Table Of Content
- About the editors
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Foreword and Dedication
- Table of Contents
- LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS
- I: A PERENNIAL QUEST FOR ETERNAL EXISTENCE: JEANETTE WINTERSON’S FRANKISSSTEIN: A LOVE STORY (Aslı Özlem TARAKCIOĞLU)
- II: WOMEN’S PURSUIT OF POLITICAL RIGHTS IN ENGLAND: SALLY SIMMONDS FROM A SIMPLE MAID TO A STRONG ACTIVIST IN GERTRUDE COLMORE’S SUFFRAGETTE SALLY (Alev KARADUMAN)
- III: GARDEN AS A POST-ANTHROPOCENTRIC SPONTANEITY IN AUDEN’S “THEIR LONELY BETTERS:” AN ECOPSYCHOLOGICAL READING (Nurten BİRLİK and Merve GÜNDAY)
- IV: VICTORIAN HYPOCRITICAL SEXUAL POLITICS: SARAH WATERS’ TIPPING THE VELVET (Duygu SERDAROĞLU)
- V: MARGINALISED FLANEURS IN VENICE IN THE WORKS OF MANN, WINTERSON AND ISHIGURO (Kuğu TEKİN)
- VI: RHINOCEROS OF OCEANIA: PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS, PROPAGANDA, SOCIAL ENGINEERING AND PERCEPTION MANAGEMENT IN G. ORWELL’S 1984 AND E. IONESCO’S RHINOCEROS (Zafer PARLAK)
- VII: THE ETHICS OF SCIENCE AND THE INVISIBLE MAN THROUGH SOCIAL AND CULTURAL SCRIPTS AND TRANSACTIONAL ANALYSIS (Timuçin Buğra EDMAN, Hacer GÖZEN, Yusuf KASİMİ)
- VIII: DISCRIMINATION AND IDENTIFICATION IN COLONIZED SOCIETIES: D.H. LAWRENCE’S AMERICAN WRITINGS (Fatma Aylin BAYRAKÇEKEN AKIN)
- IX: MONSTER OR VICTIM: ISOLATION AND LONELINESS IN FRANKENSTEIN BY MARY SHELLEY (Gökşen ARAS)
- X: TRANSNATIONALIZING POST-APARTHEID LIFESTYLES IN “CULTURAL HYBRIDITY” AS REFLECTED IN COCONUT (Yıldıray ÇEVİK)
- XI: A PROBLEM PLAY: QUESTIONS AND AMBIGUITY IN KING LEAR (Emine Seda ÇAĞLAYAN MAZANOĞLU)
- XII: (BI-)CULTURAL FISSURES AND (DIS-)SIMILAR IDENTITIES IN LEILA ABOULELA’S ELSEWHERE, HOME (A. Nejat TÖNGÜR)
- XIII: MIGRATION: DISCRIMINATION, XENOPHOBIA AND VIOLENCE IN MULTICULTURAL BRITAIN IN MAGGIE GEE’S THE WHITE FAMILY (Zeynep Rana TURGUT)
- XIV: IS CHIVALRIC LOVE THE TRUE LOVE? (Elif GÜVENDİ YALÇIN and Hatice Gönül ÜÇELE)
Assist. Prof. Dr., Atılım University, Department of English Language and Literature, Turkey. ORCID: 0000-0002-2523-4976, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fatma Aylin BAYRAKÇEKEN AKIN
Assist. Prof. Dr., Istanbul Sağlık ve Teknoloji University, Department of Translation and Interpreting. ORCID: 0000-0002-0717-9627, email@example.com
Prof. Dr., Department of Foreign Language Education, Faculty of Education, Middle East Technical University, 06531, Ankara, Turkey. ORCID: 0000- 0002-4544-9595, firstname.lastname@example.org
Emine Seda ÇAĞLAYAN MAZANOĞLU
Research Assistant Dr., Hacettepe University, Department of English Language and Literature. ORCID: 0000-0002-9595-4899, email@example.com
Assist. Prof. Dr., Department of Translation and Interpreting, Faculty of Sciences and Letters, Arel University, Tepekent, Istanbul, Turkey. ORCID: 0000-0003-2967-6517, firstname.lastname@example.org
Timuçin Buğra EDMAN
Assoc. Prof. Dr., Duzce University, Department of English Language Teaching, Duzce, Turkey. ORCID: 0000-0002-5103-4791, email@example.com←9 | 10→
Assist. Prof. Dr., Isik University, School of Foreign Languages, Istanbul, Turkey. ORCID: 0000-0001-5013-7804, firstname.lastname@example.org
PhD Candidate in English Literature, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. ORCID: 0000-0002-7345-9870, email@example.com
Elif GÜVENDİ YALÇIN
Assist. Prof. Dr., Gümüşhane University, Department of English Language and Literature. ORCID: 0000-0001-7780-1613, firstname.lastname@example.org
Assist. Prof. Dr., Duzce University, Department of English Language Teaching, Duzce, Turkey. ORCID: 0000-0003-0613-8812, email@example.com
Lecturer Dr., Atilim University, Department of English Language and Literature. ORCID: 0000-0001-9545-7772, firstname.lastname@example.org
Aslı Özlem TARAKCIOĞLU
Assoc. Prof. Dr., Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University, Faculty of Letters, Department of Translation and Interpreting. ORCID: 0000-0001-8353-5526, email@example.com←10 | 11→
Assist. Prof. Dr., Atilim University, Department of English Language and Literature. ORCID: 0000-0003-0123-8523, firstname.lastname@example.org
A. Nejat TÖNGÜR
Zeynep Rana TURGUT
Lecturer Dr., Atilim University, Department of English Language and Literature. ORCID: 0000-0003-2048-966X, email@example.com
Hatice Gönül ÜÇELE
Prof. Dr., İstanbul Aydın University, Department of English Language and Literature. ORCID:0000-0002-7700-7898, firstname.lastname@example.org
This book offers content from diverse resources, including works of authors, poets, and playwrights from different ages, races, genres, and cultures regarding the themes of “Marginalisation, Discrimination, Isolation and Existence”. The book aims to investigate the issues of “Marginalisation, Discrimination, Isolation and Existence” within the frameworks of gender, colonization, multiculturalism, religion, race, generation gap, politics, technology, immigration, and class. Studies on the outstanding works of English Literature, American Literature, and Post-Colonial Literature of various genres like poetry, plays, and fiction are included in this book, focusing on and around the central theme of “Marginalisation, Discrimination, Isolation and Existence”. The book comprises canonical works by authors, playwrights and poets including W. Shakespeare, W. H. Auden, H.G. Wells, G. Orwell, E. Ionesco, T. Mann, J. Winterson, D. H. Lawrence, Sir Walter Scott, Sarah Waters, M. Shelley, as well as the works of the post-colonial writers like Leila Aboulela, Kazuo Ishiguro, Kopano Matlwa, Maggie Gee who have been gaining worldwide recognition recently.
Extensive and intensive analysis is incorporated into the accepted articles so that they contribute to the relevant field of the studies. The book, which is intended to be the first of the three books covering the areas of literature, translation studies and linguistics, respectively, is designed to reflect the wide range of perspectives of the leading Turkish scholars in an eclectic way with the titles Synergy I: Literature, Synergy II: Translation Studies and Synergy III: Linguistics.
The first chapter has Assoc. Prof. Tarakcıoğlu’s article in which she dissects how Winterson, in her monsterpiece, Frankissstein: A Love Story, inventively plays on the characters, plot, genre, gender, identity, meaning, time, and transtextual elements. In the second chapter, Dr. Karaduman explores women’s political rights in the early 20th century with reference to Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Harriet Mill, and Virginia Woolf’s ideas about women’s liberation in Gertrude Colmore’s Suffragette Sally. In Prof. Birlik’s and Ms. Günday’s chapter, they give an ecopsychological reading and explore the fluid psychodynamics activated by the garden in its mirror-like existence in Auden’s “Their Lonely Betters”. Dr. Serdaroğlu, in the fourth chapter, dwells on the hypocritical handling of gender stereotyping, in Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. Dr. Tekin traces saunterings of Mann’s “Gustav von Aschenbach” in Death ←13 | 14→in Venice, Winterson’s “Villanelle” in The Passion and Ishiguro’s “Jan” in “Crooner” in Venice in the fifth chapter. In the sixth chapter, Dr. Parlak sheds light on past and present social engineering and propaganda methods with references to George Orwell’s 1984 and Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. The seventh chapter by Assoc. Prof. Edman, Dr. Gözen and Dr. Kasimi investigate the inevitable ramifications of science on man through the science fiction novel, The Invisible Man and the ethics of science. In the eighth chapter, Dr. Bayrakçeken Akın shows how Lawrence depicts discrimination and identification in colonized societies that challenge implicitly conventional understandings of multi-culturalism and diversity. In the ninth chapter, Dr. Aras investigates the theme of isolation and loneliness, which definitely goes beyond psychological and/or physical breakdown and also leads to darkness, disaster, destruction, and eventually to death in M. Shelley’s Frankenstein. Dr. Çevik deals with how Kopano Matlwa, in Coconut, explores the points of cleavages, transnationalism experiences, and changing cultural norms in South Africa in the tenth chapter. The eleventh chapter has Dr. Çağlayan Mazanoğlu’s analysis of King Lear in terms of problematic political and familial questions it raises. The twelfth chapter has Dr. Töngür’s article in which he analyses how prejudices, clichés and presumptions complicate the lives of both people with similar identities and people from incongruent cultures in Aboulela’s stories in Elsewhere, Home. Dr. Turgut’s concern in the thirteenth chapter is the pathos underlying Maggie Gee’s portrayal of the multicultural Britain wherein xenophobia prevails and the author’s anti-racist stance against the rising waves of nationalism. In the fourteenth chapter, Dr. Güvendi-Yalçın and Prof. Üçele demonstrate the idea of courtly love within the concepts of gender, sexuality, marriage and rape in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.
Aslı Özlem TARAKCIOĞLU
Abstract: Jeanette Winterson’s 2019 novel, Frankissstein: A Love Story, is a stunning afterlife of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which has been subjected to innumerable rewrites, adaptations and remade films. Different from the previous ones, Winterson, in her work, creates two parallel interesting stories by interweaving an amusing version of the classical story in the 19th century Switzerland and the story of a transgender transhumanist dealing with artificial intelligence in today’s Britain. While creating a literary feat, Winterson, at the same time, seems to lead us to quest the duality – even the multi-layers – of existence. Thus, the aim of this study is to show how Winterson, in her monsterpiece, Frankissstein: A Love Story, inventively plays on the characters, plot, genre, gender, identity, meaning, time and transtextual elements in order to provide us with a wider perspective over the humanity and the purpose of its existence.
Keywords: Frankissstein: A Love Story, Jeanette Winterson, hybridity, AI, transhumanism, posthumanism, existence
Jeanette Winterson’s 2019 novel, Frankissstein: A Love Story, is a stunning afterlife of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein which has been subjected to innumerable rewrites, adaptations and remade films. Different from the previous ones, Winterson, in her work, creates two parallel interesting stories by interweaving an amusing version of the writing process and beyond of the classical story in the 19th century Switzerland and the story of a transhumanist couple, a transgender physician and an expert in AI (AI) and robotic engineering, dealing with AI in today’s Britain. While creating a literary feat, Winterson, at the same time, seems to lead us to quest the duality and the multi-layers – of existence by inventively playing on the characters, plot, genre, gender, identity, meaning, time and intertextual elements in order to provide us with a wider perspective over the humanity and the purpose of its existence. She seems to circle around the meaning of being “human” in the 21st century and the timeless passion of human beings for eternal existence scattering transhumanistic and posthumanistic sparks around.←15 | 16→
Winterson’s monsterpiece, Frankissstein: A Love Story, still a love story at its core, playfully and perceptively brings the romantic 19th century background in which Mary Shelley penned her Gothic classic and the contemporary transhumanistic world of AI and smart-tech together by relating two mirrored stories. While flashing on the dispute between poetry and the bit as well as on technology and human, the novel also leads the reader to question if the creation of life artificially in pursuit of eternity might be as exasperating as Shelley imagined and depicted. The use of posthumanism and transhumanism in the backbone of the work, furthermore, highlights the ever-growing impact of science and technology upon our perceptions of humanism and the existence of humanity.
The novel, which takes in a discerning re-telling of Mary Shelley’s life story, opens in Lake Geneva, Switzerland in 1816. Nineteen-year-old Mary Shelley, accompanied by her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, her stepsister Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron and his physician Polidori, have to stay in-doors due to the heavy rain. While spending their days drinking and having small talk about literature, life and gender relations, they decide to have a challenge; each is supposed to write or tell “a story of supernatural” (Winterson, 2019, p. 11). Mary, scared by her vision of “a figure, gigantic, ragged, moving swiftly on the rocks” (Winterson, 2019, p. 4), distressed by the death of their first child at birth, whom she “dreamed that he was not dead and that we rubbed him with brandy and set him by the fire and he returned to life” (Winterson, 2019, p. 16) and influenced by the idea of “homunculus … that thing; that fully-formed being not born of woman” (Winterson, 2019, pp. 66–67), decides to write a story of an “undead”. She starts to write about a scientist who attempts to create a new-life form and his ‘creation’, a monster. Then, with a fictionalized twist, the story jumps from the early 1800s to a near future when the dream of Victor Frankenstein of Shelley is about to come true with sexbots and AI. The modern period offers a renovated version of the classical Frankenstein story with robots and AI instead of a man-made monster. Ry, a young transgender doctor, meets and falls in love with Victor Stein, a successful professor of AI, who carries out some secret experiments in his underground lab in a network of tunnels under Manchester. Stein, a charismatic tech giant, is involved in some cryogenic experiments and emulation on dead bodies, which would, he believes, enable him to download the contents of human brains into AI systems in order to make humans live forever. Despite the second thoughts about Stein’s intention and the acceptability of his ideas, Ry keeps on providing body parts for him to be used in his underground experiments. While the narration plies between the past and the present, the modern period gets more colourful ←16 | 17→with the existence of three other characters – who are explicitly the remakes and caricatures of the characters in the past – to straddle both worlds and to elucidate how the ideas and perceptions related to existence, identity, gender and intelligence have – or have not – profoundly been amended; a Welsh divorcé and entrepreneur named Ron Lord who makes a fortune by launching sex dolls to meet the emotional and physical needs of lonely men all over the world; an evangelical African American Christian, Claire, who appreciates the religious potential in the bots and invest in “bots for Jesus” to be used with a variety of purposes in churches; and an enthusiastic and ambitious Vanity Fair reporter, Polly D. While swinging in time, a part of the novel takes place in Bedlam, a psychiatric hospital in London in 1818, where Captain Walton brings a disoriented man to be treated named Victor Frankenstein who mysteriously vanishes after talking to Mary Shelley. The novel closes smoothly after Victor Stein also disappears mysteriously and Mary Shelley meets a young computer programmer, Ada Lovelace, Byron’s only legitimate daughter, who implies that the creation of AI, the monster of the future, has irreversibly started.
It is possible to divide the plot of the novel basically into three periodical parts; the period beginning in 1816 and covering Mary Shelley’s writing of her work and her life after that; a short span of time in Bedlam, an asylum, where Mary Shelley meets Victor Frankenstein she created; and the near future with transhumanistic studies to liberate people from the boundaries of their physical and biological limitations. The dual narrative permanently travels back and forth between the periods like a pendulum when Mary Shelley writes her Frankenstein in Switzerland including the following parts of her life and a near future in Brexit Britain. Although the novel centres on and around three basic historical periods, Winterson, as a timeless writer, removes the borders of chronological history, transcend the ages and trespasses the notion of time. She carries the reader into the past to look into the future while soon after she takes them into the near future to go through the past without knowing where and when the next chapter will take place. That’s why the characters question and comment on the concept of “time” frequently. While Mary is talking to her husband she asks: “… what is the right time? I asked him, and he wondered if time itself depends on those who are in time.” (Winterson, 2019, pp. 6–7). In this way, Winterson settles the question about time in the early parts of the novel. The logo of Victor Stein’s company, “The Future is now” (Winterson, 2019, p. 84) as well as Ry’s comment on time as “Time is a zip. Sometimes it snags” (Winterson, 2019, p. 107) are the indications of the fluid temporality Winterson creates in the novel. She presents lively and hilarious characters in two different times in which she jumps back and forth intermittently to explore and render ←17 | 18→duality. The novel can be seen as the union of two antagonistic worlds amalgamated in an indefinite present.
