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Unit VII Text I


by Susan Sontag

Biographic information about the author

(1933(1933- ), American writer, known for her philosophical writings on modern culture. Born in New York City, Sontag was educated at the universities of California, Chicago, and Paris and at Harvard University. During the 1960s and 1970s Sontag's essays and observations had a strong influence on the American counterculture. Her essay collections include Against Interpretation (1966), Styles of Radical Will (1969), and Under the Sign of Saturn (1980). She also wrote the novels The Benefactor (1963), Death Kit (1967), The Volcano Lover (1992), and In America (2000). Sontag's other works include the nonfiction books On Photography (1977), Illness as Metaphor (1978), and AIDS and Its Metaphors (1989); and a collection of short stories.

Susan Sontag

Sontags View on Art

On the bohemian( )New York scene of the early sixties, Sontag swiftly acquired a reputation as the radical-liberal American radicalwoman, who had not only deep knowledge of ancient and modern European culture, but could also reinterpret it from the American point of view. A selection of her writings appeared in AGAINST INTERPRETATION AND OTHER ESSAYS (1968), where she stated that the understanding of art starts from intuitive response and not from analysis or intellectual considerations. "A work of art is a thing in the world, not just text or commentary on the world."Rejecting interpretation, Sontag advocated what she called 'transparency', which means "experiencing the luminousness of thing in itself, of things being what they are". The 'meaning' of art lies in the experiencing both style and content together without analysis. "Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art."

Quotations from Sontag:

Aids AIDS obliges people to think of sex as having, possibly the

direst of consequences: suicide. Or murder. (AIDS and its Metaphors)

Beauty What is most beautiful in virile (

) men is

something feminine; what is most beautiful in feminine women is something masculine. Against Interpretation, Notes on Camp Interpretation,
Truth The truth is always something that is told, not something that is known. If there were no speaking or writing there would be no truth about anything. There would only be what is. The Benefactor

 Art Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art.  Art Real art has the capacity to make us nervous. By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Against Interpretation: people should not attempt to find the Interpretation: 'meaning' in a work of art but experience it as a thing in itself. ) Humor If tragedy is an experience of hyperinvolvement, comedy is an

experience of underinvolvement, of detachment. (Against Interpretation, "Notes on Camp)

Madness Sanity is a cozy lie.

(Against Interpretation, "Notes on Camp)

Perversity Perversity is the muse of modern literature.

(Against Interpretation, Camus)

Related sayings on Beauty

 The good is the beautiful. ---Plato ---Plato (428? BC - 347? BC), Greek philosopher. Lysias  Living well and beautifully and justly are all one thing.

Socrates (470? BC - 399? BC), Greek philosopher, 399? BC. beauty,  Beauty is truth, truth beauty,that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. John Keats (1795 - 1821), British poet. "Ode on a Grecian Urn"  Now I say: the beautiful is the symbol of the morally good. ---Immanuel ---Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804), German philosopher. Critique of Judgement
 It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.

---Leo ---Leo Tolstoy (1828 - 1910), Russian writer. The Kreutzer Sonata

 Beauty alone makes all the world happy, and every being forgets its limitations as long as it experiences her enchantment. --- Friedrich von Schiller (1759 - 1805), German poet, playwright and historian. On the Aesthetic Education of Man

them.  Beauty in things exists in the mind which contemplates them. ---David ---David Hume (1711 - 1776), Scottish philosopher and historian. Essays, Moral and Political, "Of Tragedy" Political,

Beauty is altogether in the eye of the beholder.

---Margaret ---Margaret Wolfe Hungerford (1855? - 1897), Irish novelist. Molly Bawn

Analysis of the Text

 1. Central idea of the text

 2. Purpose of the text  3. Organizational pattern of the text  4. Tone and style of the text

Organizational pattern of the text

 Greek definition of beauty (total, integrated concept of excellence, an overall virtue) (para. 1) Conventional attitude toward beauty --- beauty being split off and losing prestige (paras. 2-4)

1) Influence of Christian tradition: taking beauty as alienated, arbitrary, superficial enchantment 2) Influence of other social prejudices in the last two centuries: attributing beauty to only one of the two sexes: the Fair/Second Sex, women

 The oppression of women derived from the degraded, split-off notion of beauty and how men and women regard this concept differently (paras. 5-7)

1) Social pressure: womens identity depends largely on how she LOOKS --- encouraging narcissism, dependence, immaturity (in contrast to men, whose identity depends on what he IS or DOES ) 2) Womens voluntary acceptance: women trapped in and willingly accepting the stereotyped obligation to aim at a perfect appearance (in contrast to men, whose imperfection in appearance is considered preferable by both male and female standards)

Dilemma of the Fair Sex --- beauty as a catch-22 for women (paras. 8-9)
1) Beauty: a power to negate itself 2) Beauty: an obligation neither to be engaged in nor to be disposed of

A call on women and the whole society to get out of the trap created by the split-off concept of beauty and the resulting oppression of women (para. 10)

Difficult passages: para. 10

1. One could hardly . the oppression of women.
---The story of the oppression of women, which has had a long history and seems ---The to be going on endlessly, is both lamentable and laughable; it serves as the most powerful proof to show how harmful it can be to judge a person by refusing to put into consideration both inner beauty and outer beauty together.

2. But to get out of the trap . Saving beauty from women --- and for them.
---- Women should disassociate themselves as far as possible from the conventional, biased notion of beauty which seems to flatter but in fact belittle women, and see what the full meaning of beauty is, and how its implication of overall excellence has been curtailed so as to support the traditional but false notion of what women should be like. The word beauty with its original meaning in Greek to denote a total , integrated concept of excellence should be saved from merely functioning as a compliment (with certain demeaning overtones) for women. Only when the reputation of this word has been restored can it be possible that women, to whom the word beautiful is applied, be regarded properly.

Major argumentative devices:

1) Definition: etymological connection between beauty and virtus 2) Contrast: Greek tradition vs. Christian tradition; classic concept (of beauty) vs. modern concept; women vs. men (different self-recognition, different social roles, different expectations on ones own appearance) (Refer to textbook p. 104-105)

Related discussion on the Beauty Myth

Wolf, Naomi (1962- ), American feminist writer, born in San (1962-

Francisco and educated at Yale University. She attended the University of Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, best known for her book The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women (1990), perhaps the youngest literary celebrity of the women's movement. In The Beauty Myth, Wolf argued that the pressure to be Myth, beautiful had become contemporary culture's most effective form of control over women. According to Wolf, women flooded the workforce, thereby posing an economic threat to men. Society's expectation that women cultivate personal beauty served as the latest weapon against women, Wolf asserted, because it required that women spend so much time, money, and emotional effort trying to be beautiful that they were left with no energy to compete economically.

Naomi Wolf
With the publication of her first two books, The Beauty Myth (1990) and Fire With Fire (1993), American feminist writer Naomi Wolf became a literary celebrity of the womens movement in the early and mid-1990s. A frequent lecturer on college campuses, Wolf worked to make feminism relevant to a new generation. In Wolfs view, the task facing women in the last decade of the 20th century was to capitalize on the political power that they possessed but had not yet learned to wield effectively.

Quotations from Naomi Wolfs The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women
 Beauty The more legal and material hindrances women have broken through, the more strictly and heavily and cruelly images of female beauty have come to weigh upon us. Feminism The affluent, educated, liberated women of the First World...do not feel as free as they want to...This lack of freedom has something to do withwith apparently frivolous issues. with Feminism The beauty myth of the present is more insidious( )than any mystique of femininity yet: A century ago, Nora slammed the door of the doll's house...where women are trapped today, there is no door to slam. Feminism We are in the midst of a violent backlash against feminism that uses images of female beauty as a political weapon against women's advancement: the beauty myth.

