It Suits Me: The Importance of Naming – Stacy

In her Novel on Yellow Paper, Stevie Smith had to choose her character names and attributes with care to avoid offending those who served as models those characters. By selecting to use events from her actual life, she risked the threat of libel. Smith had to learn to refashion and blend fiction with fact to create alternate tellings of her real life stories and events. In showing so much care to protect herself from those who would sue her, Smith shows she would go to the same amount of care in crafting for her alter ego, her semi-autobiographical self, an interesting and provocative name to suit not only herself but the events she’s recreated in her novel. Smith created for herself a name to hide behind and create subtle and not so subtle differences in real life events and fictional events, and in a way, she treated herself as a character within her own novel, protecting her own name and life events against libeling herself. In creating her own likeness, Smith is able to show those aspects of Pompey’s life which matter the most to both the author and character.

In Novel on Yellow Paper, great importance is placed on the name of protagonist Pompey Casmilus. In his article “Stevie Smith, ‘A Most Awful Twister’”, Stephen James call Smith’s moniker choice “a sheer oddity of using two male names for a female protagonist (a gender bending tendency that persists through the work of ‘Stevie’ nee Florence Margaret Smith)” (243). However, it’s not simply important that Smith chose for the protagonist two male names, but the names of two males whom Smith considered powerful through history and mythology. By selecting two powerful males, Smith is, in a way, harnessing for herself the power of not only the male gender, but that of the two individuals: Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, a respected Roman military general; and Casmilus, an obscure name for the Greek god Hermes, who a quick internet search informs us is the Greek god of boundaries, merchants, travelers, and thieves, served as a messenger of the gods, and acted as an intermediary between the divine and mortal. Armed with this knowledge, the first word in Novel on Yellow Paper, Casmilus, takes on deeper meaning. The name first comes to the reader in the form of one of Smith’s poems, and as such recalls the feeling of one invoking a Greek muse. The calling of Casmilus feels like a petition for intercession to that realm between fiction and reality.

In looking at the words of Smith’s poem, one can see the importance of the aspect of hiding one’s identity. Smith’s poem begins with the lines “Casmilus, whose great name I steal, / Whose name a greater doth conceal” (Smith 9). By admitting that she’s stealing the name, the speaker of the poem reveals a sense of dissatisfaction with her own name and an interest in hiding or concealing her own identity by sidling herself along with the “name a greater doth conceal”. In disguising her identity with Hermes, the god who travels between, we can see the importance of Pompey’s concealed identity and gender from the reader, and possibly from herself. Pompey conceals her identity through her clothing choices and through the words she uses to describe herself, a girl and a woman. Even Pompey’s choice to remain unmarried and immersed in the male-dominated corporate world could be seen as a screen to conceal her gender. Pompey clearly traverses the in between realm just as her namesake.

As important as the names are which serve as Pompey’s new suitable name, the name Pompey replaces (and conceals) is equally important: Patience. Pompey states, “Patience I was christened, but later of when I got grown up and out and about in London, I got called Pompey. And it suits me” (Smith 20). Not only does a refusal of the name Patience go against the very act of being patient, it goes against her christened name, and, therefore, against the patriarchy of religion. However, the name does show passivity in that she “got called Pompey” rather than the stealing of her surname as the beginning poem claims. In this instance, Pompey does not inform the reader of the circumstances of how she earned the nickname of Pompey and does not disclose the person who gave her the nickname. It may not seem important; however, if the giver of the nickname was a male, she could just as easily be falling under the rule of the patriarchy again by allowing one of its members to name her. However, in true Pompey fashion, she might have given up the virtue of patience in order to claim the name for all its meretricious decay and elegance that suits her just fine (20).

James, Stephen. “Stevie Smith, ‘A Most Awful Twister’”. Essays in Criticism, vol. 66, no. 2., 2016, pp. 242-259. Project Muse. www. http://eic.oxfordjournals.org/content/66/2/242.full.pdf+html.

Smith, Stevie. Novel on Yellow Paper. Virago Press Ltd. 1936.

 

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Why Not Vote for Her?

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by Simon Cropp

If I wanted to take a singular positive message from the film Strong Sisters, I could say I should be proud I come from a state that is so supportive of women’s rights, but then, I wonder, how misogynistic principles still guide principles of so many men, and I don’t mean an outright hatred of women, but instead a subconscious belief that women are inferior. I’ve always considered myself to have overcome to this belief of inferiority both consciously and subconsciously, but as I listened to the stories of Colorado’s women fighting to gain respect in the state government, an old fear gnaws at me.

What if those same, oppressive methods of thought still pervade my own subconscious views? I have tried to apply my thought processes to the decision-making processes involved specifically invoked by the film—how I deal with the concept of women in power.

