A Feministic Take on The Professor and the Madman

In Victorian England in the 18th century, Queen Victoria ruled with power and grace. She was an amazing mother, ruler and wife, proving women could be much more than expected of them in the 18th century. But women outside of the royal family were still not given a chance at education, employment, or any position of power for that matter.

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Drawing of 18th Century England (Photo from Wikipedia)

The Professor and the Madman is set in Victorian England during the 18th century, and as a result, excludes women almost entirely from the story-line. And not only are women excluded entirely from the story-line, but when they are included, are portrayed only in their relationship to a male character. The author himself, I think, is not trying to exclude women, but from the information he gathered, very little was written about women because of the lack of their importance back then.

To show you the little respect women get in this novel, I will bring up the only times women were mentioned, and in what context for what purpose.

The first woman introduced in the story is Eliza Merrett, the widowed wife of George Merrett.

Eliza Merrett in 18th century (Photo from The British Library)

George Merrett was murdered by Dr. Minor and is only mentioned a few times, with a slight backstory on his friends and family, which consisted of only men.

Eliza Merrett continued in the story much longer than her husband, yet received no backstory, contrary to her husband’s 3-page description, when his only part in the story was him getting shot. Eliza visits the man who shot her husband, Dr. Minor, a few times and is only kept in the story because she provides Dr. Minor with the necessary books to help write the dictionary (the main point of the story).

The second woman that was mentioned was Ada Murray.

Representation of typical 18th century women (Photo from Discovering Literature)

Ada was the wife of James Murray. Ada was described as “more his [James Murray’s] social and intellectual equal” (Winchester 61). This shows that Ada was considered intelligent, but is never mentioned to go anywhere beyond being a housewife and supporting her and James’ 11 children. Women’s main purpose in 18th century England were to be caregivers only, despite their potential to receive a higher education like Ada could have.

The third woman mentioned in the story is Dr. Minor’s mother, who was only mentioned once and only as Dr. Minor’s mother.

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Representation of an 18th century Victorian mother (From Diary Archive)

I should add, again, that these were the only women mentioned, and the only times they were mentioned, in a 250 page novel. To me, women were completely cut out of educational and workplace activities and were unable to serve any part in things like the creation of the dictionary. Due to such a limited use of women in the novel The Professor and the Madman, it is evident that women were not treated nearly as equal as men.

In addition to rarely being mentioned, they were considered uneducated and immature as well.

In this quote, women were mentioned as house maids, and were supposedly frightened by fireworks, scrambling inside to escape the loud noises, but the men were calm and collected, and tried to ignore the celebration as it distracted from their scholarly endeavors:

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Fireworks in London, England (From IB Times UK

Like the fire frightened housemaids who hurried back down to the servants’ entrances of the greathouses nearby…but there were men who had outgrown such energetic diversions, eager to escape the sound of excitement and celebration and return to scholarly discourse”. (Winchester 87-88)

Women in the Victorian era were treated similar to young children in today’s day and age.

As you know, England was even led by a woman, Queen Victoria at the time, but the women still received very little education and social status compared to men. It comes as no surprise that there is very little women who helped with the creation of the Oxford English dictionary, as there were almost no university-level educated women at the time.

Because of the huge lack of women playing significant parts in the story and the way women were talked about as immature and needy, it is very clear that women in the Victorian era were treated with indecency.

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First class of women graduating from school (Photo from Native Voices)

To further this idea, women were not only treated with a lack of respect, but also received almost no education. The first woman to graduate from a medical school was in 1850, with school being invented almost 100 years prior. The first dictionaries, unsuccessful I might add in their creation, were meant for the uneducated of the time: “educating of the uneducated (among whom were counted the women of the day, who often enjoyed little schooling)” (Winchester 93).

The author is aware of the women that were uneducated, but I find it very odd that he adds the word “enjoyed” to how much of the little schooling they received. I am sure he is in no position to make that assumption as he would have no evidence of what women want almost 200 years prior him writing the book.

TO help you further understand, I have created A multimedia presentation, where I combine visual and auditory effects to make an entertaining collage of A feminist literary perspective of The Professor and the Madman:

 

 

 

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“Serial” Episode 1: A Review of an Introduction

I always love a good crime story.

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Photo from typical crime (Links to Literature)

Maybe it was something about the intense, life-like situation at hand, gripping me and bringing me into the life of the victim. Keeping me on the edge of my seat, intently watching as the dramatic reenactment of the less dramatic crime is replayed by actors.

