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Warrick Wynne's List: Literature List

    • It’s as if, in writing it, she broke through the ordinary human condition with all its dissatisfactions, and achieved a kind of transfiguration,” wrote Anatole Broyard, with an enthusiasm and awe that was shared by many critics and readers. The book became a classic, and Robinson was hailed as one of the defining American writers of our time.
    • Robinson is a Christian whose faith is not easily reduced to generalities. Calvin’s thought has had a strong influence on her, and she depicts him in her essays as a misunderstood humanist, likening his “secularizing tendencies” to the “celebrations of the human one finds in Emerson and Whitman
  • Oct 21, 13

    "  In evoking the trees' "strain," the poem demonstrates the unsuitability of language itself as a greenhouse or container of nature.  The speaker is a witness to the trees' exodus, but distances herself from participating in the making of something out of the spectacle, while at the same time, paradoxically, reminding the audience of her role in the making.  She "sit[s]" and "writ[es]" but not poems, "long letters," in which she "scarcely mention[s] the departure / of the forest."  Even though the speaker addresses an audience, her own "head is full of whispers"-she's an audience as well.  We, however, the audience to the poem, is compelled in by the command: "Listen."  The speaker reaches across the barrier between poem and audience, a transaction that occurs on a page, and says: Listen, you."

  • Oct 16, 13

    "I saw her once
    Hop forty paces through the public street;
    And having lost her breath, she spoke, and panted
    That she did make defect perfection,
    And, breathless, power breathe forth. (2.2.237)"

    • There's beggary in the love that can be reckoned. (1.1.15)
    • The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne,
        Burned on the water; the poop was beaten gold,
        Purple the sails, and so perfumed, that
        The winds were love-sick with them, the oars were silver,
        Which to the tune of flutes kept stroke, and made
        The water which they beat to follow faster,
        As amorous of their strokes. For her own person,
        It beggared all description; she did lie
        In her pavilion,--cloth-of-gold of tissue,--
        O'er-picturing that Venus where we see
        The fancy outwork nature; on each side her
        Stood pretty-dimpled boys, like smiling Cupids,
        With divers-coloured fans, whose wind did seem
        To glow the delicate cheeks which they did cool,
        And what they undid did. (2.2.200)
    • The  pride and arrogance of the Egyptian queen, the blandishment of the woman, the unexpected but natural transitions of temper and feeling, the contest of various passions, and at length — when the wild hurricane has spent its fury — the melting into tears, faintness, and languishment, are portrayed with the most astonishing power, and truth, and skill in feminine nature. More wonderful still is the splendour and force of colouring which is shed over  this extraordinary scene. The mere idea of an angry woman beating her menial, presents something ridiculous or disgusting to the mind; in a queen or a tragedy heroine it is still more indecorous; yet this scene is as far as possible from the vulgar or the comic.
    • She looks like sleep-
       As she would catch another Antony
       in her strong toil of grace, —  
       the image of her beauty and her irresistible arts, triumphant even in death, is at once brought before us, and one masterly and comprehensive stroke consummates this most  wonderful, most dazzling delineation.

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    • In short his breathless pursuit of all sorts of  experiences more than justifies the scandalised  summary of Octanius:  
       He fishes, drinks, and wastes
       The lamps of night in revel; is not more manlike
       Than Cleopatra; nor the queen of Ptolemy
       More womanly than he. (i. iv. 4.)
    • Yet, however he may seem to sink in his pleasures,  he is never submerged; such is his joyousness and  strength that they seem to bear him up and carry  him along rather than drag him down. As Cleopatra perceives:  
       His delights
       Were dolphin-like; they show'd his back above
       The element they lived in. (v. ii. 88.)

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  • Oct 16, 13

    "Nay, 'tis most certain, Iras: saucy lictors
    Will catch at us, like strumpets; and scald rhymers
    Ballad us out o' tune: the quick comedians
    Extemporally will stage us, and present
    Our Alexandrian revels; Antony
    Shall be brought drunken forth, and I shall see
    Some squeaking Cleopatra boy my greatness
    I' the posture of a whore.
    Antony and Cleopatra (5.2), Cleopatra"

    • Critics over the years have found many ways to read the binary division of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra between the poles of Rome and Egypt.1 Recently, postcolonial theory has informed readings that emphasize the “Otherness” of Egypt: as John Gillies has argued, “the ‘orientalism’ of Cleopatra’s court—with its luxury, decadence, splendour, sensuality, appetite, effeminacy and eunuchs—seems a systematic inversion of the legendary Roman values of temperance, manliness, courage and pietas.”2 However, as these critics usually acknowledge, the contrast between the two blurs upon closer inspection, since, as Gillies again puts it, “It is only from the vantage point of Egypt that Rome actually seems Roman.”3


      I want to approach the differences between Rome and Egypt in Shakespeare’s play as, in large part, cognitive differences, based in Shakespeare’s imaginative engagement with changing theories of the relationship between human sense perception and scientific truth.

