Monday, April 24, 2017

Paper #2/Final Exam: Welcome to the Course!

Somehow, I thought this picture would be appropriate for your final exam...
 INTRO: So you’ve just finished this class, generically known as “General Humanities II.” In one sense, this means it “generally” addresses the second half of the required Humanities survey through various approaches/books. Of course, that seems like a very uninformative and uninspired way to describe a course; it would be like calling Star Wars “a general action movie concerning various battles on and around alien worlds loosely tied into Eastern religious beliefs.” The better you describe a course or film, the more people want to take or see it, and the better the audience understands the connections between the various plots, characters, and texts. Even in the world of literature, a good title can make or break a book, giving the reader a hint of the author’s intentions: Pride and Prejudice, The War of the Worlds, Candide, etc..

ASSIGNMENT: For your Final Exam paper, I want you to give this course a better—a proper!—name. It can be anything that suggests the underlying theme of the course according to you (and who better to know, since you’ve completed the course?). I then want you to write a 4-5 page essay that explains why this title is appropriate and explores the way some of the books in class support, expand, and challenge the title’s theme/ideas. In doing this, I want you to choose at least 3 of the books in class to use as examples: quote briefly from each book to show some of these themes in action, and what the prospective student might look for in each one. You can also suggest other books that might go well with this theme that we didn’t read this semester, but might in the future. Consider this essay an “Introduction” to the class that would help a student know what he/she was getting into, and perhaps, function as a trail of bread crumbs through the course itself. But remember, it all starts with the title—so choose something that captures some essential element or perspective of the course.

  • 4-5 pages double spaced
  • Use at least 3 of the books from class: quote, briefly discuss, etc. (but no need to tell us the stories or summarize the plot—this isn’t Spark Notes)
  • Be sure to cite quotes correctly (see former handout about this): introduce quotes, provide page numbers, and include a Works Cited page at the end
  • Due by our Final Exam day: Friday, May 5th by 5pm (no late papers accepted!)

Good luck! And who knows, your course title may become the new name of the course (I’ve been trying to get it changed for years).

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

For Wednesday/Friday: Heinlein, Starship Troopers, Last Chapters (see note below)

Since I forgot to post these questions until late on Tuesday, I'll let you turn them in by Friday. Sorry! 

Answer TWO of the following: 

Q1: Is Heinlein’s world more of a male fantasy than an equal opportunity utopia? Though women serve in the military—they apparently make the best pilots—they are rarely in the book at all, and those who are sport shaved heads and are often merely ‘seen’ as voices, such as when the narrator tells us, “the last thing a trooper hears before a a woman’s voice, wishing him luck” (161). Why do the women take such a back seat in the future?

Q2: The narrator reminds us that “the M.I. is a free man; all that drives him comes from the inside—that self-respect and need for the respect of his mates and his pride in being one of them called moral, or esprit de corps” (164). By the end of the book, how “free” are we supposed to see the narrator? Does he truly have free will, or is this “esprit de corps” its own kind of prison?

Q3: One of the most interesting innovations of the future army is that everyone fights, and that the “soft” jobs are always given to civilians. As the narrator explains, “many armies in the past commissioned 10 percent of their number [to be officers], or even 15 percent—and sometimes a preposterous 20 percent!...What kind of army has more “officers” than corporals?...An army organized to lose wars—if history means anything” (166). What do you think Heinlein is criticizing here, and why would this cause armies to lose wars?

Q4: In distinguishing human civilization from the Bugs, the narrator concludes that “If a man gets lost in the mountains, hundreds will search and often two or three searchers are killed. But the next time somebody gets lost just as many volunteers turn out” (176). While this is very true, do you think Rico’s civilization is losing this mark of humanity? Is this the inevitable evolution of human beings—to become more like ‘bugs’ or robots to survive? Does Heinlein seem to take a stance on this? 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

For Friday: CLASS CANCELLED! (see below)

Unfortunately, I had a meeting in Norman super early this morning and won't make it back in time for class on Friday (though I will be in my office by 11 or so). However, I won't penalize you for my tardiness, so we'll just pick up where we left off on Monday: Read Chapters 10-12 and we'll do an in-class writing on some important ideas found in these chapters. If you've already read up to Chapter 12, feel free to read ahead since we'll be wrapping up next week since the semester is nearly over! 

Sorry for the inconvenience! 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

For Wednesday: Heinlein, Starship Troopers, Chs.6-9

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: In Chapter Six, the narrator overhears Sergeant Zim talking to Captain Frankel about the whipping of Ted Hendricks. What revelation does he have during this conversation about the chain of command and the “very nature of the world I was in”?

Q2: What about Jean Dubois’ letter convinces the narrator not to resign from service? How might this relate to an earlier statement he made in class that “nothing of value is free” (76)?

Q3: In Chapter 8, the narrator recalls a heated class discussion where Dubois lectures on the 20th century’s treatment of juvenile delinquents. He goes on to say, “Man has no moral instinct. He is not born with moral sense. You were not born with it, I was not—and a puppy has none. We acquire moral sense, when we do, through training, experience, and hard sweat of the mind” (94). Why might this be one of the main themes of the entire book, and a critique not only of the time the book was written (1959) but of our own world as well? Is this why the book remains relevant and controversial?

Q4: Reflecting on his role in the larger scheme of things, the narrator admits, “I am not a professor of cosmo-politics; I’m an M.I. When the government sends me, I go. In between, I catch a lot of sack time” (81). Doesn’t this sound a bit like Candide’s statement “we must tend our garden” which he earlier seemed to criticize? How we are supposed to read the narrator and his lack of curiosity or agency as a soldier? Is he the ideal citizen-soldier, or a dystopian drone who never asks questions?

Saturday, April 8, 2017

For Monday: Heinlein, Starship Troopers, Chs.1-5

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: The doctor at the recruiting station bristles when the narrator assumes he’s in the military: “Me?...No offence, but military service is for ants. Believe me, I seem ‘em go, I see ‘em comb back—when they do come back. I see what it’s done to them” (29). How does this society of the future view the military and its role in protecting society? Why does the narrator enlist despite these warnings and the strict disapproval of his parents? Does it resemble anything we’ve read in the WWI poets?

Q2: By the first chapter, the narrator is already a battle-weary veteran, survivor of many battles and wars. What is his understanding and philosophy of the military? Is he like Owen, someone cynical of the business of war but willing to take his place in the ranks? Or is he more like Brooke, romantic about the sacrifice to preserve an eternal “England”? You might also consider whether or not he’s satirizing the military or trying to defend it.

Q3: In the future, war is even more technologically advanced and impersonal than it is today. Indeed, one of the soldiers, seeing the futility of his role in a world of nuclear weaponry and computers, asks, “What’s the point of a whole lot of men risking their lives with obsolete weapons when one professor type can do so much more by pushing a button?” (51). Given that Heinlein actually served in the Navy, how does he seem to understand the role of a single, well-trained soldier in the ranks of a futuristic battlezone? Are soldiers mere cannon fodder, or do they serve a more useful—and perhaps, critical—role in a world of professors and robots?

Q4: Despite initial fears that the military was run by cruel, sadistic bullies, the narrator later admits that “It was too scheduled, too intellectual, to efficiently and impersonally organized to be cruelty for the sick pleasure of cruelty” (45). What is the purpose of their relentless training and seeming hazing exercises, and why do you think the author spends so much time documenting it? Do you think this is specific to the space troopers of the book, or might it apply even to the soldiers of today—or of Heinlein’s time?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Remember, no class on Friday: instead, you can go to the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival. Here's a link to the schedule for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday:

You can go to 1 or 2 sessions for extra credit. But for each one you go to, make sure to answer the following 4 questions (just like our blog responses, except you have to do all 4!) in a short paragraph--a few sentences each. As long as you give a thoughtful, honest response, I can excuse 2 absences or 2 missed blog responses--or 4/4 if you do a good job on two. But remember, this is extra credit, so if you just give me hasty, one-sentence responses or try to BS about sessions you didn't attend, I can't give you credit. 


Q1: Which of the authors interested you the most and why? Why did you respond their poems and/or story and why might you read more from this author?

Q2: Which piece (if any) did you find difficult to follow or understand and why? Is is simply not your kind of material, or was it too vulgar, or depressing, or confusing? 

If you liked all the pieces you heard by each writer, answer this instead: how did each author's reading work together as a whole? Why did these 3 (or 4) writers work well together? Was there any common themes or ideas that seemed to link them together?

Q3: Discuss briefly how the authors presented their material: their reading style, introductions, gestures, and other details that helped you appreciate the stories/poems. In other words, how did the authors help you understand their work through their performance?

Q4: How did the audience react to these authors/works? Did certain works get more response than others--and if so, why? Did people laugh? Were they completely silent. Did people seem to 'get' these writers, or did some leave them scratching their heads? How could you tell? 

Hope to see you at the Festival! 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

For Monday: Graves and Hardy (see note)

Unfortunately, my post with the questions for Monday didn't post--and if I post it now, that still doesn't give you the weekend to read and respond. So we'll simply read and discuss the poems in class--so be sure to bring your book as always. 

Here are the poems I wanted you to read, a few of which we'll discuss in class:

Graves: A Dead Boche, The Next War, Escape
Hardy: Channel Firing, Then and Now, And There Was a Great Calm

See you tomorrow!