Tuesday, April 28, 2015

For Wednesday: Finish Persepolis


For Wednesday's quiz--our very last!  We'll write on ONE of the following...

What kind of rules of behavior/morality do the police and other officials enforce in Marjane's daily life?  Why is the government so concerned about many of these little details, especially since we consider them harmless—or even necessary for our normal existence?  

How is college remarkably different in fundamentalist Iran than here at ECU?  Why might this highlight the entire point of college (at least in America), which the regime in Iran is fundamentally opposed to?  

How do these women express their values and identity in a society that really doesn't allow them to?  What secret signs and codes do they use to show defiance, without overtly flaunting authority?  

Throughout the book, Marjane's grandmother is the voice of reason and morality.  What is surprising about her advice/outlook on life?  What rules and lessons does she try to teach Marjane, and why does this help her decide to once more leave Iran?  




Friday, April 24, 2015

For Monday: Persepolis II


Discussion Questions for Persepolis II: Chapters "The Soup" to "The Veil"

We'll have a quiz on ONE of these questions.  Remember, too, that we only have 1 week left, so missing classes and quizzes at the very end is a sure way to lower your grade.  :(  

1. What are Satrapi’s preconceptions of the ‘West,’ the land of freedom, democracy, and Marxism?  How do her experiences in Austria contradict many Iranian/Middle Eastern ideas of the outside world?

2. Likewise, how does the West conceive of or understand Iran/The Middle East?  What does it mean to be “Iranian” in Austria, and how does she come to terms with the West’s picture of the East?

3. What is her greatest crisis of identity as she ‘comes of age’ in Austria?  How does she learn to adapt or fit into European teenage culture?  How might this relate to our own pressures to conform and find our social sphere in America?


4. Why does Satrapi ultimately decide to return home, knowing the repression and possible fate that awaits her there?  Clearly, this is the most important decision of her adult life, so how does she explain why she makes it?  

Monday, April 20, 2015

For Wednesday: Persepolis I: The Story of a Childhood (pp.3-71)


Persepolis is broken up into two books, with Part I dealing with her childhood, and Part II dealing with her adulthood.  We'll read half of book I for Wednesday, and finish it for Friday.  Here are some questions that might show up in your in-class quiz on Wednesday:

* In her Introduction to the book, Satrapi writes that “I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists.  I also don’t want those Iranians who lost their lives in prisons defending freedom…or who were forced to leave their families and flee their homeland to be forgotten.”  How does a comic book/graphic novel help her do this—that is, memorialize those who are forgotten in place of the more visible extremists? 

* Why do you think Satrapi tells her story from the perspective of a child?  Since a child knows very little about politics, religion, or war, this would seem a very limited perspective to discuss history and extremist governments.  What does it allow her to do, say, or reveal that an adult narrator might not? 

* Consider the style Satrapi uses to illustrate Persepolis: some have criticized it as childish or crude; others have compared it to ornate Persian art.  Why do you think she adopted this style?  Why isn’t it more realistic?  Why draw an autobiography that resembles the Peanuts comic we looked at in class?

* Where do we see the young Satrapi coming of age in the first 71 pages?  What is she forced to see and/or understand about life in the new Iran?  Similarly, how does a comic book help us communicate this aspect of her autobiography to us?   

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

For Friday: Tarzan, Chs. 23-28 (Conclusion)


Here are some last questions to consider for Tarzan, one of which will greet you on Friday.  Also, be sure that you have--or have ordered--The Complete Persepolis--for next week, since we'll be starting that almost immediately.  

What ideas and concerns most prevent Jane from embracing her love of Tarzan?  Are these fears realistic--or racist?  Can she truly not love a man who is, at heart, a "half-caste"? Or does she fear what society and civilization will do to his soul?  

How is Mr. Canler a "civilized" version of Terkoz?  How, in the "concrete jungle," does he plan to bear her off to be his wife?  

Has Tarzan become civilized by the end of the book?  Though he retains much of his "ape-like" nature, he can speak French, wear clothes, use a knife and fork, and drive an automobile through the wilds of Wisconsin.  What do we imagine will happen to him after he leaves Jane's side?  Will he revert to being the King of the Apes...or will he settle down to be a respectable Englishman?  

Why does Tarzan renounce his heritage (which is now scientifically) confirmed at the end of the book, telling Clayton, "My mother was an ape, and of course she couldn't tell me much about it.  I never knew who my father was" (277)?  Is this a satisfying and/or appropriate ending to the book?

Monday, April 13, 2015

For Wednesday: Tarzan, Chs. 18-23


We'll open with one of the following questions as an in-class quiz response on Wednesday: 

Though Jane falls madly in love with Tarzan, how does she understand what he is?  Is he an ape?  An Englishman?  Civilized or savage?  What makes her think so, and will her evidence convince her father and her lover, Clayton?