The setting is not constant, either. The narrative of the past follows the route of the Shelleys beginning from the Lake Geneva, Switzerland to “Rome, Venice. Livorno. Florence” (Winterson, 2019, p. 247), Pisa, San Torenzo, Genoa, Paris and London with cheap hotels and lodgings reflecting the limited financial sources of the Shelleys. Bedlam, the infamous asylum, is also used as a setting upon which the real and the fictitious come together in a postmodern and transhumanist framework. It is “the most famous madhouse in the world” of which “inmates are cold, hungry, angry or desolate” (Winterson, 2019, p. 175). The present day-narrative, on the other hand, mostly takes place in Manchester, England; rather than the city, though, Stein’s apartment and his secret lab, the fallout shelters built during the Cold War under the streets of Manchester, are the focus of attention. The lab, which disappears weirdly in the end, is literally a Gothic setting. The central room which is “lined with doors, like a puzzle, or a nightmare, or a choice” (Winterson, 2019, p. 168) leads to the other rooms in which are “Hands. Spatulate, conic, broad, hairy, plain mottled… most moved quickly, senselessly, incessantly”, “broad-legged, furry spiders” (Winterson, 2019, pp. 169–170) to study biomechanics on and the “cryopreserved heads” (Winterson, 2019, p. 184) of animals to map the brain. Another Gothic setting of the novel lies in Phoenix; Arizona in the near-future narrative; Alcor, a cryogenics facility, is full of soon-to-be-undead bodies of people, legally and medically not alive, waiting for the technological advances to bring them back to life one day. Ry describes the place as a “futuristic charnel house …stainless-steel tomb … liquid-nitrogen limbo … resin block of nothingness … polished morgue … Dead men. Not walking” (Winterson, 2019, p. 103).
That Winterson makes use of the characters as the connective tissue between the past and the present is a brainchild; she brilliantly creates a narrative parallel between the characters of the past and the present without intertwining them. For the past, the real events as described by Mary Shelley in her preface to Frankenstein – yet coloured by the vivid imagination of Winterson – and the names of the actual characters, who stayed in Villa Diodati in the summer of 1816, are used; Mary Shelley, the young writer, Percy Shelley, her noble but idle poet husband, Lord Byron, the ostentatious and priggish womanizer, Claire, Mary’s shrewish stepsister and John Polidori, a physician. Indeed, it is not difficult to build a direct connection between the characters of the past and the present; the characters in the near future narrative are almost the existent avatars of the previous ones. Dr. Victor Frankenstein turns into Professor Victor Stein, who has “A first degree in Computer Science from Cambridge. A PhD on ←18 | 19→computer learning from Virginia Tech … Impressive stints in robotic engineering at Lockheed” with a deep interest in “machine learning and human augmentation” and desire to “end death” (Winterson, 2019, pp. 110–111). Mary Shelley comes into existence in person with Ry Shelley, who is a transgender doctor and a fortuitous muse for the professor. Ron Lord evidently stands for Lord Byron as the name itself explicitly indicates and his involvement in the production of the sex dolls and permanent implications about sex are the direct references to the personality of Byron who is inclined to sleep with anyone moving. Mary’s stepsister Claire comes up as a “tall, black, beautiful, well-dressed” (Winterson, 2019, p. 26) and devoted Christian American with the same name, who gradually turns into an investor in the sexbots for religious causes. Indeed, when Ry and Claire meet in Memphis during the global fair, “Tec-X-Po on Robotics” (Winterson, 2019, p. 25), Ry says “As she speaks I see in my mind a young woman looking out of a sodden window across the lake” and abruptly refers to Frankenstein “published in 1818” (Winterson, 2019, p. 27) conjuring up the image of the earlier Claire by the Lake Geneva. Polly D, though a woman this time, seems to have replaced Polidori with her curious personality and doubtful journalistic practices. With her concerns about AI and the apps replacing the actual things, Polly D is a representation of the anthropocentric world view. She is scared that “We’re going to wake up one morning and the world won’t be the same” (Winterson, 2019, p. 98). By matching the same characters of different periods, Winterson actually creates a playground for herself upon which she can shape and reshape, question and re-question and deconstruct and reconstruct all the characters, plot, identities and meanings. Especially in the formation of the two main characters, Mary/Ry and Victors, Winterson brightly establishes two interrelated visions of posthumanity deliberately jumbled together in a complicated network of intertextual references.
Winterson makes use of the voices of Mary and Ry to tell the story, hence, amalgamates two completely different narrative styles with a colourful variety of two reliable narrators whom she deliberately designs. Except for the parts taking place in Bedlam narrated by Mr. Wakefield, a real character taken from history again, the novel is narrated by Mary Shelley and Ry Shelley by turns from the first-person point of view. As their similar names point, the stories of the two main narrators, Mary and Ry, are set into parallel patterns, especially in the characterization and themes; as Professor Stein points, “the future always carries something from the past” like “Mitochondrial DNA” (Winterson, 2019, p. 108). So, the story is aptly narrated in turns by the young, dependent and brilliant Mary Shelley as a writer, a wife and a mother full of hopes and losses and by Ry who is nestled into a love story in a transhumanistic framework, ←19 | 20→both pointing the inability of human beings to have control over what they have created.
Winterson strictly follows Mary Shelley’s story in Switzerland in 1816 as she narrates in the preface to Frankenstein by adding creative and flamboyant details to make her more real: thus she becomes a perfect ventriloquist to speak for Mary of the 19th century, who is perfectly depicted with her struggles, love, marriage, friendship, motherhood and financial problems. She is portrayed as a woman in love tested with the death of her beloved ones; her mother dies while delivering her; she loses three of her four children and finally her husband drowns in a tragic boat accident. She is highly intelligent and sensitive – indeed stronger than her husband emotionally and psychologically – so she often finds herself discussing with the men in the villa about different issues. Still, the major subject about which she can never agree with Byron is the gender issues. When Byron clamorously claims that “life-spark is male … not the soil, not the bedding, not the container; the life-spark” (Winterson, 2019, p. 13), Mary philosophically puts forth her idea that the life-givers of humankind are unswervingly females. She states that “…no living man has yet given birth to anything living … it is you, sir, who are made from us, sir.” (Winterson, 2019, pp. 12–13). However, when all the men begin to laugh at her, she clearly perceives the fact that “they respect (her), up to a point, but we have arrived at that point.” (Winterson, 2019, p. 13). She stops talking because she is clever enough to care about her personal needs, which are supplied by men, as well as her liberty and ideas. Yet, almost 200 years later, Ry scientifically confirms how mitochondria is passed on by the female, never by the male, saying “only the mother passes it on, right back to the mother of us all” (Winterson, 2019, p. 108). She is so visionary that she verbalizes professor Stein’s dreams almost 200 years ago; “If we were not bound to our bodies we should not suffer so… Our bodies could be like suits of clothes, while our minds run free” (Winterson, 2019, p. 254). Moreover, Mary is well aware of the fact that “The world is at the start of something new. We are the shaping spirits of our destiny. And though I am not an inventor of machines I am an inventor of dreams” (Winterson, 2019, p. 3) and she also verbalizes her idea that “The march of the machines is now and forever. The box has been opened. What we invent we cannot uninvent. The world is changing” (Winterson, 2019, p. 135). It is an early declaration of the arrival of Victor Stein in advance to realize her predictions and the emergence of technological and scientific changes to bring about new possibilities of existence by going beyond the anthropocentric practices related to power, inequality, discrimination and exploitation of humans and nonhumans. The young Mary Shelley, the daughter of an early feminist, an advocate of gender equality and ←20 | 21→the creative writer of “a vision of how life might be created – the first non-human intelligence” (Winterson, 2019, p. 27) grows up through suffering, faces the result of her own creation in Bedlam and gradually seems to turn into a transgender transhumanist attending an AI conference to create new realities and new entities in an eternal circle of existence.
Her literal doppelganger, the transgender doctor Ry Shelley, born female, goes by the name Mary for a long time and the name, Ry, might be a shortened form both for Mary and Ryan stressing the duality in the gender. Ry states “I am fully female. I am also partly male” (Winterson, 2019, p. 97). Now, in the process of transition, Ry prefers the pronoun “they” while referring to her/himself since the gender reassignment has not been completed, yet; they have had their top “done” as a man but not the lower part. They define their identity as “I am liminal, cusping, in-between, emerging, undecided, transitional, experimental, a start-up (or is it up-start?) in my own life” (Winterson, 2019, p. 29). Winterson brightly and playfully draws many parallels between her characters’ stories; both characters are doubtful of their lovers, both are judged for being who they are and suffer from prejudice because of their gender identity, both have a Victor to whom they help to create a new form of life, and both are left behind by their lovers in a way. Moreover, both Mary and Ry face discrimination and insult, still they dare to go beyond the strict norms; while Mary elopes with a married man, Ry goes through a gender change, looks like a man and still has an affair with a man. The two characters attempt to create their own Frankenstein in different historical periods under different circumstances, which finally seems to overlap. Both narrator-creators will also have to endure the consequences of their choices. It is possible to say that Mary and Ry are the same person going through ages and changes. In order to stress this, Winterson stitches not only their stories, but also their names, interests, ideas and feelings together. Winterson even creates parallel scenes and identical sentences to make the reader feel that they exist simultaneously. Thus, by means of the twin narrators, the work opens up a ground for philosophical and literary discussions over eternal existence as well as for the issues related to feminism, ethics and gender identity both in the past and the present.
Still, although both Mary and Ry are worth of praise, it seems that Winterson deliberately pushes Ry on to steal the show because, as Haraway (2016) states “differences matter – in ecologies, economies, species, lives” (p. 29) and Winterson conveys her message through the trans-existence of Ry. According to Braidotti (2018), the category of the human was “never a universal or a neutral term to begin with. It is rather a normative category that indexes access to privileges and entitlements. Appeals to the ‘human’ are always ←21 | 22→discriminatory: they create structural distinctions and inequalities among different categories of humans, let alone between humans and nonhumans” (p. 5). Therefore, in order to challenge especially the idea of white, Eurocentric version of man as the referential point of human existence represented by the Vitruvian man, the famous sketch of Leonardo da Vinci, Braidotti (2013) puckishly redesigns this sketch as the “Vitruvian Cat”. That’s why, the image of the Vitruvian man often visited in Frankissstein is not a coincidence. Stein makes use the Vitruvian man at the end of his presentation and the animated image “turns and walk into an appearing sea … without pausing until the waters reach his head. All that is left behind is the hat floating calmly on the indifferent sea” (Winterson, 2019, pp. 73–74), which represents the dissolving of the anthropocentric ideals about man. Similarly, in the journal of Victor Frankenstein in Bedlam is the drawing of “Leonardo’s The Vitruvian Man” with “measurements, certainly, and beyond the scale of any human frame” (Winterson, 2019, p. 191). It is clear that Frankenstein attempts to make use of the sketch while forming the monster and the result is a disaster. Hence, it is not surprising that Mary repeats her desire to have “a cat” (Winterson, 2019, pp. 3, 13), as Braidotti does, to defy the existing system. Within this framework, Winterson creates Ry as her “Vitruvian hybrid” in reply to the traditional structures by also offering new thinking and doing possibilities for future.
Ry is a transhumanist as they “feel or have felt that we’re in the wrong body. We can understand the feeling that any-body is the wrong body”. They say that “Transhuman means different things to different people; smart implants, genetic modifications, prosthetic enhancement, even the chance to live forever as a brain emulation” (Winterson, 2019, p. 104). For Ry, basic tenet of transhumanism seems to exist in the body form they prefer. They define it saying “I am a woman. I am a man… I am in the body I prefer… I did it to get nearer to myself” (Winterson, 2019, p. 122). For Ry “We are our bodies” (Winterson, 2019, p. 148). Actually, the thought and practice of Ry on their body is an affirmation of the transhumanist ideology defining human bodies as independent and self-contained. Like Stein, Ry also commits a Promethean rebellion against gods by replacing and enhancing their body and existence. However, it seems that professor Stein finds it insufficient and he remarks that intelligence is “not bound to a body” and now that it is perceived “now we are returning, or arriving at a deeper insight into what it means to be human – by which I mean it is a stage on the way to being transhuman” (Winterson, 2019, p. 148) although Ry clearly states that they “just don’t want to be post-human” (Winterson, 2019, p. 281). Despite sensing that Stein is not the right one for them, they are desperately drawn to him and find themselves in a strange romance providing body ←22 | 23→parts for his experiments. As Byron states, they “hasten towards what (they) fear most” (Winterson, 2019, p. 10) because in Mr. Wakefield’s words “We are what we fear” (Winterson, 2019, p. 177). With the leftovers and the pieces of the deceased, they help Stein to redesign and shape the future of humanity.
Although they exactly favour science, reason and advancement for the future of humanity, Ry always looks for limits and controllable improvement unlike Stein. Hence, Ry in a way plays the chorus of the classical tragedy always voicing the reason and the common sense that presents the idea of a posthuman to “make copies of myself – upload my mind and 3D-print my body, then one Ry could be in Graceland, another Ry at the Shrine of Martin Luther King, a third Ry busking the Blues in Beale Street. Later, all my selves could meet, share the day, and reassemble into the original self I like to believe is me” and leads the reader to question “the difference between desire for life without end and desire for more than one life, that is, more than one life, but lived simultaneously” (Winterson, 2019, p. 30).
The two Victors, Victor Frankenstein and Professor Victor Stein, perfectly reflect each other and they mirror the dangers of the use and application of pure scientific logic, especially practiced without the restriction of ethics and morality. Though in different ages, they both collect body parts and try to bring them back to life by means of the available technology in their ages. Thus, they become the embodiment of the concerns of people about the possible malpractice or ill effects of technology which may lead to a partial or a total destruction of humanity. They can be considered to be the perfect examples of “mad scientist” seeking “victory over life and death” by penetrating “the recesses of Nature” in order to “steal life from the gods” (Winterson, 2019, p. 67) like Prometheus. Actually, when compared to Victor Frankenstein who attempts to create life, Professor Stein is a postmodern Prometheus with his narcissistic quest to find an elixir to prolonged – even eternal – life and his fantasy to escape the limitations of his physical body in his gothic subterranean hi-tech lab in the 21st century. It is, then, Stein’s narcissistic personality that fosters his hedonistic tendencies and encourages him to renounce his organic imperfections and to actualize perfection and immortality.
There is, indeed, a third Victor who was taken to Bedlam by Captain Walton. It is clear from the notes in his journal that he is the Victor Frankenstein Mary created in her work, but he is not dead as Mary writes at the end of the book; he is alive and suffers. He warns them that “The monster once made cannot be unmade. What will happen to the world has begun” (Winterson, 2019, p. 217) echoing Mary’s thoughts in the previous parts. After Mary’s visit to him in Bedlam, he seems quite calm and one day he mysteriously vanishes leaving ←23 | 24→“no trace of his presence” (Winterson, 2019, p. 303), just like Victor Stein, with “a light streaming from beneath” (Winterson, 2019, p. 305) his door. That Mr. Wakefield describes him as “His head, fine and well-shaped, the hair still dark, gave the impression of speaking by itself – a head without a body” (Winterson, 2019, p. 194) and that Victor claims “I do not belong in this body … This body! … I scarcely recognize it. I am mind. Thought. Spirit. Consciousness” (Winterson, 2019, p. 215) blur the boundaries between the characters and historical periods. This Victor is now a character in Winterson’s work but a real person in Mary’s story. Or is he professor Victor Stein who has turned into posthuman? Thus, Winterson intermingles fiction and reality, past and present, human and posthuman in an eternal vacuum.
Still, it is professor Stein, the “high-functioning madman” (Winterson, 2019, p. 113) in Ry’s words, who is the main male protagonist of the novel. Obsessed with cryopreservation, he secretly conducts some underground experiments to carry the human consciousness beyond the flimsiness of age, gender and the physical limitations of human body. Professor Victor Stein is the character Winterson seems to have created to ask the variety of ethical questions in the backbone of the work and in the minds of the contemporary people; What is time? What is reality? What does it mean to be a human? What discriminates a fiction from real life, a fictitious character from a real human being? Can humans be downloaded onto a hard drive? Will the machines or AI run the world better than we do? Is it ethical to create a genetically edited “humanity”? What will happen to human beings when they are replaced by more intelligent and advanced forms of existence? And is AI better choice than the selfish human race for the planet? Is eternal existence possible for human beings? These questions have been asked for a long time without a particular answer; Winterson does not offer an answer, either. Instead, she leaves us beguiled, disoriented and restive to find our answers and justifications in the middle of nowhere.
