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 

Questions for Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (deadline: 3/19)


Answer one of the following questions with 200-250 words, cite relevant examples to prove your points:

     1) What does Kurtz represent to Marlow? Why does Marlow want to meet Kurtz? What does Marlow learn from his meeting with Kurtz?

      2) Explore the concept of “savagery” in this story. Who and what constitutes savagery? What does it mean to be civilized?

      3) Discuss Heart of Darkness as a quest narrative. In what way is this a journey into the self? What does it mean to encounter the “heart of darkness”? How do the African people and landscape reflect Marlow’s state of mind?

6/12/2013

Two women writers: Katherine Mansfield and Jean Rhys (deadline: 6/22)

Answer one of the following questions with 200-250 words:
1) Why are the two sisters in "The Daughters of the Late Colonel" unable to deal with the challenges of the everyday life on their own? Why don't they have the ability to make decisions for themselves? What causes their indecisiveness and child-like timidity?

2) "Class" is a central issue that is been contemplated in Mansfield's "The Garden Party." How does Mansfield criticize the middle-class gentility and its pretentious snobbishness in the story?

3) In Rhys' "The Day They Burned the Books," the narrator is a white girl who only partially understands the painful entanglements of class, race, and cultural prejudice.  How are these issues reflected in the story?

5/15/2013

An Interview with Ireland's first female president (deadline: 5/23)

We have spent two weeks discussing Ireland, her relationship with the UK, and the lives and works of  two famous Irish writers--James Joyce and W. B. Yeats. In the following link, you can listen to an interview with Ireland's first female president and a former United Nations high commissioner--Mary Robinson. In this interview, she talks about Ireland's social class gap, gender imbalance, Catholicism, the transformation of Ireland, and her advocation for "climate justice."  Listen to the story and write down anything that inspires or interests you in this interview.