Abstract on Elaine Showalter

Chopin, Kate, and Elaine Showalter et al.  “Tradition and the Female Talent: The Awakening as a Solitary Book.” The Awakening, 2nd ed., Bedford, Boston, MA, 2000, pp. 202–222.

Showalter connects Chopin’s life with her character, Edna Pontellier, and her search for self-reliance and definition.  Women’s sexuality was more undefined as it was normal for women to kiss and sleep together without homosexual lash backs.  Delving into Chopin’s background, Showalter analyzes how Chopin’s disdain for the traditional feminine literary tropes affected the ending of Edna’s suicide. Normally, the undecisive woman would return to her expected duties of being a mother and wife or would choose a life without any of these roles to become a reclusive nun.  Adele and Madame Reisz function as representations of the proper female lives. Instead, Chopin chose suicide to end it all and show the lingering influence of masculinity even in Edna’s death.  Bees are mentioned as Edna drowns, representing the overbearing creation of life that men provide.  They pillage a flower, leave it to die, and then return to their hive successful in ensuring the survival of a species while, as Showalter puts it, possibly destroying the original flower.  The dying bird present for Edna’s drowning represents the every-day, struggling Victorian women.  The Awakening, according to Showalter, is Chopin’s greatest work that is ignored as it presents the struggles of a women’s sexual fluidity and desperate grasp to handle the transition of girl to women in an overbearing patriarchal society.

Abstract on Priscilla L. Walton

Walton, Priscilla L et al. “A Gender Studies Perspective .” The Turn of the Screw, 3rd ed., Bedford , Boston, MA, 2010, pp. 348–359.

Walton discusses how The Turn of the Screw reflects the cultural anxieties of women/ gender roles and sexuality in 1880′s.  Delving into the history of governesses, Walton looks at how women became governesses and were unreliable due to their hindered sexuality.  She also highlights how the beginning narrator appears too close with Douglas, connecting them with homosexuality.  Sexuality is a common theme throughout as the governess and Quint struggle with dominating the children and showing the strength of their sexuality.  The governess means to take the male authority and use it while the figure of Mrs. Grose holds her back with women’s ideals.  Walton believes that the governess attempts reject her femininity and take on more masculine authority which leads to her downfall.  Flora represents the mediator between Mrs. Grose’s proper, maternal depiction of women and the governess’s fluid sexuality.  When Flora turns violent to the governess, she then depicts the common reaction to lesbianism and rejects the governess for a whorish figure.  Once Flora is removed, the governess is left to struggle for control over Miles who perishes because he cannot choose between the sexualities of Quint and the governess.  From this, Walton believes Henry James demonstrated the worries of men about women who refuse their patriarchal roles.

Abstract on Greg W. Zacharias

Zacharias, Greg W. “‘The extraordinary flight of heroism the occasion demanded of me”: Fantasy and Confession in The Turn of the Screw.” James, Henry.  The Turn of the Screw. Edited by Peter G Beidler, 3rd ed., Boston, MABedford. St. Martin’s, 2010.

Subject: Turn of the Screw, psychoanalytic, Lacan, heroism, fantasy, subconscious, unconscious, fantasy, anxiety, repression, Big Other, confession

Zacharias discusses how the governess in The Turn of the Screw sees the ghosts as part of some fantasy to become a hero to her employer, who acts as her “big Other.”  Through the ghosts appearing, the governess uses them to fulfill the job she has been provided by her handsome employer.  Her urge to write a letter to her employer and not following the urge demonstrates her acknowledging the desires of her employer’s recluse-ness.  Because of her ignoring her instincts in communicating with her employer, she creates an internal anxiety of wanting to win her employer’s approval and complete her job.  Zacharias also point out her sexual desire for her master causing part of her anxiety through a Lacanian lens.  He analyzes the words in which she speaks of her anxiety and how she transforms herself a hero in her mind.  Despite her being a hero in her mind, the story she conveys muddies the reasons she feels the need to spotlight herself as a hero.  Zacharias pulls through her seeming confession and relates it back to her fantasy with the employer.