Classic English Literature

Analyzing Aurora Leigh

  • Introduction:

Opening Statement: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s epic poem, Aurora Leigh, is one of the most extraordinary long poems in the English language and outlines the adventures (and misadventures) of of its protagonist, a female poet.

Purpose of writing: The purpose of this paper is to delve into this poem and discuss some of the feminist/progressivist issues that Barrett Browning is exploring in her work

Thesis statement: Specifically, it will look at the ways in which Barrett Browning deals with some of the most pertinent issues to women of her day: the lack of educational opportunities for women, the sexual exploitation of women, and the overriding belief in the Victorian times that women should be confined solely to the home.

  •  Body:


1.“By no means Bonaventure’s pricks of love” and “French/ kept pure of Balzac and neologism” (Greenblatt, 1140).

2.“singing at a work apart/ behind a wall of sense” (Greenblatt, 1140)


[Marian subjected to] “men’s violence” (Greenblatt, 1145)

“a tiptoe Danae, overbold and hot” (Greenblatt, 1142)


“[women] as  you are/Mere women, personal and passionate/You give us doting mothers and chaste wives/Sublime  Madonnas and enduring saints!/But we get no Christ from you – and verily/we shall not get a poet in my mind” (Greenblatt, 1144).

III. Conclusion

  1. Summary of main points: Thus we see that in Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning was keenly aware of social problems in the world around her, particularly the issues faced by women of her day
  2. Thesis re-stated: In her epic poem, she deals with the limitations of educational opportunity for women, the sexual exploitation of women in Victorian times, and the criticism of a patriarchy which sought to keep women confined solely to the home and to denigrate any outside achievement or interests.
  3. Significance of the work: Taking all this into account, this work becomes an incredibly significant account of the plight of women in the Victorian Age; however, it can also be applicable to the plight of women today. When girls are terrorized for trying to attend school in Afghanistan, when a young woman is brutally gang-raped and murdered in New Delhi, when certain conservative Christian groups  in this country still try to keep women confined to purely domestic tasks, it is obvious that this poem has lost none of its relevance since the time that it was written.
  4. Recommendation: It should be recommended reading for any Women’s Studies course or examination of women in Victorian times.

Works Cited

Chouiten, Linda “Irony and gender politics in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh” Nordic Journal of English Studies. Vol. 11. No 3 p. 1-16

Greenblatt, Stephen.  “The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 2.”   New York and   London:  2000

Thomas, Katharina. “Feminism in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Aurora Leigh”: Developing a   Concept of the Female Artist”. Auflage, 2008.

Wallace, Anne. “Nor in Fading Silks Compose”: Sewing, Walking, and Poetic Labor in “Aurora  Leigh” ELH, Vol. 64, No. 1 (Spring, 1997), 223-256 The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Zonana, Joyce.  “The Embodied Muse: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, and Feminist  Poetics”.  Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature.  Vol 8  No. 2   240-262

Isaacs, Jason.  “Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Women’s Issues, and Aurora Leigh”.  The Victorian Web. 1992.  Web. 1 April, 2013

Zonana, Joyce.  “The Embodied Muse: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, and Feminist Poetics”.  Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature.  Vol 8  No. 2  pp  240-262

Thomas, Katharina. “Feminism in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Aurora Leigh”: Developing a Concept of the Female Artist. Auflage, 2008.

