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Prompt:  Write from the point of view of a historic/fictional character.  Select a side of that person that would not be expected; can be anachronistic.

The Slurpea

First off, I just wanted a Coke slurpee.

The 7-Eleven in my kingdom

had run out, so I rode my horse,

Thor, over to the next.

As I drew nearer,

clouds burst,

the wind whipped,

and a sudden crack of lightning terrified

the not-so-mighty Thor.

//He reared up and I sailed

through the air, landing with a

splash in a muddy puddle.

I clenched my jaw

only to feel the grit of dirt

and taste the slimy earthiness

between my teeth.

Dragging myself up,

I watched as

my useless horse took off,

leaving me stranded in

the oncoming darkness and storm.

//A burst of lightning sliced

across the sky,

illuminating a boxy castle,

sharp triangular outlines of

flags snapping furiously

from atop

their proud perches

on the towers.

//I hiked up my dress

and hauled myself in that direction.

My shoes squished their protests

with each step.

//I just wanted a simple place to crash

for the night,

so imagine my surprise when

the old bitch

who opened the door gave me

the stink eye then

led me off to a room

with the tallest bed I’ve ever seen.

After what I’d gone through,

climbing Mt. Everest

was the last thing I wanted to do that night.

//It got weirder

when I went to put on my pajamas.

On my way back, I saw that lady

put a pea

under the bottom mattress

then slink out the door.

//I’ll admit it,

I was pissed that I had to clamber

up the side

of mattress mountain.

I was also creeped out

by the 007 pea placement.

So the next morning I bitched about

how crappy my sleep had been,

hoping they’d want me to leave.

Randomly,

her son popped up

from God knows where,

babbling about taking my hand

in marriage.

//The wedding is next weekend.

Damn slurpee.

–Godfrey

Subject:  Princess from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Princess and the Pea”

Prompt:  Create a portrait of someone you know/have observed.  Use an item of importance to him/her to expand the image.

The Escape Artist

His walk was that of a man

seeking to fold himself up

and disappear,

but he held tight to his instrument

as if it were his last hope

to escape.

//That night,

he sat slouched, fists clamped

upon his knees.

His faded navy blue t-shirt

with the peeling white lettering

hung from his body,

making him look

like a child in a too big hand-me-down.

Drawing his guitar to him,

he rested it upon his thigh.

He sat that way for a long moment

rolling his narrow shoulders,

extending his lanky limbs;

shadowy clouds raging in his eyes.

//Abruptly stopping

his shoulders mid-roll,

he hugged his guitar close

and began to play.

His hands were like those of a magician,

fingers flying

up the neck

then back down.

I watched as he swept

himself into a reverie.

oblivious as

the lacquered mahogany body flashed like lightning.

//Steel strings thrummed

with each pluck.

A rapid succession of stormy chords,

let loose and splashed

forth like a down pour.

Then his song closed slowly,

the last stray notes drip-dropping in.

//He leaned back and closed his eyes,

those long, thin fingers still

wrapped around the guitar’s neck,

knuckles white.

–Godfrey

ENGL 302-03

2/11/10

Journal 4

Prompt 3C:  A woman sits on the floor of her flat, surrounded by dusty unopened moving cartons paced 17 months ago…

Moonlit Heartache

God, the dust had gotten thick.  Erin looked around, surveying her surroundings from where she was seated on the floor in the middle of the room.  Boxes were strewn about.  The packing tape that had secured the cardboard flaps almost a year and a half ago has turned a sickly yellow and started to peel off.  Clearly the humidity had gotten the best of the flat in the summer months.  There was not a single box to be seen that didn’t exhibit the tell tale warping and slight discoloration of humidity damage.  She wondered if they could even support the contents of their old home…or was she supposed to just call it her previous home now?

Staring at the empty bookshelves on the far wall of the room, she almost let herself venture down that avenue of thinking, but thought better of it.  A strange musty odor mixed with the dust and caught in her nostrils and throat.  Finally breaking the trance of the emptiness of the room, it dawned on her how different everything was.  As the silver tendrils of moonlight slipped into the room from the window to her left, the once honey-yellow walls took on a dull gray coloration.  Erin inhaled deeply, trying to clear away the tightness that was beginning to creep through her body.  Again, the dust and must mingled together and she sputtered out a cough.  She contemplated getting up and opening the window but somehow that just didn’t seem right.  The idea of letting the refreshingly cool night breeze in to sweep through this place seemed disrespectful.

Erin abruptly sat up straighter, a frown creasing her brow as she looked at the labels on the boxes nearest to her.  There was barely any light, but seeing as the electric company had cut off power to the flat, she didn’t have many options.  Erin didn’t mind the darkness of the room; it comforted her, sharing her sense loneliness.  She managed to read the messages on the sides of the cardboard containers.  Tracing the familiar scrawled hand writing with her finger tips as she went, she moved here and there around the room, searching for one box in particular.

