By Ann P. Brady
“Brady’s argument is clear and persuasive…[a] valuable book.”
Helen M. Cooper, Journal of English and Germanic Philology
“This well-written and scholarly book should be on the must-read list of all serious students of Browning.”
J. W. Parins, Choice
When Count Guido Franceschini was tried by a Roman court in 1698 for the rape and murder of his young wife Pompilia, he had the church, the state, and “all of sensible Rome” supporting him. Their cynical mandate sprang from the traditional belief that in a patriarchal society the male should wield absolute power, including the power of life and death, over the female. In Pompilia, Brady discusses how Browning’s masterpiece exposes the pervasive misogyny of patriarchal culture justified in the principle of honoris causa jealously guarded by church and state.
From his letters it is clear that the poet parallels the Rome of the Franceschini trial with the patriarchy of Victorian England. Tracing the classical sources of institutionalized misogyny — from Aristotle to Justinian to Livy, from Genesis through the New Testament — Brady shows how ancient and pervasive is the patriarchal system and argues that the woman thus defined by traditional theology is identical to the pornographer’s definition of woman: the woman made for the man.
Confronting the problem of sexual cynicism among interpreters of The Ring and the Book from Thomas Carlyle to the present, Brady examines the character of Pompilia — the victim on trial essentially for the crime of being raped and murdered. She examines the explicitly sexual degradation of Pompilia by Guido and his priest brother, and she points out the sexual bias rampant in the trial proceedings, a bias that reveals the ecclesiastical corruption surrounding the institution of marriage.
One of the first book-length studies of Browning’s feminism, Brady’s study makes valuable interpretive contributions to The Ring and the Book, and should earn the poem new readers among both feminists and traditionalists.
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Widely regarded as Barrett Browning’s major work, Aurora Leigh is important both for its address to contemporary social issues, the “woman question” in particular, and for its bold experimentation with poetic form. Since 1979 it has held its place in the canon as “the feminist poem” (Ellen Moers), yet, until now, no reliable edition of the work has been available.
In this fascinating piece of scholarly detective work, biblical scholar Savina J. Teubal peels away millenia of patriarchal distortion to reveal the lost tradition of biblical matriarchs. In Ancient Sisterhood: The Lost Traditions of Hagar and Sarah (originally published as Hagar the Egyptian), she shows that Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, was actually lady-in-waiting to the priestess Sarah and participated in an ancient Near Eastern custom of surrogate motherhood.
In seventeen volumes, copublished with Baylor University, this acclaimed series features annotated texts of all of Robert Browning’s known writing. The series encompasses autobiography as well as influences bearing on Browning’s life and career and aspects of Victorian thought and culture. Volume XI of The Complete Works of Robert Browning contains two strikingly disparate long poems from the 1870s, Fifine at the Fair and Red Cotton Night-Cap Country.