Sunday, June 11, 2017

Reading Period 29: June 9-22: Samuel Beckett

Due Dates:

Quiz: Monday, June 19
Assignments: Friday, June 23


Waiting for Godot (Read online here: Act I and Act II)

Fizzle 1 and the biographical notes on Beckett in your textbook (p 898-902)

Creative Assignments:

Take a look at these still shots from various stagings of Beckett's play Happy Days. Based only on the title and these photos, write a 250 word synopsis of the play as you imagine it. Who are the characters? What is the theme? What is the action? The resolution?


The dialogue in Waiting for Godot is often repetitive and sometimes seems completely random. Using your own ideas for how Vladimir and Estragon might entertain themselves with wordplay, imagination, and invented conflicts, write a new section of the play that could be slotted into the novel at the beginning of Act II, between their embrace and Vladimir's line "Waiting for Godot." Write at least 30 lines of back-and-forth between the two characters in which you neither move the plot along nor create any change in their relationship. 


The American artist Jasper Johns collaborated with Beckett on an edition of Fizzles that included five of the eight Fizzles, printed both in French and English, with a print run of 250. Johns used a printmaking technique called intaglio to create his art, but you can create your own version of these designs with a marker. You must fill the entire page, you must use color, and you must explain how the repetition of shapes in the artwork connects to the Fizzles story with an artist's statement of at least 100 words. You don't have to create a copy of Jasper Johns' work -- you could make any collection of shapes in this style, for example a maze or a spiral or a labyrinth. 

Writing Assignments:

Consider this quote from the story "Fizzle 1." 

In any case little by little his history takes shape, with if not yet exactly its good days and bad, at least studded with occasions passing rightly or wrongly for outstanding, such as the straightest narrow, the loudest fall, the most lingering collapse, the steepest descent, the greatest number of successive turns the same way, the greatest fatigue, the longest rest, the longest -- aside from the sound of the body on its way -- silence. 

Rather than writing a novel in which a character is born, has achievements and failures, loves, hates, and then eventually dies, Beckett shows a character in the midst of stumbling through a dark passageway without beginning or end. No plot points, no dialogue, no setting. Using quotes from the story to illustrate your ideas, write a 250 word essay in which you explain Beckett's story as a metaphor for human life, and tell why he would write this portrayal instead of a traditional novel. What is Beckett telling us about life in the modern age? If you like, you can also bring in comparisons to Waiting for Godot


Think about the role of time and memory in Waiting for Godot. Find a couple of specific examples that demonstrate the failure of the characters' memories and the meaninglessness of the passage of time. What does it mean that the characters can't remember what they did yesterday? What does it mean that they don't recognize each other when they meet again? Write a 250 word essay in which you explain Beckett's use of memory as a symbol. If we can't remember what happens, is all of time just a meaningless wait for death, and the subdivisions of time into days or nights irrelevant? Using your quotes from the text, explain what Beckett means by the forgetfulness of his characters and the emptiness of time in the play.  


This quiz is over Waiting for Godot

1. If you were to stage this play, what is the bare minimum of set items and props you would have to use? Make a list.
2. What instruction did Godot give the two men who were to wait for him?
3. Who are Gogo and Didi?
4. Explain this bit of dialogue: 

No use struggling.
One is what one is.
No use wriggling.

The essential doesn't change.

5. What is the relationship between Pozzo and Lucky?
6. Why does Pozzo say that Lucky won't put down his bags?
7. What message does the boy bring from Godot?
8. Choose a line from Act 2 that demonstrates how Estragon has given up on life having any meaning. 
9. When Pozzo reappears in Act 2, what has happened to him? 
10. What does this line mean? 

Pozzo: They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Reading Period 28: May 12-18: D.H. Lawrence

Short Reads:

"Rocking Horse Winner" by D.H. Lawrence, in your textbook.
"The Odour of Chrysanthemums" by D.H. Lawrence.
Illustrated timeline of D.H. Lawrence


"Snake" by D.H. Lawrence, in your textbook, page 939.

