Archive for September, 2012

D.G. Rossetti’…

D.G. Rossetti’s “Jenny” describes the sympathy and love a man feels for a “fallen” woman in society. He speaks of a prostitute whom is looked upon as a degraded figure by the rest of the world, but is truly misunderstood. The man sees decency and heart within the woman but is torn between his emotions and his head. As a member of the Victorian society he was taught to looked down upon this woman and believe her to be fallen, though he cannot see past her beauty. The man speaks of her beautiful blue eyes and golden hair and the mesmerizing effect they have on his beliefs. Interacting with this beautiful woman in her own environment makes him see a different side. He sympathizes with the struggles she must face as an unacceptable member of the Victorian society. He believes she is better than the name she has been given and the things she has done. 

In Rossetti’s paintings he depicts a “fallen” woman who is quite easily distinguished as a prostitute. The man in the painting is pulling her away from this degraded life she has come to live. He believes that he can bring her back to her old ways and back to morality. The woman however believes she is trapped in her ways with no chance for escaping. Much like the calf depicted in the back of the painting the woman is helpless and lost. They are both struggling in the traps they have been put in. The “fallen” woman believes she cannot change and is stuck with the never-ending desperation of freedom from her sins. 


Reed Keefe. “D.G. Rossetti’s ‘Jenny’: Eschewing Thinking for Feeling.” 06, English/History of Art 15. Brown University, 2004. Sept. 27, 2012.


In John Leech’s painting The Great Social Evil there is a poster on the wall next to the women advertising Verdi’s La Traviata. Many paintings have subtle hints and messages hidden within them; this notion prompted a little research on the opera.

It is the story of Violetta, a famous courtesan, and the man who loves her, Alfredo. In summary, he professes his love for her, and she eventually gives in and falls in love with him in return. They blissfully live together until Alfredo’s father comes to Violetta one day and asks that she leave, as their relationship is harming Alfredo’s sister’s impending possible marriage because of Violetta’s past. (Synopsis: La Traviata)

One of the main points Verdi is making in this opera is a condemnation of preconceived notion. When Alfredo’s father comes to Violetta, he has already determined in his mind that she will be crude, unpleasant company, solely due to her past profession. He instead finds her to be noble and graceful. The story here points out the flawed perception many had at the time of ‘fallen’ women. Violetta had been a courtesan (a higher class escort or prostitute, like an Italian geisha) but she had cast off that life when she fell in love with Alfredo. However, because of the extreme traditional conservative beliefs of that time, her past tainted her lover’s sister’s relationship.  This was a common fallacy at the time; Violetta’s past had nothing to do with the sister’s purity, yet because of the way people thought and believed, her past indiscretions had the potential to entirely ruin the promised matrimony.

Violetta, like the subject of Thomas Hardy’s “The Ruined Maid”, was perceived, and perhaps perceived herself, as lesser because of her position. This perception, however, was not based on the character of her person, but on her profession, because of the inherent beliefs their societies held in that day.



“Synopsis: La Traviata.” The Metropolitan Opera. 2012. Web. 25 September 2012.

The Fallen

William Acton’s views on prostitution were, for the most part, surprisingly unbiased, unemotional and logical. He believed that women fell into prostitution through seduction or because of poverty in the majority of cases. He also believed that these women are not entirely bad, although that is what the masses concluded. He thought prostitutes were just women who had lost their way, but that did not mean they could not return to a pure life. This may have been a slightly radical belief in the 1850s where unchaste women were shunned and exiled from society. Even now, after many radical movements about gender, age, and race, our society tends to uphold those standards of chastity.

Despite the disapproval of the moral majority, there are societies today that encourage women to have sex with multiple men. This practice is called polyandry. Polyandry occurs when one woman has more than one husband. These polyandrous societies exist today in the Himalayas and other secluded parts of the earth where this conduct is seen as neither unusual nor immoral. These people have practical reasons for their practices, the same way that Acton thinks prostitutes have practical reasons for their impurity. Fraternally polyandrous families (those in which one woman marries two or more brothers) have many important reasons for their way of life. This lifestyle means they do not have to split up the family’s farmland, which is already scarce in the Himalayas. If the small amount of farmland was divided for each new generation, everyone would go hungry. Also, polyandry keeps the population from booming because women can only get pregnant so often, but if each of her husbands had a different wife, the number of newborns would multiply rapidly.

Our society tells us that these beliefs and practices are wrong. It also says that there is no cure or return from prostitution and that those women have already fallen.  Acton’s piece disagrees by taking a professional stance as opposed to making biased statements about prostitution. The thing about falling is that with strength, you can pull yourself back up and brush the dirt off.


“Multiple Husbands.” You Tube. National Geographic. 18 May, 2007. Web. 23 Sept., 2012.

Here the main protagonist, Ruth Hilton, is shown posing humbly, but perhaps less innocently than personally believed. “She was really not aware of the falseness of this conduct; being an adept in that species of sophistry with which people persuade themselves that what they wish to do is right” (Gaskell, I). The author’s veracious meaning demonstrates a significant ideal held by many religious folk of her time. Many of the upper-class citizens like Mr. Bellingham tended to be condescending of the lower classes. And while increas-ingly hypocritical when considering their Christian beliefs, few of the rich cared to treat the poor as anything but human beings. A bluntly pious remark is given later on as well.

Gaskell’s interestingly enough presents a blatant portent of events to come. “My dear, remember the devil goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour; remember that, Ruth” (Gaskell, IV). Pulling verses straight from the Bible, the author creates a feeling of sublimity that leaves her readers wondering what will become of poor, naïve Ruth. I think by using direct text Gaskell is trying to show the seriousness of Ruth’s improper behavior because during the mid-eighteenth century several women were becoming disgusted with the typical behavior of young women. I also believe that this novel reveals an unwanted, but fated end to the purity of womanhood while also representing the innate inferiority of the female sex to assert herself. By simply seeking an adventurous lifestyle, as opposed to the accepted norms of many wives’ monotonous schedules, teenage girls like Ruth were subjected to a ridiculous amount of cruel treatment by men via manipulation. In a lot of ways though, this idea of manliness as the dominant force in a hierarchal society of religiously judgmental people is nothing new; when was the last time you heard about someone being targeted by a religious organization for just affiliating with particular groups?



I can only hope that by reading literature such as Gaskell’s, and other writers like her, people will cease unfair conduct toward one another. But I realize this will most likely not happen any time soon, especially with how speed-oriented society is nowadays. Searching for answers is the last thing twenty-first people want to spend their time doing. Maybe the more people become educated the less our world will suffer from squalid personalities and unjust ideologies like classism or racism. Myself considered, I know that by continually challenging my beliefs and those around me, an eclectic mind frame will be the harvest of such tedious endeavors, and with that mentality I believe the world has a chance for survival.

Picturesque and Beauty


Picturesque seems to have multiple definitions. Gilpin refers to the term to mean more rugged and rough. More detail if you will. I feel there is much more to it. I do agree with Gilpin but I think beauty is involved with picturesque. It is not always but in this case it is. Beauty is more plain and simple but very nice in my opinion. This photo I have taken of a Gothic church that resembles 18th century architecture. The sky is beautiful, simple yet complete at the same time. The color of the sky has good contrast with the church. Darkness and light. This photo was taken in the evening so the sky shows that the sun was setting at the moment of time when I snapped this photograph. The picturesque can be also be seen in Watt’s painting of a dead nameless woman, and this portrait demonstrates the sublime many poverty-stricken people were experiencing. Looking even further the vague outline of an industrial civilization resonates with the powerful idea of changing beliefs and technologies.


“The Girl of the Period”

Women, as we advance through time, have gained a sense of independence and self-worth that was once restricted. We have earned the right to choose our attire, gain experience in the workforce, and speak as we desire. Today many choose to celebrate such liberties and equivocation, however, in the 1800’s there were some who saw such freedoms as a decline in womanhood and an act against God’s will. In the nineteenth century, Elizabeth Lynn Linton was a product of the idea that women should live a life of pure monotony and domestication. She believed the British nation that had once prided themselves on their modest, pure, and righteous women were rapidly spiraling downward by becoming a bold, fashionable “demi-monde” that was starting to gain popularity during her time. Such attitudes were considered acts against the nature in which God intended. During Linton’s time, women were changing into what many believed to be a tainted version of woman. Such an attention-seeking “Demi-monde” was described as unsuitable and undesirable for matronly affairs. Society in that time period saw the desire to grasp public attention through fashion and the visible display of beauty such as letting their hair be seen beyond the confides of their bonnets or wearing dresses below the shoulder blades, as suggestive towards partaking in the sins of the flesh. Many women who actually partook in such “sinful” actions were often cast out of society and even by their own flesh and blood.


The painting “The Outcast” represented above was created by Richard Redgrave in 1851 demonstrating a scene similar to bible stories such as the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael or of Christ and the woman taken in adultery. It was considered a sin to have a child out of wedlock in the nineteenth century and those who partook in such sins were cast out of their homes and sometimes from society altogether. This painting represents a time when women were abandoned with their children for disgracing their family name by going against the nature and rules of God. Women such as the one displayed above were cast out and seen as a disgrace to the society in which they lived.


In the painting “The Infidelity Discovered” by Augustus Leopold Egg, there lays a significant amount of symbolism that demonstrates the amount of ruin that occurs from the discovery of one woman’s infidelity. The apple on the floor stands as a type of religious symbolism that holds similarity to the story of Adam and Eve. The apple symbolizing the forbidden fruit of physical desire has been metaphorically eaten thus betraying her husband and God himself. As a result she is cast out of her home and away from her family, which represents and religious allusion to the Garden of Eden. The house of cards built by her children represents the broken home the woman has created.


Hogarth: Before and After

Before, a painting by William Hogarth depicts a woman resisting her sexual desires and her last minute attempts not to give into the man who awaits her. In the painting she is leaning away from from the man with a frazzled look on her face. The man on the other hand is pining for her love and affection while he stands close to her body, hoping to intrigue her imagination. In contrast to the first painting, After shows a scene of exhaustion. The sexual tension that was present in Before is no longer on the faces of either the man or woman. Their emotions are ones of satisfaction and relief. 

Hogarth had many strong beliefs and was a controversial artist in his time. He believed in the mockery of the English society of the 18th century and he missed no chance to quarrel with contemporaries. His beliefs got him in trouble with many people though he strongly stuck with his point of view in everyone of his pieces. They were always unusual depictions that were controversial with many English citizens. It is said that these paintings were made for a vicious nobleman and were intended to depict comical portrayals of sexual moods. Hogarth’s belief of sexual tension is shown in these two paintings.






Robinson and Beauty

Mary Robinson was a known feminist and women’s rights advocate of the second half of the eighteenth century, and the first mistress of the Prince of Wales (to be later crowned King George VI). She lived a lifestyle many would even today call scandalous. She was known not only for her acting and poetry, but for her great beauty; it is beauty she comes to write about in two of her poems, The Old Beggar and Ode to Beauty.


            From the tone and title of these two poems, it is initially difficult to determine the message Robinson is attempting to deliver. The Old Beggar seems to be only about a haggard old man hard on the eyes, and Ode to Beauty at first looks as if it will be only stanza after stanza of praise to this young beauty. When one becomes familiar with Robinson’s feminist background, these concepts create dissonance. Robinson was an actress, which is how she eventually caught the eye of the Prince of Wales. Though she was married to another man, she agreed to an affair with the Prince, which lasted several years before being ended by the Prince. Ten years later, Robinson penned her Ode.

