The Undergraduate English Journal

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The Undergraduate

English Journal THIS EDITION Ancient and Contemporary Critics: How We Look at Literature The UEJ welcomes Dr. Martin Buinicki of Valparaiso University. Professor Buinicki joined the Valparaiso University English faculty in 2004 after teaching for a year at Grinnell College. He earned his B.A. and M.A. at the University of Northern Colorado and received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa in 2003. In 2011, he was named the Walter G. Friedrich Professor of American Literature at Valparaiso University. His teaching specialties include early and nineteenth-century American literature, literary theory, and philanthropy in American culture. In his course "“Traditions of Giving and Serving in American Life,” students not only read literary works, but they also learn about the Valparaiso community and its challenges and opportunities. After a semester of research and discussion, the students allocate a significant charitable gift to area non-profit agencies. In 2010, the Learning by Giving Foundation awarded Professor Buinicki's course with a grant that enables his students to award $10,000 to local organizations of their choosing each year. In December 2011, the University of Iowa Press published Professor Buinicki's book Walt Whitman's Reconstruction: Poetry and Publishing Between Memory and History. He is also the author of Negotiating Copyright: Authorship and the Discourse of Literary Property Rights in Nineteenth-Century America (Routledge, 2006). Professor Buinicki has published articles in American Literary History, American Literary Realism, the Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, and War, Literature, and the Arts, and essays in Witness to Reconstruction: Constance Fenimore Woolson and the Postbellum South, 1873-1894 (University Press of Mississippi, 2011), Beyond Uncle Tom's Cabin: Essays on the Writing of Harriet Beecher Stowe (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2011), A Companion to Mark Twain (Blackwell, 2006), and American History through Literature (Scribners, 2006).

Department of English Concordia University Texas Vol. 9 No. 2 Fall 2012 Guest Respondent Dr. Martin Buinicki, Associate Professor literary theory, American literature, and philanthropy in American culture The Critic’s Work: A Response to “An In-Depth Critique of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’” and “Two Approaches to Frost’s “‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’” Although dramatically different in their subjects and theoretical approaches, “An In-Depth Critique of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’” and “Two Approaches to Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’” raise the same fundamental question: what is the critic’s work? For many outside of academe, the word “critic” itself would appear to answer the question; after all, most people rightly imagine the critic’s job as primarily one of evaluation, the careful weighing of strengths and weaknesses prior to passing judgment, whether that come in the form of a thumbs up or a thumbs down, or the awarding of five stars or none. Of course, literary criticism has largely moved away from this kind of qualitative assessment to emphasize instead the careful interpretive analysis of texts. For many years now, the critic’s work in literary study has been much more concerned with exploring what a text means and how it means—how the language within it signifies—as well as how the work both shapes and reflects the time in which it was written and read. In the course of this exploration, the status of texts (-cont’d page four)

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“Two Approaches to Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’” by Brian Roberts Brian Roberts is a May 2012 graduate of Concordia’s English department and recipient of the 2011 -2012 Alfred E. Leja Award for Excellence in English

On its publication, Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” quickly became one of the world’s most beloved poems. Even though it was written a mere half century ago, a ranking of the five hundred most anthologized English poems of all time puts the poem at number six (Harmon 1077). The poem itself, like most of Frost’s poems, is deceptively simple. Even on a first reading one is likely to come away with a sense of the poem’s meaning and its most straight forward interpretation would not be easily missed: a man stops in some woods, lingers for a moment to enjoy a reprieve from his journey and after this moment has passed, he continues on to fulfill his promises. Responsibility and obligation are themes likely to be listed by the reader. A richer understanding of the poem, however, can be obtained by looking at it from two perspectives: one ancient and one modern. William Wordsworth's famous "Preface to Lyrical Ballads" can be used to show the continuity of Frost's poem with the Romantic age, while the New Critical tradition, popular at the time of the poem's publication, can help reveal the technical intricacies of the poem and can help to unearth an interpretation unintended, and for years resisted, by the poet himself. Like Wordsworth, most of Frost’s poetry is inspired by the rural countryside – in Frost's case, the countryside of Maine. The most common setting for his poems can be aptly described by the title of his collection “North of Boston” and perhaps its this fondness for rural settings that has led to Frost being called a twentieth century Romantic. But what would Wordsworth say of this twentieth century master? Would he consider Frost one of his disciples, a torchbearer of his poetic vision? Using Wordsworth’s “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” as a rule and Frost’s famous poem as a candidate, we can apply Wordsworth criteria and see if the great nineteenth century Romantic would consider Frost one of his own. Wordsworth, in that manifesto, said his “principal object” was to “choose incidents and situations from common life, and to relate or describe them... in a selection of language really used by men” (Wordsworth 127). Frost’s poem “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” fulfills both of these principles admirably. The situation portrayed in the poem is one from common life, with images that everyone can understand: a man stops by woods near a village, pauses for a moment then continues his journey, intent on fulfilling his obligations. The language used throughout is colloquial, common language, the “simple and unelaborated expression” advocated by Wordsworth (128). To begin, then, with Wordsworth’s principle of common situations and incidents. The setting of Frost’s poem is rustic and rural, a countryside covered in snow: “My little horse must think it queer / To stop without a farmhouse near / Between the woods and frozen lake” (5-7). This setting perfectly fits the “low and rustic life” that Wordsworth idealized for poetry (Wordsworth 127-128). The speaker of the poem is out in the woods, out among farmhouses, but even those aren’t close by, and the nearest town spoken of isn’t a city but a village, in which the owner of the woods has a house: “Whose woods these are I think I know. / His house is in the village though” (1-2). According to Wordsworth, it is in this kind of rustic setting, this “condition of life,” that our “elementary feelings coexist in a state of greater simplicity,” and are able to be “more accurately contemplated, and more forcibly communicated” (128). So, the very simplicity of the rustic setting allows for a meditation deeper than would otherwise be possible. Stripped as it is of all the superfluous additions of urbanized life, the rustic setting, when catalogued, appears not just simple but almost archetypal: a man, some woods, a frozen lake, a horse. In these simple, natural settings, Wordsworth believed, “the passions of men are incorporated with the beautiful and permanent forms of nature” (128). Emotions and environment combine; they interfuse together, forming a bond unattainable when removed from the simple, rustic environment. And this is precisely the case in Frost’s poem. The speaker desires to put off his responsibilities, to rest from his burdens, and this same desire becomes tangible in the very woods before him: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. / But I have promises to keep,” (Frost 13-14). To use Wordsworth’s explanation, his passions are incorporated into the permanent Robert Frost, forms of nature: rest becomes not just attainable but physically corporeal, as it were, 1874-1963 (-cont’d page six)

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“An In-Depth Critique of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’” by Stacia Smith Stacia Smith is a May 2012 graduate of Concordia’s English department and is now pursuing a Master’s degree in Library Science at the University of Toronto.