Creative Assignments:

Let's learn about Vorticism, a short-lived art movement in Britain that ended with World War I. Read about Vorticism and this exhibition at the Tate Modern in London. Read about Vorticism at this web site. Then choose between a writing creative assignment or visual arts assignment.


The Vorticists published one issue of their journal Blast. There we can find their manifesto, which started out with some declarations, and then moved on to a list of things to "BLESS" and a list of things to "BLAST."

Here are statements from the beginning:

1. Beyond Action and Reaction we would establish ourselves.
2. We start from opposite statements of a chosen world. Set up violent structure of adolescent clearness between two extremes.
3. We discharge ourselves on both sides.
4. We fight first on one side, then on the other, but always for the SAME cause, which is neither side or both sides and ours.
5. Mercenaries were always the best troops.
6. We are primitive Mercenaries in the Modern World.
7. Our Cause is NO-MAN'S.
8. We set Humour at Humour's throat. Stir up Civil War among peaceful apes.
9. We only want Humour if it has fought like Tragedy.
10. We only want Tragedy if it can clench its side-muscles like hands on its belly, and bring to the surface a laugh like a bomb.

There are more. Here's the whole thing.

Your assignment is to write a ten point manifesto, and then a five point "BLAST" list and a five point "BLESS" list, after reading about the Vorticists.


Visual arts. 

Take a look at these images:

Workshop by Wyndham Lewis

The Crowd by Wyndham Lewis

Mud Bath by David Bomberg

Now create your own "vorticist" artwork in this style. Use the full page and lots of color. 

Writing Assignments:

Read this direct evidence that the Mines Commission collected in 1842 from people who worked in the mines. Then read D.H. Lawrence's essay on mining in Nottingham, based on his childhood memories. What strikes you as you compare and contrast these two essays? Was D.H. Lawrence just romanticizing the life of the miner? (A miner is a "collier.") Or is it that we see things differently, looking back from our modern time, when labor unions and government oversight have become commonplace? Write 250 words discussing the difference between the vision of the mines in the commission and the vision D.H. Lawrence gives us of a miner's life.

Futurist writer or Mumford & Sons bass player?

Look at E.M. Forster's essay, "What I Believe." Then read only the foreward to D.H. Lawrence's work of non-fiction, Fantasia of the Unconscious. Now write your own manifesto of 250 words, in the style of "What I Believe." You could choose to respond to something controversial, disturbing, or satisfying in either Forster's or Lawrence's ideas, or take off on your own tangent.


This quiz is all about finding evidence in the text to support an idea, so for each question, find a quote that supports the idea in

"Rocking Horse Winner"
1. Paul's mother is incapable of love.
2. Paul's mother's need for money can never be satisfied.
3. The need for money is a constant presence in the family, though never discussed.
4. The mother is the main character, not the boy.
5. It's not the mother's fault that she's so obsessed with money.
"Odour of Chrysanthemums"
6. Elizabeth Bates has mixed feelings about chrysanthemums.
7. A mother's love is different from a wife's love.
8. Elizabeth Bates is irritated and angry with her husband in his life.
9. Elizabeth Bates is alienated from her husband in his death.
10. Lawrence uses heat and light as symbols in the story.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Reading Period 27: May 5 - May 11: Heart of Darkness

Long Read: 

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Part III

Short Read: 

1. Textbook: 837-850. (Virginia Woolf bio, Excerpt from "A Room of One's Own," James Joyce bio, "Araby," Excerpt from "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.")
2. Take a look at this annotated e-version of Finnegan's Wake, and read as much as you can bear to read. At least two pages. Click on each underlined word and look in the window at the bottom to see the annotation.
3. Read Virginia Woolf's suicide note on Wikisource.
4. Take a look at Ulysses online. Using your browser's "Find" function, find the phrase "He went out through the backdoor into the garden." Read from this point to where the bells toll. Then read the last huge paragraph.

Creative Assignments:

Create a floor plan for a house to suit a family of six who are all artists: writers, musicians, visual artists, and poets. Give each fictional member of your family their own creative space, and access to common areas. Would the ideal house for artists have separate buildings for everyone? Or is a separate room enough? Name each family member and depict them using the space you define for them in your sketch.


Write your own nonsense stream-of-consciousness in the style of Joyce's Finnegan's Wake. Have fun with it, and see if you can turn out 250 words that makes sense to you, read as a whole, even if certain words sound completely bonkers.

Writing Assignments: 

James Joyce's Ulysses has been widely banned in America and the UK, and due in part to the material in the assigned sections for this week, is not considered appropriate for high school students. Given what you know about banned books, and relating your points to the sections of the novel that you read for this week, create a balanced short essay giving the pros and cons of banning this particular novel. Start planning your essay with a Venn Diagram where one circle contains the risks of exposing children to challenging material, and one circle contains the rewards of such exposure. Are there any effects of reading banned books where risks and rewards intersect? Put those in your conclusion. In your essay, use examples from Ulysses.


Teachers constantly struggle with presenting material to children that is interesting and thought-provoking, but not too disturbing or mature. We want you to read things that are historically accurate, that represent the time period they are written in, but are not too offensive in language or vocabulary. For example, the movie "Apocalypse Now" is based on the book Heart of Darkness. It would be interesting to discuss the parallels and the way the characters cross over, but there is a lot of cussing, and some adult material. None of you are 18. After discussing this with your parents, decide whether or not you will watch "Apocalypse Now." Then watch it, or don't. Write an essay of 250 words in which you discuss your decision. If you watched it, did you feel that it was too much, or were you not bothered by the content? If you didn't watch it, what led you to that decision? Everyone needs to know where their boundaries are. In this essay, I want you to discuss those boundaries and why you set them.


1. What advantages enjoyed by Shakespeare would have been denied to his sister, if he had had one?
2. Why does Woolf agree with the bishop that no woman in Shakespeare's day could have had his genius?
3. According to Woolf, how did the repressed genius of women show itself?
4. What does Woolf believe would have happened to a highly gifted girl in Shakespeare's time?
5. Why is Mangan's sister unable to go to the bazaar?
6. Why is it important for the narrator to go to the bazaar?
7. Why is he delayed?
8. What does he find when he arrives at the bazaar?
9. What happens in the section of Ulysses that begins with "He went out through the back door into the garden"?
10. What happens in the last paragraph of Ulysses?
BONUS: Give 10 examples of made-up words from Finnegan's Wake and guess what meaning Joyce might have intended.
BONUS +1: Using Google, figure out what person Virginia Woolf was addressing in her suicide note, and the circumstances of her death.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Reading Period 26: April 28 - May 4: Heart of Darkness

Long Read: 

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Part II

Short Read:
Textbook pages 826 - 836, "The Celestial Omnibus" by E.M. Forster


Textbook pages 928 - 938, poems by William Butler Yeats.

Creative Assignments:

In "Sailing to Byzantium," Yeats imagined being made part of a Byzantine gold mosaic. Take a look at the gold mosaics below, and then create a piece of art in this style recreating a scene from your life. You can use a marker to make dots on a page to represent mosaic tiles, you can use a hole punch to make paper dots to use, or you could draw what you want to portray and then use Photoshop or an artistic photo filter to make a mosaic of your drawing. You must do a drawing first and use a filter on it, though. Don't just filter a selfie. If you feel incapable of doing a representational image, you can do a design like the first one. However it would be much more amusing if you did a gold mosaic of yourself playing soccer, or cooking at the stove, or working on a computer, in the Byzantine style.


Read the sonnet, "To Homer" by John Keats, that is referenced in part III of "The Celestial Omnibus." Now write a poem addressed to one of the authors we have read in class. It doesn't have to be a very serious poem, but it should demonstrate that you've read the work you're praising. For extra magicalness, make it a sonnet. 

Writing Assignments:

Read the poem, "When You Are Old" by William Butler Yeats. Write a well-organized essay in which you analyze the literary techniques that Yeats used to show the speaker's attitude toward the "you" in the poem. You may choose to discuss the imagery, point of view, and personification, or any other device you notice.


Read the poem, "Sailing to Byzantium" by William Butler Yeats. Write a well-organized essay in which you analyze the literary techniques that Yeats used to show the speaker's attitude toward the aging. You may choose to discuss metonymy, symbolism, and apostrophe, or any other device you notice.

E.M. Forster

This quiz is over the story "The Celestial Omnibus," but do make sure you keep reading Heart of Darkness.

1. How do the boy's parents explain the signpost?
2. The boy gave up and went home before seeing the sunrise omnibus, but then rushed back -- why?
3. What is nonsensical about the appearance of the sunrise omnibus?
4. Give an example of the "ornate prose" of Sir Thomas Browne.
5. Give an example of something the boy experiences at the end of his first journey.
6. What punishment do the parents give the boy when he returns?
7. What did the people in heaven predict about Mr. Brons?
8. Who is the driver of the sunset omnibus?
9. Mr. Bons is disappointed in the way the boy spent his first trip to heaven. Why?
10. What do you think this line means? "For poetry is a spirit; and they that would worship it must worship in spirit and in truth."

Friday, April 21, 2017

Reading Period 25: April 21-27: Heart of Darkness

Due Dates:
Quiz: Monday, April 24
Assignments: Wednesday, April 26
History: Friday, April 28

Long Read: 

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Section I. If you haven't already got a copy, I highly recommend this illustrated version

Short Read: 

"The Twentieth Century" in your textbook, pages 759-773


"Dulce Et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen, page 955-957

Creative Assignments: 

Artist Matt Kish undertook the illustration of Heart of Darkness, page by page, in an abstract style. Selections from his edition of the book can be seen on his blog, along with the quotes that inspired each piece. I'll also bring my copy to class. Please choose one scene in the section that you read, and illustrate it using an abstraction, in the style of Matt Kish. 


Read the short story by Joseph Conrad, "The Secret Sharer." The story The Secret Sharer is told from the point of view of the captain of the ship, who rescues and hides the murderer Leggatt, chief mate of the Sephora. Write a 250 word diary entry from the point of view of Leggatt. How would he see the captain? Does he have any further secrets that he does not reveal in the story? What tone would his state of mind cause him to take on in his diary? What diction? 

Writing Assignments: 

By Matt Kish
Conrad wrote about a time when European colonization of Africa was in full swing. What was the "Scramble for Africa"? What happened in Berlin in 1884? What were the factors that caused this grab for territory and who were the main players on the African continent? Write a 250 word essay about the events of this period, particularly in the 1880s. Take a look at this article, from St. John's college at Cambridge, and this article in The Economist. You can also check out the Wikipedia page to inform you. Read your source material and then write in your own words, referring back to your sources for facts. 


Write a 250 word essay about "Dulce Et Decorum Est" based on the "Evaluating Techniques of Persuasion" prompt on page 957. How does this poem function as persuasion in a way that an essay or article might not? 


1. What time period was Marlow remembering out loud, as the Nellie is waiting for the tide to turn on the Thames?
2. According to Marlow, what is the difference between a conqueror and a colonist?
3. On what river was Marlow desperate to get appointed as captain of a steamer?
4. When Marlow goes to Brussels to sign up for the voyage, what two strange people does he meet in the company office and what are they doing? 
5. What strange measurement does the doctor take of Marlow when he examines him for the voyage?
6. What are two tasks Marlow’s ship carries out on the way to the river where he will get his own steamer?
7. Marlow disagrees with a word that’s used to describe the natives when they’re being shelled from the French ship. What is that word? 
8. What is the first evidence Marlow witnesses up close that the whites are mistreating the blacks?
9. After almost falling into a ravine and discovering the broken drainage pipes, Marlow finds a group of people lying in the shade. What are they doing?
10. Why does Marlow call the Company’s chief accountant a “miracle”? 
11. What precious substance is the Company extracting from the African interior?
12. Who is Kurtz? 
13. Why did the fainting white man who accompanied Marlow to the central station say he had come to Africa? 
14. What had happened to the steamer that Marlow was supposed to command?
15. Marlow meets an aristocrat whose job it is to make bricks. Why is it sarcastic when Marlow calls him the Brickmaker of Central Station? 
16. What do the rivets represent? Why is Marlow fixated on rivets? 

