Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Reading Period 5: Sep 24-30: The Whiteness of the Whale

Long Read: Moby-Dick!

Must read: 41-43, 46-48, 50, 52-53, 58-59
May skip: 44-45, 49, 41, 54-57

Read chapter 41 twice. It's so important!

Short Read:

The Declaration of Independence, AIAL p 99


"To His Excellency General Washington" by Phillis Wheatley, AIAL p 109.
"On Being Brought from Africa to America" by Phillis Wheatley.
"Caged Bird" by Maya Angelou.
"Heritage" by Countee Cullen

Google Fu:

Here's the text of the Declaration of Independence, followed by a list of all the people who signed it. Choose two names that you don't recognize (Don't choose Benjamin Franklin!), and search for more information about these signatories of the Declaration. Some of the names are very common, so just searching the name might not turn up what you're looking for. How will you find information on the correct person, and not just any old guy who has the same name?

Note Taking:

Phillis Wheatley endured the "middle passage" -- the route slave ships took from Africa to the Americas -- before she was sold as a slave in Boston. First, watch this 45 minute documentary "The Middle Passage," by Steven Spielberg. Within this documentary, there are several references to and readings from other works, and there are lots of interviews with experts. As part of your notes, make a list of the other works referenced -- poetry, artwork, and also list some of the prominent experts that spoke in the video. From your notes, you should find yourself able to take the next step in investigating this topic -- to look further at works referenced, and seek out books and articles written by the experts quoted.

Creative Assignment: 

Draw an illustration anything that has inspired you from the chapters you've read in Moby-Dick. (There ya go, Zoe!) If you're looking for inspiration: Read the last long paragraph of the chapter "The Chart." This chapters offers many metaphors -- choose one and create an illustration of it. The vulture feeding on the vulture, the chasm of flames at the base of Ahab's being, the gods and devils in his spirit, etc.


Write a poem, after reading "The Whiteness of the Whale." You might write about something that fills you with instinctive fear, like the shaking buffalo hide behind the young cold. You might write a poem about things that are white, making them seem terrifying. You could respond to Ishmael's last paragraph, a meditation on color and light. Or you could choose another color to signify as fearful. Red? Black? Yellow?

Twitter Scholar:

This week on Twitter, search for the hashtag #mobydick. After looking at some of the Tweets that are tagged this way, create at least one of your own Tweets about what you're reading in the novel, and post it with this hashtag attached.

Not a real squid, but this fake photo fooled many!

1. Did other whalers know of Moby-Dick, or was he Ahab's private prey?
2. What about Moby-Dick's forehead is unique?
3. At what moment did Ahab's obsession with Moby-Dick seize him?
4. Give three examples of things in chapter 42 that are white and therefore scary?
5. What does Archy hear in chapter 43?
6. Chapter 46 explains Ahab's reason for what activity?
7. In chapter 47 we see Ishmael and Queequeg engaged in a friendly activity. What are they doing?
8. Who crews Ahab's boat?
9. Who crews the other three boats? List the officer and the harpoonist for each one.
10. In their efforts to get the whale, the sailors are racing against what?
11. What is a gam?
12. Why do the sailors mistake a squid for Moby-Dick?

BONUS: Reread the last paragraph of chapter 58, "Brit," and restate it in your own words.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Reading Period 4: September 17-23: Enter Ahab: Then, all

Click to find out more about a "real life" Pequod
Long Read:

Moby Dick chapters 21-40. If this is too much reading, and you must skip, follow this guide:
Read 21-23, 28-30, 32, 35-40. Skip 24-27, 31, 33-34. The quiz will only cover chapters in the "Read" list, and will not touch on info in the "Skip" chapters. Of course I'd love it if you read all of them, but I know you have other things to do.

Short Read:

"The Crisis #1" by Thomas Paine, AIAL p 90.


"Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"Little Sadie" (Traditional American Ballad)

Google Fu: 

Ishmael ends his chapter, "Cetology," with a hopeless shrug and a suggestion that whales can't actually be effectively classified by any one person. He uses the example of the Cathedral of Cologne, whose construction was unfinished at the time of the writing of Moby-Dick. It was finished later in the 19th century. Find a picture of the Cathedral of Cologne with "the crane still standing on the top of the uncompleted tower" as Melville would have seen it (he saw it in 1849). Then find two more examples of works of art that were begun, halted, and then finished much later, or never finished at all.

Give me one thing, or give me that other thing!

"Speech at the Virginia Convention" by Patrick Henry, AIAL p 95.

This week I want you to focus your note-taking on identifying key quotes in the material you're studying, and writing them in your notebook in quotation marks. This speech has some great quotes in it, including one very famous one. Can you find it? Here is an article with a little more about the speech if you're interested.

As a follow-up on last week, please also insert your own interpretations and reactions in your notes, and figure out a way to distinguish them from the notes you take on the text. You might use a different color, or a highlighter, or a put your own impressions in a box, etc.

Creative Assignment:

Create two illustrations of Ahab: one sitting in contemplation with his pipe, and one stomping around shouting at the crew as he does in the chapter "The Quarter-Deck." Think about how these two Ahabs are different, and ask yourself why Ahab had to toss away his pipe before he could give the speech that announces the revenge mission to the crew.


After reading the chapter, "The Masthead," write a poem in which you pretend you are a sailor taking a watch up in the masthead of a whaling ship. What do you see, smell, hear, and feel, sitting up there? What are you thinking about? Pay special attention to the last two paragraphs of the chapter, and allow yourself to imagine hovering over "Descartian vortices." (And what are those?)

