I Ship Lucy and Mina

Okay this blog post is not THAT simple. I want to explore the meaning of homosocial desire as it pertains to women in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as I feel Sedgwick’s Between Men does an amazing job at describing the homosocial desire, however it is only…between men, so where does that leave our women? The line in Dracula that honestly intrigued me most was Mina’s referencing to Lucy that she loves her “with all the moods and tenses of the verb”. I believe that this does not imply a sister love or friendship, but rather as a lover. However, I part of me is also curious as to why Mina and Lucy are victims to the vampire epidemic specifically. Although neither Mina nor Lucy actually does anything to violate Victorian gender norms, they come close to doing so, and Stoker’s reclamation of Mina suggests that the only appropriate gender boundaries that women can cross are ones that benefit men.

Mina and Lucy are each depictions of the New Women, in different stages, Lucy being more progressive and Mina a tad more reserved. The result, in my eyes, is the fact that Mina loves Lucy, not only for being herself, but for being everything that Mina wants to become. Mina and Lucy’s perceived transgressions make them potential New Women–and thus, potential victims for vampires, since that is what they seem to be attracted to. However, I acknowledge the ambiguous nature of Mina and Lucy’s relationship, but I believe the answer lies in penetration. The way in which one becomes a vampire is through penetrative practices of exchanging or sucking blood, and I want to tie this into the Victorian belief of what classifies as “sex”. Since Mina and Lucy cannot have penetrative sex, there cannot be (in the Victorian mind) a relationship between the two women, and therefore there is no sex to be had. I wish I could elaborate further, however, I already feel as though this is a stretch. Let me know what you think.


Room for the Past

In Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian’s decision on where to place his portrait piqued my interest. Though seemingly a trivial choice, I believe that Dorian’s room is representative of the fin de siecle as an era, but let me explain myself first.

Incase you missed it, prior to coming in contact with the portrait painted by Basil, Dorian is synonymous with purity and naïveté. But as time progresses, it becomes evident to both Dorian and the reader, that the painting reflects Dorian’s ever-changing personality, and as he commits worse and worse actions, the painting changes to be more and more ugly. This important relationship between Dorian’s past actions and the representation in the painting becomes a key point in understanding his childhood rooms’ meaning.

First, I want to draw attention to the paragraph on page 117 that outlines a basic understanding of the room itself. It starts,  “He had not entered the place for more than four years – not indeed since he had it first used as a play-room when he was a child, and then as a study when he grew somewhat older” (Wilde 117). In this paragraph, Dorian views this room with a nostalgic lens about his past, one that I would argue is representative of his innocence. However, by introducing the painting into a space representative of his innocent past, he corrupts it with a physical item relational to his new recent history. This reading of the room as a symbol for the past takes veering turns throughout the text as well.

Jumping ahead in the novel, Dorian reveals his secret of the changing painting to Basil, the artist who originally painted the portrait. In a wild fit of fear and insecurity, Dorian murders Basil in the very room that he had played in as a child (Wilde 151). As Dorian’s actions become more severe, the room takes on a greater representation of both his past actions and present state of being. Another facet that is important to keep in mind is the fact that the painting is just as representative of Dorian as it is of Basil. By killing the creator of the painting, Dorian in turned killed half of what the painting stood for as an object; the unification of two men on a 2-D surface.

The final place in the text that I want to direct attention to is when Dorian kills himself. He decides ultimately that the portrait is the source of his problems and takes the same knife that killed Basil and lunges towards the painting. However, the knife is turned on him and he is left dead, old, and withered (212-13). Here, the room is the final resting place for our main character, ultimately serving as a timeline. Instead of pointing the blame at himself, Dorian is the cause of his own downfall, and points the knife instead. Based on the text, it is unclear if the painting somehow turned the knife on Dorian, or if he kills himself. I read the ending as a sudden realization that Dorian makes: he is the root of the problem and the only way out is via suicide.

Thus leading us to my overall argument that Dorian’s room is representative of the fin de siecle. Now, I am well aware this may be a stretch, however the fin de siecle is an era where lingers of pessimism and degeneration are prevalent in hundreds of texts. I strongly believe that Dorian’s room is a timeline for his degeneration and cannot help but be a pessimistic space for Dorian.

