The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

Jane Tompkins, “Me and My Shadow”

To what does the title refer?

What are some of the points Tompkins raises in this essay?

How is the essay structured? Does this mode of proceding reflect some of the points she wishes to make?

What are features of its style?Jane Tompkins:

What was the nature of Tompkins’ initial disagreement with Messer-Davidow? (2132-33)

What is your position on the dispute between the two? Does Tompkins maintain her original disagreement throughout the essay?

What claims does Tompkins make about the features of academic discourse? What evidence does she give? Why does she choose Guattari, Bloom and Foucault as her exemplary texts?

Do you think there is any validity to her criticisms?

What “emotions”does she describe in the second part of the essay? Would these be relevant to all (female) readers? To all subject matters?

What assumptions about gender preferences and rhetorical styles lie behind Tompkins’ dissatisfactions?

What account does she give of recent trends in literary criticism? Why do these changes seem ironic to her? (2140)

Are there features of this essay’s presentation which seem more convincing or widely applicable than others? Are there some aspects of this topic which Tompkins omits from her discussion?

Do you think the debate between impersonal and emotion-laden rhetorical methods solely of concern to women? To persons in an academic setting?

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