सीधे मुख्य सामग्री पर जाएं

Cave of Spleen - a feminist perspective: Status of women in early 18th century England

The Cave of Spleen: Aubrey Beardsley's illustration for Pope's “The Rape of the Lock”
By Pragya Ranjan 
"The Rape of the Lock" by Alexander Pope published in 1712 is a mock-heroic narrative which satirically glorifies trivial incident of cutting of locks of protagonist Belinda. This poem was written in the Augustan Era (1660-1784) which is marked by the period of scientific reason and rationality, whose effect can be seen on the writers of those times. This timeline is particularly important to analyse the episode of the Cave of Spleen.
First we need to understand the importance of Spleen in the early 18th century literature. The spleen referred to both the organ present on the left side of the human body near the stomach, and also the disease caused by the inability of the said organ to absorb humour, melancholy or black bile resulting in black vapours which disturbs a person mentally (Babb, Lawrence. “THE CAVE OF SPLEEN.” The Review of English Studies, vol. os-XII, no. 46, 1936, pp. 165–76, https://doi.org/10.1093/res/os-XII.46.165). This disease was so frequent that it came to be known as the English Malady, but not as frequent in men as it was in women. The argument was that the animal spirits- ‘clear and subtle fluids which were believed to flow in the nerves and to serve as a medium of communication between the mind and the organs of sense and mot’(ROBIN, P. ANSELL. OLD PHYSIOLOGY IN ENGLISH LITERATURE: A Thesis Submitted to the University of London for the... Degree of d. Lit,1911, pg 108-14 and 139-75) - was weaker in women than in men, hence easily disordered. The primary physical symptoms of Spleen included abdominal pain and headache as given by Richard Blackmore, the author of ‘Treatise of the Spleen and vapours’. While mentally, the symptoms were similar to depression and bipolar, including fits of hysteria, uncontrollable rage, panic fear, terrifying nightmares and hallucination in some cases.
Given the background, Pope’s personification of the Queen of Spleen and Umbriel’s metaphorical journey into the Cave of Spleen is used to satirise the upper-class women of the early eighteenth century, since Spleen was considered to be a disease which only affected the upper class and elite. This is exhibited in Johnathan Swift’s "Modern Lady" who suffers from the spleen because she is spoiled and idle: she complains of it first because she has lost at cards the previous night and later because she fears her party will not appear for tonight's game (Swift, Jonathan. "Journal of a Modern Lady". 44, 198-99, 216; Poems 2:446,457). It also comes into notice in Swift’s "Gulliver's Travels: A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms". He says while referring to European Yahoos that ‘true seeds of spleen, which only seizeth on the lazy, the luxurious, and the rich’ (Swift, Jonathan. "Gulliver’s Travels". Edited by Namita Sethi, Critical Edition, Worldview Publications, 2023., Pg 236).
As Umbriel further advances into the Cave of Spleen, he finds women turned into inanimate objects like Teapot, Pipkin, Jar and Goose-pye. Richard Burton says, “A melancholic (another name for Spleen in the 17th century) may suppose himself to be a dog, cock, bear, horse, glass, butter…. all-glass, a pitcher, and will therefore let nobody come near him” (Burton’s Anatomy, pg 463).
Further Umbriel finds pregnant men and maids in bottle asking for phallus, “Men prove with Child, as pow’rful Fancy works, And Maids turn’d Bottels, call aloud for Corks'' which represent the maladies resulting from the repression of sexual desires. This suggests that women, especially upper class bourgeois women are not in control of their own body or responsible for their own action, as they are the creatures driven by irrationality and sexual desires arising out of the malfunction of their brain caused by spleen. Hence, making women incapable of intellectual reasoning and displaying appropriate emotional reaction to a situation.
