Sunday, November 29, 2015

Article on Filmed Versions of Pride and Prejudice

NOTE: The questions for Monday are below

For those of you who are inspired to watch a filmed version of Pride and Prejudice, here's a recent article which argues the merits of each version, though decidedly comes out in favor of the 1995 version (which we watched portions of in class). If you can dig it up, there's also a great early 80's version which despite looking quite dated has great acting, and a more unfortunate 30's version with Laurence Olivier as Darcy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

For Monday: Austen, Pride and Prejudice, pp.176-End (or close--we'll spend the entire week on it)

NOTE: Try to finish the book for Monday, though we'll spend at least another day discussing it and some of the critical articles. 

Answer TWO of the following...

Q1: Though Pride and Prejudice is often seen as the ultimate love story, with Elizabeth conquering Darcy’s pride and Darcy Elizabeth’s prejudice, there are other ways to read it.  Indeed, as Susan Fraiman writes in “The Humiliation of Elizabeth Bennet” (pp.356-368, we’ll read it later): “I am arguing, however, that Darcy woos away not Elizabeth’s “prejudice,” but her judgment entire” (363).  How might we argue that Elizabeth is “tamed” by Darcy’s masculine reason which prevents her from seeing his faults, much as another man (Wickham) seduced her into seeing only Darcy’s flaws?  Is she in love—or simply under the sway of another man?  Is this book, for all its charms, a feminist’s nightmare? 

Q2: What role do letters play in the novel? From Volume II on, there are several important letters, notably Darcy's letter to Elizabeth, but also the letter from Elizabeth's Aunt Gardner, as well as other communications from London: undoubtedly, these are probably hold-overs from the original epistolary novel. Why do you think Austen retained them in the novel? What is the significance of reading a character's letters rather than hearing them speak directly to another character? 

Q3: What makes Elizabeth fall in love with Darcy?  Can we pinpoint the moment that she, herself, is aware of it?  Or are we aware of it long before she is, thanks to plentiful hints from the narrator?  What is the crucial ingredient to push her from detestation to “gratitude”?  In other words, how does she come to know him and not her prejudiced vision of him?  

Q4: For many readers in the twentieth century, Pride and Prejudice is a novel about class.  Clearly, Darcy distinguishes himself early in the novel by differences in class (which is the main reason he waits so long to propose to Elizabeth); the Bingleys are social upstarts by means of their father’s fortune; and Elizabeth is forever ashamed of her family’s vulgar manners and connections (so much so, that she expects Darcy to ignore her aunt and uncle at Pemberley).  Based on your reading of the book, what are Austen’s views on class?  Does the novel preserve class distinctions through Elizabeth’s actions…or does she radically contest these very notions?  Consider how the novel ends and who ends up with whom. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

For Monday: Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Chs. IX-Volume III, Ch.IV (pp.117-176)

For Monday: Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Chs. IX-Volume III, Ch.IV (pp.117-176)

Answer TWO of the following...

Q1: How does the manner of Darcy’s proposal echo, in some particulars, that of Mr. Collins? Why is each one incapable of a truly flattering, romantic proposal? What factors does Darcy apparently have to overcome to express his love and affection to Elizabeth?

Q2: Why do you think Elizabeth conceals the proposal from her family, as well as the truth about Wickham, and only reveals her secrets to Jane? Is she ashamed of turning down a fortune? Or is she secretly flattered? Consider her reflection shortly after their meeting, “That she should receive an offer of marriage from Mr. Darcy! that he should have been in love with her for so many months! so much in love as to wish to marry her in spite of all the objections...” (128). 

Q3: In Chapter XIX (Volume II), the Narrator notes that “Had Elizabeth’s opinion been all drawn from her own family, she could not have formed a very pleasing picture of conjugal felicity or domestic comfort” (154-155). What does she notice in her own family to make her disinclined to ever marry, or to think that love exists outside of novels? According to the novel so far, do you think Jane Austen was of the same opinion?

Q4: When Elizabeth visits Pemberley with her aunt and uncle, she quickly comes to the realization that “She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt, that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!” (159). What does she see her specifically that makes her go into such rhapsodies? Why might this also be the beginning of her love for Darcy, even if the seed was planted much earlier? 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

For Friday: Pride and Prejudice, Chs. XVIII- Volume II, Ch. IX (pp.61-117)

From the 1995 BBC Production of Pride and Prejudice 
Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: After a fairly short acquaintance, Elizabeth Bennet, the "smart" girl ironically falls for one of the officers that Kitty and Lydia chase about--George Wickham. As she herself says, "he is, beyond all comparison, the most agreeable man I ever saw" (97). Why does she fall for him? Is it out of character for her? Or might it tie into the overarching themes of the novel itself?

Q2: Why does Charlotte agree to marry Mr. Collins after Elizabeth has already refused him? And more importantly, why doesn't Elizabeth believe that her best friend would make such a disastrous match? What does Charlotte's decision/reasoning say about the realities of women in the late 18th century?