The short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a brilliant example of early feminist writing that could also be classified as an exposé of the flaws rampant in the early mental health practices. Charlotte Perkins Gilman writes authentically about what it was like to be put in complete isolation, unable to use her mind for anything stimulating (the story is based on her own negative encounter with the controversial “rest cure” prescribed in the late 1800s and early 1900s) and how it can not only destroy a woman’s mind, but also her soul. She does so beautifully and with conciseness, using descriptive language that draws the reader in. Elizabethan critic Sir Philip Sydney would regard “The Yellow Wallpaper” as a good piece of writing based on the criteria he lists in “Apology for Poesie.” He believes a written work should be a way for a writer to explore the nature of something, should teach and delight, and that a good writer should choose his sophisticated words very carefully. Critics using Feminist analysis, a more contemporary way to judge a work, would also deem “The Yellow Wallpaper” as excellent based on their criteria that a work expose and comment on the differing degrees of social power between the sexes, and that it display the oppression of women over the years. My own criteria (developed after taking Literary Criticism) as well as Sydney’s and Feminist analysis, all point to the conclusion that “The Yellow Wallpaper” is an example of superb writing. In his essay “An Apology for Poesie,” Sir Philip Sydney writes about what characteristics good poets possess. Using his criteria, Sydney would surely find Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short fiction exceptional. Sydney writes, all good “Men [and women] - geometricians, musicians, philosophers, lawyers, historians, grammarians, rhetoricians, physicists - attempt to understand the nature of a thing” (Sydney 523). This characteristic is exemplified in “The Yellow Wallpaper” in two distinct ways. First, the unnamed protagonist of the story is desperately trying to figure out the very nature of the room she is kept in and eventually, the wallpaper that decorates it. She wants to fix up the room, but her husbandJohn resists, stating that it would become too much of a project for a temporary rental home. “After the wall-paper was changed,” he complains, “it would be the heavy bedstead, and then the barred windows, and then that gate at the head of the stairs, and so on…” - which disappoints his wife, who has decided the room is an “atrocious nursery” (Perkins Gilman 342). While at first, the wife/narrator just wants the wallpaper The Undergraduate English Journal removed, its odd pattern eventually turns into a great mystery Department of English for her to solve. While wall covering may seem a strange Concordia University Texas thing for a woman in normal circumstances to try to ‘figure Guest Respondent out the nature of,’ this woman literally has nothing else to Dr. Martin Buinicki, Associate Professor think about. Valparaiso University The second way in which Sydney’s characterGeneral Editor istic of good writing is Claudia Teinert epitomized in “The Yellow Wallpaper” is that at Contributors the same exact time the Nick Courtright, Erika Massey, Brian Robnarrator of the story is erts, Stacia Smith, Maggie Thompson, trying to understand the Hannah Thoms wallpaper, the author of the story is also making Each edition of the UEJ features one or more outan obvious attempt to unstanding undergraduate papers from upper level derstand the nature of the English courses at Concordia Austin. A critical response from a scholar in the field of the papers’ human mind itself. subject matter accompanies the student essays. AddiThroughout the story, tional content may include reviews of art openings, Perkins Gilman keeps the lectures and stage productions and films; student reader invested in the and faculty development and honors; and current Charlotte Perkins Gilman woman’s state of mind and upcoming events related to literature and the 1860-1935 and how the human mind arts. (-cont’d page nine)

page four (-Buinicki, cont’d from page one) and authors themselves has waxed and waned depending upon critical trends, ceding or sharing space with readers and culture as the primary subjects and sources of meaning. In spite of this development, however, the more commonly held conception of criticism has never fully disappeared, and one could argue that, in choosing which texts to study and comment upon, literary critics continue to make value judgments implicitly, even if their arguments eschew overt qualitative evaluation. In “An InDepth Critique of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper,’” Stacia Smith adopts a more direct approach and demonstrates how, despite the vast historical and hermeneutical distance between the classical poetics of Sir Philip Sidney and the more politically invested analysis of feminism, both might be employed to conclude that Gilman’s text is “an excellent piece of writing” (11). Using Sidney’s criteria in “An Apology for Poesie” (or The Defense of Poesie), Smith argues that Gilman’s portrayal of a protagonist “trying to figure out the nature” of her surroundings (2), the reader’s own subsequent attempt to make sense of the character, (3) and Gilman’s calculated diction (4), all suggest the high quality of the text. In a related manner, Smith argues that, if one views Gilman’s text through a feminist lens, attentive to how the work “subverts] patriarchal oppression” (qtd in Smith 6), then the text succeeds in revealing both the sexist domination of the protagonist’s husband and the agency of the main character in working against this domination. For feminists, such readings are necessary given the realworld implications of sexism, and, in a nod to a more biographical mode of reading, Smith also links ______________________________________________

the events in the story to Gilman’s own life and treatment under the notorious “rest cure” (1). If the measure of a text is the degree to which it exposes misogynistic practices or highlights female resistance to and subversion of such practices, then, Smith concludes, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is “piece of work that Feminist critics could have a field day analyzing years later” (8). Largely unacknowledged in Smith’s comparative analysis of Gilman’s story, however, is the historical rootedness of these modes of critique. Near the end of her essay, she writes, “As a society, we must have a way to measure what is excellent and a way to maintain those standards of excellence over the years” (10-11). What her work demonstrates so effectively, of course, is that the standards we employ to interpret literary texts, and to some extent “measure” them, have not been maintained, at least not with any degree of uniformity. Smith’s convincing demonstration of a feminist reading of Gilman’s text is powerful evidence of that fact, and feminism has been critical in helping us understand how traditional modes of analysis, including those of Sidney, often favored male writing and largely dismissed or overlooked women’s concerns and women’s voices. Influential feminist theorist Patrocinio Schweickart makes this point in “Reading ourselves: toward a feminist theory of reading,” arguing, “An androcentric canon generates androcentric interpretive strategies, which in turn favor the canonization of androcentric texts and the marginalization of gynocentric ones” (492). This does not mean we cannot view texts like Gilman’s through older lenses, as Smith’s reading also demonstrates, but it reminds us that it took the difficult critical and theoretical work of feminist critics to make texts like Gilman’s (-cont’d page five) _____________________________________________

Why We Read Literature “Life, Personality, and Classic Literature” by Erika Massey Willa Cather’s stories of life on the Midwest American plains provide telling sights into human personality. Her story “On the Divide” paints a picture of human beings pushed to their limits. Her fiction also shows the effects of that brutal prairie environment on personalities. In “On the Divide,” the Norwegian pioneer Canute is the picture of a broken man. He is described as having “demons” and “madness,” as pining for trees in that flat terrain, and wishing desperately for some company (9). If there is one thing a person learns from Cather’s stories, it’s that humans are social beings. Canute is the perfect example of a person who has lost this important aspect of life, and suffered as a result. (- cont’d next page)

page five (-Buinicki, cont’d from page four) accepted parts of the literary canon, widely enough available so that readers and students could give them the kind of serious attention they deserve, regardless of approach. Like Smith, Brian Roberts is also interested in the utility of applying differing modes of analysis in his work “Two Approaches to Frost’s “‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.’” Given Frost’s decidedly pastoral scenes, Roberts understandably hearkens back to William Wordsworth’s “Preface to Lyrical Ballads.” He asks, “Would [Wordsworth] consider Frost one of his disciples, a torchbearer of his poetic vision?” (2). After comparing several of the English poet’s statements on poetry with lines from Frost’s twentieth-century verse, he makes a compelling case for the poem’s adherence to his predecessor’s precepts, concluding, “Whether or not Robert Frost liked being called a Romantic or considered himself to be one, it is plain that Wordsworth, at least, would consider the American poet as something of an ally in poetic sensibilities” (4). Roberts’ language is interesting here, for, rather than answer his own question definitively, he qualifies his assessment, first by acknowledging that Frost may not have viewed himself as a member of Wordsworth’s school, and then by suggesting that he was only “something of an ally in poetic sensibilities” (emphasis added). Although Roberts does not provide an explanation for this sudden caution, I think we can find a clue in his turn to a second approach to reading the text, New Criticism. As Roberts correctly highlights, this mode of analysis considers the literary work as an organic unity, whose meaning can be determined apart from its historical context and regardless of the author’s biography or ______________________________________________

intention. Given this last stipulation, which Roberts acknowledges in his reference to critics Wimsatt and Beardsley and their critique of the “intentional fallacy” (6), it truly wouldn’t matter how Frost considered his work, or how Wordsworth would view Frost’s, either. If Roberts is hesitant to assert that Frost is a “torchbearer of [Wordsworth’s] poetic vision,” then it may be because, when reading “Stopping by Woods” in terms of New Criticism, such a declaration would be viewed either as suspect or rather beside the point. This is not to say that, in turning away from such questions, New Criticism provides an alternatively definitive set of answers regarding Frost’s text. As Roberts explains, John Ciardi’s “death-wish” interpretation of the poem provoked a significant response from readers, as well as from Frost himself, and, of course, it has not proven to be the final word on the poem. Roberts carefully walks his readers through a close reading of the poem, demonstrating how the text’s language and structure appear to support Ciardi’s interpretation (6-7). In spite of the apparent strength of the case, however, critics have continued to argue over how to interpret Frost’s work. This is not surprising, for while New Criticism sought to bring something like a scientific rigor to the task of the literary critic, it more often than not seemed to occasion yet more disagreement. If close reading is like holding up a microscope to a text, focusing on the text alone to find its meaning, then it has become all too apparent that critics seldom see entirely the same thing through the lens. This result would lead some theorists to argue that such divergent readings emerge because the text that comes into focus is the product, not the subject, of a (- cont’d page nineteen) _____________________________________________

