6/03/2015

Postcolonial Voices: (deadline: 6/17)

Write an essay (250-300 words) based on ONE of the following questions; cite relevant texts to prove your points:


  1. In Katherine Mansfield's "Garden Party," what do we learn about Laura when she talks to the workmen about the placement of the marquee? How sure of herself is she? How does she demonstrate confused feelings toward the workmen? Describe Laura's thoughts and feelings when she visits the Scott family and views the corpse. Why does Laura think Scott's dead body is "wonderful, beautiful"? What has Laura learned by the end of the story?
  2. In Jean Rhys's "The Day They Burned the Books," why does Eddie say that he doesn't like daffodils? What do these flowers mean to both Eddie and the young narrator? How do they both feel about the English--and why? What do Mr. Sawyer's books represent to Mrs. Sawyer? Why does she want to destroy them?
  3. In Alice Munro's "Walker Brothers Cowboy," what is the narrator's attitude toward Nora? Compare her description of Nora with her description of her mother. How does our view of the father change when he visits Nora? How does the narrator's view change? Does she feel estrangement or a greater sense of fellowship?
  4. In Margaret Atwood's "Death by Landscape," referring to Lois's collection of paintings of the Canadian wilderness, the narrator says, "Looking at them fills her with a wordless unease." What makes Lois uneasy? What is her relationship to nature? Why is she both drawn to and repelled by nature? What does she see in the paintings?

4/08/2015

Mrs. Dalloway (deadline: 4/17)

Write an essay (250-300 words) based on ONE of the following questions; cite relevant texts to prove your points:

1. At one point we learn that "[Septimus] went to France to save an England which consisted almost entirely of Shakespeare's plays and Miss Isabel Pole in a green dress walking in a square" (1156). What does this suggest about Septimus's social and political views before he goes to war? In what way might these views have come into conflict with the realities of war that Septimus faced? How are notions of war, empire, and masculinity connected in Mrs. Dalloway?

2. Why does Septimus view Dr. Holmes and Sir William Bradshaw with distrust and even hostility?In what way does the creation of Septimus serve as Woolf's critique of the dominant ideology of British empire, its promotion of macho masculinity, the cult of the hero, and the subordination of women?

3. Woolf creates three incidents in Mrs. Dalloway to unify the otherwise disconnected and fluid thoughts of those passers-by: the motor car scene, the skywriting episode, and the beggar woman singing opposite Regent's Park Tube station. What are their significances? What types of thoughts go through people's minds when they witness these three incidents? What kind of symbolic meaning does each incident have?     

3/18/2015

Heart of Darkness (deadline: 3/27)

Write an essay (250-300 words) based on ONE of the following questions; cite relevant texts to prove your points:
  1. How is Brussels portrayed in Heart of Darkness? What kinds of imagery define the city? What does the description of the Company's people hint at Marlow's forthcoming journey into the jungle?
  2. Compare the description of Kurtz's "Intended" (1054-7) with the description of his African mistress (1044). What role does each woman serve in the narrative? Why does Marlow lie to Kurtz's "Intended" and tell her that "The last word [Kurtz] pronounced was--your name"?

"In the outer room the two women knitted black wool feverishly" (1005).
"They were dying slowly--it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now--nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation, lying confusedly in the greenish gloom" (1010).

*drawings courtesy Catherine Aanyango

6/14/2014

Postcolonial Voices: Nadine Gordimer, Derek Walcott, and Zadie Smith (deadline: 6/22)

Answer ONE of the following questions with 200-250 words; cite relevant texts to prove your point:
Source: http://african.culturextourism.com/introducing-south-african-arts-crafts/

1. ("The Moment before the Gun Went Off") What do you make of the fact that Lucas's mother is the daughter of parents who worked for the elder Van der Vyver?Although the story does not give us the details of the intimate relationship between the mother and Marais Van der Vyver, how might she describe it?

2. In "A Far Cry from Africa," what is the speaker's attitude toward colonial and anti-colonial violence? Does he condemn one side more than the other?

