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September 25, 2021, 07:23:32 am

Author Topic: Advice for writing my IA3 final with one week left (AHHHHHHHH)  (Read 1267 times)

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youcandothis

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Hi all. So I've left the English extension IA3 to the last possible minute and it's due next Tuesday (a week and two days) :-[. For my draft I basically submitted a plot synopsis, which means when I get into the nitty gritty of applying theory, I don't have draft feedback to tell me if it's a good standard or not. Even now I can't bring myself to start researching because the task is SO big - so I don't have a grasp on my theories either. I really need to do well on this because I didn't do too good on the IA2. I'm looking at Orwell's 1984 and my chosen theories are new historicism and feminism -I'm investigating how 1984's critique of power is limited by 20th century norms around gender and sexuality. Does anyone have advice on tackling this mammoth task, and what is a realistic timeline I could follow? Any thoughts are appreciated!

literally lauren

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Re: Advice for writing my IA3 final with one week left (AHHHHHHHH)
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2021, 10:59:07 am »
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Hi there!

Apologies if this is late! Without knowing the specific of the plot you've got so far, my tips for applying theories might be a bit vague, but I can certainly help you with getting a grasp on those two theories so you can take them and run!

Historicism: (often called 'new historicism' in terms of literary theory) gets super dense and complicated, but I like to think of all theories by visualising how a text was written, and what we focus on. For example, other theories like formalism are solely concerned with the text itself - the author doesn't matter, their gender doesn't matter, their living conditions/family situation/country of origin/time of writing, etc. The only thing that formalism cares about is the literal words on the page. Most other theories, including new historicism, are the opposite. They think that the context greatly informs what/how/why an author wrote things, and that we need to understand the context in order to understand the text.

 Some theories focus more on the politics (so, visually, while the author was writing, what were the headlines in the newspaper on their desk? Who was the PM/president/king/queen? What wars, political or literal, were happening outside their window?) whereas others focus on the author's psychology (visually, are they writing while drunk or high because of unresolved traumas? Are they writing about love while their own marriage is on the rocks?) Historicism is less about the present moment and more about the past (i.e. history) - how did the author get there? What historical and sociological events led to the formation of their country, religion, or ideology? And from our perspective looking back, what were the most important parts of history that happened before and during the author's life that could have influenced their work?

When it comes to interpretation, historicism can be a bit more present-minded in terms of how our own culture and history influences how we view a text. Basically, the text is a snapshot of history, but our reading of it is also a snapshot of contemporary history. With this in mind, I think this is a fantastic lens through which to view 1984.

Possible ideas for 1984 from a new historical perspective:
- Examine the timelessness and universality of Orwell's fears and concerns. This is a novel written in 1949, set 35 years in Orwell's future, which we are now reading over 35 years later. And yet, 1984 has an enduring place in the literary canon because our society is and should always be cautious about creeping authoritarianism and how malicious forces can wield power to suppress freedom, individuality, and self-worth.
- Consider Orwell's own life and times: his distaste for British imperialism and fascism more broadly, his empathising with working class concerns (though be careful not to stray too far into a marxist reading if that's not your focus), and his time fighting in the Spanish Civil War where he was shot in the throat.
- As a limitation, consider how much history has changed since 1949 (or indeed since 1984) and how the text's presentation of technology and language is arguably now quite dated. The thought of TV screens listening to our conversations is somewhat analogous to our fears about smartphones or those google home devices, but nowadays there are far greater concerns about technology addiction, the power of algorithms, and who has access to our data/metadata. You could argue that even though Orwell set out to articulate a dystopian future, he wasn't actually trying to predict the future, and so solely reading 1984 as a cautionary tale means we may be blind to the more complex and evolved versions of Orwell's historical fears.

Feminism: probs doesn't need as much explaining - it's a theory concerned with the depiction of and implications for women in texts and society. Applying this theory is different when you've got a female author, but for Orwell, the only major relevant thing to consider is his characterisation of Julia (and maybe some of the minor characters in 1984 like Katharine, Winston's wife). This opens up a lot of opportunities to critique the text, but also to critically engage with the limitations of feminist interpretations (e.g. messages about power and totalitarianism don't have to be thought of as anti-feminist just because Winston and Orwell are male - these are universal concerns).

Possible ideas for 1984 from a feminist perspective:
- To what extent does Winston's reduction of sex to a 'political act' also undermine Julia and women as mere political pawns? Or, on the flip side, is Winston extoling sex as a form of rebellion? But does that mean women only have worth as the sexual partners of men?
- Julia is highly sexualised throughout the novel. Some interpretations even consider her a symbol for sex (in addition to or instead of love, youth, womanhood, etc.). Does this give her power? Is she a positive portrayal of womanhood? How did Orwell's readers, and how might we in our modern context, view her opportunism, lust, and free spirited nature?
- As a limitation, you could absolutely acknowledge the pretty reductive focus on female characters and the experiences of women in Oceania. How do they feel about being treated as baby-making machines for the Party? We don't know because Orwell doesn't really dwell on this. (Not sure if you're allowed to bring in other texts or contemporary counterpoints, but consider how The Handmaid's Tale explicitly focuses on the pain and subjugation of women in a dystopia.)