(Massey, cont’d from previous page) He is so lonely that he kidnaps Lena Yensen, the daughter of a distant neighbor, when she and her father refuse his marriage proposal. Lena is the only person in the entire region unafraid of Canute’s towering height and physical power. The Yensen’s, in fact, are the only family to have ever taken an interest in this prairie giant. But until Lena is ready, father and mother will keep him at a distance. “Kidnap” is perhaps not quite the right word here. Canute does throw her over his shoulder and carry her off to his cabin during a raging blizzard despite her vehement protests. But once he has set her down in his cabin, he beds himself down outside, in the snow, at the foot of the front porch steps. He has no desire to assault her. He wants companionship. And as Lena herself reasons, she “had always planned to marry him anyway” (20). Abduction aside, Canute is gentle and kind to her throughout, which seems to say his personality itself has not been changed by isolation, just that his loneliness has pushed him past the point of social discretion. This is cemented at the end of the story when he sobs at the bottom of the steps after Lena finally says she would rather have him “than anyone else” (21). The reader can believe he is crying for various reasons, perhaps over the lengths to which his loneliness has driven him to behave, or perhaps over hearing for the first time that someone wants him. Either way, it is a perfect illustration of what isolation does to the human psyche. People need each other and when that aspect of human personality is disregarded, bad things can happen. Works Cited Cather, Willa. “On the Divide.” In Willa Cather Stories, Poems, and Other Writings. Ed. by Sharon O’Brien. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1992.

page six (-Roberts, cont’d from page two) in the woods. As another example, the speaker’s conscience, reminding him of his responsibilities, is interfused with the restlessness of his horse: “My little horse must think it queer / To stop without a farmhouse near... / He gives his harness bells a shake / To ask if there is some mistake” (Frost 5-6, 9-10). This interfusion of passion with the forms of nature isn’t readily apparent on its own, though; it requires poetic imagination to bring it forth. Wordsworth didn’t believe the rustic setting by itself was enough to assure poetic triumph but the poet had “to throw over [it] a certain coloring of imagination” where the “ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way” (127). The poet, then, is an imaginative interpreter, of sorts, of these simple settings; this is how the woods come to represent rest and the horse to represent conscience. Even the speaker’s very journey through the woods – probably just a routine affair for him – comes to represent the totality of life with all the tasks that must be accomplished before its end: “But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep” (Frost 14-15). ______________________________________________

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost Whose woods these are I think I know. His house is in the village though; He will not see me stopping here To watch his woods fill up with snow. My little horse must think it queer To stop without a farmhouse near Between the woods and frozen lake The darkest evening of the year. He gives his harness bells a shake To ask if there is some mistake. The only other sound’s the sweep Of easy wind and downy flake. The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.

All of this is portrayed in very simple language, a language that matches the imagery perfectly in its simplicity. Wordsworth advocated “simple and unelaborated expression,” and this is what one finds in Frost’s poem (Wordsworth 128). Every word except one – “promises” – is two syllables or less (Frost 14). The language is imminently accessible, even colloquial: “The only other sound’s the sweep / Of easy wind and downy flake” (1112). It’s hard to imagine a speaker that would “speak a plainer and more emphatic language” than the one in Frost’s poem (Wordsworth 128). What Wordsworth admired about the citizens of the rustic life was that they conveyed “their feelings and notions in simple and unelaborated expressions” (128). This, again, is exactly what we find in Frost’s poem. At the climax of the poem, responsibility triumphs over weariness and this profound moment is conveyed in the simplest of language: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. / But I have promises to keep, / And miles to go before I sleep,” (Frost 13-15). Given the rustic setting and the unelaborated, common language of Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” Wordsworth would highly praise the poem. It fulfills all the criteria laid out in his “Preface to Lyrical Ballads.” Whether or not Robert Frost liked being called a Romantic or considered himself to be one, it is plain that Wordsworth, at least, would consider the American poet as something of an ally in poetic sensibilities. A little more than a century after the publication of Wordsworth’s preface, right out around the time that Frost’s poem was published, a new movement in literary analysis was just beginning to emerge: the New Criticism. This movement would influence the history of interpretation of Frost’s poem in significant ways. New Criticism arose as a “response to the common critical practice of interpreting literature with an emphasis on its sociological and historical functions” (Hall 14-15). In contrast to these views, the New Critics are concerned with the text as it appears on the page as a finished work, without relying on biographical or contextual data. Further, one of the key principles of New Criticism is that “literature has meaning beyond the intent and biography of the author” (Hall 18). The controversy of this principle can be seen fully in the history of interpretation of Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Since the late 50‘s, one of the most prominent interpretations of the poem is that of the “death-wish” – a view first advocated by the critic John Ciardi to much furor. In this view, the dark and lovely woods that the speaker stops to observe and wishes to join are symbolic of death, and the reprieve for which the speakers yearns isn’t from his physical journey only but from life itself. The initial response to this interpretation of Ciardi’s was condemnatory: “For weeks SR’s letters page was filled with denunciations... and general protests.” Most readers vehemently rejected this dark interpretation of a (-cont’d page seven)

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A Delicate Balance: Private Achievements, Public Acclaim

painting by Steve Haigh

It may be difficult to imagine that a poet of the stature of Robert Frost could be permanently debilitated by one book review. His renown among the common folk and the elite alike was unparalleled for decades in this country. In his article “Deeper Into Life,” William H. Pritchard makes it clear how shaken Frost was by the critical response to his 1947 book of poetry titled Steeple Bush. He “promptly went into a tailspin,” Pritchard writes, “suffering pains in his wrists and chest. The review almost literally went to his heart; he was treated by a doctor who found no evidence of an [actual] attack, but who diagnosed the strain Frost was under...” The critic who caused the upheaval, poet Randall Jarrell, had summarily dismissed the poems of Steeple Bush as “those of a great poet of some distant day.” Pritchard explains that Frost would later converse with his critic Jarrell about the strange affect publicity gives to the private achievement. Pritchard quotes Frost as musing over the idea that “Someone might say mockingly [about Frost’s work] that what began in felicity and all privacy and secrecy is ending in a burst of publicity.” His fall from extraordinary critical favor was perhaps an unexpected turn for Frost who, as Pritchard says, always made “sure that his work did not lack publicity.”

