6 Matching Annotations
  1. Jan 2022
    1. feeding a canary-bird

      The famous opening of Northanger Abbey describes Catherine Morland “as plain as any.” Yet from the list of qualities and habits that set her against narrative expectations—the Gothic and the sentimental—and social expectations—femininity and propriety—Catherine’s character ultimately emerges as unconventional, too. In seemingly trivial and funny details, such as her preference for cricket over “feeding a canary-bird,” the narrator intimates her inconformity with dominant beliefs about the nature of women. The canary alludes to existing associations between birds and women that underscored women’s lack of rationality and their supposed vulnerability.

      In many portraits of the period, young girls were eroticized through their connection to birds, particularly when portrayed weeping for a dead pet bird, a sign of their loss of sexual innocence. Canaries, a favorite songbird in the late eighteenth-century household, were associated with young girls through their delicate size, beautiful and soft feathers, and prized songs [1]. At the same time, women’s musical abilities, as exemplified in Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Emma (1815), were a sure-fire sign of their marriageability: good singers made good wives [2]. Maturity didn’t save women from disparaging associations with birds. Spinsters were oftentimes portrayed surrounded by parrots and bird cages, the equivalent of crazy cat ladies [3]. By creating a heroine who is more likely to be found outdoors exercising than feeding a small, delicate bird, Austen disassociates Catherine from these sexist beliefs. Not all associations to birds were troubling, though. Songbirds figured in stories for young children to instill kindness toward other animals, as in Sarah Trimmer’s Fabulous Histories (1786). Austen’s contemporaries shared a strong belief that educating children to treat animals with kindness was the foundation for instilling sympathy toward other humans [4]. Yet, as Mary Wollstonecraft argued in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), a rational woman knew that compassion “for the bird starved in a snare” came second (or third) to compassion for her fellow humans.

      This annotation draws on research developed for a forthcoming essay which will appear in Science and Storytelling, edited by Dave Alff and Danielle Spratt.

    2. feeding a canary-bird

      The famous opening of Northanger Abbey describes Catherine Morland “as plain as any.” Yet from the list of qualities and habits that set her against narrative expectations—the Gothic and the sentimental—and social expectations—femininity and propriety—Catherine’s character ultimately emerges as unconventional, too. In seemingly trivial and funny details, such as her preference for cricket over “feeding a canary-bird,” the narrator intimates her inconformity with dominant beliefs about the nature of women. The canary alludes to existing associations between birds and women that underscored women’s lack of rationality and their supposed vulnerability.

      In many portraits of the period, young girls were eroticized through their connection to birds, particularly when portrayed weeping for a dead pet bird, a sign of their loss of sexual innocence. Canaries, a favorite songbird in the late eighteenth-century household, were associated with young girls through their delicate size, beautiful and soft feathers, and prized songs [1]. Women’s musical abilities, as exemplified in Pride and Prejudice (1813) and Emma (1815), were a sure-fire sign of their marriageability: good singers made good wives [2]. Maturity didn’t save women from disparaging associations with birds. Spinsters were oftentimes portrayed surrounded by parrots and bird cages, the equivalent of crazy cat ladies. By creating a heroine who is more likely to be found outdoors exercising than feeding a small, delicate bird, Austen disassociates Catherine from these sexist beliefs.

      Not all associations to birds were troubling, though. Songbirds figured in stories for young children to instill kindness toward other animals, as in Sarah Trimmer’s Fabulous Histories (1786). Austen’s contemporaries shared a strong belief that educating children to treat animals with kindness was the foundation for instilling sympathy toward other humans [3]. Yet, as Mary Wollstonecraft argued in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), a rational woman knew that compassion “for the bird starved in a snare” came second (or third) to compassion for her fellow humans.

  2. Jan 2020
    1. Yet aside from humans, only a few other species, including orangutans and bonobos, seem to willingly help others. Now, scientists say they’ve found the first nonmammals that are also altruists: African gray parrots.

      Parrots!

  3. Feb 2019
    1. I would be remiss in not mentioning Pres. Roosevelt’s great friend and ally Winston Churchill who not only helped end World War II but was a lover and companion to a number of parrots.

      I have never seen a picture with Winston Churchill and parrots. It raises him higher in my esteem. I bet they swore also.

    2. Pol was taught to swear and screamed curse words at his funeral. The African Grey had to be ejected from the funeral ceremony when he started cursing in both English and Spanish, all learned from the president!

      Seems like Jackson had the last laugh!

    3. she heroically rescued the parrot as the fire was engulfing the White House. 

      This should be the story that everyone knows!