Paper topics for paper #1 Due Sept. 23

English 205: Women's Autobiography and Bildungsromane
Fall 1997
Kathryn Conrad

You are encouraged to create your own topic, but you are welcome to pick from the following. I have been intentionally very general here; these are only topics, and require you to come up with your own argument, examples, and conclusion about the importance of your argument in the larger context of the book.

Remember that you're also allowed to write an "autobiographical" essay at least once this semester. I recommend that you wait until you've had a chance to think about why you might want to do so--but if you choose to write one now, I recommend that you run your idea past me before beginning.

1. Choose two common metaphors or image patterns from Jane Eyre. Using specific examples in context, suggest how they complicate each other when read together and how they add to (or confuse) our understanding of the text. Please do not write on red and white or hot and cold!

2. Is Jane Eyre a colonial text? Explore the representation of Bertha, the mission of St. John, and Jane's discussion of her pupils at the village school. Does the text celebrate Empire or critique it? Is it consistent? As you answer, consider the ways in which the narrative voice might complicate this question.

3. Examine the narration in Jane Eyre or Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. What does the text suggest about narrative authority? In what ways does the narration support or undercut some of the main themes of the text?

4. Compare the passage (from handout) by Sojourner Truth to Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. You might consider the ways in which the two texts negotiate the definition of "womanhood" in response to their experience of slavery.

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