Essay Assignments

Some Suggestions for Last Paper for "International Women's Voices"

Choose a topic below and try to write 4-5 pages. Your paper may be comparative but must deal with at least one work on which you have not written before:

  1. The novel is a form of reading that often tells us how to live, how not to live; how to distinguish between good and evil; how to get married; how to be a good friend; how people communicate and change each other through dialogue. Choose any of the works we've read and explain specifically how the work or works taught you about some aspect of living.
  2. The novel often invites us to participate in family life in a way we might not have imagined prior to reading. Choose one or more of the novels or short stories and explain how you were or were not drawn into a style of family life that was unfamiliar or familiar to you before reading the novel.
  3. Many of the novels and short stories we have read concern power relationships between men and women, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives. Choose any of the works and examine the meaning and complexity of one or more of these relationships in the cultures they represent.
  4. Friendship among women is particularly important in So Long a Letter and Nervous Conditions. In what ways are the cultures in which these friendships are embedded an important aspect of these friendships? In what ways are they universal?
  5. Think about the relationships among characters in any of the works we have read. What are the sex roles they represent? What is their social position within the family? What is their economic reality and their geographic and historical situation. In what way is this work distant from your experience? In what way is it close to your life experience?
  6. In Nervous Conditions anorexia is an escape from competing and compelling demands on Nyasha. Compare those demands to the ones expressed in So Long a Letter. Do you sympathize with these characters? Why? Why not?
  7. Many of these works allow the reader to connect political (post-colonial, governmental, economic) violence with gender violence. This violence is not necessarily physical, but also social, ethical or economic. Discuss.
  8. Choose any of the thought questions distributed by the teaching groups or by me and use them as the basis for an essay.
  9. Each person's identity is inextricably linked to history and culture. Pick one of the works and discuss what historical events are crucial to the story? This may include large social movements.

Thought Questions

1 Introduction

Film "A Veiled Revolution"
2 Distant View of the Minaret (PDF)
3 Distant View of the Minaret (cont.)  
4 Woman at Point Zero

Teaching Group
5 Woman at Point Zero (cont.)  
6 So Long a Letter Set 1 (PDF)

Set 2 (PDF)
7 So Long a Letter (cont.)  
8 Nervous Conditions  
9 Nervous Conditions (cont.)  
11 Nervous Conditions (cont.)  
12 Chinese Short Stories

Teaching Group
Set 1 (PDF)

Set 2 (PDF)
13 Chinese Film  
14 Oryx and Crake

Teaching Group
15 Oryx and Crake (cont.)  
17 Margaret Atwood in Class  
18 The Good Women of China

Teaching Group
19 The Good Women of China (cont.)  
20 House of the Spirits

Teaching Group
Set 1 (PDF)

Set 2 (PDF)

Set 3 (PDF)
21 House of the Spirits (cont.)  
22 House of the Spirits (cont.)  
23 House of the Spirits (cont.)  
25 Japanese Films  
26 Kitchen

Teaching Group
Set 1 (PDF)

Set 2 (PDF)
27 Moonlight Shadows (PDF)
28 Last Day of Class

Final Discussion