Art by Matt Kish from his illustrated version of Heart of Darkness.


From the "Review" questions in your book on page 773:

1. What have been some of the social and economic gains in British life during this century? Name two.
2. Why has Britain's position in world politics declined?
3. Which poet is most closely associated with literary symbolism?
4. Why did many young writers turn from public affairs in the years following World War I?
5. What was the most significant idea of the modernist movement?
6. What were the immediate causes for the rise of fascism between the two world wars?
7. What severe economic problems has Britain faced since World War II?
8. What has replaced the Empire?
9. Why were certain writers of the 1950s called "Angry Young Men"? 
10. What name was given to the group of post-war poets who responded to the modern world with order and clarity? 

BONUS: Based on this reading selection, do you think the author of this section is American or British? Now check the masthead of the textbook, under "Curriculum and Writing." Now check the list of "Critical Readers" (just before the Contents). Was this book brought to us by Americans or Brits?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Reading Period 24: April 14-20: 1984

Long Read: 

1984 by George Orwell, Part 3

Matchbox Minute Movie: 

In class we have been working on creating a matchbox that contains all the props and sets to film a one minute movie version of any book or narrative poem we've read in class this year. Your writing assignment is to write the script for your movie. Your movie can be from 50 to 70 seconds long, so your script will have to be extremely condensed! Post your script to Google+ to get feedback from your classmates. Your creative assignment is to finish up all your props, characters, and backdrops for your movie. You may find, as you write your script, that you need more props. You're welcome to use Lego, Sculpey, folded paper, other other tiny materials, but keep in mind that in order for your piece to meet the requirements of the assignment and be displayed in the Matchbox Museum on May 2, everything has to fit into the matchbox. When your script is written, post it. When your props and characters are all created, photograph them. If you do this, this counts as your writing assignment and creative assignment. It will also be what you use as your presentation for the year.


Creative Assignment:

Create an illustration of room 101. You could use the visual elements from the book, or you could use imaginary elements that might appear if room 101 was used on you. You could illustrate it in the abstract, with all the fears and dreads of humans in nebulous form inside it. Or you could show it as an empty space inside someone's mind. Think before you begin, and show your most creative interpretation of room 101.

Writing Assignment:

Chekhov's gun is a name for a certain type of foreshadowing. According to the playwright Chekhov, "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired." But the idea is more than just foreshadowing -- it also means that non-essential items don't belong in the story. So if a reader sees something in the story, the reader should be able to trust that it does have a purpose. If you see a gun on the stage, you should have the expectation that it will go off, and if a gun goes off, you should have the expectation that you would have already seen it before the scene where it fires. Plot elements don't fizzle into nothing, and they also don't come out of nowhere. Looking at the plot of 1984, do you notice any elements that are like "Chekhov's gun"? For example, the rat in the baseboard, or the spying children in the neighbors' apartment? Write a 250 word essay in which you explain what is meant by Chekhov's gun, identify one or two examples of it from the book, and say how they contribute to the plot.


1. Why is Ampleforth in prison?
2. Why is Parsons in prison?
3. What place in the prison do all the prisoners most want to avoid?
4. What does Winston find out about O'Brien?
5. How many fingers is O'Brien holding up during interrogation?
6. The book taught Winston how the party maintains power. O'Brien tells him *why* it maintains power. Why?
7. What is crimestop?
8. What is in room 101?
9. What would be in room 101 for you?
10. What is 2+2?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Reading Period 23: April 7 - 13: 1984

Rudyard Kipling: Spin master?
Long Read: 

1984 by George Orwell, Part 2, chapters 8-10.