______________________________________________ (- Roberts, cont’d from page six) beloved poem. Frost's initial reaction was coolly dismissive, as well: "I suppose people think I lie awake nights worrying about what people like Ciardi of the Saturday Review write and publish about me... He makes my 'Stopping By Woods' out a death poem... it's hardly a death poem" (Richardson 190). But the interpretation obviously bothered the poet and he later disavowed "the death-wish interpretation” at a public lecture to the "obvious and audible delight of the audience" (Armstrong 440). It didn't stop there. For several years following Frost "went around lecturing, saying, 'Ciardi says I've got a death wish. No such thing. That's not what the poem is about' " (Cifelli 238). When asked if the poem was about death, Frost plainly replied, "I never intended that" but, conceding his control over the work, went on to say: "It's out of my hands once it's published" (Lathem 186). The poet, with that last remark, played into the hands of the New Critics completely, because they didn't believe an interpretation needed the author's intention in order to be valid. Instead, they believed, as Frost seemed to admit, that once a text is published it stands on its own, free of the author's control. A published work, the New Critics said, is “defined as a public text” and its meaning is derived “by what the public norms of language allow it to mean” (Richter 727). The belief that the only true or right interpretation was the one that the author intended is referred to as the "intentional fallacy" by New Critics. As Armstrong, writing at the time of the Frost-Ciardi controversy, says, “If we feel obligated to accept Frost’s disavowal as the final word, then there is no more to be said; but we need not do so” (440). Or, as Wimsatt and Beardsley, the pair that first

_____________________________________________ coined the phrase “intentional fallacy” put it: “Critical inquiries are not settled by consulting the oracle” (1387). This view is meant to “liberate the reader” from the sometimes tyrannical influence of the author’s intended or “official” meaning. The only “apparatus one needed” to understand a poem “was a good text and a... dictionary” (728). What matters to the New Critic is whether there is sufficient textual evidence to justify the interpretation, not whether the author intended or holds to it. And upon a close reading, one will find that the textual evidence for this view abounds. The speaker of the poem stops in some woods owned by a neighbor, “To watch his woods fill up with snow” (4). Recognizing the winter setting of the poem is important for its interpretation, as winter is traditionally associated with death and is the antithesis of lifebringing spring. The speaker isn’t stopping to watch flowers in bloom on a fine April morning but stops to see the snow fall on “the darkest evening of the year” (8), darkness and night, also, being associated with death. The speaker’s seclusion, too, contributes to the somber tone of the poem – a tone one expects to find if the poem is about death. The speaker is alone in the woods but for his horse, and even his horse seems agitated and anxious about his owner’s intentions there: “My little horse must think it queer / To stop without a farmhouse near... / He gives his harness bells a shake / To ask if there is some mistake” (4-5, 8-9). In the last stanza, the speaker pushes back against the allure of the woods, the allure of death, and chooses instead to continue his journey and fulfill (-cont’d page eight)

page eight (Roberts, - cont’d from page seven) his promises: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. / But I have promises to keep,” (13-14). Alongside the imagery of winter and night, symbolic of death, and spring and light, symbolic of life, are two other images equally as symbolic of life and death: sleeping and journeying. The speaker, in the last two lines of the poem pushes aside not just the woods but sleep as well, a sleep symbolic of the sleep of death: “And miles to go before I sleep, / And miles to go before I sleep” (1516). Further, the overarching image of the poem is that of a man journeying toward a destination; and this image, examined in a certain way, reinforces perhaps stronger than any other the “death-wish” interpretation of the poem. It’s the journey of life that the speaker is taking, and the promises he’s made are the only things that keep him from that which could end the journey: the “dark and deep” woods on the “darkest evening of the year.” Given this evidence, then, the New Critics would say that the “death-wish” interpretation is valid, despite the outcry against it by many readers and even by Frost himself. While arguing for a certain interpretation of a work against the author’s wishes might be liberating for the reader and even amusing, it’s not the chief concern of New Criticism. A close reading of texts and an analysis of their formal structures is the true domain of this tradition, and this is done with the presupposition that the work, when closely examined, will reveal itself to be unified. The “imagery, characterizations, symbolism, narration... settings, and rhythm” and their analysis are of the utmost importance because these “provide the gist for our ______________________________________________

interpretive mills” (Hall 20). Close reading is important because any valid interpretation of a work must be backed up with textual evidence. Indeed, if one discards the author’s intention and dismisses any appeal to him as an “appeal to the oracle,” and if one disregards the biographical or historical context that gave rise to the text, one is left with nothing but the text to guide the interpretive process. The text, then, must be highly scrutinized and its form and language looked at in detail before any assessment of the meaning can be made. For poetry, this includes the poem’s poetics. And “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” displays impeccable skill here. An examination reveals that the lines of the poem are in iambic tetrameter: an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, with this pattern repeated four times in each line. Each stanza is a quatrain, consisting of four lines. The rhyme scheme of the poem is AABA, with the third line taking the dominant rhyme in the following quatrain: BBCB, then CCDC. This overlapping rhyme scheme provides a sense of continuity and connects each stanza flowingly to the next. This overlapping pattern holds until the last stanza in which the poet moves to a DDDD rhyme scheme. This last shift isn’t done without purpose or merely for the sake of variety but helps to emphasize the monotonous, tiring sledging that awaits the speaker as he continues his journey, as the repeated last two lines emphasize: “And miles to go before I sleep / And miles to go before I sleep” (15-16). This is an example of how form and meaning unite together – another principle of New Criticism. Form isn’t simply the means (- cont’d page fourteen) ______________________________________________

Enchanted Rock by Maggie Thompson There are ghosts upon that rock. We hear them dance. We hear them talk. At night these spirits come to play, Only to dwindle and fade in the light of day. We see their fires; they watch over us. But is it them we can trust? Our legends and people white men tried to erase, But our pride and fighting spirit no one can erase. We are the Honey Eaters. We are the Penateka. We are the Numuunuh. We are the People. Enchanted Rock photograph by

page nine (-Smith, cont’d from page three) cannot fend off damage inspired by utter isolation and the stifling of creativity. By the middle of the story, narrator is already feeling the effects of being cooped up in a room alone without stimulation for most of the day. “It is getting to be a great effort for me to think straight. Just this nervous weakness I suppose,” she laments (Perkins Gilman 345). Author Gilman continues to study the nature of the human psyche as the story unfolds. The reader is brought along on the journey, observing helplessly as the woman narrator, shut up in the room slowly loses her mind. By the end of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” she is completely insane, in a hallucinatory state, proclaiming, “I don’t like to look out of the windows even - there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast. I wonder if they all come out of that wallpaper as I did?” (Perkins Gilman 351). So in this way, first by having the woman try to figure out the nature of the wallpaper and then by having the reader try to figure out the nature of the human mind, Perkins Gilman uses this specific criteria of good writing twice over, surely pleasing Sydney in the process. Critic Sir Philip Sydney also declares in his essay that, “Poesy is - to speak metaphorically, a speaking picture to this end, to teach and delight” (Sydney 525). Examining “The Yellow Wallpaper” to see how it holds up to his criteria, the answer is not so cut and dry. While Perkins Gilman does use her story to teach, it without a doubt does not delight. The lesson of the story is clear: isolation and restriction of creativity will drive a person insane. However, the way in which the author gets the reader to understand this lesson is not by delighting. Rather, the writer chooses the more effective tactic of shocking the reader. In this way, her writing “teaches and horrifies.” There is nothing delightful about what happens to the woman in that room as the reader observes her descent into madness. It is not a pretty picture to behold as the woman goes non stop around the room in circles on all fours as so many others before her had: “But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way … Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!” (Perkins Gilman 351). By the end, in fact, the woman does not even dare look out the window. Her mind has essentially been shattered and it seems that the room is all she has ever known. “I don’t even look out the windows even - there are so many of those creeping woman, and they creep fast” (Perkins Gilman 351). Horrifying. “Poets do not use words in table-talk fashion or like men in a dream as they chance to fall from the

mouth, but peizing each syllable of each word by just proportion according to the dignity of the subject,” (Sydney 527) asserts Sydney later in his essay. He is explaining that good writers do not randomly choose words, but chooses them carefully, diligently deciding their place in his or her work. Perkins Gilman does this throughout her short story. Near the end, the main character is in a frantic state, declaring, “I must get to work” (Perkins Gilman 350). The choice of the word ‘work’ is an intentional attempt on the author’s part to really bring home the idea that the narrator has lost all grasp on reality. This work that she speaks of, after all, is tearing strips of wall paper down so that she may let out a woman trapped behind it. Earlier in the story, Perkins Gilman foreshadows the woman’s descent into madness by writing, “There is something else about that paper - the smell! It creeps all over the house. I find it hovering in the dining-room, skulking in the parlor, hiding in the hall, lying in wait for me on the stairs” (Perkins Gilman 348). The author’s decision to use words that connote living things is calculated, as is her specific use of the word “creep” which will be repeated later to describe both the imaginary woman in the wall’s action and what the woman herself does after having a mental break. To describe a smell as alive and as having intent to harm is an inspired way for Perkins Gilman to show early on that the woman is mentally fragile. She chooses these words with extreme care. A good writer will use language that is formal and dignified, not slang or everyday “table-talk.” Using this criterion, Sydney would also deem Perkins Gilman a good writer. The diction of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is deliberate, not haphazard and it is slightly elevated at the same time. The author uses common language (it is not a hard read by any means) but also has her characters speak with dignity and grace. Whether or not this is an homage to the family’s station in life (John is a doctor, so they must be relatively well-off) or simply a glimpse into the fact that the woman is extremely well-educated (a writer herself) is unclear. What is clear, however, is Perkins Gilman’s decision not to over simplify, not to use words in “table-talk” fashion. The way the woman in “The Yellow Wallpaper” speaks and thinks is a great illustration of this concept: she ‘declares’ rather than says, ‘fancies’ rather than thinks, and the garden is ‘delicious’ not just pretty or nice. Sir Phillip Sydney would appreciate this extra effort and would regard both “The Yellow Wallpaper” as an example of good writing and Charlotte Perkins Gilman as a good poet. Feminist analysis is a brilliant, albeit completely different, way to critique “The Yellow Wallpaper” as the short story deals directly with a woman’s oppression at the hands of a man. “Key to all feminist analysis is a recognition of the different degrees of social power that are granted to and exercised by woman and men,” states the first principle of this contemporary form of literature analysis (-cont’d page sixteen) graphic by kaitaro_04011 Duke University 1989

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Ophίdion (from the Greek - “viper”) by Claudia Teinert from Mark: 7

Ophίdion was the youngest member of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. Quiet and observant on the outside, brooding and dissatisfied on the inside, his face wore no expression in most circumstances. Some believed he had no blood in his veins for he reacted as rocks and fence posts do to life, benignly passive towards it all. For over a month now the young Pharisee had been following and watching the Nazarene. The man’s teachings on the temple steps had astonished and alarmed the Jewish fold across the region. Every temple in the land was on the lookout for the outlaw Teacher’s arrival. The Jerusalem brethren sent Ophίdion, the newest member of their order, out into the land of Gennesaret to track the teacher. Of all the seventy-one holy men, Ophίdion could be the most ubiquitous and invisible—almost eerily so. He could wind in and out of market crowds and even the Sanhedrin’s own religious gatherings as quietly and unseen as some mythical serpent. For this, they nicknamed him Ophίdion when he was brought into the membership. He was also deadly smart and razor sharp on all religious questions. The eldest members feared him in their hearts. Now, contemplating the Miracle Worker from the back of the crowd, Ophίdion considered the fact that he and the young rabbi were likely the same age. Suddenly he felt the preacher’s eyes on him and they exchanged knowing looks. He smiled inwardly and said to himself “Perhaps he has heard of me and envies my rank.” Ophίdion tossed away a blade of grass he had been shredding and took a few steps forward through the mass of people. The Young Practitioner was waxing eloquent on some matter of scripture. “No doubt trying to impress me,” he thought. What fascinated this holy Pharisee most about his Nazarene counterpart was his ability to heal. Ophίdion thought it was the last magic he must master to put him above his common brethren. This was why he watched the Healer so intently and so shrewdly. He knew he could be greater than that. Though mere acquaintances would not know it Ophίdion was a predator of sorts. His rise in the Sanhedrin had brought him new wealth and prestige which fed his empty, carnal soul. He also had deep and passionate ambitions which drove him night and day. He would rise quickly in the Great Sanhedrin, he thought, already tasting the power. He had only spent a year in the lower tribunal’s ranks. He had had one wife then and no children. Early in their marriage she had cursed him under her breath one day for his cold, false nature. He was convinced she had emasculated him with that curse. She was stoned for blasphemy the same afternoon. “Well deserved,” he said to himself standing there now on the crowded street of cripples and other human curiosities, and lost in the memory of that day. He often replayed the stoning scene in his head to comfort himself. Six months after that, he had three wives. Six years after that, he had eight wives and still no children. If he was impotent, he let it be known, it was by no flaw in his own being but by the curse of a witch. “Who is wise and understanding among you?” The Young Teacher’s voice jolted Ophίdion back to the present. “Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom.” The words seared Ophίdion’s heart and he gasped audibly. A man at his elbow recoiled, startled by the hiss from the Pharisee’s teeth. “If you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and bear false witness to the truth. Such things do not come down from heaven but are earthly, unspiritual, and devilish.” Son-of-God’s eyes scanned the crowd as he spoke and caught Ophίdion’s once or twice. A black rage pushed Ophίdion forward through the listeners. He was no subtle sleuth now but a mounting storm of anger. He felt himself being pulled toward the Healer. He would silence the Teacher’s babble. “No,” he screamed in his head. “It does no good to be gentle with fools! It accomplishes nothing for the membership to wait on ‘wisdom’ to fill you! We are born, trained, appointed, chosen! That justifies all actions!” He stumbled against a couple with three children and knocked the youngest child down, scattering the boy’s small basket of trinkets across half a dozen sandals. The young Savior raised his arms and held them open to the crowd now, garnering their complete attention. “For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind.” (- cont’d page next page)

page eleven (- Teinert, cont’d from previous page) Ophίdion stopped his forward lurching, one row before standing face to face with the Prophet. That Pharisee, that “chosen one,” was teetering on a violent outburst, something he had never displayed in his life. He stood there grimacing and pursing his lips. The Young Healer had almost disarmed him. Seeing Ophίdion there, just behind a woman bent with disease, the Savior-of-the-World ignored him and touched the woman’s head with a hand as light as breath. He looked into her face. “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy…” He finished the last words with his eyes on Ophίdion. Ophίdion felt of wave of emotion flooding over him which he had never experienced. “It is a dark magic, it is sorcery!” he told himself to steady his legs. But even as he fought against the current of this force his knees began to buckle and then all his limbs lost power. Even his anger left him and he fell to the ground beside the bent woman who was now standing up straight and turning around in circles trying to comprehend it. Jesus of Nazareth looked into the crowd, furthering his argument. “These conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?” He looked down at Ophίdion, collapsed near his feet. Very softly he said to the broken Pharisee, “You want something and cannot have it, so you commit murder.” Ophίdion convulsed like a man possessed. Everyone near him drew away. The Nazarene looked out into the throng. “You covet something and cannot obtain it, so you engage in disputes and conflicts.” He paused. The Savior-of-All looked again at the crumpled man and said so softly and slowly that only those beside him could hear, “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you receive on pleasures.” Ophίdion’s eyes fastened on the eyes of his savior which shone down like brown diamonds on him. Savior stooped to touch Ophίdion’s elbows, then drew him up to his feet. The beautiful, coffee-dark eyes gazed into Ophίdion’s pale blue eyes and filled the hollowness of his soul. “Submit yourself therefore to God,” he said kindly, “and resist the Devil and he, will, flee from you!” He was smiling now as Ophίdion stared back, brain-muddled. Savior took him by the shoulders and bolstered him further onto his feet. “Draw near to God and God will draw near to you.” There was absolute silence in the crowd. Even those who had not heard knew something had happened. Then Jesus clapped Ophίdion’s arms with a laugh, shook him, and walked away. That beautiful face was so stirring, so wholesome and sweet that Ophίdion was overcome with confusion. There was no threat here. He watched the Nazarene move away with the crowd trailing after him, and saw the young rabbi turn back, raise a hand to him, and point to heaven. Then Ophίdion shed his clothes down to his undergarments and walked out of town to the desert cliffs. In forty days he would become ακεραιότητα, Man-Made-Right. The Straightened Woman followed him and prayed and fasted there for three days before returning home.

near Gennesaret photo by

page twelve

Citrus by Nick Courtright (first printed in Kenyon Review Online)

I have shut off the grove, and the light. For once I allow the night its effect on every bowing branch. When I say you are enormous, I mean you are the tree.

On the path, dogs have come and gone, their tails whipping like emeralds thrown in the time after money. The dogs lay beneath the leaves, eating oranges.

The oranges could be you. The oranges could be. The oranges could be you as a dog or as a fierce cup of a thousand leaves. Those thousand leaves watch the night, too.

But today, let’s not lie. Let’s fall into a stark raving madness, like children whose hands are on fire. We can watch them fly through the grove, catching every blade with their dancing fire-hands.

See, when I say dancing I mean you are the strongest tree for a billion acres. When I say dancing I mean you are wood.

page thirteen

Why We Read Literature “Reading Joseph Campbell” by Hannah Thoms This one page composition was written in response to an assignment given in ENG 2301 Classicism. Students were asked to describe a particularly memorable idea raised in one of the chapters of Joseph Campbell’s book The Power of Myth. In the book The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers recalls a conversation in which Joseph Campbell describes the leading force of his work as a search for “the commonality of themes in world myths,” or the search “for the experience of being alive” (xvi). Campbell enumerates that “Mythology is an interior road map of experience drawn by people who have travelled it” (xvi). In other words, myths seek to explain the reasons why things are as they are. As civilization changed, circumstances and traditions changed and therefore mythology was constantly being redefined. However, there still remained common characteristics throughout mythology that were certain unchangeable truths about reality. Campbell’s goal is to understand how people lived as they understood these eternal truths, truths which influenced their own livelihoods. Campbell also suggests that with the rise of modern science, it was thought that just as mythology had attempted to explain the incomprehensible, science would now serve that purpose. Campbell’s opinion, however, is that science was not cutting off people’s relationship to the Divine, but helping us to acknowledge within this reality “a reflection magnified of our own most inward nature; so that we are…in theological terms, God’s ears, God’s eyes, God’s thinking, and God’s Word” (xix). Campbell claims that though science has revealed further mysteries about the universe, people are still required to interpret its profundities. While Campbell provides significant insights into many philosophical issues and engages his audience to consider the implications that ethics and culture bear on humanity, I cannot agree with every claim that he makes. Works Cited Campbell, Joseph. With Bill Moyers. The Power of Myth. Ed. By Betty Sue Flowers. New York: Anchor Books, 1988.

“...The critic’s work

is difficult: it involves careful attention to detail and the skillful synthesis of material. It is selective: faced with countless texts, the critic must not only choose a text to analyze, but also the tools to employ in the analysis. This is not a drawback, but merely a matter of necessity, for in selecting one way of reading (or even two), the critic must inevitably set others aside. The critic’s work is fundamentally creative, after all, we turn to criticism to gain new insight into a text, to see what we might not have seen on our own, and such vision does not come from playing it safe or merely summarizing what has already been said by the author or by other scholars. More than anything else, even more than determining which texts we anthologize or dismiss, which movies we watch or skip, the critic’s work finally is to help us to see texts—and the world that they reflect and shape—differently, with greater understanding. As Smith and Roberts remind us, such a task is neither easy nor simple: it takes considerable care, time, and research. It is heartening to read these thoughtful and thought -provoking essays and to see that, in spite of the difficulty, the critic’s work continues.” - from Martin Buinicki’s critique of Roberts and Smith in this edition of the journal, page 1

page fourteen (Roberts, cont’d from page eight) through which meaning is achieved but is inseparable, at the deepest level, from the meaning of the text itself. Form and content are a unified whole. As discussed above with regard to Wordsworth, the language of the poem is simple and unelaborated but this simplicity is deceiving, for the poem actually displays several kinds of repetition. Alliteration, which repeats the first letter of adjacent words, is present throughout the poem: “watch his woods” (4), “He gives his harness” (9). Sibilance, emphasis of the s sound, shows up, as well: “sound’s the sweep” (11), and it’s particularly appropriate here in a line about silence because sibilance is the noise one hears in a hushed auditorium – voices hissing as the lights go down. These small devices lend an almost unnoticeable air of sophistication to the poem. The poetics, then, solidify the work into a unified whole. The metrics, rhyme scheme, stanzas and patterns of repetition all work together to achieve the poem’s unified form and contribute, in a fundamentally important way, to the poem’s meaning. And yet, it’s not simply these alone that bring unity to the poem, but unity is achieved through theme, as well. The speaker of the poem wishes to stay in the woods, to linger in its quiet, lovely presence, but he has obligations to fulfill: “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, / But I have promises to keep” (13-14). No other excursion interrupts this theme; the poem is about this moment of respite and its consequences, nothing else. Every stanza mentions the oddity of the speaker’s pausing in the woods and the obligations spurring him to keep traveling. In the first stanza, the thought of the wood’s owner fulfills this role: “He will not see me stopping here / To watch his woods fill up with snow” (3-4). In the next two stanzas, the role is performed by the horse: “My little horse must think it queer / To stop without a farmhouse near” (5-6), and continuing, “He gives his harness bells a shake / To ask if there is some mistake” (9-10). This image – the image of a man stopping in the woods, holding off momentarily the pressure to continue his journey – is enough for considerable meditation and poet holds it up, through every stanza and every image, as the only concern of the poem. Any interpretation, then, the New Critic would say, that doesn’t take this into account, fails on account of the results of a close reading. As can be seen, Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” is an incredibly rich work. It is the fertile grounds on which numerous methods of interpretation might work and display their particular interests. Examined by the light of Wordsworth’s theories of poetry, Frost’s work is a brilliant portrayal of a universally understood theme in a rustic setting, with the unadorned language of common men. Examined by the New Critics, the poem is capable of an incredibly rich ulterior interpretation, unforeseen or unwanted, even, by the author himself. In technical precision, the poem is flawless. All in

all, it rightfully deserves its place high up on the list of the most anthologized English poems. Works Cited Armstrong, James. “The ‘Death Wish’ in ‘Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.’” College English, vol. 25, No. 6 (Mar, 1964), p. 440 Cifelli, Edward M. John Ciardi: A Biography. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas, 1997. Print. Frost, Robert. “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.” The Poetry of Robert Frost: The Collected Poems. New York: Holt Paperbacks. 2002. 224. Harmon, William. The Top 500 Poems. New York: Columbia UP, 1992. Print Lathem, Edward Connery. Interviews with Robert Frost,. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966. Print. Richardson, Mark. The Ordeal of Robert Frost: The Poet and His Poetics. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1997. Print. Richter, David H. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. New York: St. Martin's, 1989. Print. Wordsworth, William. “Preface to Lyrical Ballads.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: Norton, 1975: 124-139. Wimsatt, William, and Monroe Beardsley. "The Intentional Fallacy." Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: Norton, 2001. 1374-386. Print. ______________________________________________

Please email your letters about this edition of The Undergraduate English Journal to Professor Claudia Teinert at

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Politic by Nick Courtright (first printed in Boston Review) The internet is a pile of transmissions, like much else. And anger is a handbasket full of sound and sweet notes left on the doorstep. Last year more than four million American babies were born and there’s not too much that that can mean.

A dream watches other dreams like an animal fighting itself within a burlap sack. Many minutes pass, and marvelous springtime eyes its own predictable mess as new life trembles beneath the wind.

Meanwhile, a religion found only on mountaintops composes songs for the future, as you climb stairs climbed by the past. Therefore, foreign policy is yet another irony.