Waiting for the prolonged death of torture, the Frenchman D'Arnot reflects, "He was a solider of France, and he would teach these beasts how an office and a gentleman died" (199).  Why does Burroughs contrast his nobility and stoicism with the "rolling demon eyes" of the natives?  Is this another racist passage in the book, or is Burroughs merely trying to illustrate the inhumanity of man to another men?

How does Burroughs describe the courtship of Tarzan and Jane?  What is unusual about it?  Why does Jane, herself, occasionally feel ashamed of it (and initially repulse him)?  Consider passages such as this one: "What a perfect creature!  There could be nought of cruelty or baseness beneath that godlike exterior.  Never, she thought had such a man strode the earth since God created the first in his own image" (184).

Writing of the fight between Tarzan and Tarkoz, Burroughs notes "Jane Porter...watched the primordial ape battle with the primeval man for possession of a woman--for her" (175).  How is the same battle being enacted, more symbolically, between Tarzan and Clayton?


Saturday, April 11, 2015

For Monday: Tarzan, Chapters 13-17 (pp.107-158)

For Monday, continue reading Tarzan, Chs. 13-17

We'll start class with one of the following questions...

Chapter 13 is entitled, "His Own Kind": what does Tarzan learn of his own kind in these chapters?  Has he found the noble race he is descended from?  Or does he begin to realize that he is the "only one" of his kind?

Burroughs engages in some very broad and dated humor in these chapters, notably with the servant, Esmerelda, and the two professors.  Do we still find these touches funny, or have they become difficult for modern readers?  Why does almost no modern version of Tarzan include these passages?

Is Jane Porter another "Alice Clayton" type of woman: refined, delicate, and helpless?  Or, being American (instead of English) is she a more modern woman who is a worthy companion for the "King of the Apes"?

At the end of Chapter 17, Tarzan plays peeping tom at Jane's window, until he is "rewarded by  the sounds of the regular breathing within which denotes sleep" (158).  He takes advantage of her slumber to steal the manuscript she had been working on.  Why do you think Burroughs adds in this "love interest" element, and do you feel it is consistent with Tarzan's character?  Would the "forest god" sneak around trying to peep at a half-naked woman and steal her letters? 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

For Friday: Tarzan, Chs. 7-12 (quiz questions below)


For Friday: Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes, Chs. 7-12

Your quiz question will come from one of the following…

How does Burroughs continue to test the racial identity of Tarzan throughout these chapters?  Is he still a man?  An Englishman?  Or has he become truly an ape, a creature of the jungle no longer bound by human laws? 

How does Tarzan learn about his human heritage?  How does this change the way he sees himself as the “white ape” of his people?  What advantages does this give him?  

In what way is the story or character of Tarzan satirizing the “civilized” world of man and/or England?  Clearly Burroughs considers Tarzan superior to most humans, whether in Africa or in England: why is this?  What qualities or abilities does he have that puts lesser men in the shade? 


How might this book (according to these chapters, at least) be a reflection on the nature of man himself?  Why might Tarzan be a metaphor for who “man” is and how he came to be civilized?  What does his character and adventures teach us about ourselves, or perhaps our ancestors thousands of years ago?  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Quiz Questions for Tarzan, Chs.1-6


Quiz Questions for Burroughs’ Tarzan, Chs.1-6

NOTE: Don’t answer these on the blog this time.  Instead, one of these questions will be an in-class response/quiz on Wednesday.  Try to keep up with the reading so you can answer it, since you won’t be able to make it up later.  

Why does the book open with a “frame narrative,” that is, by someone claiming to have found this story “in the form of a musty manuscript”?  Why not simply tell the story from Tarzan’s point of view?  How does this change how we read or respond to the work, especially for readers in 1914?  

Do you think Lord Greystoke and his wife, Alice, represent a noble ideal of British culture or a parody of it?  How can you support this from the early chapters of the novel?

How are the apes depicted in the novel?  Are they too humanized (with names that almost sound normal, such as Kala, etc.) or are they too bestial?  How do you think he wanted his audience to respond to them, especially given the ideas of nature and race we discussed on Monday?

In the Chapter, “The White Ape,” Burroughs writes, “It was nearly a year from the time the little fellow came into her possession before he would walk alone, and as for climbing—my, how stupid he was!” (37).  How does this chapter challenge his audience to see “man” in a different light?  What challenges and virtues does Tarzan have when removed into a different society?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Extra Credit: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival


Remember, no class this Friday: instead, you have the option to go to the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival.  Here is a link to the schedule of readings: http://ecuscissortail.blogspot.com/2015/01/2015-scissortail-schedule-of-readings.html

Attend at least ONE session and respond to the questions below either on this post or bring it to class next week.  You must answer ALL the questions for the extra credit, not just 2 of 4 as usual!  :)

QUESTIONS FOR SCISSORTAIL SESSION:


1. Discuss the manner in which one of the authors presented his/her works.  How did he/she read it, perform it, or explain it?  How did this help you appreciate the work or understand it?  Would you have responded to it the same way if you had encountered it in a book? 

