For the final week…

For the last class (November 30), remember to

  • bring your essay in hard copy (see formatting requirements on the “Assignments” page)
  • bring, if you want the essay and comments returned, a self-addressed, stamped enveloped (please make sure there’s sufficient postage)
  • read Flannery O’Connor’s “A Hard Man Is Hard to Find” and Robert Coover’s “The Babysitter.” These are both, in their own ways, mind-blowingly good and phenomenal weird short stories. Here are some questions to consider as you read:
    • What is the genre of O’Connor’s story–or is there one?
    • Why is the story’s comic tone so important, especially as things turn toward the end?
    • Theology is central to the meaning of this story. Can you sense or tell how?
    • I mentioned in class that the closest kin of O’Connor’s story on our syllabus so far is Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily.” They are both set in the South, of course, but how else, more specifically, are they related?
    • Of everything we’ve read so far, I think the closest relatives to Coover’s story are Brave New World and, in very different ways, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. How does it resemble these works (or others)?
    • What would you say is the genre of Coover’s story–and does that question even make sense when it comes to that story?
    • Is Coover’s story just games and gimmicks, or could its experimenting and paradoxes have social, historical and/or political significance?

Questions for the final take-home will be posted on the website as of 3pm on November 30.


Here comes the essay

Things are moving toward the end here in ENGL 2807. The final essay, the major assignment in the course, is due in less than two weeks (Nov. 30). Topics have been posted on the website, and the deadline to propose a topic of your own choice has been set for November 21 (Wednesday). If you’re proposing a topic, be sure it’s workably narrow (a topic like “family conflict in Mrs Dalloway” is too broad, for example).

Remember that to qualify for the bonus grade(s) on the final essay, you must send me a working thesis statement by 6pm on November 23. I will strive to get comments back to you as soon as possible after that. For help writing your thesis statement, see the writing resources on this website under “Choosing a Topic” and “Thesis Statements,” as well as links on “Resources.” You should also read my recap of the discussion from our November 16 class on thesis statements and introductions, posted HERE.

We have two weeks of lecture left in the course and two major assignments (accounting for 55% of the final grade). It’s a busy time, I know, and November is a tired and blah month. But the upcoming week is the best chance to get some early thinking done on the essay—it’ll pay its way, I promise. I strongly urge you to talk to me (in person preferably, but if not by email) about your ideas for your essay. It’s always a mistake to call these big assignments in.

A final reminder that participate is worth 5% of the grade. It’s still not too late to gain some points there, but the window on this is rapidly closing. Remember that posting on this website is one of the ways to do that. Please don’t let all the comments be by advertising bots (as has been the case so far).

For those who are interested, the song whose lyrics we briefly analyzed for the use of free indirect discourse was “The Games We Play” (1967) by The Hollies. Some of the late modernist or postmodernist authors and artists referred to were Samuel Beckett, John Barth, James Rawson, Rene Magritte, B. S. Johnson, Kurt Vonnegut and Margaret Atwood. Concepts we discussed included anti-realism, metalepsis, involution, mise-en-abyme (infinite regress), collage, parody and Pop-Art.


For class 10

Excellent class discussion last week on Nella Larsen’s Passing! Let’s see if we can keep it up during the first of our two classes on Nabokov’s The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. For your reference, some of the authors and concepts we discussed were the Harlem Renaissance, with special attention to the poet Langston Hughes, as well as other African-American modernists like W. E. B. Dubois, Zora Neale Hurston (author of the phenomenal Their Eyes Were Watching God) and the poet Claude McKay. We discussed Eve Sedgwick’s notion of the homoerotic triangle (this concept first appears in her book Between Men, but you can find ample information on it online).

For next week, read the novel up to Chapter 13, and consider how this novel resembles and also differs from the books we’ve read to date. Consider how Nabokov uses genre, especially in comparison with Conrad, Woolf, Rhys and Larsen.

A good part of the lecture on November 16 will be devoted to how to write a good essay. Most of the attention will be on turning a topic into an argument, so we’ll focus mainly on writing Introductions and, especially, thesis statements. As preparation, you might read my page on “Choosing a Topic”. See also “Thesis Statements” and the essay-writing resources posted on the “Resources” page.

The essay topics have now been posted.

The deadline for the essay (November 30) might seem distant, but you should start thinking about it now if you haven’t already. It is by far the weightiest assignment (30%) of the class, and one of the keys to writing a good essay is taking the time to plan / outline it before writing, then taking the time to revise it afterward. Use my comments on your previous essays to guide your writing; and please take advantage of the resources offered to you by Trent University. And please talk to me about your ideas—the sooner the better!

