“ rock garden ”; jhumpa lahiri ’ H u m a n i t i e s

“ rock garden ”; jhumpa lahiri ’ H u m a n i t i e s

Instructions: Select one prompt on which to write a paper of no more than three pages in length. Submit the essay via the link on the ‘Assignments’ page of our Blackboard site. Stories may be found on Blackboard’s ‘Course Documents’ page: Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s “Rock Garden”; Jhumpa Lahiri’s “This Blessed House”; Katherine Mansfield’s “Miss Brill”; and Donal Ryan’s “Long Puck.” Review the rubric on the ‘Assignments’ page to gain a better understanding of what is expected of this formal academic paper! Most importantly, remember that this is a class in critical theory: Be certain to explain, not simply define, and apply theoretical concepts within and throughout your paper!

please pick one that will work for you to do this and I will send the story for it also at the end of these here are the concepts

  1. The historical element of Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston’s “Rock Garden” is undeniable: the appalling internment during World War II of Japanese-Americans. Houston’s story subtly comments on hegemonic powers practiced against both Japanese-Americans and Native-Americans—demonstrative of binary opposition—but as well illustrates the power of culture to disrupt oppression and “othering.” How might the characterization of Morita-san, what he shares with Reiko, and his ultimate actions at the end of the story be read as identity politics? And yet why is Morita-san considered an outsider, even among his own people? Explain fully and in detail your ideas
  1. Houston’s “Rock Garden” abounds with archetypal and ideologically-laden symbols of culture, both Japanese and Native-American. Point out these details for either Reiko, and then consider how fully the character embraces these cultural artifacts (or not). How does Reiko negotiate these ideological, historical and culture elements of her life, and those to which she’s introduced by Morita-san? How do other factors challenge this process? Are we to be convinced of her character’s growth? Why or why not? As you consider the development of either character’s ideology, draw upon particulars in the narrative to defend your position.
  1. In Donal Ryan’s “Long Puck,” an Irish Catholic priest finds himself in a third-world culture that goes from peaceful to violent in a matter of days. Examine how colonial/postcolonial concepts prove volatile in this story. How, for instance, does the binary of ‘othering’ and ‘Eurocentrism’ become destabilized by postcolonial backlash? How are concepts such as ‘hybridity’ and ‘third space’ developed and undermined? How does cultural fundamentalism lead to disruption of society?
  1. The role of observation and surveillance is highlighted in Katherine Mansfield’s “Miss Brill.” Our protagonist sets out on her weekly Sunday-afternoon jaunt full of happiness and delight, adorned with her prized fur stole, but by story’s end, Miss Brill’s disposition has altered significantly. Explore Miss Brill’s role as both observer and observed, analyzing how her power and agency prove to be both dominant and undermined during her afternoon of people-watching. How do her conditions dictate her power and agency? Why is the “cry” Miss Brill seems to hear at the end of the story symbolic of her compromised position?
  1. In “This Blessed House,” Jhumpa Lahiri depicts an Indo-American couple, recently married, who move into a new house, only to find items of the prior family popping up here and there throughout the place. These unexpected items tend to affect the wife and husband differently. How does the house and its discarded items serve as a discomfort to one and a pleasant surprise to the other, and why does each respond in the manner she or he does?
  1. Select one of these short stories (and not more than one) on which to write and focus your analysis through an examination and illustration of a single character in relationship to her or his environment. How is the character’s power and agency affected by those around her or him, or by the ideological conditions in which she or he lives? How is the character deluded by her or his circumstances, taking for granted the ideas and values of others? Why do the space and time in which she or he operates prove to dictate or restrict the character’s individuality, if at all?


Base: economics and acts of consumptive production, such as the means of production and the divisions of labor in employer-employee relations, that serve as support for the superstructure of social, political and ideological realities. [Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)]

Conspicuous Consumption: the act of owning or displaying goods solely for their exchange value or sign-exchange value, or making overt charitable contributions, thus demonstrating social prestige through the display of superior socio-economic status. [Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class: An Economic Study in the Evolution of Institutions (1899)]

Historical Conditions: ideological conditions that are a result of economic (material) circumstances which in turn shape the direction of those economic conditions; the writing of a literary text, for instance is in some part shaped by the events and circumstances that become enveloped in the narrative.

Ideological State Apparatus (ISA): institutions that disseminate ideologies that reinforce the control of a dominant ruling class; these institutions include such entities as schools, churches, media outlets, social and sports clubs, legal structures, and the family. [Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Toward an Investigation) (1970)]

Material Conditions: economic conditions that give rise to ideological, social and political (historical) circumstances which in turn shape those socio-, historico-, and ideological conditions; while historical conditions are largely conceptual, material circumstances are concrete—that is, they are practical, pragmatic, and substantial elements which are part of everyday life, such as one’s house, money, car, and so on.

