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Carol Ann Duffy: The World's Wife

14. Mrs Quasimodo

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the fourteenth poem in the collection, ‘Mrs Quasimodo', focusing in particular on: (i) the figure of Quasimodo in Victor Hugo's 1831 novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame; (ii) the themes of sexual jealousy and revenge; (iii) the graphic description of ugliness ("You pig. You stupid cow. You fucking buffalo"); (iv) the contrast between the ordinary and the sublime, and the mapping of these concepts onto physically lower and higher spaces, i.e. the square in front of the cathedral and the cathedral's bell-tower; (v) the strangely geometric description of Quasimodo's face with its "tetrahedron nose"; (vi) the way that Mrs Quasimodo gains strength from her destruction of the bells, and the way this contrasts with how other women in the collection so far have reacted to their men; and (v) the meaning of the poem's shocking ending.


In this course, Professor John McRae (University of Nottingham) explores Carol Ann Duffy’s 1999 collection, 'The World's Wife'. After a brief introduction to the collection as a whole, the course continue with a read-through and analysis of each of the thirty poems in the collection, one by one.


John McRae is Special Professor of Language in Literature Studies and Teaching Associate in the School of English at Nottingham University, and holds Visiting Professorships in China, Malaysia, Spain and the USA. He is co-author of The Routledge History of Literature in English with Ron Carter, and also wrote The Language of Poetry, Literature with a Small 'l' and the first critical edition of Teleny by Oscar Wilde and others.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

McRae, J. (2020, April 28). Carol Ann Duffy: The World's Wife - Mrs Quasimodo [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

McRae, J. "Carol Ann Duffy: The World's Wife – Mrs Quasimodo." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 28 Apr 2020,