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Exam confusion, begone!

For the third part of the exam, the essay question, I will provide you with FOUR prompts/themes. Choose ONE, choose TWO texts, and then go to town.

Speak about plot (a little is okay), structure, style, genre, point of view, memorable diction, crucial literary elements, relevant scenes, ideas from class, etc. Verbatim quotation is not necessarily required, but it would behoove you to know that Bartleby says, “I would prefer not to,” and not, “No thanks.” The details matter, of course, of course, of course.

Jonathan

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The exam format

Section I: Identification
30 minutes (worth 20%)
Choose 4 out of 6
Authors who may show up: anyone from Hawthorne to Twain

Section II: Close reading
40 minutes (worth 40%)
Choose 2 out of 4
Authors who will show up: Dickinson, Zitkala-Ša, Norris, Gilman

Section III: Essay
50 minutes (worth 40%)
Choose a text from Column A and a text from Column B, and write one comparative essay
Column A:  3/4 of the longer prose works (Poe, Douglass, Fern, or Twain)
Column B: “Circumstance,” “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” Leaves of Grass

For the whole exam, you won’t need to know Irving and Apess.

Jonathan

PS: Your essays will be left in a box outside Watson 403 later this week, if you care to nab them. I’ll also have them at the exam.

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Additional office hour

Hi,

Until the second essay is due, I’ll be holding an office hour before the Thursday lecture. Come chat about Fanny Fern, puzzle over the essay topics, or just think out loud in front of someone.

Thursday, November 3rd, 10th, and 17th.
2:30-3:30pm in Watson 403.

Jonathan

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Circumstances

So, Spofford:

As M pointed out, lulling the beast misidentifies the real threat and is a distraction. This has much to do with how Spofford confuses the literal and the figurative.

As L pointed out, the protagonist sings in order to appease the beast. She’s not singing for herself, but finding her voice in the throes of intense opposition. The experience of captivity is rich and Eden-like.

As D pointed out, pacifying, Christianizing, and then shooting the beast could represent the European encounter with aboriginal peoples.

But then how do we read the panther? As a literal animal instantly made metaphorical (beast, Indian Devil) and then potentially made allegorical (an uncivilized heathen in need of the word of God or, when that fails, a bullet)?

And the ending? Is this a cringe-worthy and racist ending? On the one hand, this is a revenge of the literal. But on the other hand, those responsible for destruction are only partly present: they are synecdoches (“Tomahawk and scalping-knife,” walking weapons, or a “foot-print,” the trace of a person). Have any of you seen the film American History X? Think of that ending: what happens when very particular circumstances end up reaffirming stereotypes?

If Apess’ essay hopes to provide “a looking-glass” (that is, a mirror) “for the white man,” then what sort of looking-glass is being used in Spofford’s story? In order for us to consider this story an allegory for “female creativity” (from the intro), then one has to be ready to distort the other in a variety of ways. Can we ever get around this?

Look at how nefarious and troubling authorship is…

Jonathan

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Linus

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Linus and the blanket have a metonymic relationship. Their relationship is based on contact and nearness, and not on comparison. The blanket is neither a simile nor a metaphor for Linus himself.  Further, the blanket itself is a metonym for security, comfort, fear, anxiety, and so on. See?

We know that Linus and blanket are inextricably bound together as a unit. Only because we have come to associate Linus with his blanket over time could we conceivably refer to Linus as “the blanket kid.” That would then be synecdoche, where part of a unit stands in for the whole unit. However, your saying “the blanket kid” outside of the context of the Peanuts comics will not necessarily have the intended effect of suggesting “Linus” to your listeners. Surely, there are other kids with blankets.

Part of the project of Ruth Hall is to alter the metonymic, cultural associations of “woman.” Instead of self-conquest, Fern substitutes self-expression. Notice that the association of woman with motherhood remains.

Jonathan

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Figurative language

Simile: comparison using “like” or “as.”

Metaphor: comparison without the signal “like” or “as,” and therefore a little harder to spot. Examples: the narrator of “Rip Van Winkle” calling Dame Van Winkle a “termagant” or Douglass using “mental darkness” to mean forced ignorance. Metaphor stresses identity over mere similarity.

Metonymy: a relationship by contact, touch, nearness, adjacency, proximity. Look out for realistic descriptions. Here’s the opening of The Scarlet Letter: “A throng of bearded men . . . intermixed with women . . . was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes” (45). It was brought up in class that “Washington” is an example of metonymy. Yes! When you say “Washington,” you mean to suggest a series of associations, such as party politics, ideology, deadlock, corruption, aloofness, and so on. Focus on the descriptive version for the quiz (wink, wink).

Synecdoche: a part-whole relationship, such as Douglass using “sails” for ships, or a container-contained relationship, such as Rip Van Winkle accusing the “flagon” instead of the ale for his troubles.

Irony: perhaps the hardest to spot because often an entire situation is an ironic situation. Irony is not always restricted to a noun. The sentence might be your best bet. What you are looking for: hypocrisy, discrepancy, gap. Between: appearance/reality, action/intention. In Douglass’ Narrative: “Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy” (9). Or from Ruth Hall, we see the gap between saying one thing and meaning another: “I remember she gave me (poor dear!) a five-dollar note, instead of a two; but that was a thing I had n’t the heart to harass her about at such a time. I respected her grief too much, ma’am” (71). Respect, pah!

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Odd smiles and gesticulations

An adaptation of the Flying Dutchman scene in Arthur Gordon Pym (chapter 10, pages 99-104).

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