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ENG252Y1 - Lecture #8.docx

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Vikki Visvis

ENG252Y1 – LECTURE NOTES Alice Munro's Who Do You Think You Are? November 25, 2013 • Written during the second wave of feminism, during the 70s to 80s Biographical Interpretation: Growing Up a social outcast: • Her life and the life of Rose bears striking resemblances • It's not an autobiography • Rose is purely fictional • Autobiographical in form but not in fact; real people did not serve as models according to her • Her life is inspiration • Analyzing her biography helps classify themes that are important to her as shown in the novel • Munro was born in Wingham, Ontario • Lower Town was more important that Wingham but that changed when Lower became a rural slum and the railway passed through Wingham • Munro lived on the outskirts of Lower Town and Wingham; grew up poor, isolated • Social situation mirrors Rose's • Page 6-7 o Rose lived in a poor part of town o Lived in an area of beggars and prostitutes like Munro • Scope of perspective influences the context of her art • Rose prefers to see herself in a social vacuum because it's easier to identify themselves as outcasts The Horrors of Childhood: • School for Munro was vulgar, frightening, and unintelligent • Learned to not trust people, people got beaten up • Overwhelmed by the experience of grade school in Lower Town school for two years • Rose shares the same things; discusses the outhouse o Page 26 • Manure is under ice • An image of the grotesque actions • Rose speaks of the "savage that is incalculable" o Page 27 • Childhood is when innocence ends for Munro • Page 33 o Birds on school blackboard o Represent a world of privileged light-heartedness , getting further and further away from her o Is pure childhood innocence that Rose doesn't really get to experience o Pictures are ideal of a childhood world o Proximity to these pictures are important, also she is close to them, she can no longer reach them anymore literally and figuratively; is no longer a reality o A memory of an immediate past; just recent o Knows too much to ever return to innocence • For Rose, childhood is not a period of innocence but of experience • For Franny McGill, she's raped by her brother by an outhouse around other children • Page 29 o In a constant state of shock o Repetition of get pregnant and get taken away, signifies the ongoing abuse she goes through and the numbness of the experience; each abuse is much like the other o Don't excite the children or anyone o Repetition can also be considered a type of norm, the abuse she endures • Instead of focusing on the trauma, Munro focuses on the educational purposes, what her characters learn o Page 30 • Excites her curiosity • "learning to survive" • Rose is interested, she wants to learn, even the grotesque o Page 28 • Wants to learn and watches while other girls are grossed out • Experiences are more curiosity-seeking than disheartening The class struggle: from childhood to adolescence to adulthood: • Munro managed to enroll in Wingham public school, a more established school • Munro was isolated, wasn't a part of the town and class; but she also wasn't a part of Lower Town either anymore • Rose desperately wants to fit in with the other students when she says she eats grapefruit for breakfast in the beginning and gets mocked for it o Page 42 o Page 26 • As she gets older, she begins to accept to her poor origins •Page 52 o Rose uses her social upbringing as a weapon, but it takes a while for her to do that •Childhood is defined by lower-class qualities •Munro worked as a maid to earn money for university for a family in a wealthy neighborhood in Toronto, Rosedale -- when she was a teenager •Felt the class differences •Rose uses the term "working class" when at home; is able to recognize class differences when living with the Doctor; impacted the way both Munro and Rose saw themselves •There could be an element of shame o Page 72 • "light" could allegorically refer to looking at her home in a new light • Didn't see herself as poor until she had a comparison •Adolescence is defined as a period of distinguishing between classes •Adulthood is a period of mediating between them (through marriage?) •Munro met her husband in university; he was sophisticated unlike her, analogous to Rose meeting Patrick; both men are rich like the women are poor; both men work for their fathers or follow their father's footsteps in working in department stores; both women like the humanities o Page 127 Role Play - Concealing her identity as a writer: • When Munro married, she concealed her desire to become a writer from everyone •A pervasive split of herself •Page 49 o "her need for flaunting" o Tensions between hidden desires that aren't appropriate for a woman from a small community •Takes on social identity to conceal hidden ambitions •Hid he writing from other women, Munro didn't hide her inner ambitions from her husband, unlike Rose who hides some things from Patrick •Felt that other women would judge and antagonize her •Being deceptive was a social mechanism that allowed her to be what she wanted to be and what the public wanted her to be •Rose conceals things in order to survive o Page 27 • Is afraid to tell Flo about the overflowing toilets • Knows that Flo will humiliate everyone; is trying to protect herself by not saying anything then •Concealment becomes more pronounced during adolescence •Page 212 o Wishes to be able to perform, to transform herself o Wanted to be something she wasn't •Page 106 o Deceit is more than social adaptability, now its career advantage •Page 163 •Takes on personas to deceive herself; a distraction from herself; this is uncharacteristic of Munro though •Page 193 o Rose has a mental picture of herself as a caretaker; doesn't survive for more than two days, because she's not a caretaker, its not her personality o The need to create and recreate personas and use them as identities for her own sake • Perhaps an unreliable narrative • Page 219 o There is growth, but it's very slow o She perhaps becomes aware of her unreliability o Isn't able to distinguish between what's real and what's persona The collection's genesis: • Munro never thought she'd return back to Huron County • Perhaps this piece is a recreation of her earlier collection, but with more darker elements ; revisits the same emotions and content The structure of the collection: • Was a short story collection of separate stories; six third-person stories about Rose, and six first-person stories about Janet; both women have nothing to do with each other (galley copy, to be revised) • A metafiction; a character in one of the Janet stories refers to a Rose character and also alludes to a part of one of the Rose stories; referring to itself or aware of itself as a text • Munro didn't like it, thought it was too fancy • In the final manuscript, she changed three Janet stories into Rose ones, removed the other Janet stories and added a new story called "Simon's Luck" • Did this change during a single weekend • Reshaped the book • There is a debate of whether or not this is a novel or a collection of short stories The title of the collection: • Title is an accusation of pretentiousness • A female quest • Highlights the quest for identity and search of self • Provoked by a woman who resists traditions, is asked when a woman deviates from social expectations • A reprimand when a man or woman goes against what is deemed appropriate in society • Rose is asked this question by her teacher; is chastised for deviating the norms; is accused of showing her knowledge and accumulating knowledge so easily; women aren't suppose to know much • Page 31 o Women did not stay in school unless they got into medial public services o Either entered a domestic sphere or public services o Reprimand for showing her knowledge off and not following this trend • In the United States, the collection was called "The Beggar Maid" because the it was believed that the idiom "who do you think you are" wouldn't be understood by Americans • Munro didn't like this title because it restricted the meaning and applications of the work; shifted the focus of the text from the search of self into the fantasy dimensions of the book • Moves to the concerns of the story • Changes of the emphasis of the collection • Covers of the Canadian editions give different impressions, inform our interpretations of the work Feminism: • Is concerned with the romance narrative • Her name, Rose, is also associated with the romance narrative • Janice Radway, Reading the Romance = draws out our attention to the romance conventions • Variations in plot • Archetypes of the romance o Hero = is handsome, muscular physique, angular and dark, strength, bravery, prowess, sexual figure, sexually experienced, promiscuous o The virgin = chaste, innocent, inexperienced, desires love, not motivated by physical desire, longs for emotional attachment, beautiful, token signs of femininity, long hair, full lips, big eyes, unaware of her beauty, nurturing, maternal aspect to her, independent, gives her a strength of character, intelligent, only naivety is her sexuality o The whore = sexually experience, wants to satisfy her sexual drive, flaunts her availability, desires wealth and position, wants to climb the social ladder, manipulates to get what she wants, vain aware of her beauty and talents, opportunistic, dependent, expects others to do work for her, also known as the vixen, confused about her identity because she's too busy with adapting to the social conventions, lack of character and integrity, self-preservation • The whore and the virgin are binaries; in order for a romance to be successful , Radway argued that the virgin and the whore must be separate and not conflated with one another, except in terms of beauty -- the virgin isn't aware of her beauty but the whore is and uses it to her advantage • Radway says that the romance narrative supports sexist views, depictions of men and women were limited to stereotypes o Men and masculinity in a patriarchal society emulate the hero in romance narratives o Women and femininity follows suit; lapses into the virgin-whore-binary paradigm o Women are objectified, seen as objects of desire • Munro said she couldn't write a women's liberation novel; but it can be argued that her writing follows the oppositional feminism during her time • She does this by interrogating the popular romance narrative • Draws attention to women's complicity; partnership in wrongdoing Women's Complicity in Their Own Disempowerment: • How women makes choices that rob them of power; it's not only men that disempower them, but women disempower themselves as well • Munro sees feminism as the opposite to patriarchy, a society governed and is privileged by men • "women stay at home"; are victims to men's power because their power is limited to
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