Sent: Tuesday, May 11, 2010 1:05 PM
Subject: Re: Mr. Eugenides
> [I just realzied the time of day; this is radically unfinished but I'm
> more apt to complete it later if I send it as is. I may have time later
> > Nancy Gish wrote:
> > "But that certainly was not
> > the case in 1920." ----- regarded by whom?
> > It is an interesting fact that in a major Victorian novel (the name of
> > which is just at this moment a memory glitch) a man is depicted as
> > raping his wife. Of course at that time such an act was not a legal
> > possibility, though the characters in the novel are disgusted. It
> > still happened. The typist's lack of reaction does not mean it was
> > not the case; it only means she had no way to articulate what had no
> > public conceptualization.
> The Victorian Age was wildly miscellaneous and contradictory. I wish I
> knew more about it than I do. Some of this gets captured in James's _The
> Awkward Age_, the unnamed center of which is Zola's _Nana_. In P&P
> Elizabeth shudders at the 'picture' Charlotte's marriage presents. The
> word may not have been "picture"; I'm depending on memory here. That is,
> Elizabeth is letting her imagination roam -- and the image of Charlotte
> in bed with Mr ___ (my own memory glitch) brings out and underlines the
> 'stakes' in the polite maneuveings of the world she presents. An earlier
> one-paragraph digression helps locate Charlotte's dilemma: an exchange
> between Mrs. Bennet and Charlotte's brothr: if Charlotte remains
> unnmarried she will eventually be the slave of the kind of woman _that_
> young man will marry. This is pre-Victorian but points to the abyss
> beneath the characters in the classic 19th-c novel.
> Inso far as they typist exists 'outside' the pages of TWL I agree with
> you completely. And Eliot's lines do slander her. But I had a narrower
> focus: how she and her adventure 'operate' within TWL, and in answer to
> your question above, Eliot, Pound, & the hypothetical reader of the
> poem. (And I personally doubt that Eliot had the depth of social and
> political understanding of Austen, Dickens, or James.) And _Eliot's_
> typist fails abysmally, in contrast to Philomela, to understand that she
> has been raped. Her understanding of what has happened is as superficial
> as the young clerk's interpretation of her idifference as a welcome.
> Again, inventing narrative the poet does not provide -- e.g. seeing Mr.
> Eugenides as an 'actual' rapist, thins out rather than enriches the
> range of meaning in the poem by narrowing the possible interactions
> between the modern sexual encounters and the calssical tale from Ovid.
> On the one hand, we have an extraordinarily dramatic rape and its
> consequences in the Ovidian tale; on the other hand we have these
> ambiguous modern encounters. Deliberate narrative gaps are a powerful
> tool for the writer: a tool that is blunted if the reader insists on
> making up a substitute for what the author has deliberately left blank.
> > An analogy is the notion of emotional
> > abuse. Until very recently, only physical abuse was "abuse." That did
> > not mean there was no emotional or psychological abuse. Nor does the
> > absence of a term like date rape mean that such things never happened
> > in 1920-
> The poem echoed in the episode contains the phrase, "and learns too late
> that men betray." Part of the horror of date rape is precisely it being
> felt as a betrayal. But the typist is presented as having expected the
> episode (Now that's done...) rather than having been betrayed into it.
> It was a complex process by which the term "date rape" became coined,
> and part of that process was a shift in the consciousness of women. Now
> if by "such a thing" you mean the use of drugs, then yes it happened
> before either the conception of a "date" or of date rape appearedd:
> That's what Richardson's Clarissa revolves around. The "thing" does come
> into existence before the term is invented, but it is that new fact that
> brings about the need for a term. So we can assume that in the century
> or half-century before the coinage of "date rape" various women were
> haiving an experiencee that previously no woman had had, and these
> expereinces would enter into the explosion of the modern Women's
> Movement in the '60s. Probably some women were already searching for the
> language to describe this experience back in the '20s. But I doubt that
> Marianne Dashwood's beetrayal was experienced by her as anything like
> what we now mean by date rape. She did nearly die -- and for that later
> blames herself, not her lover. (She exchanges letters with _____; had
> they not had sexual relations that act would have been inconceivable, as
> would the intensity of her reactions.) Put another way, the appearance
> of a term lags the entity named, but it is also evidene that the entity
> named itself was of fairly recent origin, which explains the emergence
> of the term and the need for a new term.
> > --nor does it mean that for the person violated it had no
> > psychological consequences and damage.
> The treatment of children in colonial America was unbelievably brutal by
> modern standards. (See Stephanie Coontz, _The public origin of private
> life_.) Whether those children suffered the emotional abuse that a
> modern child would suffer seems at least doubtful. The effects of child
> abuse today cannot really be separated by the experiences of the
> non-abused chldren among the child's acquainatance. The question is an
> open one however, and it's at least arguable that experience depends not
> just on the physical event but on the available conceptualizations of
> that event. There is not a one-to-one correlation between a physical
> eent and the experience of that event. Clarissa was raped by her
> knight-in-shining-armor who aided her in escaping the prostitution her
> family attempted to force upon her. (Cf. Fanny vs. Cwraford in Mansfield
> Park, which was a conscious rewrting of Richardson's novel.) Whether or
> no Clarissa had stopped to folly, she felt she had to die, and Goldsmith
> probably had her in mind when he wrote the song. But I think it would
> seriously distort Clarissa's (or Marianne's) experience to label it date
> > Moreover, the typist is
> > assaulted; she does not resist, but she does not reprove. [Iassume this
is a typo for "approve"" Your
> > position assumes that it is only a rape if the woman tries to fight it
> > off or at least reject it.
> No. It is only the _experience_ of rap if the woman regards it as rape.
> If she so regards it, it is (for her life) a rape. I wish I had read the
> novel you refer to as involving a husband raping his wife. For that
> woman, then, it was rape, whether or no she resisted and whether or no
> she so informed her husband. But it wasn't rape until the person
> assaulted conceives it as such. We are talking about experience, not
> about mere physical events, and the coceptualization of an event is an
> inseparable part of the experience of that event.
> > But that it is not welcome or desired but
> > only not stopped when he is "flushed and excited" and "assaults at
> > once," means it was not rape?
> Two different people -- the typist & the young man. I stick to the
> typist for now. According to the poem, she regarded it as an unpleasnt
> inevitability which it was a rleief to have gotten over. "Indifference"
> in thepoem seems to be an active force She really is indifferent to what
> happens to her! (There are several characters like this in _Lustra_.)
> I'm not sure exactly how "blame" functions in the poem
> > I think it was you Carrol, who pointed out that homosexuality did not
> > exist as such before about the 20th century, but the human behavior
> > did: it just meant something else socially. But those who wrote the
> > history of all these things were not generally the ones who were
> > violated, whose sense of it was not the basis of the legal and social
> > language.
> > I'm not, by the way, primarily arguing that the issue is whether or
> > not it was "rape" in the typist scene; I am arguing what you
> > affirm--that we would call it that or use similar terms, and that the
> > act was not less abusive because it was assumed to be no justification
> > but only what he, of course, had no need to excuse. Also, which
> > rape? There are rape scenes in the poem--notably philomel and all the
> > recurrences of that motif, but also the Thames daughters.
> > Nancy
> > >>> Carrol Cox <[log in to unmask]
> 05/10/10 11:32 PM >>>
> > Ken Armstrong wrote:
> > >
> > > Tom,
> > >
> > > Aside from the question of whether Eugenides is a rapist or not or
> > how
> > > "asked me" becomes an "assault," how is the typist scene a rape? It
> > > seems to be wholly in the cards, as it were, not at all unexpected
> > by
> > > either party.
> > Agreed. (Though for about 30 years now "welcome of indifference" would
> > be regarded as a rapist's self-justification. But that certainly was
> > not
> > the case in 1920.)
> > Another important point. Everything one can usefully say about the
> > poem
> > on the hypothesis of rape can also be said about it without that
> > hypothesis. Occam's razor would suggest not taking the rape hypothesis
> > seriously.
> > Carrol