Volcano Club

Volcano Club only offers one type of membership - and that's lifetime. To become a member send some volcanic themed work to the HQ (volcanoclubhq@gmail.com) and you might get a codename or some other cool shit.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Fuck Yeah! Volcanoes and Feminism!

I have finished reading The Volcano Lover and I was really interested in the portrayal of women in the novel so I can finally write a post combining my two main hobbies of volcanoes and feminism. My only other real hobbies being plants and watching sport. I know that the author Susan Sontag was a feminist but none of the stuff I have read about the book has dealt with the women in it, which is annoying as I will have to write my own thoughts on the book. The novel is set in the late 1700s and based on the life of Sir William Hamilton. The basic plot is that the English Ambassador (The Cavaliere) in Naples is obsessed by collecting art and by the volcano, Vesuvius. He is married to Catherine, a good a dutiful wife to whom he has not a loving but a pleasant marriage. Catherine dies and The Cavaliere takes up with his nephew's mistress, Emma, whom he later marries. She then gets it on with Horatio Nelson during a revolution in Italy, at the end of the novel Emma dies a poor alcoholic. The roles for women are clearly 'Mother', 'Wife' and 'Mistress' and their existence seems to be based around what they can do for men or their children, which is probably a reflection on the historical context  of the novel. The novel ends with the viewpoint of the four main women in the novel whereas the rest of the novel is largely focussed on the Cavaliere and has ignored the women which is a pointer to how women's views and experiences are often pushed aside.

So there is the volcano which is powerful, strong and firey and represents an opposite to the Cavaliere's ordered and peaceful life and also the carefully manufactured art he collects. The Cavaliere falls in love with Emma for her beauty (as a piece of art) and also because he can teach her things, she being from the 'lower classes'; the Cavaliere has previously had this kind of teacher relationship with a pet monkey, viewing a wife in the same way as a monkey is clearly problematic. So it is Emma's affair with Nelson that is the firey and passionate relationship, the volcano; while Emma loves the Cavaliere he is mainly a father figure. As with Vesuvius the Cavaliere is once more observing this volcano that he cannot really understand or be part of. Which I think is pretty much the central problem of volcanoes and why I don't want to be a volcanoligist because you can never really understand volcanoes or be their friend, you can only have a destructive relationship with them. It's a bit like the film 'Grizzly Man' where he spends his whole life wanting to be friends with bears and looking after them and they end up eating him so basically volcanoes don't give enough back. After that little tangent I'll go back to the book, so basically for the Cavaliere the volcano is something he loves and admires but never quite understands and can't get too close to in contrast to the art he collects. I could go on but I won't because I've already given away enough of the plot (but it's all pretty obvious, its not like giving away the ending to Sherlock Holmes or something) and you should read it, it's a good book. Here are some better reviews on the book from The New York Times and The Independent.
Emma Hamilton 

If that's a bit wordy here's a link to the other famous Italian volcano Etna which is a lovely volcano.
Also if you do have any other ideas on volcanoes and feminism then let me know as that will be the ultimate zine. 

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