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Written on the Body

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by

Kathryn Barrett

on 3 October 2012

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Transcript of Written on the Body

Selfishness in
Written on the Body
By: Nea Pantry, Justine Ponomareff, Sabina Sohail, Kathryn Barrett Dear Louise,
I love you more than life itself. I have not known a happier time than with you. I did not know this much happiness was possible. ... I'm going away tonight, I don't know where, all I know is I won't come back. ... Our love was not meant to cost your life. I can't bear that. ... Please go with Elgin. He has promised to tell me how you are. I shall think of you everyday, many times a day. ... I want you to live. Forgive my mistakes. Forgive me. (105-106) In the novel Written on the Body, Jeanette Winterson challenges the assumption that a sacrifice made for love is a selfless act. Through the relationships the narrator has with Jacqueline and Louise, it can be illustrated that what drives the sacrifice is actually selfishness through means of deliberate choice and action. I preferred my other reality; Louise safe somewhere, forgetting about Elgin and about me. Perhaps with somebody else. (174)

I had to have that story. I told it to myself every day and held it against my chest every night. It was my comforter. I built different houses for her, planted out her gardens. She was in the sun abroad. She was in Italy eating mussels by the sea. She had a white villa that reflected in the lake. She wasn't sick and deserted in some rented room with thin curtains. She was well. Louise was well. (174) 'You shouldn't have run out on her.'
Run out on her? That doesn't sound like the heroics I'd had in mind. Hadn't I sacrificed myself for her? Offered my life for her life?
'She wasn't a child.'
Yes she was. My child. My baby. The tender thing I wanted to protect.
'You didn't give her a chance to say what she wanted. You left.' (159) I had bought a new flat to start again from a nasty love affair that had given me the clap. Nothing wrong with my organs, this was emotional clap. I had to keep my heart to myself in case I infected somebody. The flat was large and derelict. I hoped I might rebuild it and myself at the same time. ... Jacqueline worked at the zoo. ... She was good with parents, good with children, good with animals, good with disturbed things of every kind. She was good with me. (25) I considered her. I didn’t love her and I didn’t want to love her. I didn’t desire her and I could not imagine desiring her. These were all points in her favour. I had lately learned that another way of writing FALL IN LOVE is WALK THE PLANK. I was tired of balancing blindfold on a slender beam, one slip and into the unplumbed sea. I wanted the clichés, the armchair. I wanted the broad road and twenty-twenty vision. What’s wrong with that? It’s called growing up. Maybe most people gloss their comforts with a patina of romance but it soon wears off. They’re in it for the long haul; the expanding waistline and the little semi in the suburbs. What’s wrong with that? Late-night TV and snoring side by side into the millennium, Till death us do part. Anniversary darling? What’s wrong with that? (26) Over the months that followed my mind healed and I no longer moped and groaned over lost love and impossible choices. I had survived shipwreck and I liked my new island with hot and cold running water and regular visits from the milkman. I became an apostle of ordinariness. (27)

I wanted the relationship to last for not very noble reasons; after all it was my last ditch. (28) Discussion Question Discussion Question Discussion
Question Discussion
Question It can be said that the narrator is hardly ever alone before the seclusion from Louise. He/she jumps from relationship to relationship without hesitation and instantly settles for Jacqueline in search of repair instead of spending time by himself/herself to reevaluate love and loss. Is the fear of being alone selfish? Is the fear of being without love selfish? If you're completely unaware of what you're doing (in reference to taking advantage of Jacqueline), does that make you innocent? Because we know the narrator is "broken" before Jacqueline, can his/her choice for settling and using Jacqueline as a coping mechanism be justified at all? What's okay and what isn't? Can we forgive the narrator for what he/she has done to Jacqueline? Jacqueline Louise Does something so extreme such as death have to be in the picture in order for a selfish sacrifice to be forgiven? If the narrator ever found Louise, would she forgive him/her? In Written on the Body it is evident that the narrator revokes Louise's freewill. What do you think is fair in love? Would have done the same thing? "Interview with Ellen Kenner and Ed Locke on The Selfish Path to Romance: How to Love with Passion and Reason." The Objective Standard Spring 2012: 47+. Academic OneFile. Web. 1 Oct. 2012.

EK: Our book invites you to learn skills to make your romantic relationship thrive.

EL: Our book is based on certain fundamental principles identified by Ayn Rand:

#1. Love is based on self-interest. Love is destroyed by self-sacrifice.

EK: As Ayn Rand emphasized, the word selfish means concern with your own interests. You can be concerned with your own interests in a rational way, you can pursue your dreams without violating anyone else's rights or trust.
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