“The Wild Eyes of the Lady Ligeia”: The Underlying Horror of the Lover’s Gaze

Essay completed 20 September 2016

The eye is just as important to the Romantic movement as the heart. Romantic literature celebrates the external just as much as the internal through the outer beauty of the natural world. Edgar Allan Poe’s 1838 Gothic tale “Ligeia” reflects this Romantic celebration of the eye, vision being a pivotal subject of the tale. For the majority of the tale, the male protagonist observes two female characters, first Ligeia, then Rowena. The eye is a motif throughout, eye color being one of the primary characteristics by which the narrator describes the dark-eyed Ligeia and the blue-eyed Rowena. The narrator’s gaze dominates the majority of the tale; he begins by describing Ligeia and concludes by observing Rowena’s corpse. Continue reading ““The Wild Eyes of the Lady Ligeia”: The Underlying Horror of the Lover’s Gaze”

Beyond the Veil: Staging and Violence in Agamemnon and The Libation Bearers

Image by Grady Pearson

Essay completed 26 October 2015

“Greek theatre was an exercise of the eye,” says Camille Paglia (Paglia 104). In the first two plays of the Oresteia, Aeschylus explores the dichotomy of the seen and the unseen in two climactic murder revelation scenes. Clytemnestra murders her husband and his concubine in Agamemnon, only to be murdered alongside her lover by her son in The Libation Bearers. When Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon and his concubine, the chorus and the audience can only hear the king’s dying cries (Agamemnon 1369). Aegisthus meets his end the same way, behind the skene where his murderer awaits (The Libation Bearers 857). Orestes then pulls his mother into the palace and kills her offstage (The Libation Bearers 918). All four murders occur behind the palace walls and out of the audience’s sight. Aeschylus’ decision not to depict any violence onstage makes his audience “imagine the horror of the killing… an effect more powerful than words alone…” (Wiles 140). Continue reading “Beyond the Veil: Staging and Violence in Agamemnon and The Libation Bearers”

Heaven’s Gaze: Interpretive Vision and Medusa in Dante’s Inferno

Essay completed 26 April 2016

In canto IX lines 34-60 of Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno, travelers Virgil and Dante come across a tower at the Gate of Dis. Three Furies of classical Greek mythology emerge and call for the gorgon Medusa to petrify the men. Virgil commands Dante to turn and cover his eyes until the threat has passed. Dante the author then breaks from the narrative to invite the reader to “weigh with good understanding” the meaning behind this allegorical episode (Dante 9.58-60). The Medusa episode represents the obstacle that the physical world poses to Dante’s allegory of a quest for understanding. Continue reading “Heaven’s Gaze: Interpretive Vision and Medusa in Dante’s Inferno”

Public Faith: Perpetua’s Countercultural Defiance

Image by Grady Pearson

Essay completed 24 February 2016

According to The Martyrdom of Saints Perpetua and Felicitas, a group of Christian prisoners was brought before a regional governor in 3rd century Carthage. Governor Hilarianus gave each the opportunity to perform a sacrifice to the emperors to escape public execution. Each refused to take part in a ritual sacrilegious to their faith. Before the governor could question the final prisoner, a young woman named Perpetua, the woman’s father appeared in the crowd of spectators, clutching her infant son and begging “Perform the sacrifice – have pity on your baby!” (The Martyrdom… 58). The governor echoed the old man’s plea for Perpetua to give in, but the young Christian refused to obey. Without a true picture of Perpetua’s motivations, her decision makes her seem suicidal and at worst, insane. In light of her social and religious reasons for refusing, however, her decision is understandable and compelling. Perpetua is unusual because she defies the patriarchal and religious systems of her culture and chooses to die as as a member of a persecuted, countercultural movement. Continue reading “Public Faith: Perpetua’s Countercultural Defiance”