history and literature
This essay begins with the definition of feminism and how women’s reality and religion are presented by using a poem called Requiem by Anna Akhmatova and how both feminism and structuralism can be seen in this poem. Structuralism is defined in this essay as a theoretical approach, followed by a de******************ion of how it can be applied in literature by using a play by Samuel Beckett called Endgame. Moreover, this essay includes a discussion of how feminists can read Endgame by identifying social practices that are presented in this play. All in all, the whole idea from applying these approaches on two separate texts is to prove that theoretical approaches can be combined together in one text and that they are not separate or distinct from each other but in dialogue with each other. Because of that combination of approaches, a new way of reading literary texts is presented.
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, “feminism can be described as an organized movement of social theories, moral philosophies, economic and political thought, all focused on the liberation of women from a perceived subordination to men. Many feminists are concerned with practices and social, political, economic inequalities that discriminate against women” ( Wikipedia).Feminism is a theoretical approach which literary scholars can apply in literary texts and by using this approach a great notion on women roles, attitudes, traditions and history background are given and understood in any literary text.
Akhmatova wrote a poem during Stalin’s rule in Russia called Requiem, this poem shows a certain history background when many voices were silenced. If there was a piece of literature or other documents that Stalin didn’t view appropriate to publish, it wasn’t published. Furthermore, Stalin ran a totalitarian government where he oversaw all public affairs. Since he had final say as to what the public was exposed to, nothing negative regarding him was published. Stalin also imprisoned many people for speaking out against him and sentenced millions to death. One of those who Stalin attempted to silence during his reign was Akhmatova.
Akhmatova was married and had a son, who was imprisoned by Stalin in an attempt to silence Akhmatova. He was imprisoned for seventeen months .While Akhmatova was waiting to visit her son in prison, she would wait in line for hours with other mothers, wives, and sisters outside the prison walls. She also started to write poems that symbolized the struggle of the Russian people and the injustices they faced. It is important to note that these poems were a symbol of her determination. The poems are put together in Requiem which is associated with “a Catholic funeral or mass service”.(Wikipedia).
The poem Requiem is broken down into several parts. Each part represents something different. She compared her situation to the wives of Peter's troopers whose soldier husbands were executed in 1698. One effect of referring to a comparable event over two hundred years earlier, was to show that the “Yezhov terror” (Requiem, p .26) is not Russia's first or last experience of tyranny. As Joseph Brodsky stated: “She sensed that history, like its objects has very limited options”( Joseph Brodsky, The Keening Muse,1986) in other words what happens ones can always happen again .
The Dedication section is Akhmatova’s dedication of the poems to the women who waited outside the prison walls with her. She made it known that she wanted the memory of the women and the prison to live on. The Prologue depicted what it was like for all people during Stalin’s reign, when anyone could be arrested without cause. Part One is used by Akhmatova to recall the arrest of her son. She witnessed the horror of his arrest. She wanted people to relate directly with the horror of Stalin. Part Two is the section in which Akhmatova expressed her loneliness. Her son is in prison and her husband was killed in a further attempt to silence her. She was left with no one. Part Three discusses how Akhmatova felt as if her spirit is disintegrating.
Part Four is a recollection of Akhmatova’s childhood, when she was happier and wasn’t forced to live in fear. Part Five is a foreshadowing of the horrible death soon to come as well as the deaths of so many. Part Six is a stage of confusion. She expressed her emotions to a greater extent in this part than other parts. In Part Seven The Sentence , Akhmatova’s son was sentenced. In Parts Eight and Nine, Akhmatova felt that the intense pain can be resolved through religion. Moreover, she used religious language for different purpose through Mary’s eyes. Like Mary, Akhmatova was forced to watch her son suffer for the people. Mary watched her son suffer as he carried the cross. Religion continued in Part Ten The Crucifixion Akhmatova recalls Christ’s agony as he walked the cross to his crucifixion.
Epilogue One portrays people as stones and that oppression inscribes them when she said, “how suffering inscribes on cheeks / the hard lines of its cuneiform texts” (Requiem, p.31). Epilogue Two is not a consolation but the memory that must be killed so that one can go on living, which is the main idea that Akhmatova was trying to accomplish.
It is important to note that although Akhmatova’s voice was silenced for many years, Akhmatova didn’t allow Stalin to silence the voices of her or the many women who waited with her outside the prison walls. She used her poetry to help show the world of pain and suffering, and as Brodsky stated: “At certain periods in history it is only poetry that is capable of dealing with reality by condensing it into something graspable, something that otherwise couldn't be retained by the mind” (Joseph Brodsky, The Keening Muse, 1986) meaning that even though Akhmatova was one voice, she was louder than a crowd by using poetry.
Structuralism is a critical movement that concentrated on the structure of the language; it was developed from the 1950s to the 1970s .When it is applied to fiction it is called narratology but when applied to poetry it is known as structuralist poetics. Structuralism involves several major devises, one of them is the narrative structure and it involves both the story known as the chain of events (what are the presented events) and the discourse (how the events are presented) .