2. How do you feel the three works on the panel worked together?  Were there any similar themes, subject matter, ideas, or points of view?  Did one work help you understand another?  Or did they clash in an interesting way?  Why do you think these works were presented together?

3. How did the poet(s) read their works differently than the prose writer(s)?  How does poetry read differently than prose (novels, stories, etc.)?  Which performance did you find most interesting—the poetry or the prose?  Why?  Do you think it would be the same on the page?

4. Discuss one of the works that you responded strongly to—either with surprise, love, admiration, or even disgust.  Why did the work evoke this response from you?  Did other people in the audience seem to respond/react the same way?  Did the author want this response—or do you think he/she might be surprised by it? 

Friday, March 27, 2015

For Monday: More Tales of Soviet Life


NOTE: Be sure to read the post below this one for Exam #2 information and the updated schedule.  

Zoschenko (all stories): pp.247-259
Dobychin (all stories): pp.261-265
Shalamov (all stories): pp. 320-331

Answer 2 of the following questions:

How does Zoschenko mock the idea of Soviet progress and the equality promised by Communism?  What truths do his ironic little stories help his countrymen (and other readers) see?  Consider the following line from his story, “Electrification”: “Light’s all very well, brothers, but it’s not easy to live with.”  

In some ways, the characters in Zoschenko and Dobychin’s stories, though free and living in cities, are similar to the prisoners of Siberia in Shalamov’s tales.  Why is this?  How do they often act similarly, and forget their basic humanity in naked self-interests?  

Why do you think Dobychin’s stories are so unfinished?  Each one seems to begin and end without development, merely showing a few quick scenes or bits of dialogue before fading away.  Why might he have wanted the stories to seem incomplete or unsatisfying?  

In Shalamov’s story, “The Snake Charmer,” he chides his friend who tells stories to the other criminals in camp, saying, “I’ve never told novels for soup.”  Why does he, as an educated man, refuse to tell the stories he’s read for the illiterate prisoners?  What does he mean when he says “that always seemed the ultimate humiliation?”  

Updated Schedule and Exam #2

UPDATED SCHEDULE & EXAM #2

F 27   Zamyatin, The Lion /Inber, Lalla’s Interests/ Bulgakov, The Embroidered Towel  
M 30  Zoschenko, Dobychin, Shalamov (read all stories from each author)            

APRIL
W 1     Exam #2 (in class)
F 3       No class: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival

M 6     Context: European Colonialism
          W 8     Burroughs, Tarzan
F 10     Burroughs, Tarzan / Critical Paper due (extension!)

M 13    Burroughs, Tarzan
W 15   Burroughs, Tarzan
F 17     Context: Comics and History

M 20   Satrapi, Persepolis I
W 22   Satrapi, Persepolis I
F 24     Satrapi, Persepolis II

M 27    Satrapi, Persepolis II
W 29   Wrap Up/Final Exam Discussion

Final Exam: Monday, May 6th @ 9:00

EXAM #2—Wednesday, April 1st, European Short Stories
  • Bring your two books to class: Grimms’ Fairy Tales and Russian Short Stories
  • The exam will consist of Two Parts: (1) a series of short passages from the Russian stories, which ask you to identify the author & story, and to explain the relevance of the passage, and (2) a longer essay question based on Grimms’ Fairy Tales.  You may use your books on the exam, but it helps to have read the stories before hand so you don’t have to flip around looking for the passages. 
  • Hint: go over your blog responses since many of the questions/ideas will come from them. 


ALSO: Note that I gave you a 1-week extension for your Critical Paper, now due on Friday April 10th by 5pm.  Please e-mail me with questions or concerns, or come to my office hours.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

For Friday: 3 Stories of Soviet Life


For Friday: Stories of Soviet Life

Zamyatin, “The Lion” (pp.201-205)
Inber, “Lalla’s Interests (217-221)
Bulgakov, “The Embroidered Towel” (pp.223-234)

Answer 2 of the following questions…

1. Under Communism, it was easier for women to become writers, which is why we get our first female writer, Vera Inber.  Many people would expect a woman to write stories about children and the family, and she does…but how does she use a “children’s story” to satirize the new world order in Soviet Russia? 

2. V.I. Lenin, one of the leaders of the 1917 Revolution, felt very strongly about film, writing that “you must remember always that of all the arts the most important for us is the cinema.”  As we discussed in class, this was because film is very direct and emotional and makes propaganda more effective.  He was much more skeptical of other art forms, notably literature since it was more subjective and ambiguous.  Why doesn’t one or more of these stories function as good propaganda like Battleship Potemkin?  How does it show another side to Soviet Life that didn’t make it on the big screen? 

3. Bulgakov’s powerful short story, “The Embroidered Towel,” is a revealing look at the beginning of a country doctor’s career, documenting his first attempt at an amputation.  What makes this such a profoundly human story?  While many of us won’t become surgeons, why can we relate to the doctor and his inner dialogue?  What might he be suggesting about everyone as they become adults and start careers in their chosen fields? 