    • No answers to questions of motives are present in the play and not only does she ask why, but she asks: “Why does Antony marry Octavia is he plans to return to Cleopatra? Does Antony end up returning to Cleopatra out of love or is it because she overpowers his spirit? and lastly, “Did Antony’s ships join Octavius because of Cleopatra’s orders or was someone else, possibly even Antony himself, to blame for Antony’s final betrayal?” (Adelman) These questions are left unanswered for an open interpretation. Adelman says this happens because we can only see the action. We are unable to see what the people are thinking and feeling. She says, “We are left to speculate the meaning” (Adelman).
    • Ornstein even goes further to support this claim, and says that not only is Antony never in control of himself in Egypt, but he isn’t in Rome either. Octavius possesses control over Antony when he is in Rome and Cleopatra when he is in Egypt. Therefore, he claims that it is not the lack of character that is important (because it is there, just not in Antony’s control), but the location which is of importance and Adelman misses this (Freeman). There is an example of this in the play when Cleopatra asks, “What means this/...What does he mean?” (4.4 lines 14,24) Adelman points out that Cleopatra should know Antony best of all and even she has to ask what he means. She also says that if the characters in the play cannot even get a grasp on each other, how is the audience and the readers? However, this is right at the point where control is shifting. If Ornstein is correct, Antony is about to go back under Octavius’ control, which would explain why Cleopatra is questioning. Therefore, it has nothing to do with Antony’s lack of character, but simply a detail of control that Shakespeare wants to bring to our attention.
    • Suddenly Cleopatra asks, “Will it eat me?” A strange question. This might be seen as a sudden switch in meaning of “worm,” that is: Will the earthworms eat me when I’m dead? The clown gives her a strange reply that seems to reassure her: Of course not, he may be saying, “a woman is a dish for the gods” unless the devil gets hold of her. Perhaps this implies that de Vere recognizes the queen as a favorite of the gods, a queen who is unmarred by the devil and who will be immortal.


    • Among the characters of Antony and Cleopatra there are any number of mythologizing poets and/or playwrights, but the most important is Antony. Snared within the net of appearances and forced by politics (that most extreme form of fantasy) to break free, Antony's agony is curiously muted for someone who has achieved and lost so much; but this fact can be better understood if we examine the basis of the play and its relationship to "tragedy."
    • The surrender of the militant must constitute for the Romans an unqualified surrender; the problem for the spectator or reader is the extent to which Roman judgment may be trusted. But the central image here works for the Antony of the entire play: what is unforgettable in this Antony is his "heart" on any level, the organ of courage, of magnanimity, of loyalty, of love, of hysterical valor possible only by a "diminution in [his] brain." Antony is his heart, as Caesar is his reason, and the heart, being blind, may understand the complexities of the "tawny front" (Philo's description of Cleopatra) by other means.

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    • One of the academic challenges that Antony and Cleopatra presents is its mixture of history and tragedy, politics and passion. Recent commentary often emphasizes the play's political aspects, though some critics continue to highlight its love story. Other important critical questions addressed by scholars in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries include race and gender issues, and to what extent characters and events dramatized in the play reflect social, cultural, and political realities in early modern England.
    • . Critics praise Mark Rylance's portrayal of Cleopatra, maintaining that not only did he transcend the gender barrier, but he also imbued the multi-faceted character with some freshly provocative insights.
    • Both Fulvia and Octavia fulfilled the role of stereotypical renaissance wives, who wait patiently for their husbands return. Antony spent most of his time in Alexandria with Cleopatra, so each wife was left alone and uncared for.
    • Enobarbus supports the lesser role of a female by adding that there is no reason to be sad at his wife's death because there are more women to be found.

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    • There's a lot of what I would call comfortable poetry around. And I would have to say that some of that comfortable poetry is being written by gay and lesbian poets. I think you can probably find poets from any group who would come under the rubric of "diversity" who are writing comfortable poetry nowadays. But then there is all this other stuff going on -- which is wilder, which is bristling; it's juicier, it's everything that you would want. And it's not comfortable. That's the kind of poetry that interests me -- a field of energy. It's intellectual and moral and political and sexual and sensual -- all of that fermenting together. It can speak to people who have themselves felt like monsters and say: you are not alone, this is not monstrous. It can disturb and enrapture.
    • I have a poem from the '60s that begins: "Difficult, ordinary happiness, no one nowadays believes in you." And, yes -- it always goes with unhappiness. It's that thing that is glinting at the bottom of the stream that you're reaching for all the time -- your hand often not being able to grasp it, even though your eye can see it. n
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