As always, please tell me your thoughts.


Is THE Woman Irene Adler THE New Woman?

Irene Adler is my favorite character in “A Scandal in Bohemia” written by Arthur Conan Doyle. Not only is she the only woman to best Sherlock Holmes, she embodies everything the New Woman aspired to be for the public.

For context, the term “New Woman” emerged as a feminist movement in the late 19th century, and is commonly a theme in many works in writings of la fin de siecle, or the end of the century. The development of independent women inherently shifted and challenged social expectations, bleeding into literature, education, and especially bicycles. Here is where I turn my attention to Irene Adler who, despite “having a face a man might die for” and looking like “the daintiest thing under a bonnet on this planet,” is the baddest bitch of the 19th century.

Adler exemplifies every quality that a New Woman represented. She is a an independent American woman living in England, retired opera singer, and dates before marriage?? AND choses who she marries and decides when?? She is even described with male attributes multiple times throughout the reading, and blurs the social class ladder. Despite all these qualities, Sherlock assumes that because of her appearance, that she can be easily tricked. Whenever Alder bests him, and leaves a photo of herself in place of the photo Sherlock planned so carefully to obtain, instead of despising her, Sherlock admires her. Adler defeats Holmes by using every skill and talent she possesses including her intelligence, her daring, and her willingness to defy conventional ideas of how she should behave in order to protect herself and secure the life she wants. This platonic appreciation from Sherlock is telling much more of his character than I originally realized. Holmes is shown admiring a different form of woman than the Victorian woman, instead he loves Adler; The New Woman.

This brings me to the first line of text in “A Scandal in Bohemia”, “To Sherlock Holmes she is always THE woman.” Sherlock never encounters another woman quite like Adler, thus making her THE woman. 

What do you think?

Forever Yours, JAY WALKER

An Epitaph Not for the Dead

An epitaph is a brief set of words that are in memory of someone who has passed, usually on their tombstone. However, Amy Levy’s “Epitaph” is not only for the dead, but for the living as well.

Her poem begins with a description of a man decomposing in his grave. Gruesomely, the poem goes to list his appearance; he lays with “dust in his throat”, “worm in his eyes”, “mould in his mouth”, and “turf on his breast”. Even with such a strong description, the poem claims that this is the best. To support this claim, the poem reads almost thankfully, “Never again will he smile and smile / When his heart is breaking all the while.” Though his end may seem ghastly, his life was more strenuous and painful than death. Selective word choice by Levy creates an emotional reaction in the reader. Words and phrases like “ache” and “breaking” along with hints of hunger in “Never ask for bread, get a stone instead” perpetuate a constant state of pity. The poem continues and delves into his mundane and unremarkable life. Despite all of his efforts to create a better life for himself, the poem makes a point in saying he his better dead and calm, then alive and stressed.

This is where, I claim, that Levy writes an epitaph, not just for the man who died in bed, but for an alive England, at the time. Using a New Historicist lens to analyze her poem, many aspects of the poem are brought to life. As we discussed in class, Amy Levy was raised Jewish and continued practicing her faith during her adult life. She continued pursuing higher education, and was the first Jewish woman to attend Newnham College. Upon publishing many of her works, she faced many criticisms, which led to her struggle with depression, ultimately causing her to take her own life at 27. Knowing this about the author, the dark themes of bleakness and overall harsh nature of her writing, correspond with the adversities she faced in her lifetime. In England, the New Woman feminist movement began shortly after Levy’s death. This “New Woman” was one who was independent, able to work, and stay on par with men, blowing the minds of men across England, who were dismissive of women’s potential. Levy, though incredibly talented, was heavily criticized simply for being that: a talented woman. The dark and dismal message conveyed by “Epitaph” is reflective of Levy’s attitudes towards the social state of England and predicts a dejected future for those men who wish to criticize the New Woman. While she may not have been aware of her value at the time, she was admired by Oscar Wilde, a man who created some ripples in England himself, changing the way Victorian Era literature is viewed today.

On first glance, “Epitaph” by Amy Levy seems just another emo and gray poem of the 1800’s, but I feel that it’s so much more than that. A warning signal and a glimmer of hope for the new women to come.

Your favorite crime,

Jay Walker