Q3: The Narrator writes of Mrs. Bennet that "Elizabeth was the least dear to her of all her children" (71). Why would this be, considering she is generally the reader's favorite daughter (or character) and everyone decent in the book loves her, including her father. Where does this dislike or animosity come from, particularly considering this is her second-born daughter?

Q4: How does Austen satirize the upper classes in the mode of Sheridan at Rosings (with Lady Catherine de Bourgh)? How does she treat her social inferiors--the Collins and Elizabeth--and how might Austen be sharing Elizabeth's delight here in "anything ridiculous" (9)?  

Sorry--posting error!

The questions from yesterday didn't post for some reason as someone just informed me.  Will try to re-post them as soon as I get home.  Sorry!

However, read the next 60 pages or so--I'll give you the exact count in an hour or two, but you don't have to make it right there.

Monday, November 16, 2015

For Wednesday: Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Chs. I-XVII

Gainsborough, Portrait of Mrs. Richard Sheridan: or Lizzie Bennet? 

For Wednesday: Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Chs. I-XVII (pp.3-61)

Answer TWO of the following...

Q1: In Chapter III, Mrs. Bennet exclaims, “If I can but see one of my daughters happily settled at Netherfield...and all the others equally well married, I shall have nothing to wish for” (7). How does Mrs. Bennet—and other women in the novel—go about the business of getting a husband? How does Austen satirize both these women and the extraordinary lengths they go to attain marital bliss?

Q2: Though Austen is not writing a realistic, first-person account of English life in the country, she still retains something of Defoe’s unique narrative style. In Pride and Prejudice, the narrator is almost a distinct character, commenting on the action and the characters in an intimate, confiding tone. Discuss a passage where the narrator seems to almost step out of the book to help us ‘see’ some aspect of the work. Why do you think she does this, rather than make the narrative voice more safely anonymous?

Q3: The first draft of Pride and Prejudice, written in the 1790’s, was entitled First Impressions (Austen changed the title when, a decade later, she learned another novelist had already used it). However, where might the idea behind the original shine through in the opening chapters? How do we know this is a book about the first appearance of things, when the “masks” of society can obscure the goodness—or deceitfulness—within?

Q4: In one of the most humorous passages in the novel, Miss Bingley lists all the accomplishments modern women are supposed to possess, to which Elizabeth Bennet responds, “I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any” (27). What is Elizabeth—and behind her, Austen herself—satirizing here? Related to this, what kind of women does Elizabeth represent, and why does Darcy seemed intrigued by this new kind of woman?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

For Wednesday: Finish A Journal of the Plague Year (even if you don't completely finish it!) :)

For Wednesday: Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, p.165 to as close to the end as you care to go!

Answer TWO of the following…

Q1: The Narrator is very careful to remind his readers that the Plague ended seemingly miraculously, “Nor was this by any new Medicine found out, or new Method of Cure discovered, or by an Experience in the Operation, which the Physicians or Surgeons had attain’d” (236). Though he is very skeptical of superstitions and signs in general, why does he want to make it clear that God alone seems to have ended the Plague—indeed, at the very moment where even the Narrator was losing faith? How does this change how we interpret the entire work in terms of 1722? 

Q2: Related to the above, the Narrator writes at one point that “I have heard, it was the opinion of others, that [the plague] might be distinguish’d by the Party’s breathing upon a piece of Glass, where the Breath condensing, there might living Creatures be seen by a Microscope of strange and frightful Shapes…But this I very much question the Truth of, and we had no Microscopes at that Time, as I remember, to make Experiment with” (195). Why do you think the Narrator says relatively little about how doctors diagnosed and treated the disease? Since the 18th century is the Age of the Enlightenment which gave birth to many of the modern medical sciences, is Defoe somewhat skeptical of doctors? Does he conflate Physicians with other Quacks and Charlatans who peddle in false cures?

Q3: Defoe was a Dissenter, which means someone who refused to abide by the Act of Uniformity (1662), which standardized belief in the Anglican Church. For this he—and many others—were persecuted in English society. From a Dissenter’s point of view, why might the Plague be a mixed blessing for English society? What “good” can come out of a major catastrophe like this? How might this relate to many modern dystopian novels which show a benefit from society collapsing and many people dying off? 

Q4: Why is the Narrator so critical of the public’s response to the reduced numbers of plague victims dying off? What effect does this have on London society, and why might be another example of rumors and urban legends poisoning the minds of otherwise sensible people? 

Friday, November 6, 2015

For Monday: Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, pp.115-165 (approx) & Paper #2

For Monday, read the next 50 or so pages of A Journal of the Plague Year, and focus specifically on the stories of people fleeing London; we'll do an in-class writing response when you get to class. Also, the Paper #2 assignment is below, so start thinking about that as well!  

Paper #2: The Masks of Society

CONTEXT: The Eighteenth Century was obsessed with all sorts of literal and metaphorical masks, especially those that could be worn by an artist. An author can adopt various narrative disguises so that we least expect his or her motives in telling us a story; in the same way, a playwright can present a fanciful cast of characters that, upon closer inspection, bear an uncanny resemblance to the audience. Art itself is a game of masking and unmasking, and both of our eighteenth-century writers, Sheridan and Defoe, are trying to divert our attention so we can see the one thing we can never see clearly: our own faces.

RESPONSE: For this paper, I want you to discuss how each author uses their literary masks—the stage and the novel—to help society ‘see’ itself. While one is a sober account of the 1665 plague and the other is a satirical comedy, both offer a broad critique of London society. What does each work want us to see about their beliefs, values, behavior, fashion, biases, and compassion? Is each work trying to reform society? And if so, how? Is one more successful than the other? Is comedy more advantageous—or less serious? Is the novel a better ‘mirror’ than the stage? Or too clumsy? Is each work offering the same critique from different perspectives...or does each one come to different conclusions? What, if anything, makes both works unique to their time and place?  Consider how upper-class salons and the plague-ridden streets of London can be used as a ‘frame’ to explore how society thinks, acts, and  functions in public and private settings.

REQUIREMENTS: For this assignment you don’t need secondary sources (unless you want to use them), but I do expect you to use both works and to demonstrate close reading and analysis of each work. Make sure you help your readers ‘see’ your ideas by connecting them to the text, and don’t assume what the text says is obvious: discuss the language of the passage so we understand how it relates to their world—and possibly, our own. 
The paper should be 4-5 pages double spaced, with all quotes cited according to MLA format, along with a Works Cited page.

DUE MONDAY, NOVEMBER 16th BY 5pm (No Class that day)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

For Friday: Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, pp.60-115 (appox).

For Friday: Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, pp. 60-115 (approx.)

Answer TWO of the following...

Q1: On page 62, the Narrator notes that if the Buriers found a corpse with a good winding sheet on it, “it was reported, that the Buriers were so wicked as to strip them in the Cart, and carry them quite naked to the Ground: But as I can not easily credit any thing to vile among Christians...I can only relate it and leave it undetermined.” Do you read this passage as satirical or merely factual? Where else do we see him reporting on the abuses of his fellow citizens during the Plague? Do you detect any satire or censor in his reports?

Q2: Throughout these pages, how does the Narrator present himself as a devout Christian as well as a solid middle-class citizen? In other words, without talking much about himself, how does he demonstrate his morality among the general sea of vice and degeneracy around him? Why do you think Defoe presents him this way, rather than as a more colorful and criminal character, which would make for a much juicier book? [note: this is all the more remarkable, when you consider that several of his other books—Moll Flanders, Roxana, Captain and Singleton—are about thieves, prostitutes, and pirates.]

Q3: At one point in the narrative, the Narrator admits that he kept a journal of his day-to-day experiences, as well as “Meditations upon Divine Subjects,” though “What I wrote of my private Meditations I reserve for private Use, and desire it may not be made publick on any Account whatever” (75). Why do you think the Narrator mentions this if he has no interest in sharing it? Are we meant to assume that this book is taken from these private meditations? Or does this help us understand why the “Journal” is a more public—and therefore acceptable—book in his eyes?

Q4: These pages are full of stories the Narrator either hears second-hand or witnesses personally. Some of them are horrific, and others touching, such as the Man shut out from his own family, who spends his days finding food to send them through the windows. Which of these stories did you find the most interesting? How did it help paint a picture of the realities of the plague for many Londoners, particularly those who couldn’t afford to leave town and had to weather the ‘storm’ without assistance?  

Monday, November 2, 2015

For Wednesday: Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, pp.3-59

For Wednesday: Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year (pp.3-59 or thereabouts)

NOTE: This is a fictional account of the real plague that swept through London in 1665 written in 1722 (Defoe was 5, and wouldn’t have remembered much of it). However, Defoe wanted to re-create the terror and the sheer magnitude of the disaster in a riveting, first-person account. H.F., the Narrator, isn’t a real person, though all his descriptions are based on careful research and are more or less true. As you read, consider why (and how) Defoe presents a fiction as a fact, and what kind of story this allows him to tell the reader.

Answer TWO of the following...

Q1: Why does the Narrator (who gives his name as H.F. at the end of the work) decide to stay in London despite the terrible death toll and his brother’s pleas to abandon it? What does this reveal about his character and beliefs?

Q2: Defoe called this a “journal,” and in some ways it reads much more like a diary than a novel. However, since this is a work of fiction, it is literally not a journal at how did he convince readers this was a work of non-fiction, written by one who had experienced the plague first hand? What details make it seem real and documentary in origin?

Q3: In many ways, A Journal of the Plague Year is the first ‘doomsday’ novel, the grandfather of every zombie apocalypse book and film/show ever created. Why do you think Defoe wanted to fictionalize the real plague of 1665? What can an author show or explore about humanity through an experience that felt like “the end of the world”?

Q4: According the Narrator, how do normal Londoners cope with the ever-advancing plague? Does life go on as normal? Do people seek repentance? Do they throw themselves into debauchery? How do they find hope and/or deliverance when both are hard to come by? Does the Narrator weigh in on any of these coping mechanisms?