4. Karl Marx, writing in The Communist Manifesto (1847) which influenced Lenin and the new Soviet Order, wrote that “the theory of Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.”  By this he means that if people didn’t own “private property,” there would no longer be a class system of rich/poor, educated/uneducated, important/uninmportant, since everyone would be more or less equal and have access to the same goods and services.  According to these stories, is the class system gone?  Is everyone equal?  How do normal citizens of the new Soviet Union see themselves and others as “Communists”?  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

For Monday-Wednesday: Battleship Potemkin


We're going to watch the film Battleship Potemkin this Monday-Wednesday, with writing/discussion to follow in-class on Wednesday.  

On Friday, we're going to read the following stories, if you want to get started: Zamyatin, The Lion , Inber, Lalla's Interests, and Bulgakov, The Embroidered Towel  I will post questions on Wednesday afternoon.

See you in class!  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

For Friday: Leskov, The Steel Flea & Critical Paper (see below)

For Friday, be sure to read Leskov's story, "The Steel Flea" (108-136): there are no questions, but we will have an in-class response when you arrive on Friday (so make sure to read!).

Also, I assigned the Critical Paper assignment today, though it's not due for several weeks.  Start thinking about it, and let me know if you have any questions!


Critical Paper: Literary Time Travelers

Imagine that one of the authors from class has miraculously escaped his own century and emerged in our own.  Now that he is trapped in this world, being an author, he will naturally start writing about the 21st century much as they did the 18th or 19th century.  What would he think of this brave new world?  Was it everything he hoped and dreamed of?  Would he be amazed, inspired, and proud of humanity?  Or simply pissed off, since his descendants clearly didn’t read any of his books? 

Choose ONE of the books from class and write a 4-5 page paper from the author(s) perspective using the ideas in his book, poem, or stories.  Would Voltaire approve of 21st century justice after escaping the barbarism of the 18th century?  Would Wordsworth or Keats be sympathetic to the Green Movement—or horrified by Climate Change?  Would the Grimm Brothers like how Disney adapted their stories for a new generation?  And what would Pushkin, Tolstoy, or other Russian writers think of the conflicts of class and race going on in America today?  The trick to this paper is using ideas and passages in the stories to compare to situations in our own world.  What does Voltaire seem to satirize most about his society in Candide?  Would he find the same things in America today?  What would he satirize if he were writing in the 21st century?  Try to use the book as a frame to examine our own society through old ideas which, when read, become quite new and relevant once more. 

MLA FORMAT
Be sure to introduce quotations by offering a brief introductory tag, so we know who is speaking and from what source.  Then cite the page number at the end so we can find this quotation.  For example, a quotation from “The Queen of Spades” might look like this: As Pushkin writes in his story, “The Queen of Spades,” “Chekalinsky shuffled.  Hermann chose his card and placed it on the table, covering it with a heap of bank notes.  It was like a duel” (Pushkin 25). 

The last page of your paper (which doesn’t count as one of the 4-5 pages) should be a Works Cited page, listing alphabetically all the works you quote in your paper.  Make sure to list individual poems and stories and not just the book they came from.  For example, if you quote the passage above from “The Queen of Spades,” it should look like this:

Pushkin, Alexander.  “The Queen of Spades.”  Russian Short Stories from
     Pushkin to Buida.  ed. Robert Chandler.  New York: Penguin Books, 2005. 

ALSO KEEP IN MIND...
Ø  Make sure you use specific examples from the works you choose.  Don’t summarize the plots and/or make sweeping generalizations.  Focus on short passages (quote them) that would illustrate important ideas from the author’s perspective. 
Ø  Don’t use too much: if you use Grimms’ Fairy Tales, try to use ideas from only 2-3 stories so you can be clear and specific.  The same goes for poetry: only use a few poems so you can relate analyze these ideas and relate them to our own world. 
Ø  CRITICAL PAPER DUE FRIDAY, APRIL 3rd BY 5pm


Monday, March 9, 2015

For Wednesday: Dostoevsky and Tolstoy

Painting of Tolstoy by Repin
For Wednesday: Dostoevsky, “Bobok” (pp.81-96) & Tolstoy, “God Sees the Truth But Waits” (pp.98-105)

Answer 2 of the 4 questions that follow:

1. The narrator of “Bobok” tells us early in the story that “The wisest person of all...is the one who calls himself a fool at least once a month—an unheard-of quality in this day and age” (82).  What is he talking about in this passage?  How does this passage, and others like it, help describe the narrator’s character and beliefs?  What kind of person is he, and how are we supposed to feel about him as a narrator (do we trust him, etc.)?

2. In the 19th century, Russia was famous for its prison camps scattered all across Russia and Siberia, and many of the criminals were falsely accused (like Aksyonov).  Why might the government consider Tolstoy's story dangerous for people to read, especially those who didn't personally experience the camps?  Does his story, despite its moralistic content, also have an anti-government message?  

