READ ALL THESE PROMPTS. Then, respond briefly to one of them (in at least 300 words) by Wednesday, 22 July. Return later in the last week of the class and review some of the responses of your classmates as you prepare to take the written part of the final exam.
1. Virginia Woolf
Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own” is often regarded as one of the inaugural moments in the development of cultural feminism. What does Woolf say here about the way women’s identity is formed? What does that have to do with being an artist? On a larger scale, what does Woolf’s essay have to do with the formation of identity?
You might consider the poet Percy Shelley’s line from “A Defense of Poetry, (Links to an external site.)” also writing about the effects of art on identity, that “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World.” What, exactly, do you think Shelley might mean by this? And how might Virginia Woolf be expanding on this concept?
2. A “Room of One’s Own” or a trip to the bakery….
The selections we read from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own focus on the larger question of “women and fiction.” Woolf suggests that this topic might include “women and what they are like; or it might mean women and the fiction that they write; or it might mean women and the fiction that is written about them; or it might mean that somehow all three are inextricably mixed together…” (362). Where, or how, does Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” fit into this scheme? Who is “writing” these stories, and how is womanhood, or girlhood – the process of becoming a woman – represented here? What do you think Woolf would have to say about the lives of the girls in each of these stories? What similarities do you find? Are either of these writers trying to remind their readers of Woolf’s essay or raising the same issues? In what ways?
As you discuss your answer, remember to use quotations!
3. Holocaust Writers
In Tadeusz Borowski’s “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen” and in Paul Celan’s “Deathfugue,” the reader gets two views of life and death in Nazi prison camps. Are these two views similar in any ways? How? How are they different? Are these differences important? Why?
In “This Way for the Gas,” Borowski says that “people going to their death must be deceived to the very end. This is the only permissible form of charity.” Later, he asks his mentor, Henri, “are we good people?” Why are these passages important in terms of understanding the themes of the story? What is Borowski saying about life in the camps? What is he saying about surviving? and humanity?
Reread “Deathfugue” several times; it’s a confusing poem with some surrealist imagery and most of the punctuation deleted. Why is it so confusing? What would be the purpose for that? What is the original language of the poem, and why is the language of “Deathfugue” important? (Is there a comment on languages to be found in the Borowski story, as well?) What do you think is meant by the phrase “Black milk of daybreak”? (I’m honestly asking; I don’t think there’s a “right” answer here….)