Wallace, Anne. “Nor in Fading Silks Compose”: Sewing, Walking, and Poetic Labor in “Aurora Leigh” ELH, Vol. 64, No. 1 (Spring, 1997), pp. 223-256The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Chouiten, Linda “Irony and gender politics in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh”Nordic Journal of English Studies. Vol. 11. No 3 p. 1-16

Laing-Cox, Taryn. “‘… singing at a work apart …’: The Search for a Feminine Poetic Voice in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh” Alternation 16, 2 (2009) 221 – 240 ISSN  1023-1757

Byrd, Deborah. “Combating An Alien Tyranny: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Evolution As A   Feminist Poet” In: Browning Institute Studies. An Annual of Victorian Literary and  Cultural History: 13 (Victorian Literature and Culture) Ed. Auslander Munich, Adrienne. 1986. p. 23-54,

Kaplan, Cora. “Aurora Leigh” In: Feminist Criticism and Social Change: Sex, Class and Race in Literature and Culture, Ed.Newton, Judith. Taylor and Francis. 1985. p. 134-

The author focuses on the fact that Barrett Browning goes against taboos of the society by engaging in a discourse that is reserved for male members of the bourgeois society. Kaplan also brings in the female solidarity perspective into her argument, reflecting on the scenes among the poor. There is indeed a connection created by the poet between female characters; independent of their social status.

Work Cited

Greenblatt, Stephen.  The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 2.  New York and London:  2000

Isaacs, Jason.  “Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Women’s Issues, and Aurora Leigh”.  The Victorian Web. 1992.  Web. 1 April, 2013

Zonana, Joyce.  “The Embodied Muse: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh, and Feminist  Poetics”.  Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature.  Vol 8  No. 2  pp 240-262

[1]Not MLA


Classic English Literature

Modern Sensibilities in “The Hollow Men”, “Do not go Gentle into that Good Night”, and “The Second Coming”

Modern poetry is exemplified by many things: feelings of despair or isolation, a fear of death, a sense of the loss of a happier or simpler time, and a feeling that the world is ending are all very common themes in the poetry of this era. “The Hollow Men”, by T.S. Eliot, “Do not go Gentle into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas, and “The Second Coming” by W.B. Yeats. All three of these poems explore these themes of fear of death, despair, and loss in different and startling ways, and all three of them are archetypal of modern poetry.


When describing the world around him in his rather chilling poem, “The Second Coming”, Yeats laments that “things fall apart; the center does not hold” (Greenblatt, 892), and captures brilliantly the apocalyptic feelings experienced by many in his generation. The poem was written in 1920, after the horrors of World War I led many to believe that the world, as they knew it at least, was indeed coming to an end. The anxiety over the loss of old norms, old mores, old ways of doing things is evident in the next line “mere anarchy is loosed upon the world” (892): the mourning for the changes brought about in the modern world, and a sense of a coming to an end, is clearly evident in this poem, and it is this feeling of loss and ending that makes it such a significant representative of modern poetry.


Thomas begins his dirge with the stunning lines “Do not go Gently into that Good Night/ Old age should burn and rave at close of day” (Greenblatt 912) and in the following lines, he is exploring death on both a literal and metaphorical level. On the literal level, he is exemplifying modern poetry by its hallmark fear of death and dying, often partly a result of the loss of faith which typifies the modern age: because modern humanity lacks a consistent belief about the afterlife, death is something to be feared and avoided at all costs. This could explain why most people nowadays die in some sort of facility, whereas it was common before to die at home; death is seen as ugly in the modern, sanitized age, and this poem shows the anger and fear that the living feel towards death and sometimes towards the dying. The final stanza of the poem, addressed to his dying father, is not only about his father’s literal death, but about the death of security and old ways that his father could represent. This fear of death and this sense of the old ways being lost is another hallmark of modern poetry and Dylan Thomas captures this beautifully.


Perhaps of all three of these poems, T.S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” might capture the feeling of the modern age the best: it seems to be both overcrowded and isolated, and that overwhelmingly the feeling is one of despair. It is best captured in the following lines: “In this last of meeting places/ we grope together/and avoid speech/gathered at the tumid river” (Greenblatt 935). This image conveys a feeling of a crowd which nonetheless avoids talking to one another and stands around in their individual isolation as they await their end. There is also a feeling, in this apocalyptic poem, of an anticlimax: there is no great finale to the end of the world; it will end “not with a bang but with a whimper” (935).   The themes of isolation and, again, of an ending of the world, makes this poem very much a product of its time.


