Thursday, May 28, 2009

(Re)reading the Chronicle of Higher Education

To those of you not familiar with such a resource as the Chronicle of Higher Education, may this post serve as a wake up call to its valuable existence.

Anyone serious about pursuing their academic dream(s) and remaining in the know, subscription to this membership is crucial, inevitable and relevant.

As an Adjunct faculty member I found the article: "A Brief Taxonomy on Adjunct Labor" enlightening and somewhat reductive. The link can be found here:

In a world where your "role" matters as much as your "fit" one could do worst than not to remain vigilant, aware. Why? The devil, like a roaring lion seeks whom he may devour. And, as Lewis before me has intimated, allegory in any form or shape romanticizes the bleakness of truth. If you're clever enough, you can figure out who the devil is in this case. If not, then it may be you that's seeking and devouring.

Like Lupe said, "Check your ingredients before you overdose...on the cool."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sounding off!

To all of those haters of the LA Lakers--tonight's game via the poorest officiating that I have ever seen--payback is...well, you know.

I am now convinced that Dante Jones is a punk, J.R. Smith is mercurial and a punk, K-fart is a major punk, and I only have respeto por 'Melo por que el es borriqueño!

My prediction: LA will win the series, and battle against Orlando, not Cleveland. Kobe Bryant really is the game's best closer though no longer its most physical presence. That honor goes to Bron-Bron.

Orlando should be up 2-0 right now, but of course the basketball gods have winked on their new native son. Still, my money's on KB24 not on LBJ23. For those of you who like predictions and all of that--here goes:

Lakers v. Nuggets: Lakers win (4-2)
Orlando v. Cleveland: Orlando wins(4-2)

Lakers v. Orlando: Lakers win (4-1) and KB24 gets to officially say he won a championship without that other guy whose name continues to morph although his game is nigh obsolete.

In fact, I am going to predict that Kobe will not win it again in 2010, but will win it in 2011. At the end of his career, KB23 will have a total of 5 NBA titles, and still be considered the second best NBA player ever. MJ23 will always have my vote even if LBJ23 ends up with 7 NBA titles or more.


There is no way someone can leave the game, retire, train and play a totally different game with different bio-mechanics and come back to win 3 back-to-back NBA titles. All the while changing his game from slash and dunk to stutter-step and fade away jumper. Yeah, MJ23 is that good.

It's like Lancelot v. Don Quijote: Lancelot wins. I'll let you decide who the Hidalgo happens to be.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Rafa, Kobe and Barcelona v. Man U

Ahora es el tiempo para ver a los deportes de tenis, de baloncesto y de fútbol. Creo que Rafa ganara su quinto campeonato llamado: Roland Garros, Paris, France.

Kobe ganara su cuarto campeonato del NBA sin el ayuda de Shaq. No se si Barcelona ganara en los finales con Man U, pero quien sabe, no.

Este ano es un ano increíble. Y por que? Pues no he mencionado el hockey (creo que los Red Wings ganara). Así son los deportes. Me recuerdo de los campeonatos entre caballeros durante el siglo medieval. Antes de Don Quijote y Amadis y después de los juegos Olímpicos este siglo de mujeres y caballos y de violencia y de paz y del social político fue uno experimento.

Durante los próximos seis semanas te pido que mires uno de estos juegos, o todos los juegos. Puedes perder el tiempo en otra maneras, no.

Warrior Gatitos unite!

A lot can be learned about the feline realm. In fact, here are some lessons to be learned from my two feline knights: Sir Solomon Parker and Sir C.S. Lewis.

--When tired, plop down and take root. Add a back leg stretch, or two.

--When hungry, make noise and look as cuddly as you can. You just might qualify for a treat.

--Play, play, play. Then, take time to appreciate the quotidian. So what if a rubber band doubles as an exercise band and a chew toy.

--Take a poop, cover it up and race back out into the world.

--Play tag, then have a stare off.

--When annoyed, sharpen your nails on tabooed furniture items (usually a couch, or something plush)

--Diversify your meal man; make it dry, wet or mix it up.

Cats really do elongate our lives, and that's probably because they graciously lend one of their nine.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Position of Race and Magic in the Spanish Margins, Or the Middling of Magique in the Late Medium Aevum

The following was presented as a paper at the 44th International Medieval Congress, WMU-K-zoo, MI, 7-10 May 2009 by Francis Tobienne, Jr.

The role of magic as a bridge between science and religion during the Middle Ages reveals the subject, not the mere object of magic as a viable, intellectual pursuit. Scholars of the past have posited and asserted that magic was the largest subject in history; according to James Thomson Shotwell, “it [magic] was the science and religion combined, much of the art, and most of the mode of thinking of our race for those stretches of centuries that we so lightly term the prehistoric.” Though the position of magic has always been a privileged and contested rung in the ladder of rationality, both in history and anthropology, Richard Kieckhefer has championed that magic, “to the people of medieval Europe […] thought of it as neither irrational nor nonrational but as essentially rational.” Following this train of thought and linking it to the geographical location known as the Iberian Peninsula, magic, I argue, was in fact the underlying foundation of much scholarship and led the way toward formative philosophy as well as Spanish, religious belief during fifteenth-century Spain.

Moreover, magic, as a legitimate, intellectual pursuit was to be classified as one of the seven liberal arts. If magic was a workable, cerebral quest alongside the training of the intellect in other fields of discipline, then who were its practitioners exactly? Who were its champions?

According to Samuel M. Waxman, “great magicians were reputed to have learned their art, at Naples and Padua in Italy, at Orléans in France, but the most renowned of all were in Spain at Toledo, Seville, Cordova, and Salamanca.” Taking the following selected Spanish texts: Vida de Santa María Egipcíaca, and select works from Alfonso X, el Sabio, I will argue that Medieval Spanish Literature of the thirteenth-century toward the fifteenth century presents both the magical practitioner(s) and the miracle worker(s), which in turn, displays the myriad of ideas re: magic, Christian propagandistic elements, and the tension, or anxiety for supremacy of the human subject/mind and la gloria de la Potencia Divina [the glory of the Divine Influence]. When applied to the work of La Celestina, the efficacy of magic, as E. Sanchez asserts: “dealing with magic must of necessity allow for the fact that […] magic played a greater role in the understanding of natural phenomena than it does for the modern reader” (Hispanic Review, 481). Still, the formation of the Medieval/Modern subject as reader of culture can be traced from such examination(s), from such exploration(s).

Again, to study magic in full is to examine magic in its bifurcated existence: black, nigromancia and white, miraculum. Such dual distinctions reveal the peculiar and the liminal explanations of (un)known phenomena in fifteenth century Spanish Studies.

We begin with some illustrations taken from both the Vida and from select works of Alphonso X, el Sabio.

Vida de Santa María Egipcíaca:

On examination the didactic and heavily sermonized poem, Vida de Santa María Egipcíaca (herein, Vida), reveals the dispensation of Divine grace and makes a didactic appeal to living an obedient life. We shall begin with a brief synopsis of the poem, and then proceed to a more careful analysis taken with miraculum, the Church’s central explanation of magic via phenomena, in tow, and privileging specific occurrences of this particular phenomenon through the life of the author’s protagonist, Santa María de Egipcíaca, [“Saint Mary of Egypt”]. Cruz-Saenz suggests that the poem “exists in whole or in part in one Old Spanish and eight Old French manuscripts ranging from the first years of the thirteenth century to the fifteenth century. This particular MS is currently preserved in the Biblioteca del Escorial. The Vida can be divided into four distinct sections; first, lines 1-205 discuss the grace and mercy of God, Mary’s disillusionment with her life in her parental home, and her lascivious and lustful life there, as well as her departure to Alexandria at the age of twelve; second, lines 206-453 discuss Mary’s journeying with pilgrims to Jerusalem to which she offers her body as payment of the trip and later the miraculous impediment to her entering the Church based on Mary’s sins of lust and prostitution; third, lines 454-1218 present a transformed Mary, upon being unable to enter the Temple, Mary fixes on the image of the Virgin Mary—repents, enters the Church, buys three loaves of bread, then crosses the Jordan to spend forty years in the desert; later, she is encountered by Zozimás of the monastery of St. John, whom she knows all about thanks to a vision of the Virgin; in their meeting each of them asks for the other’s mutual blessing, which takes place; lastly, in lines 1219-1452, Mary separates from Zozimás to continue her penance as he returns to the Jordan, Mary dies and Zozimás is entrusted with her interment through the assistance of a lion, and Zozimás in some final exhortations admonishes the Church in a reflection of the penitent life of now Saint Mary.

In one particular scene, Mary is given power to walk on water and to arrive at the side of the bank where Zozimás eagerly awaited her; upon recognizing her miraculum, he notices she is dry and begins to worship her at her feet, pleading of her, a blessing. The poet suggests that before such “white” magic, it is proper for the saintliest of men to grovel and plead and recognize their status as subservient before such a craft; in short, her walking on water is a supernatural occurrence, and proceeds toward producing the performance of obeisance from Zozimás. Moreover, after having received the sacrament Mary returns to the desert charging Zozimás to come and look for her a year later alive or dead. Alas, it is to be in death—for Mary dies and the angels take her soul to heaven. Returning at the appointed time Zozimás, finds the corpse of Mary and the admonition written in letters scraped in the ground that he should bury the body (1373-78). It is with great difficulty that the frail, old Zozimás begins the task of digging the grave:

El alma es de ella sallida,
los ángeles la han recebida;
los ángeles la van levando
tan dulce son que van cantando.
Mas bien podedes esto jurar,
que el diablo no y pudi llegar.
Esta duenyaa da enxemplo
A todo omn’ que es en este sieglo. (lines 1333-40)

mas por amor d’esta María,
grant ayuda Dios le envia:
salió un leyón d’esa montanya,
a Gozimás faze companya; (lines 1385-88)

El leyón cava la tierra dura,
el santo le muestra la mesura. (lines 1397-98)
Her soul has departed from her,
the angels have received it;
the angels are carrying it
such a sweet sound as they are singing.
But one can well assure this,
That the devil was not able to come there.
This woman provides an example
to all mankind which is in this world.

But for love of this Mary,
God sends him great help:
a lion came out from that wilderness,
to Zozimás he made him company;

The lion digs the hard dirt,
the venerable one [Zozimás] shows him the correct

The representation of the lion as an assistant grave digger is reminiscent of the character of Christ as holding the title, “The Lion of Judah,” and again this naming plays into the theology of the poet as writer and orchestrator of Church authority. Further, God as provider even in death is an echoing theme throughout this poem; moreover, God’s power over a beast of prey, ordering it to co-exist with mankind is nothing shy of a miraculum. Evidently, if the Church relied on miracula to express the explanation of phenomena, and this is distinguished from say, other “arts” because of the source of the dispensation, then the Vida belongs to this example. The text privileges a worldly woman who enjoys the favor of God as the result of her austerities. In creating a story such as our poet has done where the beauty of a woman, itself a type of power, although presented as more of a trap than anything else, is trumped by an inner beauty that excels via God’s method of penance, the poet is arguing that God, who can forgive anyone, is playing for keeps when it comes to the soul. Mary of Egypt’s soul departs, but not until she is fully penitent and has lived out her penance with obedience. The ending of the poem returns in part to the sermonizing charge at the beginning, and utilizes the character of Zozimás, the venerable monk to do so. Zozimás and the lion return to the Monastery of St. John:

Don Gozimás comienca a fablar,
non se quiso más çelar;
de la Egipçiana que non se le olvida,
bien les contó toda su vida; (1423-26)

Don Zozimás began to tell the story,
he did not wish to hide it anymore;
of the Egyptian woman whom he did not forget,
told well all of her life.