It was amazing how quickly seventeen months had passed.  There were days she still woke up and instinctively reached behind her, seeking to connect with the strong, warm presence that had shared her bed.  The cold comforter upon which her hand landed each time seemed to send a chill up through her palm directly to her heart.  Continuing on her search, she walked to the corner where the kitchen table had been set.  So many mornings she had taken this same path to find a surprise breakfast on the table, a love note scribbled under the fold of the napkin set next to her plate.

Kneeling by the box, she read the tag and opened it, withdrawing the photo album within.  Sitting again, Erin flipped to one of the early pages.  Behind the protective plastic cover, she saw her own face grinning back at her as she stood wrapped in Frank’s arms.  Then came the wedding pictures, the two laughing like children, frosting on their noses.  Flipping through, a sad smile on her face, she stifled a gasp as she turned to the final pages.  Frank’s once robust form sat smiling tiredly from a hospital bed, Erin next to him holding his hand, puffy-eyed, yet smiling bravely.  She watched him whither over the mere course of a couple pages.

She’d had enough and snapped the album shut.  Slowly, she lay down on the dusty floor and closed her eyes, curling into a small ball.  Clutching the album to her chest, she began to cry.  She wept and wept and wept, barely recognizing the agony-choked voice that escaped from her throat.  The sobbing racked her body as she let loose a torrent of emotions.  When she had no more tears to cry and a dull ache had settled in her heart, she fell asleep.  Boxes scattered around her, she lay sleeping, one arm reaching out touching the photo album that lay open upon the floor next to her.

ENGL 302-03

2/4/11

Journal 3, Prompt 1

The First Thing I Want in the Morning…

In the Wee Small Hours

The first thing I want in the morning is to close my eyes and go back to sleep again. The alarm on my phone goes of, screaming out the song “Weightless” by All Time Low. Its a challenge between my phone and me: who will be most victorious over the other. I pride myself on my expert reflexes. As my cell phone alarm goes off, within two seconds, I have launched myself up, rolled onto my side, and forcefully mashed the “END” button on my phone.

Laying there again, I attempt to catch my breath as my heart races. I can’t figure out why I haven’t changed that song yet.  Early morning terror? There is no way that can possibly be good for a person.  Maybe I use that surprise attack on my ear drums as a way of validating my remaining in bed for another solid ten minutes or so, but I plea the fifth. Responsible, time managing, uses good self control—all great words to describe my morning behavior, right?

Eventually, I drag myself out of my bed, frequently with a grimace, sigh, and a grumble, and then tumble over the edge, relying on gravity to aid me in gaining my feet. Like a true college student, I shuffle over to my coffee maker, which holds a place of honor on the floor at the foot of the other bed. Crouching, I groggily dump in the coffee and water and hope my bleary eyes measure out something that will taste relatively decent.

Still squatting next to the coffee maker, I blindly jab at the touch screen panel. I’m beginning to doubt its abilities. Either I don’t know how to press a button, or my pride and joy panel is dying on me. My knees sound like a bowl of Rice Krispies as I stand. The characteristic snap, crackle, and pop of a senior citizen. It would seem the geriatrics unit is just a few creaky steps away.

I make my way to the cramped bathroom to grab a shower. By this point, I’ve wasted the majority of my allotted hour of prep time and must now scramble. I fancy myself shampoo master—I hurry through the process of squeezing a glob of Redken into my palm and lather it into my hair, making sure to get a substantial drip into my eyes. Oh, it wouldn’t be a good morning without that lovely wake up burn in my eyes!

Tripping out of the shower, I frequently blur through the process of drying off and throwing some semblance of an outfit on. Jeans and a t-shirt. This “hobo suit,” as my brother likes to refer to it, quoting the very excellent movie, The Incredibles, has been my default wardrobe for years. I still recall sitting on the couch with my mother one summer watching the show What Not To Wear on TLC. “Mc, I say we get you on that show. The t-shirts work for being a bum, but you really need to learn how to look nice.” Thanks, mom.

I rush through the remainder of my routine, dive into my jacket, and fling my backpack over a shoulder. That last minute glance at my bed is one of longing. It would be so easy to just climb back in…The first thing I want in the morning is to close my eyes and go back to sleep…but then again, that’s also the second, third, fourth fifth, eighteenth…and even the millionth thing I want.

  1. Trapped in Elevator, alone, with a person you would walk across the street to avoid.  Write a dialogue.

Office Party Aftermath

“Hold the door!  Linda?  Hey!  Jeez, almost didn’t see you behind that newspaper!  Lucky for me I spotted you!  Whew, this box is heavy—crazy how I managed to make it on and here you are!”

“Bruce!  …Uhm yeah, I guess you and your eagle eye…caught me…like a bird of prey…”

“So, tell me, how have you been?  We have so much catching up to do!  I’ve been trying to call you, but I think something’s wrong with your phone.  Every time I call I get some Asian man!  How weird is that?”

“Oh, you know, I’m just busy as usual.  And that’s pretty weird…I can’t imagine why you’d be getting the wrong person on the line…”

“Did you hear that screech?  I think something’s up with the elevator…hang on, I’ll use the phone to call the front desk.  Yes, hi, I was wondering if you all know what’s going on with this elevator car?”

