Category Archives: Class Notes


“But what just did she want?”

Helga Crane is having an existential crisis.

happiness: feelings; BEAUTIFUL things, attention

happiness is harder to understand than hate.

Whose thoughts? Helga’s, through the narrator. Are there moments when the narrator tells more than what Helga knows?

the school as machine, cutting everyone out into the same pattern, all accepting of the Naxos mentality.

Helga wants to leave Naxos: this could mean unemployment, venturing into new communities, dealing with different people, money, not having something set up to go to, schedule, benefits (housing!), relationships (only one, with James Vayle), no family to back her up, references, she’s young (22).

James Vayle: he likes his position at the school. Helga’s fiance. they started working at Naxos at the same time, but he assimilated quickly while she has not fit in. He is close with his large, high-standing family.


Project #1:

thesis statement: at the end of the first paragraph.

introduction moves from topic to thesis statement

thesis statement: a roadmap to the rest of your essay, specific to the stories and topics you write about.

Introducing Helga Crane

What do we know about Helga Crane?

  • likes nice stuff
  • likes exotic things? foreign? imports?
  • reads books
  • alone–>lonely?
  • chooses gloom, low light
  • as a teacher: enjoys it, gives “willingly and unsparingly”–but it’s taxing
  • forced isolation: doesn’t open her door to other teachers
  • 22 years old
  • blue-black hair, “skin like yellow satin” : attractive
  • is she crafting her appearance in a detailed way?

What do we know about the world she lives in?

  • her room is filled with her nice things
  • lots of books
  • she has a large room amid other people’s rooms
  • “soft gloom”
  • in the South
  • she’s in a metaphorical desert: big shift from day to night
  • her coworkers are unkind and gossipy
  • she’s insignificant in the huge institution
  • she lives on campus where other teachers live

Brainstorming for the midterm exam

To get us started:

If our readings were each posts on our OpenLab site, what tags would you add to them?

(we wrote these on the boards in class. I will collate from the photos I took of them to add them in here)

Stories we can write about for the midterm exam (and our tags):

“I Always Write About My Mother When I Start to Write”

relationship to parent, idolization, fairy tale motif, retrospection

“There Was Once”

fairy tales, partirarchy, oppression, storytelling

Cinderella Stories

relationship to parent, fairy tale, mentor, dreams, betrayal, good vs. evil, supernatural, true love, pain, inherently good, gruesome, dominance , oppression, happy ending, death

“The Story of an Hour”

reliance, obligation, pain, imagery, rebirth, freedom, marriage, patriarchy, death

“A Jury of Her Peers”

neighbors, strangers, details, ways of reading, marriage, unhappy, art: quilting, sewing, food preserves; dominance, oppression, death

“A Rose for Emily”

Gothic, morbid, sexist, racist, dominance, oppression, patriarchy, marriage, death, introversion, story of its time, dark, macabre, gruesome , horror

“The Yellow Wall-Paper”

mental health/illness, insanity, horror, art: writing, creative, introversion, freedom, dominance, oppression, patriarchy, dark, macabre, pain, medical treatment

“The Cottagette”

love, equality, idyllic setting, ideal love, women’s work, art: embroidery and music, marriage, down with the patriarchy, friendship

“Only the Dead Know Brooklyn”

cultural relativism, humor, slang, dialect, real, realism, geography

“Hills Like White Elephants”

relationships, imbalance of power, power, dominance, naive, tough choices, confusion, baby, dialogue, repetition

“The Hunger Artist”

asceticism, vanity, attention, anger, art: performance, starvation, suffering, suffering for art, short-lived popularity, pain, spectacle, death

Topics and Themes emerging:


marriage/love/ false love vs secure attachments





The Plan:

I will post five questions on our site (this is in the works, but I need to think carefully about the language) based on topics/themes that emerged from our discussion. I will then choose three questions for the midterm exam. You will have to respond to one of the questions. The questions will each ask you to write about two readings from this semester so far. You will need to include quotations in your midterm exam essay. This is not an open-book exam, so you will be permitted one sheet of quotations that you prepare to bring in to the exam. Choose wisely! I will collect the page along with your exam.


If you prepare for three of the questions, you can be sure that at least one of them will be on the exam. So prepare for three and you’ll be set!

To prepare, try to draft a thesis statement, write an outline, choose quotations that will support your argument (and add them to your quotation sheet).

Narration styles

First-person: Uses I to refer to the narrator. SUbjective: only what the character thinks

  • homodiegetic: character-narrator:  a character narrates.
  • a subset of homodiegetic is autodiegetic: the protagonist is the character who narrates


Third-person: not I; not a character in the story world.

  • omniscient: all-knowing. narrator can go into the heads of everyone
  • limited: can go into one character’s head
  • objective: does not go into anyone’s head. All based on what can be observed.

reliable vs unreliable narrator


“The Yellow Wall-Paper” and more

"Either the Wallpaper Goes or I Do" 3-panel comic strip

Think about narrator reliability, about who the reader is (implied reader, ideal reader, narrate) (read about these terms in a comment on this post)

Power dynamics:

“Cottagette”: man and woman, where he isn’t in control of her, wants her to be who she is rather than expecting something from her; This is the case for Malda and Ford, but not for everyone

Striking sense of equality that Ford brings into the story

“The Yellow Wall-Paper”: man in control of the woman

John treats her as…through his actions he laughs at her, tells her she isn’t sick, how he regulates her treatment based on not believing she’s sick.

Narrator writing to rebel; to keep sane


Time that they’re living in: turn of the 20th century, late 1800s: context


who is the woman in the wallpaper? what is the relationship between the woman and the narrator


john always controls her



YW-P harder to understand: patterns,

“A Rose for Emily” discussion

In “A Rose for Emily”:

How do we know what we know?

Why are we told what we’re told?

Who is the narrator? 1st person, “our”–a collective of the townspeople

Focalization: who is the focalizer: whose focus do we see? this is the point-of-view character

different kinds of first-person narrators: homodiegetic (first-person character narrator) and autodiegetic (first-person protagonist narrator)

do we know more than the narrator? is that possible?

When/where does Emily exercise her power?

What do we find at the end of the story?


Reading all kinds of love on Valentine’s Day

To accommodate more discussion, we will continue discussing “A Rose for Emily” on Tuesday, 2/20. Please keep up with the two Charlotte Perkins Gilman readings, “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “The Cottagette” so you finish them for Wednesday, 2/21.

When we think about “The Story of an Hour” and “A Jury of Her Peers,” what do we think about? what points of intersection are there?

oppressed wife

  • in “A Jury of Her Peers” we understand the ways that the men speak to the women as insulting

oppressive husband

husband’s death (?)

freedom: finding it, losing it

demographics and social status: class, age, gender

narration style

sympathy and empathy: within the stories and the reader’s empathy for characters

small event

pent up emotion and anger specifically

facilitated vs present character

*people outside never really know other than what they can see on the surface*

Minnie Foster vs Mrs. Wright–can this parallel Mrs. Mallard vs Louise. Loss of a first name in marriage.


Reading “A Rose for Emily”

First-person plural narrator: represents the whole town

Chronology: this is difficult to piece together, but all told from the point of Emily’s funeral

Short quiz on chronology: what happened when?

Cinderella Stories


When I think about Cinderella as a story, I expect it to include:

  • happy ending (for whom?): for everyone, or just for her (and if so, a bad ending for the others, or is she benevolent to them?)
  • Cinderella character = stepdaughter (protagonist) marries royalty/nobility
  • Cinderella character is inherently good despite mistreatment
  • tragic past for C
  • C faces hardships
  • always a villain
  • C mistreated by family (stepmother, step sisters)
  • father remarrying after his wife (C’s mother) dies
  • C meets a man and falls in love
  • karma!
  • Animals help out!
  • someone mentors/looks out for her
  • Readers sympathize with her
  • something left behind (shoe, jewelry)
  • magic! and it has guidelines and restrictions
  • magic ends (at midnight?)
  • turning the other cheek–she doesn’t do the same to them as they do to her, doesn’t complain
  • C doesn’t tell father/doesn’t have access to him
  • C forced to do heavy chores that other don’t have to do
  • do they go to a ball/some kind of event geared toward marriage
  • violent/gruesome


Here is an alternate version to The typical Cinderella story it is called The Egyptian Cinderella written by Shirley Climo : click links to see source.

This Egyptian spin on the classic Cinderella tale was initially recorded in the first century by a Roman historian and is retold here by folklorist Shirley Climo.

Poor Rhodopis! She has nothing—no mother or father, and no friends. She is a slave, from the far-off country of Greece. Only the beautiful rose-red slippers her master gives her can make Rhodopis smile.

So when a falcon swoops down and snatches one of the slippers away, Rhodopis is heartbroken. For how is she to know that the slipper will land in the lap of the great Pharaoh himself? And who would ever guess that the Pharaoh has promised to find the slipper’s owner and make her queen of all Egypt?”

Book source: