Friday, October 28, 2016
For Monday: The Rape of the Lock, Cantos 1-2
NOTE: If you missed class, see the post below with a handout about The Rape of the Lock. Also note that we do have class on Monday, but not on Wednesday; I moved Paper #2 back one class period.
A Brief Synopsis of Canto 1-2
Begins with the standard epic invocation to the Muse (see handout below); then the scene opens on Belinda's bedroom, where she wakes up at noon to the barking of her dog, Shock. She rings for the servant and tries to get ready for the day while all around her, her guardian spirits are flitting about. These Sylphs are the spirits of former gentlewomen who died, and now guard the daily life of rich, insipid noblewomen. The chief sylph is Ariel, who fears that a terrible fate is about to meet her mistress--and from the worst enemy of all, man! Meanwhile, Belinda goes to her "temple," her toilet--which means her dressing table (not our toilet)--and Pope describes her various makeups and perfumes in the terms of a hero arming for battle.
Belinda is walking out about the town, and the entire world looks on her smiling face, which "shine[s] on all alike." She is the perfect mask of nobility and beauty, hiding her true nature, but attracting even "infidels" with its beauty. In the back of her head are two fashionably locks of hair, neatly arranged for everyone to see. A Baron has made it his mission to cut off these locks, and builds an Altar to see his plan through (a mock-epic touch); his Altar is built of very common place items--French novels (always about love, and some were pornographic), women's garters, gloves, and "the trophies of his former loves." Ariel sees this and marshals the other sylphs to her defense, just as a hero would at the beginning of a great battle. He explains all the terrible things that could happen to Belinda: she might lose her virginity, or break her China jar (teacup); she might lose her honor, or stain her dress; or she might lose her heart, or a necklace (note how every truly bad thing is compared to something small and insignificant, but to Ariel both are of equal importance). So the various sylphs take their positions around Belinda, while Ariel decides to guard her dog, Shock. He then warns the spirits that a terrible fate will meet the sylphs who fail in their duty to Belinda.
Answer TWO of the following:
Q1: Discuss a passage where Pope employs mock-epic language or imagery to describe a relatively insignificant moment. How does he make the mundane seem mighty or momentous?
Q2: Somewhat related to the above, if Arabella was reading this and realized that she was Belinda, where might she be offended by the portrayal? Would she see this as a good humored 'roast' of her situation, or is this more like Tom Jones, where the author means to satirize social types like her, full of sham morality?
Q3: According to the poem, who are the sylphs and how are they made? What kind of woman in life becomes a Salamander, or a Gnome? How might these descriptions also have a satirical edge to them?
Q4: Pope loves to play with difficult syntax and mirroring language, such as this passage in Canto 1: "Where with wigs, with sword-knots sword/knots strive,/Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches drive" (47). How can you translate this passage into modern English? What is he trying to say here and why do you think he makes it dense rather than transparent?