These parts of the last 30 or so lines capture the essence of Mary’s purposeful life; i.e. her exemplary life applied to all, and that we would do well to remember the Saint because: “…ella ruegue al Criador / con qui ella hobo grant amor,” [“she prays to the Creator / for whom she had great love”] (1443-45). The poem’s final exhortation, toward a mimetic, penitent life, is an entreaty from Zozimás, the Church and of course the voice of God, wherein sin is regarded as a separator and God’s conditions for repentance are rewarded, even in death. As we conclude our analysis on the Vida, Jennifer M. Corry reiterates her position concerning the interpretation of magic along the lines of Church subjectivity, namely that which pertains to miracula. She states, “The Church believed that it had to compete with magical practice and as a result, created its own counterbalance of Christian ‘magic’” (Perceptions 137). She positions her explanation of Church authority concerning such a poem as the Vida and its saintly protagonist as a didactic example wherein, “the Church was able to suggest the immensity of God’s power,” as well as suppress and downplay the role of a woman’s sexuality by suggesting: “She [Mary] must lose her sexuality and definition as a woman in order to qualify for sainthood under the aegis of the masculine God” (138).

Shifting toward Alfonso X, we discuss a life, Las Siete Partidas (selections) and el Lapidario:

Alfonso X (1221-1284), known as el Sabio because of his rigorous attempts to bring Spain into an informed, cultural sphere of learning, was king of Castile-León in the third quarter of his life. He held extensive literary activities and in particular, his adoption of Roman Civil Law, to thirteenth century Spain in Las Siete Partidas (herein, Partidas). As one critic has noted, “He had many scholars in his traveling court, and he was an active participant in their writing and editing.” Further, Alfonso aligned himself with those scholars who were well-versed on Roman law, which prepared the king for his understanding to assemble a uniform code for his lands. The work—known as Las Siete Partidas, or the “Seven-Part Code” was in part responsible for an ethic of behavior describing the way the human future should look like, as opposed to the behavior described in the Chronicles. Among his other important works are his Crόnica General, a history of Spain from the beginnings to the thirteenth century, and the Grande y General Estoria, an incomplete attempt to describe his history of the world from creation to the time of St. Anne. Further, Alfonso X compiled a Lapidario, a Libro de las Formas y Imagenes and a book on Astrology, El Libro Cumplido en los Indizios de las Estrellas. His own literary output consists of poems to the Virgin Mary: Cantigas de Santa María. Still, how is it exactly that such a king and his court was able to write in the vernacular tongue and privilege its syntax as a worthy language of intelligent and discursive, literary form?

Historically, the scholars that were invited to the court of Alfonso X, wrote in the Castilian tongue, and by regularizing the syntax, made in the process a literary language. The Partidas as we have already mentioned were in part based on Roman Civil Law, and provided codes on manners, morals, the concept of the king and his people as an universitas, or union (corporation of sorts), within which the king existed as agent of both God and the people. Enduring a Moorish uprising in 1264, Alfonso, stimulated his cultural vita in the latter part of the thirteenth century, relying on l'histoire commander son passé. Although he may have been considered learned, wise, and to some extent a progressive intellectual, Alfonso was a poor politician; his focus on learning was unquestionable, but his ambitions to become Holy Roman Emperor were too self-seeking and locally, counter-intuitive with respect to any national unification. He advanced the existing schools of both Seville and Salamanca, and provided a tolerant atmosphere for both Muslim and Jewish cultural existence. Such cultural tolerance did not last as the pogroms of 1391 demonstrate. In Castille the laws of 1412 confined Jews to ghettos and regulated their dress. Similar legislation was passed in Aragon, and the final expulsion of the Jews came in 1492—beginning with the Edict of Expulsion of the Jews, 29 April 1492. George D. Greenia in her review of, “The Lapidary of King Alfonso X the Learned by Ingrid Bahler” suggests, “Alfonso X was certainly one of the great monarchs of his age and an independent scholar who enjoyed the means to turn the fruits of his research pastimes into luxury objects of conspicuous consumption” (791). Regardless of Alfonso’s motives for spreading knowledge and the “texture of the medieval world, where concrete reality and fantasy have equal standing and mix freely,” Greenia reaffirms, rather than discredits, such a time period in which the ambiguities of belief and belief systems (including magic) were able to co-exist. What is more, the more detailed an explanation of the supernatural there was, the less credible it seemed. Alfonso’s interests as king and curious intellectual went hand-in-hand, and his support of Arabic translations into Castilian was to him a worthwhile investment. The Lapidario is a good example of such a work based on classical sources. It contains a list of almost 500 stones, each with accompanying signs of the zodiac, assorted stars, letters of the alphabet and other “pertinent” information. Further, it relies on Ptolemy’s astrological treatise, the Almagest. Alfonso had also created his own astronomical texts and charts based on the meridian of Toledo. Greenia asserts:

The scientific lore of the Middle Ages is all too often bypassed now as foolish
speculation, yet it has a great deal to teach us about the conscientious systematization of natural history, the conceptual architecture that supported a sophisticated world view, and the continuity of natural white magic (including geology, medicine, astrology and casting horoscopes) with black magic and demonology. (791)

Such an analysis suggests that Alfonso X, though conflating myth and fact and knotting together astrology and folklore, may have still produced or rather, commissioned, “smartly commodified cultural goods that would impress both his unlettered countrymen and learned diplomats from abroad” (791). Here, the king privileges his role as educator of his eclectic people (Christians, Muslims and Jews), and applies such intellectual energy toward the fashioning of his Lapidario.
The Lapidario of Alfonso X which was begun in 1250 and completed in 1270, opens with “Del Signo De Aries,” [“The sign of Aries”] (Lapidario 13) and involves the “piedra a que llaman magnitat en caldeo y en arabigo, y en latin magnetes, y en lenguaje castellano aymant,” [“rock or stone called magnitat in Chaldean and in Arabic, and in Latin magnetes, and in the Castillian tongue Imán”] (13). Moreover, the remainder of the text is sectioned by the remaining 11 zodiac signs. There are too many stones to list which have properties than can heal, kill, provide the love, or the lust of a woman, produce good[s] or maleficium. Some stones appeared only at specific moments of planetary alignments and in the sea; one such example is a stone associated with Saturn and the sign of Aquarius. It is only discovered when the sea is heavily undulated, tumultuous and unsettled. Alfonso notes, “Hay en ella una virtud muy mala: que si la mira alguno cuando Saturno esta bajo tierra, ciega, y mirandola mientras esta la estrella sobre tierra, no hace mal,” [“There is in this stone a very harmful power: that if someone should look at it while Saturn is under the Earth, is blinded, and observing it [the stone] when the star is above the Earth, no harm will come”] (224). Such belief in the rising and setting of planets dictated a symbiotic link to one’s birth and Saturn is held, in astrological terms, as a planetary birth charter. Though the Lapidario provides a look into the scholarly interest regarding Astrology and Astronomy, Alfonso X took it upon himself to extend such academic and intellectual zeal into a codified representation for a civil Spanish society. The emergence of Las Siete Partidas is the result of such attempted “codification.”

In his massive Las Siete Partidas (c.a.1256-65; herein, Partidas), an attempt at literary exchange involving a code of manners and socio-political synergy, albeit a biased one as we shall soon note, Alfonso X in title I to his first Partida opens with:

A Servicio de Dios, e a pro communal delas gentes fazemos este libro, segun que mostramos enel comienço del. E partimos lo en siete partes, en la manera que diximos de suso: porque los que leyessen, fallassen ay todas las cosas cumplidas, e ciertas, para aprovechar se dellas. (I.3r)

We make this book for the service of God and the common benefit of nations, as we have shown in its beginning. And we divide it into Seven Parts, in the manner which we have mentioned above, in order that those who read it may find therein all things complete and certain, in order to be able to profit by them.
And so begins the opening to the first volume or Partida, which is comprised of XXIV Titulos, or “titles;” each title contains varying numbers of laws. The first three titles concern themselves with what the laws are, in what manner and manners are these laws to be observed beginning with the Holy Trinity and the Catholic Faith. The first Partida deals with Church doctrine as well as the behavior of the clergy and the structure and the democracy of Church hierarchy. The second Partida concerns the king’s behavior and his ability to add laws. In this sense the king is not above the statutes, but surely not beneath them. What concerns us here is how the community or people are to behave accordingly and civilly with one another; these are to be found in Partida II, titles XII-XIII respectively. In this second Partida then Alfonso continues to engage in the issue of war and how to handle one’s enemies, or prisoners of war (POWs), while Partida III deals with legal procedures, the roles of lawyers, oaths, evidence, judgment, concluding with property and possession. The fourth Partida deals with family laws, slavery and vassalage and the fifth Partida deals with commercial and maritime law. The sixth Partida deals with the laws of inheritance while the final and seventh Partida concerns crime and criminals, sexual transgressions, magic, those in adultery, then: the Jews, the Moors, heretics and blasphemers. The final Partida concludes with titles on prisons, torture, and punishment while the 34th title lists 37 rules or maxims necessary for the successful conduct of the Law. This brief overview surveys Alfonso X’s vast mind concerning the central focus of an informed, thirteenth century medieval community, and aids in the cementing of a Medieval Spanish intellectual history that would carry well into the fifteenth century and beyond.

The Partidas reveals not only a king and his court, but perhaps illuminates a Spanish society, and its attempts to convey the times via its literary output—where the subject of magic, either “black” or “white,” could be privileged and communicated to a large readership. By aligning magic and its aberrant practices as against the Faith, but allowing non-Christian traditions to continue, one could argue that a “controlled,” Alphonsan society, with competing traditions of Christian, Muslim and Jew existed; this type of quasi-tolerant community may have subsisted and most certainly may have flourished, especially in the communicative form of a literary exchange. As segway into the life of conversos who wrote themselves into history via the vehicle of the literary, we turn to one of its more famous authors Fernando de Rojas, and his Comedia o Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea, or La Celestina (herein, Celestina).

La Celestina:

Originally published in 16 acts as the Comedia de Calisto y Melibea (1499; “Comedy of Calisto and Melibea”) and shortly thereafter in an expanded version with 21 acts as the Tragicomedia de Calisto y Melibea (1502), the work has been popularly known since its publication as La Celestina after its chief character, the bawd who serves as the go-between for the young lovers Calisto and Melibea. Celestina’s deeply explored personality dominates the plot, ostensibly tragic, of the uncontrolled passion of the lovers, which ends in disaster after its consummation. Calisto is killed in a fall from the ladder to Melibea’s window; Melibea commits suicide. Celestina’s coarse humour and ironic commentary, however, undercut the tragic potential of the situation; the vivid depiction of her character overshadows the philosophical significance of the work in its theme of the vanity of the human struggle against the forces of fate. Further, authorship of the work, which was published anonymously, is generally attributed to one Fernando de Rojas (c. 1465–1541), a converted Jewish lawyer about whom little else is known. La Celestina was widely imitated and reprinted in Spanish more than 100 times by the mid-17th century. It was translated into many languages, including English (The Spanish Bawd, 1631), French, Italian, German, Hebrew, and Latin. Often considered the first European novel, La Celestina was profoundly influential in the development of European prose fiction and is valued by critics today as much for its greatness as literature as for its historical significance. For this section I am concerned with naming of the character Celestina, as well as the position and influence of magic: rhetorical and object. For Celestina, her “power” is from a different source altogether, and problematizes the general divide between Divine agency and Satanic agency (i.e. her power is Plutonic).

