Sunday, December 6, 2009

End-of-semester happenings

We'll have optional review sessions 1-2 pm on M 12/07 and W 12/09 in our usual room, 222 Wheeler. I highly recommend that you attend at least one of them. Bring the review sheet (available on bspace under "Resources") and the texts from class.

Your papers are due on Wednesday 12/09. You may hand them in at the review session or put them in my mailbox in 322 Wheeler. Papers that aren't in either my hands or my mailbox by 2pm (or, more technically, by the time I get there after the review session) are late.

The final exam is on Friday 12/11, 1-3 pm in 222 Wheeler. Bring a large bluebook and pen. I'll be performing the standard bluebook shuffle at the beginning of the exam.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Impressions of I Capture the Castle

After reading I Capture the Castle, I thought I would share what I thought about it. As we all agreed, the book was a much easier read than other things we read this semester like Turn of the Screw, Imaginations, and Marianne Moore’s poems. It was easier to read because Cassandra, the narrator, was very straightforward about the events that went down. The writing was in no way ambiguous like Turn of the Screw.
Since the writing was clear and straightforward, the plot was very easy to follow. I thought that the plot was somewhat interesting. I found it funny that the father, who is usually portrayed as the provider of the household, did not make any money or help around the house at all. The plot seemed like a realistic story. It was so realistic that I sometimes found myself feeling bad for Stephen or being annoyed by Rose.
Also, I think that reading A Room of One’s Own before reading I Capture the Castle gave it a different experience. I would notice parallels between the two books. An example, would be that when Cassandra had the castle to herself she felt more free to write, like Woolf’s ideal setting for a woman to write fiction. I noticed that women had a lot more power in I capture the Castle. Women could be intellectual and taken seriously like Mrs. Cotton or make money with their artistic ability like Leda Fox-Cotton.
Another thing I thought about while reading I Capture the Castle was the hot topic in class on how some books appeal more to a different gender. I feel that I Capture the Castle seems like it would be more appealing to females because it is about a young girl who thinks she is in love. Did any of the guys find this book appealing?
Let me know what you guys thought about the book!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What exactly is a Modest Witness?

According to Simon and Schaffer, Boyle's experiments have to be first, disseminable, second, repeatable and third, ... something...

As for the requirements of the modest witness, he/she has to be, most importantly, unbiased... but what else makes a person a modest witness?

Sympathy for Rose

I will agree with most that Rose did not love Simon and that she was a gold digger (it's hard to argue against that). I will go as far as saying that she did it thinking more about herself than about her family. But I still believe she's not as bad as some may have made her out to be. For starters she leaves under extreme poverty so much so that Ms. Marcy can't believe how little they have when they go over their finances. Few (if any) of us will know what that's like. Next she has no opportunities ready for her. As comical as her comment about walking the streets of London was it showed us a powerful truth: there were very few (if any) opportunities for women. Yes, this were times after Jane Austen which means women could write and make a living from it, but think about it even women with talent met with many obstacles in order to become a successful writer, and Rose did not have that kind of talent. Also she wasn't the only one that wanted the marriage with Simon. Her whole family put their hopes on Rose successfully snaring him. Topaz goes out of her way to get fine dresses for Rose whether she alters old ones or makes her a new one. Cassandra herself jumps in the icy water which she hates, and even says feels like cold knives digging into her skin, just to buy Rose some time alone with Simon.

I'm not saying Rose is completely innocent, we all know that's not the case, but I will say she was pushed to this by her circumstances. But that's my opinion. What's yours?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Rose vs. Rachel

If any of you have read Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (written much later) you may agree that Rose is quite similar to Rachel Price. Rachel is a pretty and materialistic teenager who is attracted to men based on their wealth. She ends up marrying a rich white explorer who takes advantage of the natives in the African Congo. (I don't yet know the end of I Capture the Castle so I'm not comparing their outcomes) Leah Price, Rachel's sister, doesn't pay nearly as much attention to wealth as her sister and ends up marrying a poor native for love. From what I remember Rachel encounters heavy turbulence in her marriage while Leah's marriage goes smoothly. It is evident that Kingsolver's message here is that marriage for love is much better than for money. I believe this same message is conveyed (or at least will be) in Smith's book. People in class also mentioned that Stephen is reminiscent of characters in other books. Are there any other comparisons? Do you think the characters in I Capture the Castle are pretty stereotypical nowadays?

SA #16: I Capture the Castle

1. Cassandra's father is the author of a book called Jacob Wrestling, "a mixture of fiction, philosophy, and poetry" that sounds like it could have been written by one of the modernist authors that we've read in this class. In fact, when Simon compares Mortmain's second book to God's act of creation (336), he uses the same metaphor that Williams uses in Spring and All. Describe Cassandra's relationship to her father's writing.

2. Is Cassandra a modest witness? Why or why not?

I Capture the Castle

I hope everyone had a safe and fun Thanksgiving - good food, family, and friends - doesn't get any better. Anyways on the train ride back to Berkeley I had a good six hours of I Capture the Castle. For my first impressions, I would have to say that I enjoy reading Dodie Smith. Her style of writing is very appealing to me. I think it's because she makes the narrator a very realistic character. I like the way Smith reveals the narrator's thoughts as if we could glimpse into her mind. But not only are the narrator's thoughts plentiful, they expose Cassandra's personality. Being a guy, I cannot tell you that I relate to her experiences, but I can understand why she would think a certain way or act a certain way. Like J.K. Rowling said on the front cover, the narrator is one of the most lively ones I have ever read in a book. Smith allows the readers to mentally interact with the narrator and see how the story plays out and why the characters behave the way they do. This is the most fiction I've read at one time since Angels and Demons...which was three years ago.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

i capture the castle reflection

Hi everyone!
I hope you all had an amazing Thanksgiving break! Now...we get back to work :)
I wanted to point out a similarity I saw between I Capture the Castle and A Room of One's Own. The section in I Capture the Castle that I'm referring to is actually the very first sentence on the very first page of the book. She says, "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink" (3). this particular sentence immediately made me think of the importance of having a room of one's own as described in the book, A Room of One's Own. i was pretty happy to find that particualr theme in another book even if it wasn't necessarily a major part in the book. the fact that she used the sink in order to start writing her book, even though she did choose it because of the availability of sunlight, made me realize fully how having a place of your own to let your thoughts flow doesn't have to be a room, it can be a small as the space inside of the sink. As long as is a space you can call your own, a space where you can sit down concentrate and relax, it works. I mean take us as students for example, sharing a dorm room hardly gives us a room of our own, but we still manage to concentrate by creating or moving to a space we can call our own even for that moment.

SA #15: I Capture the Castle

1. "I am writing this journal partly to practise my newly acquired speed-writing and partly to teach myself how to write a novel," Cassandra explains (4). What kind of a writer is Cassandra? Describe her style, giving a few examples.

2. Cassandra writes that she "[is] seventeen, look[s] younger, feel[s] older." Later on, when she first meets Simon and Neil (50), Simon "take[s her] for a child" (52). How does Cassandra's age affect the way she understands the world around her? Choose one example to discuss briefly (just a few sentences).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Apropos of recent discussions, check out UC Hastings College of Law's web site on gender bias in the workplace: Gender Bias Learning Project.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Comparison between Women/Fiction and Minorities/Fiction

Hurston makes an interesting (although perhaps obvious) point: "minorities do think...about something other than the race problem," implying that there are stories to be had that are simultaneously uniquely minority-oriented while not about this "race problem". I found this to be quite similar to how Natalia's friend viewed women in movies or other works: they had to be in there for a reason other than as the love interest of a male character.

Did anyone else see this similarity? Does anyone else agree with these thoughts?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Questions about your drafts

Today's questions were:

1. What's the problematic [the question that the paper answers]?

2. What is the hypothesis (i.e. the claim, the point)?

3. If someone were to tell you the hypothesis, how much demonstration would you need in order to believe it? (None, one example, 6-8 pages?)

4. Describe the structure of the argument (list, ordered list, logical sequence...).

5. How can the author make the argument more complex?

6. Other suggestions?

An exam review sheet will be on bspace sometime today.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Capture the Castle vs. A Room of One's Own

As reading I Capture the Castle I have noticed that Dodie Smith does not fall under the stereotype of women writers that Virginia Woolf has explained. In A Room of One's Own Woolf describes Mary Carmichael's book, Life's Adventure, as lacking care and not being herself in her writing. Smith is far from this because her novel includes a lot of emotion and feeling from the narrator Cassandra. This novel is all of her journals entries so there is obviously a great amount of her true feelings in this novel. This is not an autobiography, but I feel that Smith is being quite true to herself and not trying to be someone else to please the male writers of the time.

This novel was written in 1948, so women writers had made some strides by then, since Woolf's book was published in 1929. This just comes to show the inprovment made for women writers that that in just a short 20 years women were able to write more of what interested them rather than what they thought society would accept. Smith was able to push through the male dominated writing world and compose a piece of writing to be proud of.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Women in I Capture the Castle

While reading I Capture the Castle, I noticed that there was still a sense of women being degraded in that period of time, which I think is a couple years after Virginia Woolfe wrote A Room of One’s Own. (Hopefully you guys all read, so I’m not being a spoiler =]) One example I found was that Topaz’s only source of possible income was to model and get her picture taken. The only way she could get a decent income was to entertain men with the pictures that were taken of her. Another example of women not being able to achieve as much as men is Rose’s inability to even get a job. Rose’s only hope is to marry a well-off man. When she does meet a nice man, she ruins it by being too forward. I think that the way Rose acts feeds to the stereotype that women are just searching for a rich husband so that they do not have to work. The narrator, who is a female, even says that Rose “has no real talents at all” and Rose even seems to believe this herself. When the family figures out the possible income for the whole family, everyone is counted as nil except for Stephen. Stephen is the ex-maid’s son, who is not even part of the family. I thought that this really showed how helpless and useless the women in the family were.
Even though there is a sense of women being degraded, there is also a sense of change too. Cassandra, the narrator, said that she could potentially sell her writing for profit in the future. In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf seems to say that it is very hard for women to gain income from their writing. Topaz also says that she needs “time for [her] own painting” that she might sell (18). This shows that a woman’s art can be taken seriously if she thinks that she can sell her own painting.

SA #14: "What White Publishers Won't Print"

Due W 11/25

1. In what ways is Hurston's style similar to that of Virginia Woolf?

2. Hurston begins her essay by arguing that white publishers don't publish stories about black people unless the black people are servants or menial laborers. Yet there is, she acknowledges "fiction built around upper-class Negroes" that "exploit[s] the race problem" (169). Why doesn't this fiction count as fiction about black people, according to Hurston?

Race or Gender Equality - Which is more important?

I remember that while Hurston's "What White Publishers Won't Print" was published in 1950, Woolf's A Room of One's Own was published in the 1920s (pardon my laziness, but I don't want to dig out the book.) It also seems to me that the general public were more accepting of books written by women earlier than they started to accept those written by racial minorities. I guess an example is with a book that has survived with great fame that was written in the 30s: Gone With the Wind. Yet, I can't recall a book from that time written by a minority author. Could this show that in the literary world, the public equalized women writers quicker than they did minority writers.

But... in the constitution, race was equalized ~70 years before women...
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