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 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”