Here is my article choice for The Street:
Dingledine, Don. “‘It Could Have Been Any Street’: Ann Petry, Stephen Crane, and the Fate of Naturalism.” Studies In American Fiction 34.1 (2006): 87-106. Project Muse. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.
“Language and Female Emancipation” – Patricia S. Yaeger
Article Expert – Kara Falknor
Thesis: “Although Edna initially attempts to move into an arena in which she can begin to explore feelings which lie outside the prescribed social code, finally she can only think about herself within that code, can only act within some permutation of the subject-object relations her society has ordained for her” (285).
- Edna lacks the language she needs to speak for herself.
- Robert Lebrun speaks for her when he invents fairy tales to describe her feelings and Edna adopts his language as her own.
- “How many years have I slept?” she inquired. […] “You have slept precisely one hundred years. I was left here to guard your slumbers; and for one hundred years I have been out under the shed reading a book. The only evil I couldn’t prevent was to keep a broiled fowl from drying up.” (286 in the article)
- Through Robert’s “continuing story,” Edna is “freed from the repressive talk of her husband [but] chooses another mode of oppression” (287).
- Robert “alter[s] [the] meaning” of Edna’s experience swimming for the first time.
- “And since Edna lacks an alternative register of language to describe her tumultuous feelings, Robert’s conceit soon becomes her own; his language comes to stand for the nameless feelings she has just begun to experience” (288).
- “[T]he pivotal event of Chopin’s novel is not Edna’s suicide, nor her break with her husband, but her openness to Robert Lebrun’s stories, her vulnerability to the romantic speech of the other which has, by the end of the novel, become her speech as well” (288).
- Edna uses images at the beginning and end of the novel to express herself as she lacks the necessary language to do so in words.
- “Edna’s own awakening begins with and returns at her death to the rich and painful lure of desires that are still outside speech and beyond the social order” (290).
- “Edna’s language is inadequate to her vital needs […] it is singular when it should be plural, masculine when it should be feminine, phantasmic when it should be open and dialectical” (290).
- “[W]e can locate the power of the novel’s final images in Edna’s desire ‘to give back a memory, hence a language,’ to that within her which remains nameless” (291)
While it is true that Robert frames Edna’s experiences within a fairy tale setting, it is she herself who begins this imaginative discourse. How can we say that she appropriates Robert’s ideas when she originated them?
- After her first swim, before Robert begins his talk of spirits, Edna remarks, “I wonder if any night on earth will ever again be like this one. It is like a night in a dream. The people about me are like some uncanny, half-human beings. There must be spirits abroad to-night” (50).
1. Yaeger asks whether we can “define The Awakening as one of the grand subversive novels, as a novel belonging to a great tradition of emancipatory fiction” and asserts that we can do so “only if Chopin has been successful in inventing a novelistic structure in which the heroine’s very absence of speech works productively, in which Edna’s silence offers a new dialogic ground from which we can measure the systematic distortions of her old ground of being and begin to construct a new, utopian image of the emergence of women’s antithetical desires” (286). Do you agree with Yaeger that this requirement must be fulfilled in order for the novel to be viewed as subversive? Why or why not?
2. Yaeger uses as an example of Edna’s adopting Robert’s speech the final section of the novel where she tells him that she loves him, which suggests that Edna does not truly feel this way but is in fact only saying this because she has no other language. Does Edna truly love Robert?
Walter Benn Michaels – The Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism
Article Expert: Kara Falknor
The essay utilizes the gold standard debate to evaluate the various characters’ relationships with gold and money.
The Gold Standard – the idea that a country’s monetary system should be based on a fixed amount of gold
Background Information (gathered from Congressional Research System and from the article):
- Prior to the Civil War, the U.S. used both gold and silver as a basis for money.
- During the Civil War, the government printed paper money (“greenbacks”) that was not based on either gold or silver (fiat system).
- In 1879, the government returned money to a metallic standard, but only gold.
- The gold standard debate pitted those who supported a return to the bimetallic system against those who supported using only gold.
- Those against a fiat system referred to paper money as a representation only. One journalist who wrote widely about the money debate stated of paper money, “it could no more be money than ‘a shadow could be the substance, or the picture of a horse a horse, or the smell of a good dinner the same as the dinner itself’” (146).
Analysis of McTeague:
- Trina is “dissatisfied with the ‘paper’ that ‘represented five thousand dollars’ given her by Uncle Oelbermann” because she does not view paper as currency (146).
- Both McTeague and Trina are “united in their distaste for ‘representative’ paper. This can be seen when they at first do not think that McTeague will actually be barred from practicing dentistry simply for not having a piece of paper (diploma).
- “McTeague dies for the gold standard” when he takes all of Trina’s gold to the desert and then fights over (and ultimately dies from) it (151).
- According to Benn Michaels, “As Norris’s plot works to remove all gold from circulation and so authenticate it as nature’s money, his language pulls in the opposite direction” (151).
- The novel contains various references to gold imagery, such as the gold tooth, Trina’s gold pieces, Maria Macapa’s gold serving dishes
- Norris uses the term “golden” several times to describe sunlight
- Zerkow likes to collect junk because it represents money and also likes gold because it is money. This is why he ultimately kills Maria in an attempt to get her gold.
1. The essay both refers to Trina as a “miser” and a “spendthrift,” arguing that on one hand, she stores money for the power it represents; on the other hand, she is a spendthrift (one who spends her money) because even though she is not purchasing objects, she is effectively “spending” her money to buy money. Which is she, and why?
2. Maria Macapa spends much of the story discussing her family’s gold serving dishes, and then later doesn’t recall them or saying anything about them. Does this fit in with the gold standard debate, and if so, how?