Weekly Assignment #7

October 10, 2006 at 2:21 pm (Weekly Assignments)

Hope you all had a great time gleaning your brains in the midterm today! Looking forward to reading what you wrote. I’ll return your essays with comments next week. From here on in, plan to keep working on that paper toward a final version for the end of the semester; note that expanded (ungraded) drafts are due in less than six weeks, on November 21, before Thanksgiving. We’ll workshop those on the last four days of class, and you’ll turn in a final version by Thursday, December 14.

When we return next week, we’ll be discussing George Meredith’s long poem “Modern Love.” Go ahead and read the Petrarchan sonnet “Lucifer in Starlight,” too; those are the only Meredith selections in your anthology. Please post questions and answers on Meredith on the usual timetable.

Oh, and here’s that timetable I put together (it’s an Excel spreadsheet).



  1. Eric Gerson said,

    What was the critical reception of Meredith’s rhyme scheme, that is, the words he chooses to rhyme, as it seems to me to be just as mundane as Patmore’s “The Angel in the House.”

  2. Daniela Newland said,

    Was Meredith influenced by the German poet Heinrich Heine?

  3. Jake Burnett said,

    According to Sol Liptzin, “George Meredith, who attended school in Germany in 1842, discovered in this poet a voice which filled him with rapture” (180). Where Liptzin gets this assertion of rapture, he does not elaborate. He does, however, provide a lot of information in a short article about Heine’s varying reputation among the Victorians. From the general literary context of the day, and Meredith’s Moravian education it seems likely, therefore, that there was some influence, though the exact nature of it I was unable to discover. It is possible that no one has explored that yet. The cross-pollination of Germans and Victorian Brits seems like an interesting field to explore…
    Liptzin, Sol. “Heinrich Heine, ‘Blackguard’ and ‘Apostate’ a Study of the Earliest English Attitude towards Him” PMLA, Vol. 58, No. 1. (Mar., 1943), pp. 170-180.

  4. Chris Nelson said,

    How did Meredith’s contemporaries react to the substance of “Modern Love,” as it seems to affront several Victorian attitudes on sexuality and marriage?

  5. Meredith Willis said,

    What, if anything, is so “modern” about Meredith’s “Modern Love”?

  6. Susanna Branyon said,

    What were George Meredith’s religious convictions and how were they manifested in his poetry (particularly the haunting section VIII in “Modern Love”)?

  7. Daniela Newland said,

    Dibs on Meredith’s question…
    one plus eighty-three is eighty four. duh.

  8. Eric Gerson said,

    Dibs on Susanna’s question.

  9. Kelly said,

    Were eyes and ways of seeing particularly significant to Meredith or are these references typically Victorian?

  10. Jake Burnett said,

    Is Meredith’s choice of a sixteen line stanza a form of his own creation, or does it have a history of its own (that is to say, if he had chosen a fourteen line stanza we would say they are sonnets of some flavor, so what do we say of the sixteen line stanza)?

  11. Aaron M. Bobick said,

    None of my editions say anything about Meredith’s failed relationship with his wife, just that he had one and that it did not end with her suicide like the conclusion of “Modern Love.” Is there a good comparison of the poem to Meredith’s failed marraige?

  12. Aaron M. Bobick said,

    None of my editions say anything about Meredith’s failed relationship with his wife, just that he had one and that it did not end with her suicide like the conclusion of “Modern Love.” Is there a good comparison of the poem to Meredith’s failed marraige?

  13. Laura Robinson said,

    Meredith frequently references breasts/nursing and also a serpent being related to the wife/love, so I wondered if either of these images has been critically examined, and, if so, what conclusions have been drawn?

  14. Lindsay S. said,

    Does the dead infant image at the end of stanza eleven have any literal significance, perhaps in relationship to Meredith’s marriage?

  15. Matt Simmons said,

    Is Modern Love only a psychoanalytic poem, dealing with one man’s reaction to a particular romantic situation, or is it a poem more indicative of the misogyny of Victorian society?

  16. Susanna Branyon said,

    Dibs on Laura’s question…

  17. josh gane said,

    How does the titel “Modern Love” compare to your idea of what modern love means?

