Monday, February 29, 2016

AP Essay 2: Multiple Choice

Recently I took an AP practice test; one of the sections is multiple choice. I got some of the questions wrong, so here are the descriptions as to, why I chose what I chose and the correct answer for the question. 

Both of my questions come from the work of Henry Fielding's The History of Tom Jones (1749).

Question 2: The narrator’s parenthetical remark “if they mean anything,” (lines 8-9) can best be described as a comment on
(A) the pretentiousness of doctors
(B) Sophia’s lack of medical knowledge
(C) the seriousness of Sophia’s malady
(D) physicians’ incompetence
(E) the arrogance of some physicians
My choice: D
Correct choice: A
When reading this I thought that she was trying to say that physicians don’t know what they are doing, and to not take their word for granted. Reading it now and relating the right answer it makes more sense and I understand why I got it wrong. 

Question 9: The description of Sophia in lines 43-45 has the primary effect of 
(A) revealing Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s opinion of Sophia
(B) suggesting that Sophia lacked determination
(C) emphasizing that Sophia did not take Mrs. Fitzpatrick’s fear seriously 
(D) providing evidence that Sophia was no less eccentric than Mrs. Fitzpatrick
(E) showing that Sophia was extremely flexible and softhearted
My Choice: B
Correct choice: E
That part in the passage says that Sophia couldn’t laugh nor reason. I took that as a lack of determination, and not flexible or softhearted. As I look back on it now I still do not see why E is the answer. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ivy Oxton, Guest Post: Elaine Showalter's "Representations of Ophelia" (pgs. 281-98)

John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1852.
John Everett Millais, a famous Pre-Raphaelite painter, offers a good example of someone trying to capture Ophelia's story and how she may look. 

In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, technically, Ophelia is only in five of twenty scenes within the play, but despite her limited number of appearances, everyone seems to be transfixed by her and search for her story. By everyone I mean nineteenth century feminists, like Anna Jameson, psychoanalysts, like Lacan, Pre-Raphaelites, like John Everett Mallais, and a large number of American, French, and contemporary feminist critics. The real trick to Ophelia is that she does not have a story to provide. As Lee Edwards says, “it is impossible to reconstruct Ophelia’s biography from the text: ‘We can imagine Hamlet’s story without Ophelia, but Ophelia literally has no story without Hamlet’” (283). 

How can someone who has so little appearances and someone with no story be so capturing? In my opinion, we want to know the unknown, we feel a need to give someone background or a story. We want to make them worth something, and try and connect aspects of them back to ourselves to feel some relation. Connect with what they are going through so we feel like we are not the only ones and to provide clarities for ourselves in some instances. 

Discussion Questions:

1.What is your take on Ophelia’s little appearance and need for a story? Does she capture you, if so how?

2.If Lee Edwards’s quote is true, “it is impossible to reconstruct Ophelia’s biography from the text: ‘We can imagine Hamlet’s story without Ophelia, but Ophelia literally has no story without Hamlet’” (283), then what would Hamlet’s story be without Ophelia?

AP Practice Test Number 2: Multiple-Choice Self Reflections

Hello everyone, here are five questions from the multiple choice section on the AP Practice Test that stumped me. I have given my answer, the correct answer, and an explanation of both. 

1) Henry Fielding’s The History of Tom Jones (1749) 

15. (Question) The main concern of the passage is… 
A) Sophia's trials and tribulations
B) the impression Sophia creates on others
C) Sophia's relationship with Mrs. Fitzpatrick
D) Sophia's manner and appearance
E) the differences between Sophia and Mrs. Fitzpatrick

Correct answer: "C: Sophia's manner and appearance." 
My answer: “B: the impression Sophia creates on others.” 

I chose B because the passage had a lot of focus on Sophia and the other people she was making contact with, so this answer seemed to make sense at the time. Looking at it again, it makes sense that the main concern of the passage would be Sophia’s manner and appearance because the author talks a lot about those two aspects of her character as well as aspects of the other characters, not necessarily the impression Sophia creates on others. 

2) Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” (1850)

26. (Question) The primary theme of the poem is derived chiefly from… 
A) a comparison between the past and the present
B) the contrast between the peacefulness of nature and the tumult of battle 
C) a description of the sea
D) the symbolism of The Sea of Faith
E) the speaker’s disenchantment with the world. 

Correct answer: "E: The speaker’s disenchantment with the world.”
My answer: “C: a description of the sea.” 

I did not have a good understanding of the word “disenchantment” and as a result chose C because the poem is filled with descriptions about the sea. I looked up the definition of disenchantment (a feeling of disappointment about someone or something you previously respected or admired) and now that I have a better understanding of the word I see why the answer is E. I read the poem again and it is clear that the speaker is “disenchanted” with the ocean. The sea has become something sad that no longer brings joy, for the speaker states “I only hear its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” (lines 24, 25).

3) Mark Twain’s “What Stumped the Bluejays” (1880)

35. (Question) In context, “and where is your cat?” (line 46) can best be paraphrased to read… 
A) and you'll be dumbfounded
B) and where do you think the cat will go?
C) and the cat will hide from shame
D) and a cat will run away
E) and a cat doesn't stand a chance

Correct answer: "E: and a cat doesn’t stand a chance. 
My answer: "A: and you’ll be dumbfounded."

 I chose A because it made sense to me that the reader would be “dumbfounded” after hearing about the intelligence of the bluejay and comparing it to that of their cat’s intelligence for the speaker made a bluejay sound superior to a cat. E makes sense as well, the cat doesn’t stand a chance in comparison to the bluejay,  so I wasn’t far off in my train of thought in regards to how “and where is your cat” can be paraphrased to read. 

4) D. H. Lawrence “Snake” (1923)

45. (Question) Which of the following best describes the prevailing poetic technique used in lines 8-15? 
A) Hyperbole that stresses the snake's malevolence 
B) Personification that endows the snake ___ human personality 
C) Imagery that captures the snake's intimidating appearance
D) Onomatopoetic words that replicate snake sounds
E) Diction that suggests the snake's slithering movement 

Correct answer: "E: Diction that suggests the snake’s slithering movement."
My answer: "D: Onomatopoetic words that replicate snake sounds."

I was not far off on this one as I was aware that the writer was trying to sound snake-like. The answer description says that the writer uses “smooth-sounding phrases” such as “yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down” (line 9), and the use of specific-diction makes more sense than the use of onomatopoetic words to suggest the snake’s movement. 

5) D. H. Lawrence “Snake” (1923)

51. (Question) The questions that the speaker asks in lines 36-38 serve mainly to… 
A) illustrate conflicting feelings clashing inside him
B) hint that he intends to harm the snake
C) disclose that he identifies with the snake
D) suggest his awareness that snakes often have symbolic meaning
E) help him rationalize his reaction to the snake

Correct answer: "A: illustrate conflicting feelings clashing inside him." 
My answer: "E: help him rationalize his reaction to the snake."

 I marked on my paper that A was my second choice, I should have gone with my gut! I ended up choosing E because he is acknowledging his reaction, one that welcomes the snake, as well as the reaction he thinks he should be having, one that involves him killing the snake. He is then struggling with the two reactions, which one is acceptable and which one isn’t, and is rationalizing his feelings and initial instinct. However, A makes more sense, for the feelings he has about the snake are incredibly conflicting and make up a majority of the poem. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"Women as Hamlet" by Tony Howard (pgs. 328-39)

Pictured: Sarah Bernhardt as the first female Hamlet (1880-1885).

In your reading for today, "Women as Hamlet" by critic Tony Howard, Howard opens with a pretty powerful observation: "The first Hamlet on film was a woman, Sarah Bernhardt (1900)" (328).  The idea that Shakespeare's most famous tragic hero has been portrayed by a number of female actresses (Bernhardt, Eve Donne, Charlotte Clarke, Eva Le Gallienne...) suggests how complex Hamlet is as a character.  This complexity not only creates opportunities for readers to question Hamlet's gender and the way gender is performed, but it also invokes questions about what we have come to expect of Shakespeare's tragic heroes.

Like Ernest Jones's article on psychoanalysis (264-71), Howard's article participates in a particular critical and intellectual movement: feminist and queer theory. You may have noticed key terms like "regendering" (328), "subjectivity" (328), and "negotiating identity" (334) in Howard's discussion, and they are important to understand as you think about the article.
  • Broadly defined, feminist criticism thinks about the ways literature and cultural productions reinforce or undermine the power of women.
  • The term, gender, uses expressions like masculine and feminine to describe the state of being a man or a woman in a particular culture.  Unlike a person's individual sex (the anatomy he or she has when he or she is born), gender is a culturally-constructed behavior that is not natural but man-made.  In order to explain Hamlet's gender, then, we must decide if Hamlet meets the traditional gender roles one would expect of a male Shakespearean character.
  • These traditional gender roles cast men as strong, rational, and decisive individuals, whereas women are frequently cast as emotional (irrational), weak, and submissive creatures.  Just looking at this list, which list of characteristics does Hamlet seem to embody most? 
  • Subjectivity deals with action and the ability to do something.  In grammar, the subject of a sentence does something and the object does not.  Subjects do things to objects, and subjectivity—just like agency in the novel Jane Eyre—means a person's ability to imagine and shape his or her own life.
  • Lastly, identity describes our ability to identify with certain gender roles. When we "negotiate identity," we are thinking about a lot of things and gender is a huge part of those negotiations. 

In the comments below—
1) Discuss what you see as "Hamlet's femininity."  What actions seem to imply he is either masculine or feminine? 

2) Pick one ofthe three female Hamlets Howard describes ("a German actress, a French painter, and an amateur American critic who each in different ways and for different reasons explored what has been seen as the femininity of Hamlet" (328)).  Then, describe how her performance deals with the issues of "Hamlet's femininity."  Use page numbers and quote to help with your answer.

Monday, February 22, 2016

"A Psycho-Analytic Study of Hamlet (1922)" by Ernest Jones (264-71)

Pictured: Laurence Olivier as Hamlet and Eileen Herlie (Gertrude) in the 1948 Hamlet.  This movie version built heavily on the ideas that Ernest Jones (and many psychoanalytic critics like him) put forward in their writings about Hamlet's hidden character traits.

In our reading from Ernest Jones's 1922 article, "A Psycho-Analytic Study of Hamlet," Jones argues that William Shakespeare's tragic-hero, Hamlet, suffers from an "Oedipus complex," the idea that a male character is driven by unconscious desires to kill his father and marry his mother.  If this storyline sounds familiar, it's because Sigmund Freud based his theory of the Oedipus complex on the classical myth of Oedipus, the fictional king of Thebes.

I never encountered psychoanalytic theory until I was an English major in college.  It's an old school of criticism, but here are some basic ideas you need to know when reading Jones's article:
  1. Psychoanalysis has changed significantly since the early twentieth century when Jones wrote his article.  Today, psychoanalysis looks very different, and writers like Ernest Jones followed an early twentieth-century school of Freudian criticism that was incredibly popular in literary studies during this time.
  2. When Jones uses the term, "repression," he is describing the instincts that motivate a character in a literary text.  Hamlet's "'repressed' wish" is the idea that he is driven by one desire and one desire only: to kill his father and "espouse" (marry) his mother (264).
  3. One of the key terms Jones uses to describe Hamlet's repression is unconscious, a useful idea when describing Hamlet's long, drawn-out struggle with the revenge cycle in Shakespeare's play.  When Jones says that "Hamlet had experienced the warmest affection for his mother" replete with "elements of a disguised erotic quality" (265), he is invoking the idea of unconscious desires that readers or critics can see, but Hamlet cannot.  
    • Important: no one uses the term "subconscious" when writing about desire and motivation in character behavior.  Not only is "subconscious" a derivative term, but the word, "subconscious," suggests that something (e.g., Hamlet's desires) are fairly accessible if he were to expand his awareness or "dig deeper."  Alternatively, unconscious is literally "without consciousness."  Hamlet cannot understand or know his unconscious desires—killing his father and marrying his mother—because there is no actual way for him to know that these motivations exist.  Be sure to write "unconscious" and not "subconscious" when discussing Jones's article! Just remember: "un-" means "not" or "no" and "sub" means "under."

In the comments below—
1) Pick one of the aspects of Jones's interpretation about Hamlet and his unconscious desires and discuss how it illustrates the Oedipus complex within the play.  Cite acts, scenes, and line numbers when describing a specific scene from Hamlet, and be sure to use page numbers when citing from Jones's article.

2) Then, explain what you think Jones means when he says, "In reality his [Hamlet's] uncle incorporates the deepest and most buried part of his [Hamlet's] own personality, so that he cannot kill him without also killing himself" (270).