In the last century there have been over 450 entries (books, articles, operas , et cetera) on Celestina and Spain. Within the last decade, approximately half of these are references to the Spanish, cultural backdrop regarding Spain. However, only one text examines closely the subject of Celestina, Spain and magic. Juan M. Escudero’s “La ambigüedad del elemento mágico en La Celestina,” taken from Jesús M. Usunáriz’s edited El mundo social y cultural de La Celestina is guilty as charged. This is not to say, that the critical output has been deficient by any means, but the critics have not treated all three elements within their respective discourse(s). As far back as 1954 Inez Macdonald’s “Some Observations on the Celestina” was in vogue, and this was followed by: Frederick A. de Armas’s 1971 “The Demoniacal in ‘La Celestina,’” Ciriaco Morón Arroyo’s 1994 Celestina and Castilian Humanism at the End of the Fifteenth Century, Louise M. Haywood’s 2001 “Models for Mourning and Magic Words in Celestina, and followed by a slew of dissertations still yet to be published on such subjects as: women and gardens as well as deflowering textual boundaries. The point here of course is that Celestina is very much alive, but discussion of magic within the text not so much. In Act I, scene iv, Celestina is described as an astute witch; in scene v, she becomes “desta pecadora de vieja,” or [“this sinner/transgressor of old”]; when asked by Calisto in what capacity had he served Celestina, Pármeno takes up most of scene vii describing what things she carried in her house: various potions, relics and oils of cow, of bear, of snake, of rabbit and so on (or what he extends to: “y otras mill cosas”). These ointments are to alleviate the sufferings of mankind. Time, however, does not permit that we continue along this road, but suffice it to say that magic of this type was indeed in practice and reflected the Spanish world and realm throughout. Taken together, the Vida as well as selections from Alphonso and Celestina, have allowed us to begin and continue the discourse involving magic as a viable pursuit into explaining the [un]known as an epistemological end.

Roxana: The Psychology of Sex and the Body, or The Valuation of Sexualis in the Familiar

Mullier est homins confusion-
Chauntecleer (Chaucer)

The valuation of the sex trade cannot be defined outside the context of the body’s use as both an economic commodity and psychosocial agent imbedded in the theme of slavery; these two themes- one, engaging a viable, finite product and the other, the mental role of agitated memory, guilt, and conscience support this view. The aforesaid intersect (respectively) intricately time and time again in Daniel Defoe’s novel Roxana. Defoe presents Roxana, the ambivalent heroine and Amy, her sagaciously adept maid. He engages his protagonist Roxana, quickly, into sexual escapades in exchange for survival. Her choice is a free one; however, her decision thrusts her into a life of sin and slavery. A closer analysis of Roxana’s sexuality reveals more than mere trade and turning beauty into coin. Defoe presents clearly an agent of sex bound by slavery serving both body and mind. Slavery here can be defined as that inordinate affection and attachment given to an object or person without the power to regain independence from that object or person. Roxana is a slave then to her own trade because she is attached to her money as well as to her own person. It is by incorporating this significant thread of slavery into the tapestry of the economically feasible sex trade that Roxana grants clues that expose her being. To ignore this position is to quite possibly ill-define Roxana, the person, and one could argue-to forego an important aspect of Defoe’s intended meaning of sexuality within his British novel.

Perhaps the one who mentions, “I’m sure my mistress is no fool” (Roxana, pg. 37) should reconsider her statement. Roxana is a multi-casted protagonist. She is at once the entrepreneur, a hidden, reluctant mother, and the mistress of a merchant and prince and king. Her ascendancy throughout her social attachments is paired alongside her treatment of sexuality as her commodity. In her approach to business and financing she procures a sense of liberty or freedom. This freedom also presents her as a fool, a prudent fool. Roxana is both a slave to her vice and a fool for her continuing path. She claims, “I was young, handsome, and with all the mortifications I had met with, was vain, and that not a little” (39). Here, she admires her beauty and the possibilities of such a discovery serving a purpose. The purpose is vile and even she acknowledges her condition as being “a whore, not a wife” (45). Roxana never describes herself to be smart, wise, or even sensible. Moreover, she relies heavily on what her finite beauty can provide for her. In becoming promiscuous she loses faith in marriage, in men taking control, and more overtly damages the part of the psyche known to direct one’s moral judgment-the conscience. Roxana mentions, “I was resolv’d to commit the Crime, knowing and owning it to be a crime” (41). She mentally recognizes the condition of her vice readily. At one point she describes her impaired psyche where “there was, and would be, hours of intervals, and of dark reflections which came involuntarily in, and thrust in sighs into the middle of my songs” (48). The verbal choices, consciously sexual, betray a calm disposition. Roxana is anything but calm, though living with her husband and playing “the game”, she is an unstable woman. Roxana’s faulty conscience is a direct result of her devilry or affinity to sin. Here sin can be defined as transgressing a standard and/or moral code in exchange for a lesser one. Her sin amounts to the sum of vice with her body added to her mind. The conscience, still, cries, “I was now become the Devil’s agent” (48), and yet earlier it was Amy who mentions, “has he not brought you out of the devil’s clutches” (37). The reader is left with a divided house. This division plays into Roxana’s divided mind, a mind unable to possibly separate and discern the act of sex and the thought of sex.

The psychology of sex alludes to the slavery of sex and proposes a connection between the body and the mind. “The Queen of Whores” (82), a self-ascribed title from a woman of the night lends a suggestive credibility to a faulted value system. Roxana is constantly calling herself these names, yet there exists no follow-through or lasting signs of repentance. She is at once comfortable to make such penitent remarks while her actions contradict her mental confessions. At one point she proudly mentions in thought to herself an itemization of all her sin and vice as a history. Roxana calls it a “history of this prosperous wickedness” (131). It is clear then that her action is sin and her verbal choices reassert she is a slave to her vice. She cannot shake its demands. Even when pressed to leave and quit the sex trade because she is “rich, and not only rich, but was very rich; in a word richer than I knew what to think of;” (110) she does not. Again, presented with an opportunity to depart forever a life of crime for which she began with no hope or money, Roxana makes the choice to forego freedom. She states, “I had now an opportunity to have quitted a Life of crime and debauchery”, but she does not and instead responds with “but my measure of wickedness was not yet full” (159). In short, Roxana ruled by a faulty mind and craving body for coin continues obstinate against rightful freedom. She is a slave to her passions. What's more, Roxana is a slave to her immoral drive toward coin and illogically combats moral reasoning for her present and future action(s). She reflectively asks, “What was I whore for now?” (201) She has no human answer and forswears that, though an agent of devilry herself, “the Devil himself cou’d not form one argument, or put one reason into my head now, that cou’d have serve for an answer, no, not so much as a pretended answer” (201). Roxana is admitting to her mental person that there is no answer to the question, “What was I whore for now?” Not only can she not answer the question with a rebuttal from her mind, but her reply seems to come again from that storage or default of vice, her body. She does not stop her sexual appetite. In fact, it would seem that she is all flesh and no conscience. What remains then is a dialogue between the split self, or a discourse of the mind and the body. Roxana makes her choice emphatically clear:

I cou’d not without blushing, as wicked as I was, answer, that I lov’d it for the sake of vice, and that I delighted in being a whore, as such…not being able to resist the flatteries of great persons; being call’d the finest woman in France; being caress’d by the Prince…by a great Monarch. These were my baits, these the chains by which the Devil held me bound (202).

In unpacking this statement recall the definition of slavery mentioned earlier. First, Roxana claims that “chains by which the Devil held” constrict her, suggesting impaired freedom. Second, she admits that she, “as wicked as I was”, enjoys vice and “delights in being a whore”. Again, these are her confessions from a frail and finite psyche. However, all of these points of interest rest on a greater fact-her vanity. Roxana is flattered by great persons paying great attention to her. Though she links her vices by stating “these baits” and “these chains” it is of considerable importance that her audience has served to continue her debased lifestyle. She began married to a faithless and foolish man of business then worked her way through a prince, a lord, a wealthy merchant, and a king. This shared article of trade attests to her body serving the role of a viable commodity in exchange for social mobility. However, after all is done what haunts her person remains an answer to her mind’s inquiry, “What was I whore for now?” Upon this inquiry rests a possible answer to freedom for Roxana, the quasi-libertine or pseudo-slave.

The matter of libertinism is at once ambiguous in Roxana as well as overtly dialectic; it exists on one end of Roxana’s sexual spectrum to be the ensnaring of her mind and freedom of the body, and vice versa. At one juncture Roxana mentions, “I had maintain’d the dignity of female liberty” as if to mention a freedom existing in the absence of boundaries. She is, in her liberty able to move like a man, but unable to exist in such a condition for very long. She wishes to float freely defying the gravity of the masculine, but cannot because there is no vacuum in the masculine world. Recollect, Roxana has come, “from a Lady of Pleasure, a Woman of Business, and of Great Business too” in order to exist and possibly dominate a masculine world. The most she is able to do is co-exist. Why? Apart from being a woman her mind is too frail. She is constantly sensing guilt and false honesty. The latter falls under the guise or rather disguise, if not a pretence, of a penitent. Roxana is none to be sure. She narrates, “there was a dart struck into the liver; there was a secret hell within”. Roxana is constantly battling and utilizing mental energy to keep the devilry at bay, but without success. The person of Roxana in the end concedes to the truth that having a woman behave like a man is to sin. To transgress in a masculine world is reflective of a “crime going before” (298), whereby the issue of scandal ensues.

The novel ends with a rather dismal projection on the psyche of Roxana though her outward body, that is, her material self proved wealthy and valuable. In the end, “the blast of heaven seem’d to follow…and I was brought so low again, that my repentance seem’d to be only the consequence of my misery, as my misery was of my crime” (330). It is this misery, this proven crime that places Roxana at once a slave to her mental anguish, languishing in the waves of guilt, sustained by aged body evidence, which ultimately suggests freedom to be obvious slavery.

Biffed, Latched, and Bubbled into the Twelfth Dance

Summary of the Play: Biffed, Latched, and Bubbled into the Twelfth Dance

The play takes place during the 1950s era in an East Coast College dormitory, decorated to reflect a dance later that evening. There are three characters total, and all are inter-locked within a love triangle; Biff (developed by Frank) is madly in love with Bubbles (developed by Maureen), Bubbles is madly in love with Latchkey, and finally Latchkey (the offspring of Maureen and Frank’s imaginative powers) is madly in love with Biff. All three characters play off each other and intertwine to exist in this love brew; however, one of the three will not be matched.

*Adaptation taken primarily from William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night; Act V, i, ppg. 167-171.

The Cast

BIFF: Rich, handsome (In a sport-jock sort-of-way), Varsity captain of the tennis team; (Frank Tobienne will be developing this character).
BUBBLES: Extremely beautiful and intelligent; Has a 142 I.Q., but hides it behind her cheerleading girl-power ways; Hates Biff, but secretly loves Latchkey. (Maureen will be developing this character).
LATCHKEY: Handsome, but nerdy; idolizes Biff.

