Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Margaret Fuller, Summer on the Lakes, Day #2

--Fuller's chapter on Wisconsin is much taken up with an extended discussion of the life of the "seeress of Prevorst," a German woman who seemed to give up a physical existence for a spiritual/mystic state. What is Fuller's attitude toward this woman? In some ways, she seems an extreme counterpart to the materialistic settlers she has encountered: does Fuller prefer the seeress' state to that of the settlers?

--Some critics have argued that Fuller links the plight of Native Americans and white women on the frontier: how are they similar or different? What problems do they share and what potential solutions to their problems does Fuller offer?


  1. The women on the frontier had it rough in this story. They were treated as lesser-beings and weren't respected. When speaking of the Native Americans, she writes with a sense of knowing, sympathy and sadness for them. When writing about the treatment of these people, there is a sadness that only comes with the knowledge of the mistreatment that they both have received. While women on the frontier and the American Indians that they encountered have a few things in common, I think that Fuller comparing the plight of the two is insulting to American Indians. They were treated unequally, but not to the level of the Indians that they encountered.

  2. I think Margaret Fuller is sympathetic and inspired by the "seeress of Prevorst." She continues the thread of poor marriages. While this marriage at the outset doesn't seem like a bad match, the following years of sickness seems to point to nothing else. I was surprised at what great length she went into this story. A length that even Thoreau would be hard press to replicate. But the last line of the chapter definitely speaks more about this selection that anything else.

    "This scene, however, I was not sorry to exchange for the much celebrated beauties of the Island of Mackinaw."

    This sentence puts a higher importance on the seeress story and superseding the very theme of the work. Though this continues Fuller's continued disappointment with the surrounding landscape. Her description of this "seeress" is romantic in the way she suffers through pain, primarily in silence. I wondered if Fuller was trying to compare this woman with women in general. To the suffering of the women in the great plains. Such a long deviation from the landscape of the lakes makes me believe that the seeress stands for more than just a simple story.

  3. "Should we compare her with anything human, we would say she was one detained at the moment of dissolution, betwixt life and death; and who is better able to discern the affairs of the world that lies before, than that behind him" (91).

    It seems to me that Fuller is completely sympathetic of the plights of this woman, and is amazed by adversary she overcomes. Though Fuller seems to have a healthy skepticism of her clairvoyant abilities (and of some people who abused them), she is greatly inspired by her kind and accepting nature which seems unworldly. As Darren points out, this is clearly shown by the end of the seeress tale, when Fuller states that this woman is more amazing and unique than the landscapes which initially interested her.

  4. Fuller most definitely has sympathy for the "seeress of Prevorst." She is not just sympathetic however, but also rather impressed at the person she was and the resilience that she showed even when it meant that she may not be positively benefited.

    "She met all with an equal friendliness, even when it cost her bodily pain, and those who defamed her, she often defended" (93).

    Fuller is impressed and probably inspired by this woman. This woman seems to acknowledge that there is more outside of herself. I loved the line where she describes her outward form as some sort of veil of her spirit. I thought that this passage really summed up this 'bigger than one's self" idea.

  5. I don't think that comparing the struggles of frontier women and Native Americans is very fair to the indians at all. Both groups had it hard no doubt, but most frontier women had a big advantage at this time: they were white. They were not met with the immediate disdain that the indians faced and they weren't having their land stolen from them. In fact they were helping to steal the indians' land. I reaally don't think it's a good comparison at all.

  6. In response to the previous post (Idierker), I think the struggle for women and Native Americans had similarities, while being separate at the same time. While women were still white and had advantages, Native American males could trade and continue with busy with white males easier than women could because while many settlers viewed Native Americans as "uncivilized" Native Americans had their own society structures, that being a majority of theif chiefs male.

  7. I agree and disagree with the idea that the struggle for Women and the struggle for Native Americans were similar. In some ways, yes, they were similar. I think both of them were oppressed and now we see them in a sympathetic way but there struggles I think were different. I agree with Annie when she says that Native American's struggled with being uncivilized and seen as lower than the white Americans but you can also see the same stereotypes you see today, with the Chief always being a male and once again women are being oppressed. I think if we view them in a separate manner than we can agree that they are both oppressed but Native Americans and women have two different stories behind their struggles.

  8. I thought today's discussion about spiritually was very interesting. I don't necessarily think that Fuller prefers the seeress' state to that of the settlers. I think that she is looking for a balance between the seress and the settlers. The seeress was too spiritual, so much that her body died. And the settlers were too materialistic for Fuller's Romantic beliefs. I think this links back to the discussion we had about Good Sense, Old Church and Self Poise. Fuller as her alter-ego Free Hope, offers a balance between strict rules and theories and her more laid back and free-spirited opinion. I myself identify with both views, I can see myself as Self Poise AND Free Hope. I think that on Fuller's literal journey across the Frontier she will also encounter a spiritual journey as well.


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