Lesson 2: Restoring Vivian’s Humanity

1.       Gender and Archetypes

For example, consider the following list of “traditional” masculine and feminine attributes:. These characteristics are not    inherent, per se, but (to a great extent) culturally conceived. What does that mean?

•   Social Constructions of Gender (Feminine/Masculine)-- A set of socially defined or constructed characteristics.  The representation of women in literature is one of the most important forms of this “acculturation” since it provides the  “role models” which indicate to women and men what are socially acceptable versions of the “feminine” as well as legitimate feminine goals and aspirations.


 Masculine                                           Feminine
Strong (esp. physically)                       Weak (esp. physically)
Emotionless (an absence)                   Emotional (defined negatively / weakness)
Practical                                                          Imaginative
Business / Politics / Social                              Domestic / Religious / Family /   Children
Rational                                                           Irrational / Emotional
Sexual:                                                             Sexual:
      Aggressive                                                   Passive
      Rite of Passage                                           Madonna (Virgin Mary /   Whore)
      Sexually Active (healthy)                           A-sexual or sexually   corrupt
      To receive pleasure                                   To give pleasure



Where on the gender "grid" do the following female characters fit?


Masculine or feminine??

↙            ↘

Susie                     Ashford


Vivian ≠ Mother /Nurturer

↙            ↘

Feminine?           “ Masculine”?


Vivian’s cancer = ovarian cancer

 A kind of assault upon her feminine reproductive materiality


2.       Application: a feminist reading

a.       Jason and Vivian (Chs. 6-8): Textual/Sexual politics/male violence and the female body: Film clips

b.      Grand Rounds (Ch. 9): Body reduced to a text and subsequent objectification of the female body: Film clips


3.       Foil Characters and Secondary Characters

Key Concepts → foil character, secondary characters (define)


Kelekian ↔  Vivian



Jason ↔ Vivian

 (Ch. 14: “The young doctor, like the senior scholar, prefers research to humanity… the senior scholar ruthlessly denied her simpering students the touch of human kindness she now seeks.”)



Susie ↔ Vivian


Popsicle scene – metaphor




father ↔ Vivian (see film clips)