Umbriel addresses the Queen of Spleen as ‘Parent of Vapours and of Female Wit, who give’th Hysteric or Poetic Fit’. The womb (Greek hystera) was thought to be the cause of irrational behaviour (hysteria) in women ( Pope, Alexander. "The Rape Of the Lock". Edited by Harriet Raghunathan, Critical Edition, Worldview Publications, 2014., Footnote 60), thus espouses the shame around female organs and the lack of control over their sexuality. Women in 18th CE who engaged in the intellectual and rational behaviour of writing were considered irrational, solely on the basis that the Spleen has taken over their conscience which has driven them insane (poetic fit).
The two handmaids, Ill nature and Affectation elaborates further on the issue of the status of women being heavily dependent on the outward appearance and superficial mannerism. Ill nature is depicted as an old, unmarried woman thus a social outcast, while Affectation is young and rich, still her inability to speak properly due to lisp prevents her from holding a reputable social status because of her inability to get married to a person of rank.
Umbriel proudly lists his notorious acts to defame innocent women -‘rumpled Petticoats, or tumbled Beds, or caus’d Suspicion when no Soul was rude’-as if those women rightly deserved it and at account of which he impresses the Queen to give him a bag with ‘the force of female lungs, sighs, sobs, and Passions, and the War of Tongues’ for Belinda. All these actions suggest two things. First it signifies, after the cutting of her locks by Baron, Belinda is not considered pure or chaste anymore. Hence the sylph left, who was meant to take care of her; and Umbriel, the gnome took his place and caused her more disappointment and suffering. This idea reinforces how men have the power over a woman’s honour and how easily it can be taken away from her even if she hasn’t transcended the boundaries along which the society defines chastity.
Second, Pope suggests by the humor and pun directed towards Belinda’s rage and ferocity that she was overreacting over the loss of her hair against her will and consent, thus completely invalidating her emotions.
The Rape of the lock was written in an era when scientific explanation was sought for every disease, be it physical or mental. Psychological disturbance was believed to be associated with some or the other kind of physical ailment or malady. The poets of those times preferred not to relate their personal experiences of depression, spleen or hysteria in their work, as it was believed that someone who is intellectually sound couldn’t experience these disturbances. However, Anne Finch was the only woman of the time who related her personal experience in her poem ‘The Spleen’, thus justifying her emotions as valid. She expresses feelings which her contemporary poets would feel it necessary to distance or disguise in such fictions as Pope's Cave of Spleen (ROGERS, KATHARINE M. “Finch’s ‘Candid Account’ vs. Eighteenth–Century Theories of the Spleen.” Mosaic: A Journal for the Interdisciplinary Study of Literature, vol. 22, no. 1, 1989, pp. 17–27. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/24780450. Accessed 29 May 2023).
As it is already known that Pope was physically deformed since his childhood as he suffered from Pott’s disease and hence, he was barely 4 foot 5 inches in height. As a result, he had to face mental turmoil all his life because of the absurd comments and refusal of women to engage with him romantically. It might be possible that he himself was suffering from some symptoms of Spleen (which today is known as depression) but could not let others know about it, hence successfully projected his own feelings to his female characters for comic relief. The Pope saw spleen as unhappiness or ill-humour which a rational person should be able to control. On his deathbed, he declared that he had never been "hippish," i.e. suffered from spleen, in his whole life ( ibid), which further raises suspicions as to why he viewed it necessary to publicly justify himself when he didn’t suffer from spleen in the first place.
In conclusion, the episode of the cave of the spleen gives an insight into how women were perceived in early 18th century England and absurd scientific explanations given to prove women as irrational beings. It also critiques the triviality and vanity of the upper-class society, mocking their exaggerated focus on superficial matters. The Cave of Spleen is a critical episode from the point of view of feminist thinkers, raising questions about society’s control over women’s sexuality and invalidation of their emotions.

