Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Final Exam Part #1

Final Exam (part #1)

Your final exam will be 25% comprehensive, and 75% on Northanger Abbey.  The comprehensive part will consist of several quotations from the various books we’ve read (including Austen): you will have to identify each passage and explain its significance to the work as a whole.  This should be quite easy as long as you’ve read and you have a halfway decent ear for the “sound” of each author in class. 

The Northanger Abbey portion will be a series of short essay questions using ONE of the following essays from the back of the Norton Critical Edition of the novel:
·      Lee Erickson, “The Economy of Novel Reading” (pp.325-338)
·      Narelle Shaw, “Free Indirect Speech and Jane Austen’s 1816 revision of Northanger  Abbey” (pp.339-348)
·      Joseph Litvak, “The Most Charming Man in the World” (pp.348-357)

Be sure to read one of these essays prior to the final exam, though you may bring your book to the exam.  You will use the essay to answer the questions, and I will expect you to quote from the essay AND the novel to support your answers.  The trick here is to see how well you can apply second hand research to a primary text, while balancing your own views on the work itself.

REMEMBER, the final exam is on Friday, December 12th @ 9:00.  Bring your copy of Northanger Abbey (I don’t have extra copies to loan you) as well as lots of paper to write with.  See you then! 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

For Monday: Gilbert and Gubar, "Shut Up In Prose : Gender and Genre in Jane Austen's Juvenilia (pp.277-293)

For Monday, be sure to read the landmark essay (a chapter from their book The Madwoman in the Attic) by Gilbert and Gubar, "Shut Up in Prose: Gender and Genre in Jane Austen's Juvenelia."  After reading it, respond to the following question to launch our discussion on Monday:

What does it mean for a female character to be "shut up in prose" as they argue Catherine becomes in the novel?  In what ways do the conventions of writing, and the narratives of novel-writing themselves, allow others (esp. men) to "trap" Catherine?  Related to this, how does this article argue that Henry Tilney, for all his good qualities, is somewhat complicit in Catherine's entrapment?  How do the authors want us to understand what it meant to be a woman living in the 'narratives' of her culture in the 1790's?  

Creative Assignment--due in-class on December 3rd!

Creative Assignment/Presentation: DUE in-class December 3rd

For this short assignment, I want you to write a short piece in the style of a famous author or a famous genre of literature (as Austen did with Ann Radcliffe and/or Gothic Literature).  To do this, pick ONE of the following prompts below:
·         Write a “modern” work in the style of an older author: for example, Jane Austen writing about Facebook romance; Chaucer writing about televangelists; the Beowulf poet writing about Afghanistan or Iraq, etc. 
·         Use a modern author to write about one of the periods in class: for example, how would J.K. Rowling write Beowulf?  Or Stephanie Meyer write Northanger Abbey
·         Re-write one of the works from class from a different modern genre: for example, Northanger Abbey as a real horror novelRobinson Crusoe as a fantasy novel!  A Midsummer Night’s Dream as science fiction! 
·         Write part of the unwritten sequel to a famous work: a missing Canterbury Tale!  The prequel to Beowulf

Your paper should be 2-3 pages (though you can do more) which tries to write in the style of an actual author or genre.  You can reinterpret the original (you don’t have to follow the plot), but make sure you stay true to the spirit of the piece, and the language of the original.  Try to write language that sounds like Chaucer, or Shakespeare, or Austen.  You don’t have to write a stand-alone story, either; this could be Chapter 2, or 12, or 50 of a hypothetical novel.  The important thing is mimicking or satirizing the original in some way that is recognizable to others fans of the author/genre.  Try to figure out what makes the language of Shakepeare, Defoe, or Austen “tick.” 

FOR EXAMPLE, remember how Austen writes a mini-Gothic novel in Chapter 22 (Book 2) of Northanger Abbey, complete with references to stormy nights, locked chests, mysterious documents, and distant groans.  Even her writing style changes, becoming less satiric and witty, and instead echoing the familiar Gothic framework of mystery and terror.  Ultimately, we learn that Austen is doing this satirically, since Catherine’s imagination has run away with her and all she finds are some old laundry lists.  However, we believed it because she knew the hallmarks of Gothic fiction—she was a fan.  Write about something or someone you are a fan of so we can see your admiration (even through satire). 

