Weekly Writing Questions: The Moors, 2nd half

You are asked to submit six of these weekly writings over the course of the semester – if you choose to respond to this text, your response should be at least 200 words to receive credit. You should feel free to respond to any one of the prompts below, or if there is some other aspect of the text we are discussing that you would like to comment on, you may do that as well.

Some possible prompts for The Moors, 2nd half:

1. If the first half didn’t already, this second half of the play very explicitly begins to bring in discussions of queerness and female relationships. What does it shift about the themes this story borrows from Jane Eyre and other Bronte novels to look at their power dynamics through the lens of queerness?
2. Talk about the role of the moors (the wilderness) and the way they are characterized in this play – what does their importance seem to be?
3. Talk about the progression of the relationship between the dog and the moor-hen – it’s a very modern-seeming relationship. How does it comment on the other relationships in the play or the relationships in other gothic texts? How does time play a role in this relationship?
4. What do you make of the bargain Agatha and Emilie strike? From the live burial, to the torture/rape/murder of Branwell, to the contractual nature of the union, to the questions it raises about gender/lineage/power, there’s a lot to think about in that bargain. Comment on some aspect of it.
5. Talk about the end of the play – the people who are left are the servants and the dog. Huldey has been devoured by the moors, Agatha has been murdered, and the moor-hen has been eaten. In the end, we get a debate between Emilie and Margaret about how best to record the story, and they do it in a very familiar way. What do you make of any of this?
6. This is the first gothic text we’ve read that is also explicitly a comedy. Talk about the interaction of comedy and horror in this play.
7. Comment on some other way you see this play twisting ideas presented in Jane Eyre.
8. Comment on some other way you see contemporary problems/questions being mapped onto this Bronte-setting.
9. Comment on some other way you see ideas about gender being manipulated and experimented with in this play.

Weekly Writing Questions: The Moors 1-7

You are asked to submit six of these weekly writings over the course of the semester – if you choose to respond to this text, your response should be at least 200 words to receive credit. You should feel free to respond to any one of the prompts below, or if there is some other aspect of the text we are discussing that you would like to comment on, you may do that as well.

Some possible prompts for The Moors, scenes 1-7:

1. This play is a contemporary rewriting of ideas in the Bronte novels (not just Jane Eyre). The gothic always plays with the relationships between the present and the past – where do you see that happening here? Remember, in the “Setting” description, Silverman says “This play is about the present” before she says under “Time”: “The 1840s…ish.”

2. Silverman says under “Playwright’s notes”: “Casting is best when very diverse” – talk about this note in relationship to the fact that this play is clearly showing us characters we’ve seen before in other gothic literature (like Jane Eyre) who were very white and English.

3. This play riffs on ideas about gender, genre, and specifically the Brontes. Choose some thematic element in this play that you think resonates with an idea in another text we read this semester (Jane Eyre will have the most obvious parallels, but you can choose something else if you prefer), and talk about any differences you see in the way Silverman is using that same image/character/idea.

4. Talk about the poet-philosopher dog. Why?

5. Talk about the dream-like elements – the “scullery” and “parlor” maids being the same person, the fact that every room looks suspiciously like the parlor, the fact that, according to Hudley, time functions so that a new day starts every time you have a new feeling, etc.

6. Talk about the ways that this play deals with the idea of savagery and domesticity.

7. Talk about one of the forms of writing we see in this play – either the dog’s poetry, Hudley’s diary, or Agatha and Emilie’s letters. They seem a little bit like parodies of poetry, diaries, and letters in other gothic works. What’s that all about?

8. Talk about the sexual tension in the play.

9. Talk about the obvious absence of men in the play – what do you think that choice is about, & in that case, why make the dog male?

Weekly Writing Questions: Jane Eyre film adaptations

You are asked to submit six of these weekly writings over the course of the semester – if you choose to respond to this text, your response should be at least 200 words to receive credit. You should feel free to respond to any one of the prompts below, or if there is some other aspect of the text we are discussing that you would like to comment on, you may do that as well.

Some possible prompts for Jane Eyre film versions (1943 or 2011):

Note: Please indicate which version of the film you watched with your answer.

  1. Choose some detail that from the novel that you consider important to the story, but that the film version you watched either changed or left out. How does the removal or alteration of that detail change the story/its meaning? What does it tell you about the way these filmmakers interpret Bronte’s novel?
  2. Choose something from the film adaptation that was added (was not part of Bronte’s novel). Why do you think the filmmakers thought this additional detail was needed? What does it tell you about the way the filmmakers interpret Bronte’s novel?
  3. Talk about some non-textual element of the film that you found interesting. What’s some element of casting, acting, costuming, lighting, set design, camera-work, or audio design that stands out to you in this film? Why do you think the filmmakers made that particular choice? What does it tell you about the way these filmmakers interpret Bronte’s novel?
  4. Why do you think the film you watched was made when it was made? In other words, what ideas in Bronte’s novel do you think would be particularly relevant to people in 1943 (or 2011)?

Weekly Writing Questions: Jane Eyre chapters 31-38

You are asked to submit six of these weekly writings over the course of the semester – if you choose to respond to this text, your response should be at least 200 words to receive credit. You should feel free to respond to any one of the prompts below, or if there is some other aspect of the text we are discussing that you would like to comment on, you may do that as well.

Some possible prompts for Jane Eyre chapters 31-38:

  1. During her time at Morton, Jane takes on the job of being a teacher for the local children. Throughout this novel, Jane’s education has been a continuing focus. What ideas about education do you think this village school adds to that narrative?
  2. In a lot of ways, these chapters serve to provide a foil and point of comparison to Mr. Rochester in the shape of St. John. For you, what are the important contrasts between them? How does St. John help us better understand Jane, Mr. Rochester, or the primary romantic relationship in the novel?
  3. For that matter, religious duty becomes enormously important in these chapters. How would you characterize Jane’s attitude toward questions of faith and responsibility in these chapters?
  4. Jane gains a set of familial relationships in these chapters with the Rivers siblings, as well as a great deal of money. Obviously, these things make Jane very happy. But how do you see these events as developing or shifting the questions we’ve been asking about this novel all along? The questions about class, power, dependency, etc.?
  5. At the end of chapter 35, the novel presents its first truly supernatural event, when Jane hears Mr. Rochester’s voice calling to her. Why do you think the novel chooses to add in this magical element so late in the game? What do you think of the relationship between this moment and the faux-supernatural events that precede it, all of which have practical explanations?
  6. What do you think about the way the novel disposed of all the obstacles that stood in the way of Jane’s marriage? We hear about Bertha’s violent death and the destruction of Thornfield Hall after the fact, and it is very convenient for the tying of the the novel’s loose ends – that scene is gruesome, but also in many ways, is very easy. Why would Bronte spend this entire story building up hurdle after insurmountable hurdle for Jane only to tear them all down in this deus-ex-machina fashion?
  7. Many people have commented on this novel’s ending and the fact that these two characters, so deeply divided by circumstance throughout, are only able to have a relationship when Rochester is stripped of his power – mutilated and brought low. What do you think of this? Why do you think Rochester’s blinding and loss of limb are such important features of this novel’s conclusion?
  8. Now that we’ve come to the end, feel free to pose some other question or observation that you are left with.

Weekly Writing Questions: Jane Eyre chapters 25-30

You are asked to submit six of these weekly writings over the course of the semester – if you choose to respond to this text, your response should be at least 200 words to receive credit. You should feel free to respond to any one of the prompts below, or if there is some other aspect of the text we are discussing that you would like to comment on, you may do that as well.

Some possible prompts for Jane Eyre chapters 25-30:

  1. In Chapter 25, Jane describes the disturbing dreams she’s been having in the lead-up to her wedding. Talk about one+ of those dreams and do some interpretation of it.
  2. Chapter 26 describes Jane & Rochester’s wedding day – a day that is interrupted and cut short. Talk about Rochester’s attitude of defiance in this chapter – what does it tell you about him, or about his reasons for behaving as he has?
  3. In that chapter, we learn the truth about the mysterious violence we’ve seen in the novel: that it’s been caused by Rochester’s wife, Bertha Mason. Talk about the descriptions of Bertha. What kind of a figure is she? What does her purpose seem to be? She is, more than anything, a monster, but that monster has many elements: she is a specter of Rochester’s bad judgment, of a system of marriage that is tied to wealth/class, of attitudes toward disability, and of attitudes toward race. In your opinion, what is the horror of this figure? Beyond acting as an obstacle for the marriage, why do you think this character has been here, haunting the novel the whole time?
  4. Chapter 27 presents us with the central moral dilemma of the novel. All the cards are on the table – there is no more secrecy, and we see that Jane and Rochester really are in love with one another, and that Rochester is prevented from pursuing happiness in any other way than what he proposes. Jane, however, is absolutely sure that she can’t stay with him. Why do you think Jane makes this choice? Much of this novel is about refusing conventional morality, and Rochester insists that it’s only convention that prevents them from being together. How do you understand Jane’s reasoning? Why not stay with him?
  5. Chapter 27 is also the most vividly emotional chapter of the novel, and that emotion is often expressed in a language of violence. Talk about the way that Rochester’s passion is expressed through a kind of passionate anger that takes the shape of threats.
  6. Whose position makes more sense to you, Jane’s or Rochester’s?
  7. After leaving Rochester, Jane enters a period of destitution and starvation, where she is stripped of all her possessions, almost starves to death, and has a series of direct encounters with nature. Why do you think the novel brings her to such a desperate place? What does the role of the natural world seem to be in these chapters?

Weekly Writing Questions: Jane Eyre chapters 19-24

You are asked to submit six of these weekly writings over the course of the semester – if you choose to respond to this text, your response should be at least 200 words to receive credit. You should feel free to respond to any one of the prompts below, or if there is some other aspect of the text we are discussing that you would like to comment on, you may do that as well.

Some possible prompts for Jane Eyre chapters 19-24:

  1. In Chapter 19, Rochester goes through a lot of deceit and disguise in order to have a conversation with Jane about her feelings – why do you think he feels the need to go through such an elaborate ruse? Why does he need this guise – female, poor, mystical – to approach these topics?
  2. Rochester grants a lot of agency to Jane in these chapters. He says in Chapter 19, “Chance has meted you a measure of happiness…She has laid it carefully on one side for you. I saw her do it. It depends on yourself to stretch out your hand, and take it up: but whether you will do so, is the problem I study.” In lines like these, he suggests that Jane is the only one of the two of them with the power to move their relationship forward. Why do you think he takes this attitude? Why not just propose to her himself?
  3. Chapter 20 has another violent scene, and one that seems to unsettle  Rochester even more than the fire scene. On about the sixth page of that chapter (for me, p.271), Rochester leaves Jane to take care of his wounded visitor, Richard Mason. Talk about how the specifics of that scene add to your understanding of the threat in this house: Jane is left alone in the attic of the house with a bleeding man who is forbidden to speak to her, and his attacker making monstrous sounds on the other side of a door just a few feet away. Jane is left there, trusted with caring for this predicament, but not with any knowledge of why it is happening, while Rochester leaves to find a doctor. How do you read any of this?
  4. In Chapter 21, we are reintroduced to the characters from the beginning of the novel: the Reeds. Write about the transformations they’ve undergone. Either think about how time has changed Jane’s understanding of Mrs. Reed, or, alternately, think about the way Eliza and Georgiana are contrasted. The two sisters are extreme opposites – how does their opposition help you better understand something about the bigger dilemmas in the novel, or Jane’s character?
  5. In Chapter 23, we get the big romance scene of the novel, and for the first half of it, Rochester works really hard to work Jane up into a state of anxiety and sadness. Talk about the strategies he’s pursuing early in that scene and what you think their purpose is.
  6. In that same chapter, Jane asserts: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will; which I now exert to leave you” – based on the conversations we’ve had about this book so far, what do you think about this claim? What kinds of freedoms does Jane have in this moment, and what kinds does she lack?
  7. At the end of Chapter 23, in a very famous moment of this novel, a crack of lightning splits the big chestnut tree in the garden – how do you read this image?
  8. After proposing to Jane, Rochester goes full romance-novel on her: he wants to lavish her with gifts and praise. Jane, though, isn’t having it – why not? How do you understand her objections in this chapter? What do you think of the little argument Rochester has with Adele about going to live with Jane on the moon?
  9. Ask some other interpretive question about these chapters and get into the evidence.

Weekly Writing Questions: Jane Eyre chapters 1-18

Hi all – I apologize that I’ve gotten behind on posting Weekly Writing questions for Jane Eyre. I am posting a series of open-ended questions here that should allow you to write about whatever you want in the opening chapters. Since this covers a couple of weeks of our discussion, please feel free to respond more than once if you are concerned about getting to your 6 posts for the semester.

Some possible prompts for Jane Eyre chapters 1-18:

  1. Pose an interpretive question – what’s something you’re trying to figure out about this novel so far? Work through the evidence at hand a bit.
  2. Choose some aspect of the novel that feels connected to a contemporary problem to you, and write about that connection. How does your knowledge about that contemporary problem help you read the novel? Or the reverse: how does the novel illustrate or clarify some the contemporary dynamic?
  3. Choose some aspect of the novel that you feel disconnected from because it seems to be very specific to its moment in history or its location. What might be a research question you could pursue to help you build your knowledge about that part of the novel? What do you understand about it and its role in the story?
  4. Choose one place in the novel and write about how its physical features and inhabitants are connected to important ideas in the novel – what role does the red room play in the story? Or Lowood? Or Thornfield Hall? Or the attic? Or some other place?
  5. What is some aspect of Jane’s circumstances that shape her personality/ways of thinking? Get as specific as possible. 
  6. What seems to be the role of the supernatural in this novel? Choose a specific scene to illustrate your point.

Jane Eyre Research for Tuesday, April 9

Hi everyone –

For our class on April 9, you’re asked to go out and find 1 scholarly article or book/chapter about Jane Eyre. As much as you can, please choose a piece that you find through the process of asking 1) an interpretive question about the novel that leads you to a 2) research question, and use that research question to search for a piece of research that addresses your interests in some way.

Please use the “Comment” feature of this post to provide an MLA style citation of the article you found. Optionally, you can also include the interpretive question & research question that led you to it.

CLASS CANCELLED tomorrow, 3/26

Hi everyone – 

I hate to do this, but I need to cancel our class tomorrow – Tuesday, March 26th. I’ve been sick, and I was hoping I’d be recovered enough to push through tomorrow, but that hasn’t turned out to be the case. In my current state, I don’t think I’ll be of much use to anyone in the next 24 hours. Hopefully that doesn’t throw anyone off too much.

As far as our class schedule goes, let’s just push our Jane Eyre readings back a day for a while. I’ll give you a revised schedule on Thursday – but for the moment, let’s just say that we’ll only try to tackle chapters 1-6 on Thursday.

Again, I sincerely apologize for having to do this. I try never to miss a day of class, and I really hate doing it now. I hope you’ve all been having a good weekend, and I look forward to talking with you about some Bronte stuff on Thursday. Enjoy the short break and the not-getting-my-germs.

-A. Douglass

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