The Setting/Time: 1950s East Coast College, the lobby of the dorm which has been decorated for the dance that night.

Biffed, Latched, and Bubbled into the Twelfth Dance


(The Lights are off and a flashlight focuses on one particular chair-it’s early morning and Biff, feet propped, has been up all night thinking. His tennis match went well and though he won the tournament he takes no pleasure in his victory. The win cost him his wrist, which after x-rays, revealed a hairline fracture. To add to his frustrations Bubbles has denied him again. She will not go to the dance with him. We pick up with Biff nursing his right hand and holding a tennis racket, all the while his sidekick Latchkey hovers at his right holding Biff’s trophy. The room is the lobby/parlor of the dorm. It has been decorated for the dance that will take place that night- streamers, balloons etc. It has an empty feeling though, almost abandoned with so few people in it. Soft music assists the mood. The lights come on).

BIFF: (Enters from upper left and sits down exhausted on chair-located in the middle of stage) Ohhh! The pain of it all!

LATCHKEY: (Following Biff from upper left, standing behind his chair) What? Your hand Biff? Is it…painful to you?

BIFF: (Ignores Latchkey’s question and raises his left leg to rest on the other chair) Why won’t Bubbles go with me to the dance? (Looks at his hand) The pain I feel lies in her hand, not in mine!

LATCHKEY: (Obviously disappointed and crosses to the middle of the stage and sets down trophy on the table and walks back) Oh! And here I thought it was something more.

BIFF: (Puts his legs down to make room for Latchkey) Something more? Whatever do you mean man?

LATCHKEY: (Noticing the vacant chair, sits down) Well, I’ve been…uh…thinking-

BIFF: (Still staring at his hand) About what?

LATCHKEY: (Looking at Biff) Well, about us mainly, and how all we do is talk about Bubbles.

BIFF: (Finally looks up towards Latchkey) What’s your tale, nightingale?

LATCHKEY: (Looks away and down towards the floor) Nothin’ Forget about it. It’s silly.

BIFF: (Puts his left arm around Latchkey) Oh c’mon-tell me.

LATCHKEY: (Slightly smiling) Ok. I’ll tell you, but don’t get upset.

BIFF: (Moving closer, shouldering with left hand) Why would I get upset? What’s the word my early bird?

LATCHKEY: (Looking away) The Word from the bird is that she ain’t diggin’ ‘ya Biff. (Turning to face Biff) I mean I don’t want to rattle your cage or nothin’ but-

BIFF: (Removes his arm and gets up to walk towards the punch table) Rattle my cage? Rattle my cage? You know who I am Latchkey! I am BIFF and that paper shaker needs to remember that!

LATCHKEY: Not everyone knows that Biff!

BIFF: (Leaning against the punch table) What do you mean? I’m a cool cat, right?

LATCHKEY: (Watching Biff from chair) Yeah.

BIFF: I wear all the right threads, right?


BIFF: I’m the captain of the tennis team, right?

LATCHKEY: (Rolling his eyes) Not everyone appreciates you as I do Biff. Isn’t that obvious? (Getting up from chair crossing down left facing Biff)

BIFF: (Ignoring Latchkey’s last question) Well then what else could Bubbles desire in a cat like me? I’ll tell you! Nothing! (Pushes Latchkey aside and heads toward window)

LATCHKEY: (With deliberate emphasis, facing the audience) What if there was…someone else?

BIFF: (Turns head towards audience) Someone else?

LATCHKEY: (Takes a step towards Biff) Yes! Someone who understood you-

BIFF: Someone who understood me?

LATCHKEY: (Moving closer aligned with the couch and table, then stops) Yes! Someone hip!

BIFF: (Light turns on in his mind, now facing Latchkey) Yes! Someone…uhm…someone earthbound?

LATCHKEY: (Resumes to walk towards Biff and stops 2 feet in front of him) Exactly! Earthbound indeed!

BIFF: (Eyebrows knotted and confusion on his face) Yeah but who?

LATCHKEY: (Approaching Biff with left arm around shoulder, turning him to face the audience) You need someone who can take care of you.

BIFF: (Looking intently at Latchkey, then shrugs him off and heads past the dance floor and towards center stage) Yes! That’s why I chose Bubbles man!

Latchkey: (Turning towards Biff in apparent disbelief and walks towards him) What?

BIFF: (Standing at Center stage, facing Latchkey and audience) I said-Bubbles! Bubbles! Bubbles!

LATCHKEY: (Facing Biff) You need someone who puts you on cloud 9!

BIFF: (Now completely engaged into the conversation) Exactly! I already know it can only be her! She’s the one!

LATCHKEY: Biff! Who has been there for you? Not Bubbles!

BIFF: (Walks back to the couch to sit down) Yes! Bubbles! She’s everything I need!

LATCHKEY: (Walks to the table and looks across to where Biff is seated) Everything you need?

BIFF: (Snaps his fingers on his left hand, then points to Latchkey) Bubbles! Yeah that cherry has a classy chassis! (Looking off in the distance with a lusty look on his face) Whew!

LATCHKEY: (Mouth open, visible frustration as he slams his hand on table) What about me? What about us? How about our friendship? Haven’t I been there for you too?

BIFF: (Noticing Latchkeys anger) Latchkey don’t have a cow! I only have eyes for Bubbles! Besides, I’m serious about you asking her to the dance for me.

LATCHKEY: (Annoyed) What! Are you serious?

BIFF: (Getting up from the couch and walks over to the table pretending to focus on trophy) As a cardiac arrest man!

LATCHKEY: (Moves away from the table and stands near the chair) You know what she’ll say Biff!

BIFF: (Now fingering the trophy) Latchkey! Cut the gas! Just do it!

LATCHKEY: (Sits down; obviously hurt) You always say that! Why do you treat me like that? (Lowers his face into both hands) Why Biff? Why?

BIFF: (Stops playing with trophy, walks over and stands behind Latchkey, and reaches out his hand to console him, pauses, and withdraws it with a heavy sigh) Uh…Latchkey…do this for me… my friend, my pal, my boy.

LATCHKEY: (Slowly picks up his head trying to shake off disappointment) Seriously, Biff-let’s just go to the dance together and forget about Bubbles. She probably-

BIFF: (Heads towards upper left exit, but pauses looking back at Latchkey) Nantey! Latchkey, my right hand friend-of-arms-go to Bubbles, again!

LATCHKEY: (Head turns to where Biff is standing) She won’t-

BIFF: (Staring Latchkey down) Accept no other answer but “yes”!

LATCHKEY: (Stands up to walk towards Biff) She won’t agree!

BIFF: (Holds off Latchkey’s approach with his left hand, palm facing out) She must this twelfth time agree! (Pointing to Latchkey) You must see to this or else!

LATCHKEY: (Pleading with his eyes and faces audience) She won’t, and besides I’ve got a calculus exam coming up and-

BIFF: (Hand on door latch getting ready to exit) Good! Use that time to ask her! Do not fail me! (Quickly exits and shuts door firmly behind him)

LATCHKEY: (Feeling shafted and shouting at the door Biff exited) What’s cool?! What’s the plan? (Walks over to the couch to sit down)

(Lights are off and resume with Bubbles entering with backpack and pom-poms.

BUBBLES: (Enters from upper left and puts down her pom-poms on the table, then sits down next to Latchkey on the couch) Why did you choose to study here? It’s so…empty and I usually never see you without you know who.

LATCHKEY: (Agitated) No! Why don’t you enlighten me Bubbles? Who?

BUBBLES: (Mouth open) Hey, I was only kiddin’. What’s with you today?

LATCHKEY: (Sighing heavily) Aw…nothin’. Look, forget about it.

BUBBLES: (confused) Yeah ok-whatever! You didn’t answer my question.

LATCHKEY: (Cautiously) What question?

BUBBLES: ‘Why you picked this place to study’-remember?

LATCHKEY: (Somewhat of a whisper) Sometimes I like the quiet. You know, fewer people to pretend for.

BUBBLES: (sad and in a daze) Yeah-the quiet can be a good thing.
LATCHKEY: (a little confused, but sympathetic) I’m sorry what did you say?

BUBBLES: (Startled by the fact that he heard her words and putting on a false, happy tone) Umm…nothing, you know me, I never worry about anything. I mean really, why would I right?

LATCHKEY: (Confused) Yeah, sure Bubbles-whatever.

BUBBLES: (Rambling tones, fast-paced) Yep! Whatever! I’m the (making 2 “L” shapes against her forehead to create a “W”) whatever-chick! Always getting’ it right!

LATCHKEY: (One eyebrow raised, sarcastic tone) Yeah, we all know who you are, don’t we?

BUBBLES: (Looks at Latchkey intently) Do you now-that’s news to me!

LATCHKEY: (Shifts in his chair) Uhm..let’s just forget it and start to review for the exam.

BUBBLES: (Opening her bag and begins to take out her calculus book, but then pauses) Latchkey why are we studying together for a class that we’re both acing’?

LATCHKEY: (Smiling nervously) To be prepared, right?

BUBBLES: (Frowning and skeptical, leaning in towards Latchkey) I am not so sure. Is there something else you wanted to look into?

LATCHKEY: (Sensing her flirtation) What do you mean? (Quickly gets up from couch and heads towards the punch table with back facing Bubbles)

BUBBLES: (Gets up from couch and walks over to Latchkey grabbing his hand and turning him to face the banner against the blackboard) Oh! Something in the near…uhm…future perhaps?

LATCHKEY: (Playing dumb and pulls away, heading towards the chair) Well, I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, but Biff and I (turning around slightly and pointing to the sign) are going to be goin’ to the dance. Uhm…maybe you would like to come?

BUBBLES: (Moving between the punch table and Latchkey with her right side facing audience) Yeah I’d like to go!

LATCHKEY: (Jokingly, pointing to her book bag on the table) Yeah maybe I could repay you with a dance. Ha! Ha! (Sarcastically) Especially for all our hard work, right? Ha! Ha!

BUBBLES: (Half-smiling) I think I would like to be there with you…I mean…with you guys.

LATCHKEY: (Realizing his mistake and miscommunication) I’m pretty sure we’ll have a gay ole time!

BUBBLES: (Excited!) Oh! I’d love to go to the dance with you, and we could go in matching pink and green velvet outfits! We could-

LATCHKEY: (Obviously nervous) Don’t forget Biff too! He’ll be there!

BUBBLES: (faking a laugh and moving towards the table with her book bag, now noticing the trophy) Right! Biff will be there. Got it! Silly me! I thought you were asking to go to the dance with me.

LATCHKEY: (Abruptly stands up from his chair and heads towards Bubbles) Now why would I do something like that? You know…uhm...Biff likes you and all…and he plans on being here (pointing quickly to the dance floor). I’m sure he’d like to dance with you.

BUBBLES: (Ignoring his attempts for Biff and focusing on him) And I’m sure I’d like to dance with you. (Begins to collect her things, but leaves her pom-poms on the table next to the trophy)

LATCHKEY: (Grabbing her left arm gently with his left hand) Just be nice to Biff ok. For me please.

BUBBLES: (Tenderly) For you anything Latchkey. Just keep me in mind for the dance.

LATCHKEY: (Releasing his grip quickly) Yeah…uhm…whatever.

BUBBLES: (Walking towards the upper left exit, opens door then waves at Latchkey and finally closes the door behind her) Well, I guess I’ll see you there tomorrow. Bye.

LATCHKEY: (Reluctantly waves back, confusion on his face) Yeah bye. See ‘ya. (Crosses towards center stage as lights dim and flashlight lights on Latchkey) That was weird she thought I was asking her to the dance! She was kinda diggin’ me though. (Flashlight turns off, lights go back on, Bubbles upon entering attaches the card “DAY” to the banner, and Biff also enters and stands by the punch table with Latchkey looking at Bubbles from the lower left. Finally, he approaches Biff as Bubbles walks over to the couch not noticing either Biff or Latchkey) Biff what’s wrong?

BIFF: (Staring at Bubbles with a lustful gaze) Wrong? No man-it’s all (licking his lips) right.

LATCHKEY: (Confused) What are you talkin’ about? How’s your hand?

BIFF: (Snaps out of trance, then refocuses on Latchkey) Well, it’s there, but I could use some tender care.

LATCHKEY: (Surprised, stands in the way of Biff’s gaze) Oh! Do you want me to do anything?

BIFF: I thought you’d never ask.

LATCHKEY: Biff you know that I would do anything for you. (With emphasis) I mean a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g at all!

BIFF: (Strains his neck for a better view of Bubbles) I know! I know! I can always count on you my friend.

LATCHKEY: (Looks behind him and then re-blocks Biff’s view) So, what’s your request?

BIFF: (Moves from punch table to the dance floor with Latchkey under his left arm) Go and tell Bubbles that I would like to dance with her now.

LATCHKEY: (Looks briefly behind him) Tell her what? Aw c’mon Biff. She’s mingling in the crowd.

BIFF: What happened to (mockingly) a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g, huh?

LATCHKEY: Yeah but-

BIFF: (Squeezes Latchkey closer, then faces him) No buts! Now you and I are tight, right?

LATCHKEY: (Sarcastically stated) Of course, we’re tight.

BIFF: (Turns Latchkey around to face Bubbles’ direction and stands behind him) Well then go just this last time. (Whispering in his ear) For me.

LATCHKEY: (Turning to face Biff) This is the last time, right?

BIFF: (Hands in a supplicating manner raised to the ceiling) Would I lie to you my friend?

LATCHKEY: (Suspiciously raising an eyebrow and glances back at Bubbles) That’s close, yet rich.

BIFF: Listen, I think you and I have a lot in common.

LATCHKEY: (Shocked, yet hopeful) You do? Biff that’s wonderful! I think-

BIFF: Yeah I think we have a common bond.

LATCHKEY: (In disbelief) You do?

BIFF: (Gently fists Latchkey with left hand) Yeah I do! In fact, we should explore our similarities one of these days.

LATCHKEY: (Excited and giddy): Oh Biff! I think-

BIFF: (Ignores Latchkey and focuses on Bubbles who gets up from the couch and heads there way) Latchkey, here she comes.

LATCHKEY: (Slowly turns around and sees Bubbles approaching from couch to table to dance floor) What? What did you say Biff?

BIFF: Shhh!!! (Slightly bowing) I said here comes my angel, my dove.

BUBBLES: (Waving her right hand) Hey guys!

BIFF: (Mouth open, hand over his heart) Now heaven walks on earth!

Latchkey Von Wilson: (Rolling his eyes and faces the audience) I don’t know what’s the big deal? She’s just a girl Biff.

BIFF: (Still looking in the direction of Bubbles who is looking down at her shoes) Oh and if her justice would include (with emphasis) JUST US!

LATCHKEY: (Pulling on Biff’s sleeve) Biff she’s been ignoring you. Why don’t we just leave now?

BIFF: (Quickly, angrily glances at Latchkey) Nonsense! Stop your jealousy!

LATCHKEY: (Defensive) I’m not jealous!

BUBBLES: Latchkey? Everything alright? I just came over to-

BIFF: (Pushing Latchkey aside) Bubbles! Oh! Bubbles!

BUBBLES: (Unenthusiastic and annoyed) Oh! Hi Biff! Funny thing seeing you...uhm…here. Latchkey, how are you? Do you like my dress? (She twirls in front of Latchkey and fluffs her hair in a flirty manner)

LATCHKEY: Hi Bubbles! (Disinterested and yawns) Nice look.

BIFF: Oh happenin’ babe! (Thinking of words to say) Your chassis is both classy and stacked!

BUBBLES: (Forcing a smile, teeth clenched) Thanks, Biff for your worthy review.

BIFF: You are most welcome my sweet. Uhm…Bubbles?

BUBBLES: (Looking at Latchkey) Yes Biff?

BIFF: (Stares at the ceiling, then at her outfit) Do you want to dance? I’ve got some moves (swings his hips from side-to-side, then in a thrusting manner) to show you.

BUBBLES: (Looks at Latchkey) Well, I’m saving my moves!

LATCHKEY: (Ignoring her cue) Biff she’s talking to you.

BIFF: (Aside to Latchkey) See man! She digs me! Gracious Bubbles, can I have this-

BUBBLES: (Eyes wide-opened) Latchkey, remember--you promised!

LATCHKEY: (Confused) What? My lady, your…prince…addresses you! (Moves directly behind Biff and the punch table off to Biff’s left side)

BIFF: Dearest, sweetest, most happenin’ babe! I am in love with-

BUBBLES: (Hands on hips and furious, ignoring Biff and pointing at Latchkey) Latchkey! Why are you avoiding me? Remember you promised to dance with me.

BIFF: (Raising an eyebrow at Latchkey) Dance with Latchkey? No! Dance with me my princess.

BUBBLES: (Turns her anger from Latchkey to Biff) Dance with you? Dance with you? Hah! I will never dance with you! You drive my patience Biff!

BIFF: (Clenching left fist, raising his voice in obvious anger) What! Still so cruel? Don’t you know who I am?

BUBBLES: (Quickly stated, poking his chest with her finger) What! Still so persistent? I have a promise to keep with (looks at Latchkey, then reaches for him and grabs him to face Biff on her side of the dance floor) this guy here!

LATCHKEY: Nantey! I…uh (looks at Biff)…can’t dance with you Bubbles. (Breaks free and stands near Biff as before) My place is here. Ain’t that right Biff?

BIFF: (Confused and angry walks towards chair, kicking one of the 2) Shut up Latchkey! (Turning to face Biff and Latchkey who remain on the dance floor)When I want your help I’ll ask for it! What am I a wet rag? (Looks at Bubbles, then at Latchkey for a response) I want to know what the hell is happenin’ here!

BUBBLES: Hey! You can’t talk to Latchkey that way!

LATCHKEY: (Looking down at his shoes, then at Bubbles and back up to face Biff) Bubbles stay out of this! Look Biff-

BUBBLES: I will not stay out of this! Take up thy fortunes!

BIFF: (Sits down in chair) What fortunes?

LATCHKEY: (Walking over to kicked chair to sit down) Don’t listen to her Biff.

BIFF: I will listen to her! She is my angel and my-

BUBBLES: (Hands in the air, walking back towards the couch and plops down) Damnation and hellfire!

BIFF: Why so base? It’s just one dance. The music-

BUBBLES: (Interrupts him, arm over her forehead as if ready to faint) Who cares for music? I’m hungry for (looking directly at Latchkey) other food. (Gets up from the couch in frustration and stands near the punch table with hands, palm down, and back facing Biff and Latchkey)

BIFF: (Angry, but still supplicating) Well then-if music be the food for love…go out with me. (Stands up to approach her)

BUBBLES: (Quickly turns around and is full-hilt angry, pointing towards Biff) I will not go out with you! I will not dance with you! And I will not let you talk to my…uhm…my soul-mate like that!

(Together) BIFF and LATCHKEY: Your what?! (Latchkey stands up while Biff glances at Latchkey)

BIFF: Oh! Betrayed, betrayed, betrayed! Bubbles and Latchkey? Latchkey and Bubbles?

LATCHKEY: (Pleading with his hands towards Biff) Nantey! Biff and Latchkey, or Latchkey and Biff. This song is better sung!

BUBBLES: No! (Grabbing Latchkey in front of Biff from the back) That song skips a beat. Why do you deny me? I thought you finally noticed me after all our tutoring!

BIFF: (Eyeing Latchkey) Is this the tutorship that you gave her?

LATCHKEY: (Shakes his head vigorously and shakes off Bubbles walking towards center stage, back turned to the audience) I have only been your truest, loving companion Biff.

BUBBLES: (Starts to head towards upper left to exit stage, then turns around) Then prove it! My friend indeed? Hah! We’ll explore this friendship! Come!

LATCHKEY: (Hurries to follow Biff) Yes! Anything for you Biff!

BUBBLES: (Holding on to Latchkey) Latchkey! Where are you going? Don’t abandon me!

BIFF: (Now reaches for the latch) My patience Latchkey waxes thin man!

LATCHKEY: (Shakes off Bubbles and quickly grabs onto Biff’s left sleeve) I am with him whom I love and to whom my loyalty is bound!

BUBBLES: (Shocked and in despair) Oh! Me-Bubbles disliked! Latchkey? You can’t be serious! But, I’m…your...your companion.

LATCHKEY: (Adjusting his hold on to Biff, looking up at the ceiling) If I do feign, you witnesses above, punish my love for tainting of my love.

BIFF: (Pushes down on latch and opens the door) Latchkey let’s go. (Whining voice) My hand hurts (slight smile), and besides my thoughts tonight are ripe in mischief.

BUBBLES: (Legs feel weak and she barely makes it to the couch) Latchkey please-don’t you love me?

LATCHKEY: Bubbles for crying out loud! I am Biff’s good right hand! I will never be able to love you!

BUBBLES: (Gets up from the couch with renewed energy, hands on her hips) Fine! (Pointing) Why don’t you two just drop dead! These speeches of being Biff’s right hand man and professions of love and loyalty to him, it’s too much. You can have each other!

LATCHKEY: (Full of sarcasm) Gee, thanks for your…approval! See ‘ya around button. (Latchkey pushes through the door and exits, followed by Biff who looks back once towards Bubbles until Latchkey pulls him through)

BUBBLES: Good riddance! (Saddened and alone, she looks around the room, then notices her pom-poms and looks to pick them up, but at the last minute she decides to leave them on the table and exits quickly upper left. The lights, now off, reflect a dark room except for a flashlight which shines on the table containing Biff’s trophy and Bubbles’ pom-poms)


A Minor Essay on the Characterization of Captain Mirvan, That ‘old sea dog’

Frances Burney’s novel, Evelina, displays masculinity in various forms with opposing end poles. At one end of the spectrum Burney constructs the perfect gentleman, while at the opposite and far end, the low, middle class savage. I believe the minor character Captain Mirvan to exist within this spectrum, and though minor in plot or text support, his character, elemental make-up, and existence in the context of the novel, serves to continue the instruction of “a young lady’s entrance into the world”; a man of experience and exposure, Captain Mirvan lends significant insight and influence upon a young lady (Evelina) devoid of such a priori knowledge.