REQUIREMENTS: 2-3 pages at least (you can do more), and I want to read many of these in class.  You don’t have to read it, but I strongly encourage you to do so because it’s fun and it’s a great way to end the class.  On December 1st we will be reading these, and there are PRIZES for the top three papers (the class will vote).  Good luck and please try to have fun with this.  As long as you give it an honest attempt you’ll get full credit—it’s meant as a nice, light way to end the semester.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

For Friday: Finish Northanger Abbey

From the BBC adaptation of Northanger Abbey
For Friday: Finish Northanger Abbey!  (or get close)

Answer TWO of the following…

1. Examine Henry’s speech which follows his discovery of Catherine’s snooping: “If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to—Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained.  What have you been judging us from?”  How do you read this passage?  Is it shocking her into an awareness of her overworked sensibility and imagination?  Or does this speech have ironic implications that only the narrator (and reader) can appreciate?  Does English society “prepare us for such atrocities”?  

2. Though this is a satire, to an extent, of a gothic novel, how is the reality of Northanger Abbey true to the ideas and characters of a gothic novel?  What horrors really do lurk within Northanger Abbey, and why isn’t Catherine initially able to see them?  In other words, why might we call this a ‘realistic’ Gothic novel?  

3. In the last chapters, we get an interesting view of life in the Morland home, particularly the interaction between Catherine and her mother.  How does Austen depict this domestic environment?  Do you feel Austen’s portrait is sentimental or satirical?  In other words, does she want us to relate to Catherine’s world, or is it as small and foolish as Bath was?  

4. In the introduction to the Penguin edition of Northanger Abbey, the 19th century scholar Marilyn Butler writes, “Austen’s compact with her readers is never puritanical.  Traditional stories end with satisfied desire; surprisingly often this encompasses the desire for goods.  Happiness comes in Northanger Abbey as a sitting-room with a window down to the floor, and a view of apple trees.”  Is Butler suggesting that marital bliss is still tied to class and possession (like Crusoe)?  Despite Catherine’s sensibility, does Austen ultimately reward her heroine with a sensible match—a man of property and comfort?  Do we think she will continue to thrive intellectually in this setting—or was that not the point of Catherine’s education?  

Saturday, November 15, 2014

For Monday: Nothanger Abbey, Chs.16-22

For Monday: Austen, Northanger Abbey, Chs.16-22 (pp.88-124)

Answer TWO of the following...

1. In Chapter “21, we encounter Austen’s spot-on imitation of a Gothic novel, complete with many of the hallmarks of the genre from works like The Castle of Otranto and The Mysteries of Udolpho (we’ll discuss these works in class on Monday).  How do we read this chapter in particular—as a parody or a legitimate attempt to conjure up a sense of horror for her readers?  Does the tone of a giggling narrator lie behind this, or is Austen allowing herself, audaciously, to write like a Mrs. Radcliffe? 

2. How do you feel the Catherine/Henry romance is progressing in these chapters?  Is it a dance of mutual respect and admiration, or does he appear more condescending and dominating?  Consider the conversation in Chapter 20: is he mocking her Gothic sensibility or using it to woo her more effectively?  In other words, does he want to correct her taste or share it with her? 

3. Do you think Austen is more critical toward the women in the book than the men?  Consider the portrait of Isabella that emerges in Chapter 18, when Isabella remarks, “A little harmless flirtation or so will occur, and one is often drawn on to give more encouragement than one wishes to stand by...What one means one day, you know, one might not mean the next.  Circumstances change, opinions alter” (99).   Why might Austen have more of a bone to pick with her own sex? 

4. Consider the passage in Chapter 22 when Henry is praising Catherine’s love for a hyacinth: “And though the love of a hyacinth may be rather domestic, who can tell, the sentiment once raised, but you may in time come to love a rose?” (119).  What is he trying to teach Catherine here, or perhaps, what is he hoping she has learned to appreciate/admire in this chapter? 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

For Friday: Northanger Abbey, Chs.10-15, (pp.46-87 in Norton)

For Friday: Austen, Northanger Abbey, Chs. 10-15 (pp.46-87)

Answer TWO of the following...

1. Chapter 14 is a delightful discussion of books and taste, in which narrator readily admits that “It was no effort to Catherine to believe that Henry Tilney could never be wrong.  His manner might sometimes surprize, but his meaning must always be just” (Norton 79).  How are we supposed to read their budding romance in these chapters?  Is it truly a match of equals, or is Henry somewhat condescending towards her as a ‘weak’ woman?  How are we supposed to read/appreciate this match? 

2. How does Catherine continue to mistake fiction with reality, and allow her aesthetic views to color her personal decisions and beliefs?  In other words, how does she expect life to ‘read’ like a novel, and how does Austen satirize (however lightly) her views in doing so?

3. In what way does Austen distinguish Henry Tilney from the other characters in Bath (Thrope, Mrs. Allen, Isabella, etc.)?  Is he, despite his sex, closer to the voice and wit of the narrator (who we assume to be Austen)?  How do we feel the narrator, herself, feels about him (besides the fact that he is only “very near” being handsome)? 

4. A consistent theme in Austen’s novels is the entrance of a young woman into society.  However, such a rite of passage requires experienced chaperones to guide her on her way.  How does Austen satirize the idea of a young woman’s education—and in this case, into the social wilds of Bath?  What dangers or missteps does she encounter that were all too real for women in Austen’s time?  

Monday, November 10, 2014

For Wednesday: Northanger Abbey, Chs.1-9

For Wednesday: Austen, Northanger Abbey, Chs.1-9 (pp.5-46)

Answer TWO of the following:

1. How does the narrator defend and/or satirize novel reading throughout the opening chapters of Northanger Abbey?  Consider that novels in the late 18th century had become primarily the domain of women, chiefly works of a Gothic/romantic nature such as those Catherine and Isabella discuss in Chapter 6.  Does the narrator approve of these works in general, or does she see them as the fruits of low culture, betraying a lack of taste and judgment? 

2. Why is Austen at such pains to paint Catherine as a character who “was often inattentive, and occasionally stupid” (Norton 6)?  What novel-writing conventions does she seem to be responding to here and throughout the opening chapters?  How do we know that satire is behind these characterizations?

3. Considering that Northanger Abbey is written at the tail-end of the 18th century (around the 1790’s), how might it mark an advance in style, characterization, or narration on earlier novels such as Robinson Crusoe (1719) or Tom Jones (1749)?  Consider how she is obviously writing in their tradition while expanding and refining certain aspects of the novel.  Does being a woman change what she writes—and how she writes it? 

4. In Chapter 3, Henry Tilney jokingly informs Catherine that “I have hitherto been very remiss, madam, in the proper attentions of a partner here; I have not yet asked you how long you have been in Bath; whether you were ever here before; whether you have been at the Upper Rooms, the theatre, and the concert; and how you like the place altogether” (14). Based on this scene and others in Bath, what kind of environment is Bath?  Why might Austen be drawn to satirize such a place in her novel?  Additionally, why might it form the ideal microcosm of English society in one convenient setting?  (By the way, Austen hated Bath!).  

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

For Wednesday/Friday: Fielding's Tom Jones

For the rest of this week, I want to watch the BBC adaptation of Henry Fielding's massive--and massively funny--1749 novel, Tom Jones.  The movie will help us appreciate the satirical aesthetic and social critique prevalent in the 18th century which Jane Austen adopts in her early novel, Northanger Abbey (1798, pub.1818).

Additionally, I want you to read the first 30 or so pages of Tom Jones as a companion to the film, so you can see his style and satire (I will provide this in class on Wednesday).  The questions below won't be due until Monday, so watch the film this week and read the pages over the next few days.  Hope you enjoy it--Tom Jones is one of my very favorite novels and can make me cry with laughter (can't promise the same for you!).

Answer TWO of the following...

1. How does Tom Jones compare to Robinson Crusoe as a character?  While Tom Jones is more upper class (though illegitimate) than Crusoe, how do both flirt with conventional ideas of morality that might make them unusual protagonists?  Additionally, how might Fielding have different intentions with his protagonist than Defoe?

2. Writing in the Second Chapter of Tom Jones, Fielding admits, "I intend to digress, through this whole history, as often as I see occasion; of which I am myself a better judge than any pitiful critic whatever" (33).  Why does he adopt this unusual style of narration in the novel?  How is this different than how Defoe wrote Robinson Crusoe, and how does it affect the way we read/experience Tom Jones (also, how did the film try to capture this narration)?

3. Though Fielding is writing of 'real' people who might have actually lived in 18th century England, how is the story of Tom Jones also quite allegorical, discussing types rather than fully developed human beings?  What lesson might he be trying to impart to the audience through these types (and stereotypes)?

4. Compare the adaptation of the book to a specific scene in the opening chapters: what qualities/characteristics were they able to capture?  What things were avoided or left out?  Why might a novel (such as this one) sometimes resist the art of adaptation?  How could this explain why so few 18th century novels become films?