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Education in a Marriage

I found this quote interesting because of how it coincided with something that Voltaire wrote in Emile, that the best wife is the blank slate that can be filled in by the husband.  Françoise de Graffigny probably started writing this novel after she saw a play by Voltaire, so it makes sense that she sounds similar to him.

“If you were an ordinary man, I [Zilia] would  have remained in that state of ignorance to which those of my sex are condemned…had it not been for my desire to please you, would I have had the resolve to give up my blissful ignorance in exchange for the painful activity of study?”

Letters of a Peruvian Woman, P 17, Françoise de Graffigny

I think the most interesting part of the quote is that the study is up to Zilia to complete.  She is permitted to by her fiance, or instructed to study, but she has to make this decision and work to learn.  And this isn’t much, she is still kept in a state of ignorance up until the point where her fiance allows her to learn.  But, it’s more than just being a sponge that is talked at for a while until you mirror your husband in every opinion.

I would not qualify allowing someone to be educated as loving them, but that is a modern perspective on this.  Voltaire even saying that the wife could be educated at all was considered a step away from the norm of his time.

Zilia was willing to put in the time to study, and she acknowledges that is work to study.  Sometimes it can be hard to find the motivation to study, and Zilia needed that motivation. She found it through her affection for her finance, and the desire to make him proud.  I sympathized with her, even though I don’t have the same motivator to learn as Zilia I have other motivators to learn and study. k19884005


Can you sympathize?

Candide has been interesting, every circumstance ends up horribly for Candide but he continues to think that everything will be alright for him in the end.

“Invite each passenger to tell his story; if you find a single one of them who has not repeatedly cursed his existence, who has not repeatedly told himself that he is the unhappiest man alive, then you may throw me into the sea”
~Candide, Voltaire 31~

My quote is spoken by a servant, telling Candide and Cunégonde to ask everyone on the ship about their lives.  It turns out that the servant is right, and that everyone has a difficult life.

I found this quote the best to go in my Commonplace book because it is a reminder that everyone has their own struggles.  That is something that it is easy to forget, everyone has their own struggles.  It’s important to take that into account while interacting with everyone in your life.  A reminder that even if a life is not as dramatically horrible as in Candide, it is probably more difficult than it looks from the perspective of an outsider.


The Forfeit Life

Though her life were forfeited by owning her passion.  ~Aphra Behn, Oroonoko, 21

So, let’s start with a little context.  The woman, Imoinda, is being held captive by the king, and cannot own her passion to her husband (or betrothed husband, the story isn’t super clear on this point) because if she did the king would kill her.

lattice window

I found this line interesting because Imoinda is not as passive as often women are portrayed in literature, she does have some passion which is part of what influences her.   However, she is not in control of her life, her agency is quite limited.  Imoinda is taken by the king, sold into slavery, and eventually is killed.  The only thing she holds inviolate is her body, and it is a body that is often lusted after by the people around her.  Imoinda controls her own yearning for her husband, and uses that to persuade all of those attacking her to stay their hand.  It is not very much agency, but it is more agency than other captives or slaves posses.

Is this a satire?

“I have read in a book of one of your men, of a Feigned Commonwealth, where the married couple are permitted, before they contract [wed], to see one and other naked. …they have a more civil way, for near e very town a couple of pools…where it is permitted for one of the friends of the man and one do the friends of the woman to see them severally bathe naked”

~New Atlantis (478), Francis Bacon

So, the New Atlantis, a seeming travel narrative by some European who was probably the traveler.

Well, I was rather wondering if that was the case or not.  The narrative is called Atlantis, but I don’t know the cultural assumptions of the time, Atlantis might still have been thought to be real, and just undiscovered yet.  These were the lines that convinced me that this story specifically is a fictitious travel narrative, and very related to Thomas More’s Utopia.


In Utopia, the custom was that the engaged couple would see the other nude before wedding, and here, apparently the more civil way is to let the friends of the person view the fiance in the nude.  It’s weird, I don’t even know if Bacon is trying to make Atlantis sound better, or just making fun of Utopia.



The Authority of God, Man, & Woman

“Was she thy God that her thou didst obey / Before his voice?  Or was she made thy guide”

Milton, Paradise Lost, Bk 10, 145-7 Section: God

To give some context for this quote, it is God asking Adam why he listened to Eve about eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

I chose it for my commonplace because it was interesting to me, even if it is a quote that I might not necessarily want forever.

The question is who has authority, and how much someone at a different level of the hierarchy should effect those below them and vice versa. Adam listens to Eve, and he is punished in a significant way for it (read more in the Bible). 95233d

In this quote God asks “was she your God?” of Adam, as in, did you worship her and listen to her as if she were in my (God’s) place? I think this is related in some way to something that is current now and was current then–the problem of attachment to things that are not God.  The phrase that I have heard in regular discourse is that you can’t serve two masters, God and Mammon (wealth, money, things of that type).  Even in this part of Milton’s imagining of the Fall, the problem is that Adam might be worshiping something other than God in the place of God.

If that is why Adam ate of the Tree is questionable, but I thought that it was interesting that the question of “who do you serve” is not a new one.

Mental Power

I chose this quote from when Satan and Beelzebub are taking in their circumstances and assessing hell.

“One who brings / A mind not to be changed by place or time / The mind is its own place and in itself / Can make a Heaven of hell, a hell of Heaven”

~Paradise Lost, Milton, Book 1, 254 – 257
I think it is interesting, showing how the mind is seen as a tool for the person. This was a quote that I was interested in because it is something that I don’t mind keeping in my commonplace book — and sometimes that is the most difficult part.
I like it particularly because of “the mind is its own place and in itself can make…” Being able to understand your own mind and almost talk yourself into a better state of mind is something that is very difficult, but, can also be very helpful when you are in a difficult situation. In this quote it is the fallen angels learning to cope with hell, but it could also be anyone learning how to function in a new place and situation.

The Form or the Content

“I should wish great care to be taken in the selection of a guide with a well-formed rather than a well-filled intellect” (Montaigne, Essays, 54)

I found this quote quite interesting, and also it feels quite relevant to what Humansitic studies is trying to do. Even though we have to prove that we have filled our minds with information about texts and historical events, that is not what the goal of the department is.Japanese seamless waves pattern in ocean colors

The information which is being processed is creating structures in our minds with which we can go and process new and other information. This is the formation rather than the filling that is discussed by Montaigne. It is interesting to see the humanists of the 1500’s dealing with the same things that we hear about today in education.

Montaigne is concerned with how children learn, and how they are taught information to make them better citizens of the world, and not of only universities, I was having flashbacks to some of the things that we had to attend as freshmen for the Sofia program and what the stated goals were for us by the school.

It is something that I wonder about in thinking about my future, I hope that I am learning a skill set that will help me in a job someday even though I know that reading and knowing this essay by Montaigne probably won’t be helpful in that domain.

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