The presented events in Requiem are about women who stood in front of the prison doors in the cold to see their love ones and one of theses courageous women was Akhmatova and this poem was broken in to several parts because each part had its own separate idea that Akhmatova wanted to focus on. The narrator is mostly first person narrativebecause Akhmatova used several pronouns in her poem Requiem, for example in the first stanza she said, “I stand as witness to the common lot” (Requiem, p.26) she also used possessive pronouns like ‘my’ for example in part nine where she said, “not my son’s terrible eyes”( Requiem, p. 30) she spoke about her own son to show her own personal suffering regarding the false imprisonment of her son . All in all, the use of pronouns like ‘I’ , ‘us’ ,’me’ and ‘we’ ,and possessive pronouns like ‘my’ dominated the whole poem maybe because Akhmatova spoke out of personal and real experience and she wanted to represent grief and suffering not the abstract facts of history .
Another element of structuralism is binary opposition which gives the text its own closed system with its own dynamic relations and opposites. For example,(sunlight/ dark) “for some the sunlight fade at ease ”( Requiem, p .26) and in “ In the dark room children cried” ( Requiem, p .28),and another example is (Whisper/ calling) “asked me in Whisper”( Requiem, p. 26) “calling you back to your lair”(Requiem, p. 29) . In addition, structuralism involves analepses to describe the past and prolepses to look in to the future.
Analepses are very clear all over the poem because Akhmatova presented memories of the horror of life during the Stalinist reign of terror, as a way of issuing a warning about the future. She lived through the events, and the poem represents her personal testimony, “I stand as witness to the common lot / survivor of that time, that place” (Requiem, p. 26).Moreover, Akhmatova said, “In the terrible years of the Yezhov terror I spent seventeen months / waiting in line outside the prison in Leningrad “(Requiem, p .26) here she recalled what happened and she stood every day for seventeen months to see her son.
Regarding prolepses and how Akhmatova saw the future it was clear when she said “you will come in any case “(Requiem, p .30) because she believed that her son will come eventually . Akhmatova spoke of her patience or fast as she called it and how she will be proven right with in the coming future when she said , “and will hold fast to every word and glance / all of my days, even in new mischance” (Requiem, p .32)where Akhmatova spoke of her patience and how she will be proven right .
On the other hand, structuralism is applied on a text like Endgame by Beckett .The story was represented in Hamm, an aged master, who is blind and can't stand up, and his servant Clov, who can't sit down. The two characters, mutually dependent, have been fighting for years and continue to do so as the play progresses. Clov always wants to leave but never seems to be able. Also present Hamm's parents Nagg and Nell, who live in rubbish bins who initially request food or argue inanely. In examining the narrative structure it is obvious that it is a first person narrative due to the fact that every character speaks on its own.
Binary opposition is very clear when indicating that Hamm can’t stand and Clove can’t set, not to mention their characters where Hamm is dominant and superior while Clov is inferior, maybe to the fact that the name Endgame comes from the final stage in a chess game Hamm represents a king with Clov as his pawn who can be controlled. Furthermore, light and darkness are both represented in this play as symbols to several things like life and death for example when Clov says ,”I see my light dying”(Endgame, p .224),he speaks on the light in the kitchen but to him he means that his life is coming to an end .
Analepses is presented through Nagg and Nell who conjure up memories of tandem rides in the Ardennes “do you remember / No / When we crashed on our tandem and lost our shanks./ It was in Ardennes”(Endgame, p .226).
Endgame is more of a structuralist text but how feminists may read Endgame through certain social practices made by the characters them selves for example Clov is the infirm submissive servant to Hamm and that gives Clov a feminine trade while Hamm is more masculine because he is bossy . It has also been suggested that Hamm also relates to the ham actor and to Ham, son of Noah, while Clov is a truncated version of Clown, as well as suggesting cloven hoof (of the devil) and glove (a distant echo of hand and glove, perhaps) (Theodor Adorno ,Trying to Understand Endgame,1961). And Hamm could be short for Hammer and Clov for clove (etymologically nail), hammer and nail representing one aspect of their relationship of strong and weak, superior and inferior.
In conclusion, Both feminism and structuralism are separate theoretical approaches and each has its own manners on reading literary texts but they both can work side to side and be combined to see through each other in order to add weightiness and richness to literary texts .Moreover, using a combination of theoretical approaches helps in reading contemporary literature and re-readings of classic texts.
· Adorno, Theodor W. Trying to Understand Endgame , The New German Critique, no. 26, (Spring-Summer 1982) pp.119-150. In The Adorno Reader ed. Brian O'Connor. Blackwell Publishers. 2000.
· Akhmatova ,A. Requiem ,from Poems of Akhmatova selected by Stanly Kunitz with Max Hayward ,Collins and Hall Press,1974.
· Beckett, S. Endgame, reprinted by permission of Faber and Faber Ltd, 1958, 1964.
· Brodsky, J. The Keening Muse from Less Than One, copyright©1986 by Joseph Brodsky .Reprinted by permission of Penguin Books Ltd.
· Dawson, S. & Davies, J. (ed.) (2005), Literature in the Modern World: Critical Essays and Documents, The Open University.
· Dawson, S. (ed.) (2005), Literature in the Modern World: Introduction, The Open University.
· Dawson, S. (ed.) (2005), Literature in the Modern World: Literature and History, The Open University.
· Dawson, S. (ed.) (2005), Literature in the Modern World: Literature and Ideology, Part 2 Language and gender, The Open University.
· Dawson, S. & Davies, J. (ed.) (2005), Literature in the Modern World: The Poetry and Drama Anthology. The Open University.
· The free encyclopedia, Wikipedia . (http://www.wikipedia.org/).
آخر تعديل بواسطة عاشقه اهل البيت291 ، 18-06-2007 الساعة 12:32 AM.
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