Professor Vivian Bearing vs John Donne in the Play Wit by Margaret Edson
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Is it possible to misunderstand something, yet still be guided toward its claims? Is it possible for something that ultimately has the greatest impact on your life to be unnoticed until the last possible moment? In most cases, a true revelation does not present itself until later in a person’s life. In the play Wit, by Margaret Edson, the character of Professor Vivian Bearing reaches a profound realization concerning one of the great impacts in her own life. Vivian, self-proclaimed intellectual and widely-feared professor, essentially devotes her life to the works of John Donne, a renowned metaphysical poet. She tirelessly prides herself on her exceptional skills and experience with analyzing Donne’s works, even in the midst of…show more content…
It seems that Vivian subconsciously incorporates Donne’s own religious journey into her own struggle. If the reader doesn’t first realize this, it is evident in Vivian herself towards the end of the play.
Vivian shows her relation to Donne rather early on in the play, however. As she observes the doctors and physicians examining her, she makes a connection between the manner in which they study her body and the manner in which she studies poetry. She refers to the doctors’ rounds of examining when she states, “In Grand Rounds, they read me like a book. Once I did the teaching, now I am taught” (Edson 32). This is Vivian’s first step towards her ultimate realization. In Donne’s work, “Hymn to God, My God, in my Sickness,” more connections can be made between Vivian and Donne’s speaker. Just like the speaker in the poem, Vivian sees her body as the doctors’ map to study. “…my physicians..cosmographers, and I their map, who lie flat on this bed” (Donne lines 1-2).
A major focus point of Wit has to do with pride, and the conversion that Vivian undergoes at the end. Likewise, pride is also prominent in Donne’s writings. He emphatically views it as evil and the root of human sin. He believes it to be so deeply rooted that only God’s intervention can dig it out, so to speak. Donne would presume that Vivian’s suffering during her ovarian cancer is a means to a correction, and ultimately, salvation. In “Batter My Heart,” one of Donne’s sonnets that can be
This English Advanced Module A: Comparative Study of Texts and Contexts – Elective 2: Texts in Time – Frankenstein and Blade Runner is a bit to find questions to practice on, because pre-2009, the Elective was “Into the Wild” and the texts were Brave New World and Blade Runner.
As such, I’ve still put the past HSC questions below, but I’ve modified them slightly to say “Frankenstein” and “Texts in Time” instead. Substantively, the HSC questions may be different now in that they won’t focus on humanity and nature so much (which was what “Into the Wild” was about). Instead they may focus more on texts and contexts.
The practice questions used by high schools etc are all from 2009 though and have not been modified by me.
So how should you use these questions?
Write a essay according to one of these questions – if you have not already done an essay as part of a school assessment.
- If you have already written as essay – see if you can adapt it to all the questions below.
- To do this – write an introduction/thesis specific to the question and then outline how your body paragraphs would be structured (if any differently).
- At the end of this exercise, you should have come up with say 3 alternative thesis that you can have ready in your mind and ready to adapt to whatever question you spring on you in the HSC!
I’ve also underlined the keywords in each question. As you’ll see, each question falls into a certain “type” of question:
- Question about the texts’ similar ideas – humanity, nature, control, creation
- Question about the texts’ different contexts and how it has influenced the construction of the texts and its ideas
- Question about how comparing the two texts influences your perspective of each text
Can you figure out which category, each of the questions below fall into? Some may fall into more than 1 category.
What must generally be covered (no matter what the question is) in your response are:
- What are the similar/different ideas and values expressed in the text?
- What similar/different techniques are used?
- How do the above 2 points relate to the texts’ different contexts?
So have a go! I will add to this list if I come across any more questions.
Past HSC Questions:
In what ways is your appreciation of both texts enhanced by a comparative study of ambition in Frankenstein and Blade Runner? In your response, make detailed reference to your prescribed texts.
Our interest in the parallels between Frankenstein and Blade Runner is further enhanced by consideration of their marked differences in textual form. Evaluate this statement in light of your comparative study of Frankenstein and Blade Runner.
In what ways does a comparative study accentuate the distinctive contexts of Frankenstein and Blade Runner?
Analyse how Frankenstein and Blade Runner imaginatively portray individuals who challenge the established values of their times.
‘A deeper understanding of disruption and identity emerges from considering the parallels between Frankenstein and Blade Runner.’
Compare how these texts explore disruption and identity.
Analyse the ways in which a comparative study of Frankenstein and Blade Runner invites consideration of humanity’s connection with the natural world.
NOTE: this question involved using an extract as a starting point, but on the 2008 paper (released by BOS), it still says “Awaiting copyright”.
Texts in Time involves portrayals, in varying contexts, of the individual and the natural world.
Analyse TWO differences between Shelley’s and Scott’s portrayals, making detailed reference to your prescribed texts.
How does a comparative study of Frankenstein and Blade Runner bring to the fore ideas about the consequences of the desire for control?
In your response, make detailed reference to your TWO prescribed texts.
When they are considered together, how do Shelley’s and Scott’s representations sustain interest in humanity’s relationship with nature?
How has your perception of Texts in Time been illuminated by your comparative study of the prescribed texts?
You have studied two texts composed at different times.
When you compared these texts and their contexts, how was your understanding of each text developed and reshaped.
In comparing your TWO texts you will have to become aware of how the contexts of the texts have shaped their form and meaning. Of more interest, perhaps is the comparison of the values associated with each text.
To what extent has this point of view been your experience to your study of Texts in Time?
Compare how TWO prescribed texts you have studied explore the tension between humanity and the natural world.
Questions used by school etc:
Idea based questions:
- The creators of Frankenstein and Blade Runner have anchored their visions in the social and cultural realities of their time. Despite contextual differences, however, at the heart of both texts is a fear that we may not be able to control what we create. Is this your view of these texts?