Finally, remember to take advantage of the “Thesis Statement Bonus,” which could potentially add up to 3% to your essay grade. This is described on the “Final Essay” page.


For Week 9

For next week, please read Nella Larsen’s novella Passing and consider the following questions. You should be prepared to address these in class, though you don’t necessarily need a prepared answer:

  • What kind of narrator do we have here? In other words, who is speaking, and how?
  • Whose perspective is privileged? How does this affect how we read Passing?
  • Try to notice some of the ways that Larsen uses motifs and echoes to give structure and symbolic coherence to her novella. What are some of these motifs?
  • The obvious meaning of “passing” in the book refers to race, but are there also other ways to understand the act of passing for something that one isn’t?
  • Someone once said Passing “is about race and nothing else.” This is clearly nonsensical, like saying that Brave New World  is about sex and nothing else. So what is Passing about, in addition to and in combination with race?

Good discussion of Brave New World on Friday, folks. In case you’re interested, some of the texts and authors I referred to are as follows. Julian Huxley was Aldous’s biologist brother, and J. B. S. Haldane was a biologist friend of both Huxleys; both were influential in shaping modern biology and in communicating biology to a popular audience, and both clearly influenced aspects of Brave New World. Neil Postman was a cultural critic most famous for Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985), which argues (among other things) that Brave New World better predicts our world than Orwell’s 1984 (this argument was taken up again by Christopher Hitchens and by Margaret Atwood). Postman’s book is part of the inspiration for Roger Waters’s album Amused to Death (1992)–especially the title track and “Perfect Sense” (which features war reporting as sportscasting / entertainment). We watched the music video for St Vincent’s “Pills”, which bears many aesthetic and thematic resemblances to Brave New World in addition to being awesome (if you liked it, check out “Birth in Reverse” and, really, everything else by Annie Clark, who quite appropriately calls her music “alien pop”).

If you liked Brave New World, you might want to have a look at a few other particularly good dystopian / post-apocalyptic novels and films that support my question “Why are so many future fictions so concerned about reproduction?” These include, in order I remembered them in, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (from which I read a passage a few classes ago), PD James’s Children of Men (and its phenomenal film adaptation by Alfonso Cuaron), Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis series, Anthony Burgess’s The Wanting Seed (written at the same time as his more popular A Clockwork Orange), MG Vassanji’s Nostalgia, and JG Ballard’s The Drowned World (worth reading as a 1962 prediction of global-warming induced flooding and especially as an adaptation of Heart of Darkness set in a future, tropical London gone back to the jungle). This is obviously a highly partial list.

I wanted quickly to turn back to the question of what character “speaks” for Huxley in the novel. We heard several candidates: John “the Savage,” Helmholtz Watson, Lenina, Mustapha Mond. I had meant to add another possibility, one that fits best with our course theme of “perspectives”: no one character speaks for Huxley’s vision–his vision is the uneasy combination of all their voices. John raises questions that were dear to Huxley’s heart, about the value of thinking and the importance of beauty, even if it causes pain; Helmholtz’s interest in language and poetry is  a milder version of John’s extreme views. Lenina glimpses the value of denial even as she suffers from John’s extremism. Mustapha Mond certainly reflects Huxley’s cynical view of the masses–at least at that particular time in his life.

O Brave New World!

MIRANDA:                                           Oh, wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in ’t!
                                                          William Shakespeare, The Tempest V.i
Remember that the mid-term take-home is due on November 2. Click HERE for details and the prompts.
For the next class, read the entirety of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, and consider the following questions:
  1. Is Huxley’s future society a utopia or a dystopia? Why?
  2. In what ways is Brave New World a reflection of the world in 1932? In what ways is it a pretty good picture of the world in 2018?
  3. What character in the novel seems to speak for Huxley? There’s no right or wrong answer here, but you should think about why you think this or that character represents the novel’s vision of what is right.
  4. What is the purpose of “John the Savage”? Wouldn’t it have been simpler to limit the story to the “Brave New” society of Lenina, Bernard Marx and so on? Why bring in the trip of the American West and the naive outsider John?
  5. After reading Brave New World, watch St Vincent’s video to “Pills.” In what ways is St Vincent concerned with the same issues as Huxley? What do you make of the change in mood and tone toward the end of the song, and how could it echo Brave New World‘s multiple perspectives?

