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text 2017-10-18 02:12
More on gothics

The Castle of Otranto is significant, not because of its intrinsic merit, but because of its power in shaping the destiny of the novel.

Birkhead, Edith. The Tale of Terror A Study of the Gothic Romance (p. 15). Kindle Edition.

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text 2017-10-17 21:06
Gaining a historical perspective
The Tale Of Terror: A Study Of The Gothic Fiction - Edith Birkhead

I picked this up a few days ago as a Kindle freebie.  I'm not sure how well I will document my actual progress on it, but so far it's proving quite interesting.

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text 2017-10-17 20:15
Just ordered this. A book I absolutely MUST have
To Write Like a Woman: Essays in Feminism and Science Fiction - Joanna Russ

The collection contains her wonderful essay on gothic romances, "Someone is trying to kill me and I think it's my husband."

 

I have a couple of her other non-fiction books, but oddly have never read any of her fiction.  I suppose that's another gap in my reading experience I need to fill!

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review 2017-10-11 20:38
What's real . . . and what isn't . . . and I'm not just talking about rape
Real Rape - Susan Estrich

Disclosure:  I make no apologies for being a radical feminist.  Deal with it.  I hold a BA degree from Arizona State University West in women's studies.  Deal with it.  I earned my master's degree in sociology and interdisciplinary studies from ASU-West in 2003.  Deal with it.

 

Too often, the word "rape" is taken to mean forcible sexual assault by a stranger.  Far more often the act is something very different, and is therefore just assumed to be not rape at all.

 

One of the undergrad classes I took was titled "Women, Crime, and Justice."  Our instructor was Dr. Marie Griffin, an attractive, petite blonde in her mid 30s.  About half the students in the class were male police and/or parole officers working toward either Administration of Justice degrees or planning to go on to law school.  Only about one-fourth the students were female.

 

The course covered various aspects of women and the American justice system - women as police officers and judges, women as lawyers,  women as criminals and victims of crime.

 

At the end of the semester, we had to give the usual presentations, and I chose to do mine on rape:  No means no, and what part of No don't you get?  Because rape is more than just physical force -- as we've seen far too graphically in the latest revelations regarding Harvey Weinstein. 

 

Women are threatened into "consenting" to sexual activity, and many people think that this means it's not rape.  Threats can involve the threat of physical harm, threats of financial harm such as loss of job or income, threats to children or pets or other loved ones, threats of self-harm.  These threats do not have to be explicitly articulated; they can be implied, especially by circumstances.

 

After I had given my presentation, one of the police officer students took issue with some of the things I had said.  His argument went something like this:

 

"So, okay.  If I take a woman out, like to dinner and a show, and I spend a couple hundred bucks on her, don't I have the right to expect something in return?"

 

The gasp from the rest of the class was clearly audible.

 

This was in the year 2000.  The guy was a police officer.

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review 2017-09-24 05:15
Halloween Bingo - American Horror - irony
Wieland: or, the Transformation, an American Tale - Brown Charles Brockden

 

 

This has been on my Kindle for ages and ages, and on my priority list almost as long.

 

Wieland, or the Transformation: An American Tale was published in 1798, one of the first "significant" novels published by an American.  I'm not sure what that "significant" means, though it's certainly noteworthy that Wieland was both popular and influential.

 

One of the attractions for me, however, is that it's written from the point of view of Clara Wieland, the sister of Theodore for whom the novel is ostensibly titled.

 

The story is more or less straightforward -- Theodore and Clara's father had been something of a religious fanatic, who died apparently of divinely-ordained spontaneous combustion in a "temple" he had built on his property in rural Pennsylvania.  Years later, in the grip of similar fanaticism, Theodore murders his wife and their four children as well as a young female companion.  An itinerant "biloquist" -- ventriloquist -- named Carwin confesses to having provided various mysterious voices but denies using his talent to induce Wieland murder his family.  Theodore eventually realizes what he's done and takes his own life.  The end, sort of.