Short Read: 

"Miss Youghal's Sais" by Rudyard Kipling, pages 705-710


"If" by Rudyard Kipling
"Gunga Din" by Rudyard Kipling
"The White Man's Burden" by Rudyard Kipling

Creative Assignments:

Create an illustration for one of the following quotes. You must incorporate the words of the quote into the picture you're making -- not all the words, but some significant ones:

"In war, physical facts cannot be ignored. In philosophy, or religion, or ethics, or politics, two and two might make five, but when one was designing a gun or an airplane, they had to make four."

"When war is continuous, it ceases to be dangerous."

"No advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimeter nearer."


Kipling's poem "Gunga Din" has been made into a movie. Three movie posters are below. Based on the contents of the poem and the way these movie posters look, can you take a stab at summarizing this movie? Write a 250 word summary of the plot -- what happens in this movie, do you think?

Writing Assignments: 

In our textbook are the following lines: "Afterward, [Kipling] was criticized as a defender of British Imperialism.  Such criticism has to be taken seriously and should enter into our evaluation of Kipling as a master storyteller." To understand why Kipling is characterized as defending British imperialism with his stories, we must first understand the British empire in India.

Use these three articles to inform you:

A collection of primary sources related to British rule in India from the National Archive of the UK. (Make sure you also click on and read the "Background" to this collection.)
"The Benefits of British Rule" by Dadabhai Naoroji (1871)
"British Atrocities Against Indians" by  Adnan Karsewak (2010)

Write 250 words addressing these questions: What does it mean that Kipling's defense of the British Empire in India has to "enter our evaluation" of him? Should we not read Kipling because he documented the British rule in India, without evaluating whether he defended or critiqued it? How does your modern perspective on the atrocities of the British or the long term benefits of British occupation affect your reading of Kipling? Does it prejudice you against him or make you think of him more favorably?


The East India Company was responsible for the first incursion of Britain into India. They were not only a trading company, but fought wars, built factories, minted their own money, and eventually conquered local rulers. They illegally traded opium to China, allowed locals to starve while exporting grain to Europe -- oh, and they were the people whose tea the Americans threw into Boston Harbor, because they were exempt from taxes that colonial merchants had to pay. They paved the way for India to become an actual part of the British Empire, and for Victoria to be crowned Empress of India, thereby foregoing the need to "trade" and allowing Britain to just take what they needed. The East India Company is a symbol of imperialism and exploitation. AND YET, it still exists and operates in England, selling tea and exotic foods.

The modern East India Company web site is a brilliant example of "spin," a rhetorical method in which writers take inconvenient realities and twist them into positives (or negatives) for their organization. Read more about spin here. Then find three examples of "spin" on the East India Company web site. Specifically, take a look at "Our Heritage," "Gunpowder and Health," and the movie in "Historical Views." Or maybe you find that this web site is accurately representing the history of the East India Company, and they have nothing to cover up or "spin"? Does this remind you of anything in 1984? Can the East India Company really rewrite history with a slick web site?

Write a 250 word letter to the East India Company either criticizing their use of a name that is historically connected with exploitation and suffering, or commending them for owning their history and creating something positive for the future.


1. What beverage do Winston and Julia drink at O'Brien's house?
2. Who is the leader of the Brotherhood?
3. Where will Winston and O'Brien meet again?
4. Why, according to Goldstein, is it impossible for war to be decisive?
5. What then is the purpose of war, according to Goldstein?
6. What does Goldstein say the scientists of Oceania are busy doing?
7. What are the aims of the three divisions of people, according to Goldstein?
8. What made it unnecessary for people to live at different social/economic levels?
9. How does the Thought Police handle gifted proles who might aspire to be in the party?
10. What are the laws of Ingsoc?

Bonus: What does blackwhite mean? What does doublethink mean?