Back to ACLAnet Syllabi & Documents & Documents

Jana Evans Braziel, Assistant Professor
229B Mc Micken Hall
Department of English and Comparative Literature
University of Cincinnati
ML 210069
Cincinnati, OH 45221-0069
Office # (513) 556-0834
Fax # (513) 556-5960

Spiritual Autobiography

Comparative Literature

Marie Cardinal, The Words to Say It

Reflect on Cardinal's process of self-narrativization in Chapter I. Rereading the delineation that she writes of herself on pp. 8-10, analyze the significance of this passage. How is Cardinal the absent Other for herself as Nesan is the absent Other for Nomi is Kogawa's novel Obasan? How are the images in this passage similar to Kogawa's? Why does Cardinal shift from first to third persons in the self-narrativization? How is each writerís representation of the body similar? different?

Marie's therapist says to her, "`Try to understand what happens to you, what provokes, attenuates, or accentuates your crises. Everything is important: noises, colors, odors, gestures, atmospheres. . . everything!'" (33). With this fact in mind, analyxe the first anxiety attack that she experiences (39). Why does the Louis Armstrong incite this feeling of anxiety? Fully explicate, using the language with which Cardinal describes the event. How does this rhythmical improvisation seem to unleash her unconscious emotions?

Discuss Marie's mother's response to the anxiety attack (41). What effect does this response have on Marie? How does Marie describe the bond between her mother and herself? Compare this scene in Chapter III with an earlier passage in Chapter I (last two paragraphs on p. 13) describing the effect of her family on her illness.

What is Cardinal's treatment of sexuality in Chapter III (pp. 42-46)? Contrast and /or compare her mother and father in relation to sexuality. How do the similarities and/or differences in her parent's perspectives manifest in her own regard for sexuality? Discuss in relation to what she says about both masturbation and her first sexual experience.

In Chapter IV, Marie reflects on her father's near absence in her life, recalling scenes of his illness as well as his death. Describe the relationship between her mother and her father. Use quotes from pp. 48-53 in order to substantiate your claims. How does their failed relationship affect Marie? How does her father's illness impact Marie? What is her mother's response to the illness, and how does her response only compound Marie's own fears?

Analyze the funeral scene in Chapter IV (pp. 54-60). Describe the unusual events surrounding her father's death. How does her mother respond to his death? How does Marie respond at the time? Compare this initial response to her later reflections on the meaning of his death. How does the funeral scene reveal something about Marie's own mental illness? Explore the possible meanings of the two recurrent nightmares (pp. 61-62) and their relation to Marie's illness.

Back to ACLAnet Syllabi & Documents & Documents


About ACLAnet - Syllabi and Documents - Syllabus Related Materials - Pedagogical Theory and Practice
Participant List/Profiles - Additional Resources - Suggest New Links - Submit Material - Search ACLAnet