I hope that helps! Let me know if you have questions about any of this or need more direction :)

youcandothis

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Re: Advice for writing my IA3 final with one week left (AHHHHHHHH)
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2021, 02:28:42 am »
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Thank you for your response!

When you list the possible ideas for each theory - I thought I was looking to answer my focus question through the lens of those two theories? So with the possible ideas for the theories in the context of my question, would it make sense to look at two different topics within the two theories - like Orwell's concerns for the future through the lens of new historicism and then Orwell's one dimensional writing of Julia through the lens of feminism. Or am I meant to be looking at one topic through the lens of both, like Orwell's writing of Julia through the lens of feminism,  and then looking at it through new historicism and saying he was influenced by the time period. But at the same time, my question asks how Orwell's critique of power is limited by gender. So I suppose I need to look at his critique of power, and then the character of Julia?

I don't really understand the new historicism and feminism limitations - I think I'm meant to critique the limitations the theoretical reading has, but is this talking about the limitations of the text or the theory? With feminism, I need to talk about texts that influenced 1984, so I can bring up other texts. Do you mean that handmaid's tale is better as a text because it focuses on the experience of women whereas 1984 brushes past it? But how does this relate to the flaws of a feminist reading?

It's due in less than 48 hours ahhhh  :-[

literally lauren

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Re: Advice for writing my IA3 final with one week left (AHHHHHHHH)
« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2021, 10:43:35 am »
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So with the possible ideas for the theories in the context of my question, would it make sense to look at two different topics within the two theories - like Orwell's concerns for the future through the lens of new historicism and then Orwell's one dimensional writing of Julia through the lens of feminism. Or am I meant to be looking at one topic through the lens of both, like Orwell's writing of Julia through the lens of feminism,  and then looking at it through new historicism and saying he was influenced by the time period. But at the same time, my question asks how Orwell's critique of power is limited by gender. So I suppose I need to look at his critique of power, and then the character of Julia?
I think a more refined focus would make things easier on you - rather than seeing them as two different topics, use your unifying theme or idea ('power' is a good one here!) and that'll let you talk about both. This IA is about how theoretical approaches can work together to inform how we interpret texts, so think about how new historicism and feminism are similar and different in what they unearth in the text.

Also, based on the QCAA sample piece, you can (and should) limit your focus to aspects of theories, rather than trying to tackle every facet, strength, and limitation of both new historicism and feminism in one essay! For instance, 'examining the power dynamics in 1984 from a feminist lens' is totally fine - you don't have to delve into a bunch of other more or less feminist texts or explain the differences between second wave and third wave feminism.

Basically, your focus question is your priority, and you should be making constant reference to the text, using the theories to inform your answer to the question. Don't think of it as an essay just 'about' NH/Feminism since you won't earn any marks for explaining the theories beyond one or two sentences here and there - you just need to understand them yourself and then apply them to 1984.

I don't really understand the new historicism and feminism limitations - I think I'm meant to critique the limitations the theoretical reading has, but is this talking about the limitations of the text or the theory? With feminism, I need to talk about texts that influenced 1984, so I can bring up other texts. Do you mean that handmaid's tale is better as a text because it focuses on the experience of women whereas 1984 brushes past it? But how does this relate to the flaws of a feminist reading?
Since you're evaluating the effectiveness of the theories, I think you should focus on the limitations of the theories as applied to the texts. So, don't write about the abstract limitations of new historicism in a vacuum, and don't just write about how 1984 isn't a good book for feminist interpretation. Instead, you should use the theoretical approaches to construct a close reading, and then consider the limitations of this interpretation.

For example, adopt a feminist interpretation of Julia's character and consider to what extent she has any power or agency in the novel. Then, you can acknowledge that although Julia may not be a conventional feminist heroine by contemporary theoretical standards, perhaps we can still celebrate her as a depiction of unashamed femininity (i.e. according to feminist interpretations, a youthful sex-obsessed character who falls in love with the protagonist is usually kinda weird wish-fulfillment/male gaze from the author, so a theoretical reading would make us inclined to dismiss Julia as the product of the patriarchal madonna/whore complex, but perhaps there's more to her than that...? If we're saying this is a novel about critiquing power, maybe we should admire Julia for trying to reclaim autonomy, even if she did it in arguably 'un-feminist' ways).

Let me know if that doesn't make sense!