December 3, 2008

Alex's Question

Wittgenstein's Mistress is an incredibly unique piece of work that talks about so much, yet nothing at all. Even the narrator seems to recognize this as she says "I do wish that last sentence had some meaning, since it certainly came close to impressing me for a moment" (126). This seems to be her feelings about most things throughout the novel. What was Markson's intent when he wrote this book?

November 25, 2008

Patrick Swanson

Since we've talked and read a bit about post-modernism-
In what ways could "Wittgenstein's Mistress" be considered a post-modern novel? Also-what are some of the themes, techniques, concerns etc. it shares with what we've recently read ( especially "The Crying of Lot 49")? How is it different from the others novels we've read?

November 12, 2008

John Pollack

The Crying of Lot 49 raises issues of communication, or rather failures of communication, in a chaotic and fragmented world. It also focuses on issues of science (i.e. Nefastis's machine and Dr. Hilarious's experiements), a study which exemplifies a highly ordered and comprehensible system. What is the significance of Pynchon's juxtaposition of these two worlds? Does communication in one world affect the other? Could he be showing how one world undermines the other?

Tony Morimoto Cries on Lot 49

Communication is essential to the novel, but the means to which these characters communicate stands out. W.A.S.T.E. is one of the main secrets kept throughout the novel. Interestingly, their symbol is introduced on page 38 as a trumpet with a mute in it. Does this have any connection to the lack of communication throughout the novel? For example the American Deaf-Mute Assembly on page 80. If so, what does this secrecy emphasize in the novel?

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?

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 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?

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 15, 2008

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 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.)?

September 29, 2008

Joe Reutiman

The Passing of Grandison

In the story we see Dick Owens attempt to free one of his father's slaves for the purpose of impressing a woman. What is the significance of the fact that he is attempting to woo a woman named "Charity?" How does his motivation compare to that of 19th-century Abolitionists in general? Were Abolitionists driven solely by the belief that the inherent rights of all men should be upheld or did other factors play a more prominent role in shaping their motivation?

Linh Nguyen

The Goophered Grapevine

What is the significant of the metaphor that Henry embodies? The passing of the seasons correlating to the seasons of life, does this give us insight into the worth of a slave? The story paints the image of a slave in winter as one wasting his/her life away for the pre-Civil war south, how does the post-Civil war north address this question/problem The second to last paragraph states that the vineyard is “a striking illustration of the opportunities open to Northern capital in the development of the Southern industries,? where does the story stands on this point of view?

John Pollack

In The Wife of His Youth Mr. Ryder is confronted with multiple issues regarding his personal identity. As a man of “mixed blood? he is caught between the white world and the colored world and must try to find his place among the two. Along the same lines, he also struggles to determine his social place in the world. Ultimately, he debates whether his past defines who he will be for the rest of his life or whether he is free to walk away from his past in an effort to carve out a new place and a new future for himself. These are just three of the many questions of identity the story raises. What role does the search for the self play in this story and how could it relate to other stories from this class? What could Chesnutt be trying to communicate about identity (in all forms) through this story?

September 25, 2008

Tony Morimoto

Throughout the novel, we are presented with a protagonist that behaves standoffish. She ignores her husband, she ignores Robert, and she ignores Arobin. Why do we feel this way? Is Edna presented to us in the same fashion Meursault is in Camus’ The Stranger; where the protagonist expresses no positive emotion and we are forced to care about all of the supporting characters? Or, should we care about Edna because the narrator’s perspective is not imitating Edna’s thoughts or feelings (from the 3rd person), but rather it is coming from another the view (of someone whom she has wronged)?

September 23, 2008

Carley Miller

How can Edna's "awakening" be quantified- ie, what is her awakening? ALSO, what is the significance of the sea in relation to Edna's "awakening" and what implications does it have thematically?

September 22, 2008

Alex Michaelson

Moving off Cara's question of the narrator's indefinite confinement, how does the narrator cope with the daily suppression of her own imagination? What role, if any, does her bedroom, more especially the yellow wallpaper, play? What relationship does the narrator have with the woman/women she sees creeping around both behind the wallpaper and outside?

Cara McDonald

The theme of illness is key throughout the text. What kind of illness does the narrator believe herself to have? Why is it important her physician husband, and her physician brother, think she only has “a temporary nervous depression -- a slight hysterical tendency?? What is to be made of the supposed cure, confinement in the bedroom?

More so, how does the yellow wallpaper relate to this theme?

September 17, 2008

Robert Kipp

"Song of Myself" is assembled in 52 sections, each of which seems as if it could pass as a poem in its own right. What is Whitman's purpose in organizing the work as he has? Does the reader experience some cumulative effect upon finishing? In other words, how does the poem's form contribute to its function? Also in respect to form, how do the mechanics of Whitman's poetry, particularly in respect to line length, differ from other poetry you may have read?

September 16, 2008

Joanna Hubbard

Throughout the poem, Whitman shows his admiration and deep love for all of nature - of the earth and of man - by loving everything with an equal passion. He loves what most recognize as "good" and "bad" equally, thus almost giving a slight wash of indifference or detachment due to this lack of favor. This lack of favor is made provacative when he mingles it with his passion for all life. With this provacative juxtapostion, what is Whitman saying about man's ability or call to love; especially when the only thing he seems to denounce is a pure faith in a holy morality? What is deemed the more in tuned or natural way to love, and what seems to be the consequences?

Amber Johnson

In the sixth section of the poem the child asks the narrator "What is the grass?" It is then up to the narrator to give his own interpretation of the grass. What makes the grass significan in symbolizing democracy in the United States?

Fredericka Kampmeier

Whitman seems to feel that he is, always has been, and always will be part of every person and thing in the universe, and that he is just as good and not any better than anyone else. That every person seems to be a product of the environment in which he was placed and is part of that world. And that everything and everyone is basically good and deserving of the respect of everyone else. Why does he seem to believe this, and what does this say about American identity?

September 15, 2008

Alex Dorman

1)How does the setting in each scene reflect some of the themes found throughout the text? (Wall Street, the "view" from the office, the gloomy Tombs, etc). Also, 'Bartleby' is often entitled 'Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street'. Outside of the fact that it is set there, what makes Bartleby a 'story of Wall Street'?

2) Bartleby is described as 'pallidly neat', and having a 'cadaverously gentlemanly nonchalance'. How do the deathly descriptions of Bartleby influence our impression of him? Do you think he would have been described thus before he worked at the dead letter office?

Mariah Helgeson

How does Bartleby's ability to be both productive and unproductive challenge the Enlightenment ideals of industry and productivity? What is the significance of Melville's description of Bartleby as a "ghost," an "intolerable incubus" and an "apparition"? How does the narrator reconcile his "conviction that the easiest way of life is the best" with Bartleby's passivity? Does Bartleby's inability to participate fully in industrial society ultimately change the narrator and subsequently, the Capitalist society?

September 9, 2008

Jessica Carlson

What is the significance of the forest?

Why does Hester decide to return and put the scarlet letter back on?

Has the meaning of the scarlet letter changed for Hester?

September 8, 2008

Josh Capodarco

From the very beginning of the novel, Hawthorne seems to ask the question: How do we look at beauty? The first chapter presents the reader with the juxtaposed images of a rose-bush and a prison. Hawthorne sets the seen with a jail that possessed a "beetle-browed and gloomy front." Even further, Hawthorne suggest a relationship between the aesthetic quality of the prison and its nature: "like all that pertains to crime, it seemed never to have known a youthful era." Juxtaposed in front of this image is a rose-bush "which might be imagined to offer their fragrance and fragile beauty to the prisoner as he went in."
The rest of the novel is rich in these juxtapositions. These juxtapositions appear to beg the question: What does beauty mean in the novel? Are there intrinsic qualities to beauty, namely, qualities that betray moral qualities, or is beauty merely a shade over the moral qualities? Also, how does the society view beauty? Does beauty always suggest purity? Does the novel suggest a dichotomy between beauty and ugliness? Finally, how do these aesthetic descriptors change the identity of each character?

Danny Clark Jr.

Why does Hester Prynne lay her infant child on her bosom? Why does she lay the Scarlet Letter on

her breast? What is the primary reason for her actions? What is the importance? What is the signifance?

Do her actions make her feel well? Do they make her cope with how she is judged and treated by the

Puritan community?

September 4, 2008

Discussion Question Schedule

Discussion Question Schedule