Is Tess in ‘Tess of the d'Urbervilles' portrayed as being responsible for her own demise? [pdf 40 KB]
Yours is a beautifully clear essay. You write very well, and your prose is delightful to read. You've also done your research and it shows. There is a remarkable lack of vagary about society or feminism in your piece, and you've picked canny quotes from your secondary sources that elucidate and situate your arguments.
You've also located some wonderfully specific quotations from your primary source to support your argument that Hardy's narrator sympathises with Tess. Some of your close readings are wonderfully astute, as when you point out that Tess implores Angel, rather than commanding him. Slightly less persuasive is your assertion that Tess is the victim of Alec's eyes; I suspect you might have found better quotations, descriptions, or incidents denouncing Alec's gaze.
You are clearly very good at pursuing and proving an argument. I encourage you to be a bit more experimental in your next essay; perhaps choose a less straightforward topic and see where it takes you.
Please see penciled notes throughout on shortening sentences and watching for comma splices (please look this term up in a style manual if it is unfamiliar).
At the center of S-Town, the new podcast from the team behind Serial, lies a maze. Well, two mazes. The first is an elaborate hedge maze on a plot of land in rural Woodstock, Alabama, meticulously maintained by a reclusive antique horologist named John B. McLemore. The second maze is S-Town itself—specifically, the labyrinth of lies and mystery that McLemore drew host Brian Reed into when he called the This American Life producer back in 2013.
“It’s a story about [McLemore], and a potential murder he wanted me to look into,” says Reed. “But the story shifted dramatically while I was reporting it, and becomes something I couldn’t have imagined at the beginning.” By the end of the first episode, Reed gives up on the murder investigation; by the end of the second episode, one of the main characters has...well, you'll get there. At that point, the podcast really takes a left turn, and turns into a different mystery altogether: a treasure hunt for a rumored fortune in buried gold, featuring foreboding sundial inscriptions, conniving Floridian cousins, and a small-town lawyer named Boozer Downs. It's a journey that may leave listeners stumbling and disoriented–and that’s exactly what Serial Productions intended.
In 2014, Sarah Koenig, Julie Snyder, and Ira Glass proved* that podcasts could be appointment-listening. Millions tuned into Serial's true-crime investigation as soon as new episodes dropped Thursday mornings. With S-Town—which, as we learned today with the podcast's official release, is actually called Shittown—*the trio is imagining a new form for the podcast: seven bingeable episodes that function as chapters. “With Serial, we were experimenting with using television as a model,” says Snyder, co-creator of Serial and executive producer of Shittown. “With this one, we looked to novels.”
Welcome to Twin Peaks, Alabama
While Shittown boasts the seamless audio production of Serial, it's tonally a very different beast—equal parts Twin Peaks-style quirky-small-town portraiture and the unsettling Southern Gothic of Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood. In fact, When Reed first arrives in Woodstock, McLemore (who gives his home the name “Shittown”) gives him bedtime reading to better understand the place: not a history book or the local newspaper, but short stories by Faulkner and Shirley Jackson.
For a podcast company looking to experiment with form, this story provided a perfect opportunity to go literary. “In a novel, you’re entering into a hermetic world,” says Snyder. “That’s what we were trying to do, that we hadn’t yet done with a podcast: where you can enter their specific world, and you don’t really know what it’s about or where it’s going, but hopefully you’re compelled to stay in it the whole time.”
Much of* Serial*'s gotta-hear-it appeal hinged on plot-driven cliffhangers; with Shittown, though, you keep listening not for hopes of resolution, but to figure out what exactly is happening. “We can take our time, and wander for a while,” says Reed. “When a novel starts talking about a character, you just trust that you’re reading a novel, and that’s what they do—we thought, maybe we can make a podcast that way.”
That confidence that an audience will continue to listen is a privilege unique to the Serial pedigree. Other well-known brands have also released full-season podcast drops—ESPN’s *Dunkumentaries *and New York Magazine’s recent music issue among them—but there’s never been a high-profile full-season release of a narrative show. In a novel, readers might accept perspective-switching or a chapters that focus on a single character, but those sorts of formal devices haven't wormed their way into a popular podcast. Then again, there haven't been many podcasts that have stayed on the top iTunes charts for weeks purely on the strength of a three-minute preview, the way Shittown has.
Much of that, of course, is due to Serial Productions' pedigree; it's easier to try something risky when you've already established a loyal fan base. Snyder recognizes the creative freedom of their success, and plans to take advantage of it in the next two podcasts in the pipeline from Serial, which boasts an editorial staff including Ira Glass, Sarah Koenig, and Mystery Show’s Starlee Kine. “When we released Serial weekly, we didn’t do it with any intention that the best way to listen to this story is week-by-week,” says Snyder. “We only did it that way because both Sarah [Koenig] and I had worked at This American Life [which releases a weekly show] for 15 years.” But she learned a lesson from the show’s sustainable and fervent listenership: If you tell a story well, you can tailor the form to the content. “You could do a nonfiction radio essay, that is also anecdotal and compelling—I’m hoping we could try something like that next,” she says.
In his first phone calls with Reed, McLemore gave the producer a specific mission: to “come down to this pathetic little Baptist shit town and blow it off the map." Shittown doesn’t expose Woodstock as the excrement-laden land of “proleptic decay and decrepitude” described by its hedge-maze proprietor, but its novelistic approach does offer listeners one winding way into the maze of McLemore’s preoccupations—and one more path for what a podcast can be.