Leafing through a photo album is history and architecture: in a photograph, what replaces memory is a pose that does not change, regardless of whether the picture is held close to the face, like this, or very far from the face, like this.

page sixteen (- Smith, cont’d from page nine) (Hall 199). “The Yellow Wallpaper” displays enormous recognition of the lack of social power given to the narrator. As a woman in the late 1800s, she simply has no power, social or otherwise. Her husband, ironically a doctor, makes every decision regarding her life, including how she manages her health. It is implied that the protagonist should feel comfortable taking John’s advice based not solely on the fact that he is a physician, but also simply because he is a man, the “smarter” gender. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a perfect work to critique through the eyes of Feminist analysis because it is rife with commentary on gender issues and bravely broaches the subject of female oppression. The first principle of Feminist analysis is that “Language, institutions, and social power structures have reflected patriarchal interests through much of history; this has had a profound impact on women’s ability to express themselves and the quality of their daily lives” (Hall 202). This principle is expounded on in a second principle: “Yet at the same time, women have resisted and subverted patriarchal oppression in a variety of ways” (Hall 203). Perkins Gilman’s narrator in “The Yellow Wallpaper” exemplifies both of these ideas. The narrator, locked away in a room by her husband, has been forbidden to do anything which engages her mind creatively. A writer, she resists this rule as best she can, scribbling away whenever she feels she can do so without getting caught. Her husband’s domineering restraints have reduced her to the state of a child. She confesses guiltily: “I did write for a while in spite of [him], but it does exhaust me a good deal having to be too sly about it or else meet with heavy opposition” (Perkins Gilman 340). A feminist critic would say that, yes, this character’s ability to express herself has been squelched and it indeed will come to affect her daily life. She, in fact, loses her sanity because of it. One would also agree that by writing in secret, taking the risk of breaking her husband’s rules, the woman resists her husband’s oppression. This combination of “patriarchal oppression and a woman’s resistance to it is apparent in many literary and other cultural texts,” is the third principle of Feminist analysis. Containing many examples of both John’s oppression and his wife’s reaction to it, “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a great text to critique using these principles. The feminist critic asks, “Do characters disagree on woman’s roles, either explicitly in their dialogue or implicitly in the way they live their lives?” (Hall 205). After reading “The Yellow Wallpaper,” this question can be answered with a resounding YES. The narrator quietly disagrees with her husband’s rules and methods but it absolutely unable to do anything about it. “Personally, I disagree with their ideas. Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good,” she laments (Perkins Gil-

man 141). The problem is that what she believes does not matter; she must adhere to her husband’s commands. Besides writing, the narrator wants to be around the company of others. Being isolated is doing the opposite of helping her to regain her health. It is the isolation that is slowly driving her crazy. It is as if she can sense the coming doom, but is powerless to change the outcome of her treatment. She writes in her journal, “When I get really well, John says we will ask cousins Henry and Julia down for a long visit, but he says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow-case than to let me have those stimulating people about now” (342). Frustratingly, stimulation is exactly what the narrator needs. Society’s gender roles during this time period are brought up sporadically in “The Yellow Wallpaper” almost as subtext to the bigger issues of the story. John is a doctor, makes the money, and is frequently absent from the home. “John is kept in town very often by serious cases,” explains the protagonist (341). The way in which she describes her sister-in-law admirably as a “perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper” is telling. The woman knows on many levels that this image is what is expected of her and by society’s standards, she is failing. When describing her own roles in the marriage, she writes, “Nobody would believe what an effort it is to do what little I am able - to dress and entertain and order things” (342). The fact that her narrow, monotonous responsibilities turn on activities that please others and keep up appearances is extremely significant. The last things she should be worried about when trying to get well are entertaining and looking pretty, but these are her top priorities. There is no other way to read the skewed gender views in “The Yellow Wallpaper” as other than a commentary on their shortcomings. In writing about these issues, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was able to produce a piece of work that Feminist critics would have a field day analyzing years later. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is a fantastic short story of one woman’s decline into madness at the hands of her rigid and sadly misinformed physician husband. Perkins Gilman attempts to write about what it was like to be in complete isolation, unable to use one’s mind for anything creative or stimulating, and how it can destroy person’s mind, body, and soul. That it is a woman in such a situation lifts the veil dramatically. And Perkins Gilman does so beautifully, using highly descriptive language that draws the reader in, making them feel as if they are actually in that room, rapidly descending into madness themselves. An example of the beautiful, disturbing language Perkins Gilman uses to draw the reader in is found near the middle of the story. The narrator has been placed alone in a room (essentially, a prison cell) and begins to obsess about the wallpaper—its color, patterns, odor. It is soon apparent that there is nothing much else for this woman to do in her room all day besides ponder the bi(-cont’d page seventeen)

(- Smith, cont’d from page sixteen) zarre wallpaper. “It is the strangest yellow! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw - not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things,” the woman articulates (340). Perkins Gilman has pulled the reader in with a haunting description of something fairly ordinary - wallpaper. As a reader, it is easy to respect the author’s ability to reel one into, not just the story, but the mind of the narrator. When the woman declares, “I really have discovered something at last. Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out. The front pattern does move - and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!” (349) - it is as if being treated to inside information, a secret that keeps the reader intrigued to the end. This is an important factor in producing a good piece of writing … the author’s ability to use descriptive language to keep their reader on the edge of their seat. Another great strength of “The Yellow Wallpaper” is the unifying thread of the wallpaper throughout the story. While at first, the wallpaper is presented as merely a distraction for the woman in the room, something she can look at and think about to help the time pass, Perkins Gilman does a fantastic job of weaving that thread throughout the entirety of her work. As the ____________________________________________

page seventeen woman falls deeper into insanity because of her isolation and lack of stimulation, the wallpaper becomes more important to her. By the end of the story, it is all she thinks about, all she cares about. It becomes her obsession. Little by little, as the story progresses, so does the woman’s desire to peel away the paper and free the woman behind it. Perkins Gilman takes the reader on the same journey (keeping the wallpaper as the central thread of the story) and as it unfolds, the reader’s desire to free the woman is fueled also, although the woman we wish to free is the narrator herself. The author is able to take a seemingly insignificant object, wallpaper, and makes it represent so much more. “I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we had peeled off yards of that paper,” the woman says, describing her mounting ‘interaction’ with the paper and the imaginary woman stuck behind it (350). Perkins Gilman makes sure to maintain the yellow wallpaper as the unifying thread of the story, having the narrator’s obsession with it grow up until the very end, when it eventually destroys her. “The Yellow Wallpaper” is concise, ‘saying’ a great deal in only a few pages, which is another way to tell if a piece of writing is exemplary. If a writer moves (-cont’d page eighteen) _____________________________________________

Ideas considered radical, ungodly and/or completely outside the mainstream at one moment in time often appear as statements of the obvious at a later moment in time. The passionate demands of Charlotte Perkins Gilman and other women of the early women’s rights movements might fall into such a category today. Who, today, could object to the idea that women have the intellectual, physical, creative, and spiritual gifts to succeed in college, compete in sports, produce provocative and enduring art works, and work alongside men in corporate, political, religious, and other professional fields? In 1929, British author Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) proposed that the three things preventing women from entering these realms were lack of time for one’s self, lack of financial independence, and lack of privacy (Woolf, A Room of One’s Own). This was not a demand for selfish time and withdrawal nor for frivolous spending, but time and solitude to consider what one was all about, what one had been uniquely designed to do beyond bear children. This wa s, after all, largely how the “great men” of arts, letters, and business had always achieved their goals. This struggle to be seen as equal, competent, and strong took many forms for women in the 20th century. Suffrage movements became “feminist” movements by mid-century with women still being barred from and harassed for entering male dominated fields. Feminists themselves began to disagree about the core requirements for women’s freedom. Ann Kaplan explains that "essentialist” feminists, for example, believed women “embody a more humane, moral mode of being that once brought to light, could help change society in beneficial directions.” Because men lack these qualities in decision-making, these feminists argued, women must have a seat at the tables of religion, government, federal agencies, and local councils. Few women’s organization support such a view of female essence today. In opposition to this idea were feminists who believed women should be liberated from the stifling routine of childcare, home-keeping, and nursing the sick. In their view, men are just as capable of nurturing, men just don’t want those jobs. Few men’s organiza tion’s support such a view of male essence today. Early women’s rights groups also wanted the opportunity to build professional careers and influence society in positive and meaningful ways. From mid-20th century forward, feminist concerns inspired other minority populations to speak up. But here in 2012, much of that early struggle has been forgotten. The simple hope for gender equality often continues to be packaged as a “radical feminist agenda.” Works Cited Kaplan, Ann. “Feminist Criticism and Television.” Course. University of Oregon. 1995. feminist.html

