After Monday's discussion I found it very interesting that as I was reading Aurora Leigh to see how vividly E.B.Browning sets up Aurora as an embowered figure. In the third book, I found an especially vivid section illustrating this. After the narrator has just written how it is strange that Romney should feel the need "to make the world over again" while she is "content to make the pictures," she describes her life after they parted:
I took a chamber up three flights of stairs
Not far from being as steep as some larks climb. . .
Three years I lived and worked. Get leave to work
In this world — 'tis the best you get at all;
For God, in cursing, gives us better gifts
Than men benediction . . .
Get work, get work;
Be sure 'tis better than what you work to get.
Here we find, Aurora working, "happy and unafraid of solitude" in a tower away from society. Here she receives letters from the outside world, where she is only known through her work. Funnily enough she gets letters from college students professing their love for her, because of her work, but as she puts it "I sighed that such a love could scarcely raise them up to love what was more worthy than myself." Indeed, she sees herself, like the lady of shallot,as a vehicle for transcribing a higher truth.
But what are we to make of this rendering of the embowered woman who artistically sketches the world she is outside of. Indeed, Lady Waldemar says of her
You stand outside,
You artist women, of the common sex;
You share not with us, and exceed us so
Perhaps by what you're mulcted (?) in, your heart
Being starved to make your heads: so run the old
Traditions of you. [p.79, book 3, lines 406-11]
Is the artist unfeeling then? a woman who has to be empty of emotions, or at least putting her own aside, in order to paint a useful and realistic rendition of the world, serving a higher purpose, much like the saint Lady Wadermar calls Aurora. But surely this isn't true, since Aurora is in love with Romney in this poem and says, heatedly,"I love love; truth's no cleaner thing than love."
What are we to make of Aurora as the embowered artist? Is she outside of society, outside of any feminine identity that is thrust on women?
Can we say she is beyond a gender role, and is an artist alone, non gendered, and her work thus from a neutral point of view, guided by a higher truth?
Last modified 7 October 2003