Ruth Hall and Homeopathy

Ruth Hall (British, 1854) is, as its author Fanny Fern is careful to note, a “continuous story” rather than a novel.  It is a work marked by a few covert postmodern gestures such as its vignette style, fragmented narrative, and its layers of subjectivity.  At its core Ruth Hall takes up the popular nineteenth-century question of […]

Read more

Bleak House and Excrement

Freud’s claim that excrement is ailment makes a tidy frame for the familiar portrait of Victorian London, or what Dickens in Bleak House calls a “filthy wilderness.” Excrement, defined in the OED as “that which remains after a process of sifting or refining,” emerges from a laborious and sometimes painful process of internalization and elimination […]

Read more

The “Art of Pushing His Brutal Point:’ Fanny Hill and the Futurists

Fanny Hill, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (British, 1748) could be the anthem novel for the early twentieth-century movement inspired by Filippo Marinetti except Cleland’s work predates Futurism by nearly two centuries.Taken out of historical context, Cleland and Marinetti seem contemporaries in their metaphysical treatment of pleasure and pain. Futurists, in their romanticization of […]

Read more

The Master and Margarita: The Devil is Woman Unless She Isn’t

After much effort I finally finished Mikail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita (Russian, 1967), which a student recommended to me years ago when she heard that I was interested in exploring how and why the “devil” becomes female in literature.  This, my seventh installment, presents what may seem at first a challenge to the rule that […]

Read more