Sunday, February 27, 2011

Foster, The Coquette, Day #3

--There are a number of different morals offered up for Eliza's end by different characters in the novel. But is this really the moral that Foster wants us to derive from Eliza's story?

--In Letter LII, Lucy Sumner complains of seeing "Romeo & Juliet," suggesting that "Are there not real woes...sufficient to to exercise our sympathy and pity, without introducing fictitious ones into our very diversions?" (870). How do we consider Foster's own introduction of tragedy, even fact-based, to her audience? Is Foster critiquing the kind of narrative she herself has written, or endorsing it?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Foster, The Coquette, Day #2

--When we left off, Eliza wished simply for freedom. Obviously, freedom was an important issue in post-revolutionary America. In what ways is Eliza's desire for freedom parallel or not parallel to the national impulse to freedom in the revolution? How does this novel engage with women's place in politics, either explicitly or implicitly?

--At the end of this reading assignment, Eliza is alone, abandoned by both of her suitors. What do you make of their behavior and hers? What is Foster saying about love, marriage and what I called the "sexual contract" (in which women exchange their virtue for marriage)?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Foster, The Coquette, Day #1

--This is an epistolary novel, a novel in letters, which was a popular form for the early novel. How does it present the 'reality' of its characters' experiences? What does it emphasize and what is left out? How does this affect the way you experience the novel and your attitude toward the characters?

--Look up the word "coquette" and consider to what extent Eliza's behavior does or does not fit it. What is your attitude toward her more generally?

--Eliza corresponds extensively with her friend Lucy Freeman, who seems to embody more conventional and acceptable social attitudes; what do you make of Lucy and her friendship with Eliza?

--At the end of last class, I mentioned the doubleness of the term virtue--meaning both an idealized republican civic behavior and female chastity. Look for where virtue is used in the novel. How is it used by different characters and what does it mean to them?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Debating the Constitution: Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers

--Clearly, the two authors are writing against each others' views about the benefits of the form of national government proposed by the Constitution. Select one point among the many shared topics they discuss (size of government, form of political representation, et al.) and compare their arguments.

--Both authors published under pseudonyms, each signaling their own vision of their role in writing: "Publius" as a representative of the public interest and "Centinel" as a guardian. Publishing this way, they reflected a common belief in the period that entering the public realm of print anonymously was superior, reflecting one's lack of "interest" (what we would now call "self-interest" or personal motives). Compare this vision of print and publication to the new "public" realm of the internet and our current attitudes toward anonymous posting.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Paine & Jefferson, Reason & Revolution

--Both Paine and Jefferson attempt to offer 'reasoned' and 'natural' justifications for revolution. What are their justifications, how are they similar or different?

--The "Declaration of Independence" is a familiar document, taught to most grade school children in the US. What is different in your experience of reading it now?

--This version of the "Declaration" we are reading for class includes Jefferson's original version, with revisions and amendments shown. Is there anything surprising or particularly notable about the difference between Jefferson's first version and the one we are familiar with?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Thomas Paine, from "The Age of Reason"

--Paine wrote "The Age of Reason" to offer a public version of his religious views. Compare his "profession of faith" with Franklin's comments in his private autobiography. Do you think that they differ greatly or are they similar? Where are they similar or different?

--Paine offers a critique of the central place of revelation in the dominant organized religions and links the Christian Church to "heathen mythology." If you are a believer, how do you respond or refute his argument? (This could be a rather personal question and I ask this with reservations--I personally intend no attack upon anyone's beliefs here and if you feel uncomfortable answering it, you can avoid it).

--This was a very controversial text when it was published in 1794; would it still be controversial? Could an American public figure (i.e., a politician) today publish this without consequences?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Equiano & Wheatley

--Since we didn't get to Equiano as "autoethnography" last class, you could discuss his depiction of African culture from the previous day's reading. How does his representation of Africa fit with the definition of autoethnography? In what ways does it offer an implicit or explicit critique of Euro-American culture?

--How does Equiano's discussion of slavery and his own desire for freedom reflect Enlightenment values or concern?

--Both Equiano and Wheatley express Christian beliefs in their texts. How does Christianity help to critique slavery here?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Franklin, Autobiography Part 2 & Equiano

--Since no one took up this question last time, we can continue it this time: many scholars and critics have highlighted Franklin's use of the term "errata" to discuss his personal failings and errors. Such a notion, invoking a printer's error, seems to present problematic behavior as a relatively minor thing that could easily be corrected by reprinting. What do you make of this way of thinking about one's life?

--In my introduction to the Eighteenth Century, I talked about the Enlightenment's investment in education and method. Part II is very much about Franklin's plan for himself and what he calls "The Art of Virtue." How does this fit with those Enlightenment values? To what extent do you agree with Franklin that virtue can be taught?

--Equiano's text represents an alternative version of the Enlightenment autobiography. Written by (supposed) African former slave, The Interesting Narrative comes from a very different set of experiences than Franklin's. What do you notice as points of similarity or difference between the two texts?

--Equiano's text is an avowedly anti-slavery document. How does it use the tools or attitudes of the Enlightenment to critique slavery?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Franklin, Autobiography Part 1

--Like the Puritan minister Shepard, Benjamin Franklin wrote his Autobiography for private circulation to his son, but otherwise it is very different. What are the differences in terms of lessons to be drawn from life, understanding of self and larger community here?

--In the opening of Part I, Franklin casts himself as the "author" of his life, proposing the merits of being able to correct errors, as in a "second Edition." In what other ways in writing or editing an important figure for Franklin's vision of his life? What does it mean to you to be the 'author' of your life?

--What do you see as Franklin's religious beliefs? Is he in any way religious? If not religion, what are the values that most shape his beliefs and behaviors?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bradstreet & Taylor, Puritan Poetry

--Anne Bradstreet's poetry is the best known of the Puritan era, but reflects her rather unrepresentative status as a woman. In "The Prologue," she seems to address the inferior status of woman in Puritan life. Does she uphold the Puritan gender hierarchy or question it?

--How does Bradstreet's poem "Verses upon the Burning of Our House" dramatize the conflict of the Puritan's belief in providence?

--Edward Taylor's "Huswifery" is based upon an elaborate poetic figure or conceit which likens the preparation of wool for weaving clothing (work conventionally done by women in the Puritan home) to spiritual life. How does this fit or not fit with the Puritan emphasis on "plain style," the rigid rejection of any kind of figurative language?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Rowlandson, Captivity Day #2

Please answer one of the following questions, or post any other comments or questions you might have. You may answer this for Wednesday (despite the class being cancelled) or for Friday.

--We discussed Rowlandson's deeply ambivalent attitude toward Native Americans last class. Do you find that she has changed or improved her attitude be the end of her narrative?

--We also discussed how Rowlandson's narrative seemed to contain two somewhat competing impulses: the personal narrative of her own spiritual life and the testing of the community's faith in King Philip's War. Which do you find dominates the end of the narrative and what does she have to say about either herself or the community?