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October 31, 2008

Cara McDonald

1. We've discussed the mirror symbol in class, but what is to be made of the reflections Esther sees? At different times in the novel, for example, Esther sees herself as "a sick Indian" and a "smudgy-eyed Chinese woman". What is the purpose of these images? What does this say about Esther's identity?

2. Throughout the text, important events -- the execution of the Rosenbergs, the attempted rape by Marco, having Marco's blood smeared on her cheek -- are downplayed by Esther. What does this say about Esther? What does this say about the way she interacts with the world?


The revised course schedule for the remainder of the term is posted under Course Documents. Please be sure to note the changes posted to the schedule. Also, remember that the topic for the journal on The Bell Jar is open, so please pursue whatever thread is of interest to you. This journal, you will note, is worth 20 points rather than the regular 10 points, so do take some care with your journal entry.

October 30, 2008

Alex Michaelson

Esther's main psychological problem in the novel seems to be depression, which she struggles with her entire life, even up to her eventual suicide. Her suicide attempt in the story is taken as a form of neurotic psychoses, and she is labeled as "insane." How does this relate with our current understanding of human psychology? Are the treatments she endures adequate to her mental state? And how, if at all, do they help her cope with her problems? Can she really be labeled insane?

October 29, 2008

Robert Kipp

Whether or not this pertains to gender and sexuality will, I suppose, depend upon your answer, but… Why does Esther, on her last night in New York, throw her clothes from the Amazon sunroof? Are the clothes symbolic? If so, what do they represent? What is Esther really throwing from the roof?

October 28, 2008

Paper #2

You will find the assignment sheet for Paper #2 here.

The Bell Jar

Notes Week 9: The Bell Jar

October 26, 2008

Reading Journal #5

Reading Journal #5
Due Tuesday, 10/28
1-2 Pages Typed, Double-Spaced

What is the role of Shrike to the larger themes of the novel (religion, gender, etc.)? Does he serve to tempt Miss Lonelyhearts from his path like Satan tempting Christ in the wilderness? Does he undermine Miss Lonelyhearts' masculinity? Explain.

October 21, 2008

Mariah Helgeson

Miss Lonelyhearts is interpellated as a feminine and Christ-like subject through language and narrative in the text. Lonelyhearts is simultaneously ascribed as female and male, messianic and demonic. How do these dualisms influence West’s purpose? How does Miss Lonelyhearts’ initial resistance to these categories change throughout the text, if at all? To what extent is Miss Lonelyhearts’ sexual identity defined by the readers that write to him? Does West’s view of consumer culture influence the perception of gender in the text? What is the significance of Lonelyhearts' proposal to the dress and not to Betty? In the end, Lonelyhearts believes that he has achieved both masculine identity and a connection to Christ, what does the irony of his death mean for the reading of the text as a study in sexual and religious identity?

Miss Lonelyhearts

Notes Week 8: Miss Lonelyhearts

Alex Dorman

What does Miss Lonelyhearts' encounter with the lamb (in which he first fails to kill it as a sacrifice, but returns to kill it out of mercy) suggest about his relationship with Christianity and his status as a mock-Christ? Also, the figure of Christ has been criticized for excessive humility and submitting to His fate; is Miss Lonelyhearts responsible for his fate?

October 20, 2008

Amber Johnson

Is there any significance in the way in which the book is broken into short chapters each with their own title although the story seems to follow in sequence? forshadowing what is to come in that section?

October 16, 2008

Reading Journal #4

Reading Journal #4: Due Tuesday, 10/21
1-2 pages, typed, double-spaced

What is the significance of the narrative spoken by the dead mother, Addie? How does her narrative impact your reading of the text as a whole? What themes does her narrative introduce?

October 15, 2008

American Literary Modernism

Notes Week 7: American Literary Modernism

Danny Clark Jr.

Why do they use religion when they talk, such as, "The Lord Giveth" and "God will be done" Does this help them

maintain loyalty and sanity? What role did rain play in the story? Do you think Cash is a good carpenter, Why

or why not? Does food such as cake and corn have any importance? What about cotton? Who did the death of

Addie have the most effect on?

Jessica Carlson

As I Lay Dying

Addie dies in the beginning of the novel, but she doesn't become a narrator until later on. Why does Faulkner put her narrative here? What is the significance of having a chapter were Addie speaks? How does this affect our view of other characters?

October 14, 2008

Josh Capodarco

Throughout the novel, death is a constant theme. Oftentimes, the novel refers to death as a negativity. What role does death play in the novel? Also, what role does negativity play? How are characters defined by their death, or other’s death?

For example, Addie describes her husband as dead. Addie also speak about the death of words, or their negative aspect. For example, she says: “I knew that that word was like others: just a shape to fill a lack.? How does this play into the previous questions? Also, what about the fact that she is a dead character speaking in the novel?

Jen Aubrecht

As I Lay Dying

Each character in the novel seems to have a specific repeating attribute or defining characteristic that drives how they relate to the family and also to the rest of the world. How do the identities of the individual family members work together to create the identity of the family as a whole? How do these identities challenge the society's notions of laziness, propriety, religion, sexuality, and sanity?

October 9, 2008

Reading Journal #3

Reading Journal #3: Due Tuesday, 10/14
1-2 pages, typed, double-spaced

Compare and contrast Clare's physical "passing" with Irene's emotional "passing." What are the implications of each?

October 8, 2008

Andrea Wagenknecht

Hugh Wentworth is a secondary character but still plays an important part in the story. What is the purpose of the character Hugh Wentworth in Passing? Does his role as a patron (or perhaps benefactor) of the Negro Welfare League work with the title and idea of the book? If so, how? What does this idea of being a patron for the NWL do for the story?

October 7, 2008

Alex Scott

The act of passing is extremely taboo on both the Caucasian and African-American sides of the spectrum in the story. Why is this such a big deal (husbands leaving wives, waiters asking patrons to leave restaurants)? As Clare asks her husband, "What difference would it make, if after all these years, you were to find out I was one or two percent colored?" Really, if this is a color issue to the people who place importance on this, then what is the difference?

Patrick Swanson


What is the significance of the title? Apart from the obvious meaning of Clare's "passing" as a white woman, are there other possible meanings that have significance for the novel and effect the way we read it (i.e. transience, movement, superficiality as in a 'passing glance' etc.)?

October 6, 2008

Harlem Renaissance

Notes Week 6: Harlem Renaissance