What we see in all three of these poems are common themes that exemplify modern poetry. Among the most important of these are the sense of apocalyptic loss, a feeling of isolation and despair, and the belief that death is ugly and to be fought against. All of these themes are dealt with by Yeats, Eliot, and Thomas in concise and beautiful ways.


Work Cited

Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Vol. 2.   New York and         London: 2000




Classic English Literature

Art Analysis: Understanding the Relationship Between Painting and Poem

What the eyes can see, the mouth can interpret; the marriage between visual and verbal art is specifically getting a connective attention on how artists relate and interpret the history of the society that they are living in. Visual art and verbal art are considered to be among the strongest forms of art that makes a great impact on the shaping of the human history. Through the years, the recognition of this fact has created a strong indication on how the modern society tries to appreciate the bearing of the past and the works of those who have realized art through time. In this particular discussion, the works of Thomas Cole {painting] and Samuel Taylor Coleridge [poem: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner] shall be given particular attention to. Through the value of semiotics and how its principles apply to the process of analyzing the meanings and the values of the elements the artists use in each piece to send their message to the audiences, a distinction on how these works define both the time and culture where the artsists came from shall be given particular focus.

The five series of paintings by Thomas Cole, Course of Empire, is a symbolic warning account of the growth of human civilization. It is more than just the personal philosophy of Cole concerning the spiritual eminence of nature and its power over civilization and man. It also reveals political, artistic and religious activities within the culture of America in the 18th century. This series of paintings reveals ideas found in uniformitarianism, associationism, transformation and transcendentalism shared by the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Coleridge’s poem also shares the same characteristics and themes as the series of paintings because his poem has a number of hallmarks that may associate with Romanticism. His poem includes elements of dramatic natural images, supernatural and an interest in the language of conversation. In nutshell, Cole’s series of paintings seem to reflect the themes evident in Coleridge’s poem.

In a relative view, the theme of transformation is common among the two art forms. The poem” The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” contains several instances of critical points of transformation. It is visible especially when the Mariner spurts the albatross. The poetic representation in the art form is symbolic of the feeling that the author tries to express. In this case, the most significant transformation is that of the conversation between the Mariner and the prideful yank who dislikes large birds. The albatross that is on his neck resembles the lumber of his sins. It falls the moment he atones and blesses the snakes at the sea. The transformations are symbolic of the transition from the one state of civilization to another state of civilization which is further suggested nehind the symbolical bearing of Thomas Cole’s series of paintings.

The use of short sentences and simple rhyme in the writing provides an overview of what is depicted in the poem. This is similar to the expression used paintings that are symbolic of different eras of civilization. The audience is encouraged to analyze the atmosphere created in the poem. The author of the poem employed the use of punctuation to ensure that there is an emphasis in his message. The encounter of the wedding guest with the mariner is an influencing point of the poem. The author also used impersonal phrases to describe the existence of an object that appears to be abstract in nature. There is a close correlation of the analysis of the poem and the paintings of Cole. In the paintings of Cole, there is a transformation from calmness that is evident in “the Consummation of Empire” to “Destruction”.

In the consummation of Empire, there is calmness and this painting resemble the utmost accomplishment of the empire. In this painting, man has managed to harness nature for his own gain and his fellow citizens. In the destruction, there is a transformation from calmness to ruins. In this painting, man has been extinguished. The ruins of the civilization of man have been absorbed into nature. Man has died, but the nature has managed to survive. In this case, it is as if Cole suggests that the emergence of human realization on how he is to be able to get the best out of nature would turn back around him with a great revenge from nature itself. Cole had painted his works from 1833 to 1836. This can be interpreted as deterrent story about the growth of civilization and supremacy of nature to survive man’s destructive traits. Cole borrowed some lines from Coleridge as the motto of the series. His paintings start with freedom, and glory, when freedom and glory fail, corruption, vice and wealth consume the nation. The theme of the paintings integrates the pressure between power of man and the power of land. This reflects an account of myth of the land, which has been represented in the writings of Coleridge.

The relation of man to land has been a dominant image in the American mind. Cole sees the altering relation of man to nature while he grows through time and different civilization stages. Coleridge’s view of land myth concentrates on land cultivation and western movement for agrarian purposes. The paintings of Cole concentrate on the traits of the inhabitants as civilization while Coleridge focuses on the individual farmer. In Cole’s myth of landscapes, man is in unity with God through nature. Although likely impossible to happen in relation to the course of living that humans intended to embrace, this picture is rather symbolical in presenting how Cole hopes it to be instead of what the actual situations suggest in relation to how human morality over nature and its values has changed through the years.

An initial sketch indicated the arrangement of the idea behind the creation of the design. It also illustrates the anticipated arrangement that the painting would be subjected to in the gallery. The painting depicts the evolution of an empire from birth to its mature state in an interesting manner. These histories were depicted in interesting ways that leave the audience with a curious thought. There is a distinct comparison of the biological nature of the development of the paintings. A single scene is depicted in as the effect of time in the three paintings. This is interpreted by the interaction of man and his natural surroundings. The unique pointed rock on the bay also gives a better representation of the paintings representation. The lighting is presented in a progression that moves in a series from right to the left of the painting. The arrangement of the paintings is symbolic. The first painting displays the beginning of the day while the last painting denotes sunset.

The painting in the middle of the two paintings denotes the warmth portrayed by the serenity of the day. The consummation of Empire depicts the clear light displayed after noon symbolic of the turning point of the high point of civilization. This evolution is similar to the progression of seasons seen from spring to the end of autumn. Cole uses symbolism in most of his work to express himself. He also uses fire and smoke to represent man’s effort in harnessing the fire. This shows the progress man has made in conceptualizing innovations and controlling his innovativeness. It is a representation of the future expectation as man is bound to create other innovations for the benefit of the human race.

The savage state portrays the world in the vision that it is at the dawn of civilization. It is easy for one to see the powerful forces of nature as illustrated in the painting. It is interesting how the painter depicts the swirling cloud pushed by the wind and the rising mist visible in the landscape of the painting. There is an image of a hunter in pursuit of an animal. This is symbolic of mans effort to pursue the earth and its inhabitants for his survival in the foreground. There is a plateau on the shores of the bay. The start of civilization in the society is displayed in the community of Teepee. There is rising indicators of smoke that indicates the harnessed fire. The relationship between man and nature shows the effort that man has initiated in surviving. It appears that nature is the most powerful force. The pastoral or Arcadian gives a different symbolization of the nature of the presentation of the paintings.

The scene portrayed in the painting indicates late morning, which is under the calm sky with a pleasant atmosphere. The figures that are present in the foreground are a presentation of development and other physical activities. The figures are representative of mathematics, drawing and other forms of arts. The middle ground indicates agricultural activities, way of life of the communities and architecture. There is a reference to religious activity, which involves worship within the surrounding as indicated by a temple in the vicinity. The temple is seen to have been built following a design of a Stonehenge that is in a rectangular form. A sacrificial smoke that is seen rising in the air is a symbol of harmony between nature and civilization.

In the desolation, there is quietness as depicted by the autumnal evening and the empire in ruins. The painting is symbolic of the triumph of nature over the activities of man. There is an indication that man is extinct after the destruction of the empire. Nature is supreme and above everything else. This is symbolized by the absorption of man’s civilization into the nature. The calmness and peacefulness of the scene is indicated clearly by the objects in the paintings. There is a prediction that man will eventually disappear while nature would remain. The appearance of the lighted torch in an upside down posture shows the transition from one civilization to the next. A single scene has been depicted by several elements that symbolize several messages as portrayed by the paintings. There is uncontrollable strength in the Savage state as portrayed by images depicted by the swirling clouds. This is supported by the dramatic nature and variation the artistic environments.

