How does racial self-hatred manifest itself in characters like Maureen Peal, Geraldine, and Soaphead Church?

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1) Jane Austin – Pride and Prejudice writing assignment

Please write a letter in Lydia’s voice retelling the main events of the novel from her point of view.  It starts, “Dear Reader”…What would her version be? How might she justify her actions or have a different attitude towards them?  There are two primary requirements of this assignment:

Use Austen-appropriate language (word choice and style).

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Demonstrate knowledge of the novel’s plot and a careful character analysis of one of the main characters, Lydia in this case.

1000 words minimum.

2) Virginia Wolfe – The Lighthouse

Answer 1 of the Litlovers reading guide questions listed here. Make sure to indicate which you are answering by numbering it, answer in essay format, and include quotations and citations (at least 4 direct quotes from the text). 1500 words. Here are the questions: 1. Woolf explores the ways in which people perceive or come to know the world: through intellect and facts or through intuition and feelings. Talk about how the different characters fall into those categories, especially Mrs. Ramsey and Mr. Ramsey; Charles Tansley and Lilly Briscoe. Where do you fall along these lines? 2. Mrs. Ramsey desires unity in her life over fragmentation. How does she express this desire. (Think about her knitting….) At her dinner party that evening, the guests are fractious, their individual desires keeping them separate. How, eventually, does the gathering finally achieve coherence and peace? 3. There is also a desire for permanence, for things to be “immune from change.” How is this expressed in the book? Think of what Mrs. Ramsey wishes for, think of bowl of fruit on the dining table, the sea eating away at the land, the night air floating through the house, the change of seasons, Mr. Ramsey’s wish for his books, and so on. (Remember that To the Lighthouse was written after World War I, so that author and her readers, even back then, were aware of the horrific change that would take place 4 years after the events in this book. Does that knowledge create a sense of fate…or doom?) 4. How do gender roles evidence themselves in this work? How, for instance, does Mrs. Ramsay, in particular, view women’s roles vis-a-vis men?

3) Sylvia Plath – The Bell Jar writing assignment

Answer 3 of the Litlovers reading guide questions, one full page each answer (300-500 words apx per page), make sure to indicate which you are answering by numbering them, answer each in essay format, and include at least one direct quote from the book per answer. Here are the questions: Discussion Questions  1. What factors, components, and stages of Esther Greenwood’s descent into depression and madness are specified? How inevitable is that descent? 2. In a letter while at college, Plath wrote that “I’ve gone around for most of my life as in the rarefied atmosphere under a bell jar.” Is this the primary meaning of the novel’s titular bell jar? What other meanings does “the bell jar” have? 3. What terms does Esther use to describe herself? How does she compare or contrast herself with Doreen and others in New York City, or with Joan and other patients in the hospital? 4. What instances and images of distortion occur in the novel? What are their contexts and significance? Does Esther achieve a clear, undistorted view of herself? 5. Are Esther’s attitudes toward men, sex, and marriage peculiar to herself? What role do her attitudes play in her breakdown? What are we told about her society’s expectations regarding men and women, sexuality, and relationships? Have those expectations changed since that time? 6. Esther more than once admits to feelings of inadequacy. Is Esther’s sense of her own inadequacies consistent with reality? Against what standards does she judge herself? 7. With what specific setting, event, and person is Esther’s first thought of suicide associated? Why? In what circumstances do subsequent thoughts and plans concerning suicide occur? 8. In addition to Deer Island Prison, what other images and conditions of physical and emotional imprisonment, enclosure, confinement, and punishment are presented? 9. What are the primary relationships in Esther’s life? Is she consistent in her behavior and attitudes within these relationships?

4) Toni Morrision – The Bluest Eye writing assignment

In the form of an essay, answer ONE of the publisher’s reader’s guide questions provided here.  Cite at least FIVE direct passages in support of your analysis of the text. 1500 words 

1. The novel opens with an excerpt from an old-fashioned reading primer. The lines begin to blur and run together–as they do at the beginning of select chapters. What social commentary is implicit in Morrison’s superimposing these bland banalities describing a white family and its activities upon the tragic story of the destruction of a young black girl? How does Morrison’s powerful language–both highly specific and lyrical–comment on the inadequacy of “correct” English and the way in which it masks and negates entire worlds of beauty and pain?

2. “Quiet as it’s kept, there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941. We thought, at the time, that it was because Pecola was having her father’s baby that the marigolds did not grow.” With these lines Morrison’s child narrator, Claudia MacTeer, invites the reader into a troubling community secret: the incestuous rape of her 11-year-old friend Pecola Breedlove. What are the advantages of telling Pecola’s story from a child’s point of view? Claudia would appear to connect the barrenness of the land to Pecola’s tragedy. In what ways does Morrison show how Pecola’s environment–and American society as a whole–are hostile to her very existence?

3. The title of the novel refers to Pecola Breedlove’s intense desire for blue eyes. She believes herself ugly and unworthy of love and respect, but is convinced that her life would be magically transformed if she possessed blue eyes. How does racial self-loathing corrode the lives of Pecola and her parents, Cholly and Pauline Breedlove? How does racial self-hatred manifest itself in characters like Maureen Peal, Geraldine, and Soaphead Church?

4. At a certain point in the novel, Morrison, through her narrator, states that romantic love and physical beauty are “probably the most destructive ideas in the history of human thought.” How do the lives of individual characters bear out that statement? To what degree are these two concepts generated from within or imposed on us by society? Where do the characters first encounter ideas of romantic love and beauty–ideas which will eventually torture and exclude them? What positive visions of beauty and love does the novel offer?

5. What role does social class play in the novel? Pecola first comes to stay with the MacTeers because her family has been put “outdoors” owing to her father’s drunken violence and carelessness. The threat of “outdoors” focuses families like the MacTeers on upward mobility. “Being a minority in both caste and class we moved about anyway on the hem of life, struggling to consolidate our weaknesses and hang on, or to creep singly up into the folds of the garment.” Is divisiveness one result of this upward striving Morrison describes? What are others?

6. The novel is set in a Midwestern industrial town, Lorain, Ohio, Morrison’s own birthplace. Pauline and Cholly Breedlove are transplanted Southerners and several key scenes in the novel are set in the South. How does Morrison set up comparisons between a Northern black community and the Southern black way of life? What values have been lost in the migration north?

7. Consider Morrison’s characterization of Cholly Breedlove. While she clearly condemns his actions, she resists dehumanizing him. If rape of one’s daughter is an “unimaginable” crime, can one at least trace the events (and resulting emotions) that made it possible for Cholly to commit this brutal act? Is there a connection between the white hunters’ “rape” of Cholly and the sexual aggression he eventually turned on his daughter?

5) Roz Chaste – Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Discuss the portrayal of the characters in book, the parents and also the author herself. Did you find them likable, admirable, sympathetic, familiar, odd, typical….choose your own adjectives for them. How does the author portray them to honor their memories, including the memories of her own younger self(s)? 1000 words

6) Patti Smith –

Just Kids (7 minutes) audio –

Excerpt from M Train –

This is a research assignment. Research independently who Patti Smith is, listen to her Horses album on youtube, research who Robert Maplethorpe was, who some of the other artists were that Smith talks about in her memoir excerpts, and then explain to me what’s so important about these people in terms of their impact on art. 500-1000 words, find and use at least 3 sources of information in total, cited at the end of your assignment.  You may use material posted by classmates in the discussion forum – the two assignments, the discussion and your own independent research, are designed to support each other rather than be entirely separate tasks.

7) Final Project

In “The Old Dictionary”, there is a relationship between care of the self and care of others, both other people and things also.  Discuss that relationship.  Would you say there is a tension between care of the self and others?  Is caring for others a way of caring for the self? Do we see ourselves in others, or others in ourselves?  …. Decide your focus for this assignment along these lines.

Assignment: present this author in that context and along with the works we’ve read by other authors this semester?  You must include at least 4 of the authors in total and you must include Davis among them.  Note that this assignment starts with a very short story, but the topic is a very broad one and you will have to narrow it down into a thematic presentation of your own.

You may do this in a standard term paper format, or you can choose another format such as power point and include materials such as links or images.  If you use prezi, please send a direct url link (NOT a pdf of the thing).  This is a pretty ‘open’ assignment.  You have to choose how you want to present your thoughts on this subject, as well as what those thought are. All I ask is that you use complete sentences, no bullet lists.  And INCLUDE DIRECT QUOTES, let the pieces of literature speak a bit for themselves as you present them. Think about what you think about the topic presented and how best to represent your thoughts most effectively.

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