David’s Balancing Act

In his response to Erin O’Connor, Deirdre David attempts to find the middle ground between the essays by O’Connor and Spivak, which seem to be two polar opposite opinions on how to read Victorian literature. She acknowledges the points she agrees with from both authors and excellently ties them together to create an argument for the balance between the two theories. David says about Spivak, “Thanks to Spivak’s essay… we read Victorian fiction in a fuller way than we did twenty years ago- not necessarily better, but with an enlarged understanding, say, of the complex inseparable link between a spirited governess and a political world elsewhere. Thanks to Edward Said… we examine empire both as subject of representation and as material force in the production of Victorian literature, which doesn’t always mean we’ve undergone some sort of brainwashing” (683).  What I conclude from his piece is that David understands that in reading any text, one must be aware of the even potential historical and political implications on the piece of literature. To ignore such facts would be reading irresponsibly and blindly. While I think Spivak’s evidence about Jane Eyre could use some development, and I dislike her assertion that post colonialistic and feministic readings can never align, like David said, she makes a good point about reading for more. On O’Connor, David explains, “O’Connor wants us to question our evidence, and we should:… do we violate Brontë’s novel by enlarging the historical context of what she so vividly puts before us: a crazed woman from the West Indies, a brooding hero who went wrong in a tropical climate, a fanatical clergyman who wants to civilize the Indians?… asking these questions as O’Connor wishes us to do, can only enlarge our understanding of the Victorian novel, not diminish it” (682). David does a good job of searching through the passion of O’Connor’s article to find her point, and I like that she acknowledges the validity of her opinion. These are questions that should be asked. I believe that Brontë’s novel is “violated” only if it is read through one lens, with a disregard for any other potential ideas. Both Spivak and O’Connor sort of do this; Spivak through a strict post-colonial lens that ignores, even tries to compete in importance with a feminist lens, and O’Connor through a purely literary lens trying to ignore any possible theory. I think that an openness to all different lenses and readings, including post-colonial and purely literary, is the best as long as the reader is aware that their lens is not the only one that should be used. As David says, “Many of us have been drawn to Victorian studies because of it’s hospitality to theory, or rather theories, its capacious invitation for us to explore different perspectives- formal, Freudian, Marxian, feminist, and, yes, postcolonial” (683).

One thought on “David’s Balancing Act”

  1. I very much agree with you! I think that what we are always trying to do is see things more complexly. And while there are flaws in Spivak, O’Connor, and David’s arguments, I think they both ultimately do want that and although they propose different ways to achieve a more complex reading of Jane Eyre, they all kind of seem to want the same thing. I think ultimately all of their arguments prove the problems of trying to place things in boxes and dictate the ways in which things can and cannot be understood.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *