Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning- Sonnets from the Portuguese

          they’re underrated; some feminists are embarrassed by them

          don’t’ fit in with modernist perspective

          essentially describe woman awakened in love by a man

o   appropriate for Victorians, woman as passive/subversive…wait for man to illicit love

          appear to be translations guised; “little Portuguese” was her nickname given to her by hubby

          she’s fitting herself into a tradition  dominated by male poets – sonnet sequences

o   typically: male speaker, with female inspiration/ muse, courtly tradition of love, about poet and his poetic abilities, woman is object of love who remains silent and passive, woman is beautiful just looking at her is the source of protagonists inspiration, speaker is unworthy of her love but through his poetry will give them eternal life, woman is changeable and the speaker’s happiness depends on her

          she has no help form predecessors

          she retains some conventions; unworthiness of lover

          sonnets explore physical desire and spiritual transcendent

          attempt to express subjectivity of woman poet and speaker

o   doesn’t reverse objectivity


o   trying to reconcile two aspects of love; ongoing development

o   petrarchan sonnet

o   spiritual and physical

o   speaking in answer to question; having to reassure males who’s typically in dominant role

o   doesn’t’ enumerate objects parts

o   she’s been waiting her whole life to feel this way

o   repetition of same phase

o   quantify love by soul which can’t be quantified; measure love by immeasurable

o   combination of intense, physical (reach) and spiritual (being)

o   mundane aspects of existence (sand and candlelight)

o   passion which recaptures a lifetime of significance; culmination of existence

o   men look and women touch


o   celebrating speaking or silence


o   illusion to twin compasses

o   opening: suggest equality

o   employs spiritual language

o   attempt to play with and combine earthly and spiritual love


o   image of herself/ poet as instrument

o   when you first said you loved me, I wanted night to come → she felt unworthy, wanted to get the day over with as though he’d come to his sense

o   she did him wrong to think that way; she’s not broken


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