Wednesday, February 26, 2014

For Friday: Austen, Pride and Prejudice (finish if possible!)

Answer TWO of the following as a comment below: 

1. Is Pride and Prejudice ultimately a novel that favors “sense” (the eighteenth-century notion of one’s intellectual powers and reason) or “sensibility” (the late eighteenth/early nineteenth notion of emotion and artistic power)?  Does Elizabeth learn to cultivate a more informed sensibility, or is she taught to cast sensibility aside for sense?  If you’ve seen or read Austen's Sense and Sensibility, does she make the same choice Marianne makes at the end of the novel/film?  Is Darcy another version of Colonel Brandon? 

2. Discuss the famous scene between Elizabeth and Lady Catherine: how might this reflect some of Mozart’s values and struggles with the Archbishop (and others)?  Why does Lady Catherine think she’s being quite reasonable in her request, and why is this absolutely offensive to Elizabeth?  On the same hand, what makes this scene so satisfying to the reader, who is undoubtedly on Elizabeth’s side? 

3. Some readers and critics feel that, although Darcy and Elizabeth are an ideal match, is it Elizabeth who is forced to change the most.  Indeed, some people suggest that Elizabeth becomes “tamed” in the novel (kind of like Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew), and loses her unique voice and personality to become Darcy’s wife.  What do you think about this?  Do you think she is silenced at the end of the novel, and made to conform to traditional values of a ‘good’ daughter and wife?  Or does she remain who she is, just a more sensible version of herself?

4. 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.  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?  In other words, how conservative was Austen in writing a comedic/romantic book about class?  

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

For Wednesday: Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Vol.3, Chs.1-8

Lydia and Wickham--the happy couple!  

Answer TWO of the following…

1. How does Elizabeth’s feelings about Darcy change at Pemberley?  What does she experience or see here that challenges her prejudiced notions?  Consider the passage in Chapter 1 where she reflects, “And of this place…I might have been mistress!  With these rooms I might now have been familiarly acquainted!” 

2. Related somewhat to the above, at what moment in the novel does Elizabeth definitively ‘fall in love’ with Darcy?  Is she aware of this moment, or does Austen simply let us ‘see’ it before she does?  Or is it announced as she, herself, discovers it?  Does this moment suggest that she had been in love with him (to some degree) for a longer time than she realized? 

3. Why is Lydia’s elopement with Wickham a scandal for the Bennet family?  What does such a marriage mean in early 19th century society, and why might it reflect poorly on the innocent daughters—Elizabeth, Jane, Kitty, and Mary?  Consider, too, Mr. Collins’ letter upon hearing the disastrous news: “The death of your daughter would have been a blessing in comparison to this” (Ch. 7). 

4. In some ways, Austen is lightly satirizing Elizabeth Bennet as someone who reads too many books and expects life to mirror what she reads.  In general, what is the difference between reading a character in a book and reading a person?  How do we know she reads people like books—and when does she realize the danger of this approach?  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

For Monday: Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Vol. 2, Chs.4-29

Answer TWO of the following as a Comment below...

1. Discuss Darcy's proposal scene, particularly in relation to Mr. Collins'.  How does this scene demonstrate Darcy's pride and class consciousness?  On the other side, what makes it more passionate than Mr. Collins' cold manner of wooing?  Why is Elizabeth so insulted by his offer?  Is it more the offer itself, or the manner in which he proposes?  Do you feel that if he had adopted a kinder, less prideful manner she might have accepted it?

2. Where in these chapters does Elizabeth begin to doubt her own powers of perception?  What event(s) leads her to discover her own 'pride and prejudice?  Do you feel she is truly as guilty of over-confidence and/or arrogance as Mr. Darcy?  Or is she simply being hard on herself? 

3. Lady Catherine de Bourgh is an unusual woman in Pride and Prejudice, as she answers to no man, and indeed, makes all men wait on her, from Mr. Collins to Mr. Darcy.  And yet, though Austen is critical of women like Mrs. Bennet who are silly and powerless, Lady Catherine is also a satirical portrait.  What qualities does Austen mock in Lady Catherine, and why might this also be a 'blind alley' for a 19th century woman of money and power to follow?  What makes her, in other words, as foolish as Mrs. Bennet or Lydia Bennet/Wickham?  

4. Why does Elizabeth decide to conceal the contents of Darcy's letter from her family--especially from Jane, who is her closest confidant?  Why not expose Wickham's criminal nature and exonerate Darcy's compassion?  What unwritten rules of society does she seem to be following here--and are we supposed to approve of her secrecy?  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

For Wednesday: Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Vol.1, Ch.17 to Vol. 2, Chapter 3

Answer TWO of the following...

1. Why does Elizabeth refuse Mr. Collins’ offer of marriage, despite the great benefit it would be to her family (especially since he will one day own their house)?  On the same hand, why does Charlotte Lucas agree to accept him?   How might this rejection/acceptance be a commentary on the state of women and marriage in the early 19th century? 

2. Though Elizabeth dislikes Darcy on ‘first impression,’ she is immediately taken with Wickham.  What qualities does Wickham have that plays into Elizabeth’s sensibilities of an “agreeable” man?  How might this also play into Elizabeth’s prejudices against Darcy?  In other words, what makes Darcy the so-called 'bad guy' and Wickham the 'good guy' on a first impression?  

3. Though chiefly about love and marriage, Pride and Prejudice is also about the friendships between women, whether sisters or close friends.  After Charlotte’s marriage, Elizabeth reflects that “no real confidence could ever subsist between them again” (87).  How might marriage impair the formerly close relationships between women, isolating them from their friends and family?  How specifically might this work in Charlotte Lucas’ case? 

4. Mr. Collins is one of Jane Austen’s great satirical portraits, which is clear from the moment he appears on the page.  How does Austen use him to satirize the conventions or pretensions of her time?  What ‘mistakes’ does he make throughout these chapters, and what does he understand—or misunderstand—about women?  (to make this more interesting, you might consider that Jane Austen was once proposed to by a country parson; she declined).  

Friday, February 14, 2014

For Monday: Austen, Pride and Prejudice, Chs.1-16

Close Reading Questions for Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Chs.1-16 (or as much as you can read by Monday)

Answer TWO of the following…

1. On Friday, I discussed Austen’s admiration for Mary Wollstonecraft, who criticized not only how women are educated but the institution of marriage itself.  Where do we see a subtle critique of women and marriage in these opening chapters?  Consider the discussions various women have on the subject, and how Elizabeth Bennet (our heroine) reacts to them. 

2. In Chapter 6, Darcy reflects that “he had looked at her without admiration at the ball; and when they next met, he had looked at her only to criticize.  But no sooner had he made it clear to himself and his friends that she had hardly a good feature in her face, than he began to find it was rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes.”  Based on this passage, and others in these chapters, why does Darcy start to fall in love with Elizabeth, despite all his reasons against doing so? 

3. Discuss the difference between Elizabeth and her sisters: what makes her our heroine?  Why are we supposed to be more sympathetic/attracted to her than to say, Lydia or Mary?  What makes her different from the other ‘good’ sister, Jane?  How does her philosophy of life in general distinguish her from most of the other women in the book? 

4. When Jane Austen first wrote this book in the late 1790’s, it was called “First Impressions.”  She later re-wrote it extensively and changed the title as well.  How might this book still be about ‘first impressions’ as much as pride or prejudice?  Whose first impressions is the book concerned with—and why might first impressions, in a society where social rules are more important than anything else, not be a reliable judge of character? 

Monday, February 10, 2014

For Wednesday: Exam #1 over Gay's Mozart/Amadeus

Remember that our Exam #1 over Gay's Mozart and the film Amadeus will be on Wednesday during normal class time.  The exam will consist of two parts: 10 general information questions over Mozart's life and works, and then 6 short essay questions, of which you will have to answer 3 in a developed paragraph each. You cannot bring your book to class, since I want to see how well you read and understood the ideas from the book, film, and our discussions.

On Friday, I will introduce Jane Austen, her life, and the time she grew up in as a preface to our reading of her famous novel, Pride and Prejudice.  I will assign the first reading/questions for this novel on Friday which will be due on Monday.  Slow readers, take note: start reading now!  :)

See you on Wednesday...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Close Reading Questions for Amadeus (1984, dir. Forman): due MONDAY

We will discuss Amadeus on Monday after we've watched the second half on Friday.  Wait until then to answer the questions below (unless you've already watched the entire film on your own). 

Answer TWO of the following as a comment below...

1. Is the Mozart in the film the same one we meet in Peter Gay's biography?  What similarities do the two men share?  Where do we encounter differences?  Is the Amadeus Mozart more theatrical, more over-the-top?  Or does it merely focus on one side of Mozart that is authentic, even if other sides are passed over?  In other words, do you feel anything significant about Mozart is overlooked in the film?  Be specific...
2. While Gay explores Mozart’s life initially through Leopold, Forman (and Peter Shaffer, who wrote the play) chooses to examine him through his real-life rival in Vienna, Antonio Salieri.  Why might this be a compelling and insightful way to know Mozart?  What does it show us about the man and his music?  What does the movie reveal that Gay doesn’t—or couldn’t?
3. In the play Amadeus (which the movie is based on), the playwright, Peter Schaffer, has Mozart exclaim: "that’s how God hears the world.  Millions of sounds ascending at once and mixing in His ear to become an unending music, unimaginable to us! That’s our job!  That’s our job, we composers: to combine the inner minds of him and him and him, and her and her—the thoughts of chambermaids and Court Composers—and turn the audience into God!” (Shaffer 91).  Though this speech isn't in the film, where DO we see Mozart defending his music and/or explaining his philosophy?  What does the film want us to understand about Mozart's art and why he wrote what he did?   Cite a specific scene/moment in your response.
4. One of the themes of the film is the distinction between talent and celebrity.  A great, talented composer may be in fashion one moment and out of fashion the next, whereas a much less talented composer could (possibly) stay in fashion forever.  However, when we look back, we only see Mozart--not a Salieri, or a someone else.  How does the film try to explain the fickle tastes of the past?  Why could they not 'see' Mozart's talent the same way we do today?  Why doesn't talent always stand out in society and the arts? 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

No Class Monday/For Wednesday

Since ECU is closed on Monday, we'll push back our viewing of Amadeus, the 1984 film based on Mozart's life and legend, to Wednesday/Friday.  This means the exam will be pushed back as well (please forgive me!).

See you on Wednesday!  Sorry for all the snow!