Monday, November 20, 2017

Final Paper: A Novel Conversation

Choose ONE of the following Options to write a 4-5 page paper (double spaced), using BOTH novels as support. You can use one more than the other, but each work needs to factor into your response, even if you use one as a “naysayer” to the other. Quote passages and close read them as part of your conversation—don’t merely summarize the plot and move on. An essay that doesn’t demonstrate close reading and an understanding of the text will not score very highly, so be careful!


Option #1: “And you must be aware, Fanny, that it is every young woman’s duty to accept such a very unexceptionable offer as this” (Austen 307).

Who should a woman marry in the 18th/early 19th century? What does it mean to make a “good marriage” or a “bad” one? How can a woman learn to see the difference, and what should guide her in accepting a proposal? Can ‘selfish’ interests interfere, or should it be solely in the interest of the family? Use Austen and Johnson to respond to this question, and imagine what they might be trying to teach young women of the time about choosing a spouse.

Option #2: “To indulge in the power of fiction, and send imagination out upon the wing, is often the sport of those who delight too much in silent speculation…The mind dances from scene to scene, unites all pleasures in all combinations, and riots in all delights which nature and fortune, with all their bounty, cannot bestow.” (Johnson 97)

What is the danger—or virtue—of an education spent reading novels? Why might fiction lead young people down false paths or philosophical dead ends? Is Fanny like the Astrologer, living her life too much in books to relate to the real world ideas and passions around her? Is Austen trying to warn young women away from Fanny’s example? Or would Austen disagree with Johnson’s advice, finding novels the very best antidote to the illusions and advertisements of society? Can “sensibility” be carried too far...or are novels the only way to truly obtain it?

Option #3: “Here was again a want of delicacy and regard for others which had formerly struck and disgusted her...How evidently was there a gross want of feeling and humanity where his own pleasure was concerned” (Austen 303).

What does it mean to be “good” or “virtuous” in life? How can a novel, through a sympathetic hero/heroine, teach young people to distinguish between virtue and vice? And how can antagonists (or others) teach us to see that—quoting Shakespeare—“all that glitters is not gold”? Do Austen and Johnson agree on the universal virtues that young people should strive towards? Or do Fanny and Rasselas ultimately embark on every different moral adventures?  (Remember that Johnson says that modern literature merely repeats the classics of old...does Austen agree and prove this in MP?). 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

For Monday: Austen, Mansfield Park, Book 3: Chs.31-18 (or Chs. 1-7)

Keep reading for next Monday and find another passage to write about for class. Remember, too, some of the ideas we discussed in class on Friday, particularly the Romantic concepts of sensibility, and to a lesser extent, the sublime. Does Henry Crawford (and others) truly prize Fanny's sensibility and is that what gives her worth apart from other women on the marriage market? Is Henry, himself. a man of "sense" as he claims? Can Fanny teach Mary sensibility--or is she too "insensible" to learn? And why else might Fanny be Austen's most "Romantic" heroine?

See you on Monday...

Thursday, November 16, 2017

For Friday: Play Catch up!

Keep reading Mansfield Park for Friday, but mostly I want everyone to catch up to at least the beginning of Book 3. No required page numbers beyond that. You don't have to write a response today (don't remember if I told you to do so), but if you do, I'll simply credit it to your account. :) 

We'll do some talk about Austen and her world to help supplement our reading of the novel. Then we'll make a mad dash to finish the book in the next week (even though we only have one class next week.

See you tomorrow...

Monday, November 13, 2017

For Wednesday: Austen, Mansfield Park, Chs. 25-31 (Finish Book Two)

As before, just bring a passage to class with a brief discussion of why you felt this passage was important, significant, or interesting in some way. And I promise, I'll give you a reading break soon...just keep at it a bit more! :) 

As an added bonus, here's some excerpts from Austen's lettters about Mansfield Park. In general, she writes very little about her own work--or, if she wrote more, they were lost in the letter that her sister Cassandra destroyed after her death. But here are a few comments about the book (the Henry mentioned below is her brother, not Henry Crawford(!) ):

"Henry has this moment said that he liked my M.P. better and better; he is in the third volume. I believe now he has changed his mind as to foreseeing the end; he said yesterday, at least, that he defied anybody to say whether [Henry Crawford] would be reformed, or would forget Fanny in a fortnight" (March 5, 1814)

"Henry has finished Mansfield Park, and his approbation has not lessened. He found the last half of the last volume extremely interesting." (March 9, 1814).

"In addition to their standing claims on me they admire Mansfield Park exceedingly. Mr.Cooke says "it is the most sensible novel he ever read," and the manner in which I treat the clergy delights them very much" (June 14, 1814). 

"Mrs. Augusta B owned that she thought Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice downright nonsense, but expected to like Mansfield Park better, and having finished the first volume, flattered herself that she had got through the worst...Mrs. Lefroy preferred [Emma] to Mansfield Park, but like Mansfield Park the least of all [her novels]" (1815). 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

For Monday: Austen, Mansfield Park, Chs. 16 to (Book II) Ch.6

Remember that there are is no response due on Monday; instead, we'll do an in-class response based on a specific passage. Consider some of the ideas we've been discussing throughout the week, such as:

* the education of women, particularly daughters

* the relationship of mothers and daughters (and to a lesser extent, fathers and children)

* ideas of propriety and morals: what does good and 'right' conduct mean? 

* Being natural vs. artificial--acting vs. being (particularly when theater is involved!)

* feminism vs. domesticity: what role does Austen champion for the modern woman? 

* Fanny's character: Rasselas or Imlac? (or neither?)

* Mary and Henry Crawford: dashing anti-heroes or simply bad guys?

* The novel of manners: do characters grow and develop in Austen's novels or serve as allegories (as in Johnson)? Can Henry Crawford change? Become more complex? Can Edmund? Can Fanny? 

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

For Friday: Austen, Mansfield Park, Chapters 8-16

As before, no questions, but choose a short passage which you can discuss briefly in a response (and bring it to class). I want to make sure yuo catch the 'little moments' and not get too lost in the thickets of the plot and the characters. It's a big novel and easy to get lost it! 

See you on Friday...

Monday, November 6, 2017

For Wednesday: Austen, Mansfield Park. Chapters 1-7

Okay, we're done with the 4 questions, since I want you to focus on just reading as much of the book as possible. It's a longer book, so do your best to get as close to the required reading as possible. 

However, instead of questions, I want you to do a short response each day (unless we have an in-class writing) where you identify a short passage you found interesting and explain why. You don't have to quote the entire passage, but you might say,

"In Chapter 5, there's an interesting passage where Henry Crawford tells his sister and Mrs. Grant that "An engaged woman is always more agreeable than a disengaged" (43). This is an important moment because...

You don't have to write much, just a short paragraph; I'll use these to start discussion and to build some of the main themes in class. If you're not sure what to look for, consider some of the following themes as you read:

* The education of women
* The marriage market
* Relations between husbands and wives
* Relations between different family members, esp. brothers & sisters
* Gossip 
* Satirical narration

Good luck and we'll talk more on Wednesday!