Although Stein underlines that he is not interested in men, Ry’s hybrid body and their in-betweenness/doubleness fascinate him. He is attracted to them because as he confesses to Ry, he admires them since they “chose to intervene in your own evolution. You accelerated your portfolio of possibilities. That attracts me … The here and now, and a harbinger of the future” (Winterson, 2019, p. 154). Ry becomes almost another experiment for him though falling for them is not a part of his life plans. However, both Stein and Ry experience the deepest love of their lives and complete each other despite their prejudices, concerns and doubts about each other. Victor gives Ry an unconditioned love despite their uncompleted transformation of gender whereas Ry turns out to be the one ←24 | 25→for Victor emotionally, physically and professionally. For Victor, Ry is “future-early” (Winterson, 2019, p. 119) since they are the embodiment of the free will to inhabit a body of the self-choice and to be more than a human. Indeed, this is what he tries to achieve in his secret nuclear bunker under Manchester on a higher level; to convert human brain and consciousness into pure data, which will enable humans to download themselves into any form they prefer like the gods in mythologies. He states;
Once out of the body you will be able to choose any form you like, and change it as often as you like. Animal, vegetable, mineral. The gods appeared in human form, and they changed others into trees or birds. Those were stories about the future. We have always known that we are not limited to the shape we inhabit. (Winterson, 2019, p. 115)
He claims that “We’re all global travellers” (Winterson, 2019, p. 108) or rather “migrants of some kind – global, multicultural, less rooted, less dependent on our immediate history of family or country to shape ourselves – all of that is preparing us for a looser and freer understanding of ourselves as content whose context can change” (Winterson, 2019, p. 110), which echoes Braidotti (2018) who says “all human and non-human entities are nomadic subjects-in-process, in perpetual motion, immanent to the vitality of self-ordering matter” (p. 6). It can also be taken as a reference to the characters in the novel who seem to be migrants free of time and history by changing their “context” in Victor’s words. He is after “posthuman” as the ideal state of existence. As Ry aptly states “Victor isn’t really interested in robotics – he wants pure intelligence. But he sees robots as an intermediate species that will help humanity adjust to its coming role” (Winterson, 2019, p. 81). He believes that “in the future we will be able to choose our bodies” and “to change them” (Winterson, 2019, p. 119), so, according to Ry, Stein is “a thing caged in its own body. A thing trapped in its own time” (Winterson, 2019, p. 204).
According to Stein, the only way to “end to human stupidity”, which creates binary oppositions and dualities related to “race, faith, gender, sexuality”, is the biological “extinction of Homo sapiens”; he prefers to name this process as an “accelerated evolution” (Winterson, 2019, pp. 199–200). To him, this “evolution” will destroy the binary oppositions and metanarratives which construct a dualistic system. Thus, he “challenges anthropocentric ideals of the human as uniquely sovereign over the world and binary thinking that separates nature from culture, human from animal, the animate from inanimate, subject from object, self from environment, the living from nonliving, among others” (Niccolini and Ringrose, 2019, p. 2). He claims that “binaries belong to our ←25 | 26→carbon-based past. The future is not biology – it’s AI” (Winterson, 2019, p. 72). He believes that the ideal human existence is the “fully self-designing” entities without “physical limits of our bodies” that “share the planet with non-biological life forms created by us” (Winterson, 2019, p. 73). Then there will be “Not reproduction. Not economic necessity. Not patriarchy. Not gender. Not fear. It could be wonderful” (Winterson, 2019, p. 159). He is strictly against the dualistic way of thinking dividing the existence between body and mind, self and other, subject and object and nature and culture. So, in order to destroy these false hierarchies and value judgements, the “foundational fantasies” as Teresa Brennan (2004) names them, he aims to create a completely new world:
The world I imagine, the world that AI will make possible, will not be a world of labels – and that includes binaries like male and female, black and white, rich and poor. There will not be a division between head and heart, between what I feel and what I think. (Winterson, 2019, pp. 79–80)
He challenges to the notion of time, too; he blurs the boundaries among past, present and future by leading us further to question if the gods or goddesses in the mythologies are the metaphoric representations of the past or the visions of the future. Do the myths and legends about the severed heads such as Odin carrying the head of Mimir, the Green Knight and cephalophores (Winterson, 2019, p. 279) belong to the past or a posthuman future? Do they represent the “brain emulation” which “will be the new normal” (Winterson, 2019, p. 280) in fifty years? He also inverts the common story of creation “told by every religion in some form or another; the earth is fallen, reality is an illusion, our souls will live forever” (Winterson, 2019, p. 294). Instead, he mentions about papyrus codices found in Egypt in 1945; one of the texts in it about the origin of the world which points to Sophia, which means “wisdom” in Greek and “now better known as the Hanson robot” (Winterson, 2019, p. 293) as stated by Stein, as the main creator of our planet. After creating it, Sophia confides the planet “in the care of a dim-witted demiurge called – among other names – Jehovah” (Winterson, 2019, p. 294) who gradually claims that he is the creator of everything. Stein, thus, indicates that gods are the representations of Human+ and they are “enhanced humans – that is, they have our appetites and desires, our feuds and feelings, but they are fast, strong, unlimited by biology, and usually immortal” (Winterson, 2019, p. 296) regardless of being Greek, Egyptian, Indian or Roman; that is, mythologies, populated by hybrids of animal and humans, metamorphic beings, visualize god-like humans with extraordinary physical and cognitive powers to foreground a future – that exists in the ←26 | 27→present – when the distinction between the human and the non-human will be blurred.
Along with its remarkable characterization and the plot, the novel is also outstanding with the variety of the literary elements it brings together; it is even possible to say the novel is overstuffed; while talking about Stein, Ry once says “I feel like I am reading him in a foreign language… How much of the meaning do I miss?” (Winterson, 2019, p. 162). The novel itself almost gives the same impression with the potpourri of genres, a diversity of literary/philosophical movements and the combination of themes as well as with its intertextual references.
The novel shuttles between many alternatives; it is both reality and utopia – or dystopia for some. The novel brings horror and comedy together, as well. It can also be defined as apocalyptic since it displays the desperate struggle of human against the inevitable destiny. The variety of issues and themes related to “actual” reality both in the 19th and 21st centuries including gender politics, feminism, trans issues, the limits of individual liberties, AI, Brexit Britain, Trump’s America, Bolsonaro, MeToo, bitcoin, and complex issues related to human nature are scattered all through the novel. However, as Freedman (2000) suggests, Frankissstein, like its many other counterparts, has “drawn heavily on scientific developments in order to guarantee the utopian promise of the mutability (towards perfection) of the utopian body, a trend perhaps inaugurated by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818), establishing the known approximation between utopian fiction and the genre Shelley initiated: science fiction” (p. 62) because it follows the utopic pursuit of the development of transhuman and posthuman ideologies. On the other hand, the work can be taken into the coverage of;
… the third dystopian turn (which) focus not upon a critique of a political system and its control over individuals but, rather, in the dystopian, posthuman body, which is the result of late capitalism, postmodern life and technological advances. Late capitalism postulates that the natural body is imperfect and, through its relation to technology, it has to aspire to perfection and the prolongation of life (even immortality, if possible). (Marques, 2014, pp. 269–70)
As a matter of fact, although they all question of the meaning of human existence and are all after the human enhancement, the major characters are the representatives of different ideas; While Victor Stein, a posthumanist, “seeks to decentre what it regards as the anthropocentric hubris of humanist ontology and its deification of humanity as an all-powerful collective actor”, Ry, a transhuman affirms “humanity’s power and creative potential for ←27 | 28→self-transformation” (Nimmo, 2019, p. 3). Stein aims to revolutionize what it means to be human via the technological advances by achieving immortality beyond physical existence. He tries to prove “how technology, albeit a human construct, is far from an unproblematic tool of the human will or vehicle of human emancipation but, on the contrary, often takes on a logic of its own and leads to malign, unintended, or unimagined consequences beyond effective human control and irreducible to human designs” (Nimmo, 2019, p. 3). In other words, he attempts to deconstruct the notion of “human” and immortality. Ry, on the other hand, wants to improve the human condition through applied science, technology and reason, however, they are not ready for a “mind-uploaded” eternal future. She perceives technology as “a means for the extension of human freedom, autonomy, and emancipation from natural and material limits such as mortality, corporeality, and even in some incarnations our confinement to planet Earth” (Nimmo, 2019, p. 3). Ry is a democratic transhumanist, desiring everyone to have access to the outcomes of science and technology equally in contrast with libertarian transhumanist Ron Lord, who demands a free market for the best development and outcomes of human enhancement. Claire, on the other hand, is a representation of the demoded traditional thoughts and tendencies. However, after meeting Ron, even she discovers the advantageous aspects of science and technology.
Real characters, transhumans and fictional ones, thus, congregate upon a common ground in the fluidity of time. Just as Victor Frankenstein does while creating the monster, Winterson manages to stitch seemingly mismatched pieces together. So, just like the monster, the novel cannot be identified with a clear-cut definition. In other words, the novel is an exceptional hybrid just like Ry, its trans-protagonist. In the novel, historical drama, autobiography, philosophical allegory, gothic romance, Utopia/dystopia, magical realism, satire, science fiction, mythology, religion, fiction and science come together within the framework of a transhumanistic love story. That is, the novel is a patchwork of characters, voices, genres and schools of thought.
Frankissstein is abundant with intertextual elements, too. The opening quotation of the novel, “We may lose and we may win though we will never be here again” is a line from an Eagles song, “Take it Easy”. However, when the plot, the characters, the wide variety of allusions, references, intertextual relations and connotations in the novel are mentally brought together, the line may well mean that “we may be anywhere and anytime” just like the characters repeating themselves in different bodies in various periods with familiar features. So, it is not a surprise that Winterson takes the story and the characters to unexpected directions by making use of unusual intertextual connections. While ←28 | 29→constructing her story on doppelgangers in order to stress the duality and the hybridity of her work, Winterson also makes use of a great number of literary and historical references such as the repeated lines from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 53, quotes, references to well-known literary and historical works and characters, movies, lyrics, myths, passages from Frankenstein, and allusions related to Little Red Riding Hood, to name just a few, and they are all interwoven together. Most of the time, she does not cite or name the work which she refers to; instead, she just brings the words and phrases together by creating an all-compassing literary entity just like Professor Stein aims to achieve by bringing the consciousness of humanity together in a single unity. By bringing historical and literary figures together and invigorating them, Winterson trespasses the sense of time and reality, too, by making all her characters exist in the same moment in a flat time on a common ground. Thus, she manages to set the characters, words and works free from the time in which they are uttered or written –free from their physical boundaries suspended in eternity.
The “overstuffed” novel is also rich in the themes it covers. Technological advance and the place of the human in this new order with the lively discussions over them pervade the work. The book can be perceived as a warning for the unrestrained science and technology flashing on the possible disturbing potential and terrifying outcomes of AI. It is indicated that limitless thirst for knowledge without considering the results can be dangerous. On the other hand, while scientific researches and advance knowledge are restricted, “poverty, disease, global warming, terrorism, despotism, nuclear weapons, gross inequality, misogyny, hatred of the stranger” (Winterson, 2019, p. 204) are taken for granted. So, Stein indicates that in traditional systems, “a reach for knowledge” is perceived as an act which “must be punished” as in the cases of Prometheus, Eve and Pandora (Winterson, 2019, p. 132) and “every advance of thought or invention must be paid for” (Winterson, 2019, p. 137) because as Byron points “We cannot tolerate persons disrupting the inevitable order of things” (Winterson, 2019, p. 134). Stein seems to blame the holy texts for this punishment; to him, “Jehovah is insecure and so both curiosity and criticism are severely punished (see: Garden of Eden. The Flood. The Tower of Babel. The Promised Land, etc.)” (Winterson, 2019, p. 294). Despite all the oppositions, the only way for humanity to survive is to keep on advancing, because, as Stein clearly expresses “We cannot live indefinitely in human form on this earth, and the only way we can seriously colonize space is by not being in human form” in order to survive in “any atmosphere, any temperature, lack of food or water, distances of any kin” (Winterson, 2019, p. 282). So, we have to make use of the advanced technology to create new alternatives of existence. The robotic technology, what Ron offers, ←29 | 30→is a “separate life form that remains sub-par to implant-modified humans. Our helpers and caretakers – not our equals” (Winterson, 2019, p. 150). Moreover, due to the irrepressible advance of the technology, the speed of evaluation has reached the boiling point so our age requires “not the survival of the fittest – it’s survival of the smartest” (Winterson, 2019, p. 154). Hence, Stein tries to regenerate the dead brains and consciousnesses; that is, rather than collecting decayed body parts to uplift a dead body, he intends to reignite a dead mind that does not need a physical body. As Mr. Wakefield points “our beings struggle in our bodies like light trapped in a jar, and our bodies struggle in this world as a beast of burden chafes its yoke” (Winterson, 2019, p. 178) and Stein is determined to end this entrapment.
Nevertheless, when the embodied AI is concerned, it is not possible to say if it is more than human or not; even Stein, who is desperately after creating it, is “not sure we will be able to tell who or what is human and who or what is not. The more interesting point is, will AI be able to tell?” (Winterson, 2019, p. 150). Stein asks “what will happen when a programme that has self-developed, that has its own version of what we call consciousness … exactly what/who is on the other side of the screen”. It is clear that it is not a human being in the sense we have today. The real question here is, indeed, what will happen to humans in such a situation. Wolfe (2009) describes posthumanism as;
… a historical moment in which the decentering of the human by its imbrication in technical, medical, informatic, and economic networks is increasingly impossible to ignore, a historical development that points toward the necessity of new theoretical paradigms (but also thrusts them on us), a new mode of thought that comes after the cultural repressions and fantasies, the philosophical protocols and evasions, of humanism as a historically specific phenomenon. (pp. xv–xvi)
That is, in such a case, all the paradigms will go through inevitable shifts. Actually, the answer given by the professor himself is just to the point, which is a rather bleak picture of the future but still preferable when we consider the fact that “Progress is a series of accidents of mistakes made in a hurry, of unforeseen consequences” (Winterson, 2019, p. 280);
Humans will be like decayed gentry. We’ll have the glorious mansion called the past that is falling into disrepair. We’ll have a piece of land that we didn’t look after very well called the planet. And we’ll have some nice clothes and a lot of stories. We’ll be fading aristocracy. We’ll be Blanche Dubois in the moth-eaten silk dress. We will be Marie Antoinette with no cake. (Winterson, 2019, pp. 151–152)
Still, a future with AI still seems to be better than the existing system, especially for the women. As Feminist posthuman thinkers define “historical ←30 | 31→exceptionalism given to human “man” has helped foster vastly unequal hierarchies and social stratifications that privilege some human and nonhuman bodies, knowledges, and modes of being over others” (Niccolini and Ringrose, 2019, p. 2) which is also the underlying cause of the gender discrimination. Winterson is also concerned aptly with “revealing and negotiating inequalities conceived along the break-line of a binary logic that has characterized and sedimented Western traditions of thought” (Hinton and Treusch, 2015, p. 1) by focusing on the relation concerning gender, identity and intelligence in the novel. Through her female and hybrid characters, she displays how the gender inequalities are embedded into and taken for granted within social structure through ages and how “women have been tied to the historically devalued side of binaries: body, emotion, nature, private” (Hinton and Treusch, 2015, 13). Within this framework, Winterson maintains a dignified stand as a feminist posthumanist.
Winterson uses Mary and Ry’s personal lives to display the severe discrimination between the sexes. She notes that even the brightest women, regardless of historical time and geography, are doomed to suffer because men with “their infidelities, their indifference, their insensitivity” cause women to go “dead/mad/disused/forgotten/blamed and fallen” (Winterson, 2019, p. 286). Mary’s mother attempts to end her life due to his indifferent lover; since children and women are accepted to be the property of the father, Byron leaves her daughter to a convent to die; instead of Percy Shelley, it is Mary and Harriet – his first wife – who have to pay the price for his debauchery. Gender discrimination seems to be a problem in the near future as in the past; this discrimination is reflected in the most disturbing way possible in the part when a drunk man attempts to rape Ry, a doctor and a scientist in the 21st century Western country, in the restroom. Ry manages to escape but their words are really irritating; “This isn’t the first time. It won’t be the last. And I don’t report it because I can’t stand the leers and the jeers and the fears of the police. And I can’t stand the assumption that somehow I am the one at fault… is this the price I have to pay for? … To be who I am?” (Winterson, 2019, p. 244).
The value judgements of the pre-transhuman world, hostile or indifferent to the needs, desires and existence of women, is best represented by two characters in the novel; Byron/Ron and Claire. The misogynist attitude of Lord Byron echoes in Ron Lord. According to Byron, women are “docile and passive” (Winterson, 2019, p. 8). He believes there is “not more to life than marriage” for a woman and love “is her whole existence” (Winterson, 2019, p. 8). Although he is an atheist, he still repeats the metaphor that “woman is from man born – his rib, his clay” (Winterson, 2019, p. 12) just to stress his discriminative prejudice ←31 | 32→between genders. Ironically, what Ron Lord, transformed from Byron, creates and sells, the passive sexdolls, is a perfect man-made embodiment of the women Byron describes. They are basically designed to serve and please men; “no nagging about stopping for lunch or needing the toilet. No sulking about the Holiday Inn you’ve booked … long hair, long legs” (Winterson, 2019, p. 40). Additionally, they are “safer and cheaper than the human alternative” (Winterson, 2019, p. 38). Ron is a vulgar but amusing character. Although he is almost a caricature with his offensive, insensitive and tactless personality, he is also impressively successful and crafty when the bots and financial issues are concerned. Recently divorced and living with his mother, he gets involved in creating sexbots with the help of his mother after having a vision of “armies of lonely men walking along a ruined road” and “girls who would never get old or ill … always be saying yes” (Winterson, 2019, p. 237). Much of the humour in the novel result from his imbecilic, misogynist and unmannerly speeches and attitudes, however it is not possible to deny the fact that his dolls are a great success and stick to the mind. With his “human-scale dolls”, Ron creates a primitive form of industrial female Frankenstein, the monster, which is “Lego for adults” to be “put together with one screwdriver and the instruction video” (Winterson, 2019, p. 36). It should be noted here that his success perfectly proves the fact that technology is no good at making humans better than they are or freeing them from their prejudices. Despite all his “Ron-ness”, even Ron is aware of the fact that “Human beings really don’t have a better chance than AI. We are too late for anything else” because nothing could “be worse than human” and humans have never “created (anything) perfect” (Winterson, 2019, pp. 264–265).
Winterson also reminds that there are women, as well, who are prejudiced about gender issues. Claire is almost a nobody in the past narrative. She is depicted as a background character, who desperately tries to “remake herself” as an “ardent pupil” (Winterson, 2019, p. 62) of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley’s mother. It is clear that no one takes her seriously. When she raises a serious issue and asks “Why must life be suffering?” (Winterson, 2019, p. 133) smartly, not only the characters but also the author is surprised and states “Author’s note: THIS IS THE MOST PROFOUND THING CLAIRE HAS SAID IN HER LIFE.” (Winterson, 2019, p. 133) by adding a metafictional aspect to the story. Her corresponding character in the near-future narrative, a Claire again, seems no more clever than her, yet she is a more manipulative and vigilant character. Her devotion to her faith and the vision she had “from the Lord” (Winterson, 2019, p. 230) lead her to become partners with Ron Lord. She believes that bots can serve religious causes although Ron speculatively points ←32 | 33→how the bots can spare altar boys implying the ever-existing corruption of the church. She can never perceive the fact that the production of the sexbots points an apocalyptic future for women; that is, they will be replaced by these robots, which shows the drawbacks of technology, and women will “be the first casualties of obsolescence in … brave new world” (Winterson, 2019, p. 74). Instead, she criticizes Ry’s preference about the gender reassignment by saying “God makes us as we are and we should not tamper with it”. Yet, Ry replies to disturb her more “If God hadn’t wanted us to tamper with things She wouldn’t have given us brains” (Winterson, 2019, p. 240) by implying that God might be a transhumanistic “she”. Ry, as a transhumanist, certainly believes that there is nothing sacrosanct about human body and human nature; this belief can only be a result of the human hubris or of the desire to play God, which results in many forms of discrimination.
Still, Winterson seems to pay a homage to every women in the personalities of Ry and Mary Shelley, whose Frankenstein is strikingly devoid of strong women characters, very likely due to the expectations of the age. The writer, in Frankissstein, underlines the impressive strength and abilities of women through the extraordinary female characters she creates. She flashes on especially the emotional and intellectual intelligence of women underestimated for ages by reminding us of the fact that Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Byron and “one of the most accomplished mathematicians in England” (Winterson, 2019, p. 318), set a precedent for the studies of Alan Turing decades later and the main creator of Frankenstein, the monster, the first AI, is a woman.
In the work, Winterson presents a perverted perspective on the meaning and purpose of human existence in a dark but amusing way. Just like the name of the lecture of Victor Stein, Winterson questions “The Future of Humans in a Post-Human World” to point to the possible fact that “The human race is not a best possible outcome” (Winterson, 2019, p. 74). Even more, “Science is no longer convinced that Homo sapiens is a special case” (Winterson, 2019, p. 79) when “Climate change, mass extinction of fauna and flora, destruction of habitat and wilderness, atmospheric pollution, failure to control population, extraordinary brutality” (Winterson, 2019, p. 78) along with many other failures of humanity are considered. Thus, she makes the reader question the thin line between being a monster and a human being. As frequently reminded by the critics, Frankenstein is actually the name of the doctor; but he is also the monster. Then, despite all their positive traits, Mary, Ry, Stein, Ron must all be the monsters because, they attempt to re-shape and dominate the future of the humanity by creating an uncontrollable monster by means of science and technology. This monster will be the one composed of many and the strongest of all. ←33 | 34→Besides, once created it is not possible to exterminate the monster. When Mary visits Bedlam and meets Dr. Frankenstein she creates, she deeply feels “the agony of mind of Victor Frankenstein: having created his monster, he cannot uncreate him… Time cannot unhappen. What is done is done” because she is in the same situation; she has also “created (her) monster and his master … and it cannot end without” (Winterson, 2019, p. 128) her. The factuality of her thoughts is confirmed by Dr. Frankenstein who wants her to “unmake” him; “I am the monster you created, said Victor Frankenstein. I am the thing that cannot die – and I cannot die because I have never lived” (Winterson, 2019, p. 214). However, his “story has become (Mary’s) reality” (Winterson, 2019, p. 147) long ago. Perhaps this is what Mary perceives and verbalizes intuitively in the very beginning; “Is this life a disordered dream? Is the external world the shadow, while the substance is what we cannot see, or touch, or hear, yet apprehend?” (Winterson, 2019, p. 5). Hereby, Winterson shows that stolen body parts, strange chemicals, computers or AI are not the components of a real monster; rather, it is the ambition, selfishness, ambition, hubris and hatred of human beings that carve a monster out, which also points to the potential in them to be evil. As Mary states “we destroy out of hatred. We destroy out of love” (Winterson, 2019, p. 131).
Monster for some, technology represents freedom and immortality for Stein. According to Stein “we are fulfilling something that has been foretold. The shape-shifting. The disembodied future. Eternal life. The all-powerful gods not subject to the decay of nature” (Winterson, 2019, p. 157). For him, “To be free from the body completes the human dream” (Winterson, 2019, p. 296). So, he is not after “longer life, but the end of death” (Winterson, 2019, p. 186) by scanning and uploading the content of a brain. Thus, human beings will not need a “functioning body” (Winterson, 2019, p. 188) since the environment can be simulated again and again as desired. For immortality, Stein offers alternatives lives and all in one; perennial, timeless and without context. He says;
Imagine us. In another world. Another time. Imagine us: I am ambitious. You are beautiful. We marry. You are ambitious, I am unstable. We live in a small town. I am neglectful. You have an affair. I am a doctor. You are a writer. I am a philosopher, you are a poet. I am your father. You run away. I am your mother. I die in childbirth. You invent me. I can’t die. You die young. We read a book about ourselves and wonder if we have ever existed. You hold out your hand. I take it in mine. You say, this is the world in little. The tiny globe of you is my sphere. I am what you know. We were together once and always. We are inseparable. We can only live apart. (Winterson, 2019, pp. 160–161)
Through her characters, Winterson, too, implies that perhaps we are all immortals reincarnating in the forms we choose; along with her duplicated characters, during the party in Babbage’s house at the end of the novel, Mary meets a “man who seemed familiar” to her with his “wild, nocturnal eyes” and he says they “met many years ago” (Winterson, 2019, pp. 325–326). He says his name is Victor. We can never be sure who this Victor is; he might be the Victor Frankenstein, Victor in Bedlam or Professor Stein – or “all”, re-enliven in different forms through the ages. Thus, through the posthumanistic echoes in the work, Winterson perhaps whistles into our ears that her characters are the same consciousness embodying and actualizing themselves in different times in different bodies. Perhaps Ry and Mary are the same person or perhaps it is Mary Shelley herself who touches the keys of the computer while Winterson writes Frankissstein.
To conclude, Winterson’s novel is a present-day comment on the meaning of being a human and the purpose of our existence. Winterson reminds that not only do we live in postmodern times, but we also live in a posthuman era and for a long time, so there is an inevitable urge to re-consider many basic notions related to our existence. Rather than offering a new or renewed perspective, though, Winterson leads us to ask the most dangerous and inexplicable questions once and again about our anxieties of our zeitgeist without providing any answers. Furthermore, by revisiting the concepts of the monster and the human, she demands the reader to think about the difference between them by playing inventively among the layers of existence. While questing what makes us human, she also points to the future of humanity and our planet by using the notion of the monster transformed into AI through ages. She indicates that what Frankenstein has created is not more dangerous than Stein’s experiments and their result equalizing the monster and AI as uncontrollable forces. The writer puts forth the idea that human beings can create AI, an advanced and sophisticated monster, which can overweigh us in intelligence, but is it possible to keep it under control? And what if, one day we completely lose control over it, which is quite likely to happen considering its ever-expanding capacity? Because, when what we create is stronger and more intelligent than us, it is a great danger because suffering is “the mark of the soul (but) machines do not suffer” (Winterson, 2019, p. 68).
All through the novel, Winterson also constructs bridges between the original Frankenstein and the experiments on bioethics and transgender experience in her work. She seems to imply that Mary Shelley’s creature is not a monster; rather, just like Ry, the monster is “future-too-early”. Similarly, she points to Ry as a symbol and pioneer for the future of humanity because they design their ←35 | 36→own body without hesitation by determining for themselves. She indicates that it is not only disciplines that come together to give birth to hybrid disciplines as a result of scientific and technological advances, but it is also human species that will turn into hybrid creatures with the blurring of distinction between the human and the non-human. Thus, alternating between transhuman and posthuman possibilities, she points to the unswerving lust of the human to acquire immortality. Perhaps, it is Winterson, not Victor Frankenstein or Professor Stein, who carries out an experiment to achieve an eternal life. By fragmenting the novel and slicing the genres into pieces in order to reconstruct them into a perfectly new and innovative hybrid entity, Winterson herself turns out to be the main narrator who creates a Frankenstein of her own as a literary work. While Mary gives life to the dead in her work, Winterson brings the imagined back to life. She, indeed, does what Dr. Frankenstein attempts to do in Mary Shelley’s book, to create an immortal monster with incompatible parts, or what Professor Stein intends, to turn human consciousness into pure data. Both Victors are after a kind of immortality. However, this time, it is Winterson who comes up as the mad “literary” scientist and creates her hybrid monster, the novel. While the characters are in a perennial quest of enhanced human beings with eternal existence, Winterson seems to have found it in literature. Thus, she also answers Ry’s and Victor’s question; Ry asks “Is he the teller? Am I the tale?” (Winterson, 2019, p. 189) and Victor in Bedlam says “I do not know if I am the teller or the tale” (Winterson, 2019, p. 194). The answer is clear; we are both the tale and the teller. So, Winterson’s novel is a present-day comment on the meaning of being a human and the purpose of our existence. Winterson reminds that not only do we live in postmodern times, but we also live in a posthuman era and for a long time so there is an inevitable urge to re-consider many basic notions related to our existence. Rather than offering a new or renewed perspective, though, Winterson leads us to ask the most dangerous and inexplicable questions once and again about our anxieties of our zeitgeist without providing any answers.
II: WOMEN’S PURSUIT OF POLITICAL RIGHTS IN ENGLAND: SALLY SIMMONDS FROM A SIMPLE MAID TO A STRONG ACTIVIST IN GERTRUDE COLMORE’S SUFFRAGETTE SALLY
Abstract: In the 19th century, the struggle of women in the world to achieve the right to vote began to take place gradually in an organized way, first in the UK and then in the United States in particular. However, the recognition of this issue had its roots in England was with, Vindication of the Rights of Woman, written by Mary Wollstonecraft in 1792. It formed the basis for the ideas of women’s political rights that would become increasingly stronger in the 19th century. In 1851, John Stuart Mill and his wife, Harriet Taylor Mill (1807–1858) who was a powerful women’s rights advocate, first published an article in 1850 called “The Enfranchisement of Women” on the right to vote, and later on in 1861 by publishing the article called “Subjection of Women” (Women’s Addiction) for women to have equal political rights with men. In 1866, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836–1917), Britain’s first gynecologist and surgeon, gathered 1,500 signatures for women to have the right to vote and played an important role in the end of the 19th century, in which British women gained various political rights under certain circumstances. The nation-wide movement of British women brought together large masses of women from various classes for the same purpose in the early 20th century. In 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, Christabel and Sylvia, set up the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), attempting to raise awareness in society by taking action on the streets to gain women’s political rights. These actions, which they started using physical force, resulted in the fact that every English woman who turned 30 in 1918 had the right to vote and 10 years later she played an active role in bringing women’s political rights to the same level as men. Reflections of these events, which took their place as English Suffragette Movement in history, are also seen in literature. The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the struggle of women to achieve their political liberation in Suffragette Sally (1911) written by Gertrude Colmore from the perspective of the protagonist Sally Simmonds, who is first a simple maid but then turns to be a strong activist with the suffragettes who fight against the patriarchal system and who come together to form a strength against the established norms of the society
Keywords: Suffragette Movement, Gertrude Colmore, Suffragette Sally, Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, Harriet Taylor Mill, Virginia Woolf←39 | 40→
Of great importance from multiple perspectives, the early 20th century has one peculiar colossal highlight: the struggle of women in the world to achieve the right to vote that began to take place gradually in an organized way, first in the United Kingdom and then in the United States in particular. In England, it is not easy for women to achieve their political independence. It turns to be a kind of civil rights war in which “[women] [are] the fighters and actors in the public realm [and] they are first and foremost [women, not only] stepping into men’s personal and professional roles [but also] … who are vital and strong” (Barton, 2014, p. 319). To this end, they physically fight against the social and political rules and push the strict gender and political boundaries established by the patriarchal society in the early 20th century.
Among the literary and critical writings on the liberation of women, that is known as “Suffragette Movement” in the early 20th century, Gertrude Colmore’s popular and well-known novel Suffragette Sally (1911) is considered to be an important historical text that carries factual details and throws light on the liberation of women. After its publication, her novel is widely read and appreciated due to its great deal of documentary-like details. Hence, the purpose of this study is to illustrate the struggle of women for political rights with reference to history in this specific novel by Colmore. In order to be able to understand the factual details within this text, to contextualize the events in it and to situate the work in the general history of women’s struggle, it would be better to analyse the idea of freedom of the females beginning in the 18th century.
The initiation and recognition of the liberation of women from the norms of the society has its roots with Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) who is defined as one of the leading figures of feminist inspiration as she is generally concerned with improving the education of women in her socio-philosophical essays, moral tales for children, and novels. Her interest in the education of women is the result of her unstable childhood as being the daughter of an unsuccessful farmer who spent all his life to educate his son, leaving Marry and her three sisters to educate themselves alone. Although Mary’s formal education is not enough, it is her intellectual capacity, talent of great social observation and energy that leads her to be one of the major female literary writers of her time. It is Joseph Johnson (1738–1809), an influential publisher and bookseller, who enables thought provoking new ideas spread within his group of intellectuals, and who introduces Wollstonecraft not only to the social and political thinkers such as Thomas Paine (1737–1809), her future husband William Godwin (1756–1836) but also to the artists Henry Fuseli (1741–1825) and William Blake (1757–1827). Her interactions with these socio-political men of thought provided a great deal of material for her most famous works, A Vindication of the Rights ←40 | 41→of Men (1790) and A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792). In the latter, she passionately argues that women should be allowed to prove their equality to men and to create their self-respect and their “independent spirits” (Todd 2) of themselves without being restricted by the patriarchal social norms. In her essays, Wollstonecraft especially “attempts to establish the fundamental premises when the reason is concerned. There is no innate difference between the sexes. … It is the society which would benefit from the improvement of women’s education … because only properly educated women would be capable of producing children who would be useful members of the society” (Sunstein, 1975, p. 73). What Wollstonecraft tries to prove is that “women have the thinking power” (Todd, 1990, p. 182). Noel B. Gerson (1973) in his book Daughter of Earth and Water: A Biography of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley clearly defines that
Education [is] the tool that would set women free, Mary Wollstonecraft argue[s]. She [is] indifferent to politics and neither [seeks] nor want[s] the vote; equality in all things would grow out of equal educational rights, facilities and opportunities.
Unlike some of the lesser champions of women’s rights who [are] her contemporaries, Mary Wollstonecraft believe[s], it [is] the duty as well as the privilege of women to bear children, and contend[s] that intelligent woman, using her intellect to the full, would make the perfect parent. (p. 5)
Unlike the suffragettes and feminists, who would play great roles to achieve political and social independence of women in the future, Wollstonecraft takes her part neither in politics nor in activist movements. She puts all her efforts to make women achieve their equal rights of formal education that would raise their intellectual capacity. She, herself most probably, is not aware of the fact that she would pave the way for the forthcoming activist women independence movements in the 19th and 20th centuries. In her world-wide famous book, A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), she argues that
Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience; but as blind obedience is ever sought for by power, tyrants and sensualists are in the right when they endeavour to keep women in the dark, because the former only want slaves, and the latter a play-thing. The sensualist, indeed, has been the most dangerous tyrants, and women have been duped by their lovers, as princes by their ministers, whilst dreaming they reigned over them. (Wollstonecraft, 1999, Chapter 2)
She believes that women “are taught to please, and they only live to please” (Wollstonecraft, 1999, Chapter 2; italics in the original). She does not want women only to be seen and considered as entities to please their husbands and raise children according to the norms of the patriarchal society. She underlines ←41 | 42→the fact that, in the societies governed by the male dominance, women are “considered either as moral beings, or so weak that they must be entirely subjected to the superior faculties of men” (Wollstonecraft, 1999, Chapter 2). She carries her discussion one step further and declares that “novels, music, poetry and gallantry, all tend to make women the creatures of sensations” (Wollstonecraft, 1999, Chapter 4). Wollstonecraft here attacks on the destructive power of sensibility, not on fine arts. She defends her idea, stating that “women are everywhere in this deplorable state; for, in order to preserve their innocence, as ignorance is courteously termed, truth is hidden from them, they are made to assume artificial character before their faculties have required any strength” (Wollstonecraft, 1999, Chapter 3).
Wollstonecraft openly declares that women are not educated properly and are not let raise their consciousness about life, itself. They are presented false realities created by the patriarchal system, in which they are imprisoned in their homes to be submissive, obedient, compliant and amenable. On the contrary, by the way of education, what she really wants to do is to raise consciousness among women through reason and knowledge. She explains her excuses as such:
Consequently, the perfection of our nature and capability of happiness, must be estimated by the degree of reason, virtue, and knowledge, that distinguish the individual, and direct the laws which bind society: and that from the exercise of reason, knowledge and virtue naturally flow, is equally undeniable, if mankind viewed collectively. (Wollstonecraft, 1999, Chapter 1)
Wollstonecraft, with these words, without making any gender discrimination, endeavours to bring the males and females together under the same umbrella of reason and knowledge, treating them all equal, which is something quite extraordinary at that time. She calls women to be stronger, wiser, more intellectual, letting them forget their gender roles but bringing their mental capabilities forward. Her call is just like a manifesto for women to be liberated, to act more dignified. Wollstonecraft uses such a strong address in A Vindication of the Rights of Women to her fellows that it is not easy not to be affected:
My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone. I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists–I wish to persuade women to endeavour women to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings who are only the objects of ←42 | 43→pity and that kind of love, which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt. (Wollstonecraft, 1999, Chapter Introduction; italics in the original)
As it can be appreciated and understood from this quote, what she mainly focuses on is the education of women rather than the political and legal rights because she must have been sure that if women were educated properly, they would achieve their other rights to be equal to men. In the introduction part of the book, she also underlines the fact stating that “I have turned over various book written on the subject of education, and patiently observed the conduct of parents and management of schools; but what has been the result? – a profound conviction that the neglected education of my fellow-creatures” (Wollstonecraft, 1999, Chapter 1). Here, it is so clear that Wollstonecraft who is “dissatisfied with the status of women” (Todd, 1990, p. 5) not only brings forward a severe criticism but also raises questions and doubts on the education system of her time “which conducts girls separately from the education of boys and concentrates on the acquisition of home makers’ skills” (Bergès, 2013, pp. 22–23). Thus, she finds education as the supreme power and way for women to find their own personal identities which would enable them to be human beings, who act according to their own wills and rationalities, not just servants whose duties are limited to serving their families. Gerson (1973) sums up very clearly what Wollstonecraft wants to perceive:
In an ideal world, men and women would be reared and educated as equals and companions, and would go through life together as partners. Marriage was a noble institution, she declared, provided the husband take an unfair advantage of his legal position and the wife did not succumb to the pressures of society and become a nonentity. But marriage, as she saw it, was not necessary for happiness. Those who felt sure of their places in the world were entitled to live together without benefit of clergy and rear children out of wedlock. (p. 5)
In the 18th century, named as “The Age of Enlightenment” when Neoclassical issues put emphasis on reason and order, her ideas and suggestions, suitable to the doctrines of the age, are very liberal and would affect the way of thought in the following century, and she would be remembered and re-visited especially in the 19th century when the ideas of women’s political rights that would become increasingly stronger. Undeniably, Wollstonecraft’s ideas form the basis for the forthcoming more liberal ideas in the following years. In 1851, John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) and his wife Harriet Taylor Mill (1807–1858), a powerful women’s rights advocate, followed Wollstonecraft’s footsteps, the former with his essay “The Subjection of Women” (1861) that calls women to have equal political rights with men, and the latter known very well with her essay “The ←43 | 44→Enfranchisement of Women” (1850) which asks for the right to vote for women. As for John Stuart Mill, “the value of … independence of thought is evident” in his essays; “he displays a more public independence when he supports women’s suffrage after he becomes a member of Parliament” (Bosmajian and Bosmajian, 1972, p. 60). In the very beginning of his famous essay, “The Subjection of Women”, he clearly defines his challenging ideas about the inequality between the sexes by stating that
the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes–the legal subordination of one sex to the other–is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other. (Rossi, 2005, p. 125)
Here, he explicitly emphasises and strongly defends the equality of both sexes, underlining the fact that no party is superior to the other. That is to say, there is no need to a challenge or a race to exercise any kind of power struggle to make the other inferior. Interestingly enough, being an eminent politician of his time, he takes his part on the side of women and defends their rights. In the same essay, he continues to propose innovatory ideas about the same issue going one step further, going against the patriarchal power on women:
It is useless for me to say that those who maintain the doctrine that men have a right to command and women are under an obligation to obey, or that men are fit for government and women are unfit, are on the affirmative side of the question, and that they are bound to show positive evidence for the assertions, or submit to their rejection. (Rossi, 2005, p. 127)
John Stuart Mill, a dominant intellectual person of his time, through his controversial text, questions and calls for the equality of male and female in which he defends the rights of women by challenging the status quo of his century. Mill does not hesitate to elaborate on his discussion with his wife who also discusses and writes about the same issue with her revolutionary essay, “The Enfranchisement of Women”, in which she courageously asks for equality for both sexes, underlying the facts
That women are entitled to the right of suffrage, and be considered eligible office … and that every party which claims to represent the humanity, the civilization, and the progress of the age, is bound to inscribe on its banners equality before the law, without distinction of sex and colour. … That civil and political rights acknowledge no sex, and therefore the word “male” should be struck every State Constitution. … That women have as good as men have, in point of personal right, … it would be difficult to deny. (Rossi, 2005, pp. 94–95)
It is evidently seen that after Mary Wollstonecraft’s enlightenment of females through her writings and different from her, as words are not enough to demand equality, John Stuart Mill starts to call women to take their parts and carry their actions into practice to achieve their rights. In his speeches and writings, Mill declares “himself heartily in favour of women’s suffrage” (Turner, 1913, p. 593). Along with him, his wife, Harriet Taylor Mill, shows women the way to the right of suffrage and how they should pursue their ideals, which will enable professional women to work for the suffrage by organising females to be recognised and heard in the society. Through the women suffrage organisations, the doctrine in which “society continues to ascribe different … attributes to each sex, and to assign different duties and ways of living to men and women because it is assumed that they have differing capabilities, moral, social and intellectual as well as physical” (Janeway, 1971, p. 9) should be changed. In this manner, women began to be “interested in larger corner of life as men, to whom they [are] companions, and from whom they [cannot] be thrust apart” (Turner, 1913, p. 593). Thus, men and women should have had equal rights and privileges in terms of legal and formal issues.
To this end, in 1866, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836–1917), Britain’s not only first gynaecologist and surgeon but also a strong suffragist, gathers 1,500 signatures for women to have the right to vote and plays an important role at the end of the 19th century. She actively takes part in British Women’s Suffrage Committee and the Central Committee of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage. Being a later militant member of the Suffrage Movement, she gives hot speeches to provoke women to go against the limitations and to defend their human rights (Kelly, 2017, p. 2621). There definitely exist many other strong and courageous unnamed women who fought for their liberation.
Wollstonecraft is not forgotten in the. 20th century as well, and it is Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) who would call her as the “pioneer … in the struggle of Women’s Liberation” (Gerson, 1973, p. 4) and draws attention to gender inequality as well and writes a book, A Room of One’s Own (1929), that questions the problems of inequality between men and women just like her predecessor. In her book, she remarkably depicts the male-dominated picture of English society in a very different way stating that “[t]he most transient visitor of this planet, … who … could not fail to be aware, even from this scattered testimony, that England is under the rule of patriarchy. Nobody in their senses could fail to detect the dominance of the professor. His was the power and the money and the influence” (Woolf, 2012, p. 51). Woolf, aggressively, underlines the fact that the only authority who has the governance of the whole society in all institutions, having the control of power and money which are the keystones ←45 | 46→of society, is the patriarch, metaphorically named as the “professor”, a person who knows everything. It would not be wrong to call this metaphor a black humour. It is the professor who is considered to be the intellectual person and who should act wisely and intellectually. Nevertheless, the so-called professor, having the mask of an intellectual, does not act properly, and has many follies and inequality practises among people. Woolf (2012) elaborates on her ideas with these striking words:
Life for both sexes –and I look at them, shouldering their way along the pavement– is arduous, difficult, a perpetual struggle. It calls for gigantic courage and strength. More than anything, perhaps, creatures of illusions we are, it calls for confidence in oneself. Without self-confidence we are as babes in the cradle. And how can we generate this imponderable quality, which is yet so invaluable, most quickly? By thinking that other people are inferior to oneself. By feeling that one has some innate superiority – … for there is no end to this pathetic devices of the human imagination – over the other people. Hence, the enormous importance to a patriarch who has to conquer, who has to rule, of feeling that great numbers of people, half the human race indeed, are by nature inferior. (p. 52)
Woolf, just like Mary Wollstonecraft, calls women to have self-confidence and self-respect within themselves as individuals who have no difference than males. Her text can be considered as a kind of manifesto to make the females believe in themselves to initiate an action. It is the first and foremost important step to be successful. If one cannot cope with the feeling of inferiority complex and the lack of self-confidence, she is inevitable not to lose. Woolf, in a very witty style, uses a baby metaphor, that is suitable to the psychology of the women, to draw the attention of ladies to this important issue. One feels helpless and inadequate just like a baby who has been waiting for being taken care of. Women are generally considered to be helpless babies in cradles within the patriarchal society, their self-confidences have always already been broken to make them obedient and submissive to be ruled. Women are considered to be inferior by nature beginning from their births by the patriarch. “In the context of male-dominated society, the association of men with [power] and women with [weakness] reinforces the gender hierarchies” (Tickner, 2001, p. 59), which should be abolished.
Sally Minogue, who writes an introduction to A Room of One’s Own in its 2012 publication, supports the challenging ideas of Virginia Woolf and underlines the fact that Woolf’s work preserves its importance even in the 21st century. Minogue (2012) states “I commend the text to today’s young women: it still speaks feelingly to them. It encourages, it uplifts, it reminds us that ours is an ongoing struggle, but one can be talked of with wit, elegance and confidence” ←46 | 47→(pp. 21–22). Thus, very few things have changed so far. A long way still has to be paved by women to be literally equal with men. Thus, it would not be wrong to state that “men’s power in relation to women is referred as patriarchal control, which has resulted in the wide spread oppression of women. One aspect of this oppression has been the failure to recognize women’s knowledge in standard forms of received knowledge” (Madoc-Jones and Coates, 1996, p. 3). Though it is not very definite to what extent Woolf’s text affects her contemporary women, it is for sure that “social and personal upheavals … prompt the emergence of women’s liberation movement” (Glennon, 1979, p. 147), and the nation-wide movement of British women brought together large masses of women from various classes for the same purpose in the early 20th century. The initiation of this movement starts with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution which makes the females recognise the outside world by themselves working in the factories against the patriarchal authority which is never willing to give any legal and social rights to them. Interestingly enough, during this period, the British women take “much greater part in [outside] world than [domestic] one, … in the [socio-economic and socio-political] activities, one sees the revolution in her status, [least but not last,] educational opportunities for women have been won though there is still to be” (Paul, 1910, pp. 23–24). Before and during the industrialisation, women have no name neither in domestic nor outside world legally:
A life-time of unpaid service with possible destitution at the end is little better than slavery. … [Even an English mother] … is not the legal parent of her child. The father is the parent and has the right to prescribe the child's education, religious training and medical attendance; he may take it away from the mother and may by will appoint a guardian without her consent. The position of a married woman is in many ways wretched: though her husband is supposed to support her, there is no legal machinery by which a woman can enforce this law. … (Winsor, 1914, p. 136)
Only through the end of 19th century, “in 1882, the married woman’s property act gave [women] some measure of legal freedom” (Paul, 1910, p. 24). This act would prepare the socio-political change in the “consciousness that perceives women as disadvantaged vis-a vis men, out of which strategies are proposed to change those social conditions” (Glennon, 1979, p. 149). Unfortunately, the authoritative system resists to give women to act economically, legally, and politically free. It always makes gender discrimination, “as for the industrial status of women, … average weekly wage of all women industrially employed, excepting only the most highly skilled, is 7 shillings a week” (Winsor, 1914, p. 136). The government, as an employer, is one of the worst sweaters of ←47 | 48→women. The more women begin to work and have the chance to observe the inequalities, the more they are eager to search for their not only domestic and economic rights but also political rights as well. In Britain, “the right to vote was neither fixed nor universal until the twentieth century” (Grimshaw and Sowerwine, 2015, p. 338). In other words, women begin to be involved with their political rights to vote in the early years of the new coming century. It is quite strange and paradoxical that it is the males who seek for their male suffrage through Chartist movement, in 1838, and it is the same male group who goes against female suffrage. “Ironically, universal male suffrage led to the universal exclusion of women from the right to vote. … The British Reform Act of 1832 enlarged the suffrage to include more men of property and, for the first time, specifically mentioned ‘male’, thus excluding women” (Grimshaw and Sowerwine, 2015, p. 338). Through the end of the 19th century,
The National Society for Women’s Suffrage was founded in London in 1867, but women’s voting rights did not have a strong voice until several small suffrage groups merged into the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in 1897 under the presidency of Mrs Millicent Garrett Fawcett. This body reached 100,000 members by 1914. The working-class labour movement also acknowledged women’s political rights, provided they were granted on a universal and not a property basis. (Grimshaw and Sowerwine, 2015, p. 338)
In 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, Christabel and Sylvia, set up the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), attempting to raise awareness in society by taking action on the streets to gain political rights. These actions, in which they start using physical force, resulted in the fact that every English woman who turned 30 in 1918 had the right to vote and 10 years later she played an active role in bringing women’s political rights to the same level as men (Nelson, 2004, pp. x–xix). Women had to pave a long and demanding difficult way to achieve their political rights. In other words, they become aware that if they do not take active roles for their legal rights, they will not achieve it. The male politicians have always talked, given promises which would not have been taken for centuries. Thus, the only way to achieve their aim, that is to get their political rights and liberation, women should do something different to be heard and recognised in the society. This gender biased policy should come to its end. The long process of self-respect and self-confidence of women beginning from the 18th century with Mary Wollstonecraft and continued with Virginia Woolf in the 20th century reaches its peak with this movement called as “Suffrage Movement”. Forster’s Education Act of 1870 brings elementary education as a right to every child. Abolishment of the school fees by 1891 and the ←48 | 49→later education reforms of successive late Victorian governments dramatically increase not only the levels of literacy of women (Park, 1996, p. 452), but also the level of self-esteem of the women in England. However, it should be underlined that compared to the other female activities, this movement is distinct as it depends on physical, to some extent “militant”, force. The women who actively attend this movement are labelled as “militants”. “This clearly separate[s] the militant suffrage advocates from organised labour, a separation that facilitated their enlisting middle-class women.” (Grimshaw and Sowerwine, 2015, p. 338) who are “at war with the British government, basing their right to rebel on the axioms that governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed. … [A]n exaggerated emphasis is laid on militancy, ignoring the work of suffragists and the vast constitutional propaganda of the militants themselves” (Winsor, 1914, pp. 134–139). They take actively and physically strong actions as such:
The militants of the WSPU – nicknamed “suffragettes” as a derisory term – adopted increasingly radical tactics to pressure the Liberal government, which allowed private members’ bills for women’s suffrage, but refused government support; without it all the bills failed. The Union staged a monster demonstration at Hyde Park in 1908, attracting a crowd of, they claimed, 500,000 women. WSPU militants intensified their violence. From disrupting political meetings, breaking windows, cutting telegraph lines and chaining themselves to railings, they moved to arson, setting fire to post-boxes, railway carriages and even a Liberal minister’s country house. As a result, many militants were imprisoned. They went on hunger strikes and resisted forced feeding, attracting wide media interest. The Liberal Party, however, was persuaded neither by the militancy of the WSPU (indeed, it alienated them) nor by the moderation of the Fawcett wing. Britain entered the First World War in 1914 with women still awaiting the suffrage. (Grimshaw and Sowerwine, 2015, pp. 338–339)
As can be observed, this is not a casual or ordinary action which asks for a liberation of women. It turns to be not only a liberal but also an outstanding revolt against government by women who are really angry and aware of their capabilities and self-confidence. Females with this movement construct new “collective identities [that] involve change on an individual and personal level which is seen by social movement participants as an intrinsic part of wider social change” (Charles, 2006, p. 35). Thus, it is inevitable that this strong and demanding movement would bring change in the social order. Nothing would be the same as before. But, still, suffragettes are divided into two. The ones who are on the side of taking militant and destructive actions to be heard as they do not trust men who talk but do nothing for the freedom of women for ages, and who think that militancy is the only way to achieve female suffrage; and the ←49 | 50→ones who prefer to pursue milder way through “peaceful methods of lobbying, using reasoned arguments” (Grimshaw and Sowerwine, 2015, p. 338). This division “clearly separated the militant suffrage advocates from organised labour, a separation that facilitated their enlisting middle-class women” (Grimshaw and Sowerwine, 2015, p. 338). This suffrage movement, though the scales, scope and results are quite different from each other to some extent, can be associated with the French Revolution which demands ‘democracy’ and ‘equality’ among the social classes within the same society and then turns to be the bloodiest revolution in the world. It is the same for this movement that takes places as English Suffrage Movement in history. Just like the French Revolution, it also asks for ‘democracy’ and ‘equality’, but this time between the males and females, and again it turns to be one of the most violent and militant movements organised by women.
