Elizabeth Barrett Browning Group
Aurora Leigh (1856)
edited by Margaret Reynolds
"The world’s male chivalry has perished out,
But women are knights-errant to the last” (6.225).
Aurora Leigh (1856)
to Path 2 prompts should deliver a structured, narrow argument
in only 400-500 words, one you publish on Blackboard by
11:59 p.m. on Friday. Arguments should
evince creativity and organization, support their claims with detailed
evidence ( incl. page citations), and show signs of careful revision. Remember too that whether I happen to agree or not with your thesis matters little, as long as it is sufficiently supported and logically, persuasively rendered.
Some of the strongest essays will incorporate ideas from path 2 essays written by your peers and/or pertinent path 1 discussions and topics, though neither is required.
Five: Aurora Leigh, Books 6-7
one: Aurora leigh appears quite willing to point out the weaknesses of the French people. Why, then, does she decide she loves the country so much and wishes it to be--along with Italy--another mother country to her?
- option two: does the social and spiritual power Aurora wishes to assign to poetry seem plausible (6.204-225)?
- option three: what subtle suggestions about the nature of romantic love are embedded in Lady Waldemar's words to Marian (6.992-1098)?
- option four: is it possible to reconcile Aurora’s words about lower class people in 6.161-203 with her reflections in lines 4.542-601?
- option five: what contemporary (Victorian) rules of propriety and morality shape Aurora’s suspicions regarding the means by which Marian came into possession of a dependent life (6.332-89, 566-793)?
- option six: what impact does rape (being sold into a brothel & kept drugged) have on Marian Erle?
- option seven: do we blame Marian for her incredible faith in Lady Waldemar, or pity her (6.938-1201)?
- option eight: what do you make of the references to Christ in the final lines of Book Six (6.1247-52, 1270-74)?
one: does it seem possible, in this period, for a young woman to be so ignorant as to not know eight months into a pregancy that she's even pregnant?
- option two: what does Marian's reaction to the idea that she's pregnant suggest about children resulting from rape (7.46-66)?
- option three: in the letter Aurora writes Lady Waldemar, she calls on the lady to be a good wife to Romney. Is this letter likely to inspire such faithfulness (7.278-374)?
- option four: does Aurora's description of Nature, as visible through the windows of the moving train, change significantly as they move from France into Italy?
- option five: distill the central thesis of Aurora Leigh’s newly published book from her reflections on the book’s thematic contents in lines 7.761-854. What is she suggesting about the intersection of spiritual experience, the natural world, and Art?
- option six: Aurora Leigh is an eloquent defender of Art/poetry, but she also recognizes its limitations—what are they?
- option seven: lines 7.901-1039 sound like a long, emotional lament or keening session, exacerbated by the weather (pounding heat), but motivated by what exactly?
- option seven: why is the earlier description of Marian Erle's physical appearance in lines 3.815-19 significant?
Week Six: Aurora Leigh, Book 8
- option one: why do Romney and Aurora continually speak past one another during their conversation?
- option two: are the terms of Romney’s epiphany consistent with the ideas Aurora attempted to place in the book which catalyzed Romney’s awakening? Did the book have the intended effect?
- option three: what key differences have distinguished Romney’s democratic impulses and practice from Aurora Leigh’s?
- option four: do lines 8.537-41 help explain the apparent, earlier contradiction between Aurora Leigh's desire to inspire the impoverished masses to greater heights, and her fierce description of their sordid natures?
- option five: Aurora Leigh suggests that she and Romney, back at the close of Book Two, made a similar mistake, though thinking differently of how to better humanity--what was that mistake?
- option six: as parsed by Romney and Aurora, what are the benefits and drawbacks to work?
- option seven: what does Romney suggest about the limits of the scientific method, when considering the ills of society?
- option eight: Aurora actually calls women to speak out their ideas less often. Why? Do these sound like the words of an ardent feminist?
Week Seven: Aurora Leigh, Book 9
- option one: does Lady Waldemar's letter exonerate her from blame (8.1-172)?
- option two: what clues does E.B.B. scatter throughout Books Eight and Nine to prepare the reader for the big reveal concerning Romney's physical condition?
- option three: within just a few lines, Aurora goes from denying her love of Romney (7.173-74) to admitting that she misses, desire, and indeed, loves him passionately (7.196), to denying again that she loves him (7.197-98). What necessary catalyst finally occurs, forcing her to recognize and deal with her feelings?
- option four: how was Romney injured, and why?
- option five: are Marian’s reflections on a relationship with Romney still shaped by Lady Waldemar’s influence?
- option six: in Book Five, Aurora Leigh claimed that literary epics like those of Homer are still possible of creation because "all men [are] possible heroes" (5.139-52). Would it be appropriate to label any of the characters in this verse-novel an epic hero?
- option seven: reexamine Aurora's denial that she loves Romney. How does she unwittingly undercut her own case all the way up through Book 8?
- option eight: why does Marian refuse the offer given her by Romney?
- option nine: Marian claims that she likely never loved Romney--is she convincing?
- option ten: what is the final, relational repercussion of Marian's earlier, drugged rape(s) at the brothel?
- option eleven: in what way does Romney’s disability surprisingly prove to be a blessing?
- option twelve: despite what she asserts (9.607-26 and following), is Aurora Leigh’s love merely a product of intense pity?
- option thirteen: what is the significance of Aurora’s comments about the “ecstasy / Of Darkness” in lines 9.814-33?
- option fourteen: which form of improving humanity does the verse-novel ultimately privilege, Aurora’s former, artistic focus on the soul/spirit, or Romney’s focus on material conditions?
- option fifteen: in the marriage model forwarded by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in the last few pages of Aurora Leigh, how are typical Victorian conventions challenged?
"Poverty and Wealth" (1889)
William Powell Frith
Dr. Paul Marchbanks