Close Reading Strange Women

Module 8: Discussion Forum I: Close Reading Strange Women


In Module 5, we close read the relationship between characters in our texts. In this forum and the next, you are asked to close read a particular character, a useful application of this literary-critical technique in developing a broader reading of a text. (Technically, you can discuss two different characters in your post so long as they are of the same gender, but you won’t be analyzing the nature of their relationship.)

One of the options for your Five-Paragraph Writing Exercise will be to put any two of our readings in this module into conversation with one another, so your post may help you later on with that assignment.

Forum Instructions

The class will be divided into 3 randomly assigned groups. In your group, choose Pu’s “The Painted Skin,” Akinari’s “A Serpent’s Lust,” Keats’s “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” or Carter’s “The Lady of the House of Love” and develop a close reading of the depiction of the “succubus” figure (or her and one of the normal women (e.g. Wang’s wife)) in the work that you’ve chosen and make a claim as to what your close reading reveals about the text’s gender politics. (Questions to think with: What patriarchal idea is expressed through the depiction of this character? What anxiety or view of women is figured through the “succubus”? Or does the character’s depiction, either following the writer’s conscious intention or against its grain, problematize or undercut a patriarchal worldview? What, for example, is the significance of the power that it attaches to this feminine entity?)

If you are the first to post on one of these texts, create a new thread in your group. But if you aren’t the first to respond to that literary work, be sure to relate your post to whomever has already done so and to thread your post to theirs. In order to solicit responses within each group, ideally, on all four stories, no more than three students should post on any one of the works. In other words, if you see that three classmates have responded to Pu’s story, please post on the Akinari, Keats, or Carter. If you are not the first to post on a narrative, decide whether you agree with the idea of gender politics inferred by your classmate(s). If you agree with the inference, say so and post additional textual or narrative details and use them to further flesh out or complicate the preceding claim about the idea of the politics of gender in the work. If you disagree, say why by offering an alternative way of reading the textual and narrative details supplied by your classmate. Then provide additional textual or narrative details that you can use to further flesh out your alternative view.

Please Order Your Post in the Following Way:

  1. Open your comment, if you aren’t the first to post on that particular story in your group, by relating it to at least one preceding post using the argumentative twist technique. Make a claim about whether you agree or disagree with your classmate’s view on the gender politics of the text expressed in the preceding post. If you are the first to post, you can simply begin with step two.  (1-2 sentences)
  2. Building on the position you staked out in step 1, use at least two,well-situated, concrete and specific narrative or textual details that are important to the depiction or presentation of this strange woman within the story and develop a brief close reading of them. What do they reveal about the nature of the feminine entity at the center of the narrative? (3-5 sentences)
  3. Given your close reading, what broader idea about the politics of gender does the story seem to offer us? (1-3 sentences)

Additional Instructions

  • Be sure to write with clarity and collegiality (i.e. be respectful of those who have a different opinion)
  • Length: Your post should be at minimum 200 words.
  • Format: You will post your comment directly in the appropriate discussion forum, so use the default formatting (font type, etc.) for the discussion board.
  • Citations: UseMLA in-text citations (Links to an external site.) for textual evidence that refers to the page numbers in the assigned editions of the standalone texts or the PDF/Word documents posted to Canvas. If you cite a different edition or another source, include an MLA Works Cited at the end of your post.