ENGL 3000-01 (Practical Criticism: Research and Methods)

Spring Semester 2011                                      Essay 2


General Guidelines


    Your essay should be:                                           Your essay must be accompanied by:

  1. typed and double spaced                                 1.  a works cited page
  2. formatted according to MLA guidelines            2.  photocopies or originals of all
  3. three to four pages in length                                 images used (for option #2; below)


Please see syllabus for appropriate due dates for essay and supporting assignments.


Specific Instructions



2.    Judith Fetterly, in The Resisting Reader, argues that male authors presumed for centuries their readers all were male. Describing phallocentric assumptions as “universal” (xii), Fetterly explores the ways in which patriarchal practices in literature penetrate the “consciousness” of female readers who must learn “to read like a man” to successfully navigate a masculine language community (which has its own codes and conventions). Because women were and are raised in a language system and literature that still presumes its authors and readers are male, Fetterly argues that they become psychologically “immasculated”—not “emasculated,” in the sense of having “maleness” taken away from them, but rather they learn to think and read and write like men (what she calls an “assenting” reader).

    Topic: Apply any one or more of these concepts to a reading of The House on Mango Street. You could explore:

·     Characters who have become psychologically “immasculated,” “assenting readers” of their patriarchal environment in that they comply with dominant assumptions about gender, as well as reproduction, marriage, careers, and many other things in a culture which may be identified by the gender of its participants.

·     How does the narrator herself, for example, function as a “resisting reader”? What “texts”—gender, cultural, and racial,-- or considerations of what is “normal” and “natural”—does she learn to resist?

Developing a specific argument about the text based informed by a certain theoretical praxis is the means by which you will most successfully accomplish this assignment. Whatever idea(s) you explore, through a close analysis—serious theoretical questioning of the topic—you should develop conclusions regarding the meaning of the work.




Near the end of the excerpt you read from John Berger’s book Ways of Seeing, he makes what was at the time a bold argument about the visual depiction of women in Western society:

But the essential way of seeing women, the essential use to which their images are put, has not changed.  Women are depicted in a quite different way from men – not because the feminine is different from the masculine – but because the ‘ideal’ spectator is always assumed to be male and the image of woman is designed to flatter him. (64)


Berger, however, published his book in 1972, and much has transpired since he first penned this observation.  How applicable do you think Berger’s argument is today?  Explain what cultural, social, or economic forces you believe are responsible for either the lack of change in Berger’s argument or its waning significance in 21st century American society.  Choose a series of images (in popular culture – from a photograph, advertisement, website, etc.) to support your answer. (Do not, however, use blatantly pornographic images.)  Admittedly, this collection of  images is not enough to substantiate your answer, so be sure to include some indication of how representative you think these images are.