Finally–enjoy your Reading Week! Take the time to relax, have fun and…. read. And remember that there is a banana tree growing out back at Trent Oshawa.

*Voyage in the Dark* Part II & mid-term

Just to make it official: the Creative-Critical assignment, revised based on your peer-review session today, is now due on October 19. Please submit the revised version AND the original, marked up version in class.

For next week, read the rest of Voyage in the Dark. Choose at least one passage that you think is particularly significant or perplexing; come to class prepared to say something about this passage. I won’t necessarily call on you, but you should have some observations, arguments or questions in mind to help discussion move.

The questions for the mid-term take-home test are now posted HERE. If you have questions about this assignment, please ask about them in class next week, or in office hours before class, or by email.

Jean Rhys & the 2nd assignment

The Creative-Critical Assignment, worth 20%, is due in hard copy in the next class. Please read my description of what I expect (find this description by going to “Assignments” and clicking on the link to the “Creative-Critical Assignment). Please follow the required formatting.

If you have any questions about how to do this assignment, ask me sooner rather than later.

This week’s reading: Jean Rhys’s third novel Voyage in the Dark (1934) should be a nice (relative) break after the difficulty of Mrs Dalloway. If nothing else, it’s divided into chapters and parts! As you read, I’d like you to consider a few aspects of this short novel:

  • If we take the title to be an allusion to Heart of Darkness, what perspectives into Rhys’s novel can we gain? (I’m not saying Voyage in the Dark is or isn’t an allusion to Conrad’s text, but it’s a reasonable notion.)
  • Throughout Part I (our reading for this week), pay attention to the many ways in which Anna Morgan narrates her experience, and try to think about why and when she shifts between styles and modes.
  • Draw up a mental portrait of Anna Morgan. What does she look like? What adjectives describe her personality?
  • As I read it, Voyage in the Darkness has thematic (subject-matter) and formal connections with almost every text we’ve read so far in this class. I see thematic resemblances to James Joyce’s “Araby,” Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants,” Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Mansfield’s “The Garden Party” and Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway; I see formal or stylistic  resemblances with Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants,” Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. Do you see what I’m getting at? Do you see (some of) these connections?

Follow-up on last week’s discussion: Last week, I made extensive reference to the Conclusion to Walter Pater’s book The Renaissance; if you’re interested in taking a look of your own, find it HERE. I also referred to the concept of duration (as opposed to mathematical time) introduced by the French philosopher Henri Bergson; see HERE for a brief description of this concept (the first paragraph is relatively simple and clear, though it gets more technical from there). Bergson’s psychological perspective on the human experience of living in duration was important to Woolf, Joyce, Nabokov and other modernists, and can help us understand what Faulkner and Rhys are up to in their fiction too.


More on *Mrs Dalloway*

I hope the discussion last Friday helped make reading Mrs Dalloway a bit less disorienting (though being a bit disoriented is maybe part of the experience of living this book). As you move through the second half of the novel, think about these questions?

  • How does Woolf portray the Dalloways’ marriage? How do you think they would act and feel if they were a middle-aged couple in 2018 rather than 1923?
  • Why does Woolf make a point of “keeping the time” throughout the novel–I mean, why does she keep bringing up the ringing of Big Ben and specifying the hour?
  • What do you make of the ending? Why does it end this way?
  • What do you make of the connections between Clarissa and Septimus? What do you think Woolf is suggesting about these two characters and the links between them? Do you think Woolf agrees with Clarissa’s own interpretation?
  • Sally believes that “it was the only thing worth saying — what one felt. Cleverness was silly. One must say simply what one felt” (190). Is this just Sally being Sally, or is she speaking, in a sense, for the whole novel? Regardless of which answer you give, how would you back up that answer?
  • Sir William Bradshaw: what is it about him that everyone dislikes? Beyond his personality and attitude, what does his character represent?

Finally, I thought I’d follow up a bit on my repeated claim that Virginia Woolf has had a major influence on contemporary fiction. As one of my own professors used to say that without Woolf there would have been no Alice Munro or Toni Morrison. It’s not that authors like Munro and Morrison write just like Woolf–no one does–but if you read them it’s not hard to see how Woolfian techniques and preoccupations have made it into their fiction. Of fiction by Munro, Canada’s only Nobel laureate in Literature, I’d recommend The Lives of Girls and Women or the wonderful short story “The Bear Came over the Mountain” (and its film adaptation by Sarah Polly, Away from Her). Of fiction by Morrison, I’d start with Beloved.