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Adnan Syed

The difference with “Serial”, is that these are not actors, this is a real-life, up close and personal story of a boy, just like myself, who has his life ripped away from him, just because his lawyer didn’t take the time to look a little deeper into why and how a kid would do this.

Despite this being such a personally similar story, I felt much less towards this as I did a completely made up hollywood thriller.

The difference?

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Audio Vs. Visual (From Super Bowl Ads)

Visual effects.

I am all for easy listens when I do not have the option of watching a show or movie, but if I was going to listen to something, it would not be a journalist trying to rediscover a case that is 15 years old.

I understand that Sarah works very hard to make these an entertaining experience, but without visual enhancement, I felt much less connected to the characters and story line.

I connect well with the victim, which allows me to being partially intrigued, but a crime show on a podcast – not for me.

Despite my lack of interest, I picked out a few things while I was listening to Sarah interview different people about something they had forgotten:

The podcast author, Sarah Koenig, digs deeper into the life of this convicted boy, bringing her listeners with her as she attempts to find the truth behind Adnan’s conviction.

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Feelings (From Pinterest)

Episode 1 of “Serial” was a beginning episode, and it was difficult to make a stand on if the boy, Adnan Syed, was guilty or not. Adnan is made out to seem like an innocent character, as the writer describes him a smart kind boy, and just a typical high school honorary student. Sarah’s description of Adnan as this kind of a person, does make one feel sorry for him, but this is just about all the innocent evidence we get, and our feeling’s do not influence law as much as we hope it would.

The other piece of evidence the author gives us to hint at Adnan’s innocence, is by what she says at the beginning of the podcast. Sarah begins the podcast by explaining her theory that if someone does something important, they not only remember that important or controversial thing they did, but also remember everything else that happened that day. And, of course, Adnan seemingly remembers nothing the day that the victim was murdered. Allowing you to unconsciously assume that Adnan is innocent.

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Photo of Hae and Adnan (From Telegraph.uk)

Over the course of the episode, Sarah goes to interview several of Adnan’s old friends,  the first of which explains to detectives the detailed story of exactly what happened the day that Hae, the victim, was killed. This story, is what Sarah says to be the story that the court based their entire case against Adnan on, and had virtually nothing else. The reason they based their entire case on this, was because it was the only plausible explanation for Sarah’s death at the time.

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Importance of Law vs. Money (From Lawyer.com)

You see, Adnan’s lawyer had presented barely any case against his friend’s testimony, and the judge had no other choice. Sarah believes the lawyer to have done this because the lawyer made more money if Adnan went to jail.

The funny thing is, is that in episode 1, Sarah spends most of her time working on a lead that leads nowhere, and ends the episode with no good basis to change our minds on Adnan’s innocence. The lead she so passionately follows, were from a girl who wrote letters to Adnan, letters containing references to them being together in the library at the same time Adnan was supposed to be murdering his girlfriend. At the end of the episode, we find out that the person she was trying to track down made up the information in those letters, and admits she never did talk to Adnan on the day he supposedly murdered Hae.

This ends the episode on a very low note, intriguing the listener to hear more.

But not me, I prefer to look up the end on google:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

English and University: The Importance of Proper Literary Skills

Engage with me over hte next few weeks as I embark on a mission to explain and convince my readers of controversial topics and issues

When people think of university, the first thing that comes to mind is study, work, submit, repeat. However, somewhere hidden between the lines of study and submit, is quite possibly the most overlooked, yet important skill you can have; communication.

Photo by Northeastern University

John Macguire, a high school and University tutor explains in his blog: “Why Many College Students Are Not Learning How to Write Proper Sentences”, that students are not receiving the proper literacy education in middle school and high school. He writes:

 In my experience, depending on the college, up to half the students in Writing I classrooms are baffled because they never learned sentence construction in grade school or high school. They aren’t just defective in their knowledge of grammar—they know nothing about grammar.(Macguire, John)

John goes on to explain that the teaching style being incorporated into education is the main cause of students deficiency in writing. He says: “many public schools use a “reader-writer workshop” method of writing instruction that completely skips grammar.”(Macguire, John) This “reader-writer workshop” method of teaching is described by John as a “method that cheats everyone through its rigid insistence that expressiveness is all that matters”(Macquire, John).

