Reading/Discussion Questions
1) Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820), On the Equality of the Sexes. Originally published
in The Massachusetts Magazine, or, Monthly Museum Concerning the Literature,
History, Politics, Arts, Manners, Amusements of the Age, Vol. II - For 1790. Printed at
Boston.
a. The introductory poem:
i. What argument does she lay out in this poem?
ii. What does Murray mean by “noble passions”? What different kinds of
passions have we encountered in other texts/experiments so far?
iii. Given the argument of the poem, does the form/genre contribute to this
point? (In other words, why start with poetry?)
b. The essay:
i. What is the focus of her essay? In what regard does she speak of “equality
of the sexes?”
ii. Analyze/explain how the essay rhetorically works in two different ways—
both describing an existing equality and propagating another type of
equality!
iii. Analyze how Murray subdivides her argument into four areas of
intellectual power—imagination, reason, memory and judgment! How
does she develop her argument in each regard?
iv. How does Murray wield common stereotypes against women—such as
vanity or overindulgence in fashion—in favor of her argument?
v. What difference between “nature” and “education” does Murray describe
with regard to the intellectual powers of men and women?
vi. What, according to Murray, are the effects of a lacking or banal education
on women?
vii. What would be some of the positive outcomes of an equal education?
(Especially look for the question of choice in marriage, the subject of our
sentimental novels!
viii. How would an equal education affect the relationship between the sexes?
(especially, the battle between the sexes?)
ix. Does she differentiate between physical and intellectual equality (and
difference) between men and women?
x. How does Murray dispel religious arguments for the superiority of men?
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Judith Sargent Murray, discussion questions