Sharp (Dean) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for SHARP … then take off on your own:

1. Define what Michelle Dean means by referring to the women in her new book as "sharp." How, as she explains in her preface, how does that description cut differently with respect to gender?

2. The 10 women in Sharp defied female expectations of the 20th century. How much, if at all, do you think cultural expectations for female behavoir have changed in the early 21st century?

3. Of the 10 writers, are there any you're familiar with, whose works you've read?

4. Of the 10 profiles, which did you find most engaging? Whom did you come away wishing you could meet at a dinner party (as NPR's reviewer Heller McAlpin put it)? Which of the women did you not find so admirable?

5. Is there anyone who deserved to be included in Dean's book but wasn't … or who was included but could have been left out? What about Virginia Woolf or Camille Paglia, or perhaps an expanded role for Zora Neale Hurston, who receives only a cameo appearance?

6. Talk about the issues that made some of the women allies (McCarthy and Arendt, Arendt and Adler) and some of them foes (McCarthy and Sontag, Adler and Kael).

7. Neither Joan Didion (gasp!) nor Hannah Arendt supported feminism. Why?

8. How does Dean describe the milieu of the 20th century intellectual life with its cocktail parties and political and literary warfare. Do we have anything similar today?

(Questoins by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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