“Sir, if you will just stay calm, it seems we’re having some technical issues, but they’ll be resolved shortly.”

“Well, looks like it’s just you and me…here…alone…for a while.  And you know, seein’ as I haven’t been able to get through to your phone, it has been a while since we were last together…if you know what I mean.”

“Bruce.  Seriously?  It was the office Christmas party.  I had a little too much to drink.  It was a peck on the cheek, for God’s sake!”

“Linda, there was so much more to it, though!  I could feel it.  So drinks after work tonight?  Or maybe coffee tomorrow?  I went up to your floor a few days ago to say hi, but you weren’t in your office.  I noticed a picture of you and friends at the bowling alley—we could go there!  Bowling?  Fun, right?”

“No, Bruce.  No bowling.  Not fun.  Now please, we’ve gone over this, just stop.”

“OK, so no bowling, I get it!  Not a big deal.  There’s that new Italian restaurant..we could–”
“Bruce!  I appreciate the invite, but we’ve talked about this, and I’m not interested.   Thank you anyway.  I’m going to read my newspaper now, all right?  And you can…organize whatever is in that box you’re carrying.  See?  Good times.  Good, quiet times.”

“Oh, gosh, this box is a mess isn’t it?  I should have packed a little more carefully…but you know I just got so caught up in this game of World of Warcraft last night that I forgot I was going to be transferring—Hey!  Wouldya look at that!  The elevator’s back online!  That was unfortunately quick.  Ah, guess we didn’t get to completely catch up…so that Italian restaurant…?”

“Well, it looks like we’re right at my floor, Bruce!  I’m gonna go now.  You shouldn’t waste your time visiting, I’m sure you’re just as busy as I am.  Goodbye!”

“Goodbye?  This is my new stop!  The box, this is everything from my old office!  Corporate transferred me, isn’t that great?”

“Wait, what?  Transfer?  This floor?  Where?”

“Well you’re in office suite 301, right?  I’m just down the hall!  304!  We’ll get to see so much more of each other!  I’ve got an idea.  I’ll swing by your office for lunch.  I know you’re really busy and won’t be able to leave, so I packed my meal.  Come on, now, you can get off the elevator; we’re on the floor finally and we don’t want that cab getting’ stuck again, no matter how much I enjoyed your company!  Gotta run, but see you later, Lunch Date!”

WORD COUNT:  587

2. “Write a short character sketch (it may be from life), focusing on how your character makes a living.  Put your character in a working situation and let us know by a combination of direct and indirect methods what that work is, how well he or she does it, what it looks like, smells like, and [how] the character feels about it.”

–Janet Burroway, Imaginative Writing

Shannon checked her phone one last time before letting out a massive sigh.  4:26.  Four minutes to make it to the front of the store and clock in.  Tossing her phone into her dented, too small locker, she shrugged into the beige shirt that comprised the upper half of her uniform, then pulled the apron over her head and deftly tied it behind her back.  4:29.  Thankful for the anti-slip soles of her work shoes, she power-walked through the greenish puddle that had pooled outside the break room doorway.  The acrid smell of cheap cleaning products mixed with the odor of rotting vegetables.  Boxes of various products to be shelved loomed above, but, like a light at the end of the tunnel, the double doors to the sales floor lay just ahead.

To spice it up a bit, she decided to bust through the doors saloon style.  Oh yeah–total bad ass.  A customer paused to look down his nose at her, but she shot him her best smile and a cheery “How’re you today, sir?”  The man grumbled a quick “fine,” and continued on his way.  Shannon swept briskly into the narrow hallway that housed the time punch.  As the numbers of the clock flipped from 4:29 to 4:30, she keyed in her employee ID, waited for the beep of affirmation, and then walked to her lane.

Stepping behind her register, she flipped on her light and mentally steeled herself for the oncoming dinner rush.  Everybody and their mother came through between 4:30 and 5:15 to pick up last minute ingredients.  As was the norm, her too cheap employer didn’t have enough people on register.  This would prove to be yet another hectic evening.  While waiting for her first customer, Shannon wrestled a couple stacks of plastic bags onto the twisted arms of the bent stands; apparently the store lacked enough funds to even pay for the most minor repairs.  A huff and a thunk drew her attention away from her present line of thought.  She glanced down the length of her stand in time to see a woman in her mid-fifties hoist another liter of Coke onto the belt.  Her wiry, graying hair clawed the air as the woman heaved can after can of Progresso soup shot put-style into the cue of groceries, followed by an incredible amount of toilet paper rolls.  At least her form was good.  “Hi, how are you doing today, ma’am?”  The woman said nothing, but instead chose to glare back at Shannon, puffy red face gleaming with an expression that screamed “mind your own business.”  It was just going to be one of those days.

