Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Final Exam: Monday @ 11:30

Final Exam: Monday @ 11:30 in our normal classroom

Be sure to bring two books: The Rape of the Lock and Lady Susan. These are the only books you are allowed to use in class, and you must use them on the essay questions.

The first part of the exam will be identification questions, and you have to rely on memory for these. The second part will be a choice of 3 essay questions--you only have to respond to 1. 

See you there! 

Monday, November 14, 2016

For Wednesday: Austen, Lady Susan, Letters 16-25

Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan in the recent film, "Love and Friendship"
Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: Though Lady Susan quickly wins over most of the Vernon household, including the lovelorn Reginald, how does Mrs. Vernon begin to see cracks in Susan's mask? How does she begin to show her true "naked" features?

Q2: In criticizing her own daughter's affection for Reginald, Lady Susan writes that "Artlessness will never do in love matters, and that girl is born a simpleton, who has it either by nature or affection." What does she mean by this? Why does Lady Susan always place 'art' above 'artlessness'? What does she fear her daughter will never understand, that will make her "ridiculed and despised by every man who sees her"?

Q3: Is Lady Susan supposed to be read more as a comedy or a tragedy? Most epistolary novels were tragic in nature, and contained perilous life and death stakes for their characters (The Coquette, Pamela, Clarissa). Is Austen showing us the danger that results when reputation hangs in the balance? Or is she, like Pope, merely making fun of the pretensions and plots of the upper classes? Use a specific scene or letter to illustrate how you read the novel.

Q4: In class on Monday, I suggested that Lady Susan is in competition with ever woman in society--including her own daughter. Where do we see this mother/daughter competition in these letters? Is Frederica aware of the competition herself, or is this simply a byproduct of Lady Susan's vanity and ego? 

Friday, November 11, 2016

For Monday: Austen, Lady Susan, Letters 1-15


For Monday: Austen, Lady Susan, Letters 1-15

* NOTE: Be sure to pay attention to who is writing the letter and who is receiving it. This would be important in real life, and is very important in figuring out how to read the letter (and the letter-writer’s intentions).

CHARACTERS (all of whom write one or more letters):

  • Lady Susan Vernon:  a widow, sister-in-law to Mrs. Vernon (she married her husband's brother). Has a daughter, Frederica, she is trying to get married to Sir James Martin.
  • Miss Vernon: Frederica, Lady Susan’s daughter.
  • Mrs. Johnson: Lady Susan’s intimate friend, with whom she shares her secret plans and love affairs. Her husband thinks Lady Susan a bad influence.
  • Mrs. Vernon: Married to Lady Susan’s brother; lives at Churchill where Lady Susan stays after being ejected from the Manwaring’s house. Her mother is Lady de Courcy and her brother is Mr. de Courcy.
  • Mr. de Courcy (Reginald): Mrs. Vernon’s brother, is anxious to meet Lady Susan after all the rumors he’s heard of her.
  • Sir Reginald de Courcy: Mr. de Courcy's and Mrs. Vernon's father.
  • Lady de Courcy: Sir Reginald's wife. 

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: In “To a Lady,” Pope writes, “artists! who can paint or write,/
To draw the naked is your true delight.” How might the letter-writing format allow Austen to depict the women in her novel “naked,” or without the masks they often wear in society? As a woman, is she also trying to shame women into acting better/more morally, or does she have a different agenda?

Q2: Lady Susan writes of her daughter, “I do not mean therefore that Frederica’s acquirements should be more than superficial, and I flatter myself that she will not remain long enough at school to understand anything thoroughly” (Letter 7). According to the book (so far), what qualities, talents, and behavior make an “educated” (or cultured) woman? Is Lady Susan herself educated? Related to this, what kind of education does she want for her daughter?

Q3: Is Lady Susan the antagonist of Lady Susan or a kind of anti-hero? Are we supposed to like her or loathe her? Does she come across as a Belinda or a Clarissa? Consider a passage such as this one: “There is an exquisite pleasure in subduing an insolent spirit, in making a person pre-determined to dislike, acknowledge one’s superiority” (Letter 7).

Q4: According to the letters of Mrs. Vernon and Mr. de Courcy, how has Lady Susan earned a bad reputation in society? What is she accused of doing, and can we tell whether or not any of this is true, or just gossipy slander? What might justifiably make Mrs. Vernon reluctant to welcome her into her home? 

Monday, November 7, 2016

For Wednesday: Pope, “To a Lady” (pp.138-147)


For Wednesday: Pope, “To a Lady” (pp.138-147)

Synopsis: Basically, this is a poem that responds to the comment made by a “lady” of Pope’s acquaintance, who said “Most women have no characters at all” (line 2). He is responding to her comment in a poem which examines many different types of women, each one identified by a mythological character that is an allegory for her demeanor (saintly, gossipy, selfish, witty, etc.). This also relates to painting, since many noblewomen were painted in mythological clothing and poses—this woman as Diana, this one as Helen, etc. Pages 138 through 144 satirize each type of woman, showing her faults and shortcomings much as she did with Belinda in The Rape of the Lock. On page 144, however, the poem shifts: he now explains how a woman should be “painted” in life, meaning, how she should act and present herself. Yet women are tricky creatures, who are much given to variety and contradiction, he claims. So he discusses the ideal woman—the “Lady” he is writing to—who combines the best qualities of men and women.

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: Examine ONE of the character types Pope explores in the first pages of the poem. How does he satirize her character? What is her chief flaw in his eyes? Why should women avoid this type of woman?

Q2: On page 144, he writes that “artists! who can paint or write/To draw the naked is your true delight.” Pope is not recommending that artists draw women without clothing, so what does he mean here? How should artists paint women “naked” instead of painting them in one of the various character types?

Q3: Pope also claims that “A woman’s seen in private life alone...Bred to disguise, in public ‘tis you hide” (144). What does seeing a woman in private show us that seeing her in public disguises? How does this highlight the chief vice of women, a vice that relates to Belinda and The Rape of the Lock?

Q4: On page 146, Pope offers advice for the ideal woman, who “ne’er answers till a husband cools,/Or, if she rules him, never shows she rules.” Is this advice contrary to what a Wife of Bath would say, or is it the same advice, translated into the 18th century? Is he admonishing women to be quiet and submissive, or is he teaching them how to have more discreet and intelligent command?



Saturday, November 5, 2016

For Monday: Pope, The Rape of the Lock, Canto 5


Synopsis of Canto 5: Belinda is still weeping over her lock, so Clarissa (the one who handed the Baron the scissors) interrupts to make a speech. Her speech is important (read carefully), but it draws no applause; instead, Belinda and Thalestris rouse themselves to attack the Baron and his men. A fierce battle ensues, where men are killed by frowns and resurrected by smiles, and where Belinda uses her deadly snuff box as a weapon (snuff is a kind of tobacco which was finely ground, kept in a box, and inhaled instead of smoked). However, the battle draws to a stalemate, especially as the Baron no longer has the lock. Magically, it ascended to the heavens where it is now a star, visible to anyone in London, where it will become the envy of women everywhere, and the cause of Belinda's immortal fame.

NOTE: No questions this time, but we'll do an in-class writing over the short Canto 5. Some things to pay attention to:

* Clarissa's Speech--read it carefully and more than once; do you think she's an object of satire here? Or is she the 'straight woman' here, expressing Pope's own thoughts?

* What kind of things end up on the moon? Look carefully at this bizarre collection of artifacts. What do they all have in common? 

* What kind of immortality is Pope bestowing upon Belinda/Arabella at the very end of the poem? Is she famous for her beauty? For her stupidity? Or for simply being a character in an immortal poem? Is she the star--or is the poem itself? 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

For Friday: Pope, The Rape of the Lock, Cantos 3-4


Synopsis of Canto 3: The action opens in ritzy Hampton Court; there, gossips have gathered to chat, and “at every word a reputation dies.” Here also Belinda is having a card game (ombre) with the Baron, and the card game is described on pages 55-58 like an epic battle, with the various kings, queens, and knights assaulting, retreating, and dying on the “velvet plain” (the card table). The Baron seizes a moment in the climax of the game to seize Belinda’s precious locks, assisted by Clarissa, who gives him a deadly weapon (a pair of scissors). He cuts them off and she shrieks hideously while he glowers in evil triumph.

Synopsis of Canto 4: Crushed by the weight of her tragedy, Belina is insensible. So Umbriel, one of the spirits, goes down to the underworld (echoing The Odyssey, where Odysseus visits Achilles in death) to seek an audience with the Queen of Spleen. For 18th century audiences, spleen is a substance in the body which makes people moody, depressed, sullen, and even angry. In the poem, it’s a place of nonsense and irrationality, where men get pregnant and “maids turned bottles, call aloud for corks.” Umbriel convinces the Queen of Spleen to give her a bag full of fears, sorrows, passions, and rage, which she brings back to Belinda to assist her in the battle against the Baron. The Amazon, Thalestris, is also trying to rouse Belinda’s fighting spirits, reminding her that she will be the laughing stock of all London. She also tries to convince the Baron to release the lock, but he refuses. Belinda is distraught and cries, “Oh hadst thou, cruel! been content to seize/Hairs less in sight, or any hairs but these!”

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: While Pope’s initial target in his satire is Arabella Fermor, how can we tell he is more specifically targeting upper-class society? How does he satirize the behaviors, customs, or ideas of the English aristocracy in Cantos III and IV?

Q2: Though it’s very amusing to compare a card game to an actual war, or the rape of a lock with the abduction of a queen, why might Pope suggest that in his society, such comparisons actually make sense? That is, despite the humor, why might a noblewoman actually lament the loss of her lock, or the loss of a card game? What are the stakes to losing these in 18th century society, according to the poem?

Q3: Some critics/readers have suggested that the Queen of Spleen and her court represents an attack on women. Do you find this passage misogynistic? Is he making fun of the affectations and behaviors of women of his society? Or is he merely poking fun at certain types of women? And clues to tell one way or another?


Q4: Why does Ariel give up protecting Belinda’s lock in Canto 3? What does he see that makes him abandon the field and consign Belinda to her dreadful fate? 

Friday, October 28, 2016

For Monday: The Rape of the Lock, Cantos 1-2


NOTE: If you missed class, see the post below with a handout about The Rape of the Lock. Also note that we do have class on Monday, but not on Wednesday; I moved Paper #2 back one class period. 

A Brief Synopsis of Canto 1-2

Canto 1:
Begins with the standard epic invocation to the Muse (see handout below); then the scene opens on Belinda's bedroom, where she wakes up at noon to the barking of her dog, Shock. She rings for the servant and tries to get ready for the day while all around her, her guardian spirits are flitting about. These Sylphs are the spirits of former gentlewomen who died, and now guard the daily life of rich, insipid noblewomen. The chief sylph is Ariel, who fears that a terrible fate is about to meet her mistress--and from the worst enemy of all, man! Meanwhile, Belinda goes to her "temple," her toilet--which means her dressing table (not our toilet)--and Pope describes her various makeups and perfumes in the terms of a hero arming for battle.

Canto 2:
Belinda is walking out about the town, and the entire world looks on her smiling face, which "shine[s] on all alike." She is the perfect mask of nobility and beauty, hiding her true nature, but attracting even "infidels" with its beauty. In the back of her head are two fashionably locks of hair, neatly arranged for everyone to see. A Baron has made it his mission to cut off these locks, and builds an Altar to see his plan through (a mock-epic touch); his Altar is built of very common place items--French novels (always about love, and some were pornographic), women's garters, gloves, and "the trophies of his former loves." Ariel sees this and marshals the other sylphs to her defense, just as a hero would at the beginning of a great battle. He explains all the terrible things that could happen to Belinda: she might lose her virginity, or break her China jar (teacup); she might lose her honor, or stain her dress; or she might lose her heart, or a necklace (note how every truly bad thing is compared to something small and insignificant, but to Ariel both are of equal importance). So the various sylphs take their positions around Belinda, while Ariel decides to guard her dog, Shock. He then warns the spirits that a terrible fate will meet the sylphs who fail in their duty to Belinda. 

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: Discuss a passage where Pope employs mock-epic language or imagery to describe a relatively insignificant moment. How does he make the mundane seem mighty or momentous? 

Q2: Somewhat related to the above, if Arabella was reading this and realized that she was Belinda, where might she be offended by the portrayal? Would she see this as a good humored 'roast' of her situation, or is this more like Tom Jones, where the author means to satirize social types like her, full of sham morality? 

Q3: According to the poem, who are the sylphs and how are they made? What kind of woman in life becomes a Salamander, or a Gnome? How might these descriptions also have a satirical edge to them?

Q4: Pope loves to play with difficult syntax and mirroring language, such as this passage in Canto 1: "Where with wigs, with sword-knots sword/knots strive,/Beaux banish beaux, and coaches coaches drive" (47). How can you translate this passage into modern English? What is he trying to say here and why do you think he makes it dense rather than transparent?