Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Handout for Mona Lisa Smile

One of the principal reasons for moo2 is so I can "blog" my new grad course, Higher Ed in Film and Fiction. I am hoping that the "essai" qualities of blogging, and here I think as much of Montaigne as anyone, will allow me to think out loud, develop ideas further, and such. I am considering developing a book from this course, so this is a start to that more distilled writing.

I am behind in not talking about our discussion of Lucky Jim from last week, but here goes with tonight's handout for the showing of the film Mona Lisa Smile:

Film: Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Set at Wellesley College in 1953-54. Starring Julia Roberts as a new art history instructor, with Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as three of her students.

Questions to Consider…think of your own to discuss too!

1. Describe the ideal of the educated person from the perspective of:

Katherine (Julia Roberts), the new art history instructor from California;
Jocelyn Carr, the president of Wellesley;
The Wellesley students.

2. Why did Katherine want to go to Wellesley to teach? What do you think of her motives?

3. What is the significance of the title of the film?

4. What do you think of the advice that Katherine receives during her first year, from her colleagues, the college’s president, and others?

5. Describe how Katherine changes her pedagogy. What do you think of her development as a teacher?

6. Discuss Katherine’s statements to her students in the urban artists’ loft.

7. This movie takes place during the height of the Cold War and the McCarthy era. Comment on how that context is portrayed.

8. Both happiness and honesty could be seen as overall themes of the film. Comment on how the various characters view each of these themes.

9. Comment upon the letter that Katherine receives from President Carr and the board at the end of the academic year.

10. Comment upon the end of the film, and again imagine what would happen in 5 years to the characters.

11. Which student is most profoundly affected by Katherine? State your reasons.

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