It is certainly arguable if the Presidential seat in the United States is truly the highest level of singular power in our country when considering how capital influences every stage of the political process. So when a person like Bernie Sanders comes along and funds his campaign through grassroots organization and claims to only take donations from people, not groups or institutions, it is easy to get swept up in that momentum. And when Sanders was swept from the table leaving the first female nominee of a major political party ready to take the final steps towards the Presidential Office, it is also easy for me to hedge. Or to say: I don’t want to vote for a person supported by the corporate world. Our democracy is in trouble, and she represents exactly as what I see the problems to be.

Yet, what if I have voted in every election since 2000—every election since I was old enough to vote—when George W. Bush faced off against Al Gore, because those elections, I thought, had drastic implications for America.

I have to ask myself. What has really changed since 2000? Had Bernie Sanders ran his campaign in 2004 and failed to achieve the nomination of the Democratic Party, would I then have not, from the sweltering heat of Guantanamo Bay, cast my vote in that election? Would I have refused to vote during Barak Obama’s historic run?

I believe I would have voted in those elections, just the same, disillusioned or not. So again, I ask myself, what has changed? Hillary Clinton is what changed.

It is easy to sit and express voter apathy when things do not go exactly as I wish in an election. A time existed when I wouldn’t declare myself a Republican or a Democrat, but I do side with Democratic politics now. I have my entire life, to be honest, and I don’t mind sharing this. I don’t have any hatred or loathing for the other side, but I do know where my values are in terms of my political beliefs. And they have always aligned with the Democratic party.

Except this time. Why? Right. Hillary Clinton is what changed my mind.

Perhaps the problem rests with her scandal surrounding the emails. But then, I have to admit, as much as I have tried to parse out that scandal, as much as I have tried to fully understand it, I can’t. I had secret clearance during my time overseas in Guantanamo Bay, so I feel like I have some vague notion of protecting classified documents, but Clinton’s supposed lack of protection for a vast number of documents never made sense to me. Then, after a long FBI investigation, she was cleared of any wrong-doing. I’ve heard this is because she gets privileged treatment, but the more I think about how she is treated, the more I think: this is not how the privileged are treated.

Well, there is always Whitewater, right? The alleged charges that Clintons used campaign funds inappropriately. But ultimately, no evidence exists that these charges have any validity. And in the United States, the burden of proof is on the accuser, and after my year of working with “enemy combatants” in Guantanamo Bay, who often turned out to be just men picked up and turned over with no evidence, then held against for years of their lives, I came home with a stalwart belief in the burden of proof. So why should that apply to everyone but Clinton?

She does take big donations from the evil Wall Street. Still, though, Wall Street manages the majority of Americans’ retirement plans. I suppose it makes sense to work with the people of Wall Street and not paint them as villains. They hold the collective, financial futures of America in their hands. I have a dark, angry spot in my heart for Wall Street, but I’m not a politician. I don’t need to work with them and protect the futures of my fellow citizens.

So what the hell is it? Her health? She apparently collapsed recently. But hasn’t she been endlessly campaigning? Is she the first potential candidate to have health problems? Andrew Jackson had bleeding lungs (and was a massive racist), FDR was partially paralyzed, Grover Cleveland was the textbook picture of poor health, John F. Kennedy had significant health issues, and Ronald Reagan’s health issues are widely known. So what is it about her health?

The answer has to be clear at this point: my change in political occurred, subconsciously, due to oppressive patterns of thought directed toward women in power. I have voted in every election since I was eighteen years old, and I know where my political values rest. Clinton’s record speaks for itself, and her values largely align with my own. That it took so much for me to see this is difficult for me.

The hillary_clinton_2016reason I didn’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton can only boil down to one, singular fact: she is a woman. While embarrassed, humiliated (and uncertain if I even want to share this horrible story) by this fact, I am glad I figured it out. I’m glad I’m over that oppressive line of thinking, and I hope this allows me to be more introspective in the future.

What’s In A Name?

Everyone at some point or another is addressed by a title or a nickname that differs from our own birth name. This was something that I never really thought about before reading Lolly Willowes. In the novel, Laura was oppressed by her family and the societal expectations that were forced on her for years. This oppression came in many forms, especially in her nickname Aunt Lolly.

It might seem weird to think of a title, especially one as playful sounding as Aunt Lolly, as a form of oppression, but this name became a burden for Laura. “Aunt” is not a title that a person is born with, rather it is something that is placed upon them. It characterizes a person by being someone’s sister, and not necessarily being a separate person. In the OED Online, “aunt” is defined as “The sister of one’s father or mother” (def. 1a). This title, while it may be endearing, takes away the individuality of a person and essentially turns them into an object. I think that the same thing happens with Clarissa in Virginia Wolfe’s novel when she is called “Mrs. Dalloway.” These titles are used to see women as objects instead of people. And more importantly, they become objects belonging to specific people. In Laura’s case, this title ensures that she and everyone else knows her place. She is her brother’s sister. And this means that she was burdened with certain responsibilities. She was expected to be a caretaker of children that were not hers, pious, frugal, and obedient. These responsibilities were lifted from Laura she made her escape from London to Great Mop, but they were thrust onto her again immediately when Titus came to live there. In the novel, Laura showed great contempt for Titus being there because it forced her back into her old position, “When she was with him she came to heel and resumed her old employment of being Aunt Lolly” (Warner 149). Immediately this title of being “Aunt Lolly” thrust the dull and restricting responsibilities that Laura was trying to escape back onto her.

