Monsters & Madness

Secret Lives in Victorian Literature

Author: mysterymachine

In an Artist’s Studio–

In summary, ‘In an Artist’s Studio’ is about the male artist’s tendency to objectify his female sitters or ‘models’ for his paintings and sculptures; the woman is merely a passive object on which the artist projects his fantasies and Christina Rossetti ‘dreams’. Written by a woman, the poem at first seems confusing  The artist is seen as a sort of predator or parasite, ‘feed[ing] upon’ the face of the female model – ‘by day and night’, we learn, the odd mention of ‘night’ suggesting some sort of male monster or demon. Rossetti seeks to demonstrate how women are treated and how they are viewed. This poem examines the tendency of men to objectify women in art and the way that women are shown to suffer as a result. The poem presents us with a male artist who has one beautiful muse who is the subject of all of his paintings. We can see therefore that in his art the male artist objectifies her and limits her to this “one meaning.” The poem becomes more sinister as we see that “He feeds upon her face by day and night,” which presents us with an almost vampiric image of how the artist treats this unnamed woman. As the poem ends it is clear that in a sense the artist is not strictly painting the woman before him, because the woman he is painting is merely an object for his satisfaction.

Dracula: the Corrupter

I read “Kiss Me with those Red Lips” to supplement my blog, and it added a whole new layer of information to my views about sexuality in Dracula. It talked about gender roles in the story. Men have power, and its “active, progressive, and defensive…. His intellect is for speculation and invention; his energy for adventure, for war and for conquest.” In the book, we see that as the men are the ones who fight Dracula and receive the credit. “Women [bear] a different burden, she must be … incorruptibly good… infallibly wise- not for self-development, but for self-renunciation.” (109) These core facts about how women and men were supposed to act and how they were seen definitely help my understanding of why the characters are portrayed thusly.

Dracula, then, is the corrupter, bringing about danger and neck sucking. Dracula threatens the order of society. The article makes a claim that “vampirism is an excellent example of the identity of desire and fear.” (107) The vampire bite itself is a mix of the traditional male vs. female characteristics. Beginning with the soft lips of the vampire and ending up with the pointy teeth and the bite, like the promise of the sweet actions more traditionally associated with females, but then ending up with a bite which is linked more towards the attributes of a man. Dracula seems to try to bring about change from the perceived gender roles, making women after they have been bitten more overt and outspoken.

With this mix up, men have to brave up and save the day, killing all the vampires and having women revert to their prescribed gender roles. But it is the association that this outside corrupter that turns women into “monsters,” that really makes the modern reader have to think about prescribed gender roles now, and back in the 19th century.

Femme Fatale Vamp. Edition

In Dracula, there are people who portray different stereotypes of women, the sweet and innocent one, the smart but she’s like my sister one, and the femme fatale, sexy one.  During the course of the book, the way women are portrayed are typical for the time period. Lucy, who has attracted many suitors, is docile, blonde, and innocent. She is also not very smart, saying,”Why can’t they let a girl marry three men, or as many as want her, and save all this trouble?” She does not understand the societal reasons of why this could not work and has no trouble voicing her brainless opinions.  She portrays all of the traits associated with how the ideal women should act. She also plays directly into gender roles that women were supposed to poses.

When Lucy becomes a vampire, her image shifts entirely. She has been transformed into something evil, and becomes a creature that has attained a “voluptuous wantonness.” Of course after she has become a monster, she is then associated with the traits that are not associated with a woman of class and poise. On top of that she is seen eating a baby. So baby killer and being sexy are obviously just as condemnable and wrong. The monster inside of her now has taken away her naiveté and why she was coveted by so many men.

The way that Lucy is portrayed in this book give you two sides of the sexist proverbial coin. She’s either a sweet virgin dressed in white, or a sexy vampire baby killer. The positive associations that come from her being a sweet virgin, such as plenty of suitors, being likable etc. are so drastically contrasted with the negative ones such as she eats babies. The lack of subtlety is jarring.

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