Woolf’s influence has been acknowledged by Michael Cunningham (whose novel The Hours is in fact an “adaptation” of Mrs Dalloway–see the film too, with Nicole Kidman playing Woolf), by Margaret Atwood, by Clarice Lispector (perhaps the most important Brazilian novelist of the last century), and by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (whose novel A Hundred Years of Solitude should be on everyone’s “to read before finishing my undergrad” list). As a record of the 2016 US Presidential Election, the celebrated Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie chose to write a short story, “The Arrangements,” that tells the story of Melania Trump in the style of Mrs Dalloway! Alison Bechdel, best known for her graphic memoir Fun Home (which uses Joyce, Proust, Fitzgerald, Hemingway and other modernists to shape and supply themes her narrative), wrote a follow-up volume called Are You My Mother?, whose main literary conversation is with Virginia Woolf.

I don’t really have evidence to back this up, but my sense is that Woolf’s influence is huge on several contemporary authors I happen to find particularly awesome and innovative: Ali Smith (start with Hotel World or How to Be Both), Zadie Smith (especially in NW, though I’d recommend starting with Swing Time or White Teeth), Rachel Cusk (especially Arlington Park), and Claire-Louise Bennett, whose “novel” (or short-story collection, you decide) Pond is terrific and I’m sure even the very finicky Woolf would have agreed (but don’t read it if you’re looking for plot!). Finally, I wouldn’t say I see Woolf’s direct influence on the phenomenal novel I’m re-reading now, Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad (I first read it in 2011, soon after it came out); and yet it is clear that Egan’s novel shares many key concerns with Mrs Dalloway, including the preoccupation with time and its relations to memory and living experience. Egan’s choice of an epigraph (a quotation at the beginning of a text) is telling; it’s from Marcel Proust’s enormous novel In Search of Lost Time (published in multiple volumes between 1913 – 1927), a study of time and memory that had a massive influence on writers of Woolf’s generation. Egan’s novel begins with this quotation from that novel:

Poets claim that we recapture for a moment the self that we were long ago when we enter some house or garden in which we used to live in our youth. But these are most hazardous pilgrimages, which end as often in disappointment as in success. It is in ourselves that we should rather seek to find those fixed places, contemporaneous with different years. (Proust, qtd in Egan, n. p.)

I think this quotation is a useful entry into Mrs Dalloway as well as into Egan’s novel. Think about the way that Woolf depicts Clarissa’s past (or Septimus’s, or Peter’s) as a continuous, living present within herself. The act of walking out of her house on a beautiful day at age 52 triggers the feeling of being 18 in the garden at Bourton. This is not a conscious or willed act of remembering; it’s more like an involuntary trip back in time, even though she’s also simultaneously moving about in the present. Think of the feeling of hearing a song or smelling a smell that has a significant association with a past time in your life; it’s not like the song or smell makes you think abstractly about that time–it’s more like you’re suddenly back there.

The smallest observations, smells, sounds, etc, are enough to awaken multiples pasts in the characters of Woolf’s novel, and that may help explain why its writing moves so fluidly, without signposts and seemingly at random, from thought to thought, from present to past and back, and from character to character. The past is alive, is what Woolf and  Proust and other modernists seem to believe, and this view is built into the way they write their fiction. We’ve seen it in Faulkner; we’ll see it again in Jean Rhys and in Vladimir Nabokov.

The Proust quotation reminds me of a point raised in class last week (by, I think, Johanna–correct me if I’m wrong) that Woolf uses spaces and places to structure and guide our experience of reading Mrs Dalloway.

Work cited

Egan, Jennifer. A Visit from the Goon Squad. New York: Vintage, 2010.

*Mrs Dalloway,* first half

Another great discussion last Friday! We’re ready to embark on our first novel, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. For next class (September 28), please read the first half of the novel. In the recommended Penguin edition, that means up to page 101, up to the lines where Woolf writes, “But Rezia Warren Smith cried, walking down Harley Street, that she did not like that man.” (If you’re reading a different edition, the page number may be quite different.)

What follows is an expansion on our (too brief) discussion of different narrational styles, particularly the kind of narration we saw in Mansfield’s “The Garden Party” (figural or focalized third-person narration, also called reported monologue). Knowing all these terms is not essential, but they really do help give you more insight and and critical insight into what authors are doing.

  • Objective (or dramatic) third-person narration (as in Hemingway’s story). In this form of narration the narrator is a bit like a movie camera: it (he? she?) can report things that are visible and audible, but not read minds or emotions. This kind of narrator withholds comment, makes no (or few) subjective or moral statements.
  • Omniscient third-person narration (as in the Book of Job and George Eliot’s Middlemarch). This kind of narrator can read minds, but what makes a narrator omniscient is his or her authority and knowledge to make moral judgments, report the future and play the rule of detached, wiser arbiter in conflicts between characters. This kind of narration is generally associated with the 19th century, though this is definitely an oversimplification.
  • Figural (or focalized) third-person narration (as in Mansfield’s story) is not fully distinct from omniscience; there’s spectrum from omniscience all the way to fully focalized narration (where the narrator reports only what one character thinks and feels). Figural narration is also called reported monologue because it’s as if the narrator was reporting or translating the focal character’s inner thoughts. In this kind of narration, there can be an ironic gap between what the narrator and what the focal character knows or believes; this is called “double vision.” A good example of double vision is a passage from George Eliot’s 1861 novel Silas Marner. In this passage, a drug-addicted single mother collapses on a winter’s night on the roadside, with her baby in arms:

complete torpor came [over the mother] at last: the fingers lost their tension, the arms unbent; then the little head fell [of the child] away from the bosom, and the blue eyes opened wide on the cold starlight. At first there was a little peevish cry of “mammy”, and an effort to regain the pillowing arm and bosom; but mammy’s ear was deaf, and the pillow seemed to be slipping away backward. Suddenly, as the child rolled downward on its mother’s knees, all wet with snow, its eyes were caught by a bright glancing light on the white ground, and, with the ready transition of infancy, it was immediately absorbed in watching the bright living thing running towards it, yet never arriving. That bright living thing must be caught; and in an instant the child had slipped on all-fours, and held out one little hand to catch the gleam. (Eliot 91)

This is a clear example of “double vision” because it is so easy to see that the perspective we are getting is that of the baby, but that the language used to report that perspective is definitely not the language of a baby! The narrator is wiser, smarter and more articulate; and her description of the light (actually a light in a nearby cottage) as a “bright living thing [that] must be caught” is evidently ironic: the narrator knows, and the reader knows, that the light is not really a living, moving thing; but the baby thinks it is.

I want to point out one more feature of the passage above. Although I said the language is that of the narrator and not that of the child, there is one exception:

there was a little peevish cry of “mammy”, and an effort to regain the pillowing arm and bosom; but mammy’s ear was deaf…

The first “mammy” is a quotation–that’s the baby actually saying the word. But the second one (not in quotation marks) is the narrator adopting the language of the baby in her own narration. The narrator could be doing this for a number of reasons, including an ironic or mocking mimicry of the child (but this is unlikely given the narrator’s sympathy in this case) or an attempt to communicate the immediacy and emotion of the moment. Another way to think of it is that the character’s mind and language has briefly infected the narration! In either case, it’s as if the narrator and the character briefly merge. This is called free indirect discourse, or FID.

Now let’s look at a more ambiguous, modernist example of figural narration in “The Garden Party.” Like the passage from Silas Marner, it is told entirely by the narrator, but focalized through Laura (or perhaps her mother but I think it’s Laura):

[T]he little cottages were in a lane to themselves at the very bottom of a steep rise that led up to the house. A broad road ran between. True, they were far too near. They were the greatest possible eyesore, and they had no right to be in that neighbourhood at all. They were little mean dwellings painted a chocolate brown. In the garden patches there was nothing but cabbage stalks, sick hens and tomato cans. The very smoke coming out of their chimneys was poverty-stricken. Little rags and shreds of smoke, so unlike the great silvery plumes that uncurled from the Sheridans’ chimneys. (Mansfield 250, emphases added)

The description of the poor neighbourhood is the narrator’s, but the moral evaluations are Laura’s. The italicized passages are, as I see them, moments of free indirect discourse, where Laura’s thoughts and way of speaking sneak into the narration. The narrator passes on these moral evaluations without judgment, but in doing so allows us to see how prejudice and naivety are not far below the surface of Laura’s romantic vision of the working classes. This is a more sophisticated version of double vision than Eliot’s narration of the baby’s adventure in Silas Marner. It’s also more ambiguous: once you start to see that some passages are closer to Laura’s language than the narrator’s, it becomes clear that drawing the line between the two is quite arbitrary. Who is responsible for the word “poverty-stricken,” for example? Is it the narrator, or Laura? How about the description of the smoke (“rags and shreds” versus “great silvery plumes”)? Are those objective descriptions by the narrator, or more evidence of Laura’s poetic but slightly naive mind?

So, there is a weird similarity between objective and figural narration, even though they are so technically different: both leave a lot of interpretation of what’s happening, why and what it means to the reader.

Mrs Dalloway is largely made up of figural narration (the second paragraph is a good example). But it also includes a feature we have yet encountered: interior monologue.

  • Unlike figural narration, which is an indirect transcript of the character’s mind, interior monologue is a direct transcript, in present tense, of the character’s thoughts. It’s sometimes called stream-of-consciousness narration, but I’ll explain why I don’t like that term in lecture.

For having lived in Westminster — how many years now? over twenty — one feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense (but that might be her heart, affected, they said, by influenza) before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh… (Woolf 4, emphases added)

The figural narrator, using past tense and third-person, is repeated interrupted by the present-tense, first-person thoughts of Clarissa Dalloway, her immediate sensations and the digressions of her mind as she walks down the street. Woolf’s use of inner monologue is relatively easy to follow, partly because she helps us out by having her narrator say things like “she thought.” Other authors of the time, notably James Joyce, was not as accommodating. Here is a brief excerpt from the beginning of the third episode of Ulysses, which transcribes the thoughts of the protagonist Stephen Dedalus:

Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies. Then he was aware of them bodies before of them coloured. How? By knocking his sconce against them, sure. Go easy. Bald he was and a millionaire, maestro di color che sanno. Limit of the diaphane in. Why in? Diaphane, adiaphane. If you can put your five fingers through it it is a gate, if not a door. Shut your eyes and see. (Joyce 34)

This is the mind of a pretentious young man who has read a lot. (By the way, the “he” in this passage does not refer to Stephen but to Aristotle, the author whose theories Stephen is rehearsing here.)

Works cited

Eliot, George. Silas Marner. Mineola: New York, 1996 [1861].

Joyce, James. Ulysses: The 1922 Text. Ed. Jeri Johnson. Toronto: Oxford UP, 1996 [1922].

Mansfield, Katherine. “The Garden Party.” The Collected Stories of Katherine Mansfield. Toronto: Penguin, 2001 [1922].

Woolf, Virginia. Mrs Dalloway. Toronto: Penguin, 2016 [1925].


For Sept 21: first assignment and more…

Another lively class on Friday, with some great observations about Heart of Darkness (probably the most difficult text we’ll read this term). This course is getting off to a great start!

Next class is the due date for the Close-Reading Exercise. Here are a few things to remember:

  • Your close-reading must be submitted along with a printout showing you got 100% on the online Academic Integrity Module (see Policies for details). I can’t accept any assignment without this printout.
  • For how to format your close-reading write-up, see the Assignments page.
  • If you have questions about the assignment, email me about them sooner rather than later.

Readings for September 21

Please read the four short stories by James Joyce’s “Araby”, Katherine Mansfield’s “The Garden Party”, Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills like White Elephants” and William Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily”. Please print these stories and bring the printouts to class so that our discussions can be well grounded in the texts.

We’ll discuss each story in turn, focusing a bit on their content but mostly on their style and technical elements. While you read, please pay particular attention to the narration: the voice, person (1st, 3rd, etc), tone (attitude), distance (irony), and so on. I also recommend Virginia Woolf’s essay “Modern Fiction” (but this is simply recommended, not required).

Mrs Dalloway

Remember to find a copy of Mrs Dalloway in time to read the first half by our class on September 28th. If you haven’t found or ordered a copy yet, I’d recommend doing so now. ***BREAKING NEWS!*** Mrs Dalloway has finally (09/18/2018) arrived at the Trent Bookstore.

A note: on laptops in class

I have one concern about the way the class so far, and that involves the use of laptop during the seminar. Having an open laptop is not in itself a problem; as I say in the syllabus, it is allowed—for notetaking—though I do not particularly encourage it.

That said, it is clear that some laptops are being used for purposes other than class business. And this could be a problem. It can be distracting for me and for other students; and obviously it signals a lack of engagement in the class. So please, feel free to have your laptops with you, but be aware of and on top of how you’re using them.

A related note: on participation

As mentioned above, I’ve been thrilled by the amount and quality of the participation so far in class. Let’s keep it up! I’m also impressed and happy to find that participation has been fairly evenly spread across the students in the class; this is rare—and great.

For those who are less comfortable speaking up—that’s fine, of course, though I hope you can think of our class format as a welcoming and supportive place to raise your voice. In the meantime, remember that there are other ways of participating (see HERE).