Seminar of August 28, 2003 given at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation,
Greene St., New York, NY 10012
A Woman Wants to Be Known
Hedda is not the compliant woman. She is a
Said Mr. Siegel:
A woman can feel the pretense and falsity
in men, and
some women will negotiate with it and go along with it, exploit it, but
some women will not. Hedda is sullen...and shows her displeasure.
Hedda wants to be honest, and is angry that she is forced to be
"But with all her forbiddingness," explained Mr. Siegel, "she feels
first of all, is spontaneous good will."
Lovborg comes to
the Tesman home.
At one point he and Hedda are alone and they talk. As he begins
tries to charm her: "...never [taking] his eyes off her, [he] says
and slowly: Hedda--Gabler!"
But Hedda gives
him a sharp, critical glance and responds "Ah, Hush!" "[She] felt",
Mr. Siegel, "there was... a vanity in Lovborg of a coruscating or
talks, there is
a loveliness and strength of mind as she tries to be exact about what
felt. "The large question here is," commented Mr. Siegel, "Is it
a bigger thing to know a person or to have sex with a person?" Lovborg
asks about their previous friendship.
Lovborg. Was there...not a spark--not a
tinge of love in
Hedda. I wonder if there was really.
For me it seems
as though we were two good comrades two really intimate friends.
[Smilingly] You, in particular, were uncommonly frank--extremely
L. It was you that made me so.
H. As I look back upon it all,
I think there
was really something beautiful, something enticing--something
comradeship which no one so much as dreamed of.
L. Yes, Hedda! There was,
made my confessions to you--told you things about myself I had told no
one else--how I had been out carousing for days and nights--day after
Oh, Hedda, what compelled me to speak so openly to you?
that when a
woman wants to understand a man, encourages our thought to be more
and clear, it makes for sweeping emotions, makes the woman
The feeling is organic. This is what I feel for my wife, Maureen
Butler, whom I love dearly for the good affect she's had on me, for
my mind. Lovborg feels this for Hedda, but he also has another
which I regret I've had. Mr. Siegel explained:
[Lovborg] is in a state of unacknowledged
injury to vanity.
It's a state of cultural astonishment. ..a woman was able to ask
enabling [him] to see his thoughts more clearly, present them more
Ibsen...[shows] Hedda Gabler [had] an intellectual influence on Lovborg
and that is what most males...can't stand.
Lovborg asks Hedda: "What was your motive?"
H. Do you think it quite incomprehensible
that a young
girl--when it can be done--without anyone knowing...--should be glad to
look, now and then, into a world which--
L. So that was it? Comradeship in
the thirst for
life. But why should not that, at any rate, have continued?
H. The fault was yours.
L. It was you that broke with me.
H. Yes, when our friendship was in
danger of becoming
some kind of intrigue. For shame, Eilert Lovborg, how could you
to outrage your--your trusting comrade?
What happened that made Hedda Gabler talk this
Mr. Siegel] I think that Lovborg got tired of [her] interest, her
desire to talk about the world as two people talking. That wasn't
for him and he wanted to put an end to this nonsense.
As Hedda tries to explain what her criticism was, he twists her words
a compliment to his ego.
L. [Looks at her a moment, whispers
Oh, Hedda! Hedda Gabler! Now I begin to see a hidden reason
beneath our comradeship! You and I! After all, then it was your
H. [Softly, with a sharp glance]
Believe nothing of the sort!
in my study of
Aesthetic Realism, I was seeing a woman I'll call Carol Stevens.
I liked the fact that instead of falling for my flattery, she
me. But I was also angry in a way I didn't understand. In a
class Mr. Siegel asked me: "Do you like women to have mind?"
EdF. I like it more.
ES. Do you feel a woman who cares for you will
accept the limits
you hand down? Right now quite a few men are tired of talking to a
and want to grab her...Grabbing is the desire to stop intellect from
in a woman because it's boring. You want her to become like a
bird. Isn't that what you want?
I answered, "Yes." And I remember his deep
kindness when he asked,
"Is it wise?"
Siegel always evoked
the best thing in me. Seeing a woman's mind as "boring", her
as an interference to my "happiness", was pure vanity, idiocy of the
degree. It made me miserable, ashamed and botched up every
And it made it impossible for me to have the joy I'm enormously
to feel now--to have friendships with women I respect and care for very
much, who have a beauty and honesty and power of mind. I love learning
from Ellen Reiss in the thrilling, culturally great classes she
And, I'm very glad I'm not the person I was when Mr. Siegel asked me:
do you see women?" and I answered, "I have trouble with women who have
16 years of marriage
I'm having a wonderful, romantic time learning about the world with
I find the combination in her of feminine beauty and ethics,
tenacity and sweetness, irresistible. I want to deserve Maureen's
love and I see knowing her, trying to meet her hopes, including being a
good critic of her, as an exciting quest, and this includes as I hold
body close to me!
You Capable of Being Resplendently Just to a Woman?"