MARBL’s Duffy: Pygmalion’s Bride

“Pygmalion’s Bride” didn’t appear to have as many rewrites and revisions as some of the other poems. For the most part, it seemed that Duffy knew what she wanted to say, so unlike “The Biographer,” the core of the poem existed from an early point. Some edits I noticed, however, included the addition of the line “He talked white black” and the deletion of “This woman-hater.” Perhaps this was an edit to make the poem show, not tell; rather than outright telling the reader of Duffy’s new view on Pygmalion’s personality, she describes his actions to convey his character to the reader.

The most interesting manuscript related to “Pygmalion’s Bride” that I found was a sheet of notepad with information on Pygmalion himself. For whatever reason, it was in a separate folder from any other files I found related to the poem, but as far as I could do a quick search on, the information is accurate, not artistically skewed. Likely this was the basis that Duffy worked off of when writing the poem. The information is fairly objective about Pygmalion, which reflects the research; for the most part, the mythology says nothing about Pygmalion’s personality. If anything, the blame can be placed on the women of Cyprus, who turned Pygmalion away from females because he was disgusted with their immoral behavior. “Pygmalion’s Bride,” like the other poems of The World’s Wife, turns that on its head. The way the bride describes Pygmalion’s actions and mannerisms are unpleasant, such as saying “His words were terrible” and “His voice was gravel, hoarse.” However, Duffy also incorporates Pygmalion’s distaste for what he considers depraved behavior: by acting like the women that had driven Pygmalion to denounce females (“was soft, was pliable, began to moan…”), the bride effectively drives him away. Duffy both kept to the original myth and added in her own perspective, which is how she deals with most of the mythology-related poems in The World’s Wife.


MARBL’s Duffy: The Biographer

Duffy evidently had worked out a beginning and ending to “The Biographer” that she liked, as the various revisions usually had the same of both, with only minor editing such as in word choice. It was the middle sections where the most revision occurred. In one version she left the core of the poem blank, with a circle around the word “joyride” (at least it looked like that word). Apparently at that time she planned to work on it later, though I’m not certain what she had in mind by using the word “joyride.” In another she left a note to herself to look up “names of streets.” I assume that lead to the reference of the Hungerford Bridge, which is a bridge that goes over the Thames River.

Additionally, the structures of the early versions of the poem are different from the currently printed one. Originally the lines were longer, making the length of the poem shorter page-wise. (For example, the first and second lines of the poem as it is now were originally one line.)

Intriguingly, in both a tentative list of poems to be in “Mean Time” and in the transcript of “Mean Time” itself, “The Biographer” was not listed. This means that the poem was added in very late, if not last minute. What made Duffy (or her editor) decide to put in the poem at such a late point?

In addition, though not related to “The Biographer” specifically, in the tentative title list, in the area where one writes the title of the paper, the word “Close” was crossed out and replaced with “Mean Time.” Looking for my assigned poems, I also came across poems that didn’t make it into either The World’s Wife or Mean Time. One of these was “Close.” Apparently, Duffy changed her mind on what poems to include in her collection, and possibly, then, the entire theme of Mean Time.


thoughts on duffy

The World’s Wife throws a new light on many classic male figures by adding in the perspectives of possible wives. This does mean that a basic knowledge of all the male characters is required, but if you are unsure of who anyone is, thankfully it is easy enough to search online. Interestingly, this collection was first published in 1999, just a year before House of Leaves, which, when it was published, was clearly meant to be a multimedia novel, with all the online releases, the forums, Poe’s album, and so forth. Perhaps this was not Duffy’s intention, but The World’s Wife came out and continues to exist in a time where, though classical education is no longer the norm and thus people may be unfamiliar with the characters she speaks of, they are able to quickly and easily inform themselves through digital databases. No one gets left out because they don’t know who Thetis or Tiresias is.

One aspect of the poems’ content that I was not sure what to think of was that, though the characters belong to the past, facets of more contemporary origin crop up, meaning that where they do, the speaker certainly cannot be set in times or myths past. Mrs. Midas observes her husband trying to light a cigarette; Mrs. Faust mentions “the latest toys – computers, mobile phones;” Delilah watches as her man, who can only be the biblical Samson, takes a drink from a beer. Are these linear incongruities just more of the dislodging of the classical stories? After all, the wolf of Little Red Riding Hood has always been a wolf, whether he symbolized something else or not, yet the wolf in “Little Red-Cap” is written with rather human terms. Either way, Duffy’s spin on classic characters is something that can be appreciated by everyone, thanks to the technology (and thus information) widely available.


digital communities

Mark Sample’s article comes off as somewhat accommodating to me with the “we’re all in this together” message, but I can’t quite disagree with him either. Rather than trying to push for his own definition of the digital humanities as most of the other essays we’ve read have done, he is saying that regardless of the definition or the roles people fill or the techniques they use, everyone involved in the field should distribute the knowledge they come by to everyone else. I feel like the issue of who is in the field of digital humanities and who is not would emerge, but I think that new knowledge should be disseminated to anyone who identifies with being in the humanities, digital or no. Even, perhaps, for people who don’t work solely in the humanities; you don’t have to be employed in the humanities to be interested, after all, and information shouldn’t be kept solely to one group. Neither should knowledge be difficult to attain, if someone really wants to learn.

Sample mentions “scholarly wikis produced as companion pieces to printed books,” which I too can see quite clearly. There are a plethora of wikipedias for various things nowadays; if it is popular enough, all you have to do is type in the name and “wiki” and something is almost sure to crop up. Admittedly most of these wikipedias are not for academic purposes, but if the bias against wikipedias as unreliable sources could be lifted, surely scholastic wikipedias could begin to appear. I think they would be very useful: a database of everything related to a work and its author as put together (and edited for quality/reliability) by innumerable people sounds pretty amazing.

On a side note, I liked how Sample utilized bolding and italicizing throughout to emphasize different things.


my experience with afternoon

When Dr. Croxall mentioned in class that some words could take you to different parts of the story, I imagined only a few words would do that, and that it would be tedious to find them all. But when I first started reading afternoon, I quickly realized that I had underestimated how many such words there were, meaning that there numerous diverging paths in the story. Even without clicking on words, you have a choice to make from the very beginning: yes or no (which also affects which way the story goes in several other screens). This drove me a little crazy initially, being indecisive of which story thread I wanted to see; even though more of these threads are connected than I thought, it is difficult to keep track of them. Frustration then went to the other end of the spectrum when I would keep coming across the same screens over and over again…the “looping” we were warned about.

The story reads similarly to Mrs. Dalloway to me, except even stronger, a stream of consciousness narrative style that isn’t linear or flowing. At least with Mrs. Dalloway, there is a definite flow of time that the reader can follow, despite the numerous flashbacks. With afternoon, I can only make educated guesses as to which parts of the story are taking place in current time, and which parts are memories. I think the narrator changes, too, though it is even harder to tell with afternoon than with Mrs. Dalloway. It seems to be more of a collection of memories and events that happen to be connected in some way rather than a story.

I think I may have found the end ([work in progress], though I did not realize it may be the “end” until several encounters later, and discovered multiple paths to this screen), but I don’t believe I’ve found all the threads yet. I’m wondering if the program will let me know if I have read everything, or if it will simply let me keep wandering until I’ve had enough.


Synchronized Reading

Katherine Hayles argues that as technology improved and all sorts of information was made available to the masses, a different type of reading emerged. Basically, in order to keep up with the flood of information that the digital era has made accessible, people tend to sacrifice the ability to concentrate on a single work in exchange for the capacity to take in and connect information from many sources. Hayles labels this hyperreading, which, in addition to Moretti’s distant reading, is a contrast to the close reading that scholars are so accustomed to. She lists studies that further show how hyperreading “rewires” the brain, essentially placing a chasm between hyper- and close reading. In the section where she synchronizes the two types of reading, she gives interesting examples of utilizing technology to view literature in a new way, but the split in reading types remains.

Is she right, though? Admittedly the tendency to scan for information rather than intense reading is rampant on the Internet, but if the ability to read closely has been developed, would it really be thrown out the window just by browsing websites? I was especially surprised at the study that tracked people’s reading patterns when looking at websites:

“The research shows that Web pages are typically read in an F pattern (Nielsen, “F‑Shaped”). A person reads the first two or three lines across the page, but as the eye travels down the screen, the scanned length gets smaller, and, by the time the bottom of the page is reached, the eye is traveling in a vertical line aligned with the left margin.”

I suppose if I was merely skimming websites to see if it was what I was looking for, I would follow this pattern, but that already assumes that I am skimming. I would do the same if I needed to check a physical book. If I am dedicated to reading something online, I don’t believe I read in this F pattern. Perhaps this is too much of an assumption on my part, but I think it is possible to utilize both close and hyperreading as the situation calls for it.


The Shadow of Sally

Though she has yet to appear in person, Sally Seton is a character that has left impressions upon those who used to keep company with her. When Peter Walsh reminisces of her, he describes her as “the last person in the world one would have expected to marry a rich man and live in a large house near Manchester, the wild, the daring, the romantic Sally!” He also clearly remembers one incident where, walking with Sally, she jokingly asks that he “carry off Clarissa, to save her from the Hughs and the Dalloways and all the other ‘perfect gentlemen’ who would ‘stifle her soul,’ make a mere hostess of her, encourage her worldliness.” But was she really joking? After all, Peter refers to her as a hostess several times, once even to Clarissa’s face.

The strongest mark Sally left, clearly, is on Clarissa; when they were younger, Clarissa was thrilled just to be in Sally’s presence. She describes her relationship with Sally as “not like one’s feelings for a man…it had a quality which could only exist between women…just grown up.” However, between the intensity of Clarissa’s feelings and the fact that Sally kisses her, how platonic were they, really? When Peter Walsh interrupts their moment, Clarissa recalls it: “It was like running one’s face against a granite wall in the darkness! It was shocking; it was horrible!” So even Peter, for whom Clarissa nurses feelings for even decades after her marriage, is unwanted when compared to the beauty she felt with Sally. On the other hand, Sally and Peter both stirred and stir feelings in Clarissa that she doesn’t want to deal with. So even if she had had the chance to be with Sally, perhaps she would not have taken it. She married Richard Dalloway for that reason; he didn’t give her passion, he gave her stability, and that was what she wanted… at least, she tells herself that.


Maps and Building

In Moretti’s chapter “Maps,” he begins by asking, “Do maps add anything, to our knowledge of literature?” As shown in Tuesday’s class, actually mapping out locations mentioned in literature can throw a new light on the story. Locating areas and placing them on a solid space for readers to actually see may reveal patterns that may not be caught by simply reading the story; these maps become, hopefully, “more than the sum of their parts.” In other words, though cartography is generally considered outside of the humanities, the use of maps as a tool in devising new information about authors and works has grown, especially alongside the expansion of the field of digital humanities. (At least, that is a conclusion I have come by after seeing projects such as the one tracing letters to and from European authors.)

It’s hard to deny the usefulness of literary maps as a study tool, even if it’s not exactly traditional. They certainly fall under the definition of digital humanities as defined by Flanders and Unsworth, that the steps of scholarly research are the same whether digital or not, and that new methods of looking at works can force you to realize things you didn’t before. They are even able to squeeze in under the much narrower definition provided by Stephen Ramsay, where he claims that digital humanities “is about building things.” He clarifies in another article, “On Building,” that “making a map…is an entirely different experience” from simply reading and studying one. Traditional forms of analyses in the humanities are all good and well, but from where Ramsay stands, “none of these represent as radical a shift as the move from reading to making.” The claim that digital humanities scholars must be builders is a controversial one, but that simply seems to be the nature of trying to define the field.


Musings on the Manifesto

The Bloomsburg University Manifesto emphasizes the need for change in the education system that the digital era has brought, specifically by making the differentiation between natives of and immigrants to the digital age. It asserts that the methods for learning are different now; “[t]he immigrants ultimately need to accept this change, for the digital natives are fundamentally different.” I feel that this is not quite a fair claim, as in my experience the suggestions made have been integrating into the modern curriculum already. Though not always with technology, the collaboration and interaction that the manifesto lists have become a staple in many classes. It is primarily the so-called immigrants to the digital world that have been making use of technology for scholarly purposes. For an obvious example, blogging would likely not have been part of a class even five or ten years ago, yet here we are.

So since the changes to the system are being made already, what really is the difference between digital and pre-digital humanities? The manifesto says that digital humanities “gives insight not only into the humanities but also into how the onset of technology has changed our world, and how we can change with it.” Assuming that the changes to the methods of teaching are the changes that the manifesto means, is it now only the latest computers and programs that define digital humanities as digital?

I found it amusing that the assignment for Wednesday was to think about the definition of digital humanities, while the manifesto says, “Rather than fussing over a definition of DH, why not kick back and embrace its multifarious nature?” However, as tempting as that sounds, I think some standard of what “digital humanities” encompasses is necessary. It is admittedly difficult, but hopefully as the field progresses, lines can be drawn.