English 1022E Lecture Notes - Sinclair Ross, Palimpsest, Sexual Repression
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English Lecture “As For Me and My House” March 22, 2011
As For Me and My House
- in 1938, published in 1941, set during Great Depression on the Prairies, so early 1930’s
-Classic Canadian Modernism
-Canadian manifestation of Huxley, Eliot, etc.
-It’s a very deeply layered text. All kinds of levels that we have to work to uncover.
-Perspective on Mrs. Bentley is very masculinist and condescending.
-Strong tendency to privilege the male in this text
-Mrs. Bentley and her husband have contrasting values and contrasting artistic assumptions. Good way
of seeing how different they are.
-Mrs. Bentley is the narrator, keeps a diary in the first person, highly subjective in her responses to the
world around her so the narrative is highly subjective
-She is a romantic, in the sense that Keats and Wordsworth were. It’s all about emotion, personal
responses to nature etc.
-Her favourite composer is List, the quintessential romantic composer. He was a huge show off, playing
two pianos at the same time, used mirrors, the Elton John of his day.
-Bentley uses her music to manipulate men
-In contrast, Philip Bentley is a modernist. He is much more objective, detached, ironical.
-On pge 62 Paul describes a prairie landscape as a modernist abstraction, which also applies to Philip’s
-Since Ross is a modernist, there is a lot of overlap between him and Philip. Ross gives us a clue as to
what the assumptions are that he and Philip share
-p.219, Philip asserting to Mrs. Bentley that his male, detached perspective on art is superior to her
subjective, emotional, romantic view on Art.
-This page gives us a clue as to how we should read the text
-For a moment, Mrs. Bentley sounds like a modernist. She has used the word “detachment”.
-“Palimpsest” - piece of writing to save paper. Just writing over what you’ve already written
-“Paraphrase” - summary
-Mrs. Bentley paraphrases the stories of the lives of people around her, of Philip, Steve, and the
rest of the characters. She produces a palimpsest of them. In paraphrasing them, she partly
obliterates her stories that are hidden behind her writing.
-How accurate is Mrs. Bentley’s paraphrasing?
-Is her take on people true, or false, somewhat true, or somewhat false?
-What are the other stories that are hidden under the surface, what are the stories of
Philip, Steve, Paul?
-She gives us a hint that we should not allow ourselves to be tricked by the superficialities of the
text on page 3
-How can you say that a house looks “smug”? Surely Mrs. Bentley is responding emotionally to
this image. She is bringing her own feelings to this architecture.
-Emphasis on pain. Is it really there, or is she fabricating the emotion?
-“Second story of the house” --> pun, second stories.
-Is she telling us that we should be looking behind false fronts, to the second story. Should we be
ridiculing her, finding her ridiculous?
-Mrs. Finley is speaking and says that “Stories do get twisted...what we’re hearing isn’t really
-How do they get twisted?
-Bentley = bent, twisted
-Several emphasis’ in the text on her twistedness
-“I see a single figure bent low walking away”
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