Posts tagged literature
Posts tagged literature
JK Rowling (via thehpfacts)
This connects very well to Harry’s conversation with Dumbledore in The Deathly Hallows; if one waits at King’s Cross long enough then a train will come along to transport you on another journey. There are many trains to many destinations and King’s Cross is a nexus where they intersect.
That sounds exactly the kind of book I would enjoy. Come September I will be lapping it up! I also want to read Wings of a Dove because Kate Croy sounds amazing. (In an evil way. Probably. I’ll probably love her and thinks she’s just misunderstood.) I’m not sure anything could surpass The Portrait of a Lady however. Honestly one of the best books I’ve ever read. It really affected me so much. There’s something about Henry James (the little that I’ve read) and his ability to, well, write. Some writers can do characters, others plot, others manage to create a world, others are deep and symbolic. Somehow James manages to do it all. I just… I’m in awe of him as a writer.
I must say I’ve not come across his brother though. What things did he write?
And yes, do keep on with Middlemarch - the ending with everything coming together and aaaah yes. :)
Re: this original post about The Golden Bowl and Middlemarch.
Then you’re in for a treat with The Golden Bowl.
I know exactly what you mean Rose; occasionally I am fortunate enough to encounter writers who capture humanity in their work. No matter how long one analyses, ponders and evaluates the text itself, there is a little spark of magic which binds the plot and narration and characters together and it cannot be easily explained. It can be felt, however, and it is that emotional reaction which is referred to and understood by other readers.
I have not read as much Henry James as you (and I’ll certainly add The Portrait of a Lady to my reading list now), but I am in awe of several writers and the power they have with language. Thackeray, being one of them.
As for your question in regards to William James…not many people have read him during the last century. William was a philosopher, an epistemologist to be precise, and his work was therefore non-fiction and focused on perception, reality, and what can be truly known by human beings. He was a pragmatist in the field of epistemology, one of the first scholars to be designated with that title. It’s not light reading, but I enjoy it because it’s challenging and offers a unique perspective of the world and even William’s lecture notes convey his enthusiasm for learning, knowledge and communication. I would have loved to have heard him speak in person, but alas I would have had to have been around 125 years ago or so. Also, now that I think of it, I would probably have had to work really hard for an invite as well, since most lectures would have occurred in clubs and colleges that were exclusively or traditionally for only men. Now I’m thinking up possible disguises to attend such a lecture… :)
Currently hypothesising about possible Middlemarch endings!
pemonynen replied to your post:pemonynen replied to your post: Point of View Mary…
On the subject of Mary’s favourite books…in my fic, one of her birthday presents from Matthew was a copy of ‘Persuasion’. She was not impressed. :P (It was a joke present.) As much as I love Austen, I can’t see Mary as a fan of her myself.
AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH BRAIN TWIN!
I can’t imagine Mary would actively dislike Austen and I’m quite sure she’s very familiar with her works and appreciates them. But I agree with you - I don’t think that the 18th/early 19th century romances would be really her style. (And I agree that Matthew giving her Persuasion would be a daft thing to do. Like, who doesn’t own their copies of JA novels?!)
Personally I see her as more interested in the 19th century realist novels - Eliot, Dickens, Thackeray, Hardy (well, we know she engages with what he writes), James and Wharton. Complicated plots, moral dilemmas, interesting and three-dimensional female characters, no easy happy ending, brimming with learning and intelligence - these are the types of novels that I can see Mary enjoying. Her favourite book? Middlemarch. Why exactly Middlemarch? I’m not quite sure except that I feel it combines all these points into a work of great subtlety and genius.
On the other hand, we also know that she has a classical background. Was she actually reading the myth of Perseus and Andromeda before dinner that day or did she just say that to give an excuse for the reference which she knew by virtue of being well educated? I’m inclined to believe she was. Why? Because in fact it’s a torturous reference to make. Why Perseus? Why not St. George? It’s the same story and FAR more English. In fact history, myth, folk tale, epic, play, opera, novel… they’re all stuffed with examples of a pitiable woman being rescued from some undesirable fate by a hero. This sums up most of literature. So I’m inclined to think that Mary was actually reading the myth - or at least had it in her mind. So where would she have read it? There are various versions but the fullest and most well known account is in Book IV of Ovid’s epic poem The Metamorphoses. (I really can’t see her reading some retold book of myths for fun. Mary Crawley reads literature, not the Cliff Notes picture book versions…)
So Mary reads Latin poetry, presumably translated. We know nothing of her linguistic skills, ancient or modern, but teaching girls classical languages would have been unusual and I can’t see her sticking to such study. The Met is a long work of mythology and romance and tragedy. Chances are if she’s read that she’s also read Homer and Virgil in translation and will be familiar with those stories. She may also have read Ovid’s other love poems - some witty, some vulgar, none too serious. Not sure how she’d have got on with them, but I bet she’s read them. We’ve established she has an interest in mythology and tragic/realistic love. It’s likely she’s read the great Greek tragedians therefore, Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus. I would expect that to be the extent of her classical reading.
Moving forwards, she will of course be familiar with Shakespeare, Milton, Spencer, Dante, Pope, Byron and all the romantic poets (Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley). Why am I so sure? Because everyone was. What else did a woman have to do in those days but read, ride and do needlework? We’ve never seen her do needlework but we have seen Mary reading a lot - in bed and in the drawing room - and moreover reference what she reads more than any other member of her family save Violet. She would know all these authors well enough to quote from memory if needed because people could in those days - and did. Read novels from the 19th century and the characters are CONSTANTLY quoting and referencing. So would Mary because she is a great reader and I think it’s a shame her knowledge isn’t shown more in fanfiction, though I suppose that’s because most people nowadays are very poorly educated. (Thanks, modern society. OK, everyone. Who here knows their Milton and Spencer back to front? Thought not. Me neither.) She not only reads, but reads voraciously and applies what she reads to her own life, absorbing the lessons of literature very imaginatively in the same way that WE are absorbing the fictional characters in this very show. Edith is clearly well read too but she is not as imaginatively absorbed in what she reads as Mary is - that we can see anyway.
I bet she’d like Tennyson - plenty of romance and poetry and mythology with a modern (19th century) fatalism. And other narrative poetry. I can’t see her going for lyric poetry so much as narrative. Mary responds to situations and characters, especially ones that she can imagine she can relate to in some way, who stand for something. Tess is as much endued with fatalism and symbolism as anything Ovid wrote.
Would she like the Brontes? To a certain extent. The struggles of their heroines against the patriarchal society which they to some extent overcome and to some extent are stifled by would appeal to her, but I think the melodrama might make her roll her eyes. I think Mary enjoys writing about characters who confront their fate and must deal with it, usually to tragic ends, because only in comedic and romantic literature (such as Jane Austen) do characters trip merrily along to marriage. Mary Crawley knows that this is unrealistic but the setting isn’t sufficiently stylized (as in mythology/poetry/symbolic writing) to be idealistic. Hence the interest in classical myths in which Fortuna and Fatum and the three spinners play large parts and nobody can ever escape their destiny.
Mary would see herself as one of these characters - as a great heroine, struck down by the weight of the society she lives in and the expectations of the path her life must take, rebelling against it all the while knowing it’s futile, but never quite giving up that romantic hope that perhaps the spinners will be kind this time and let her be rescued. This is the best option for her. Sybil looks to what women can do to change their lot in life and does it - she’s very modern. But all Mary’s heroines, all the ways they deal with their struggles - they are looking backwards to the 19th century.
This is why people call Mary a literary heroine. Because she sees herself in those terms. She is consciously a product of what she has or is reading. When she wails to her father that he won’t defend her, she is speaking like a character in a novel. When she compares herself to Tess of the D’Urbervilles it’s because Tess is to her as Emmeline Pankhurst might be to Sybil. These are the women, the characters, the inspirations, the role-models on whom Mary fashions herself.
To bring this back to where it started, it is no great stretch to imagine Mary seeing herself as Gwendolen Harleth… as Isabel Archer… as Penelope… depending on the situation she finds herself in. I find it very hard, however, to see her ever comparing herself to bright Elizabeth Bennet whose struggles are simplistic and very much defined by the pre-determined “happy ending” of the genre in which Austen is writing. Mary knows that her happy ending has never been pre-determined, she has never set herself up as the heroine of an Austen novel; and this, more than anything else, convinces me that Austen is not one of her favourite authors. Because she herself is not an Austen heroine.
Thank you Silvestria, for such a detailed list of literature that Mary has likely encountered in the world of Downton Abbey.
I think Mary’s love of reading and romantic nature, which she covers quite effectively with frosty glances and abrupt dismissals in an attempt to not be hurt, is what makes me love Mary so much…I see a lot of myself in her character.