Political Unconscious: the concept that all texts are destabilized by their historical reality—that is, the text is a socially symbolic act, given its reliance on an historical language and material conditions that are, themselves, ideological acts of false consciousness. [Frederic Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as Socially Symbolic Act (1981)]

Repressive State Apparatus (RSA): unified institutions that repress subordinate groups to conform and submit to practices of the dominating ruling class through violent or non-violent coercive means; these institutions include such entities as the government itself, the court system, the police, and armed forces. [Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes Toward an Investigation) (1970)]

Superstructure: the social, political, and ideological realities that shape structures of power, cultural norms and expectations, and thus our identities, and which are founded upon the base, or economics. [Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)]


Ahistorical: a web-like, subjective and fragmented way of perceiving history as an expression or representation of forces on narrative-making as opposed to traditional linear understandings of history.

Artifacts: elements of discourse from a particular period that serve to supplement and subvert the master narrative.

Episteme: the underlying conditions of truth that define how a particular age views the world, thereby developing an accepted discourse that produces knowledge within a particular time and place. [Michel Foucault, The Order of Things (1966)]

Historical: reference to the linear, objective and progressive perspective of the way in which time is traditionally thought to unfold, in contrast to contemporary ahistorical perspectives of space and time.

Historical Afterlife: the continual ruination and reconfiguration of the past within the present, the meaning of any historical artifact or incident being an ongoing reconstitution and appropriation. [Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935)]

Master Narrative: a grand narrative told from a single cultural point-of-view which presumes to offer the only legitimate version of history, thus discounting marginalized versions that defy and subvert the privileged version. [Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1979)]

Thick Description: the accumulation of seemingly insignificant details, conceptual structures, and meanings, as well as commentary and interpretations, that reveal a culture. [Clifford Geertz, Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture (1973)]


Agency: the capacity of a person to make choices and act freely in the world.

Carnivalesque: social act, equally apparent in literature, marked by humor, chaos, and attention to the body, usually in defiance or subversion of authority and cultural norms—with no consequences for:

familiar and free interaction of people;

eccentric behavior;

binary misalliances;

the sacrilegious. [Mikhail Bakhtin, Rabelais and His World (1965)]

Gaze: a glance, look, observation or surveillance which powerfully constructs the object, dehumanizing and objectifying the individual while asserting a position of control. [Michel Foucault, Birth of the Clinic (1963), Discipline and Punish (1975)]

Panopticon: a powerful disciplinary mechanism that places the object of study in a state of constant visibility, and thus always under observation and control. [Foucault, Discipline and Punish (1975)]

Power: an act, through ability or official capacity to exercise control of a system or function, reducing and limiting the will and freedom of the individual. [Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish (1975), “The Subject and Power” (1982)]

Synopticon: a mechanism, largely indebted to mass media and technology, where the many observe the few, yet where all remain vulnerable. [Thomas Mathiesen, The Viewer Society: Michel Foucault’s Panopticon Revisited (1997)]


Binary Opposition/Privilege: the activity of thinking and expressing concepts in contrary pairs, with one element of the pair privileged [Jacques Derrida, Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences (1966)].

Colonialism: the subjection of one culture by another; it may involve military conquest but extends to the imposition of the dominant power’s ideological values and customs on those of the conquered peoples.

Demonic ‘Other’: the perspective that those who are different from oneself are not only backward but also savage, even evil.

Eurocentrism: the assumption that European ideals & experiences are a standard by which all other cultures are to be measured and judged inferior.

Exotic ‘Other’: the perspective that those who are different from oneself possess an inherent dignity and beauty, perhaps because of their more undeveloped, natural state of being.

Hybridity: the quality of cultures that have characteristics of both the colonizers and the colonized; it is marked by conflicts and tensions, as these cultures are constantly changing and evolving [Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (1994)].

Imperialism: the policy and practice of extending a country’s power and influence through diplomatic coercion and military force.

Neocolonialism: domination of a developing nation by international corporations attracted by cheap labor and political and legal systems they can manipulate.

Orientalism: representation of Arab peoples and cultures that imagines, emphasizes, distorts and exaggerates differences with privileged Eurocentric cultures, cultivating stereotypes [Edward Said, Orientalism (1978)].

Postcolonialism: the study of a culture after the physical and/or political withdrawal of an oppressive power; in literature, this analysis seeks to uncover the colonialist or anti-colonialist ideologies in a text.

Postcolonial Literature: the writings produced by members of the indigenous culture or by settlers (and their descendants) with ties to both the invading culture and the oppressed one; in English-speaking nations, the term usually refers to the literature of former colonies of the British Empire.

Third Space: the fluid, transitional place between cultures where new forms of cultural meaning and representation are possible, blurring limitations and denying categorizations of established culture and identity. [Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (1994)]

Unhomeliness: the sense of being culturally displaced, of being caught between two cultures and not “at home” in either of them; it is felt by those who lack a clearly-defined cultural identity. [Homi Bhabha, “The World and the Home” (1992)]