After loading the devil woman’s cart and offering assistance to her car, the store seemed to explode.  Customers that had been hidden among the shelves and aisles swarmed to the front of the store.  Did they plan these things?  Little spite-induced plots formulated in the produce section?  That’s got to be the answer.  As the customers flowed through the line in a seemingly endless river, her hands flew as products slid across the scanner and neatly into bags.  Her fingers danced across the keyboard, rapidly typing in various product codes, resulting in an impressive clatter of keys with each six digit set.

The wave of dinner-seeking customers dissipated and the store returned to its inactive state.  She heaved a great sigh and tried to ignore the tension in her knees and back.  A woman wheeled abruptly into Shannon’s lane, talking obnoxiously into her cell phone, haphazardly flinging her groceries onto the belt while her 5 year old held tight to a Go-gurt in the front basket of the cart.  Beep.  The first item scanned.  WHUMP.  The little boy slammed his Go-gurt onto the edge of the checkout lane.  Beep.  WHUMP.  Beep.  WHUMP.  Should she say something?  The mother clearly wasn’t going to.  Beep.  WHUMP.  Beep.  WHU—The Go-gurt promptly burst, sending a strawberry spray into Shannon’s face and across her shirt and pants.  The mother paused her conversation, checked her total and handed over the necessary cash:  “You should probably find a paper towel for that,” she said as she accepted her change, returned to her chattering and left.

Wiping the sticky yogurt from her person, Shannon looked around, taking in the tired eyes and thin lipped smiles of her coworkers.  Her smile and enthusiastic greetings were part of the reason customers liked her so much.  However, she felt that smile starting to crack.  At twenty-five, there was no reason she should feel so worn out.  This wasn’t how it was supposed to be–she had dreams!  She had a degree, damn it!

Customers came and went over the course of the evening and the clock took its precious time ticking past the minutes.  She was nearing the end of her shift, finally, and she chatted with a few of her regular customers about the weather, their kids’ latest achievements, and their various other updates as they came through her line.  The clock moved ever closer to 10:00.  The woman who had just stepped into her checkout lane would be her last!  Shannon flipped the switch of her light, simultaneously lighting a spark of end-of-work-happiness in her.  “Hello!” she said happily as she ran the woman’s purchases through the scanner and neatly bagged them.  She grabbed hold of the biggest box of laundry detergent she’d ever seen while the customer continued on about her busy day.  In one smooth motion, as she slid the box over the barcode reader, a spurt of the powder blew from an apparently open lid.  Standing there, covered head to toe in a white powder that was starting to make her itch, the customer looked up and saw Shannon, letting loose a huge laugh. “Oops!  Guess I forgot to tell you I opened it to get a whiff of the scent!”  “Well,” Shannon said with a forced chuckle through gritted teeth, “at least I smell April Fresh now, right?”

The woman let loose another asinine guffaw, clearly finding the entire scene vastly entertaining.  The smell of detergent burned her nostrils as Shannon rang up the rest of the woman’s purchases and loaded her cart.  They did not pay her enough for this.  She swept up the inch of powder that had invaded the floor of her check stand; the detergent continued to induce an irritating itch.  After scrubbing down her conveyor belt and station, she clocked out and all but sprinted to the back of the store, avoiding customer eye contact as she went.  She peeled off her soiled work shirt, retrieved her belongings from her locker, and left the backroom again, making a beeline for the doors to the parking lot.  Crossing into the humid night, she made a point to put as much distance between her and that store…at least until the next afternoon

Imagine a war.  One waged not on a bloody battlefield, but instead upon leaves of paper; a war that lasts not for years, but for centuries.  The literary debate, “La Querelle des Femmes,” translated to “The Debate about Women,” is a war of words that addressed questions regarding the role and status of women.  Constantly under scrutiny, the character of women suffered many attacks.  Where did they belong in society?  Did they deserve to receive an education?  This particular battle, the querelle, involved many writers divided into two camps:  misogynists and defenders of women.  In response to an attack on women written by Joseph Swetnam, a woman by the name of Rachel Speght stepped to the forefront of this argument.  She wrote her way into polemic history in 1617 with her pamphlet entitled A Mouzell for Melastomus.  In this work, Rachel Speght combined her superior education and religious upbringing to rush to the defense of women, relighting the fire of the querelle and consequentially influencing other writers for centuries to come.

The querelle reaches back to the very beginning of time, finding roots in the story of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis.[1] The point of conflict in this debate centered on women’s behavior—taking their nature into consideration, what was their purpose in society?  In order to take this question in to consideration, one must understand the opinions of the time.  At the onset of, and throughout, the debate, society harbored a strongly misogynistic attitude toward women.  In short, because of the actions taken by Eve, “women were regarded as the source of sin and mortality, and, consequently, all women should be punished throughout their lives.”[2] During this time in history, society dictated that women be quiet, mild-mannered, orderly, and nurturing.  Essentially, a proper woman made up for those characteristics men lacked.[3] This idea, however, clashed with the views of women from the eyes of misogynists.  Misogynistic behavior acted as the norm; strict divides existed between the behavior of males and females, and women were objects to many men.  This idea of gender differences is termed “structural misogyny” by Alcuin Blamires, and is a spin-off of a phrase used by author Alasatir Minnis.[4]

Without a doubt, this type of environment fueled and encouraged input to the debate by individuals with attitudes like Joseph Swetnam’s.  In 1615, Joseph Swetnam published his first pamphlet addressing the querelle des femmes.  Entitled The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward [sic], and Unconstant Women, this piece accuses women of being “dangerously deceptive, expensive, desperate about maintaining their beauty, shallow, and deceived of their role on Earth as submissive wives, helpmates and mothers.”[5] He sees women as simply following in the footsteps of Eve—taking advantage of men, leading them astray.  It was with these ideas in mind that Swetnam penned The Arraignment and provided the pamphlet that would set in motion a new level to the debate.

Two years after the publication of The Arraignment, Rachel Speght, at the time a young woman of about 19 years of age, stepped up and submitted her response to Swetnam’s attack, coincidentally with the same publisher Swetnam used.  Though the true ambitions behind the motivation involved in publishing are unknown, it is believed that Speght had garnered some sort of reputation within the community for being intelligent, as the publisher seems likely to have sought her out.[6] The analysis of Speght’s educational background plays a huge role in the evolution of her thought.  Unlike many of her peers, Rachel Speght seems to have received a classical education that would have been rare for a woman of any class.[7] This academic upbringing would have led to a heightened awareness and understanding of social issues.

One of the points of conflict within the querelle des femmes involved the concept of women receiving an education.[8] Using her intellectual background to help defend and promote equality for women within this heated debate, it would be likely that an educated woman, like Rachel Speght, would step in and confidently submit her actual name with her literary defense.  Thus, Lewalski’s analyses of her background are more than fitting and support the idea that Speght’s writing would have the power to reach out and captivate readers, potentially inspiring others to join her side of the debate—her lack of fear of drawing attention to herself in the name of what she believed rallied others to join the cause.  This confidence in her educational standing is one of the factors that support the notion that Speght’s involvement in the debate left a lasting impact on future defenders in the debate.

Two major points can be gleaned from the above information on Speght’s educational background.  First, said background is likely what drew the attention of the publisher to Rachel Speght.  Second, and most importantly, had Speght not agreed to allow the publisher to print her pamphlet, the querelle would not necessarily have carried on in the direction it followed.  After two years, Swetnam’s work was dying off and had lost the attention it once brought about.  Speght’s work, upon publishing, revived the glowing embers of the Swetnam effect into a roaring fire—the Querelle des Femmes had been brought back to life.  She also brought with her a new style of addressing the querelle.  Rather than merely using rhetorical means to address readers and propose different ideas and taunts, Speght’s work directly counters the examples of evil, idle women, and uses just as many exaggerations of superiority as Swetnam did to prove her point that Swetnam was out of line and unfair in his accusations.[9] An example can be seen in a particular instance in which Swetnam attempted to use the Bible as his support, Speght counters with:  “To the second objection I answer, That the Apostle doth not hereby exempt man from sinne, but onely giveth to understand, that the woman was the primarie transgressor; and not the man, but that man was not at all deceived, was farr from his meaning.”[10] In this quote, her method of numbering the objectives and systematically tearing them apart one by one is clearly demonstrated.  This new approach also demonstrates the impact left by Rachel Speght and her work.  No longer did writers in this debate merely submit strictly rhetorical pieces—she inspired other writers to follow suit and address specifics; to not fear breaking with pattern for a stronger effect.

In her review of Lewalski’s work in The Renaissance Quarterly, Margaret J. Arnold also calls to attention Speght’s religious upbringing with a Calvin minister as her father.[11] The knowledge of this element in her youth establishes a foundation for its expansion; if religion played a major role in her youth, then Speght likely carried those ideas with her into adulthood.  In turn, her Calvinistic beliefs may in turn have resulted in her differing views on the patriarchal role in society.  In another insightful source, Women, History, & Theory, author Joan Kelly highlights an interesting point–women on the feminist side of the debate tended to repeat the established ideas of the arguments, rather than contributing new material to the mix.[12] This indicates that her work set off a reaction of responses that filed in behind hers, restating her ideas.  It may be that, as she evidently possessed a higher level of education than the majority of females at that time, Rachel Speght held the ability to put forth an idea in defense of her gender, and that her impact involves spurring responses that echoed her beliefs.  To support this idea, almost immediately after A Mouzell for Melastomous began to circulate, two other significant writers, though operating under pseudonyms, Ester Sowernam and Constantia Munda, came into the picture, inspired by Speght’s piece.  The former evolved in defense of Swetnam, the latter supporting the claims of Rachel Speght.

Overall, one of the most obvious impacts Speght had involves Joseph Swetnam.  Originally, the first copy of his Arraignment was published under the pen name “Thomas Tel-troth.”[13] This protected Swetnam from any direct negative heat from his work. Author F.W. Van Heertum mentions the multiple printings of Joseph Swetnam’s The Araignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women.[14] Clearly, this demonstrates great popularity of this particular diatribe.  It was so successful, in fact, that Swetnam promised to publish another work, however this work never surfaced.[15] It is fair to assess that he did not imagine a mere two years down the road a young girl would cause much embarrassment and trouble for him.  Speght often cut right to the point she sought to make:  “Thus if men would remember the duties they are to perform in being heads, some would not stand a tip-toe as they do, thinking themselves Lords & Rulers…”[16] She used mean names to shame and embarrass him, names such as “Bear-baiter of women”, or stating that calling him a dunce would even be too worthy of him.[17] Her religious and education background proved to be more in depth than Swetnam’s.  Looking at an excerpt from Joseph Swetnam’s Arraignment, it seems that he relied more upon biased ideas likely resulting from his own experiences, rather than an image of a typical woman:  “For commonly women are the most part of the forenoon painting themselves, and frizzing their hairs, and prying in their glass like Apes, to pranck up themselves in their gawdies, like Poppets, or like the Spider which weaves a fine web to hang the fly.” [18] By simply comparing the two writing styles, she makes him seem uneducated and childish.  Speght’s work not only inspired other polemics, but she also left an impact in theatre.  As a direct result of her 1617 response, in 1620, a comedy surfaced, known as Swetnam the Woman-hater Arraigned by Women, in which Swetnam’s character was made fun of, muzzled, and tormented.[19] That deep-rooted sentiment of Swetnam being a foolish, unintelligent bully correlates to all the ideas generated by Speght’s response.

Moving ahead in time, perhaps the most telling aspect that demonstrates Rachel Speght’s impact on the querelle can be seen in a more modern example.  Many have heard of the Glass Ceiling Debate.  This is an argument that encompasses the business realm that began in the 1970s and has continued on.  The sources evaluated in the writing of this paper shared a trend in that they were all published by female authors between the ‘80s and ‘90s.  As women everywhere began to challenge the idea of oppression and inequality in the workplace, they turned to the history books to provide guidance.  Speght’s resounding impact on, and after, the

querelle cannot be denied—centuries later, people from the North American continent sought out her work to aid them in the formation and development of their ideas.  Had she not been skillful enough, had she not made as solid of a point that women are not, in fact, evil beings, and that they do deserve equality, modern individuals would not have bothered examining her literary contributions to the querelle.

For such a young individual, it is evident that she played a tremendous role in the literary debate about women, the Querelle des Femmes.  This paper demonstrates that not only did Rachel Speght’s work influence other writers during and after the time of the Querelle des Femmes, it also transcended the boundaries of time and carried on into later years, allowing herself to revive the querelle not once, but twice.  She managed to break down the rhetoric within Swetnam’s work, painting him to be an ignorant individual, while articulately defending women and drawing more supporters to the pro-women side of the battle.  A true soldier of verse, Rachel Speght battled long and hard, following up her first piece with many more as the years continued on for the debate about women.  Though the centuries were long, a name stands out among the many:  Rachel Speght:  Great polemic, dedicated defender of women.  Without a doubt, the querelle would not have been the same without the contributions of Rachel Speght and her impact can still be seen to this day.


[1] “The Nature of  (Wo)men:  Gender and Controversy in 17th Century England,”  http://www.u.arizona.edu/~jcu/Lecture22_TheGenderWars.pdf (accessed October 31, 2010).  The book of Genesis acted as the spring board for the misogynistic grouping of the debate.  The defense of women found an ally in the translated works of Henricus Cornelius Agrippa, “De nobilitate et praecellentia foeminei sexus” (On the nobility and preeminence of women), written in 1529.  The clash of these ideas spurred on the querelle in England.

[2] Katherine M. Rogers, “The Troublesome Helpmate:  A History of Misogyny in Literature,” http://www.pinn.net/~sunshine/book-sum/rogers1.html#ch2 (accessed September 20, 2010).

[3] Alcuin Blamires,  The Case for Women in Medieval Culture (Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1997)  92.

[4] Blamires,  The Case for Women, 234.

5 Marai Ratajzack, “Articles & Essays”, http://www.empirical-industries.com/muse/e/arraignment.html (accessed October 29, 2010).

6 Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, ed., The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght (Oxford, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1996), xv.

[7] Lewalski, The Polemics and Poems, xi-xiv.

[8] Blamires, The Case for Women, 236.  For more information on supporters of women’s education rights, see the section on Christine de Pizan.  Pizan is likely to have been the inspirational force behind Rachel Speght’s ideology on women’s education and the idea of equality for women.

[9] Lewalski, The Polemics and Poems, xx.

[10] Betty S. Travitsky and Patrick Cullen, eds.  The Early Modern Englishwoman:  A Facsimile Lilbrary of Essential Works Part 1:  Printed Writings, 1500-1640:  Rachel Speght, “A Mouzell for Melastomus” (1617) (England:  Scholar Press, 1996) 3.

[11] Margaret J. Arnold, review of The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght, by Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, Renaissance Quarterly 51:3 (Autumn 1998):  1065-1066.

[12] Joan Kelly, Women, History, & Theory (Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 1984), 75.

[13] Lewalski, The Polemics and Poems, xiv.

[14] F. W. Van Heertum, “A Hostile Annotation of Rachel Speght’s A Mouzell for Melastomus(1617),” English Studies, (1987):  490.

[15] Anna E. C. Simoni, review of A Critical Edition of Joseph Swetnam’s The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women, by F. W. Van Heertum, English Studies 71:3 (June 1990):  283.

[16] Travitsky and Patrick Cullen.  The Early Modern Englishwoman, Rachel Speght, “A Mouzell for Melastomus,” 17.

17 Ratajzack, “Articles & Essays”.

18 Elizabethan Attitudes:  An Anthology, “Of Women, Marriage, and the Family” http://www.people.vcu.edu/~bgriffin/399/Elizabethan%20Attitudes.html (accessed October 23, 2010).

19 Lewalski, The Polemics and Poems, xvii.

Bibliography

Arnold, Margaret J.  Review of The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght, by Barbara Kiefer.  Renaissance Quarterly 51:3 (Autumn 1998):  1065-1066.

Blamires, Alcuin.  The Case for Women in Medieval Culture. Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1997.

Elizabethan Attitudes:  An Anthology, “Of Women, Marriage, and the Family” http://www.people.vcu.edu/~bgriffin/399/Elizabethan%20Attitudes.html (accessed October 23, 2010).

Heertum F. W. Van. “A Hostile Annotation of Rachel Speght’s A Mouzell for Melastomus(1617).”  English Studies (1987):  490.

Kelly, Joan.  Women, History, & Theory. Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Lewalski, Barbara Kiefer, ed. The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght.  Oxford, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1996.

Ratajzack, Marai.  Articles & Essays.  http://www.empirical-industries.com/muse/e/arraignment.html (accessed October 29, 2010).

Rogers, Katherine M.  The Troublesome Helpmate:  A History of Misogyny in Literature, http://www.pinn.net/~sunshine/book-sum/rogers1.html#ch2 (accessed September 20, 2010).

Simoni, Anna E. C.   Review of A Critical Edition of Joseph Swetnam’s The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women, by F. W. Van Heertum.  English Studies 71:3 (June 1990):  283.

“The Nature of  (Wo)men:  Gender and Controversy in 17th Century England,”  http://www.u.arizona.edu/~jcu/Lecture22_TheGenderWars.pdf (accessed October 31, 2010).

Travitsky, Betty S. and Patrick Cullen, eds.  The Early Modern Englishwoman:  A Facsimile Lilbrary of Essential Works Part 1:  Printed Writings, 1500-1640:  Rachel Speght, A Mouzell for Melastomus, (1617).  England:  Scholar Press, 1996.

Lit Review

Filed Under History 299

Beginning in the 1500’s and carrying on for centuries afterward, the querelle des femmes, or “the debate over women,” began as a literary argument over the role of women concerning their status, and later their right to equality (especially regarding education).[1] In 1615, a man by the name of Joseph Swetnam wrote an attack on women; in his essay, “A Hostile Annotation of Rachel Speght’s A Mouzell for Melastomus(1617)” (1987), Cis Van Heertum identifies women’s pride and their unfaithful and cruel nature as the focal points of the attack.[2] Through her 1617 response to this misogynist abuse, A Mouzell for Melastromus, a very young Rachel Speght became, as mentioned in a work by Barbara Lewalski (The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght (1996)), the “first Englishwoman to identify herself, by name, as a polemicist and critic of contemporary gender ideology.”[3] The question that arises from this vein of history exemplifies the ripple effect:  What purpose did Speght’s response serve in the querelle des femmes?  In order to answer this, works that involve those who potentially influenced Rachel Speght, her own writings, as well as those works that perhaps found inspiration in Speght’s pieces, must all be analyzed.  Further still, reviews of these pieces of literature also offer insight to the question.  Thus, this paper will mainly analyze the texts that aid in bringing to light the role that Rachel Speght played in the querelle by breaking them into categories based on theme and gender roles, and in some cases, time period.

First, the literature gathered can be broken down into two separate and warring camps:  that which pertains to Rachel Speght and those works involving Joseph Swetnam.  There is ample information regarding Rachel Speght.  Lewalski begins by looking into Rachel Speght’s past and speculating potential causes of Speght’s attitudes.  The analysis of Speght’s educational background plays a huge role in the evolution of her thought.  Unlike many women of that time period, Rachel Speght seems to have received a classical education that would have been rare for a woman of any class.[4] This academic upbringing would have led to a heightened awareness and understanding of social issues.  Considering the fact that the presence of women in the educational systems of the time met heated debate, it would be likely that an educated woman, like Rachel Speght, would be more likely to step in and confidently submit her actual name with her literary defense.  Thus, Lewalski’s analyses of her background are more than fitting and support the idea that Speght’s writing would have the power to reach out and captivate readers, potentially inspiring others to join her side of the debate.

In her review of Lewalski’s work in the Renaissance Quarterly, also calls to attention Speght’s religious upbringing with a Calvin minister as her father.[5] The knowledge of this element in her youth establishes a foundation for its expansion; if religion played a major role in her youth, then Speght likely carried those ideas with her into adulthood.  In turn, her Calvinistic beliefs may in turn have resulted in her differing views on the patriarchal role in society.  Another insightful source is a work by Joan Kelly, Women, History, & Theory. Kelly highlights an interesting point–women on the feminist side of the debate tended to repeat the established ideas of the arguments, rather than contributing new material to the mix.[6] This could possibly mean either of two things in regard to the research question:  First, does this mean that, in response to the question, Speght had no impact on the debate?  That her work was just another piece of literature added to the pile?  Or perhaps does it indicate that her work set off a reaction of responses that filed in behind hers, restating her ideas.  It may be that, as she evidently possessed a higher level of education than the majority of females at that time, Rachel Speght held the ability to put forth an idea in defense of her gender, and that her impact involves spurring responses that echoed her beliefs.

In the case of Swetnam, there is less material used here, however the pieces gathered play a crucial role.  In order to understand Rachel Speght’s reaction and the effects of it, one must comprehend against what she wrote.  Again, Heertum’s article brings a critical aspect of history to light:  within the first paragraph, Heertum mentions the multiple printings of Joseph Swetnam’s The Araignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women.[7] This demonstrates the fact that his work obviously gained great popularity.  As a result, one can determine the attitude of the time—as such material met high demand, there is no doubt that the masses shared similar misogynistic opinions and attitudes.  This theme, one which obviously held much of the people’s support, would easily have lasted over the centuries, especially as the debate heated up.  In a critical review of Heertum’s work, Anna Simoni, brings up the fact that Swetnam seemed to lack a formal education.[8] This could contribute to harsher opinions against women held by Swetnam, resulting perhaps from a sense of educational inferiority.  It might also signal that his intent was misinterpreted by the masses and transformed into a vessel to carry the ideas of the time.

After noting how the theme of the work influences its categorical placement (misogyny vs feminism), and how gender roles played a role (status of women in society, education of women, reaction of mainstream women in the debate), there remains one particularly interesting aspect to point out after analyzing nearly every work.  The majority of these works carry publishing dates ranging from 1984 to the late 1990s.  The querelle des femmes lasted roughly 400 years.[9] After that, it seems to have slipped from literary, historic, and social planes.  However, separating these works by time period, essentially a large grouping in the mid 80’s to late 90’s, one can take note of a trend.  In 1984, the term “glass ceiling” began to surface.  The “Glass Ceiling Debate” refers to idea that, in the business realm, women reach a certain point after which they are held back from climbing the ladder in the workplace, merely due to their gender.  This idea parallels the idea from the querelle in that the role of women was yet again brought into play.  Where the querelle des femmes mainly involved the social status of women and equality in education, the role of women in the workplace was believed to be under attack.  This likely indicates that people opposed to the apparent limiting of women’s opportunities to climb higher looked back to the querelle for inspiration, which may imply that Rachel Speght’s influence carried on beyond the originally expected scope.

Overall, many sources provide insight to demonstrate that Rachel Speght did leave an imprint on the direction of the querelle des femmes.  By analyzing secondary sources on the basis of gender distinctions as well as themes within them, it is easier to assess the areas upon which the works touch and where they will provide the most solid evidence to support the research claim.


[1] Charles Schriebner’s Sons, Querelle des Femmes, http://www.novelguide.com/a/discover/rens_04/rens_04_00395.html (accessed September 12. 2010).

[2] F. W. Van Heertum, “A Hostile Annotation of Rachel Speght’s A Mouzell for Melastomus(1617),” English Studies, (1987):  490.

[3] Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, ed., The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght, (Oxford, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1996), xi.

[4] Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, ed., The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght, (Oxford, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1996), xi-xiv.

[5] Margaret J. Arnold, review of The Polemics and Poems of Rachel Speght, by Barbara Kiefer Lewalski, Renaissance Quarterly 51:3 (Autumn 1998):  1065-1066.

[6] Joan Kelly, Women, History, & Theory (Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 1984), 75.

[7] F. W. Van Heertum, “A Hostile Annotation of Rachel Speght’s A Mouzell for Melastomus(1617),” English Studies, (1987):  490.

[8] Anna E. C. Simoni, review of A Critical Edition of Joseph Swetnam’s The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward, and Unconstant Women, by F. W. Van Heertum, English Studies 71:3 (June 1990):  283.

[9] Joan Kelly, Women, History, & Theory (Chicago:  The University of Chicago Press, 1984), 78.

A friend of mine told me about this–looked it up and I thought it was worth sharing:

http://coolmaterial.com/roundup/if-historical-events-had-facebook-statuses/

Weak Thesis

Filed Under History 299

I’m not sure if this works, but I was having some trouble finding something…

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB121755336096303089.html?mod=hpp_us_inside_today

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