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Lecture 8

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English 2307E
Krista Lysack

English 2307E Tuesday February 11 Lecture 8 Elizabeth Barrett Browning Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Sonnets from the Portuguese • Compiled of 44 sonnets • A series of sonnets can tell a story – they tend to relate the ups and downs of a love affair • She used a fictional device when writing her sonnets • She might have entitled it ‘Portuguese’ because she is pretending that sonnets are found objects, which she then has translated (as if they were a discovery from an earlier Portuguese source) o Source material lends a certain amount of credibility, history, and nostalgia o ‘Portuguese’ may have also been a pet name (she had an olive complexion) • The sonnet usually involves an active male speaker talking about unrequited love o His female lover is not very interested in him • Barrett Browning positions the female as the writer, not the passive love object o The male love object isn’t cold, removed, or passive – he is active in the process of these sonnets and ultimately will reciprocate her feelings Sonnet #22 • Her persona articulates worries and anxieties • She is a gifted poet, but middle-aged, an invalid, and worried that she will be used by the younger male beloved that comes along (it has heavy biographical elements of Barrett Browning’s life) • Love symbolically grabs her by the hair (it comes out of nowhere and awakens her) • There is a negotiation between the two lovers – who has the power • This is a Petrarchan sonnet o Barrett Browning develops the problem in the first 8 lines, and uses the sestet to try to resolve the issue or pose a counterpoint • The two individuals are seen as soul mates, compared to angels wings o The wings of the lovers touch and then explode into an ecstatic fire o This is the image of a divine union, heavenly or spiritual love o There is something erotic or physical about this (spiritual bliss) • Though they have this heavenly love, the speaker says that they should stay on earth (remain grounded in the everyday) o There is an impermanence to physical life, it is a more realistic option o This is a contrast to what we usually see in a sonnet (it isn’t usually sensible and practical) Sonnet #32 • The Conceit: The speaker is compared to a worn-out violin • She is worried that she isn’t good enough for him – that she is out of tune and he is a grand singer • She is worried that the younger man may see her as old and worn out • She consoles herself with the idea that put in the right hands, she will be played beautifully Sonnet #43 • Poses the rhetorical question: How do I love thee? • The speaker talks about the shape, scale, and quality of love • Shows their love will never die – even after death, their love will carry on Robert Browning: My Last Duchess • Lyric Poetry: The Dramatic Monologue o Has its origins in the English Renaissance o eg. Dunn’s ‘The Flea’, Marvel’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’ o It allows the poet to develop a persona as someone who is distinct from the poet themselves o There is an auditor, an implied audience o There is typically a revelation of character (a psychological exploration of a character)  The speaker reveals something unintentional about themselves through their monologue o The Victorians generally back away from emotion because they see it as counterproductive • The speaker is
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