Robert Redford

Robert Redford

Robert Redford American stage and motion-picture actor and director. Robert Redford won an Academy Award for best director with his 1980 film Ordinary People. The next year he founded the Sundance Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes independent American films.

Organization of the text

Section 1 (Para 1-3): Contrast the ancient notion of beauty with 1the modern concept to introduce the topic Degradation of the notion of beauty


Overall excellence (physical + moral; female + male)


Superficial enchantment (physical; female + male)


Female good looks only


(physical, female)

Section II (Para 4-7) Illustrating how women and men are viewed/treated differently to support the argument: the oppression of women

Section III (Para 8-9 ) Pointing out how societys gender stereotypes have affected adversely the development of women (e.g. encouraging narcissism, dependence, immaturity, passive acceptance etc) Section IV (Para. 10) Calling on women and the whole society to get out of the trap created by the myth of beauty and the resulting oppression of women.

Language points
- (lit) unable to walk; describe an excuse, argument, remark as lame, it ) e.g.
-(extended) When used to

means weak, poor

 (I didnt hand in the assignment). My lame excuse was that I had too much else to do.  (He didnt say hello to me the other day we met.) I didnt recognize you, he said


occur to----come into (someones mind).Examples:

 It suddenly occurred to him that he had to attend an important meeting that afternoon. It never occurred to me that the Shanghai Botanical Garden could be so spacious.

paradoxical---incongruous, paradoxical---incongruous, contradictory. Example:

 It is paradoxical that an intelligent child like him should write such a poor hand.  It is paradoxical that the loneliest people live in the most crowded places.

paradox(n.) ----a situation which involves two opposite facts. Examples:

 There are a lot of paradoxes in real life.  It is a paradox that racial discrimination and protection of human rights should coexist in some countries.

be wary of/about ---- be cautious about possible danger or problem. Example:

 People are understandably wary of the new government.  Having been taken in several times by street peddlers, he is now very wary of them.  Im very wary about believing these stories.

pedagogue --- (archaic/derogatory) school master, teacher ( pedagogy science of teaching depriveof ---take away from. Examples:

Women in some places in the world today are still deprived of the right to vote. A serious case of trachoma deprived him of his eyesight.

set adrift (also turn adrift ) - (lit) to leave (someone or a boat) to float on the
water without direction. Example: The sailors, after quarreling with their captain, set him adrift on the ocean in an open boat. - (fig.) isolate the word, single out the word to mean

attribute to --- to believe sth. as the result of

Examples: .

Economists attributed the lack of progress to poor cooperation. Jim attributed his success to hard work. ( )

lose prestige---lose significance, lose prominence prestige---general respect or admiration felt for someone or
something because they have high quality, success, etc. Example:
Several universities in China enjoy international prestige.

demean --- If you demean yourself or sth, you do sth which makes
He has demeaned his office by lying. ( )

people have less respect for you. Example:

They regard these jobs as demeaning and degrading.

overtone --- suggesting sth, without saying openly. Example:

The play has heavy political overtones. (implications )

accumulate--- make or become greater in number or quantity.

By reading a few pages of literary works in English every day, he soon accumulated a large and useful English vocabulary. Our knowledge accumulates if we read widely.

vestige a very small part of it, a part that remains after all the rest has
gone. Example:
There was not any vestige of freedom in this ancient kingdom.

in the throes of --- in the middle of doing something very difficult.; be

deeply involved in something, Examples:
 The country was in the throes of political reform. The company was then in the throes of reorganization. We are in the throes of drawing a blueprint for the reorganization of the Students Union.

throes as a plural noun meaning intense or violent pain and struggle,

e.g. , death throes. consider two things as being the same; equate with; associate with. Example:
Some people identify book learning with work efficiency. Never identify opinions with fact.

identifywith ---1

to feel sympathy for sb. Example

Reading this book, we can identify with the main characters struggle.

evaluate --- judge the value of. Example:

The teachers work is regularly evaluated in that school.

confirm --- give support to a fact by proving more proof. Example:

He was told that his acceptance of the job must be confirmed by a formal letter.

a declared Robert Redford fan --- an enthusiastic/a faithful supporter

of Robert Redford

declared --- openly admitted as

. Example:

His grandfather is a declared follower of Confuciuss teachings.

fan --- a keen supporter of a sport, performing art, person, etc., e.g., a
football fan, a movie fan

depreciation of women --- the devaluation of women; the decrease in

value of women ; the lowering of womens status Depreciation is often used to refer to the decrease in the value of a currency or of an

immense --- extremely large or great, especially in size or degree.

What he said about our moral duties was of immense importance. The local Science and Technology Museum is just immense. You can hardly see all the exhibits there in one day

lamentable --1) (of an event, action, or attitude) unfortunate, regrettable.

His prejudice against the underachievers is lamentable.

f circumstances or conditions) very bad or unsatisfactory. Example:

The service provided by the hotel was simply lamentable.

A politician conceives the world as a variety of conflicts. (consider)  A Price & Incomes policy was boldly conceived.(work out) He can never conceive of such a thing happening to himself. (imagine) The boy had been conceived on their honeymoon. (become pregnant)

censure --- harsh criticism (c.f. censor



disparage --- (rather formal) regard as being of little worth;

speak about without respect Example:

to disparage someone for sth/doing sth. Do not disparage others efforts in carrying out the work.

saving beauty from women --- and for them - save from : to preserve/protect sth/sb.from danger/ruin etc. save for : to put sth. such as money/supply away until a certain time or for
some purpose. How can the city save these fine old buildings from destruction? They saved the precious records from fire. Lets save the best wine for the party. Im trying to save as much of my income as I can for my old age.

Note the emphatic use of the preposition, e.g. the famous usage in Gettysburg Address:
we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that this government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Text II Sexism in English: A Feminist View

Analysis of the text
Thesis: (Title ) Sexism in English (end of Para 3) how really deep-seated sexism is in our communication system Organization: 1. Presenting the topic(Para 1-3) starting with the observation on the relation between CULTURE and LANGUAGE, to bring in the topic for discussion, i.e. how our language (English) reflects the sexual discrimination in our culture.

2. Giving evidence to show sexism in English (linguistic evidence)

Evidence of sexism in English 1) Words that originated from peoples names (para 4-6)
More in quantity Related to

Fewer in number Related to body (physical features)

(implications)Man is successful

Woman is sexy

2) Geographical names (para 7-9)

preoccupation with womens breasts

3) Pairs of words / cognate terms /male-female counterparts (with different semantic features)

serious, businesslike suggesting dignity respect,

sexual connotation sexual connotation

callboy vs. call girl Sir vs. Madam master vs. mistress
master + plan / copy /trust /charge; concert master, toast master etc. few mistress in compounds feminine subordinate usherette heiress feminine having dead end (not *queendom)

more functional in word formation 1) forming compounds

2) taking affixes a) masculine as base, usher heir b) masculine forming compounds kingdom sportsmanship c) exception (sex and marriage) prostitute widow bride

male prostitute widower bridegroom

3. Conclusion (English is a male-centred language)

III. Discussion and assignment:

Give further examples to show sexism in English Some examples to elicit students contribution 1. Different associations: Masculine the man in the street a male pirate bachelor governor 2. Vulgarism in feminine words e.g. movie queen, beauty queen Feminine a woman of the street female pirate spinster governess

3. Up-gradation in masculine words

marshal ( to be upgraded to mean ) craftsman

4. Priority given to masculine words in order

host and hostess brother and sister husband and wife Adam and Eve Son and daughter He or she King and queen (With the only exception: Ladies and gentlemen!)

5. Existence of female exclusive terms

Chairman, spokesman, businessman, man power (work man policeman)