Mini Blog Post on Psychoanalytic Criticism

We possess a facet of the mind known as the unconscious, or the receptacle for all of our repressed instincts, which have been stifled by the guiding laws of society and civility. These repressed desires may find their way into the conscious, and may come to fruition in direct acts or by expressing them in an indirect fashion. Freud claims the unconscious often breaks through in times where the ego is unable to actively police the conscious. Like dreams, expressions through mediums such as writing can prove similar in its ability to allow unconscious thoughts to be expressed indirectly.  The two fields of psychoanalytic criticism, Object Relations and Neo-Freudianism, while differing in many ways, agree that the unconscious finds its way into indirect expressions through similar means. While Object Relations focuses upon the way “self” interacts with society viewing the ego as a manifestation of identity through anxieties, Neo-Freudianism argues that the ego is nothing but a constructed falsity, a “mirage,” and that one’s self can never be fully known, nor can the unconscious be mastered. “Self” is compared with language, whereas you are only given the signified, never the “signifier.” I understand the difference between the two schools of thought, however the only difference, it seems to me, is that of designation of identification. After finishing reading for the second time, adding to annotations and making a completely separate sheet of notes, I had felt pretty confident that I knew the theory, as well as the difference between the two facets. I now feel, as I sit here writing about it, that I could benefit from clarification between the two separate facets. I get the difference of how they view ego, and that there’s such thing as having a clear image of ones self in Object Relation as apposed to Neo-Freudianism, where you can never achieve such clarity. I guess more discussion would help because I cant even form a question about what I don’t understand, I just know I’m not completely confident in it.

 

Goblin Market

In this passage beginning at line 475 Lizzie returns to her sister Laura with her takings from the Goblin Market. Although she has found the fruit to ensure that Laura may live and regain her youth Lizzie sacrificed herself in the process being taken advantage of by the many Goblin men and their forbidden fruits they forced upon her. She states “Must your light like mine be hidden” showing this venture to the market was indeed of dark intentions and ultimately sacrificial of her youth and innocence in order to aid Laura. The images of light and dark contrast one another in a way that imitates good and evil; Paradise lost and the curse of mortal men then seems to play a part in the fate of the sisters. It then states “undone in mine undoing and ruined in my ruin” showing her humanity and the ultimate “blame” one could place on humans for their own ill fate. The images of the fruit restoring her from a sultry drouth and her tears “dropping like rain” reiterates the idea that fruit and the fertility it insinuates despite the dark sacrifice of innocence to reach it are essentially a part of nature and the existence of the race. The natural images of fruit and nature to describe these biologically human traits seems to pay homage to the garden of Eden; the contrast of barren and dry in comparison to the forbidden markets which are fruitful and restoring. It seems to point out a lack of total control the human has to in the end take part in its own doom as a race. Without the fruit Laura would die but in order to keep her alive and save the humans or in this case her life Lizzie makes the ultimate sacrifice; her innocence.

Restoration Revision

 

In William Wycherley’s “The Country Wife” we see many quintessential elements of the restoration era. Because this era is one of liberation from the strict puritan-like rule of the Cromwell’s it’s literature is characterized by its opposition to modesty. We see this frequently throughout “The Country Wife” as sexual innuendos and racy themes frame a more complex story of romantic relationships and marriage in connection to society at the time. Throughout this restoration comedy we come to see that marriage has become a social obligation as opposed to a union of two people who love and support one another. It seems among the society we are introduced to there is a common understanding that wives may be mistreated and neglected, kept around only for appearances. “The Country Wife” draws attention to the danger of this notion of marriage as a means to maintain appearances and the doomed nature of the restoration marriage dynamic.

Consisting of a disinterested party and an object to be possessed, the dynamic between the two involved in these restoration marriages is inevitably a disaster. Men treat woman like a means to societal integration and pay little attention to their true desires. The woman is either neglected or mistreated and then tempted to look outside of marriage for what they are missing. This is recognized only by Horner who realistically despises the restoration marriage and its dynamics. He hates the men for how they treat woman and comments in a discussion with the Quack “If I can but abuse the husbands, I’ll soon disabuse the wives.” (3) Horner’s goals are to punish the men while showing the women the passion and pleasure they are held from.

Prominent throughout “The Country Wife” is the idea that a man must have a wife to participate in society. The only qualification of these unions, it seems, is that both people are in good social standing and have a good reputation. The men do not even seem to like woman as the mock-eunuch Horner reveals through his fabricated discourse with the other men. Because he fakes castration to sleep with the men’s wives, he must act like the other men in order to gain their trust. We see the nature of these men through his attempts at imitating their feelings. While speaking with Harcourt and Dilorant Horner declares demonstratively that “woman serve but to keep a man from better company” (5) and both Harcourt and Dilorant agree. Horner’s expressive statements are made only because he knows the other men feel this way. This disdain for women then is apparently fueled by an importance placed on homocentric relationships.

The neglect women face in restoration marriages seems to stem from misogynistic and demeaning ideals. When Horner is speaking with Harcourt and Dilorant we see in his lines the epitome of the restoration man and the patriarchy. He makes comments such as “I will have only those glorious, manly pleasures of being very drunk and very slovenly” suggesting that only men can do this and further reinforcing a male dominant world view. He then says things such as “I tell you tis as hard to be a lover of women as tis to be a lover of money. You cannot follow both.” This speaks to the idea that women first do not have any relation to money making it sound like a woman could not earn some herself. Second it parallels directly to Horner’s conversation with the Quack where Horner is being congratulated on the success of his trick so far. Horner then comments “thou art an ass. Don’t you see already upon the repot and my carriage, this grave man of business leaves his wife in my lodgings, invites me to his house and wife, who before would not be acquainted with me” (3) Speaking of Sir Jasper as a man of business being blind to his trickery reiterates the sarcasm in his previous comment about money and women. This sarcasm is present in all of his lines which makes this the comedy that it is.

As well as the misogyny, the objectification of women is not lost upon the reader. They are treated like prizes and kept locked up like they’re somebody’s belongings. They are seen as inanimate and are considered little when it comes to feelings. At one point Harcourt compares a woman to a book saying “If you pour upon them too much, they doze you and make you unfit for company.” (5) Not only is he actually comparing women to a legitimate inanimate object but he is literally making women into something that is not living with a stream of consciousness. Using words like “doze” and “unfit” are further degrading as they imply boredom and superiority to make such decisions.

The men in this play are not only degrading when it involves woman. They are almost mean when it comes to dealing with Horner who they all believe to be a Eunuch.  He is pitiful in their eyes because he has lost his manhood. At one point Sparkish makes fun of Horner saying “he’s a sign of man” (6) implying Horner is now, without his manhood, an object not as much as a woman but less than a man. They imply without his manhood to sleep with women Horner is “useless” and lifeless, yet these men have woman (at least to society it looks the way) while they secretly neglect them and entertain one another while Horner pleasures them and shows them passion.

Overall we can see a general recognition by way of Horner that restoration marriage dynamic is deeply flawed. Through sarcasm and wit we begin to understand that it is not enough to marry for appearances, or because society tells you you should be married. You should only marry if you can emotionally and physically fulfill the requirements of a healthy romantic relationship. To treat other people as a means to your own selfish goals is damaging to society. The recognition of this theme was likely the results of understanding this and hoping others could grasp it as wel

Smoke, Mirrors and Censorship

The restoration period, referring to the restoration of Charles the II as the king of England, brought about a change whose mannerism in essence was outrageous and provocative to say the least. The traditional English monarchy was restored from a state of various republican governments, which had been set in place after the beheading of Charles I in 1649. (An Introduction to William Wycherley) The Restoration was characterized by the shift from the ruling of the republican governments, which were stricter than the traditional catholic monarchy. This restoration resulted in numerous political and literary changes, which took advantage of their newfound freedom to shock and enterntain.

Prior to the restoration period the English theater was closed for 18 years. The reason the republican governments closed the theaters in the first place was because many religious and political leaders believed theater was inherently evil. On the other hand, Charles the II loved theater and was enormously lenient in regards to what he allowed to be performed. Most of these plays approved by Charles the II, naturally, did not conform to the more traditional religious morality causing controversial reactions and interpretation of aristocratic London Society.