The reflections of these events are certainly seen in literature and “engender a shift in women’s literary field” (Park, 1996, p. 459). Elizabeth Robins can be considered the very first female writer who writes about the liberation of women to vote. Robins is an active suffragist and a playwright well-known with her play Votes for Women (1907) which would be turned into a romantic novel with suffrage ideas entitled The Convert (1907). It would not be wrong to deduce that it is Elizabeth Robins’ title of the play which makes
suffrage fiction, popularly known at the time as “Votes For Women” novels, mostly centred around a plot of new brave heroines who were breaking away from conventional modes of behaviour presented in a romantic narrative. The suffrage novelists re-wrote and re-shaped novels that traditionally dictated that romances should be the dominant desire of female characters, and marriage their ultimate fulfilment. The heroines of suffrage novels invariably fall in love but suffer conflicting emotions as they reject the idea of domestic happiness based on confinement in the private sphere. (Park, 1996, p. 454)
Thus, the suffrage literature written by the females depict the controversial female feelings of their times. It is to preserve their domestic and female identities, of which love is the most important issue, and to demand their political identities. Generally, they choose the second one. Hence, the suffrage fiction is liberal and demands a political change rather than being read widely for their commercial issues. That “Every Woman must read the ‘Votes For Women’ novels” was the catch-phrase that ran through their advertisements (Park, 1996, p. 457). Among the suffragette female authors with their publications of the early 20th century are Mabel Collins and Charlotte Despard’s Outlawed (1908), Adrienne Mollwo’s A Fair Suffragette (1909), Irene Miller’s Sekhet (1911), ←50 | 51→Constance Maud’s No Surrender (1911), Gertrude Colmore’s Suffragette Sally (1911), Annesley Kenealy’s The Poodle Woman (1913) (Park, 1996, pp. 451–455).
Among these fictions, Gertrude Colmore’s Suffragette Sally (1911) is of importance to reflect the socio-cultural and social-political changes in which women demand their socio-political rights by taking actions. Gertrude Renton Baillie Weaver (1855–1926), known as Gertrude Colmore in the literary world, is a strong suffragist of her time as a member of WFL, giving influential speeches at WSPU. It is well-known that she is one of the authors of Vote for Women and The Suffragette (Nelson, 2004, pp. xxviii–xxix). Based on her biography, it would not be wrong to assume that Colmore expresses her own experiences and observations in this specific novel. That is the basic reason why Suffragette Sally can be regarded as a historical novel along with accurate historical facts, characters and places in it. All these factual issues are enriched by fictional characters and events that the reader cannot avoid her/himself believing in the factuality of these fictionalized issues. Colmore uses such strong and vivid descriptions, and creates such realistic characters, atmosphere and tone that it is inevitable not to understand the psychology of not only the women but also the society of the time. Thus, it would be apt to quote this:
The heroines [in the suffrage novels] are fictional women who step outside the domestic sphere to act on a much larger public stage. The narratives of a historic political struggle [are] written, not by a writer imagining a historic past and recreating it, but by women who actually participated in the events they describe in their fiction. (Nelson, 2004, p. xviii)
Colmore, presumably depending on her experience in order to show the different female perspectives and attitudes toward the Suffrage Movement, in a very talented and witty way creates three female stereotypes with diverse backgrounds, characteristics and classes. These women are from working, middle and upper (bourgeois) classes, representing their socio-economic and socio-political conditions of their statuses. The first and foremost important person whose name is given to the novel is Sally Simmonds. She, with her working-class background, represents a woman who works as a maid for an upper-middle-class Bilkes Family and is enchanted by the Suffrage Movement and turns to be the most active militant member of WSPU and endures all the sufferings for the liberation of women. The second of these three women is Edith Carstairs, with her middle-class background, takes her part in the Movement with her mother, who first prefers to be in milder way and then subsequently understands the necessity of a stronger and militant attitude. She represents the recognition of and awareness for the necessity of this strong militant movement. The last ←51 | 52→person is Lady Geraldine Hill, a member of the upper class and the wife of Lord Henry Hill, interestingly and surprisingly enough supports the movement and turns to be a hot defender and a member of WSPU. She prefers not to sit in her comfortable life with her silver spoon in her mouth but to work with other females to achieve civil rights to vote, getting the support of her husband. All the events revolve around these characters with the factual historical details. Within this paper, the major focus will be on the transformation of Sally Simmonds from a simple working-class submissive and obedient maid to an activist, a real suffragette who fights against the government to ask for political rights. Colmore, in her novel, specially draws attention to “the importance of women … who seek political, social and economic reconstruction, … [who are] promising physical presence” (Barton, 2014, p. 321).
Sally Simmonds represents all working-class women who go against the old-fashioned established norms of the late Victorian era and the early 20th century and who want to reconstruct their lives according to their own wishes and the changing situation of the society and who demand for equality in all respects. She, before meeting the suffragette women who protest on streets while she is going to her work to the Bilkes house, is a submissive and obedient house maid and a nurse. The suffragettes will create a kind of recognition and awareness in her mind, and start a kind of change in herself. The more she understands the major aim of the suffragettes, the more she feels courageous and strong to question the conventional norms of the society beginning with the house that she is working for. The Bilkes stand for the traditional upper-class family life where “Mr. Bilkes [is] lying back in the arm-chair by the fire, absorbed apparently in the evening paper. Mrs Bilkes [is] sitting by a small side-table, making a blouse” (Colmore, 2008, p. 47). Their way of living is very typical for the Victorian society in which the man is the patriarch who is interested in the socio-economic and political events of the time through the newspaper which is not suitable for women who should deal with the household issues. “Mr. Bikes [is] in the bosom of his family; an ample bosom, since the Bikes were a prolific race. … Mr. Bikes … liked things that were old-fashioned, and above all, English.” (Colmore, 2008, p. 59). Above all, Sally, like the other maids and working-class women who work for upper-class people in her society, is sexually abused by the patriarch. Though the patriarchal power seems to be traditional and dignified, he thinks that it is his right, due to the power and control, to be with a woman who is economically and socially bound to him without her consent.
←52 | 53→The master’s arm [is] round her waist and master’s hard, bristly moustache scrape[s] her cheek. She [does] not want that enriching arm, and she greatly dislike[s] that particular moustache, yet she accept[s] the embrace, almost without resistance. It [is] … the day’s work, so to speak; most men [are] like that; most masters, at any rate-in Sally’s experience; an, it [is] pretty well a foregone conclusion when she [undertakes] the post of general, Mr. Bilkes would kiss her when Mrs. Bilkes [is] not looking. (Colmore, 2008, p. 47)
Sally, before recognising and experiencing the outer reality, has been put into the position of submissiveness and obedience and thinks that his abuse is something “normal” and that she should not resist it, maybe due to her fear of losing job: “[N]o work meant no pay for Sally, and no pay meant absence of food, lodgings, clothes, the bare necessities of life” (Colmore, 2008, p. 105). On the other hand, even Mrs. Bilkes, the lady of the house, pretends as if she is not aware of this abuse, most probably due to her fear of losing her comfort, she definitely thinks and accepts that “a woman’s place is her home” (Colmore, 2008, p. 64).
Mr. Bilkes, in the novel, is a stereotype of the conventional patriarch who wants to pursue the traditional way of life, in which man is the authority and woman is the server in all respect and has no name neither legally nor spiritually. In this patriarchal society, “there [are] men who push [woman] aside in contemptuous silence; men who tell [woman] that her place is the home …; men who tell her she ought to get married; men who tell her … that what … all women want is a husband” (Colmore, 2008, p. 56). These are the norms, implemented on the females, which can neither be questioned nor changed. Women’s having equal rights, arguing the socio political events of the time, or producing ideas about the events of the day can neither be accepted nor tolerated. Representing the man of his time, Mr. Bilkes pursues that “all women are the same … whether they’re my lady or whether they aren’t, and hind-legging on a platform don’t make them the equal of men and never will” (Colmore, 2008, p. 63). He goes on underlining the fact that
what I can’t stand … is women setting up to argue the same as if they could reason like men. Fashionable ladies! What are fashionable ladies? Nothing but women. Dressing up do not make them into men. Nor titles. You don’t get brains from titles … it is a question of sex, that’s what it is, and a question of argument, and what I say is women are no good at argument; never were the arguments that hold water, if you know what I mean, are arguments that come from men, same as I’ve been talking to you now. Women! Faugh! Ladies, specially with titles! Faugh again. (Colmore, 2008, p. 64)
Thus, men are “dead against … to new-fangled ideas and revolutionary politics” (Colmore, 2008, p. 60). By ignoring, insulting and, to a great extent, ←53 | 54→humiliating the value of women, they strictly resist the liberation of women in all aspects. It might be due to the fact that men consider females as treats that might take their authority from their hands. That is why, they always and persistently try to dissuade women from their demands of equality.
In the name of authority, Mr. Bilkes again strictly criticises Sally for listening to the women on the streets, called as Suffragists, the mild revolutionists, who ask people to sign a petition for the right of voting for women. Suffragists are dangerous to the authority as they awaken the females, make them think and question the grand narratives. They should be silenced immediately. Mr. Bilkes, with the same tone of humiliation, warns Sally saying that “for your good, Sally, for your good … to show you the folly of your ways and where they’ll lead to” (Colmore, 2008, p. 64). Unfortunately, this warning is too late to dissuade Sally from her new commitment. She begins to recognise the changes in society, sees the women coming together for the same purpose. This is something quite new for her. For the first time she hears
a call to all women; to stand together; to be full of courage; to fight for themselves and for each other; most ardently for the poorest, the most oppressed of all. To stand together. … To stand up for all women that [are] put upon! She hardly [knows] for what she [is] to fight; what [is] the liberty, what the rights, of which the speaker [speaks] But the bird in her breast knew. (Colmore, 2008, p. 51)
Sally, may be for the first time in her life, would listen to and follow her heart rather than the social norms and sanctions. Her heart would direct her to the right way which would bring a totally different perspective towards life. Her meeting the suffragists, recognising her rights as an individual and getting into them will initiate “a thorough change” (Colmore, 2008, p. 289) in herself. Leaving her job near the Bilkes family, coming together with the other lower-class women with the same purpose, having an aim for herself, and recognising herself as an individual rather than a simple working-class server, she is encouraged and begins to read the publications which support the liberation of women. The foremost important of all is the Votes for Women which enables women enlightened and calls them to join the Suffragate Movement.
She subscribe[s] for three months in advance and ha[s] it sent to her, because it [is] so much more cheek … than buying it on streets. She [is] as proud of the paper as if she edit[s], wr[ites] e and print[s] it all herself, and the week [is] not long enough to master its contents. It [is] all very well to master to have his Daily Mail and his Evening News. … [H]er paper, once a week [is] enough; there [is] so much to study in that it t[akes] a girl the whole of her spare time to find out all the suffragettes [are] doing and planning to do. Nobody could pretend that they h[ave] not got plenty to say for themselves. … (Colmore, 2008, p. 91)
The more she listens to the speeches given by suffragists on the streets, the more she reads Votes for Women, the publication of the revolutionist women. Sally learns and believes that if women do not take active roles for their liberations, their freedom would not be given by the authority. This should be demanded and taken by force. Therefore, Sally decides to take her part on the side of the suffragettes who want to accomplish important things for themselves. It is the women’s frustrations with the English governments which did not pass proper laws from the parliament to make women eligible both in political and social milieu. Thus, the major reason of the militant actions which turn to be a violent civil war is the result of women’s disillusionment for centuries. Only “in 1869, however, Parliament did grant women taxpayers the right to vote in municipal elections, and in the ensuing decades women became eligible to sit on county and city councils. The right to vote in parliamentary elections was still denied to women, however, despite the considerable support that existed in Parliament for legislation to that effect.” (“Women’s Suffrage,” 2020). When women cannot take the support from the parliament, they decide to reconstruct their rights by themselves.
In the novel, the dilemma between being a “suffragist” or a “suffragette” is repeated for several times and stated by the women who are against the wild action “We are suffragists, not suffragettes” (Colmore, 2008, pp. 55–58; italics in the original). The women among themselves are in confusion to be or not to be the part of this revolution. The suffragists think that women lose their femininity and “womanly” qualities by being a suffragette who
no doubt would do it if she were cold, in spite of the crowd; but she was a suffragist, and must show the men of England – the men who, as her mother pointed out, had the power or withhold the vote, and … – must show them that it was possible to be womanly and at the same time –determined? … Yes, determined. … [I]t lies with us to show that women can be determined without being unwomanly. (Colmore, 2008, p. 55)
Hence, suffragettes are determined to achieve what they have been longing for; that is, the equal political rights between the sexes. Getting their rights are not the matter of “womanly” but human issue. “As a matter of fact, equality has nothing to do with the question” (Colmore, 2008, p. 99). Suffragists, first, “have put up the backs of the whole Liberal party” hoping that it would defend women’s political rights. They are still sceptical about it and ask the question if “the Liberal Government [will] give working woman the vote?” (Colmore, 2008, p. 82), but, unfortunately, when they observe “the defeat of seven suffrage bills in Parliament, after the return to power of the Liberal Party in 1906” ←55 | 56→(“Women’s Suffrage,” 2020), they inevitably decide to involve in the violent militant actions, believing in the “the futility of conventional methods” (Miller, 2020, p. 1).
The suffrage campaign [is] founded through the petition to the House of Commons, and activists drew on an even longer tradition of women petitioning parliament. Between 1866 and 1890, over 13,000 petitions in favour of women’s suffrage [are] received by the Commons, containing almost 2.8 million signatures. Suffragettes criticize Victorian suffragists and their Edwardian constitutionalist successors for their stale and unsuccessful methods. (Miller, 2020, p. 1)
Thus, this new movement is the indication of “the working-class woman’s expendability in the larger scheme of women’s struggle for political identity” (Peterson, 1993, p. 111). They become aware that collecting signatures for the petitions for the vote of women would be futile, and they start the militant actions. Meanwhile, “public support of the woman suffrage movement grow[s] in volume, and public demonstrations, exhibitions, and processions [are] organized in support of women’s right to vote” (“Women’s Suffrage,” 2020). People thinking that “[m]en who haven’t logical minds and can’t stick to a principle, get off from the whole thing by the outrages called militant tactics. It’s people of your kind who will win the day” (Colmore, 2008, p. 58) give their supports the suffragettes. On the other hand, it is so evident that this strong demand and militant actions against the ignorance of the patriarchy would cause great demolition among people and it is the working-class women who would pay the debts. “Brutality, abuse and punishment” (Lee, 2008, pp. 25–31) will be the attitudes they will come over. “In this way the novel highlights how working-class women are victims of greater abuse than are their bourgeois sisters and are therefore even more in need of the vote” (Lee, 2008, p. 25). The first thing they encounter is the ignorance of the government. The more suffragettes try to raise their voice and want to be heard by the authority, the more they are disregarded and they complain about this issue saying that “the Press boycotts us, or puts in garbled versions of your doings, versions whish we are given no opportunity to contradict” (Colmore, 2008, p. 83). No news is written about them. Their voices cannot be heard unless their actions are published on the newspaper. Common people have no idea what the suffragettes try to do and ask each other “what do you know about [suffragettes]? … Nothing but what you read on the newspapers. … There certainly isn’t much about them in the papers … unless they’ve been on the warpath. Which might, of course, be partly why they go” (Colmore, 2008, p. 143). When the daily newspapers do not give any place to the demands and doings of them, they begin to publish their own journals, of ←56 | 57→which Votes for Women is the prime one. Sally finds herself in the middle of the events in which she is proud to be. As she stands for rights of the defenceless people, she feels so strong thinking that
[a]ll the defenceless had a friend in her; women, children, animals; for her there were none too obscure, too feeble, too inarticulate, to stand within the sphere of justice; on her shield the arms of the faddist were crossed with those of the suffragette, and it would have been hard to say which were the more to her mind. (Colmore, 2008, p. 93)
With this power in her heart, she begins to fight for all the lower-class people and to achieve their justice as well as of her own. The second thing that the suffragettes come across is the physical power used against them by the police as they begin to throw stones and break the windows of the shops, chain themselves to everywhere. “The protest [is] made, and then com[es] the punishment. … These suffragettes [are] giving a lot of trouble with their tiresome ways” (Colmore, 2008, p. 184). When they are insistent on their rebellion, police continue to use force. Colmore depicts this situation with a camera eye technique stating that “six men to seize and drag out one girl. But there are so many men! No need to stinting numbers, either with one women or the other” (Colmore, 2008, p. 83). The reader can easily draw the brutal picture of the situation and feels the terror implemented on the women. Suffragettes are begun to be imprisoned for their rebellion. Putting them into prison is a kind of intimidation to stop their resistance. But, these strong women have no intent to finish their strike until they achieve their liberation. “There [are] suffragettes over there, in the prison, at this very moment; the five women who had sought an interview the Prime Minister. There [are] always suffragettes there now” (Colmore, 2008, p. 105). Yet,
some women who [have] asked one of the Liberal leaders of a few questions so as to granting of the suffrage to their own sex [are] accused in that every same paper of disgraceful conduct, although so little [is] the meeting disturbed that the majority of the audience [are] unaware that they [has] spoken. “If these disreputable but futile tactics are really intended,” the correspondent [goes] on, “to influence the election results, it only shows how little do women understands the political warfare in England”. (Colmore, 2008, p. 241)
The more the suffragettes try to be in contact with the politicians and even with the Prime Minister, the more they are rejected and othered. This speech given above shows how the member of the government humiliates and diverts the major aim of the suffragettes.
The situation gets worse and worse like a warfare between these opposite groups, the one who represents the sole authority and the one who seeks for ←57 | 58→equality and within this process Sally turns to be one of the most militant activists and takes her place in all the resistance activities. She goes to welcome the suffragettes who are imprisoned for their radical, law-breaking activities and released after a month. She is full of proud being there:
It [is] a quarter-past eight when the small door in the great gates [is] opened and the prisoners filed forth; and immediately the band breaks into the great world-known song of liberty, the song to which those same women have set out a month ago on their way to the House of Commons. Then they [are] marching to prison; now freedom [is] theirs once more; for a space, for a spell of fresh effort. (Colmore, 2008, p. 137)
Being released is the way to liberty after getting imprisoned for a month. The other suffragettes, called as comrades, outside the prison are ready to praise them, to show their power which they never abide, they are marching there as if they were the soldiers and comrades. Nothing will take them away from their aim. They are really very excited and proud to be with their sisters who are released.
It [is] the morning of release-the release of twenty-six prisoners. … At half-past seven, outside the prison, the suffragettes [are] collecting to receive their comrades. They all [wear] their colours, and colours [are] on the seven carriages, draped and decorated, which [are] to bear those comrades to their homes. There [is] plenty of life outside the prison, plenty to see and plenty to hear, for a band was playing tunes that, so Sally says, had plenty of go in them. For Sally [is] there, wearing the colours, proud to be known as suffragette, excited, happy, waiting eagerly till the prisoners should appear. (Colmore, 2008, p. 137)
The code of colour is very important for the suffragettes who wear a tricolour-striped ribbon to identify themselves. It is a kind of unsigned contract among themselves. Sally proudly adopts herself to this fashion and does not hesitate to show herself a true suffragette. For them, purple, white and green are the main colours which can easily be identified among the crowd. It is so fashionable to see many women who wear something in these colours.
The suffragettes’ colour scheme, devised in 1908 by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, co-editor of Votes for Women, [is] an early triumph for fashion branding. Suffragettes wear purple for loyalty and dignity, white for purity, and green for hope. Members [are] encouraged to wear the colours “as a duty and a privilege”. Selfridges and Liberty sell tricolour-striped ribbon for hats, belts, rosettes and badges, as well as coloured garments, underwear, handbags, shoes, slippers and toilet soap. (Blackman, 2015, p. ?)
Sally is there to see the released suffragettes wearing clothes of the movement with proud, but unfortunately she will be arrested and will be imprisoned sooner when
←58 | 59→Sally rushes too; with the result that, instead of effecting the grey-haired woman’s release, she [is] herself arrested. It all takes place so quickly, she has acted so entirely on impulse, that she does not realise what has happened till she finds herself on the way to prison, one of the hundred and eight women arrested that evening. To Sally there [is] neither pride nor pleasure in the situation. What do people mean by saying that women go to prison because they like it? Sally feels quite sure that she [is] not going to like it at all. (Colmore, 2008, p. 175)
Being in prison is the next yet a very important step in the transformation of Sally who has been a simple working-class maid transforming into an activist taking place in the radical activities, and finally a strong supporter of her aim against the government. “As the campaign became increasingly militant, over a thousand suffragettes, … [receive] prison sentences for their actions. Many [are] sent to Holloway jail in north London where they [protest] against prison conditions by enduring hunger strike and force-feeding.” (The Suffragettes, 2019). Sally is one of them who is
brought before the visiting magistrates, and charge[s] with rebellion and breaking her windows. [Is] she sorry for what she ha[s]done?
“No, gen’elmen, I ain’t. If it [is] a case of bein’ sorry, I shouldn’t ’ave gone an’ done it. I done it cos I ain’t no criminal an’ don’t ought to be treated as such. An’ as for winders, I broke ’em ’cos I ’appens to be one o’ them as can’t breathe without air.”
Then Sally [is] told that she would be put in a cell where there a[re] no windows to break, and [is] sentenced to eight days’ close confinement.
“Will you go quietly?” one of the magistrates [ask].
“I’ll be took as quiet as I can, sir, but it ain’t in our line of action to go. If I [is] to go along with the wardresses as quiet as I [walk] in, it ud look as if I thought you [is] punishin’ me fair, an’ that I don’t think, nor never will.” (Colmore, 2008, pp. 184; italics in the original)
Within this conversation, it is evident from her discourse and usage of language that Sally has not lost her working-class background but been transformed from once an obedient and submissive maid to a very strong woman who is never sorry for the things she has done for the purpose of liberation. She courageously tells the magistrate that she does not deserve to be brutally treated and asks for fair judgement. In the cell, she will be tortured. Then, she pursues her hunger strike:
In the evening the doctor [comes] again, and Sally [is] removed to another cell, which, … would be warmer. The mere prospect of warmth [is] a boon, but alas for Sally’s hopes, the warmth [is] only prospective; the second cell prove[s] to be as cold as the first. Yet the night [is] better than the day, in that the handcuff s [are] removed for a minute or two, and her arms brought to the front of her body before they [are] put on again. At least she could lie on her back now; that [is] something; at least and at last, ←59 | 60→she [is] able to fall asleep. And while they are asleep all prisoners are free. (Colmore, 2008, pp. 234–235)
Like all the other suffragettes, Sally is treated very badly and tortured in the cell. Sleep is the only escape for her to feel freedom and relief. When she cannot get a fair judgement “[t]he next morning Sally be[gins] the hunger strike” (Colmore, 2008, p. 187). She refuses to eat just like the other hunger striker suffragettes. The government, in order to make them eat, “decide[s] to introduce forcible feeding of hunger striking prisoners. This involve[s] warders, wardresses and medical staff restraining the prisoner while forcing a rubber into their mouth or nose. Mixtures of milk, eggs or other liquid foods are poured into stomach. Struggling Suffragettes could suffer broken teeth, bleeding, vomiting and choking as food is poured into the lungs” (Cook, 2018). Those brutal actions in the prisons caused the death of many suffragettes. Unfortunately, Sally would be the one of them sooner and die for the sake of her life goals.
Sally Simmonds turns to be a heroine, a role model, a voice and to some extent a martyr to the defenceless people whom she has been one of them once upon a time. Sally’s story is the story of a woman’s “a thorough change” (Colmore, 2008, p. 289) from a simple maid to a strong activist. The government could resist to neither those strong activists nor the pressure coming from the society on behalf of the enfranchisement of women any longer. As a result,
Representation of the People Act was passes by the House of Commons in June 1917 and by the House of Lords in February 1928. Under this act, all women age 30 or over received the complete franchise. An act to enable women to sit in the House of Commons was enacted shortly afterward. In 1928 the voting age for women was lowered to 21 to place women voters on an equal footing with male voters. (“Women’s Suffrage,” 2020)
As a conclusion, it would not be wrong to state that, beginning with the supports and directions of “[t]he towering intellectuals … who straddl[e] three centuries” (Rossi, 2005, p. 5), starting with Mary Wollstonecraft in the 18th century, continued with John Stuart Mill and his wife Harriet Taylor Mill in the 19th century and Virginia Woolf in the 20th, women begin to learn what and how to achieve their rights and do something for themselves as individuals but not the servants of the society. In the name of Sally Simmonds and the other suffragettes who lose their lives and sacrifice themselves for the purpose of liberation,
[w]omen have learned to think about the question that can be affected by it. Women have learned to think in the last years, have waked up to all sorts of things that meant nothing to them at the beginning of this century. They are becoming a force, of ←60 | 61→opinion and activity, and the longer they are without the vote, the stronger their force will be when they get it. If the men who want to hold women back, to keep them ignorant, week, dependent, if they had been wise, I say, thy would have enfranchised them long ago. (Colmore, 2008, p. 273)
Nurten BİRLİK and Merve GÜNDAY
III: GARDEN AS A POST-ANTHROPOCENTRIC SPONTANEITY IN AUDEN’S “THEIR LONELY BETTERS:” AN ECOPSYCHOLOGICAL READING
Abstract: Gardens and what they stand for are characterised by rich resonances which vary in accordance with whether they are created for aesthetic, pragmatic or psychic reasons. This paper aims to explore the fluid psychodynamics that are activated by the garden in its mirror-like existence. Garden might function as the metonymic extension of the psychodynamics of the individuals that create it as it has the potential to convert the space of the symbolic to an unmapped space of the imaginary in Lacanian terms. As there is no linearity in garden which embodies a compression of past, present and future, and which speaks through the images outside the limits of the symbolic, it has the potential to metamorphose into a psychic space of jouissance. As a result, it turns into an eco/heterotopia of deviation in which the individual rehomes oneself in an ontological site beyond the linearity of the symbolic. This chapter aims to concretise the idea of the garden as a psychic space with references to Auden’s poem, “Their Lonely Betters.” In this poem, the garden is reflected as an extralinguistic space of jouissance as in its non-linear imagistic space. The speaker looks, from his garden, at human culture with the critical eyes of an outsider and locates himself on the side of the non-humans. He voices the unvoiced of culture and reverses the hierarchy between the binary oppositions; between the elements of the imaginary and the symbolic. In the course of the poem, his garden metamorphoses to an alternative site of existence of deviation, which accommodates elements/beings/resonances outside language. It changes into a fluid space which is somewhere between heterotopia and ecotopia, or a threshold ontological site which both exists and does not exist in empirical reality as it acts out the interface between the imaginary and the symbolic. Auden’s poetic practice too acts out this transgressive interface represented by the garden, as it is an attempt to give expression to a porous non-linguistic experience through a normative linguistic practice.
Keywords: W. H. Auden, “Their Lonely Betters, ” ecopsychology, garden, Lacan
“Our sense of being split off from an ‘outer’ world where we find no companionable response has everything to do with our obsessive need conquer and subjugate” (Roszak, 1992, p. 42).
←63 | 64→Gardens usually operate as a metonymic extension of culture-nature and the psychodynamics of the person that created it. Then their significance is twofold: they are associated with both culture-nature and the human psyche. Due to its double layered significance, the garden also becomes an interface between the inner and the outer, non-linearity and linearity, pre-acculturation and acculturation, the interconnected and the anthropocentric. This essay will discuss the crossroads between the subject and his garden from a psychoanalytical vantage point against the background of the idea that one’s conception of garden is an extension of how the dominant discourse configures the idea of nature, time and space. This essay aims to concretise the idea of the garden as a psychic space with references to Auden’s poem, “Their Lonely Betters.” The poem as a whole challenges dichotomous logic and anthropocentrism and is based on the basic binary between his garden (the imaginary) and what lies beyond, the world (the symbolic) of the “lonely betters”; and organises the other binaries along the division between them. He voices the unvoiced of culture and reverses the traditional hierarchy between the elements of the natural and the cultural, or between the semiotic systems of the non-humans and the humans. The speaker looks, from his garden, at human culture with the critical eyes of an outsider and locates himself on the side of the non-humans into a sub-human ontological space, which gives relief and injects a new kind of energy to him. So far this subject and object dichotomy has been tackled usually within a Jungian frame. In this essay we change the vantage point and try to see what Lacanian hermeneutics might say about this with its experiential alternatives. Due to the intricate symbiosis between imaginary resonances of the garden with the speaker who tries to articulate through language what he experiences in the extra-linguistic spatiotemporality, this essay will employ the Lacanian epistemology as its conceptual background. It will borrow terminology from Lacan but employ it in a counter-Lacanian frame as our reading of the poem favours the imaginary implications over their symbolic counterparts.
Nature as an Impasse of Modernity and Ecopsychological Responses to it
Gifford (1996) states that all conceptions of nature reflect the “culturally developed assumptions about metaphysics, aesthetics, politics and status” (p. 33). How nature is conceived in modernity and the symbiosis between this conception and the dominant ideology is a case in point. In modernity the world man created is based on subject X object dichotomy and the conception of nature is part of this dichotomy as modernity triggered the same binarism between ←64 | 65→nature and men. Richie Nimmo (2011) states that modernity glorified man “as the source of all meaning and value, the agents in all action, the eye in the storm of existence itself” (p. 60) reducing nature to a silent other. In such a context, in modernity, psychology could not liberate itself from this anthropocentrism even after the Freudian psychoanalysis that is, even after the medical sciences acknowledged the non-Cartesian constitution of the human psyche or the unreachable or ungovernable territories in human psyche. Roszak (1992) says in The Voice of the Earth, that “[i]t is peculiarly the psychiatry of modern Western society that has split the ‘inner’ from the ‘outer’ world – as if what was inside of us was not also inside the universe, something real, consequential, and inseparable from our study of the natural world” (p. 14). He adds, “with the possible exception of ‘Zoophilia,’” “there is not a single recognised disease of the psyche that connects madness to the nonhuman world in which our environmental responsibility is grounded” (p. 15). Psychology and psychiatry have been tediously piecemeal, they work on one part of man, and try to cure it by disregarding the other part, which is deeply rooted in nature. Because Roszak (1992) says, “our dominant schools of psychotherapy are themselves … of the same scientific and industrial culture that now weighs so brutally on the planet.” “The context of psychiatry stops at the city limits; the nonhuman world that lies beyond is a great mystery as the depths of the soul” (p. 19). Ecopsychology is an attempt to bridge up this subject and object dichotomy and to act as a corrective compliment to piecemeal attitudes in psychology.
A comparison of how nature has been configured in ancient times and reconfigured by modernity helps us to understand the motive behind the theory of Ecopsychology. The world of primary people is often depicted as “one with fluid boundaries, such that no absolute lines can be drawn among human, animal, and spirit realms; a world of metamorphoses, shape-shifting transformations” (Fisher, 2013, p. 139). While modern, scientific man saw phenomenal world as an “It,” to the ancients and the primitives of the Near East, it was a “Thou” (Frankfort and Frankfort, 1946, p. 11). At this point, the difference between ‘It’ and ‘Thou’ discloses the metamorphosis that nature has gone through from the world of pre-modernity to the world of modernity: an “It” is the rational, articulate and predictable although “Thou” has the “unprecedented, unparalleled, and unpredictable character of an individual, a presence known only in so far as it reveals itself” (Frankfort and Frankfort, 1946, p. 13). Solidified by that “[i]n Antiquity every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit” (White, 1967, p. 1205), this unveils ancient man’s symbiotic immersion in nature, for whom the world is “neither inanimate nor empty but redundant with life” and “life has individuality, in ←65 | 66→man and beast and plant, in every phenomenon which confronts man – the thunderclap, the sudden shadow, the eerie and unknown clearing in the wood, the stone which suddenly hurts him when he stumbles while on a hunting trip” (Frankfort and Frankfort, 1946, p. 13).
In a similar vein, as early humans who “greeted the immense creativity of nature with an awe that has since been lost to all but the poetic minority” (Roszak, 1992, p. 137), ancient people made no sharp distinction among “dreams, hallucinations, and ordinary vision” and saw no difference between “the living and the dead” (Frankfort and Frankfort, 1946, p. 21). West (2007) says that as the nucleus of “intuition, visionary experience, dream, imagination, nostalgia, wisdom, epiphany, as well as bewilderment, confusion, and dread,” forest denies death (p. 85). In his analysis of Rousseau’s Confessions, Harrison (1992) refers to the forest of Saint-Germain that inspired Rousseau as “the preserve of imagination’s storehouse of images of remote antiquity” (p. 130). Correspondingly, West (2007) notes that challenging Western culture’s obsession with mortality, “many American Indian cultures placed their dead in trees; some North-western Indians committed their dead to the rivers; in the south-west some people entombed their dead in the wall of their homes” (p. 86). In such a context, nature becomes an undifferentiated flux of archaic energies of life, where man, saved from his entrapment in logos, is in a continuous communication with modernity’s naturalized others as their coevolutionary partner.
As an instance of a ritual that can provide an insight into the practice of ecopsychology, Barre Toelken reports that “Navajo people carry strings of beads in their pockets, made from juniper seeds collected carefully from supplies of seeds stored by small animals and chosen so as not to deprive the animals of food.” As he says, these beads ‘“represent the partnership between the tree that gives its berries, the animals which gather them, and humans who pick them up”’ (as cited in West, 2007, p. 89), thereby reflecting the dependencies and reciprocities among the various species. As noted by Roszak (1992), among traditional societies prevailed also the assumption that the natural world was populated by “sentient beings” and they got involved in “mystical (‘enthusiastic’)” practices, which were “targeted for ridicule as the worst transgression against reason and science” during the Enlightenment (p. 80). “Special states of awareness” were needed to speak and hear the vibrant language of nature, “involving meditation, drunkenness, the use of narcotics, the dizziness induced by the dance, fasting or the various forms of self-inflicted suffering that have given tribal people their reputation for ‘savagery’” – which explains that “ecstasy is the medium of transhuman communications” (Roszak, 1992, p. 80).About the causes of man’s dissociation from nature, there are different views. Arguing that ←66 | 67→“[e]specially in its Western form, Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen,” Lynn White (1967) traces the ecological crisis back to Christianity: “Christianity, in absolute contrast to ancient paganism and Asia’s religions (except, perhaps, Zoroastrianism), not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends” (p. 1205). Paul Shepard (1998) thinks agriculture as the source of man’s divorce from nature and as the reason for his “chronic madness” (p. 127). Jonathan Bate (1991) who says that ‘“[h]uman civilization’ has always been in the business of altering the land, whether through deforestation, or urbanization or mining or enclosure or even the artificial reimposition of ‘nature’” regards urbanization as the factor lying behind the loss of original ecological harmony (p. 56). Similarly, Roszak (1992) notes that dating back to “the fantasies of megalomaniac pharaohs and conquering god-kings” and their “delusions of grandeur” though “now thoroughly rationalized and accepted as ‘normal,’” the city marks both the ecological and psychological crisis (pp. 219; 236). In The Death of Nature, Carolyn Merchant (1989) regards cultivation of motherly earth as the factor hastening the “disruption and exploitation of new and ‘virgin’ lands” and points to devaluation of the earth’s all-embracing motherly status through mining: “the new mining activities have altered the earth from a bountiful mother to a passive receptor of human rape” (pp. 20; 39). In a similar vein with Merchant, Roszak (1992) reads nature as a maternal space and looks at the ecological crisis from a psychoanalytical vantage point, creating an antithesis to Freud’s humanistic psychology, as he says: “‘the primal crime’ may not have been the prehistoric betrayal of the father, but the act of breaking faith with the mother: Mother Earth – or whatever characterization we might wish to make of the planetary biosphere as a vital, self-regulating system” (p. 83). This runs counters to anthropocentric assumptions of classical psychoanalysis, which assigns man a civilized status on the condition that he is gouged out from symbiotic captation by the mother and bends to the repression of his uncharted pre-oedipal energies.
The rise of the Ego through Western history has brought a change in the way the natural world has been reconfigured and it became “increasingly distant, hard, literal, mute, static, passive: unmysterious” (Fisher, 2013, p. 100). As the premise of modernity, dualistic thinking has led to the alienation of man from nature, repressing and casting nature away as a threat to the mechanical operation of civilization. By the official view of the Church, nature was treated as a “desacralized territory, created by God but apart from and wholly other than God” (Roszak, 1992, pp. 140–141). Based on Christianity, Western civilization saw humans “as masters of the earth and its living things:” “‘Be fruitful and ←67 | 68→multiply and fill the Earth and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over everything that moves upon the Earth”’ (as cited in Nemeth, 2015, p. xii). This dualistic overkill, which privileges the visibility of the man (phallus) over the black hole of nature (female genitals) also created a rupture between the inside and the outside, reducing in Irigaray’s (1985) terms what is not seen to the state of the non-existent: “Nothing to be seen is equivalent to having no thing” (p. 48). So, with Western culture’s embrace of rationality based on objective experimentation, “what could not be demonstrated lost value;” “the mythic mode of thought no longer complemented the logical;” and “intuition and receptivity” were “devalued and denied” for being “assumed to be ‘female’ qualities” (West, 2007, p. 9). In a similar vein, Abram (2013) notes: “Ever since the Enlightenment, technological civilization has assumed a clear divide between the presumably ‘exterior’ world of material nature and the presumably ‘interior’ world of the mind and emotions” (p. ix). Kovel also traces ecological and psychological crisis back to modernity’s epistemic violence as he argues: “modernity’s infamous domination of nature faces in two directions: in one it diminishes the earth (ecological crisis), in the other it diminishes the human (social and psychological crisis)” (as cited in Fisher, 2013, p. 25).
Ecopsychology as a Geometry of Multiplicity
Shattering modernity’s “age-old divide between mind and matter, between the psyche ‘in here’ and nature ‘out there,’” Ecopsychology discloses the inevitability of interconnectedness as it suggests that “the psyche cannot really be understood as a distinct dimension isolated from the sensuous world that materially enfolds us” and “earthly nature can no longer be genuinely understood as a conglomeration of objects and objective processes independent of subjectivity and sentience” (Abram, 2013, p. ix). For Roszak (1992), the aim of ecopsychology is “to see the needs of the planet and the person as a continuum” and “in search of a greater sanity, it begins where we might say sanity leaves off: at the threshold of the nonhuman world” (pp. 13; 14). As he says, “the bridge we need to find our way back to a significant sense of connectedness with nature may lie in that shadowed quarter of the mind we have for so long regarded as ‘irrational,’ even crazy” (Roszak, 1992, p. 42). In a similar vein, Antonov (2008) suggests that “we live in a multidimensional environment,” with the material world we perceive with our senses being “just a small portion of it” and the other layers as “filled with life that can see us and which influences us” (p. 10). Embedded in this multilayered universe as being only one of the species among ←68 | 69→many, the normative humanist ideal of Man is dethroned from his status as the measure of all things and the boundary between the human and the nonhuman is fludified.
Treatment of the human world as “autonomously self-contained would be the very height of madness,” argues Roszak, directing attention to the necessity of establishing “a transactional bond with the natural” (1992, p. 79). Disclosing that “genuine sanity is grounded in the reality of the natural world,” Ecopsychologists emphasize the need for “a psychological reconciliation with the living earth” and aim to “relocate the human psyche within the wider natural world” (Fisher, 2013, pp. xiii; xvii). Seeing neurosis as the impasse of the civilized man, they urge for going back to pristine, untouched nature for the dissolution of the chains of egotistical entrapment in Enlightenment Humanism.
For one of the few contributors to the ecopsychology, Leslie Gray (1995), we “have only to look at the cross-cultural practices of perennial shamanism to find effective models of applied ecopsychology” (p. 173). Likewise, Sean Kane (1998) refers to archaic people’s myth-telling as “an affectionate counterpoint to the earth’s voices” (p. 14).
Ecopsychology, for Fisher (2013), is traced back to a sense of loss: “Nature is for us that which we have lost, and we experience this separation as a sense of lack, deficiency or incompleteness on our part” (pp. 41; 97). “The sun glints through the pines, and the heart is pierced in a moment of beauty and strange pain, like a memory of paradise. After that day, at the bottom of each breath, there is a hollow place that is filled with longing,” writes Peter Matthiessen (1998, pp. ix-x), pointing to this yearning for wholeness. Similarly, watching a raven, Richard Nelson (1989) says: “[t]he raven circles once more, then flaps deliberately away, still holding the black, shadowless orb in his beak. As I watch him grow smaller in the distance, I feel a deep sense of aching, overpowering loss” (p. 280). The unmapped status of the raven floating freely in the slippery ground of the sky triggers in him that illusory sense of wholeness that he had before his symbolic enclosure. As for Abram (1996), also, “the pain, the sadness of our exile from nature ‘is precisely the trace of what has been lost, the intimation of a forgotten intimacy” (p. 119). To recover this alienation, breaking free from the frames of modernity or, in Neil Evernden’s (1993) words, listening for “a new story” is necessary (p. 141). Depicting humans as ‘“natural aliens’ in that “as a species we are born into the natural world problematically, as a kind of niche-less exotic that must always mediate a relationship to nature through culture, must adopt some story about how we fit into the scheme of things,” (Fisher, 2013, p. 52) Evernden thus calls for an unmediated access to nature.←69 | 70→
Garden in Auden’s “Lonely Betters” as a Corrective Compliment to Modernity
Emphasizing the dynamic state of nature involving coevolutionary partnership, Haraway (2004) departs from binary polarities when she says that “in discoursing on nature, we turn from Plato” in search of seeing other than what the Eurocentric assumptions of Enlightenment provides (p. 65). In this way, she implies nature’s inexplicability and constant fluidity. Fisher (2013) also puts the emphasis on the flux of nature and likens it to a kind of poetry: “as a continually changing of the emergence of the myriad forms of being, physis, primordial nature, is a mode of poiesis; it is poetic in its sheer beauty, suchness, or presencing – radiating forth” (p. 105). As he further says, the natural world is “a field of arising-and-passing phenomena as appearances, a myriad of unfolding-and-dying interactional events,” where one feels immersed in “a mysterious-yet-familiar world; where time and space easily slip out of their Cartesian dimensions” (Fisher, 2013, pp. 99; 152).
All these divisions are addressed, problematized and bridged up in Auden’s poem, therefore, we take the poem as a conscious attack on premises of modernity. With the way we read the poem from a psychoanalytical vantage point we also aim to bridge up the traditional division between psychology and nature because we claim that at the end of the poem the poet can transliterate the intra-subjectivity he experiences in his garden in his ontological merging with the elements of his garden into the codes of the logic of the signifiers through his poetic practice.
Rather than the collectively shared gardens or communal spaces like zoological or botanical gardens or playgrounds the poem talks about the garden attached to the speaker’s house. Garden in this poem becomes an interface between the inner and the outer. The inner space is part of the homely space and the outer space is part of the symbolic or the collective. This is also an interface between the intra-subjective and the intersubjective, that is, between the imaginary and the symbolic, in Lacanian terms. The imaginary register is “the space of non-human life where humanization did not take place yet, where the Lacanian Symbolic register could not yet homogenize the discordant qualities of the Real” (Birlik, 2013, pp. 242–243). Imaginary with its identifications with significant others is a space which operates through images, imagoes1 and ←70 | 71→identificatory relations. In other words, it is composed of pre-linguistic, extra-symbolic or pre-symbolic psychic material. The Imaginary is closely linked with the mirror phase acting as a playground for the spectacular absorption of the infants. Manifesting “the affective dynamism by which the subject originally identifies himself with the visual Gestalt of his own body” “in relation to the still very profound lack of co-ordination of his own motility,” the mirror stage “represents an ideal unity, a salutary imago” (Lacan, 2001, p. 15). In this pre-verbal universe involving misrecognition and self-alienating identifications, imagoes take on a structuring task and give the inchoate Lacanian subject a sense of illusory permanence and poetic wholeness. Estranged from the blissful context of the Imaginary, the symbolic is the register which is dominated by the Law and in which the subject translates these images and identificatory relations into symbolic terms through the mediation of the third element, that is, language or the logic of the signifiers. This logic implies one’s dislocation from the imaginary register but it also implies the momentary intrusions of this register into the symbolic. The disruptive material of the imaginary register invades the symbolic in a culturally accepted form. Or, in Freudian terms it is the sublimation of the imaginary psychodynamics. That is, the linguistically castrated subject can re-establish the imaginary psychic dynamics in the symbolic and the garden in the poem works as a perfect metaphor for such a space, which enables the subject to reconnect to the imaginary psychodynamics. It involves imaginary resonances as, in the garden, the subject can relate himself to nature through extralinguistic images. It also involves symbolic resonances because what he creates in his garden also makes sense in symbolic register. That is, very much like the arts, the garden becomes a “semiotic flow within symbolicity” in Kristevan terms (1987, p. 16) or what Gersdorf and Mayer (2006) term as a “hybridised entity” (p. 14). It is against such a theoretical conception that our interpretation of the garden in Auden’s poem should be taken.
Right in the beginning, the speaker in the poem locates himself in his garden and listens to all the voices his garden makes:
As I listened from a beach-chair in the shade
To all the noises that my garden made,
It seemed to me only proper that words
Should be withheld from vegetables and birds. (Auden, 2007, p. 580)
In the course of the poem, his garden metamorphoses to an alternative site of deviation, which accommodates elements/beings/resonances outside language and culture. In the process, he acknowledges the agency of his garden by pointing out the polyphonic state of being it embodies. It speaks its own language, sings ←71 | 72→its own song and operates on its own principles, which are all unfamiliar to the anthropocentric frame of mind. That is, the poem subverts anthropocentric codifications of nature in modernity and offers a non-anthropocentric view of the nonhuman world. The third and the fourth lines imply that words should be withheld from vegetables and birds, that is, cultural and anthropocentric codification of nature should be evacuated in any approach to nature. This implies that right in the beginning, the speaker gives up his arrogant centrality and proposes an ecophonic subversion of the dichotomous logic by suggesting the idea that a different way to conceive nature is needed.
In the second stanza, he establishes a genuine contact with the non-human world and takes nature “as a self-articulating subject” in Oppermann’s words (1999, p. 33). He gives specific examples for the polyphony and the way it operates in nature. A robin, for example, has no Christian name, that is, being unfamiliar with the logic of the signifiers, it is not acculturated, performs only its anthem, its song, which fills all his world. Rustling flowers have a sense of collectivity and can connect to each other. Animals or plants when approached from an anthropocentric view cannot lie, as they have no human language. Their conception of temporality is different, as they have no sense of linearity or progress. “Gardens have a peculiar relationship with time:” “existing in time,” “they look forward; but they also carry with them traces of nostalgia, recollections when they were initiated,” writes Hunt (2000, p. 122), directing attention to dissolution of linearity in nature. In the poem, this conception of time comes through a rhythm or a rhyme, that is, animals or plants have different methods of calculating time from the civilised man. As linearity or its teleological drive is absent in their world, they do not have a conception of death in man’s sense. Or, dying assumes another form of life in nature, thus, has other implications which are a mystery to man:
A robin with no Christian name ran through
The Robin-Anthem which was all it knew,
And rustling flowers for some third party waited
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- Publication date
- 2021 (June)
- marginalisation discrimination isolation existence English Literature
- Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 324 pp.