3. In "The Waiter's Wife," why does Samad wish that he could wear a sign around his neck that reads: "I AM NOT A WAITER. THAT IS, I AM A WAITER, BUT NOT JUST A WAITER"? What does this tell us about Samad, his past, and his adjustment to life in London? 

5/22/2014

Voices from New Zealand, Dominica, and Canada (deadline: 6/3)

Answer ONE of the following questions with 200-250 words; cite relevant texts to prove your point:

Tom Thomsons, "Sunset," 1915, National Gallery of Canada


1) What does Katherine Mansfield's "The Garden Party" tell us about class relations?

2) In Jean Rhys's "The Day They Burned the Books," daffodils and strawberries are loaded with symbolic meanings. What are they? Why does Eddie say that he doesn't like daffodils? What do these flowers mean to both Eddie and the young narrator? How do they both feel about the English, and why?

3) What is the narrator's attitude toward Nora ( in Munro's "Walker Brothers Cowboy")
? Compare her description of Nora with her description of her mother.

4) Referring to Lois's collection of painting of the Canadian wilderness, the narrator in Atwood's "Death by Landscape" says, "Looking at them fills her with a wordless unease." What makes Lois uneasy? What is her relationship to nature? Why is she both drawn to and repelled by nature? What does she see in the paintings?

5/06/2014

James Joyce and D. H. Lawrence (deadline: 5/15)

"Chrysanthemums," Claude Monet (1897)

Answer ONE of the following questions with 200-250 words; cite relevant texts to prove your point:

1) How does "Araby" convey a sense of desolation and gloom? What words, symbols, and motifs contribute to this atmosphere? Is the narrator's despair at the end of "Araby" confined to his frustration with the bazaar itself or does it extend to larger issues?




2) In "The Dead," what do Gabriel's thoughts about and interactions with other people tell us about his character? What words would you use to describe him? How comfortable is he with himself and with the world?

3) Describing Elizabeth, the narrator of "Odour of Chrysanthemums" says, "She was grateful to death, which restored the truth. And she knew she was not dead"(1279). What "truth" does Elizabeth discover?

4) Lawrence's fiction often concerns a relentless struggle for possession and dominance between men and women. How does this theme play out in "The Horse Dealer's Daughter"?

3/05/2014

BBC radio 4: Heart of Darkness

In this BBC radio broadcast, Melvyn Bragg discusses Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Written in 1899, Heart of Darkness is a fascinating fin de siecle critique of colonialism and man's greed. Conrad draws on his own adventures for the plot. The story's main narrator is Marlow, a merchant seaman who pilots a steamship upriver in what is largely assumed to be the Belgian Congo. He finds the scramble for Africa well underway, with Europeans desperately competing to make their fortunes from ivory. Marlow's journey takes him into the interior of this mysterious silent continent. After a dangerous passage he finally arrives at the company's most remote trading station. It is reigned over by Kurtz, a white man who seems to have become a kind of God figure to the local people. Marlow is fascinated by him, preferring his messianic ravings to the petty treachery and mercenarism of the other white traders. On the journey back, Kurtz dies, whispering “the horror, the horror”.

The interpretation of these words has perplexed readers ever since and the book has prompted a diverse range of readings from the psychoanalytical, that sees the novella as a metaphor for the journey into the subconscious, to feminist readings that examine how Conrad excludes female characters and focuses on the male consciousness.
Conrad wrote; “My task is, above all, to make you see”. So did he intend this novella to provoke a discussion of the immorality and rapacity at the centre of colonialism? Was he questioning the hero's welcome given to those famous explorers who came back from “civilising” Africa, as they saw it? Or was he, as the Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe put it, “guilty of preposterous and perverse arrogance in reducing Africa to the role of props for the break-up of one petty European mind?

With Susan Jones, Fellow and Tutor in English at St Hilda's College, Oxford;

Robert Hampson, Professor of Modern Literature at Royal Holloway, University of London; Laurence Davies, Honorary Senior Research Fellow in English at Glasgow University and Visiting Professor of Comparative Literature at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire