Literary Analyses

Christine de Pizan and The Book of the City of Ladies: An Introduction

Christine de Pizan (1364 – 1430) the French writer, is best known for her seminal work of literature by, about, and in support of women, Le Livre de la Cité des Dames (1405). Now known as The Book of the City of Ladies, it was first translated into English as The Boke of the Cyte of Ladyes and published in London in 1521, “in Paul’s churchyard at the sign of the Trinity by Henry Pepwell.”

This introduction to Christine de Pizan and The Book of the City of Ladies is excerpted fromKilling the Angel: Early Transgressive British Woman Writers by Francis Booth ©2021, reprinted by permission.

Pepwell’s printers in St Paul’s Churchyard published many of the new humanist works along with works of mysticism. In its English version, Christine’s message was well-timed and found a more receptive audience in Tudor Reformation England where printed books in English were leading to greater levels of education among women and creating in turn an appetite for books addressing women in English – Tyndale’s English language New Testament reached England in 1526. Read More→

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Marching Through the Years: Revisiting Anna and the King of Siam 

When I was a girl, the only parts of grown-ups’ movies that I enjoyed were the parts with children in them. So, the first few times I watched the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical (based on the 1944 book Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon) The King and I, only “The March of the Royal Siamese Children” appealed to me.

As an only child, families with more than one child seemed remarkable; the seemingly endless stream of offspring, parading through the court in this colorful musical number, fascinated me. And I was oblivious to the number of grown women—the mothers—also in attendance, felt no compulsion to multiply by nine, or to muse on multiple conceptions.

As a teenager, I accepted my discovery of Margaret Landon’s Anna and the King of Siam as the “true story,” just as I accepted that The Sound of Music was based on the well-worn paperback copies of Maria Augusta von Trapp’s memoirs that had long resided in my grandmother’s bookshelves. This is to say that I understood, in theory, there were real-life figures behind these musicals, but I preferred the song-and-dance inventions. Read More→

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An Analysis of The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin (1974)

Ursula K. Le Guin is one of the most influential science fiction and fantasy writers of the twentieth century. Her 1974 novel, The Dispossessed, was written as a political tale, with themes that include freedom and the corruption of capitalist societies. It won the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards in 1975.

Le Guin uses her novel as a moral principle of anarchism based on political theories and ideas of collective societies to challenge modes of radical thinking. Discussing these philosophies will determine if she was successful in delivering a convincing narrative that overcomes conflicting notions of a perfect society Read More→

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Orphans and Boarding Schools: On rereading Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

The summer I was twelve, I pulled a well-read and worn book from the shelves of the public library and discovered a story that seemed to be told directly to me. Behind the deceptively dull cover of Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster (1912) were letters and drawings that pulled me hard and fast into Judy Abbott’s life—an orphan at boarding school.

So many of my favorite things were combined in this book: orphans and lonely childhoods, girls succeeding against the odds with their studious natures, boarding school and class events, and perhaps most of all, the burgeoning writer’s sensibility that I also enjoyed in Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy (1964).

I borrowed and devoured Jean Webster’s Daddy-Long-Legs  that very afternoon; I’ve revisited it many times. Read More→

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Summer by Edith Wharton (1917)

This analysis of Summer by Edith Wharton, a 1917 novella of the coming of age of Charity Royall, a small-town girl, is excerpted from Girls in Bloom: Coming of Age in the Mid-20th Century Woman’s Novel  by Francis Booth, reprinted by permission. 

The slim novel was one of Wharton’s personal favorites. She called it the “hot Ethan,” referring to her 1911 novella, Ethan Frome. It’s unclear if she was speaking of the book’s setting in the summer season, Charity’s sexual awakening, or both.

Unusually for Edith Wharton (1862–1937), best known for her novels of patrician Gilded-Age New York like The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence, this novella is set in a tiny New England town close to ‘the Mountain,’ from which Charity Royall has been brought down as a baby by lawyer Royall, as he is universally known, and his wife, who is dead before the story begins. Read More→

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