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Lecture 29

English: 2308E Lecture 29: American Lit lecture January 18th 2016


Department
English
Course Code
English 2308E
Professor
John Kelly
Lecture
29

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January 18, 2016
The Awakening
- The women’s question
- Regional novel – romantic
setting
- Awakening- realism and
naturalism
- Historical and cultural setting
- Sexuality and marriage
- The body
- Solitude and awakening
- Closure
- Creole
- Determinism
- Concubinage
- Essentializing
- Governail
- Swinburne “A Cameo

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- Representation of motherhood – what is so explosive in the novel in
relationship to motherhood?
oEdna is very detached from her children
oForgets about them when not in their presence
oShe doesn’t see her children as essential to her
- In3uence of bildungsroman – this text clearly not one
- Story re3ects qualities of a fairy-tale
- Women share the same aspirations and ideals as men
- Story not truly a political commentary
oNot challenging all ideals at the time, but she inadvertently does
oForegrounds critical questions at end of 19th c early 20th c especially
about gender codes and how to identify identity
- Irony in the title?
oEdna wakes up to realize she’s trapped in the world – no opportunities
like men at the time to realize her potential
oIs it meant to be ironic?
oDoesn’t end with typical romantic ending, sad ending as opposed to
happy
oShe has to commit suicide at the end – suggests that her awakening is
a failure
oAlso poses many questions and problems for readers at the time
oWhy does she only feel suicide will help her keep herself
- Gilman argued that women have been stunted by society simply bc they’re
limited in their roles and positions – virtuous woman not able to sell sexuality
so must make a bargain in marriage w a man to be protected and supported –
marriage systematizes di7erent values and codes of behaviour
- Medical discourse in Gilman’s story in this novel through the Doctor – he
argues Edna is su7ering hysteria
oCasual reading by women (novels) seen to be dangerous at the time –
could corrupt a female reader and be physically danger
oDanger of education for women – men and medical discourse
completely wrong at the time bc many women now in university
- These ideas frame Edna’s life and the codes of behaviour she challenges in
the text
- Medical and social discourse meant to contain women’s identity – sexual
desire, a woman’s intellectual life and aspirations, economic aspirations,
desire for independence, desire for ful;llment beyond a marriage and taking
care of children
- Women has hysteria if didn’t follow codes of behavior – excitable, depressed,
had troubles adapting
- Regional novel like Huck Finn
oVision of a particular area in America
oFocuses on Creole culture in new Orleans at the turn of the 19th century
oProblem as readers is we know nothing about creole culture, neither
does Edna
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oCreole culture largely French – parrot speaking French at beginning of
text – mimicking people who speak French  mimics Edna’s condition
Edna can’t speak French and can’t understand the codes of
creole culture
oProblem of translation for Edna
oShe doesn’t understand social or sexual codes of creole culture at the
time
- All women isolated by cultural norms but in New Orleans the culture is very
di7erent – novel re3ects, upon a larger scale, the notion of the ideal woman
in the south (chaste, innocent, pure, maternal)
- regional novel but a romantic setting of New Orleans – lovers in the distance,
music (arias), Robert Lebrun 3irting w Edna on grand hill ad later in new
Orleans
o;rst problem of Edna trying to understand the codes of creole culture
- creole culture allows men to 3irt w married women – sophisticated culture but
their relationships are never actually realized (consummated) – Robert know
this, Edna doesn’t – takes it seriously, not as the social ritual it is
oEdna is a romantic person coming from Kentucky culture
- plot also romantic – action rises as Edna goes into rebellion against Leonce
and all her wifely duties
- Leonce not an evil guy, makes up excuse when Edna leaves the house that
she leaves bc of renovation – he’s convinced he can make her come back and
he still loves her
- Edna willingly has sex with a known womanizer bc she knows there will be no
commitment and she’s happy with that – woman having sex as a man would
have sex, no commitment, simply to pursue her own pleasure
- Edna falls in love with Robert Lebrun but again problem is that Robert knows
the codes and will understand that Edna falls in love w him, Edna believes
and hopes she will run away with Robert, but Robert will not leave – those
codes of behaviour are highly in scripted in him – one of the determining
factors that leads to Edna’s choice to commit suicide
- Ends romantically, realistically or naturalistically (biologically and
socioeconomically Edna’s course is determined in the time she marries
Leonce)
- Most interesting and real part of novel = what’s happening in Edna and not
the opulent world that she moves through
- Edna’s dilemma is that she’s unwilling to pursue the ideal mother role found
in creole culture – she’s trying to realize the narrative that we described in
;rst term: the ideal narrative of self-realization, self-awareness and freedom
that male characters pursue – but she can’t ;nd that narrative, it’s not open
to her
oAnother factor leading to her suicide
- Edna’s problem is that she is a romantic –she discovers that she lives in an
unromantic world where romantic ideals she dreamed of as a teen cannot be
realized
- Conventional Romantic images in novel:
oLight and dark imagery
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