Frances Burney introduces Captain Mirvan, a sea captain, who “having been seven years smoked with a burning sun” (Evelina, pg. 133), now wishes to “retire in the country, and sink into a fair-weather chap” (Evelina, pg.133). To Evelina, the captain is anything but fair and though she remarks that “gallantry, is common to all men” (Evelina, pg. 171) it proves a difficult trait to ascribe such a man as Captain Mirvan. In fact, Evelina’s first descriptions upon his arrival are that “he has really shocked me”, “I do not like him”, and that “he seems to be surly, vulgar, and disagreeable” (Evelina, pg. 132). We begin to perceive Captain Mirvan as the opposite of the perfect man, Lord Orville. Evelina’s descriptions of Lord Orville contrast strikingly against the Captain. She describes Lord Orville to be “the most agreeable and, seemingly, the most amiable man in the world…” (Evelina, pg. 131). Evelina continues to construct a view of Captain Mirvan as the novel progresses. She claims to not be able to “bear that Captain” (Evelina, pg. 143) and to be under duress to even describe him. Evelina quite troubled, states, “I can give you no idea how gross he is” (Evelina, pg. 143). These low descriptions of Captain Mirvan’s character by Evelina paint a convincing picture of both the savage and uncouth man, which also reveal, as the novel advances, exposed, prejudicial views.

Captain Mirvan as a sea captain has experienced much as a former sailor. He remains loyal to British nationalism, displaying, at times, low tolerance for that which is not British, or representative of the non-English, and the “other”. Evelina describes the Captain, to have “a fixed and most prejudiced hatred of whatever is not English” (Evelina, pg. 144). Captain Mirvan, in support of English patriotism, tends to “laugh at the infirmities of [the] others” (Evelina, pg. 49; emphasis added). The word infirmities connote a link with sickness or impurity. The Captain is clear upon the purity of the English versus the impurity of the “other” or non-English. This can be seen with his attacks on the French. Captain Mirvan, introduced to Madam Duval, considers her “the Old French hag” (Evelina, pg.150) and delights in “any opportunity offered of uttering some sarcasm upon the French” (Evelina, pg. 153). He dislikes the French and all their pretension, and lacking manners, though not intelligence, is placed on the spectrum of masculinity closer to Lord Orville, or that of the “perfect” gentleman. An excellent example of the Captain’s keen insight that places his intelligence high but his manners low is in letter xix where they are visiting the museum. The Captain, giving his observations upon a painting, states-“What, I suppose this may be in your French taste? It’s like enough, for its all kickshaw work” (Evelina, pg. 176). This of course expresses his dislike towards objects lacking value or usefulness. He further asks, “will you tell me the use of all this? For I’m not enough of a conjurer to find it out” (Evelina, pg. 176). He is not a character in line with those who enjoy diversions, expressly those of a surface painted “value”. Captain Mirvan is a challenge to those who appear to be in “taste” or in “fashion”. Earlier, I mentioned his distaste for pretension going beyond the French and even extending into the false, or pseudo Englishman. The pretentious character of Mr. Lovel warrants the Captain’s slander. He has no place for Lovel in his world of the “burning sun”. He is genuinely shocked at Lovel’s reply of having “no time to read play-bills” (Evelina, pg. 182) though he keeps coming to the play(s). Captain Mirvan laughs at this Englishman’s infirmity. Lovel’s infirmity is one of vanity and pretension. He claims Lovel to be a man who does not even know his own soul, which in turn breeds shame. Captain Mirvan, with regards to pretentious men, points out that “the men, as they call themselves, are no better than monkeys” (Evelina, pg. 219). This viewpoint clarifies his stance on pretension and the necessity to just be! He frowns on Lovel’s attitude which puts him in a position to be “almost as much ashamed of my countrymen” (Evelina, pg. 219) as that of the pretentious non-English, or French. Captain Mirvan in hating both the French and non-English alike displays both character and elemental traits that influence the instruction of Evelina’s maturation.

Evelina is exposed to experience(s) that allow for her maturation and entry into the public world, with Captain Mirvan as a minor guide. Captain Mirvan’s lack of manners allows Evelina to view would-be suitors in their “proper” setting. Willoughby, seeking the assistance of the Captain, states-“I shall think myself greatly honored, if you will intercede for me” (Evelina, pg. 137). However, Willoughby, another pretentious Englishman finds no solace in the Captain’s world. Captain Mirvan, quickly adds, “That Lady, sir, is her own mistress” (Evelina, pg. 137). It is because of such a brutish mien that Captain Mirvan “walked sullenly on” as if paying no mind to such pretension and falsehood (Evelina, pg. 137). Evelina then experiences the art of owning one’s self and the would-be decisions she can make. Evelina is given enlightenment, or rather an example of an enlightened person acting, within freedom, in the absence of pretension. Burney constructs scenarios upon scenarios that support Captain Mirvan’s lack of manners, high intelligence, and frank attitude which drive his keen instincts and allow for Evelina’s mimicry. Captain Mirvan receives Willoughby coldly (Evelina, pg. 153), thereby setting Evelina do so also. Captain Mirvan, calls into question the usefulness of art and influences, somewhat, Evelina’s attitude on her 2nd visit to a museum, challenging prior view(s). Evelina, a bit more mature, can now describe a museum to be “very astonishing, and very superb; yet, it afforded me but little pleasure, for it is mere show” (Evelina, pg.176). It is this yet, little pleasure, and mere show language from Evelina that suggests the influence(s) of the minor character Captain Mirvan.

Captain Mirvan, a brute, a man lacking pretension, a sailor, a patriot, a “gentleman”, all have their place and purpose within the novel’s framework, and though appearing in a limited context , assist to display a major role in influencing, somewhat, a young lady’s entrance into the world.

Songs of Innocence and of Experience: Coleridge, Austen, Collins

But you don’t expect much from poor human nature-
so don’t expect much from me.

-Gabriel Betteredge

In many regards Gabriel Betteredge’s aforementioned quote regarding human nature acts as the common thread or ligand between the three works that will be discussed in this essay. As the title suggests, the topic of innocence and experience can be found in varying degrees in the works of Coleridge, Austen, and Collins; in Coleridge the tension of innocence and experience can be traced to the Ancient Mariner in lieu of the Wedding Guest; in Austen, Catherine Moreland’s coming-of-age narrative is off-set by her experience discovered in the narrative of the Gothic; finally, in Collins we find a rather ambivalent narrator in the likes of Gabriel Betteredge. In short, can he be trusted, and if so is he reliable? Combined, they provide a rather clean sketch of innocence and of experience, while at the same time measuring the scope of human knowledge. The more knowledgeable the individual, the less innocent they appear to be.

The scope of this essay is to pinpoint not just the links involving innocence and experience amongst these author’s works, but to follow a main protagonist’s maturation from innocence to experience throughout each work; to examine a few of the ambiguities without exhausting all of them; and, by examination of these things, to prepare and argue for the bigger meaning of knowledge and the contrary state of the soul. This knowledge arguably involves a level of truth-telling and/or revelation which then threatens the stability of naiveté, or innocence.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge in his attempt to re-invent the art of poetry combined a syncretic style of rhetoric alongside what Blake considered, the Great Code of Art. This description of the Bible also suggests that “literature is an interpretation of scripture (Blake).” If we adhere to such a suggestion, then what exactly can be learned via the Great Code regarding the dual contrary states of the human soul? On one level innocence is child-like viewed by one in the absence of experience. This can be noticed by Coleridge’s wandering Wedding Guest.

Though the Wedding Guest is aware of where he wants to tread and aims for the wedding, Coleridge suggests an eye-opener is in order. The Ancient Mariner, a man of experience, or harbinger of knowledge, wishes to impart such wisdom to an ignorant host. In light of the Wedding Guest’s innocence, Coleridge utilizes the Mariner’s experience as a stimulus toward revelation or truth. Once truth is imparted, there can be no turning back. The Wedding guest suggestively expresses his desire to abate his learning from the experienced Mariner stating, “I fear thee, ancient Mariner! / I fear thy skinny hand! (228-9).” This initial fear is rooted in the absence of innocence as the Wedding Guest perhaps learns the truth about such earthly delights as a wedding.

Moreover, the Mariner time and again reminds the Wedding Guest, “Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest! (234)” The language here, as in Shakespeare connotes the pronoun “thou” as existing in the lesser. Hence, it can be argued that the Mariner, a man of experience, or a man who bears knowledge, looks down upon such a weak vessel as the Wedding Guest.

Furthermore, the weakness of the Wedding Guest, a man of innocence and of a child-like disposition, carries with him perhaps a false humility or quasi-innocence which places him in the category of hypocrite. Is innocence then hypocritical in light of the knowledge of the experienced?

Again, Coleridge suggests that his Mariner acts not as the catalyst but the stimulus or the occasion for the development of the seeds of knowledge. This knowledge then is implanted in the innocent soul, and gives birth to experience. This experience of the Mariner suggests some foundational elements.

First, experience does at some level measure the scope of human knowledge, and proves indispensable to sound judgment and prudence. The Mariner in seeking out the Wedding Guest “hath his will (16).” The Wedding Guest, powerless, “can not chuse but hear (18)” as the Mariner at once “holds him with his glittering eye (13).” This gaze is beyond mere mortal sight and penetrates from the experienced Mainer into the contrary state of innocence in the Wedding Guest.

Likewise, experience of the supernatural establishes a response to guilt and shame whereas innocence leaves the stone of ignominy unturned. It is not the Wedding Guest that beats his breast because he is guilty, but because he is aware. This awareness can be interpreted as revelation, or simply knowledge.

The Wedding Guest learns and gleans from the sharing of the Mariner’s experience, yet he can never possess it fully. Again, the Mariner begins his story and quickly replies to the Wedding Guest, “Be calm, thou Wedding-Guest! (350)” What can one who has newly learned a piece of information or knowledge do, especially in their state of child-likeness (innocence)? Only quiver under their new revelation and long for a return to innocence. The Wedding Guest mentions, “I fear thee, Ancient Mariner! (349)” That’s it! There are no strings attached and no high and mighty diatribes, just simple repetitions of “I fear thee, Ancient Mariner!”

The reader is finally introduced to a Wedding Guest that has undergone change from innocence to experience. The separation of the two can be clearly noted in the following poetic lines told by the peripheral voice of the narrator. He mentions, in describing the Wedding Guest, a man who “went like one that hath been stunned, / And is of sense forlorn: / A sadder and wiser man, / He rose the morrow morn (626-29).” Coleridge achieves the sublime of the soul’s misgivings and maturation from naiveté toward revelation. Combined, this must then yield judgment.

Arguably, the Mariner is seen as the wanderer who stops those he knows are meant to hear his story. However, what of the Wedding Guest and his change? The Wedding Guest is now sadder, yet wiser. Is Coleridge perhaps playing on the chords of knowledge and wisdom? The Great Code of Art suggests innocence must be off-set by experience; perhaps then, the Wedding Guest had no choice, but to transition from innocence to experience.

Solomon wrote in his Ecclesiastes, “For the greater my wisdom, the greater my grief,” and moreover, that “to increase knowledge only increases sorrow (1:18).” This is the state of the Mariner and the new change, though not by choice, in the Wedding Guest. It would then suggest not only that innocence and experience can be paired, but that one exists at the expense of the other. Put another way, a person will increase in wisdom and sorrow; with the addition of experience, knowledge is attained, and knowledge disappoints. The latter can be tracked in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey through the voice of her protagonist Catherine Morland.

We begin the novel as a tool of prose that instructs as it delights; the novel then is at once didactic as it is entertaining, or what Chaucer coined, in his Canterbury Tales, as sentenciae and solas.

Jane Austen, by pitting Catherine Morland in the reality of everyday Bath, sets up her protagonist, a lover of the Gothic genre, specifically Ann Ward Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, to desire the elements of Gothic to her mundane world. Austen throughout her novel parodies the elements of the Gothic genre in order to expose their farce as well as their lack of knowledge. This suggests that the Gothic genre exists in the phase of child-like innocence.

If the Gothic can be utilized as an element of what is false, then what does this suggest about the novel? Austen clearly was doing something new with the novel form and in presenting Catherine as a woman enraptured with the Gothic familiar, exposes it for what it is-an element of the farcical.

Moreover, this view presents the possessors of knowledge as the experienced and those without, as false, or at the very least existing in the comical. Catherine is of the latter element and Henry Tilney, of the former.

We are told that Catherine’s imagination steeped in the Gothic, substitutes for the sagacity necessary to make prudent decisions. Her judgment then is faulty. Austen, in describing Catherine’s feelings, mentions them as existing in “an unsettled state; divided between regret for the loss of one great pleasure, and the hope of soon enjoying another one (103).” Is Catherine then so unstable in her innocence that she needs her reality shaken? Undoubtedly so.

Moreover, as Catherine fantasizes about castles from Radcliffe’s Udolpho, it is Austen who presents her heroine as inexperienced, or innocent, and the butt of the joke. Catherine is the joke, the whole joke, and nothing but the joke-so help her experience!

Austen’s comedy reaches new heights as she not only parodies the Gothic genre, but her own protagonist, who supports the Gothic genre.

In describing Catherine, Austen cites, “On the other hand, the delight of exploring an edifice like Udolpho, as her fancy represented Blaize Castle to be, was such a counterpoise of good, as might console her for almost anything (103).” What can be said about a character who finds solace in the text of the innocent and foolish? Simply, that they lack experience, or knowledge. Catherine is of this design as she continues to ponder “on broken promises, and broken arches, phaetons and false hangings, Tilneys, and trap-doors (103).” Again, she is at a loss.

Catherine Morland when faced with reality is ill-equipped to handle the elements of reality, and as such is usually pained to acquire their understanding. For example, Catherine, while undergoing the vehement diatribe of Isabella Thorpe’s disdain for the Tilney family’s favor toward her, is left “to think these reproaches strange and unkind (113).” She is incapable of understanding Isabella’s disingenuousness. She even questions Isabella’s methods toward friendship, which exist outside of her Gothic realm, as “what part of a friend…exposes her feelings to the notice of others? (113)” And again, “these painful ideas crossed her mind, though she said nothing (113).” These ideas, steeped, in the reality of the mundane shortcoming of the young women of Bath, are simply unknown to one such as Catherine, who suggestively exists in a vacuum, or a Gothic fantasy.

If the Gothic can be established as the text for the innocent, and the readers of such text as wanting in knowledge, then it can be argued that the limit of experience in the absence of the Gothic is supremely advantageous and desirably prudent. Catherine recognizes her shortcomings, citing, “the little she could understand,” “she was heartily ashamed of her ignorance…a misplaced shame,” and that “she confessed and lamented her want of knowledge (124-25).” In short, Catherine recognizes her limitations, and responds accordingly with shame and guilt at her own ignorance. Perhaps then innocence, in the absence of knowledge, produces the ignominy witnessed earlier in this essay through another character, resulting in shame and the revelation of truth. Exposed truth, demands an answer from those to whom it appears.

In moving forward, is it possible to meld the two contrary states of the human soul into an intermediary balance? Will this balance answer the claim for truth, truth-telling, or simple application of this element of truth toward reliability. Wilkie Collins tackled such a complex inquiry through his protagonist, Gabriel Betteredge.

Collins, in creating Gabriel Betteredge, presents to his readers a character who demands an answer from his audience. In other words, is Betteredge a reliable narrator? Does he tell the truth? Is he innocent, experienced, or a hybrid of both suiting his own, personal need? Upon close readings of Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone the judgment placed upon his protagonist is as analogous to the answer such compounded inquiries raise. However, Betteredge is definable and so we will begin there.

The nomenclature of a given name may illuminate the backdrop, to some extent, that character’s disposition, tendencies, fallibilities, etc. The term Gabriel means “man of God,” and to a lesser extent, “messenger.” If in his own way Gabriel Betteredge is a messenger of sorts, then what is that message, and is that message reliable? In his own defense, Betteredge cites, “I am innocent as I knew myself to be (407).” His verbal choice of innocent provokes the opposite notion of guilt, or shame. This re-occurring theme presents itself in the person who is indeed experienced, or at least is on their way to revelation; their departure from innocence results in an acquisition of knowledge, or truth. This truth then demands an account, and a sharing of this account. Enter Betteredge, the accountant, or steward of information.

If on one level experience is necessary for the induction of knowledge, then it can also be suggested that experience itself is to be praised as something to be enjoyed for its own sake, serving no end beyond itself.

Betteredge is given the responsibility as narrator to be reliable in his accounting of the stolen moonstone, yet he himself exclaims, “…you don’t expect much from poor human nature-so don’t expect much from me (82).” Is this to be taken as tongue-in-cheek, or as fact? The ambiguity of experience here suggests no need for praise or adulation for the steward, and yet the reader still demands an honest account.

The validity of innocence is determinate to the character and action of the person, and not necessarily commensurate to that individual’s praise, “I am innocent! (407)” Betteredge again mentions the philosophy of innocence alongside the reality of guilt. He states, “We often hear (almost invariably, however, from superficial observers) that guilt can look like innocence (407).” For the experienced then, this presents a problem. Thus far throughout this essay it would seem that the reason experience exists is because innocence exists, and that the two are somewhat mutually exclusive. If Betteredge can be viewed as the harbinger, to some varying degree, of both, would this make him reliable? Betteredge himself responds, “I believe it to be infinitely the truer axiom of the two that innocence can look like guilt (407).” This revolving door statement from Betteredge leaves the reader wondering as to his true loyalty. Is it that guilt can look like innocence or that innocence can look like guilt?

Furthermore, this implies that we know what both look like to begin with. Besides, when a narrator suggests the task of accounting the details, as they supposedly happened, regarding the moonstone, and cites, “I am asked to tell,” or “don’t expect much from me,” credibility seemingly escapes through the window of reliability. Betteredge is not innocent, nor can we account for his experience. He exists in the hybrid perhaps, or what will be labeled as “the other.”
If we are to utilize Aristotle’s accounting of knowledge as “much memory, or memory of many things, is called experience,” then Betteredge lacks this experience.

Admittedly, Betteredge mentions, “If he could only have recovered in a complete state of oblivion as to the past, he would have been a happier man. Perhaps we should all be happier, […] if we could forget! (437).” The desire to lose memory is in direct conflict with experience, and would suggestively situate Betteredge into a state of quasi-innocence. This level of innocence would further suggest his inability to relate truth, if truth indeed is an element of experience. However, should we be so harsh on poor, old Betteredge? Maybe he has an explanation of sorts. After all, experience allows for explanation with intent toward possible revelation. The question to be raised then, what does Betteredge reveal?

If revelation is the end result of well-placed experience, then those without revelation or proper understanding of that revelation are co-terminus with the absence of experience and the presence of naiveté, or innocence.

Gabriel Betteredge, like Abraham, seems to be crying out, “Will you destroy both innocent and guilty alike? Surely you wouldn’t do that! Should not the judge of all the earth do what is right? (Genesis 18:23, 25)” This cited passage taken from the Great Code of Art is reflective of Betteredge’s character as he disclaims, “…but you don’t expect much from me (82).” The reader’s response-“Yes, Betteredge, we do!” The reliability of Betteredge’s narration is dependent on his embrace of truth-telling. This truth-telling is steeped in experience and not in innocence. The latter must give way to the former, if knowledge and truth are to abide.

Songs of Innocence and of Experience ring true in their own separate chords, however from time to time two notes sound better than one, and in fact by their merger may heighten the awareness of each other.

Likewise, it is possible to discover the hybrid or transitional overlap between innocence and experience. If we took each character as described throughout this essay this point of overlap could be explained.

Suppose the Ancient Mariner alongside his side-kick, the Wedding Guest were in a circular room. Within that room was also Catherine Morland, with Udolpho in hand, as well as Gabriel Betteredge, with his drop, as he called it. Now, in open discussion we could easily move by categorizing who would remain in the column of innocence, and who would remain in the column of experience; arguably, the Ancient Mariner would be the most experienced, followed by the Wedding Guest, then Betteredge, and finally Catherine. At first glance all is well, but upon a closer reading one can notice that the divisions are rigid and somewhat biased, exposing their fallibility. This would demand judgment of some kind. Catherine in listening to the Mariner may increase in knowledge, thereby shunning more of her innocence. Moreover, Betteredge, sober, could prove to be reliable and share the truth within that room. The Wedding Guest, if we were to take him at the end of his poem, would be wise, though sad. He could make a case for wisdom existing as a form of proper knowledge, and in essence surpass the experience of the Mariner. Catherine with maximum exposure would surely desist with her reliance on Radcliffe for reality, and would take her on only for escapism (ironically what the novel legacy has perhaps become).

The point in weaving this example surrounding our various protagonists is to bring to the forefront the idea that the separation of innocence and experience, if at all rigidly possible, is not without its varying overlaps; they go hand in hand in the same circular room and are to be judged accordingly.

Recall, that an a priori judgment is not solely determined by experience per se nor does it always need empirical verification. To test such experience requires more judgment than what this paper set out to offer, and admittedly its author is neither that bold, nor that wise to do so.

The Missing Letters of the Feminine, Private Sphere, or The Intercourse of words between Clarissa Harlowe and Moll Flanders

Authorized by one born,
Out of time-
Wit in reason and width out rhyme!

-Francis Tobienne, Jr.

Miss. Clarissa Harlowe To Ms. Moll Flanders
Monday Morning, 6 o’clock (March 23).

I write, my dearest madam, in hopes of advice seasoned by a life such as yours. I have not the time nor the space to relay, in fullest and most foul of measures, what has befallen me. In short, I am pursued Ms. Flanders by a very tangible beast of a man who would rather way-lay both my fortunes and my soul. You may know of him, but pray that you never come to know him. He is a vile, vile sort of man. He is the devil on two legs though his feet were cloven hoofs. They call him a gentleman, but I see nothing of nobility in his manner. He is far from gentle, and to the other extreme-far from a man. I am a creature of virtue and this man, this…beast would have me in any way or form. How does one run from such a person? How does one defend ones honor and virtue?

I am forever your indebted servant and eager pupil for defense/ CLARISSA HARLOWE.

Ms. Moll Flanders To Miss C. Harlowe
Tuesday Night, 11 o’clock (March 24).

Miss Harlowe I was pleased to receive your letter earlier today, however I found myself a bit detained in London-a…business matter of sorts. You have taken the liberty to address me as one having much to teach you, both in season and out of it. I will be glad to share what little of gentlemen I know, and much more on the subject of gentility in men I don’t know.

First, let us address this devil-man you so readily describe in fiery brimstone language. He is a man. How do I know this? Because he pursues you with the very sweat and lust that is privy to their sex. We may be the prey, but we are costly and the power truly lies with us. Remember this!

Second, this devil is clothed in the flesh of human nobility, but exercises devil-like qualities. Recall, that you control the urges from this fellow. Would you have him eating out of your hand? Are you willing to prostitute your body for a virtue that is heightened and established? These questions are meant for your meditation towards a resolution.

When next I receive your response be sure to answer my inquiries, for as such they shall prove your mind. Your well-seasoned and true penitent/ MOLLY

Miss C. Harlowe To M. Flanders
Wednesday, March 25

I could not prepare myself for the shock of your latest letter. I must admit that my pale hue was changed to reflect my sanguine expression from the readings your letter procured. I am both astonished and curious to say the least. I have taken your questions, though quite disturbing, to my palpitating bosom and heart. What follows are my responses to your interrogation.

First, I would have no man eating out of my hand Ms. Flanders. I would desire the pleasure of a man’s company equal to his noble stature who would expect nothing more than my company for his conversation.

Second, many are the suitors who enter the Harlowe walls only to be dismissed for their lack of virtue. The virtue I possess has been given to me by the Almighty in hopes that I, though mortal, would put on immortality and that this corruptible would feign put on incorruptible. What fuels my virtue is my obedience to the Divine. A usurping of this ideal would mean to prostitute my body as well as my soul.

You have raised some questions to me, but I wonder if there are some inquiries of my own you would not disincline to acquiesce some response. I was told you have a brother, quite close and yet far removed from your person. I too have a brother. It seems all men are apt to do their sex justice by simply being and behaving like men. How is it that you were able to remove your brother, an archetype of masculine control, and I can neither remove my own nor the suitors who keep coming to my house to invade my space? Also, how else can I defend myself against such masculine dominance?

Ms. Molly To Miss Harlowe
Thursday, March 26.

You must recall my dear saint and sister of the faith that we are dominated, and yet doted upon. The difference between the two can mean harlotry to the one or control of power to the other. You must decide which one you will be. You cannot save yourself as well as the body and soul of this beast, this devil, this…man.

In reference to your brother and all men in general-you must accept your role of the submissive until you are positioned to strike at the fortunes of these unsuspecting dotards. My brother and I are removed because of complications too pre-determined to recall here, but rest assured that in all his qualities-he too is but a mere man. Never forget that a man can be hung and a devil can be burned.

The space you consider invaded is one that charges interest and exacts usury from an investment of pride not virtue. Your space can never be invaded unless you let it become so. No Clarissa, recall that you are in control and the dominance of masculinity exists but a moment.

[Clarissa reads the last of the letters from Ms. Flanders and senses the need to stop this friendly intercourse of words. She is unhappy with the advice from Moll. Moll senses this, but does not push the matter further. The two end with mutual affection towards each other in support of the feminine ideal]

Clarissa To Moll
Friday, Night, 6 o’clock, March 27.

Ms. Flanders I am writing to express my gratitude of your correspondence with me; I have learned much about the ways the other sex reacts and responds to a life of virtue. I need not continue our previous repartee for it would contain no further relevance to either of us. I assure you the advice, though disturbing and challenging, shall remain in the bond of privacy amongst true penitents.

I am your newly enlightened servant/ CLARISSA HARLOWE

Moll To Clarissa
Saturday, March 28.

Clarissa you are still young and idealize much to virtue, but be forewarned that sustained virtue in itself can be a pride unto the bearer before destruction. I wish you well and that your happiness is tangibly attainable to one so unattainably intangible.

If ever my services are requested I will again answer to the call, your humble tutor and penitent/ MOLLY

[The author chose to leave these letters out of the original manuscript in hopes that readers, after its initial reading, would undoubtedly agree to its omission; the novel does not suffer in spite of its non-inclusion…]

Moll Flanders: Incest Discovered Viz. Defoe’s Ideal, or The Valuation of Sexualis in the Familiar

Sibling Rivalry: Suitor (He) & Moll

He: You I Love, and you alone.
Moll: And so in love says every one.
He: Virtue alone is an estate.
Moll: But money’s virtue, gold is fate.
He: I scorn your gold, and yet I love.
Moll: I’m poor: let’s see how kind you’ll prove.
He: Be mine, with all your poverty.
Moll: Yet secretly you hope I lie.
He: Let love alone be our debate.
Moll: She loves enough that does not hate.

The valuation of the family ideal cannot be defined outside the context of the ideal marriage; these two themes, family and marriage- intersect (respectively) time and time again in Daniel Defoe’s novel Moll Flanders. Defoe presents an ambivalent heroine who exudes sexualis-much like a room just sprayed with a sweet, yet biting fragrance. Defoe, viz. the plot turn of encountered incest between brother and his protagonist Moll, interjects with a scene of taboo (somewhat sensational) in order to define what the aforementioned ideal is not. The subject of incest, that intercourse between persons so closely related that forbids their marriage viz. the natural law, is the medium Defoe utilizes to illuminate the portrayal of Moll’s sexuality. A closer analysis of Moll’s incestual romp yields an interwoven theme of institutionalized authority throughout the novel where conventional morality is pitted against instinctive reaction; the two co-exist and exchange. It is by incorporating this significant thread that the tapestry of the ideal family is positioned into, according to Ellen Pollak, “the kinship’s persistent force.” To ignore this position is to ill-define these ideals and one could argue-to forego Defoe’s intended meaning of sexuality within his British novel.

If ignorance were bliss, then Moll Flanders would have played her wild card well into a straight flush, however our heroine finds herself trumped in the worse way. Moll is a woman of the criminal mind receiving training from like-minded individuals, and yet she is a woman in constant search of financial and marital felicity-to further her gains. She gains assistance from the captain’s lady, a woman assuming the role of friend and mother, in finding a suitable companion and upon acquiescing, submits to her direction:
“I told her as I had reason to do, that I would give myself wholly to her directions, and that I would have neither tongue to speak, or feet to step, in that affair, but as she should direct me.” It is because of this “other” direction that it can be argued Moll finds herself in the predicament of marrying her brother in the first place. Defoe, in exposing Moll’s character, displays her to have no control of speech (communication) or ability to maneuver through such an affair. Here, the verbal choice on “affair” plays into a pun, or word-play and foreshadows the woes of incest and Moll’s sexuality. Furthermore, upon exposing her naked psyche she confesses “how doubly criminal it was to deceive such a man”. The crime is “doubled” because it concerns an attack against lawful marriage and its deception upon institutional authority. Her deception leads to a crisis in defining the family ideal while exposing the problems of conventional morality.

The problems of conventional morality find their true root in the objections of instinctive reactions from Moll, and as such support justification of a more instinctive, natural means. For Moll, the news, from her mother-in-law, “to her horror” was enough to awaken shock and repulsion. This repulsion however was not a reaction to sin or transgression against conventional morality, but an instinctive outcry to an ill-defined ideal or institution. Moll is no stranger to crime. In fact, she displays typical avarice as motive towards her crimes of thievery and whoredom. However, she reacts to her condition and concludes that her incest “had been no crime to have lain with my husband, since to his being my relation, I had known nothing.” Moreover, this proof of her justification and lack of penitence can be found where “she did not tell anyone of her horrible discovery, but was terribly oppressed by it”, to reveal more of her troubled mind. Once more, Moll describes herself to be “afraid, that if she told, she would be divorced without being believed, and left helpless far from her native land. Thus she lived for three years.” Defoe exposes the psyche of his frail, pseudo-eponymous protagonist to fear the act of divorcement-an attack against institutionalized and sanctified marriage, and being sent to the mad-house in Virginia away from the familiar surroundings of England. This is the only place in the novel by which Moll, through many encounters with men and wedded unions, finds herself afraid of separation. The topic is loneliness apart from the familiar-England; the subject is Moll. Again, this separation is one against marital togetherness. This is part of the ideal. Though the two are siblings, Moll is aware of the importance of separation, despite continued “whoredom and incest” for three more years, and in an emotive, suppressed state-desires direction through her distressed condition. However, this time the counsel is from her mother whose opinion it was, “that I [Moll] should bury the whole thing entirely, and continue to live with him as my husband, till some other event should make the discovery of it more convenient.” This maternal opinion proves a direct blow to conventional morality and supports the instinctive reaction of Moll’s viewpoint as one that contradicts such tolerance:
“But then it was this misfortune too, that my mother’s opinion and mine were quite different from one another, and indeed inconsistent with one another”.
Defoe presents two distinct viewpoints upon the subject of incest in order to portray the notion that the family ideal supports and is in need of clear institutional authority. Why? Left up to the mother Moll would live a life where “in the mean time she would endeavor to reconcile us together again, and restore our mutual comfort and family peace […] and so let the whole matter remain secret as close as death…” This death, argues Defoe, juxtaposes the ideal of family and peace in lieu of secrecy and lying; there is usurpation from the institutionalized familiar in exchange for the blurring of the ideal. These two subsets are not meant to co-exist, but they do because of the dichotomized accents of sex and love, or incest and family found throughout the novel. The subject of the blurred ideal is clarified in the instinctive reactions of Defoe’s protagonist, and leads to a better understanding and support of the institution of family maintenance.

Moll, upon further conversations with her mother, finally admits to telling her brother everything in spite of maintaining family ruin. This divulgement is necessary towards a regaining of stability in Moll’s life and in a bigger manner towards the reconciliation between conventional morality and instinctive natural reaction.

The triangular web of response to the subject of incest illuminates each character’s method of thought and assists to define the novel’s over-arching themes of morality, family, and marriage. The mother wants to cover up the scandal, the husband/brother wants to remove the scandal by killing himself, and Moll senses departure from the scandal altogether as the best option; all three characters carefully construct their biased interpretations of the aforementioned themes. The subject of incest is seen as wrong, and although this point is not in question-why this is so, is! The subject of the family, its legacy or ideal, and the staying-power of marriage are inter-locked and prove resilient in defending institutional authority. The subject of morality, conventional and naturally instinctive, is polar opposites-yet serves the other for the common goal of defining Moll’s sexuality. Again, these three characters agree as one under the banner of family (mother to her children), and yet none can co-exist to bring about its fruition-for they are all at odds and caught in the complexity of incest. This disparity assists to promote, indirectly, what the ideals should be and affirm its authority on what it should not be.

The nature of family and the marital ideal is blurred by the complexity of incest. This act of inadvertent taboo plunges the distinction and definition of the institution into both crisis and chaos. The quality of its redefinition is found in Moll’s sexuality, ignorance, and defiance to conventional morality by utilizing that instinct which is most natural to her. She is not a perfect protagonist, epitomizing morality in its highest regard, but proves to be a far better example when faced with such a crime against the familiar and its institutions. Defoe provides a willing host to promote his views on human sexuality in lieu of the sensationalism of incest. This is not added into the novel to generate sales only, but to instruct and touch upon the chords of morality, the ideals of marriage and family life and maintenance, and exposure and threats towards defining institutional authority.

Daniel Defoe presents a female protagonist capable of great natural, moral task in light of inadvertent scandal- but with shortcomings in which the family unit suffers. Though this family suffers it is a true testament of what should not be. Beyond the discovery of such vice- proves to identify and par Moll in support of the institutional authority of family. The subject of Moll’s sexuality argues for the establishment of instinctive and conventional morality threaded towards “a persistent force”, namely that of kinship ties and the instinct exchange. It is because of this exchange, not in spite of it, that Defoe presents his readers with a view upon, and argues- for his intended meaning of mollified, sexuality.