Questions about a Text on Literature
Jane. (2005). In Continuum Encyclopedia of American Literature. Retrieved
from Credo Reference Database.
S. goes straight to middle America in its geographical, economic, and
familial landscape. Nearly all of her novels are set in the Midwest in
middle-upper-class rural communities in which she renders more often than not a
discontented vision. What is evocative about her work is her love and knowledge
of the land and her piercing portraits of the families that inhabit it; what is
absent from her work is all traces of race and poverty issues. Nevertheless,
she is a writer who with each turn unravels the cataclysmic within the
so-called ordinary human life. Her academic background in medieval
literature-seen in her epic novel, The Green-landers (1988), of 14th-c.
Scandinavian frontiers people, affixes a brutality to her characters’ worlds,
depicting personal and everyday adversity-lack of communication, unmet desire,
and ambivalence within the family unit-as a force that shapes morality. In Barn
Blind (1980), it is a mother's unnerving control over her children that
leads to disaster; in The Age of Grief (1987), it is a husband trying to
accept his wife's infidelity; in Ordinary Love (1989), it is a mother
knowing that she has reshaped her children's lives by following her passion; in
At Paradise Gate (1981), it is a woman reassessing the sacrifices she
has made as a mother; in A Thousand Acres (1991), it is a family falling
apart after the father gives his land to his three daughters. S.'s other work, Duplicate
Keys (1984), set in New York, is a suspense story; her novel Moo
(1995) is a dark comedy exposing the hypocrisy of academic life.
Instructions: In a separate
document, answer each of the following questions based on the above provided
text. For each question, identify the most correct answer and provide a brief
explanation (1-3 sentences) of why it is the most correct.
How would you identify Jane Smiley?
A scholar of medieval literature and author of
short stories concerned with uncovering the trials and drama of medieval
An author deeply concerned with the Midwestern
Writer concerned with chronicling the underlying
tensions and morality of rural, upper-middle-class families of middle America.
Writer with a deep love for the geography of the
Midwest who uses rural, upper-middle-class characters to explore place.
What is the common thread connecting her body of
Familial dysfunction that manifests itself in
The shaping of everyday morality through failures
in addressing adversity.
Adversity and hypocrisy as the defining
influences of the human experience.
The cataclysmic effect of the geography of
middle America upon the each novels main characters.
Which statement most agrees with what is said in
the excerpt about Jane Smiley?
S., a writer and scholar, has a greater concern
with the internal struggles of people than the external struggles that might
arise from issues of diversity.
Though her body of work primarily encompasses
the upper-middle-class of middle America, S.’s greatest works are to be found in
her period novel Green-landers and
the novels Duplicate Keys and Moo.
Though a writer by trade, S.’s true passion lies
with investigating the relationship of the hero and community within Medieval
Has made it her life’s work to expose for
consideration the dysfunctions and difficulties inherent in moral thinking
within the modern American family.
An academic who studied medieval literature, how
is this reflected in Smiley’s work?
This is reflected through the depictions of
numerous manifestations of brutality within the worlds of S.’s characters that
influences how they address challenges.
It is best depicted in her representation of
Scandinavian peoples as they manifest throughout her novels.
S.’s deep knowledge of the places her characters
inhabits is a direct result of her study of medieval literature, which is
deeply tied to place and geography.
The internal distress of relationships resulting
in the disintegration of the family unit is representative of a similar trend
in medieval literature and the failure of frontier settlements.
What does Smiley reveal about the lives of her
characters that is of interest to readers?
The effect of place on people’s actions is
greater than that of morality or family.
She reveals that too much control on the part of
the mother will lead to disaster for her children.
S. shows the moral complexity and peril present
in every day life.
Ambivalence an un-met desire held by one or more
of the members of a family will always result in disaster.