3. Why would Dostoevsky write a story about a group of corpses from every social rank/class arguing with one another in their graves?  What are they chiefly arguing about, and what does the author (or the narrator) want us to see in their bickering?  How might this relate to some of the social satire we encountered in “The Queen of Spades”? 

4. When Aksyonov forgives Makar Semyonov for setting him up, he suddenly “felt a weight off his heart.  He stopped feeling homesick, he no longer wanted to leave the prison, and his only wish was to die” (104).  In the next paragraph, he actually does die.  Why is this a “happy ending”?  Why would the act of forgiveness make him want to abandon his family and chance at a pardon and simply give up on life entirely? 

Friday, March 6, 2015

For Monday: Pushkin, "The Queen of Spades"



For Monday: Pushkin, “The Queen of Spades” (from Russian Short Stories), pp.5-26

NOTE: In class on Friday, we discussed the historical background of Russia and introduced the role of literature (and Pushkin’s contribution to it) in fighting against the age-old monarchy that dominated Russian life.  Pushkin was one of the first Russians to write literature in Russian instead of French, which was considered the language of literature and high culture.  He almost single-handedly made Russian a literary language, and borrowed from the rich tradition of Russian fairy tales which his grandmother told him as a child (a connection to Grimms’ Fairy Tales!).  He was also strongly influenced by the English Romantic poets, and knew the works of Wordsworth, Keats, and others.  Be sure to read the biographical introduction that prefaces the story for more information about Pushkin. 

Answer 2 of the 4 questions that follow:

1. Pushkin writes this story in an unusual style, particularly compared to modern-day stories.  He includes phrases such as “One morning—this was two days after the evening recorded at the beginning of this tale, and one week before the scene from which we have digressed” (11), which sounds like someone telling a story orally.  Where else do we ‘hear’ someone telling us a story, instead of writing it down?  Why do you think he does this?

2. In many ways, “The Queen of Spades” is structured like a traditional fairy tale from Grimms’ Fairy Tales: a man hears about a magic card trick which can make his fortune, and decides to steal it from the old woman (like a witch) who possesses it.  Is there a specific story from Grimms’ Fairy Tales that this story resembles, and if so, how might they share the same moral, theme, taboos, or characters? 

3. Writing about the card games played among gentlemen, Pushkin writes, “Each unsealed a new pack.  Chekalinsky shuffled.  Hermann chose his card and placed it on the table, covering it with a heap of bank notes.  It was like a duel” (25).  Based on this passage, how might Pushkin be satirizing upper-class behavior, particularly when it comes to “games” and social activities?  Where else do we see “duels” taking place among normal people in polite society?  Why are the stakes so high?


4. Perhaps the most interesting and fully-formed characters in the story are the two women, the Countess and her young ward, Lizaveta Ivanovna.  Why do you think Pushkin spends so much time showing us the inner lives of these two women from different generations?  What might we learn about Russian society—or about women in general—from this double portrait?  Discuss a specific passage in your response.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Revised Schedule and Reminder About Class

Remember, NO CLASS on Wednesday since I'll be out of town.  Below is the revised schedule taking into account the snow days we had recently.  Be sure to have our next book, Russian Short Stories, since we'll start reading it next week (following the schedule below).  I'll introduce these stories, as well as the cultural/historical traditions of Russia on Friday to help you get into the material.  See you on Friday! 

MARCH
M 2      Grimm, Fairy Tales
W 4     [Class cancelled]
F 6       Intro to Russian culture/literature

M 9      Pushkin, The Queen of Spades
W 11   Dostkoevsky, Bobok & Tolstoy, God Sees the Truth, But Waits
F 13     Leskov, The Steel Flea

Spring Break: M 16 to F 20

M 23   Zionyeva-Annibal, The Monster & Teffi, Love, A Family Journey
W 25   Zamyatin, The Lion / Bulgakov, The Embroidered Towel  
F 27    Zoschenko, Electrification, Pelageya, The Bathouse, The Crisis, The Galosh, The                Hat

M 30    Exam #2

APRIL
W 1     Context: European Colonialism
F 3       No class: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival

M 6      Burroughs, Tarzan
W 8     Burroughs, Tarzan
F 10     Burroughs, Tarzan

M 13    Burroughs, Tarzan
W 15   FILM: TBA
F 17     FILM: TBA

M 20    Film Discussion
W 22   Satrapi, Persepolis I
F 24     Satrapi, Persepolis I

M 27    Satrapi, Persepolis II
W 29   Satrapi, Persepolis II
F 1       Wrap Up/Final Exam Discussion


Friday, February 27, 2015

For Monday: Literary Anthropology with Grimms' Fairy Tales


For our last reading of Grimms' Fairy Tales, I want you to pick any FOUR tales that we haven't yet read for class.  Read all four of these tales and then answer the following question:

Anthropology is the study of humans and human culture from the past to the present, usually focusing on what humans have left behind: bones, buildings, artwork, literature, etc.  So having reading these tales, I want you to study them as an anthropologist might study the remains of a temple, or an old Viking burial ground.  How can we read these stories and understand, more or less, some of the following ideas:

a. What kind of person wrote these stories (their sex, their opinions, their stereotypes, their beliefs)
b. Some of the rules/value systems of their culture; what did this culture take for granted about the world, or believe could/should happen?  
c. What the author (or the culture) considered a happy ending: what needed to happen for justice or stability to take place?
d. What the story says about 'humanity' that is still relevant today?  How can we study these stories and find ourselves in them, despite the historical distance?  

For example, in class today (Friday), we discussed some of the cultural beliefs of the story Rumpel-Stilts-Kin, which seemed to suggest two important ideas: one, that an oath, once given,  has to be honored no matter how unfair it is or if it was made under duress; and two, that a person's name is one of their most valuable possessions, since it tells about their history, family, and status.  Because of this, when the young girl pledges her first-born child to the elf, she is forced to honor it even though most readers would forgive her if she didn't.  Yet she is given an "out" if she can discover his name, which is the key to his status and identity--it breaks the spell of his identity.  Naming him, in a sense, takes away his power, especially since it's a pretty comic name, and he no longer seems as terrible and powerful once we call him "Rumple-Stilts-Kin."  So this story dramatizes both of these beliefs in a way that could teach children subconsciously the power of an oath and the importance of naming.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

For Friday: The "Disney" Stories from Grimms' Fairy Tales


For Friday: Grimms’ Fairy Tales

Next Time: Rose-Bud, Snow-Drop, The Elves and the Shoemaker, Hansel and Gretel, The Frog Prince, Rumpel-Stilts-Kin, Ashputtel, The Young Giant and the Tailor

Answer 2 of the 4 questions that follow:

1. Discuss how one of the stories differs from the Disney (or other) filmed version: what aspects of the film/story were changed, edited, or expanded and why?  What was considered too “dated” or culturally confusing/irrelevant for American audiences?

2. How are some of these stories revisions (or different versions) of stories we’ve already read?  Consider, perhaps, how the “Elves and the Shoemaker” is a variation on “The Fisherman and His Wife”.  Why are stories so often told and retold in this collection? 

3. Though many of these tales concern magic and the power of supernatural beings, it is always humans than succeed in the end.  According to one or more of these stories, how can a simple human defeat a world of curses, spells, and transformation?  What ‘power’ do we have that many in the enchanted world do not?


4. Many of these stories concern themselves with the concept of taboo, which are rules in society which cannot be broken.  How might one or more of these stories represent real world taboos which are translated into fairy tales for a younger audience?  Consider, perhaps, the story of Rose-Bud or Rumpel-Stilts-Kin.  

Friday, February 20, 2015

For Wednesay: Grimms' Fairy Tales


For Wednesday (since classes are cancelled on Monday): Grimms’ Fairy Tales

Read the following 8 Tales: Hans in Luck, The Golden Bird, The Fisherman and His Wife, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, Tom Thumb, Jorinda and Jorindel, Frederick and Catherine, and King Grisly-Beard.

Answer 2 of the 4 questions that follow:

1. I chose these 8 stories since they are less familiar than the stories Disney adapted for their classic films (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc).  Why do you think Disney passed on these classic tales?  In what ways are they atypical of the classic fairy tales we know and love?  OR, do you feel they are fundamentally the same, and could easily become a new Disney classic? 

2. As we discussed in class today (Friday), fairy tales, though fantastic in nature, always speak about the realities of life.  One of the most constant themes in fairy tales is the danger of first impressions.  How is this theme developed in one or more of the stories, and why does our human tendency to pick the most attractive, most pleasing objects often lead to our ruin? 

3. Two of the stories in this selection, The Fisherman and His Wife and Frederick and Catherine, concern the age-old ‘battle of the sexes.’ Indeed, the Fisherman calls his wife the “plague of my life,” and Frederick is always chiding Catherine for doing “such silly things!”  Why do you think these “fairy tales” contain so much marital discord and sexist stereotypes?  What might this say about the culture that produced these stories? 

4. Remember that these stories were not written by the Brothers Grimm, but were recorded throughout Germany as the storytellers spoke them aloud.  How did the Grimm Brothers preserve this sense of an oral literature, rather than stories written for the page?  Where do we “hear” the voice of an old storyteller speaking to an intimate audience—perhaps by the fireside on a cold winter’s night?  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Poetry Exam and Friday

REMEMBER: If you missed the Exam today (Wednesday), you have to take the Poetry exam below.  Read this carefully and let me know if you have any questions.  I'll give you until WEDNESDAY, FEBUARY 25th since the in-class exam was postponed to recite it.  However, if you miss this deadline you will receive a zero for your first exam.