 

The style is awkward, and I can't say this was a fun read.  The novel purports to be a letter Clara is writing to an unnamed friend -- and I thought I wrote long letters?? -- so it's all tell and no show in a decidedly 18th century manner.  But Clara as a character and narrator often has more in common with a kick-ass heroine of the 21st century than with her gothic descendants of the mid-20th century.  Wealth inherited from her father permits her to live independently, and she even makes plans to reveal her affections to their object rather than wait for him to do so first.

 

Unfortunately, before she has a chance to do that, there's a classic "big misunderstanding" and everything goes to hell.  Sound familiar?  Yeah, the more things change and all that.

 

The ventriloquism device didn't work for me.  Regardless how clever the ventriloquist, there is still the matter of distance across which a voice can be "thrown."  Had Carwin's talent been more smoothly woven with the belief/disbelief that Wieland or Clara or her love interest Pleyel had actually heard divine voices, it might have worked better.

 

But that's a criticism coming from two and a quarter centuries of popular fiction later.

 

The novel's focal point, if you will, is the mass murder of Wieland's family.  This event was based on an actual case that occurred in 1781 in New York, in which the father slaughtered his wife and children and claimed God had told him to do it.  What struck me about Wieland, however, was that the murders don't occur until almost two-thirds of the way through the novel -- 62% on my Kindle.  By this  point, Carwin has played his games, Pleyel has learned of and revealed Carwin's sordid history, and Clara's romantic future has been destroyed by the Big Miz.  Her brother's religiosity is a very minor issue; he's been portrayed as devout, yes, but also studious and a good father and husband.  Unlike his own father, Theodore Wieland hasn't (yet) become a nut job, to use  2017 terminology.

 

Up to then, this has been Clara's story, told by Clara -- as told by Charles Brockden Brown, of course.  Then the men screw it all up.

 

Wieland kills his family then testifies in court that yes, of course, he did it because God commanded him to do it.  How could it be wrong if it was God's will?  So the court decides he's the equivalent of insane -- unable to distinguish right from wrong, essentially -- and condemn him to life in prison.

 

Interestingly -- remember, this was published in 1798 -- Clara's maternal uncle is a physician who argues that Wieland's hallucinations are an indication of mental illness, while Clara argues that they weren't hallucinations at all but rather the product of the evil Carwin's machinations. 

 

It all winds down with Carwin's doleful confession to Clara, tempered by his insistence that he wasn't the one to tell Wieland to kill anyone, and then Wieland himself escapes his prison, threatens Clara, suddenly sees the error of his ways (regains his sanity???), and kills himself.

 

There follows a kind of postscript, in which Clara recounts her life after her brother's death, and while she achieves a certain happiness or maybe at least contentment, almost everyone else has a kind of "life's a bitch and then you die" ending.  Still, the whole thing seemed rather remarkable to be told from the woman's point of view until

 

the very last paragraph.  'Cause yep, it's always the victim's fault.

 

I leave you to moralize on this tale. That virtue should become the victim of treachery is, no doubt, a mournful consideration; but it will not escape your notice, that the evils of which Carwin and Maxwell were the authors, owed their existence to the errors of the sufferers. All efforts would have been ineffectual to subvert the happiness or shorten the existence of the Stuarts, if their own frailty had not seconded these efforts. If the lady had crushed her disastrous passion in the bud, and driven the seducer from her presence, when the tendency of his artifices was seen; if Stuart had not admitted the spirit of absurd revenge, we should not have had to deplore this catastrophe. If Wieland had framed juster notions of moral duty, and of the divine attributes; or if I had been gifted with ordinary equanimity or foresight, the double-tongued deceiver would have been baffled and repelled.

Brown, Charles Brockden. Wieland: or, the Transformation, an American Tale (Kindle Locations 3308-3314). Kindle Edition.

 

 (emphasis mine, above)

 

Wieland is one of those books I'm glad I read because of its importance to the literary history of fiction by, for, and about women.  But I can't say I enjoyed it.  Only recommended to those who are truly dedicated.  (It's not scary or creepy or gory or anything else.)

 

 

 

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