page eighteen (- Smith, cont’d from page seventeen) away from their tendency to be long-winded, an excellent story may be the result. Cutting out insignificant information makes a work much more enjoyable to read. It gets to the point by removing every piece of unnecessary information, making sure that each sentence, each word, contributes to the story in a noteworthy way. Perkins Gilman is able to whittle down her story to a brief snapshot of the spouses lives, correctly choosing to only give the reader details as needed and to focus on this one time in their marriage only. This makes the message of “The Yellow Wallpaper” crystal clear, unmuddled by excess bits of trivia. The reader is not told much about the narrator at all. It is inferred that she has a baby but we are not told much about it at all, for example. This is a wise decision on the part of the author. Keeping “The Yellow Wallpaper” short and to the point makes it a captivating read from start to finish and it quickly becomes apparent that every single line is important. Writing a story that is short, omitting anything that is pointless to the development of the story, is a talent. Perkins Gilman does not hand the reader answers, but leaves it up to them to figure much out on their own. This is one of the major reasons “The Yellow Wallpaper” is an outstanding piece of writing: it is concise. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” is an honest look at what it was like to be a woman diagnosed with hysteria amid the chaos of the early mental healthcare scene. Considering the story is still taught in schools, over 100 years later, is a demonstration in itself that the work is “good writing.” There are many ways to critique a text, which is important to do. As a society, we must have a way to measure what is excellent and a way to maintain those standards of excellence over the years. After examining “The Yellow Wallpaper” thoroughly, I can conclude that Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s work contains characteristics of great writing from both ancient critics and contemporary analysis, as well as passes my test. It is hard to argue, after looking at this story from so many different perspectives, after holding it up to so many different types of critique, that it is anything but an excellent piece of writing by a good writer. Works Cited Perkins Gilman, Charlotte. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The Story and Its Writer. Ed. Ann Chambers, et al. New York: Bedford St. Martins, 2011. Hall, Donald E. “Feminist Analysis.” Literary and Cultural Theory. Boston/New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001. Sydney, Philip. “An Apology for Poesie.” The Norton Anthology of Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams, et al. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1979.


Stratford Festival Ontario, Canada course credit for

ENG 3307 “Drama at Stratford”

Summer 2013 TO LEARN ABOUTTHE 2013 SEASON contact: Dr. Milton Riemer 512-453-3465 or email:

page nineteen

The Early Modern Sensibility from Irving Howe’s Classics of Modern Fiction (1986), pages 23-24 The modern sensibility is characterized by such things as “the replacement of religious certainty and moral absolutes by skepticism, doubt, agnosticism, and intellectual relativism (there are no unalterable moral commandments binding on all men, but judgments of conduct and ideas must be made relative to changing circumstances and popular opinion); a strong stress on estrangement [and] alienation from the prevalent standards of society which are seen as corrupted (materialistic) or mediocre (bourgeois) or hypocritical (falsely pious); a fascination with subjectivity…the view that what matters most in our time is not so much the nature of either the external physical world or the social world, but, rather, the way in which our impressions of these worlds are registered in our consciousness; a feeling that in a universe deprived of God and the comforts of religion, man has been left ‘homeless,’ a stranger in the universe, and must therefore consume himself with introspective anxiety and self-mortification; a feeling that with the collapse of moral certainties, there remains nothing for men but to engage in the boldest experiments, to forge a new order of values in personal relationships and in the creation of art and the destruction and reconstitution of society; and finally, a gnawing doubt as to the purpose or even value of human life. This doubt can lead to the tacit conclusion that our existence on this earth is pointless, a transitory encounter with pleasure and a prolonged exposure to pain, all of which may end with the doctrine or mood of nihilism (the denial of the meaning in life and thereby, if pushed hard enough, a denial of life itself).”

_______________________________________ (Buinicki - cont’d from page five) particular reader’s way of seeing, a fundamental tenet of what has come to be known as Reader Response theory. Others would argue that the source of such constant disagreement lies in the unstable nature of the signs within the text, the language itself rendering it impossible finally to settle on a “univocal” interpretation. For these critics, Deconstruction becomes the preferred method of reading, for it reveals this instability and forces us to grapple with the full complexity of language. While neither Smith nor Roberts deals with these two alternative modes of interpretation—they are already taking on quite a great deal, after all—I raise them to return to the question I posed at the beginning of this brief response: faced with so many modes of criticism, what is the critic’s work? First, I want to offer some descriptive answers to this question, drawn from my reading of these two essays. The critic’s work is difficult: it involves careful attention to detail and the skillful synthesis of material. It is selective: faced with countless texts, the critic must not only choose a text to analyze, but also the tools to employ in the analysis. This is not a drawback, but merely a matter of necessity, for in selecting one way of reading (or even two), the critic must inevitably set others aside. The critic’s work is fundamentally creative, after all, we turn to criticism to gain new insight into a text, to see what we might not have seen on our own, and such vision does not come from playing it safe or merely summarizing what has already been said by the author or by other scholars. More than anything else, even more than determining which texts we anthologize or dismiss, which movies we watch or skip, the critic’s work finally is to

_______________________________________________ help us to see texts—and the world that they reflect and shape—differently, with greater understanding. As Smith and Roberts remind us, such a task is neither easy nor simple: it takes considerable care, time, and research. It is heartening to read these thoughtful and thought-provoking essays and to see that, in spite of the difficulty, the critic’s work continues. Works Cited Frost, Robert. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.” Literature and Its Writers. Ed. Ann Charters and Samuel Charters. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. 964-965. Print. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Literature and Its Writers. Ed. Ann Charters and Samuel Charters. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Mar tin’s, 2010. 172-184. Print. Roberts, Brian. “Two Approaches to Frost’s “‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.’” 2012. Schwieckart, Patrocinio P. “Reading ourselves: toward a feminist theory of reading.” Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader Ed. David Lodge and Nigel Wood. 3rd. ed. Harlow, UK: Pearson, 2008. 484-505. Print. Sidney, Sir Philip. The Defense of Poesie. Literary Criticism: Plato to Dryden. Ed. Allan H. Gilbert. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1967. Print. Smith, Stacia. “An In-Depth Critique of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.” 2012. Wimsatt, W.K. and M.C Beardsley. “The Intentional Fallacy.” Sewanee Review 54.3 (1946): 468-488. Print. Wordsworth, William. “From ‘Preface to Lyrical Ballads.’” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M. H. Abrams et al. 5th ed. Vol 2. New York: Norton, 1986. 157-170. Print.

The Undergraduate

English Journal

Department of English Concordia University Texas Vol. 9 No. 2 November 2012

Guest Respondent Dr. Martin Buinicki, Associate Professor Valparaiso University


Student Papers “Two Approaches to Frost’s ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening’” by Brian Roberts “An In-Depth Critique of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’” by Stacia Smith

p. 2 p. 3

Student Commentaries: Why We Read Literature “Life, Personality, and Classic Literature” by Erika Massey “Reading Joseph Campbell” by Hannah Thoms “A Delicate Balance: Private Achievement, Public Acclaim” editorial staff

p. 4 p. 13 p. 7

Poetry “Citrus” by Nick Courtright “Politic” by Nick Courtright “Enchanted Rock” by Maggie Thompson

p. 12 p. 15 p. 8

Fiction “Ophidion” by Claudia Teinert

p. 10

The Undergraduate English Journal Department of English Concordia University Texas 11400 Concordia University Drive Austin, Texas 78726 (512) 313-3000

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