टिप्पणियाँ

ट्रेंडिंग

हिंदी आलोचना जैसे पिछड़ चुके अनुशासन की जगह हिंदी वैचारिकी का विकास जरूरी

- प्रमोद रंजन*   भारतीय राजनीति में सांप्रदायिक व प्रतिक्रियावादी ताकतों को सत्ता तक पहुंचाने में हिंदी पट्टी का सबसे बड़ा योगदान है। इसका मुख्य कारण हिंदी-पट्टी में कार्यरत समाजवादी व जनपक्षधर हिरावल दस्ते का विचारहीन, अनैतिक और  प्रतिक्रियावादी होते जाना है। अगर हम उपरोक्त बातों को स्वीकार करते हैं, तो कुछ रोचक निष्कर्ष निकलते हैं। हिंदी-जनता और उसके हिरावल दस्ते को विचारहीन और प्रतिक्रियावादी बनने से रोकने की मुख्य ज़िम्मेदारी किसकी थी?

ગુજરાતના સ્થાપના દિવસે યાદ કરીએ ભારતના વિશ્વપ્રસિદ્ધ ગુજરાતી પુરાતત્વવિદ્ ને

- ગૌરાંગ જાની*  આજે કોઈ ગુજરાતી એ કલ્પના પણ ન કરી શકે કે વર્ષ ૧૮૩૯ માં જૂનાગઢમાં જન્મેલા એક ગુજરાતી વિશ્વ પ્રસિદ્ધ બની શકે! પણ આપણે એ ગુજરાતીને કદાચ વિસરી ગયા છીએ જેમણે ગિરનારના અશોક શિલાલેખને દોઢસો વર્ષ પૂર્વે ઉકેલી આપ્યો.આ વિદ્વાન એટલે ભગવાનલાલ ઈન્દ્રજી. ૭ નવેમ્બર, ૧૮૩૯ ના દિવસે જૂનાગઢના પ્રશ્નોરા નાગર બ્રાહ્મણ પરિવારમાં તેમનો જન્મ થયો હતો. જૂનાગઢના એ સમયે અંગ્રેજી શિક્ષણની સગવડ ન હોવાને કારણે તેમને અંગ્રેજી ભાષાનું જ્ઞાન ન હતું પણ પાછળથી તેમણે ખપ પૂરતું અંગ્રેજી જાણી લીધું હતું.

Under Modi, democracy is regressing and economy is also growing slowly

By Avyaan Sharma*   India is "the largest democracy in the world", but now its democracy is regressing and its economy is also growing slowly. What has PM Modi's ten years in power brought us? Unemployment remains high. Joblessness is particularly high among India's youth - with those aged 15 to 29 making up a staggering 83% of all unemployed people in India, according to the "India Employment Report 2024", published last month by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Institute of Human Development (IHD). The BJP-led government did not provide jobs to two crore youth in a year as was promised by Modi in the run up to the 2014 general elections.

नफरती बातें: मुसलमानों में असुरक्षा का भाव बढ़ रहा है, वे अपने मोहल्लों में सिमट रहे हैं

- राम पुनियानी*  भारत पर पिछले 10 सालों से हिन्दू राष्ट्रवादी भारतीय जनता पार्टी (भाजपा) राज कर रही है. भाजपा आरएसएस परिवार की सदस्य है और आरएसएस का लक्ष्य है हिन्दू राष्ट्र का निर्माण. आरएसएस से जुड़ी सैंकड़ों संस्थाएँ हैं. उसके लाखों, बल्कि शायद, करोड़ों स्वयंसेवक हैं. इसके अलावा कई हजार वरिष्ठ कार्यकर्ता हैं जिन्हें प्रचारक कहा जाता है. भाजपा के सत्ता में आने के बाद से आरएसएस दुगनी गति से हिन्दू राष्ट्र के निर्माण के अपने एजेण्डे को पूरा करने में जुट गया है. यदि भाजपा को चुनावों में लगातार सफलता हासिल हो रही है तो उसका कारण है देश में साम्प्रदायिकता और साम्प्रदायिक मुद्दों का बढ़ता बोलबाला. इनमें से कुछ हैं राम मंदिर, गौमांस और गोवध एवं लव जिहाद. 

Laxmanpur Bathe massacre: Perfect example of proto-fascist Brahmanical social order

By Harsh Thakor  The massacre at Laxmanpur-Bathe of Jehanabad in Bihar on the night of 1 December in 1997 was a landmark event with distinguishing features .The genocide rightly shook the conscience of the nation in the 50th year of Indian independence. The scale of the carnage was unparalleled in any caste massacre. It was a perfect manifestation of how in essence the so called neo-liberal state was in essence most autocratic. 

ભારતમાં જિસસ ક્રાઈસ્ટના દર્શન, ખ્રિસ્તી ધર્મના આગમનને કારણે સમાજ વ્યવસ્થામાં પરિવર્તન

- ઉત્તમ પરમાર  મારી કિશોર અવસ્થામાં કેટલાક ચિત્રો અને મૂર્તિઓએ હૃદયમાં એવું સ્થાન જમાવ્યું છે કે આજદિન પર્યંત  ઉત્તરોઉત્તર વિકસતું જ રહ્યું છે. પ્રેમ કરુણાના મૂર્તિમંત અવતાર  જિસસ ક્રાઈસ્ટને વધુસ્તંભે ચઢાવેલી મૂર્તિ  મારી કોઈપણ ધર્મ વિશેની સમજ નહોતી ત્યારથી મારા હૃદયમાં સ્થાપિત થયેલી છે. મારા ઘરની દિવાલ પર વધસ્તંભે ચઢેલા જીસસની પ્રતિમા જોઈને કોઈ મને પૂછી બેસતું કે તું ક્રિશ્ચન છે?

रैंकिंग: अधिकांश भारतीय विश्वविद्यालयों का स्तर बहुत गिरा, इस साल भी यह गिरवाट जारी

- प्रमोद रंजन*  अप्रैल, 2024 में भारतीय विश्वविद्यालयों की अंतर्राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर उच्च रैंकिंग की चर्चा रही। मीडिया ने इसका उत्सव मनाया। लेकिन स्थिति इसके विपरीत है। वैश्विक विश्वविद्यालय रैंकिग में अच्छा स्थान मिलने की खबरें, कुछ संस्थानों को इक्का-दुक्का विषयों में मिले रैंक के आधार पर चुनिंदा ढंग से प्रकाशित की गईं थीं। वास्तविकता यह है कि हाल के वर्षों में हमारे अधिकांश विश्वविद्यालयों का स्तर बहुत गिर गया है। इस साल भी यह गिरवाट जारी रही है।

नोएडा में मैन्युअल स्कैवेंजर्स की मौत: परिवारों को मुआवजा नहीं, प्राधिकरण ने एफआईआर नहीं की

- अरुण खोटे, संजीव कुमार*  गत एक सप्ताह में, उत्तर प्रदेश में सीवर/सेप्टि क टैंक सफाई कर्मियों की सफाई के दौरान सेप्टिक टैंक में मौत। 2 मई, 2024 को, लखनऊ के वज़ीरगजं क्षेत्र में एक सेवर लाइन की सफाई करते समय शोब्रान यादव, 56, और उनके पत्रु सशुील यादव, 28, घटुन से हुई मौत। एक और घटना 3 मई 2024 को नोएडा, सेक्टर 26 में एक घर में सेप्टि क टैंक को सफाई करते समय दो सफाई कर्मचर्मारी नूनी मडंल, 36 और कोकन मडंल जिसे तपन मडंल के नाम से जानते हैं, की मौत हो गई। ये सफाई कर्मचर्मारी बंगाल के मालदा जिले के निवासी थे और नोएडा सेक्टर 9 में रहते थे। कोकन मडंल अपनी पत्नी अनीता मडंल के साथ रहते थे। इनके तीन स्कूल जाने वाले बच्चे हैं जो बंगाल में रहते हैं। नूनी मडंल अपनी पत्नी लिलिका मडंल और अपने पत्रु सजुान के साथ किराए पर झग्गी में रहते थे। वे दैनिक मजदरूी और सफाई कर्मचर्मारी के रूप में काम करते थे।

प्राचीन भारत के लोकायत संप्रदाय ने कुछ परजीवियों की खूब खबर ली: प्रमुख प्रस्थापनायें

- राणा सिंह   भारत में परजीवियों का एक विशाल समूह है जो बोलता है कि “सब कुछ माया है”,  लेकिन व्यवहार में यह समूह सारी जिंदगी इसी “माया” के पीछे पागल रहता है।  प्राचीन भारत के लोकायत संप्रदाय ने इन परजीवियों की खूब खबर ली थी।

बिहार के ऐतिहासिक विक्रमशिला विश्वविद्यालय के खंडहरों की परिक्रमा का रोमांचक अवसर

- सुमन्त शरण  कुछ दिन पहले एक सुदूर ग्रामीण अंचल (पीरपैंती)  से तकरीबन डेढ़-दो घंटे की दूरी पर अवस्थित ऐतिहासिक बौद्ध विक्रमशिला विश्वविद्यालय (के अवशेषों) की परिक्रमा का अवसर मिला। विक्रमशीला विश्वविद्यालय की स्थापना पाल वंश के राजा धर्मपाल ने की थी। 8वीं शताब्दी से 12वीं शताब्दी के अंत तक यह विश्वविद्यालय भारत के प्रमुख शिक्षा केंद्रों में से एक हुआ करता था। कहा जाता है कि यह अपने कुछेक अत्यंत अनूठे नवाचार के चलते उस समय नालंदा विश्वविद्यालय का सबसे बड़ा प्रतिस्पर्धी था। हालांकि, मान्यता यह भी है कि अल्प अवधि के लिए दोनों विश्वविद्यालय के बीच शिक्षण एवं प्रबंधन के क्षेत्रों में घनिष्ठ पारस्परिक संबंध एवं शिक्षकों के आदान-प्रदान का सिलसिला भी रहा था। यह विश्वविद्यालय तंत्रशास्त्र की पढ़ाई के लिए सबसे ज्यादा विख्यात था। इस विषय का एक सबसे विख्यात छात्र अतीसा दीपनकरा था, जो बाद में तिब्बत जाकर बौद्ध हो गया। इसके प्रथम कुलपति ज्ञान अतिस थे।