Relating the two works together, it could be analyzed that both art pieces intend to manifest a distinction on how the artists understand human morality and how it progresses through time. Notably, Cole tried to depict the said matter through chronologicall painting the history between the relationship of man and nature as he interprets it. On the other end, Colleridge tries to depict the matter through pointing out how human reacts through the different situations that he faces every day. Relatively, this case insists on the possibilities of defining development under the course of defining the changes and transformations that humans undergo through time. Learning from the past and pushing forward ought to have taught humans about the results of their acts and desires. However, in both works, such learning has been depicted as useless and unappreciated by the humans who were supposed to embrace each value of historical teaching which then sadly results to self destruction, a matter that is obviously evident in the human society at present.

Classic English Literature

Charles, Prince of Wale


Most people may know Prince Harry and Prince William’s father as prince Charles, but he goes by a handful of regal names, including his most commonly known title: the Prince of Wales. Philip Arthur George, widely known as Charles the Prince of Wales, is one of the most celebrated leaders in England. His full names are full titles are Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland (Kretschmer 1) The Prince of Wales was a title given to the oldest male heir of the sovereign power of the throne of England. Being the firstborn of Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, Prince Charles earned himself the title of the Prince of Wales. Literary, the name “Wales” means the country of Wales, which is a section of the United Kingdom (UK). The Prince of Wales title is never inherited but bestowed by the sovereign. The aim of the current study, therefore, is to carry out a literature search to discuss the history and various facts about Prince Charles, also the Prince of Wales.

Classic English Literature

Progressivist Issues in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh

This paper will seek to discuss progressivist issues present in the long-poem Aurora Leigh, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  The intent of this paper is to delve into the meaning of this poem with fellow English students and discuss some of the feminist issues which are inherent in the work, and how those issues apply to women’s issues even today.

Classic English Literature

A Comparison and Contrast of “Are You Digging on My Grave” and “My Last Duchess”

Victorian England produced some of the most remarkable verses in the history of English literature and Thomas Hardy’s Are You Digging on My Grave” and Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” are quintessential pieces of that era.  They both rely on revelations of the narrator for their dramatic movement, but Hardy’s tone is far lighter than Browning’s in these verses.

Classic English Literature

Sonnets from the Portuguese

I can easily understand why Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s opening line, “How do I love thee?/ Let me count the ways” (Browning, in Greenblatt), remains so popular with people feeling romantic.  The power of the line does not stem from what it says, but rather from what it suggests.  More exactly, it is a question, and one implying an endless answer, if there is any answer at all.  This resonates with all people in love because the nature of love is to lead the lover to believe that no words can ever express the feeling.  Even the beginning of her own answer points to the ridiculousness of trying to measure real love.  Love is felt to be, no only unique, but too large to be captured in mere description.  Consequently, Barrett Browning affirms through the question alone the impossibility of truly arriving at an answer, and people respond to what is a poetic expression of what cannot be expressed.

Classic English Literature

Porphyria’s Lover (A Monologue Summary of the Poem by Browning)

Ought not love define the being of a man and a woman?

Ought not love give meaning to their lives?

Shall not love give sense to the identity they present?

Shall it not give them happiness ‘till the end?

Classic English Literature

Characteristics of the Victorian Period


One of the most representative authors of depicting life in the Victorian age is Charles Dickens and, in particular, the novel ‘Great Expectations’.  This is viewed as an autobiographical novel of Dickens through the character of ‘Pip’. The novel focuses on themes of guilt and punishment and how as a miserable child, ‘Pip’ endeavours to rise above his misery, having great expectations to become a gentlemen.  This is a significant reference to the importance placed on a person’s class and position in society that was prevalent in Victorian Britain. The novel represents a complete reflection of Dickens life. (Greenblatt)

Classic English Literature

Ode to the West Wind

Shelley’s famous line from “Ode to the West Wind”, line 70, which references the transition from Winter to Spring, expresses the archetypal ideal of death and rebirth. As such, it is a deeply affirmative line which seems to assert an essential optimism while simultaneously uniting Pagan or pantheistic ideas with the Christian notion of resurrection. The line is very similar in tone and emotion to lines written in Shelley’s unfinished poem “The Triumph of Life.” In the latter poem, the opening lines read “Swift as a spirit hastening to his task / Of glory and of good, the Sun sprang forth / Rejoicing in his splendour, and the mask / Of darkness fell from the awakened Earth.” (Shelley, p.6, 1-4). These lines also show an evocation of an animistic vision where nature is viewed as a manifestation of eternal spirits.

Classic English Literature

Quiz on Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tale”

Part I: Passage Identification and Significance

Passage A- The Squire’s Tale (Canace who bears the magical ring: asks the falcon what is wrong, The falcon falls from the tree and starts talking to Canace) Line 447-476

Passage B- The Pardoners Tale (The pardoner offers his indulgences for sale: The words between the Host, the pardoner, and the Knight) Line 655-671

Passage C- The Franklin’s Tale (Dorigen’s friends provide games and comfort). Line 157-168

Classic English Literature

The Use of Stylistic Devices in The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises

The novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald titled “The Great Gatsby” depicts various individuals living in different fictional areas. The plot mainly revolves around Jay Gatsby, who is a wealthy individual that has all that he requires. Nonetheless, the individual is still obsessed with Daisy. The book explores various themes that portray American society, explicitly showing the American Dream. It is a literary classic that is widely appreciated due to its context and how the author relays the story. The novel by Ernest Hemingway titled “The Sun Also Rises” depicts the lives of American and British expatriates who travel from Paris to other regions to enjoy and have a peaceful time. The manuscript is based on the author’s experiences when he visited Paris. Moreover, the individuals used in the book are real as well as the action described. The novel has a variety of themes it utilizes such as love and death and the idea of masculinity. The paper is purposed on investigating the two books and deliberating how they are connected through the use of various literary devices. The authors of both books, “The Sun Also Rises” and “The Great Gatsby” widely employ the use of stylistic devices such as symbolism, point of view, imagery and characterization to relay their concepts such as love and death, and the American dream respectively.

Classic English Literature

A Vindication

The essay “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman” by Mary Wollstonecraft is a unique study of early philosophical concepts from a feminist perspective. In this text, the author makes her beliefs known regarding the rights of women to receive an education equal to her male counterparts and supports her position regarding other areas where equality is essential (Greenblatt). However, she lived in a pre-feminist era and did not necessarily recognize that her attitudes and beliefs represented an entire era of new ideas (Greenblatt). The author’s voice and thoughts are clear in her writing: “In the government of the physical world it is observable that the female in point of strength is, in general, inferior to the male. This is the law of Nature; and it does not appear to be suspended or abrogated in favour of woman” (Greenblatt). With this excerpt, Wollstonecraft addresses the inequalities between males and females during her era and that there was not much that could be done about this situation (Greenblatt).

In another excerpt, the author appears almost apologetic for her progressive views regarding women and their roles in society: “My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their fascinating graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone” (Greenblatt). This also showcases Wollstonecraft’s perspectives as a feminist and a woman with a unique perspective for her era (Greenblatt). This piece provides support for the realities of her existence as a female in a society that did not accept her as a contributing and active member, a reality that she sought to change (Greenblatt).The author’s views were new and controversial during her time, but today, they serve as a reminder of the first roots of the feminist movement, well before it was even known by that term (Greenblatt).


Works Cited

Greenblatt, Stephan. “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” From The Norton Anthology of

English Literature, 9th Edition, Volume 2. New York: W.W. Norton and Company.