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Photo By Great Schools

However, where John tutors(NY), the students he tutors and information about students literary capabilities come from students who did not require Gr. 12 English before entering into University. (see: NY School Board University Prerequisite Requirements) Here is a specific example from a Grade 12 University level English course curriculum, where Grade 12 University level English is a requirement, with the specific points and requirements that each student must meet in order to move onto the next level(University):

Knowledge and Understanding. Subject-specific content acquired in each course (knowledge),
and the comprehension of its meaning and significance (understanding).
Thinking. The use of critical and creative thinking skills and/or processes, as follows:
planning skills (e.g., generating ideas, gathering information, focusing research,
organizing information)
processing skills (e.g., drawing inferences, interpreting, analysing, synthesizing,
evaluating)
critical/creative thinking processes (e.g., oral discourse, research, critical analysis,
critical literacy, metacognition, creative process)
Communication. The conveying of meaning through various text forms.
Application. The use of knowledge and skills to make connections within and between
various contexts.
Teachers will ensure that student work is assessed and/or evaluated in a balanced manner
with respect to the four categories, and that

 

As seen above, these expectations of the student are quite contrary to Mr. Maguire’s concerns with high school education. The curriculum includes four straight forward, logical and reasonable categories in which a student must be creditable. These four marking scheme categories for Grade 12 University English and it’s prerequisites depicts the difference between schools that do not include ENG4U, and schools that do. Therefore exploiting ENG 4U’s importance in student success in university.

In fact, education all around the world is beginning to accept these four main categories of learning English. A principal from India wrote an article about “The Importance of English Language Skills to Students”, with the very first sentence being: “English has fours skills; listening, speaking, reading and writing.”(Mohsen, Medat) Almost the exact same four principles as Ontario’s English curriculum expectations as shown above.

Photo from Modhat Menson’s: Article on the Importance of English

Without communication, the things you learn, new ideas you come up with, and the information you are studying would be worthless. A clear, concise and to the point type-up of an assignment allows the people marking your work to see into your thoughts, allowing them to accurately assess the thoughts and answers you have submitted. Without proper representation of your thinking, you would not be able to explain your reasoning behind a new concept you understood. And even though you yourself know you fully understood it, your peers and professors would have no way of knowing that.

A student who had a lack of English writing skills(due to not taking ENG4U and possibly not even ENG3U) when first entering University explains the difficulties she faced when the literary skills she was lacking, were needed. She says: “”At the beginning, the most difficult thing was just understanding the academic words,” she says. “Then putting my own words into academic language was hard.””(Tickle, Louise) She goes on to explain how hard she would have to work just to get mediocre grades. She explains that “When I came to write my first assignment, I cried,”(Tickle, Louise).

When the student, Daphne Ellison, explains her predicament, it gives an excellent example of what happens when proper educational preparation is not taken, i. e. not taking an ENG4U course before university. Further on in the interview with Daphne, she explains that: “I would stay up 3 hours a night for weeks on end, just working on 1 essay to make sure it was good enough to hand in.”(Tickle, Louise) She also explains how it was her “prior lack of education” that caused her so much trouble in her first years of university.

Many students struggle with the art of writing an essay, and study skills sessions are very popular
Photo by Linda Narlen from Essay Writing Trips Up Students

Situations like Daphne’s can be avoided, and easily so, if students in education begin to realize the importance of all the aspects of English, including

  1. Knowledge and Understanding
  2. Thinking
  3. Critical Thinking Processes
  4. Communication

(from Ontario ENG4U Curriculum above)

With these 4 steps, acquired from grade 12 University preparation English, students are much more prepared for the level of thinking and communicating that University brings. However, without obtaining these 4 skills before University and ultimately taking ENG4U, one will soon realize, just as Daphne did, they were not ready for the next level.

 

 

Works Cited:

 

Mcguire, John. “Why Many College Students Never Learn How to Write Sentences — The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.” The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal. N.p., 29 June 2016. Web. 05 July 2017.

Menson, Medhat. “Importance of English language skills to students.” Linked In. N.p., 1 Aug. 2015. Web. 5 July 2017. <https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/importance-english-language-skills-students-medhat-mohsen&gt;.

Tickle, Louise. “Essay writing trips up students.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 26 Apr. 2011. Web. 05 July 2017. <https://www.theguardian.com/education/2011/apr/26/students-essay-writing&gt;.

“The Ontario Curriculum, Grades 11 and 12: English, 2007 (Revised).” Grade 11, 12 ENG. Ontario Government, 2009. Web. 5 July 2017. <http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/secondary/english1112currb.pdf&gt;.