            Robinson didn’t believe in the traditional; one might argue that for a time she believed only in the beautiful. However, she eventually learned that beauty fades, and the beautiful will fail her; she turned to poetry and feminism, and she exhibits her beliefs in the last lines of her ode:

 For ah ! the beauteous bud, too soon, 
    Scorch’d by the burning eye of day; 
  Shrinks from the sultry glare of noon, 
    Droops its enamell’d brow, and blushing, dies away.


Robinson, Mary.”Ode to Beauty.” Digital Library UPenn. Web. 11 Sept.2012.

  • “The Old Beggar.” Google Books. Web.11 Sept. 2012.

Vegetables and Kings

In “Regrets for my Old Dressing Gown, or A Warning to Those Who Have More Taste than Fortune” by Denis Diderot, it is written, “Poverty has its freedoms; opulence has its obstacles.” Diderot continues on to speak of Diogenes and Aristippus. These two men were Greek philosophers with opposite viewpoints. They had different beliefs with regard to how one should live their life. Diogenes always stuck to his morals and questioned mankind for their own, even though he himself was a beggar. He was a man with a clever and sharp tongue who taught others through his cynicism. Aristippus was a hedonist. This means that most, if not all, of his actions led to self-gratification. Whether it was indulging in food, wine or women, he always did it in excess and gluttony. He genuinely believed that his happiness and satisfaction was the most important thing in life and that obtaining those should never be delayed. There is a story about kings for each of the men that give an example of the differences between them.

“Diogenes was knee deep in a stream washing vegetables. Coming up to him, Plato said, ‘My good Diogenes, if you knew how to pay court to kings, you wouldn’t have to wash vegetables.’ ‘And,’ replied Diogenes, ‘If you knew how to wash vegetables, you wouldn’t have to pay court to kings.’”

Aristippus, on the other hand, was criticized heavily for being the “king’s poodle.” He would give into the king’s every whim in order to reap the benefits of being in a circle of importance and wealth, even if it gave him a bad name. Diderot relates these opposite ideologies to his dressing gown dilemma. He feels that his old gown was owned by him and granted him the freedom to do as he liked (such as with Diogenes) whereas he feels owned and controlled by the new gown (like Aristippus). In the end, sometimes it’s just best to stick with your vegetables than to be owned by a king.

~ JW

Diderot, Denis. “Regrets for my Old Dressing Gown, or A Warning to Those Who Have More Taste than Fortune.” 2005. Web. 9 Sept., 2012.

O’Keefe, Tim. “Aristippus (c.435-356 BCE).” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 22 July, 2005. Web. 9 Sept., 2012.

Quinn, David. “Teachings of Diogenes.” Optus Home. n.d. Web. 9 Sept. 2012.

Religious Terror

During the avant-garde times of the nineteenth century the largest and most powerful countries in Western Civilization flourished in the sublime reign of a catholic monarchy; sublime in a sense that the pernicious snares of power coupled with the deleterious claws of terror directed a lugubrious people. “we are first terrified, before we are let even into the obscure cause of our emotion: but when this grand cause of terror makes its appearance, what is it? Is it not wrapt up in the shades of its own incomprehensible darkness, more awful, more striking, more terrible, than the liveliest description, than the clearest painting, could possibly represent it?” (Burke, Section II: Part) The recondite mien of terror is something that many believers shared in accordance with the Catholic Church, a temerarious condemnation of their sins pushing them to rid the world of all paganism and sorcery. Such a rapacious impetus is something that few would dare resist, and a force that many innocent, or unintentionally ignorant rebels suffered in the Victorian era. For many the soporific veil of eternal darkness and comatose sleep covered their eyes as a result of the vanquishing ceremonies of self-righteous European Christians.













The jagged valley and ominously grey sky invoke a haunting sublime feeling that penetrates the senses and causes one to ruminate over the veracity and ubiquity of death.

Sources: Burke, Edmund. “On The Sublime.” N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Sept. 2012.

Boyd. “Snow Valley.” PhotoBucket. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Sept. 2012.