.

Some Things I Thought About Emma

All of Austen’s novels are about possession and belonging. It’s hardly surprising, considering the kind of world she was born into – a world where one’s worth was most often determined by how much one was worth. Continue reading