Saturday, October 13, 2007

Female Perfection

In "The Birthmark" a very beautiful woman allows herself to be "duped" into believing that she needs to have a "flaw" removed from her appearance. In the process, she dies.

I recently heard from a former colleague in Idaho who told me that a student we both had taught had recently died from complications of cosmetic surgery. This girl was a former cheerleader, and as I recall an attractive person. What is it that causes women (mostly women) to abuse their bodies in an attempt to achieve the perfect form?

Why don't men seem to be as obsessed with physical appearance that women are?

Who was at fault, Aylmar or Georgiana?

Grant T. Smith

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Is Rip Van Winkle the Original Deadbeat Dad?

I am interested in hearing your response to today's class. What did you think of keeping the men quiet? What did you think of this "feminist" reading of "Rip Van Winkle"? Do you agree that in American literature, the experience of being an American is the experience of being male? How many female heroes can you name in American letters? Who are the female equivalents of Melville's heroes, or Cooper's heroes. Even in the mid-20th century, the women were most often represented in literatue as "entappers" or impediments to the male experience of discovering and exploring new opportunities.

Grant T. Smith

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

How Have You Changed Since 9/11?

In "Common Sense" Paine says that things will never be the same after April 19, 1775 (The Battle of Lexington/Concord). In other words, the world cannot return to a pre-Lexington/Concord period. This sounds familiar to me. Do you think that the world changed irrevocably after 9/11?

Another question: Paine also says that there is a time when debate must cease and fighting must begin. Do you agree with Paine? Do you think that we, as Americans, are more prone to war than we are to peace? Do we prefer guns to dialogue?

Grant T. Smith

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Patriarchal Life in the Seventh-teenth Century

What do you think of this quote from Benjamin Wadsworth from "The Well-Ordered Family," 1712? "O Woman, if thy Husband be not so young, beautiful, healthy, so well temper'd and qualified as thee couldst wish; if he has not such abilities, riches, honours, as some others have; if he does not carry it so well as he should...It may be thy discontent, fretting, scolding, quarrelling, makes thy Husband weary of the house, he can't abide to be at home, he has no quiet nor peace there; this makes him idle away his time, get into bad company, stay out late at nights, take to Tippling, Gaming and other ill practices..."

Clearly paternal authority was at the center of the notion of a well-ordered family in 17th-century America. How have things changed in the 300 years since Wadsworth wrote his treatise on family?

Monday, August 27, 2007

American Dream

Does the American Dream still exist for the "average" American? Yes? No?

Check out this web site of a trucking business in Southeastern Idaho. It was begun by a Mexican-American with a high school education.

Friday, August 24, 2007

What is my "American" culture?

When my son and I want to get something to eat, we can choose to go to Hunans for Chinese food, Manny's for Mexican food, or Ciatti's for Italian food. What is "American" food? When we wanta to go to church, we can go to the Episcopalian Church, the Lutheran Church, the Mormon Church, or the Catholic Church. Is there an "American" church? In our home we have artwork from Norway, Mexico, and England. We have music from Ireland, Italy, and Spain. We wear Levis with Italian silk shirts. Is there an "American" art, "American" music, or "American" dress?

What do the 250 people who live in the United States have in common that make them "American?"