Come to class on Friday to learn about the history of Grimm's Fairy Tales and European Nationalism before we start reading our third book.  

Exam #1: Poetry Option

The First Exam (given in class next Monday) will consist of a few short answer questions along with one longer essay question.  Bring both of your books—Candide and English Romantic Poetry—to the exam since I’ll ask you to quote lines from each in support of your answers.  HOWEVER, if you would rather not take the traditional exam, I have a more challenging option available: you can memorize lines from one of the following poems in our English Romantic Poetry Books and recite them in my office:
  • Blake, “The Tyger” (at least 3 stanzas)
  • Blake, “London” (at least 3 stanzas)
  • Blake, “The Garden of Love” (the entire poem)
  • Wordsworth, “We are Seven” (at least 4 stanzas)
  • Wordsworth, “My heart leaps up” (the entire poem)
  • Wordsworth, “Composed upon Westminster Bridge” (the entire poem)
  • Wordsworth, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality” (any 10 lines)
  • Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (at least 1 complete stanza)
  • Keats, “The Eve of St. Agnes” (any 2 stanzas)

Once you’ve memorized these lines, make an appointment to recite them in my office (or come during my office hours), and I’ll follow along in the book.  As long as you get the poem 95% correct (you can flub a little), you’ll get full credit for the recitation.  IN ADDITION to the memorization, you must turn in a 2-3 page, double-spaced “close reading” analysis of the lines, explaining how you read and understand the metaphors, images, and ideas you’re reciting.  Consider how learning the lines by heart affects what you hear/feel as you read them.  How does a poem change when you are forced to create its internal music? 

DUE DATE: The recitation is due no later than 2 weeks from today, or Wednesday, February 25th by 3pm (when I leave the office).  If you intend to do the recitation, you do not have to show up for the exam, though that also means that you have to show up for the recitation.  If you miss both the exam and the recitation, you will get a 0 for your first exam, so be careful! 


Monday, February 16, 2015

Exam Rescheduled For Wednesday

Because of the weather, and the relatively few people who made it to class today, we'll reschedule the exam for Wednesday.  If you are going to go the memorization route, you can miss Wednesday's class, of course.  Otherwise come prepared to take an exam on Wednesday.

Come back on Friday and we'll get started on Grimm's Fairy Tales (but there is nothing to read for class).  

Monday, February 9, 2015

For Wednesday: The Eve of St. Agnes


For Wednesday: English Romantic Poetry

Keats, The Eve of St. Agnes

Answer 2 of the 4 questions that follow:

1. In Stanza XXVII (27), Madeline briefly wakes up but the “poppied warmth of sleep” pushes her down again.  She is then “blisfully haven’d both from joy and pain,” and protected from the sun and rain.  Strangely, the poet then likens this to a rose that “should shut, and be a bud again.”  What is happening to her in these lines?  What is a poppy, and what might “poppied warmth” suggest?  How does this state protect her from earthly joys and pains, and how might she metaphorically “become a bud again”? 

2. When Porphyro comes out of the closet, he brings with him a “heap” of food, including “candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd;/With jellies soother than the creamy curd,/And lucent syrops, tinct with cinammon;/Manna and dates...and spiced danties” (212).  Why did he bring so much food with him, and what does he intend to do with it?  If possible, read this stanza out loud and ask yourself, what sounds do these foods evoke in the poem?  How might it relate to Porphyro’s intentions? 

3. What is Madeline’s response to the kneeling, pale Porphyro when she finally opens her eyes?  Is he her “dream”?  Is she thrilled to see him?  Confused?  Disappointed?  Explain how you read her reaction through specific lines in the poem.

4. Read the closing stanzas carefully: does this poem suggest a happily ever after?  The lovers do run away together, escaping the dark castle and its foul inhabitants.  But does the tone and imagery of the last three stanzas suggest that they have escaped into a happy realm—an “urn” on the other side of the world? 


Friday, February 6, 2015

For Monday: Keats, The Eve of St. Agnes


For Monday: English Romantic Poetry

Keats, “The Eve of St. Agnes” (pp.205-217)

NOTE: Try to read the entire poem for Monday, though I will only focus on the first half of the poem below and in our class discussion.  Remember, even though this poem tells a story, don’t get dazzled by the plot; look for the metaphors and how the poem expresses some of the ideas about life, love, beauty, Nature, and art that we saw in “ Ode on a Grecian Urn” and Wordsworth’s poems. 

Answer 2 of the 4 questions below:

1. What is the general tone of this poem?  How does Keats create an overall mood through his descriptions/metaphors of the castle and the people in it?  In other words, if this were a song (and all poetry is closely related to music), what kind of song would it be? 

2. In Stanza 2, the Beadsman studies the statues of dead noblemen and women in the same way that Keats studied the urn in “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”  However, how do these works of art inspire a different reaction in the priest?  What does he see/feel when he looks into their eyes?  Consider, too, that the tomb statues and the urn both have associations with death.   

3. In Stanzas 5-8, how is Madeline like one of the figures on the urn?  What makes her divorced from time and the living world?  What does she “see” during that evening’s festivities that others do not? 


4. In Stanza 9, Keats writes that Porphyro “implores/All saints to give him sight of Madeline,/But for one moment in the tedious hours,/That he might gaze and worship all unseen;/Perchance speak, kneel, touch, kiss—in sooth such things have been” (207).  Is this romantic or disturbing?  Does this sound like a good beginning for a “Romeo and Juliet” narrative of love?  

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

For Friday: Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn (p.218-291)


For Friday's class, I want you to read one medium-length poem, John Keats' famous Ode on a Grecian Urn.  I won't give you any questions now, but in-class we'll write about ONE of the stanzas in the poem.  Which one?  You'll have to see...so be sure to read it carefully and try to understand how he uses metaphors in the poem to compare to an abstract experience about life, love, time, loss, and innocence (you know, all the stuff Wordsworth talks about).

NOTE: Basically, this is a poem (an Ode, which means it's a poem composed directly in honor of someone or something) that celebrates an old Grecian vase in the British museum that Keats was fond of.  As he looks at it, the poem reflects his thoughts about something so old yet so beautiful, that still seems so alive.  Ultimately, the urn acts as a 'mirror' for Keats just as Nature did for Wordsworth in our last poem.  What does he see in himself through the urn?  What ideas does it make him see and project to the reader?

A few metaphors/ideas to think about:
* Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness/Thou foster-child of silence and slow time" (note that he calls the urn "Thou": how can an urn be a bride and a foster-child?)

* Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard/Are sweeter" (how can the Urn make music, since it is "silent"?  And how can silent music be better than music we can actually hear?)

* Why so many "happys" in Stanza III?  Did he lose his Thesaurus?  

* "Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought/As doth eternity!"  (how can an Urn tease us?  And why is it similar to how "eternity" teases us?)

* " 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty'--that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."  Who is saying the lines "Beauty is truth"? (why are they in quotations?) .  Is this the true "thesis" of the poem?  Is that really all we need to know?  :) 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

For Wednesday: More Intimations of Immortality


For Wednesday: English Romantic Poetry: William Wordsworth

“Ode, Intimations of Immortality”: Stanzas 8-11

For Wednesday’s class, choose ONE of the metaphorical lines below (taken from the poem) below, and explain how Wordsworth uses it to translate his philosophical musings into a comparison we can see, feel, and understand.  Also, how does this metaphor build on some aspect of the poem from previous stanzas (as we discussed in class on Monday)?

Stanza 8:
a. “thou Eye among the blind,/That, deaf and silent, read’st the eternal deep”

b. “Thou, over whom thy Immortality/Broods like the Day, a Master o’er a Slave”

Stanza 9:

c. “Those shadowy recollections,/Which, be they what they may,/Are yet the fountain light of all our day,/Are yet a master light of all our seeing”

Stanza 10:

d. “Though nothing can bring back the hour/Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower”

Stanza 11:


e. “To me the meanest flower that blows can give/Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears” 

Friday, January 30, 2015

For Monday: Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality


For Monday: English Romantic Poetry: William Wordsworth

“Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections in Early Childhood” (pp.51-57): read the entire poem, but the questions will only focus on Stanzas 1-7

NOTE: This is a longer poem, though it’s broken up into short stanza chapters.  Read it slowly, and focus on each stanza as an individual poem.  Then consider how each one develops a general ‘story’ or narrative about Wordsworth’s life.  Consider this, too, as a kind of mid-life crisis poem: Wordsworth feels himself pulling away from the innocent joys he used to experience in life, and the poem is an attempt to find himself—and to convince other readers to find themselves in the thickets of adulthood. 

Answer 2 of the 4 questions below:

1. According to Stanzas 1-4, what causes the poet to feel distanced from the natural world?  What has come between him and his imagination/emotions?  In Stanza 2 he writes that “But yet I know, where’er I go,/That there hath past away a glory from the earth.”  What is this “glory” that has passed away?  Can we hint at what he feels or sees that is missing? 

2. Read Stanza 5 carefully: how are the metaphors trying to explain the nature of life on earth?  Why is birth “a sleep and a forgetting”?  Why do “shades of the prison-house begin to close/Upon the growing Boy”?  And why might a young boy/girl be “Nature’s Priest”? 

3. In Stanza 6, Wordsworth uses the metaphor of Nature as a Nurse, and the Youth being her “Foster-child.”  In what way are we to understand Nature as nursing a child that is not her own, but which she loves “with something of a Mother’s mind”? 

4. Stanza 7 is one of the most important in the entire poem for explaining a very Romantic philosophy of adulthood.  What does he mean by the phrase “The little Actor cons another part…As if his whole vocation/Were endless imitation.”  How might this be another way of stating Shakespeare’s famous line from As You Like It that “All the world’s a stage”?