Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Final Exam - 1123 Eng -- Fall 2004

Final Exam - Fall 2004 - Comp II

Part One:

You have already seen and worked with this Shakespeare sonnet. You also have had a graded paper on this sonnet turned back in to you with appropriate comments. Your task here is to paraphrase, as simply and clearly as possible, Shakespeare's poetic, flowery language into easy-to-understand layman's English. (You may use your notes from this assignment if you brought them, however, it is recommended that you NOT copy an old assignment, but present a new, improved, simpler paraphrase. Keep in mind you must do your own work and are not allowed to collaborate on this exam.

William Shakespeare -- Sonnet CXXX

Sonnet CXXX: My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like the Sun by William Shakespeare

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound.
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

Part Two:

Read the following and write a summary. Follow the instructions given previously in class and discussed in-depth regarding the writing of summaries. Make sure to read this closely and keep your facts straight and your spellings accurate. You may use your notes, textbooks, and any other research materials at your disposal. Keep in mind that in a summary, unlike a paraphrase, you do not keep the 1st person narrative. Also pay extra attention to the dates involved here: Toole is NOW 70 years old. When he was in his 40s he came to boxing. It was during the 1930s, however, that he first listened on the radio to boxing when he was a boy. Keep your facts straight.

This is a brief excerpt from the Introduction to a collection of short stories titled Rope Burns by first-time 70-year-old author F.X. Toole.


In my mid and late forties I came to boxing by choice and by chance. But I had already been there as far back as the mid thirties. I huddled with my father in front of the radio and listened eagerly to the driving voices of ring announcers like Bill Stern and Clem McCarthy as they covered the great fights of the time. Weeks later, at ten-cent matinees, I would watch grainy newsreels of the same fights.

I remained a fight fan through the years because I was as fascinated with the science and the art of boxing as I was with the men who dared to put every ounce of body and soul on the line. I was as taken with the losers of boxing as I was with the champion, because they had risked every bit as much as the winners.

But what did the "manly art of self-defense" actually mean? What made it possible?

What intrigued me most of the physical side of fighting was how boxers could fight round after round, do it again and again, fight after fight. Taking a horn in bullfighting is always a possibility, even an inevitability, but many more times than not a bullfighter leaves the ring unmarked. But a boxer getting ready for a fight takes punches daily, and then the punches increase with murderous intensity during the fight. Hit and don’t get hit, that is basic to boxing. But all fighters get hit, even the best ones. So what kind of men were these who could take that kind of punishment long enough to become contenders, much less champions?

And what was it, and how much exactly did it take, before some kid with a dream of glory could learn enough to climb between the ropes? And how hard is it, not only to train and to fight, but to learn the science of the game, the actual mechanics of throwing punches – throwing them again and again.?

Damn hard. And underneath it all is the question What makes a fighter?

Part Three:

The following exam assignment allows you to choose from two essays, one, a rather short one from our old friend Thomas M. Disch about his feelings regarding dogs and dog owners and a second longer essay entitled "Should We Genderspeak" from the book Paradigms Lost by our old friend, critic John Simon. This essay is about changing terms and language from gender-based nouns such as chairman to the genderless noun chairperson. Choose the essay you wish to work with then read the essay doing a close reading. The next step is for you to write a 250 word response to the essay you have chosen in which you use at least one direct quote and one indirect quote. I will be grading first and foremost on how well you do the quotations. But I also expect you to write cleanly, clearly, and readably. Take your time and read the essays well. Again, make sure you have your names and facts straight. Double check your work, please. And proofread, proofread, proofread.

A Law Against Dogs
by Thomas M. Disch

It isn't a polite thing to say--it is, in fact, politely incorrect--but people with pets tend to be a little crazy. Sometimes it's a harmless form of craziness, what psychiatrists call a paraphilia, such as a passionate interest in braids or cowboy boots, but it can get out of hand. As when a little old lady decides to protect herself with a 90-pound Labrador retriever with a long leash and a short temper.

If the same lady were to stroll through her neighborhood with a sub-machine gun and bandoliers of ammo, her neighbors would have reason to be concerned for their safety, but if her weapon is a beloved slave of another species, we're not supposed to raise an eyebrow, even when the darling weapon is fertilizing a sapling in the park or the lobby carpet.

Recently the Park Department started cracking down on off-leash dogs, and dog-lovers are up in arms. "Should we be deprived of all courtesy?" demanded one lady who runs with her off-leash deerhound every day though Riverside Park. Another said she was beginning to understand how Jews felt in Nazi Germany.

Well, this time I'm on the side of the Gestapo and Mayor Giuliani. Dogs are a big nuisance, or a small one, depending on their size, and people who can't learn to project their neurotic overflow onto dolls and teddy bears, should at least pay for the damage done to city parks by their pets. A quarter-million dollars annually, according to the Parks Department. The new fines on off-leash dogs might make a dent in that bill. An even better idea would be to enforce dog-licensing statutes--and to have dog owners pay for for their licenses in proportion to their dogs' weight. It's the big dogs who take the worst toll on the parks--and on the carpets--so it's only fair they should pick up more of the tab.Dog owners will protest, but then dog owners will always protest. One of the reasons they have dogs, after all, is because they would be barking all the time themselves if they were allowed to. That's what dogs are for, isn't it? --to do the things we don't dare do on the street ourselves.

- March 24, 1999, by Thomas M. Disch

"Should We Genderspeak?"
by John Simon

Words and Women: New Language in New Times, a book by two women journalists, Casey Miller and Kate Swift, proposes certain radical changes in the English language in order to make it more just and acceptable to women (Doubleday, 1976). This seems to be the first book-length treatment of the subject to have emerged from one of the major houses, though some of them have brought out guidelines in pamphlet form. The body of the book, containing some sensible suggestions as well as much unpersuasive special-pleading--along with a number of inconsistencies and grammatical and other errors (Michael Korda, for instance, appears as Alexander) -- is summarized by the authors in the Epilogue, to which, for the sake of brevity, I primarily address myself.

The authors state their basic criterion admirably: "Does the term or usage contribute to clarity and accuracy, or does it fudge them?" Fine. Under their first rubric, "Animals," they ask that an animal become an it rather than a he, with which one cannot quarrel. Next, they suggest that babies, as well as other general categories, say, Americans or politicians, should not be regularly referred to by masculine pronouns. Here, again, one cannot but concur, though the authors go through an elaborate rigmarole instead of simply proposing that a baby, too, be an it. What to do with politicians and all other general categories is more problematic, though the authors' proposal that they be pluralized into a sexless they gets around most difficulties.

Now comes my first disagreement: female endings in -ess are, it seems, taboo. "Since authors, poets, Negroes, sculptors, Jews, actors, etc. may be either female or male, the significance of a word like authoress is not that it identifies a female but that it indicates deviation from the [alleged] standard. . . . An -ess ending ... is reasonably resented by most people so identified. [What about those not covered by this "most": do they not resent it, or do they resent it unreasonably?] When it is relevant to make a special point of someone's sex, pronouns are useful and so are the adjectives male and female." Well, then, if stewardess is out, should we write, "The stewards wore blue skirts," implying that they were Scottish or transvestites? Or perhaps, "the female stewards wore blue skirts," leaving the reader to wonder what the male stewards were wearing?

In a review, must I write, "The female actors, on the whole, were superior to the male actors," and sound ridiculous, probably illiterate, and certainly prolix? Clarity and accuracy, which Miller and Swift demand, are importantly served by succinctness, and actress will always be shorter and clearer than female actor, which might easily mean a male impersonating a woman on stage, or an effeminate performer, or heaven knows what else.

If I write that Marisol is a fine sculptress, or Stevie Smith a distinguished poetess, I help those less informed readers who might not know that the artists in question are women. Unless we assume that male and female sensibilities are identical (thank heaven they tend not to be), it is helpful to identify Marisol's sex concisely and unaffectedly. How absurdly inconsistent to say that "when it is relevant" one may use pronouns or adjectives denoting sex, but not a suffix; is a suffix a dirtier thing than a pronoun or adjective? If I say to the restaurant hostess (she doesn't look like a host to me) to send over the waiter, though the person who waited on me was a waitress, I invite confusion and trouble.

Earlier (p. 126), the authors write: "Few women are asking to be called men, but more women than anyone has bothered to count are asking that they not be called men." What, I ask, is calling a waitress waiter, or an actress actor, if not calling her a man? It is perfectly true that in early English usage the same agent-noun referred indiscriminately to males or females, but that was then, before the language evolved and became codified. If one can complain about this codification, it is mostly because it did not go far enough -- because, for instance, it did not posit a standard feminine ending, as there is in German, to designate females in all possible situations. How lucky the Germans are to have the -in ending, as in Freundin, a female friend, Herrscherin, a female ruler, Lehrerin, a female teacher, and so on up and down the line. Never has this ending been considered patronizing in German-speaking countries, only helpful for the terseness with which it dispenses useful information. It is good to know without having to ask nosy questions whether the guest you have invited is bringing a male or female friend to dinner -- it helps balance the company. It is convenient for a woman to be able to say in a concise, unfussy manner that she wants a female gynecologist. And are we now to give up the relatively few cases in English where such instant clarification is painlessly available? Are we going to have to refer even to the Dresden china shepherdess on the mantel as a female shepherd?

Still, I understand and even sympathize with a woman's desire not to be called a poetess or an authoress, because there was once a kind of female-ghetto poetry and prose that gave poetess and authoress a bad odor. But actress was never pejorative, nor, certainly, were empress, priestess, duchess, and the rest. Negress and Jewess are not pejoratives, either -- unless you take Negro and Jew to be insults. Sculptress is also blameless, for there was no female-ghetto sculpture, even if the reasons for this, I grant, were also discriminatory.

Now let me skip ahead in the Epilogue. Under "Job Titles," we find that congresswoman, newspaperwoman, and forewoman are correct designations for women in those offices, and I couldn't argue with that. But under "-Person Compounds," we are told that "salesperson . . . doesn't seem to throw anyone into a tizzy" and is preferable to salesman or saleswoman because "the need was felt for a common gender term that could refer to either." This is strangely inconsistent. When there is salespeople (not to mention staff, personnel, or force attachable to sales), why drag in the colorless and uneducated-sounding person? Remember the ludicrous Miss Adelaide who laments in Guys and Dolls: "Just from waiting around/ For that plain little band of gold// A person . . . can develop a cold." And if -person is so good, then why not congressperson or newspaperperson? The authors imply that they prefer chairperson to chairwoman, perhaps because (though they don't say it) the latter reminds them of charwoman. In any case/ they like the metonymic chair best of all, and (p. 76) refer to Calvert Watkins as "the distinguished chair" of the Harvard Linguistics Department, which that distinguished chairman may well abhor. Are we also expected to say, in a meeting, "Will the chair please yield the floor?"

Certainly Miller and Swift are right when in "Man as Typical," they reject things like "the man who pays taxes" in favor of taxpayer, and substitute workers or working people for working men. They may be right, too, when in "Man as the Species," they plunk for human beings or people in preference to the generic man or mankind, though they have a formidable lot of linguistic and literary history going against them. Still, "Human beings are tool-using animals" may be less ambiguous as well as fairer than "Man is a tool-using animal." However, humans, which they also seriously advocate, strikes me as facetious, like equines for horses.

Skipping again, I bristle at Miller and Swift's advocacy of they, their, etc., as singular pronouns because "reputable writers and speakers" have used them with indefinite antecedents. They cite (pp. 135-36) a number of examples, e.g., Bernard Shaw's "It's enough to drive one out of their senses" and Scott Fitzgerald's "Nobody likes a mind quicker than their own." But the lapses of great ones do not make a wrong right: a "one" is not a "many"; someone cannot be they.

Should women feel slighted by the correctness of, say, "Everyone must look out for himself"? Some obviously do, but are we to believe that masses of girl children grow up miserable and psychically stunted by such constructions -- as the authors maintain on the basis of a few anecdotes about schoolgirls? Surely teachers and parents can explain this to most kids' satisfaction, and those girls who don't accept it are as likely to be "saved" by becoming fighting feminists as to be "doomed" by becoming domestic drudges.

The giveaway is the final rubric, under which the authors argue that the word womanly means that a woman is not courageous, strong, and resolute. It means no such thing. It means rather that she has certain physical and psychic traits, such as comeliness, elegance, gracefulness, unneurotic enjoyment of the opposite sex, maturity, and a sense of security and relaxation in being a woman. It means not feeling compelled to compete with men in every way, and not becoming (in Geoffrey Gorer's phrase) an imitation of man, as Miller and Swift, their protestations notwithstanding, would have her be. I am deeply worried when the authors define androgyny (p. 27) as "that rare and happy human wholeness," a state that, judging from their jacket photographs, they may indeed have achieved. In no sense, figurative or literal, do I take her-maphroditism to be a happy state of affairs.

But Miller and Swift, like many feminists, have set up straw men as adversaries in fields extending far beyond linguistics. Thus they keep referring to Otto Weininger's misogynistic Sex and Character as if it contained representative views, instead of being the brilliant but pathological work of a disturbed genius who killed himself very young, and whose theories are as exploded as those of Cesare Lombroso and Max Nordau. Doubtless, women are entitled to the process of getting the rights and freedoms granted to men; once these goals are achieved, however, and even before that, they can leave language alone. When women have full social, political, and economic parity with men, no schoolgirl will burst into tears over himself being used in the sense of herself too, or about "men and women" being a more common phrase than "women and men" -- any more than French schoolgirls, I imagine, weep over their sexual organs being, in both high and low parlance, of the masculine gender.

"Far from implying sameness, however, the language of equality emphasizes sexual differentiation by making women visible," our authors state. I doubt whether women's visibility will be achieved by calling usherettes ushers, or replacing mankind with the Miller-Swift coinage genkind. Equal job opportunities, salaries, and recognition are what will make women fully visible, something to be achieved not by meddling with language but by political action. Yet woe betide if this is accomplished at the cost of sacrificing womanliness in women and manliness in men. Men and women must continue to attract each other through characteristics peculiar to theier respective sexualities and sexes; a world in which we cease to be sexually fascinating to one another through certain differences will be a world well lost. And this may be a very real danger to – not mankind, not womankind, and certainly not genkind. To humankind.


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