Escaping this oppression led Laura into the service of the Devil because she wanted to be free of a title that restricted her. Laura explained to the Devil that she did not become a witch because she was evil, but instead, she said: “It was to escape all that– to have a life of one’s own, not an existence doled out to you by others” (Warner 215). This novel is about a search for freedom, and to attain that freedom Laura, and other women, had to shed the titles and expectations that society placed on them. In Laura’s case this led to her becoming a witch, but in reality, this led to women becoming actual people instead of an assumed object.

 

“aunt, n.1.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2016. Web. 21 September     2016.

Warner, Sylvia Townsend. Lolly Willowes. New York Review Books, 1999.

A Closer Look at “Kitty”- Meghan Miller

After class on Thursday I was really interested in one of the last discussions we had about Kitty’s name in relation to the “kitty” mixture that acts like a casing for explosive materials. I decided to take a closer look at what “kitty” is. Since I was not quite sure what I was searching for, my first Google search was “kitty for explosives.” I soon discovered that this was a poor and unfortunate word combination choice. Rather than finding information about the function of “kitty” and the mixture of beeswax, resin, and tallow, I found two games called “Exploding Kittens” and “Kitten Kannon” (which I did not further investigate for obvious reasons). Then, I tried to be more specific by searching “kitty mixture for explosives,” which rendered similar results. However, with the “kitty mixture for explosives” search, I did learn that you can make a bomb with kitty litter (also something I did not further investigate). I quickly changed my search to “kitty mixture of beeswax, resin, and tallow,” which finally led me to something more useful.

Although I did not find the term “kitty” used in relation to anything with explosives or WWI, I did find a similar mixture of materials used for “pitch” in chasing and repousse. The “pitch” is made from beeswax, tallow, and several different kinds of resins (though there were many different recipes that were mentioned in For those of you (like me) who do not know what repousse is, good ol’ Wikipedia says it is ” a metalworking technique in which a malleable metal is ornamented or shaped by hammering from the reverse side to create a design in low relief” (here’s the link for more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repouss%C3%A9_and_chasing). From my understanding there is a mixture similar to the “kitty” mixture that has different resins, beeswax, and tallow that is used to help form the molds for the metals being shaped. Here are a couple examples of repousse:

(This is what the process looks like. The metal is places in the gooey “kitty-like” substance and then hammered on the backside to mold a design on the front side.)

The reason I am bringing up repousse and the similar “kitty-like” mixture is because I think it can another interesting reading of Kitty’s character. On Thursday we threw around the idea that Kitty is holding together the household and acting a “kitty-like” substance keeping everything from falling apart (or “exploding”). If we read Kitty as the substance that is used for repousse, we can see that she molds into whatever role she has to play at the specific time. The “kitty-like”  material in repousse provides a soft, malleable substance for the metal to be hammered on and formed into a pretty design. The “pitch” has to be hard enough to support the piece of metal that is being hammered, but also soft enough to be malleable for the metal to be hammered. If my understanding about the “pitch”–or “kitty-like”–substance in the repousse process is correct, Kitty could be considered the “pitch” of the household. Although Chris is the provider for Kitty and Jenny, Kitty is the person who makes (or molds) the household into something that appears to be pretty and neat. On the surface their household appears to be idealistic and peaceful because Kitty maintains her composure. However, beneath the surface, things are not as smooth and shiny. Kitty makes the household to appear perfect to observers because she absorbs the pain and negativity much like the “kitty-like” substance in the hammering process of repousse. Some of the ways in which Kitty absorbs problems is that she keeps her composure when Chris leaves for war (even though she is worried about him she has to act like she is not), she does not let others know that she is still mourning the loss of her son, and she tries to keep her composure when Chris’s illness causes him to be in love with Margaret again. All of these issues “hammer” into Kitty’s character and force her to be malleable and adjust so that her image and the image of the household is upheld.

Here are a couple sites that I found about repousse and the “kitty-like” substance:

http://ganoksin.com/blog/primitive/2010/09/20/pitch-for-repousse-and-other-purposes/

http://www.metalartistforum.com/maf/index.php?/topic/5690-new-hammer-and-pitch-questions/

Also, just for fun, and because I thought it was cool, here is a video for anyone interested in what the repousse process looks like: