Wednesday, March 30, 2016

For Thursday: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival

REMEMBER, no class on Thursday: instead, you could go to the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival which starts at 9:30 and continues at 11:00, 2:00, 3:00 and 7:00. Here is the entire schedule for Thursday-Saturday, so you can find a time that suits you:

If you attend a session, answer ALL FOUR of the questions below for an extra credit bonus. This can take the form of missed responses, missed classes, or simply extra points on your final grade. The amount of responses or absences I forgive is based on how detailed/engaged your answers are. For example, if you respond to each question with a 1-2 sentence response and I can't really tell if you even attended a session, I might not be able to give you any credit. But if I can see that you put some thought into it and really responded to what you observed at the reading, I can excuse up to 3 absences or 3 missed responses. So take notes as you watch so you can answer these questions with thought and detail. You can bring these responses to class on Tuesday. 

THE QUESTIONS (answer all 4):

Q1: Which of the authors interested you the most and why? Why did you respond their poems and/or story and why might you read more from this author?

Q2: Which piece (if any) did you find difficult to follow or understand and why? Is is simply not your kind of material, or was it too vulgar, or depressing, or confusing? If you liked all the pieces you heard by each writer, answer this instead: how did each author's reading work together as a whole? Why did these 3 (or 4) writers work well together? Was there any common themes or ideas that seemed to link them together?

Q3: Discuss briefly how the authors presented their material: their reading style, introductions, gestures, and other details that helped you appreciate the stories/poems. In other words, how did the authors help you understand their work through their performance?

Q4: How did the audience react to these authors/works? Did certain works get more response than others--and if so, why? Did people laugh? Were they completely silent. Did people seem to 'get' these writers, or did some leave them scratching their heads? How could you tell? 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

For Thursday: Levin, The Stepford Wives, pp.50-100 (at least)

Answer TWO of the following...

Q1: On page 57, Bobbie confides her secret fears to Joanna, that the town is genetically altering (or poisoning) women to become buxom, brainwashed beauties. She cites an example of something similar occurring in El Paso, and worries the water supply may be tainted from nearby factories. Why might this be a very forward-thinking, and extremely relevant fear for Ira Levin to express in 1972? What does this suggest people (or sci-fi writers, at least) are already starting to worry about?

Q2: How do we know the events of the story (at least up to page 100) aren’t simply in Joanna’s head? Her husband doesn’t believe her, none of the women give her the time of day (even Bobbie looses interest), and her therapist simply says, “I can understand your not being happy in a town of highly home-oriented women...I wouldn’t be either” (93). Does Levin give us clues that support her fears—or does the book suggest that society itself could make a ‘modern’ woman go mad?

Q3: Despite the mystery/science fiction elements of the book, how does Levin explore the problems of modern marriages? What seems to drive Joanna and Walter apart (or other husbands and wives)? What about our modern American culture seems counterproductive to establishing a happy domestic life?

Q4: In a strange passage on page 91, Joanna talks to Bobbie’s son, Jonny, who admits that his mother has had a strange transformation. And yet, he adds, “She doesn’t shout any more, she makes hot breakfasts...I hope it lasts...but I bet it doesn’t.” How might this put an interesting spin on the epidemic of happy homemakers in Stepford? Why add the child’s perspective to Joanna’s fears?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

For Thursday: Levin, The Stepford Wives, pp.1-50

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: Even though this book seems quite normal and earthbound, what connections might it already have with a story like Never Let Me Go? How might this be a ‘science fiction’ work about our own world, only slightly changed to distort our perspective? Do you see any clues to the real story behind the town of Stepford?

Q2: Joanna calls the Stepford Wives “actresses in a commercial, pleased with detergent and floor wax, with cleansers, shampoos, and deodorants. Pretty actresses, big in the bosom, but small in talent, playing suburban housewives unconvincingly, too nicey-nice to be real” (42-43). How might this relate to our discussion on Tuesday about clothes being an “act of imagination, an invention of the self”?

Q3: How does Joanna seem to define herself as a woman? What will she do—and not do—as a wife and mother, and how does this shape her views of the men and women of Stepford? Do you feel she’s reading too much into the town? Is she projecting her own fears of identity onto her neighbors?

Q4: The Stepford Wives is surprisingly open about sex and the intimate lives between husbands and wives (and what women share about their husbands with other women). Why might this have been shocking in 1972, when the book was first published? Do you feel Ira Levin was trying to shock his readers—and is it still a little eye-opening today?