The part of the letter that interested me most was Leonora's reaction to the poetry of Gottfried Benn. Benn was a nihilist/Nietzschean poet of the early twentieth century. He had a very interesting view of how the Enlightenment had brought on the nihilist epoch (which I'll quote in a future post): his nihilism was therefore not directed at the churches or at traditional culture but at the liberal Enlightenment. Even so, it was a nihilism which portrayed human life in the most desolate terms.
Leonora was forced to endure this desolate, nihilistic view of life in her literature class. It caused her a degree of distress, as she wishes to cultivate her more sensitive feminine qualities:
Sitting in that class yesterday was painful and felt like torture. I was fighting tears of anger and hurt feelings, just looked down and could not say a single word the whole entire time. I felt even worse when I realized how all the others were laughing and thought it was funny. I could not find a tiny bit of amusement in someone presenting human beings like that and talking about women in such a trashy way. I just wanted to get out of there – as far away as possible – as the again male professor kept repeating those lines over and over again, pronouncing them worse and more disgusting every time he recited them again.Leonora is trying to maintain her feminine integrity in a hostile environment. It's interesting to hear this from a woman, as I think men have a corresponding sense both of the value of the feminine qualities Leonora describes and also of their relative fragility.
My own strong emotions and reaction made me wonder if there is something wrong with me! Why did this make me so upset and angry while everyone else seemed to enjoy it? As I reflected on it later that night in bed, I realized how God has been tearing down many walls in and around my heart throughout the past six months. He has made me much more sensitive towards other people and also towards sin and things that are just wrong. He has revealed to me what it means to be a woman and how I as a woman should be caring, loving and nurturing. I am to have a soft and tender heart, feel with others and make this world a much more beautiful place. And that’s what I want with all my heart. I want to be captivating, beautiful, inviting and loving. But with a heart soft like that I can’t handle situations like the one in class yesterday.
I told a male class mate about my feelings after class and his response was, “Well, Benn wrote that to make people think and to cause exactly these controversial reactions. You shouldn’t take it personally, just think about the issues he is trying to raise.” I know I could easily try to let this not get to me, build up some walls around my heart again and not care and laugh like everyone else. But that would be at the risk of my heart, my soul, my purity, and in a way even my womanhood. Why do they expect me to do that? How can I even survive as a woman in such an environment that will constantly cause me pain without manning up?
I don't know, it sounds more like a defensive maneuver. Can't process, so emotion dominates. She may couch them in terms of maintaining femininity or she may not. Makes no difference to the truth. Not that I know what the truth is in this case. Reading the entry on Thinking Housewife only strengthens that suspicion though:ReplyDelete
"Apparently Benn wrote this in order to mock people who believe that humans are the crown of God’s creation. His overall message seemed to be: “Look at you, how gross and disgusting you are! Do you really think you actually matter and are any better than any other creature in the world? You are nasty, sick and then you die.” These are dehumanizing and degrading texts."
Which is actually quite an important message. Even if one believes we are the best of creation, we are still mere creation. People becoming lost in their human-ness, in theirselves, is at least one of the causes of deviance and strife in the world. The ancient existence that some superficially traditionalist people romanticize would probably be unbearably brutal for them if they understood its full import.
I look forward to your post on Gottfried Benn's poetry. For Leonora I have little sympathy and would invite her to embrace a little bit of "darkness".
Good post but something else should be pointed out about this particular observation:ReplyDelete
"Leonora is trying to maintain her feminine integrity in a hostile environment. It's interesting to hear this from a woman, as I think men have a corresponding sense both of the value of the feminine qualities Leonora describes and also of their relative fragility."
This is beautiful but at the same time liberalism has co-opted this natural and social instinct and has turned it against the true order. It has made men guard women without virtue (e.g. white knights and Captain Save-a-Ho for example), made them succumb to contradictory demands and so forth. This and the whole "protect my daughter from evil" stuff that powerful liberal men like Barack Obama and Bill Clinton throw out so frequently.
I'm surprised Leonora has made it to graduate studies. In my experience, some of the things that are taught in universities are enough to upset even a completely non-sensitive man such as myself. Practically every course of studies has been contaminated, some to a ridiculous degree - e.g. I recall Asian Studies where some pompous professor would spend an entire lecture giving his opinions about how racist white countries are, with practically no regard for the course outline. At the more egregious end of the scale are courses like nursing - a friend had to discontinue her studies upon being told that she was required to do the studies on abortion regardless of her moral objections. Modern universities are utterly poisonous - I would stay away from them at all costs. I pity a truth seeker like Leonora, stuck at such a misguided institution.ReplyDelete
If anyone is interested, here's a new reading list for Pro-Western Christianity:
Please make recommendations in the comments below the reading list.
This kind of "education" coarsens, corrupts and demoralizes men as well as women.ReplyDelete
Being sensitive to that coarsening, corruption and demoralization, and rejecting it, is nothing to be ashamed of.
As someone who has read some Benn, I can say with confidence that he's not a poet for girly-girls. Here's one of his best known:ReplyDelete
Then the blond neck of a white woman
lay bedded on dark bloody cushions.
The sun stormed in her hair
and licked upon her light thighs
and kneeled at her brownish breasts,
not yet distorted by vice or birth.
Beside her a nigger, eyes and forehead
shredded by a horse’s hoof, digging
two toes of his dirty left foot
into her little white ear.
Yet she lay asleep like a bride:
at the brink of first love’s joys
as on the eve of many an Ascension
of warm young blood.
Until we sank
the knife into her white throat
and cast a purple garter of dead blood
around her hips.
Of course Leonora's instinct was to cry out, "save me from this brute!" Her theological utterances are pure namby-pamby.
As a woman, I think she's just a dork bagReplyDelete
She actually sounds like a liberal to me honestly..."as a woman I know my job is to make the world a more beautiful place" I can so see her adopting black children now