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Lecture 5

ENG252Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Egotism, Alice Munro, Immanuel Kant


Department
English
Course Code
ENG252Y1
Professor
Robert Mc Gill
Lecture
5

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ENG252 Lecture 5 – Term 2 Feb 3, 15
Alice Munro: "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage"
Her first book came out in 1968, and was an instant success.
Munro has written 150+ short stories. Most of them are set in Huron, Ontario, where she
grew up, or in British Columbia, where she also lived for some time.
This book came out in 2001. The collection is not linked together in an obvious fashion,
but the title insinuates that this is a book interested in the stages of life. (Eg. childhood →
adolescence → adulthood → old age).
It questions the process of human life through the means of the title. It could be
suggesting that (1) each word leads to another stage of human life, or (2) they
might have no relation; so it could be sporadic, such as how human life should
be. Meaning, it should not be planned out in stages entirely, but occur in random
intervals.
Opening Encounters
The opening story is set in the late 1950s-1960s.
There's a film adaptation. The movie is called "Hateship, Loveship."
(Pg. 3) "Years ago, before the train... He turned all business."
Q: Why have the story start here? A (students views): It’s a good introduction to
Johanna, as it tells us her physical appearance and attitude. It shows that she is
a pragmatic woman. We see how she deals with people in the business world.
We also get to see her from the station agent's perspective. She has a certain
power in this scene as she is the customer, but the worker is trying to change
that by emphasizing his masculine presence, hoping that will change Johanna's
attitude. Yet it doesn't because she refuses to fit into the role of the ditzy woman.
That frustrates the worker.
The story focuses on transactions and how other issues (eg. sexual and authoritative)
kinds are loaded on top of that.
(Pg. 6) "She had treated him as if he was an information machine." The complaint seems
to be on the view of the station agent that Johanna is merely treating him as an
instrument.
Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals (1785). "Act in such a way that
you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in any other, never merely as a
means to an end, but always at the same time as an end." Simply put: humans should
not be treated as inhuman instruments but as people who have thoughts and feelings.
The story might be encouraging us to see the different kinds of relationship (eg. family,
friends) and how to properly treat and recognize them as people.
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ENG252 Lecture 5 – Term 2 Feb 3, 15
(Pg. 10) "[Johanna] had meant to keep absolutely quiet... the woman was just in the
business of selling clothes, and she'd just succeeded in doing that."
Cash Nexus (Karl Marx): the dominance of monetary exchange in human interrelations.
There's an idea that under a capitalist agency, people see others as money to be made,
and treat each other accordingly. More or less, money sustains their relation(s).
The story draws our attention to the cash nexus ideology through all of the relations in
the story. It also recognizes that cash nexus' are confusing.
An important theme of the story is that looking after people and caretaking get bound up
in the relationship of cash nexus. Over time, an intimacy can develop but not all the time.
Ken has thoughts about care giving as having a monetary value to which he has future
entitlement too. For instance, he thinks he is entitled to the money has he borrowed.
Ken's relationship to Johanna has a certain cash nexus appearance to it.
Shifting Focalization
Focalization: narration limited to the perspective of a particular character.
Story has a shifting focalization after two characters have encountered each other. For
instance, the story starts with the worker's perspective on Johanna, and then the story
shifts to Johanna's perspective, and so forth. The story is about exchange between
characters and the exchange occurring in the story itself.
A lot of these exchanges are about one character's failure to understand another. We
cannot read people's mind (but in literature it can happen), but for the sake of reality, a
lot rests on reading people's bodily actions and tone of voice.
The story is very much about misunderstanding.
Johanna likes to keep things private. Such as when she's buying things from the store
and doesn't want the saleswoman to know that she really likes the dress.
The story is giving us what we don't get in real life: access to people's minds.
(Pg. 46) "It maybe not all that firm of an offer..." -
There's a change of perspectives. The story is breaking its own rule (by not
providing a section break to introduce a new perspective) by merely inserting a
new point of view right there and then.
No clear reciprocal demonstration of their feelings for each other. Both seem to
be highly pragmatic.
Romance vs. Realism
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