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Louisa May Alcott's A Modern Mephistopheles begins with the tableau of the tortured artist named Felix burning his failed manuscript, "offering the first-born of heart and brain as sacrifice to a hard fate. In Alcott's earlier Kiinstlerroman for girls, Little Women , Jo's writing is similarly figured as an infant whose legs Jo must amputate "in order that it might fit into a new cradle" the cradle being an editor's demands.

Felix's punishment is the loss of wife and child.


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Likewise, in her "Psyche's Art" Alcott depicts a female artist's triumph when she smashes her statue and assumes her proper station in life, caring for her family. Alcott repeatedly features plots in which warm-blooded womanhood expels the demon of artistic creation and passion, whether the demon is within the woman or embodied by a Mephistopheles figure chasing her about. In Little Women, the story of Jo's struggle to become a principled writer, we find two similarly powerful moments in which Jo's manuscripts are dramatically sacrificed to fire.

It is her youngest sister Amy who burns Jo's firstborn manuscript. She burns it after Jo and Laurie go to a play and refuse to take Amy with them. On the one hand, Amy burns Jo's fairy tales and thus possibly does her a favor, destroying Jo's entry into a feminine genre; on the other hand, the fiery furor unleashed in Jo is represented as a demonic inner monster named Apollyon, named after the allegorical demon of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress.

Alcott used Bunyan's influential Protestant story of a Christian's pilgrimage to the Celestial City to structure the girls' struggles in Little Women. Stern and Rostenberg wrote biographies, scholarly studies and histories — both together and separately — but their greatest art was not writing. The style, both stiff and florid, has the static, decorative quality of good wallpaper rather than of literature.

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They worshiped books, and both had an encyclopedic knowledge that allowed them to discover rare volumes others had overlooked. The most personal and inspired art they created were catalogs — brilliant, fascinating, scholarly, witty, inspiring, utterly original catalogs of old and rare books.

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They saw connections that others missed. Instead of just listing the books they were selling, they had the vision to see the patterns their stock formed. Every book was captioned with a quotation from a Shakespeare play. What brought these remarkable women to the attention of the world outside rare-book collectors — there has even been a musical based on their lives — was their joint discovery regarding Louisa May Alcott. But no one had ever identified these stories. Until Stern and Rostenberg got on the case. Barnard , giving a war whoop in a silent Harvard library where the two sat doing their research side by side.

The tiniest rejection is felt at a rare peak of intensity. But actual sexual encounters are possibly not always on the agenda. We impose our own obsessions with sexuality from 'above' perhaps. I read all Alcott's letters home when I was researching an anthology about women's letters. Her humour was a shining light.

Carolyn Gage

Yes, I can remember tremendously intense feelings for my girl friends when I was at school, along with the crises.. And that was at a time when my raging hormones had definitely not yet got going, and I was worrying about my wedding night, and which of us would broach the dread topic of 'doing it. I always wished Jo had not married at all, but perhaps that was too much to hope for. I remember reading Vikram Seth's 'A Suitable Boy' when travelling, and my mother and sister also read it at the same time in different countries.

We were all very clear about who she should have chosen, and each of us chose a different candidate.

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I must ask what they thought of Jo's choice, though I am sure we must have discussed it in the past. Now I begin to wonder what my daughters think Interesting stuff. Diet, weight and exercise are major factors in the age of menarche. When I studied human evolution, wheat was thought to be a major culprit for lowering the age of menarche in the West, but some researchers are now laying the blame on our intake of animal protein. I was never sure about Jo and Bhaer.

Hope this helps! Thank you, Cathy, and I did find the chapter very interesting, but alas, it wasn't the one I was after. However,as a result I have ordered the film, with Katharine Hepburn, which should be interesting to watch, along with the s film for comparison When Laurie develops feelings for Jo, those times when they were brothers are gone. This forces Jo to distance herself from Laurie and since she is she soon starts to see that those masculine traits which quite many of them fall into the category of toxic masculinity do her more harm than good and even embarrass her family, good example of this is the social call to aunt March where Amy gets to go to Europe, and in all fairness Amy deserved it and she much more found of aunt march than Jo ever was.

These times make Jo feel detached and isolated.


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In Little Men when they start the school together it is ran with feminist values and the book continues playing with the gender themes. Both Jo and Fritz do not fit to the traditional idea of gender.

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It is different for example with Laurie who clearly wants a wife that is more feminine and Amy was raised more within a female sphere than Jo, since Amy spent big chunk of her childhood living with aunt march. I read Good Wives for the first time when I was 17 and I loved it especially since that was the time when I become more comfortable with my own sexual orientation, First part of Little Women was also charming but it was good wives where I could relate myself to all March girls since they were more mature and Fritz as well.

Laurie on the other hand I liked him more when I read the book as a child but every time when I have read them as an adult he comes out immature.. Post a Comment.


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  8. The March girls and their mother: Jo is top left as you'd guess I wish I could remember who it was wrote a piece about the sexuality of girls in the nineteenth century, in particular referencing Jo March in Little Women. Jo famously couldn't understand why her sister Meg wanted to marry John Brooke and said: 'I wish I could marry Meg myself and keep her in the family.