  18. Laura Robinson said,

    dibs on Matt’s question

  19. Eric Gerson said,

    According to J. Gordon Eaker, in his article “Meredith’s Human Comedy,” George Meredith did not believe in God in a contemporary manner, but rather had a more Darwinian approach to life. Meredith came to believe that man’s intellect “may have been formed through centuries of contact with nature…he suggests that experience has worked through pleasure and pain to develop brain” (268). This is not to imply that Meredith was atheistic, but “that he did not worship God but that he did worship nature” (271). The article does not discuss Modern Love, but Eaker does provide a quatrain from Meredith’s poem Vittoria that encapsulates Meredith’s religious views:
    Our life is but a little holding, lent
    To do a mighty labor. We are one
    With heaven and the stars, when it is spent
    To serve God’s aim.
    The passage is supposed to be ironic, thus exentuating Meredith’s flair for comedy. In regards to the “haunting section VIII” as you called it, I revoke my previous claim in class today that the rhyme of “down” with “clown” is ridiculous. With the knowledge that Meredith was a religious cynic, his characterization of God as a clown that uses men by puffing a worthless spirit in them (VIII, 9-12) is rather amusing.
    Eaker, J. Gordon. “Meredith’s Human Comedy.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction. Univ. of California Press, 1952: 253-72.

  20. Chris Nelson said,

    Dibs on Lindsay’s question.

  21. George Meredith said,

    I’ll take Josh’s question

  22. Aaron M. Bobick said,

    I didn’t find much by way of the “what is modern love in Modern Love” question directly, but I did hit upon an important element that I feel defines modern love in Modern Love:
    “…its intensity is continually undercut by ironic self-awareness and its extreem subjectivity is always sharply responsive to the reality of others.”
    What makes love modern in this poem is the sense of irony and self-awareness coupled with bitter truth and Woolf-like waves. This isn’t hot passion sitting solely on either side of the spectrum; this is a pedulum of bitter love and bitter hate. Granted, some poets move back and forth throughout their sonnet sequesnces, but none are so violent as this. None are so brutally honest and graphic with their imagery. I think the honesty and the irony are what make modern love.
    Mermin, Dorothy M. “Poetry as Fiction: Meredith’s Modern Love.” ELH Vol. 43, No. 1 Spring, 1976, pp. 100-119.

  23. Chris Nelson said,

    Sorry about the overuse of the word “apparently.” Apparently it’s my new favorite word.

  24. Susanna Branyon said,

    I’m afraid that I, like Chris, have more questions than answers about the breast/nursing and serpent imagrey in “Modern Love.” Here are a few ideas to consider, though.
    The first thing that comes to mind, of course, when there are men and women & snakes and breasts to be had is that the snake is phallic and the breasts represent woman-ness. The information Chris found about the miscarriages might support that idea. A phallic poisonous animal might represent guilt about the births. When you read the poem with that simple equation in mind, though, it doesn’t make sense. The images are a bit more complex than they seem upon first glance.
    “The ‘Unholy Battle’ With the Other in George Meredith’s ‘Modern Love'” proposes that the man and woman in the poem are actually trying to kill eachother by having other relationships. With that premis in mind, then, the wife is the serpent who is trying to poinson the husband. The author elaborates on the part where her sobs are “…little gaping snakes / dreadfully venomous to him”:
    Insofar as the snake may be considered the husband’s emblem as Satan (swallowed up in a tomb of his own making) and insofar as the image has phallic overtones, it may be said that the husband is swallowed up and engulfed by his wife.
    I can’t find anything about all the breast imagery, though all you Grey’s Anatomy fans will appreciate that a Google-search for “george meredith breasts” took me straight to a discussion forum of a past episode. 🙂
    If I had to venture a guess about the images, though, I’d say that Meredith sets himself (assuming he’s the man in the poem) up as a “dead infant” (XI, 16) who has nursed from the venemous snake. . . his cheating wife. This gives the breasts a negative image, though…and later in the poem other breasts (belonging to a “banished angel”) nourished his feet all night (XXIII, 16). Then again, the dead infant could also be their relationship.
    Anyone else have ideas about this?
    Kozicki, Henry. “The ‘Unholy Battle’ With the Other in George Meredith’s ‘Modern Love’.” Papers on Language and Literature 23, Issue 2(1987): 142 – 161.

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