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Tutor profile: Katie W.

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Katie W.
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Questions

Subject: Shakespeare

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Question:

In 'The Taming of the Shrew', the character of Bianca represents a typical Shakespearean woman: beautiful, passive, and secondary to the male characters. Discuss this view.

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Katie W.
Answer:

In accepting the definition as given of a 'typical Shakespearean woman' (although this itself is an interesting debate), on the surface, Bianca may be seen to conform to these tropes. The character is not, however, entirely restricted by them, and forms less of a two-dimensional presence in the play, and at times may be said to rebel against, or resist a typically feminine role. When the audience is first introduced to Bianca, we are assured that she is 'sweet', 'mild', a veritable 'treasure', sought after by a multitude of eligible bachelors. Her beauty, and that of her sister, is inherent, and so it is reasonable to allow this to comfortably suit Shakespeare's preference of aesthetically pleasing female characters. Therefore initially, in the opinion of the men of the time, she certainly seems to fit the mould of the perfect woman. This representative role, however, is cast into doubt when we see her in the more private company of two of her would-be suitors. Bianca insists that she shall 'not be tied to hours nor 'pointed time', instead demanding that they keep to her schedule, thus proving herself not quite the mild-mannered passive female that she first appears. Her wit and wordplay in this scene also throw into doubt the idea that she may be a secondary character, challenging both the intellect and advances of young Hortensio in his earnest attempts to woo her. This trend of defiance intensifies in the final scene, where the construct of Bianca becomes decidedly defiant, considering her new husbands attempts to control her a 'foolish duty' and refusing to answer when he calls. In the development of Bianca throughout the play, the claim of her passivity is refuted; however, her aforementioned beauty remains steadfast. The question of her being a secondary character, despite the above considerations, if difficult to deny altogether, as she has few lines and her stage presence is minimal. Thus we may reasonably conclude that Bianca begins in the vein of a typical Shakespearean female character, maintains aspects of these expectations, but arguably is herself the untameable shrew at the play's end.

Subject: Literature

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Question:

In Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road', the blatant disregard of the proper use of punctuation does more harm than good, as it is simply frustrating to read and distracts from the message of the novel. Discuss the statement above.

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Katie W.
Answer:

I would be loathe to speak out against popular opinion and that of my peers to say that this particular aspect of the text does not at some point in reading become problematic, and frankly annoying. In my own reading (once past the inevitable frustration that I must face as an English teacher) therein lies the power of the technique. It is uncomfortable to stumble over sentences which seem rhythmically disjointed, just as it is to immerse oneself in a narrative of such impenetrable darkness. A world in which everything is ash, and the sun lies unseen, is a world of absolute hopelessness. McCarthy's characters suffer perpetually, in all imaginable ways, and this baseline discomfort of the setting and subject matter (and it's terrifying realism in the world today) breaks through into the linguistic form, thus reinforcing, rather than distracting from, his literary nightmare.

Subject: English

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Question:

In a world of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the film rights of major books being sold at the drop of a hat, what relevance does the written word have in the modern day?

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Katie W.
Answer:

The value of excellent cinematography cannot be belittled as a creative art in and of itself, and truly outstanding documentaries make otherwise complex, global concerns and topics of interest widely available to the general public. They are valuable, but they cannot truly reflect the absolute creative freedom of the written word, both in its conception and reception. In written journalism we see the world not just the the literal eyes of the person on the front line, but their true personal experience of the events before them. What one can capture in the written word connects demands a deeper self-reflection than what is spoken, and unlocks responses that do not appear on the surface. In novels and short stories, we are not fed the images of characters, settings, and events, but we create our own fantastical worlds, developing the stories and our minds in a beautiful symbiotic exercise of growth. Words are perfectly imperfect; they cannot translate exactly the experience of one person to another, therefore we paint our own unique pictures. This, of course, is why one must never see the film adaptation of their favourite novel, for our own vision will never quite align with that of another, and this can taint the experience. In poetry, those who would hide their faces from the world can use their words of power to raise armies, speak of freedom, and of love. Poetry is an endless art form, evolving constantly, translating into the spoken word and moulding into music and noise, but sometimes, it is meant to be simply read, and this can be the most powerful music of all. Watch and share the experiences that are so readily available, enjoy the community of the series everyone watched in 24 hours, but know that each is a vision that began with words. A vision that took the path that was desired by those around it, but had a thousand more stories to tell. Infinite possibilities lie in the love of the written word.

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