One of the most influential writers of this period was William Wycherley (1640-1715.) Noted as one of the foremost dramatists of the restoration period, he was master at combining irreverent social satire and complex verbal wit to create comedies of lasting appeal. Wycherley’s candid treatment of moral attitudes and behavior have attracted controversy over the years into present day. The subjects attracting nature are particularly those of sexual nature. During his own time, he was first denounced as a purveyor of moral indecency as his plays were highly suggestive. The play The Country Wife written in 1675 was one of his most provocative plays among his other three Love in a Wood, The Gentleman Dancing Master, and The Plain Dealer. These plays all dealt in their own way with poking fun and casting judgment on the hedonistic cynicism of Aristocratic London society. Whether or not his play’s are satirical or a farce is often debatable as the true intent is lost with the author.

Wycherley’s plays, frequently deemed the most thematically serious works of restoration comedies of manners, were generally construed as clever and amusing but of negligible importance. Literary critic Robert d. Hume says his plays are closer to a farce than a satire because they were “delightfully bawdy and funny… profound it is not and only a prude, a hypocrite, or a stuffy academician would have it otherwise.” (An Introduction to William Wycherley) Although candidly dealing with sexual topics to the point where their bawdiness became nearly legendary, his plays also give off an air of sophisticated urbanity and licentious wit, seemingly digging a bit deeper at the society Wycherley was surrounded by. He blatantly targets hypocrisy and pretense and his most sever condemnation is reserved for those who purport to be what they are not. His plays often conformed to conventions of the restoration comedy of manors with emphasis on sexual intrigue and mistaken identity. Wycherley also utilized traditional restoration stock characters such as the roguish wit; the deceived cuckold; the conceited, ineffectual fop; and the falsely pious hypocrite displaying stereotypes most often seen in the aristocratic London Society.

Besides witty banter and sexual innuendo are themes of individual in conflict with society as shown in the Country Wife as characters struggle for personal and sexual freedom. Mrs. Pinchwide is a great example of this as she is trapped and condemned by her protective husband, wishing only to escape the confines society (her husband) has placed her into as a result of sexual disgrace and jealousy. Mr. Pinchwife is afraid to have his wife cheat because he does not want to be seen as a cuckold. Mrs. Pinchwife craves what she cannot have and is forced to deceive to finally become sexually satisfied. The cheating is taken lightly as it being brought to light would cause more social issues for Pinchwife to leave her as apposed to keeping it quiet and hiding her from society in general. Through the technique of forming witty double entandras humor and irony take a backseat to the recognized relationship presented between dissimilar things expressed in extravagant similes. The drama and comedies were an important part of society at this time as they provided a window into the revolutionary eye of geniuses such as Wycherley who saw society for what it real was; smoke and mirrors.

I think Wycherley’s plays were largely dismissed as morally indecent, drawing more attention to the censorship, so that London’s society would not be too heavily scrutinized and recognized for its faults and hypocrisies. The constant attention drawn to sexually explicit material evident in the play seems to aim to draw attention from the issues presented in the plot where, according to critic Louis Kronenberger, presents “a society almost wholly lacking in either conscience or heart.” This speaks enormously of the aristocratic society who devotes little to discovering and acting upon their true virtue in exchange for acting in terms of social conformity. The characters in The Country Wife base their decisions off how they will be perceived by others, trading both their morality and personal wishes to preserve their image in their social circle. For this reason, the potential didactic nature of the play, which presents many social issues, may be ignored and denied in exchange for scrutiny of the offensive nature.

Although licentious, The Country Wife was not considered widely offensive until the latter part of the eighteenth century, when changing social and sexual mores rendered it unacceptable to the public. David Garrick produced an adaptation called the country girl, a considerably tamer version that deleted any mention of adultery, which was the version widely performed into the 19th century. Ridding the play of the sexual implications seems, though, to render Wycherley’s apparent intention of scandal evident in the original version, the element making it so celebrated. The sexual implications are important to the play as it helps speak of the character of these societal stereotypes and their aversion to socially taboo topics and action. Removing these elements almost reiterates Wycherley’s ridicule of society as they are so worried about image, rather than intent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

 

“An Introduction to William Wycherley.” Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800 8 (1993): 339-42. Web.