In addition to racial, ethnic, and gender stereotyping, what other kinds of stereotypes have you seen in the media? How do frequent portrayals of such stereotypes affect people’s perceptions of their veracity?
Choose one weeknight and one weekend night to watch television news during prime time. Describe the race, sex, approximate age, and other notable factors of people featured in the news. What diversity-related factors do you observe?
2. What does Laurino see as some of the physical and sensory markers of her Italian identity ? Does she describe these markers in a positive or negative light ? 3. What does unmanaged hair symbolize in American culture, according to Laurino? What do people associate it with and how are these associations symbolic of social and economic status ? 4. Ultimately , how does Laurino describe herself in terms of class ( para graph 22 ) ? What do you feel Laurino is trying to say about class , particu larly as it relates to American culture? 5. Why does Laurino refer to the Ginzos as her “rearview mirror” (para graph 26)? What is trying she trying to move beyond ? 6. Why does Laurino’s husband laugh when she tells him that she tried to as similate by imitating Jewish culture (paragraph 29)? 7. What is Laurino’s ” new fear about smell ” ( paragraph 39 ) ? 8. What voices does Laurino want to uncover (paragraph 50)? How were they silenced ? In your answer , use examples from throughout the essay. The Way We Are Told 9. To what does Laurino compare the blue of the gym uniforms (paragraph 1)? What does the comparison imply ? 10. Are there sections of Laurino’s narrative that you find humorous ? Which sections are they and why are they funny ? How might humor help her set the tone in her essay ? 11. At what points does Laurino use dialogue in her narrative? Is this effective ? 12. As with many narratives, Laurino does not state her theses directly. She does, however, want to convey specific messages about class, ethnic her itage, and identity. Summarize two or three of the claims you feel she is making . 13. Reflect on the title. Does the word ” scents ” usually carry negative or posi tive connotations ? Why doesn’t Laurino use the word ” smells ” as a title?”
Before you read and respond to the Discussion prompt, read through my overview of “close reading” (posted below). It
English Assignment Help Before you read and respond to the Discussion prompt, read through my overview of “close reading” (posted below). It will prepare you for the Close Reading Write-Up assignment , and also help you to answer today’s Discussion prompt.
What is Close Reading?
Close reading is the thoughtful, critical analysis of a text. When we close read, we focus on significant details and patterns in order to develop a deep and precise understanding of the text’s meaning and form. Let’s break down what I mean by meaning and form. As readers, we need to understand what the text is about (in other words, we must grasp the content of the text). The “what” or the “content” is often referred to as the meaning or message of the literary text. But in addition to analyzing what a literary text is about, we can also discuss how the author uses language rhetorically—the “how” aspect of literature is often referred to as the form of a text. It might also be called the craft of a text. When we close read, we try to read on two levels at once: we try to understand both “the what” (what’s this story about? what happens? what messages circulate in this text?) and “the how” (how does the author use language to create a certain impression or emotional experience within the reader?). In literary writing, the “how” usually connects in a significant way to the “what.” The reason the “how” and the “what” connect in literature is because literary authors use the rhetorical features of language—such as metaphor, imagery, unique syntactical or grammatical constructions, pacing, tone, point of view, rhythm, etc.—in order to reinforce the work’s overall meaning. When you close read a work of literature, you are able to explain, in great detail, how the author’s creative use of language (i.e. his or her use of rhetorical devices and structural elements) contributes in significant ways to what the text means. In a nutshell, close reading is about recognizing that the rhetorical quality of language is not just a pretty “add-on”; it is absolutely central to grasping the meaning.
So to sum-up:
To conduct a “close reading” of a literary text, you must focus on:
observing how the author uses language, i.e. describing the text’s formal features (its structure, linguistic patterns, metaphors, tone, imagery, rhymes, etc.)
elucidating/explaining how the text’s formal features contribute in a significant way to the text’s content (i.e. what the text is about, its themes, messages, meanings, etc.)
In the “close reading” approach, you do not need to bring in historical or biographical information about the author. Instead, all of your energy should be focused on analyzing the specific words that appear in the text. Your first step, in a close reading, should be to identify interesting linguistic details and patterns. Sometimes you will be able to name these details/patterns using classic literary device terminology (for instance, you might identity a “metaphor,” “a simile,” or “juxtaposition”). However, there are other times when you will observe something interesting happening at the level of a text’s form, but you will not be able to think of a literary term to sum up what’s happening in the text. That is perfectly alright. In a close reading, it is much more important to thoughtfully and thoroughly describe what you see happening in the text’s language than it is to throw out a bunch of terminology. Even if you can think of a term to describe what you see, you should not just call it a “metaphor” and leave it at that, but instead, you should describe, in detail, how the metaphor functions (i.e. what is being compared to what, what makes that comparison surprising or notable, what associations might that comparison trigger in the mind of the reader, etc. etc.). After you have spent a significant amount of time describing the interesting linguistic detail or pattern, then, and only then, will you be in a position to comment on HOW it contributes to the text’s overall meaning.
The story that we’re discussing this week, “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid, is difficult to understand if you ignore the rhetorical qualities of Kincaid’s language. The story is very short, but Kincaid has chosen each word with a tremendous amount of care. In order to come to a critical understanding of the piece, it is necessary to be extremely observant. Although close reading ultimately involves interpreting a text, the first step is always observation. As you read “Girl,” try to observe as many interesting details as you can about the way the author uses language. For instance, when I look at it, several interesting things about the language jump out at me: I realize that all the sentences sound like commands or directions; the author hasn’t made it clear who’s point of view is being represented (there are no character names); and I also notice that there is very fast-paced rhythm to all the sentences (it feels like they just keep coming without any pauses). Those are just a few examples of details about the language that I notice. For your Discussion response, pick one interesting thing about the language that you noticed (you can use one of the ones I just mentioned, but better yet, come up with something different). Describe how you think the language is working. What makes it unique or notable? Then, try to come up with an interpretation of WHY the author chose to use language in that way. How does it help Kincaid create a certain message or meaning? What do you think Kincaid is ultimately trying to express in this short story?
Bonus Discussion Prompt (worth 10 extra-credit points)
Is there an identifiable plot in “Girl”? If there is, indeed, a “plot,” it certainly doesn’t follow the traditional narrative structure that we read about in the textbook and discussed in relation to James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues.” Nonetheless, are there subtle ways in which Kincaid uses language to demonstrate the passage of time? How much time passes in the story? Is there a moment of climax? How is conflict portrayed in this story and/or resolved? (You don’t necessarily need to answer all of these questions in your response; it’s fine to focus on one or two of them). In your response, please quote the story to support your interpretation.
Article for assignment: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1978/06/26/girl
Reading Assignment Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” In addition to the required reading, here are some other resources
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”
In addition to the required reading, here are some other resources that I recommend checking out (not required but *highly* recommended):
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short essay, “Why I Wrote ‘The Yellow Wallpaper https://www.americanyawp.com/reader/18-industrial-america/charlotte-perkins-gilman-why-i-wrote-the-yellow-wallpaper-1913/'”
Kathryn Hughes’s essay, “House of Horror: The Poisonous Power of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ‘The Yellow Wallpaper.’ https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2020/feb/07/charlotte-perkins-gilman-yellow-wallpaper-strangeness-classic-short-story-exhibition” Written for The Guardian, this essay touches on the racial undertones of Gilman’s text, the story’s connection to the present day #MeToo movement, as well as the ways in which Gilman’s work resonates with contemporary visual artists.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” is often described by literary scholars as a feminist text. (In the simplest terms, “feminism” can be understood as: The belief that all genders should have equal rights, power, and opportunities. Feminists recognize that gender inequalities exist in our society and they fight to dismantle the social, political, and economic hierarchies that subordinate people based on their gender). Do you agree with the claim that Gilman’s story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” is a feminist text? In what way(s) does “The Yellow Wallpaper” address gender inequality? To answer these questions, you might consider any of the following:
The power dynamic between the narrator and her husband (John)
The kind of language that John uses when addressing his wife (how he talks to her)
How the narrator’s attitude and feelings toward her husband evolve over the course of the narrative
Discrepancies in how the narrator describes her husband’s behavior and treatment of her versus how we, as readers, perceive his behavior
The role of the baby (who is only mentioned a few times) in the story and/or the narrator’s position as a wife and new mother
The narrator’s perception of an obsession with the wallpaper in the nursery, including how her perception/hallucination of the wallpaper’s sub-pattern may reflect her own condition/situation, and the situation of women more generally
The relationship between mental health and gender oppression
The medical establishment’s treatment of women (as represented by John, who combines two positions of authority in a single character: husband and physician)
The story’s ambiguous conclusion (what happens? is the traditional male-female power dynamic subverted in the story’s final moment? and/or does the narrator suffer a complete mental breakdown?)
How the story connects with feminist movements today, such as the #MeToo movement (mentioned in Kathryn Hughes’s essay, linked above)
Whichever topic, or topics, you choose to focus on, make sure that, at some point in your response, you include textual evidence–i.e. a short quotation (no more than a couple of sentences, but even a well-selected phrase would suffice)–from “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Explain how the quotation supports your response/interpretation.