- In spite of different contexts and values, both Shelley and Scott are concerned with the question of what constitutes true humanity. Explore this statement.
- “What does it mean to be human?” Explore this statement in relation to Blade Runner and Frankenstein.
- Both Frankenstein and Blade Runner share a common premise. If humanity, through scientific advancement, is able to create life artificially, then ethical quandary will arise. How are the relationships between the creator and created used by Scott and Shelley to illustrate a common premise. In your response also explore how they reflect societal concerns of the time in which they were composed.
- Compare the ways in which both texts offer insights into the human experience. (CSSA 2009 Trial)
- While texts are products of their times, the composers of each text are both concerned that the quest for understanding and knowledge has left our values vulnerable.
- The notion of responsibility is the critical connection between Frankenstein and Blade Runner. (ETA 2009 Trial)
- ‘The elective, Texts in Tune, makes respondents consider ideas in a new light.’ How did your prescribed texts make you see the concept of progress in a new light?
- A deeper understanding of compassion and hubris emerges from considering the parallels between Frankenstein and Blade Runner. Compare how these texts explore compassion and hubris. (North Sydney Girls 2010 Trial)
- Both Mary Shelley and Ridley Scott create worlds in which the pursuit of perfection is seen as futile. Do you agree? (Strathfield Girls 2010 Trial).
Context and value based questions:
- To what extent do the two texts present similar or different criticisms of society?
- Similar issues, explored in different contexts, may reflect changes in values and perspectives. How is this demonstrated in the comparison of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner?
- ‘Despite having been composed in different times texts can reflect the enduring values which human beings share.’ To what extent do the two ‘Texts in Time’ you have studied lead you to accept this statement?
- ‘The values of each age are reflected in the texts which are composed in them.’ To what extent do the two ‘Texts in Time’ you have studied lead you to accept this statement?
- To what extent does the time in which composers live influence their response to enduring human concerns? Discuss with reference to your two prescribed texts.
- ” The most interesting aspect of texts written in different times is seeing the differences in what people value.” Evaluate this opinion in relation to the novel, Frankenstein, and the film, Blade Runner. In your response make detailed references to both texts. (Independent 2009 Trial)
- How does the comparison of language and ideas help us gain a heightened understanding of context and values in Frankenstein and Blade Runner? (Baulkham Hills HS 2010 Trial)
- “Times change but human values remain static.” Discuss this statement with close reference to the context, values and language of both Frankenstein and Blade Runner. (James Ruse 2010 Trial)
- When we investigate a pair of texts that share similar view of the world, we are able to see more clearly the power of context in influencing these views. To what extent has this statement been true of your study of the TWO prescribed texts in this elective? (St Ignatius Riverview 2010 Trial)
- Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, and Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott, share many common attributes, most notably, that time has demonstrated both texts’ significance to society. Explore this statement.
- “The key to understanding anything is to understand its value in its time and our own.” Discuss this proposition in relation to both texts set for study.
- The significant similarities between the texts are more important than their difference. Explore this statement by making close reference to the TWO texts you have studied.
- Does Blade Runner enhance or trivialise Shelley’s Frankenstein? Support your view by referring to your TWO prescribed texts in detail. (ETA 2009 Trial)
- ‘Texts on their own are interesting but when you compare them to other texts they become illuminating and dynamic.’ How has your exploration of the shared ideas of Frankenstein and Blade Runner – Director’s Cut moved you to a heightened appreciation of each text?
- What insights have you gained from your comparative study of texts despite differences in form and features? (Fort Street HS 2010 Trial)
Based on the notes, these following tips should be followed:
- Use the keywords in the question as the basis of your thesis.
- You should explain the significance of the similarities in texts – what ideas/issues are universal/timeless to human society?
- Explain how context is REFLECTED in your texts – do NOT simply state what the context is.
Unfortunately, the 2009 to 2011 markers notes tend not to be very useful as they seem almost copy/pasted year to year!
Generally about Texts in Time:
In better responses, candidates considered how a comparative study highlighted composers’ contexts. They produced a sustained response, developing a thesis that genuinely addressed the question using a discerning selection of textual references.
In weaker responses, candidates tended to identify some similarities or differences between the texts, often with a limited understanding of their significance. They considered the comparison of texts in a superficial or generalised way. Treatment of context was not integrated into the discussion and was frequently a reference to the time of composition rather than an understanding of how context is reflected in the construction and reception of texts. They often relied on a few basic or inappropriate references to texts.
Generally about Texts in Time:
In better responses, candidates considered the key notion of individuals challenging established values and produced a shaped response that developed and sustained a thesis which genuinely addressed the question and which used a discerning selection of textual references.
In weaker responses, candidates tended to identify some similarities between these texts, often with a limited understanding of the significance of these similarities. They often considered the key concept of established values of their time in a superficial or generalised way or ignored it. Treatment of context was not integrated into the discussion and was frequently a reference to the time of composition rather than an understanding of how context is reflected in the construction and reception of texts. They often relied on a few basic or inappropriate references to texts.
Generally about Texts in Time:
Better responses demonstrated a conceptual understanding of the module through detailed analysis of the interrelationship between the two texts studied. They demonstrated a clear understanding of how context influenced the values and ideas in both texts. These responses considered the key terms of disruption, aspirations or independence and identity as a basis for the thesis developed in their response.
Weaker responses tended to identify some similarities between these texts, often with a limited understanding of their significance. These responses often considered the key terms of the question in a superficial or generalised way and/or ignored them. Treatment of context was not integrated into the discussion and was frequently a reference to the time of composition rather than an understanding of how context is reflected in the construction and reception of texts. Textual support was often not appropriate.
Tags: blade runnerfrankensteinhsc