Posted by Hil on November 03, 1997 at 18:53:47:
In response to If you're game to continue the debate..., written by Karen R on November 03, 1997 at 14:49:25
] Since, I'm only going to be around for a couple of days or so, you won't be subjected to my intransigence on this subject much more.
Karen, why will you not be around longer? I have been enjoying your posts so much. When are you coming back?
] In Kate's response, she held Maud up as the one whose views should be considered most reliable. She cites some dialogue between Maud and Bea about the omission of sexual references in Ellen's journal (p.241). Leonora believes it must be there--in the metaphors--and Maud initially agrees that Leonora may have been on to something--the systematic omission of sexual references underlies the bafflement. Bea disagrees ("she was not taught to do scholarship by studying primarily what was omitted").
] But here Kate stops. In the next two paragraphs, Maud comes to see this view as "like dirty egg-white." She then tells Bea, "I agree....In fact I do agree. The whole of our scholarship--the whole of our thought--we question everything except the centrality of sexuality." It's not there; our modern, post-Freudian approach is to read in what is not there. After reading a little Leonora on Melusina, Roland found that "he did not like this vision, and yet, a child of his time, found it compelling, somehow guaranteed to be significant....Sexuality was like thick smoked glass; everything took on the same blurred tint through it."
Yes, but they funny thing about this is that in one sense Leonora was right! We as readers, allowed into someones thoughts, are the only ones priveleged to find out about Ellen's inability to have sex. It was 'that kind of thing' that was omitted, and it was a key to E&A's relationship. Leonora on Melusina (and everything else!)is completely over the top, but what she says has elements of truth.
The reference to 'a bed like dirty white egg-white', again is funny too, because while Maud is wanting to object to to the idea of sex being central to 20th C literary scholarship, the image that comes to her mind is a direct playback to her own metaphor for the irresistable but unsatisfactory sexual relationship (the one with Fregus): the bed with 'whipped eggwhite peaks'. (the egg image runs through everything).
Byatt constantly does this: undermines our tendencies to see things in terms of black and white, to stereotype, whether it is to do with sexuality, ideas, literature. Extremities in any direction are far-fetched, but that does not mean they do not contain some truths.
] Maud's views are constantly changing throughout the book; her eyes are being opened by both Bea and by Roland especially. The discussion Roland and Maud have on their North Yorkshire trip (pp. 275-7) goes straight to this point about metaphors (see myriad interpretations of the "glove"). As Maud and Roland often say: "It fits in beautifully. But it isn't proof."
] What is proof then? We have the broaches, the "Friendship" broach that Maud buys for Leonora and that Christabel buys for Blanche. That's all their relationships are, even though the other party may desire more. Per Maud: Leonora is "invasive. An expert in intimacy. She reduces my space. I'm not very good with that sort of thing." (p. 293)
I took Christabel's buying of the friendship brooch for Blanche as a sign that their relationship was over, had been reduced from lover to friendship.
] We also have Roland and his vision. He seems to be a better barometer for assessing what is vs. what is not. He has elements of being both a Romantic and a Realist (or maybe he evolves into the later, I don't know.) Early on, he comes to regard Christabel and Ash as lovers. Before reading the letters, "he was already thinking of [her] as Ash's mistress." (p.135) Following all the thought and discussion of how metaphor changes, based on who is reading and when, Roland assesses their dilemma of understanding as being the result of their skepticism toward Romantic Love. "We know we are driven by desire, but we can't see it as they did, can we?...We have to make a real effort of imagination to know what it felt like to be them, here, believing in these things--Love--themselves--that what they did mattered." (p.290)
] Does Roland ever say that he believes or feels that Christabel and Blanche were lovers? I haven't found that reference (proof) yet. Please let me know since I will only be around for a couple of days.
I don't know if he says what he believes. I'll try to think/look.
We will never know for certain, and it doesn't matter!
Posting followups to old messages is disabled; instead go to the main index and post a new message which mentions this one.