Even though it's "off camera," don't forget about Queequeg and Ishmael's friendship during these chapters...


1. What does Elijah ask Queequeg and Ishmael?
2. With Ahab absent, who is acting captain of the ship on its way out of harbor?
3. Why is it so weird that Bulkington has shipped on the Pequod?
4. In the chapter, "The Lee Shore," who does the shore represent and what does the sea represent?
5. How does Ahab keep himself steady when he's standing on the deck?
6. What does Ahab say to Stubb that upsets the mate?
7. What becomes of Ahab's pipe in chapter 30?
8. What does Ishmael attempt to do in the chapter, "Cetology"?
9. Reading the last paragraph of "Cetology," what is Ishmael's conclusion about the task of classifying whales?
10. What does Ishmael confess about his time in the masthead?
11. What is Starbuck's opinion of Ahab's plan to take the Pequod on a mission of vengeance against Moby Dick?
12. How does Ahab reward the crew's enthusiasm for hunting Moby Dick?
13. Who is the narrator in chapters 37-38?
14. Who is the narrator of chapter 39?
15. In what format does chapter 40 show us the scene aboard the Pequod? What type of literature usually looks like this?
BONUS:  What does Ahab nail to the mast and why?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reading Period 3: September 10-16: The Great Flood-Gates of the Wonderworld

Long Read: Moby Dick chapters 1-15. If you must skip chapters, skip 5-8, understanding that Ishmael went out on a walk in New Bedford, and stepped into a chapel to hear a sermon. Chapter 9 is the sermon -- read that and on through chapter 15. Be warned that next week we'll begin with chapter 21, "Going Aboard," so if you want to read chapters 16-20, now's the time to do that. If you're skipping, skip 'em.

Short Read:

"Journal of Madam Knight" by Sarah Knight, AIAL p 42.
Excerpt from The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper, AIAL p 139.

Google Fu: Find out as much a you can about Queequeg's origin, as defined in the chapter "Biographical." Ishmael says his island of origin isn't on any map, but where might it have been? Find us three links that might help us understand where Queequeg the harpooner might have been from. At least one of them must have a reputable address. You can pick one to defend as reputable, the other two can be personal sites, Wikipedia, whatever.

Note Taking: The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boone. Read the part of the book that this link directly takes you to -- the appendix, written by Daniel Boone himself. This is a longish and rambling account of his adventures. How will you take notes on this? Will you slavishly, carefully write down everything that happened to him? Will you summarize? Are dates and numbers and names, in this sort of note-taking, important? What information, here, do you need to take away and remember, months from now, when you think back. Special challenge: Include in your notes some personal reactions, and figure out a way to distinguish that part of your notes from the notes on the text -- either with a different color pencil, or a highlighter, or a star/box/squiggly line, or something.

Creative Assignment:

One reason diaries are interesting is because they show us small details and specifics about how people lived in the time. The best ones for historical purposes are those that give lots of descriptions and really show us what life was like. After reading the excerpt from Sarah Knight's journal, write a diary entry about a trip you have taken, including lots of specifics about how you traveled and what you saw. Make sure you include details about any food you ate on the trip, your mode of transport, and any local customs in the place you visited.


After reading the excerpt from The Deerslayer (make SURE you read the summary of the book so far on page 139), create an illustration of the Deerslayer standing as prisoner in front of The Panther and Rivenoak.

"Daniel Boone" by Stephen Vincent Binet.
"The Mountain Muse" by Daniel Bryan. Read an excerpt, starting from Book II (p 51) and continuing through page 62, or the page with the awful blot on it. Turn the pages by clicking on them.

"Superman" by REM
"Superman's Song" by the Crash Test Dummies
"Kryptonite" by 3 Doors Down

Clam or cod?

1. What substance does Ishmael tell us is the most necessary, the most entrancing, the holiest and most mysterious and engaging substance on earth?
2. What does Ishmael mean when he says "This is my substitute for pistol and ball"?
3. Why does Ishmael pass up "The Swordfish Inn" and "The Crossed Harpoons"?
4. What art decorates the entry of the Spouter Inn?
5. What doe the landlord tell Ishmael about the harpoonist he is supposed to share a room with?
6. How does Ishmael try to pass the night before giving up and going to the shared bed?
7. What pattern is shown on Queequeg's arm and the counterpane on their bed?
8. What did Queequeg like to eat?
9. What is the subject of Father Mapple's sermon?
10. What ice-breaking activity do Queequeg and Ishmael partake in together, while in bed, even though Ishmael doesn't usually think it's a good idea?
11. What reason does Ishmael give for participating in Queequeg's religious rituals even though he is a Presbyterian?
12. What was Queequeg's station in life, when he was a child?
13. On the schooner that ferries Ishmael and Queequeg to Nantucket in the chapter "The Wheelbarrow," how does Queequeg prove himself to be "a noble trump."
14. What territory in the world have Nantucketers claimed for themselves?
15. Why do Ishmael and Queequeg have to ponder the choice, "Clam or cod?"

BONUS: What could Queequeg have meant, if he really was thinking, as Ishmael guesses, at the end of the chapter "The Wheelbarrow," the following: "It's a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians."?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Reading Period 2: Sep 3-9: Benjamin Franklin

Welcome! We've now had one full week of our class, so you've had experience with all the different components of it, and you're doing great!
Here's our week:

8am, online poetry for Benny and Zoe via Hangout.
1:30pm, co-op poetry for Jacob and Sarah, live.
8am, online class for all.
Later in the day, new assignments posted.
Time to do your note-taking, Google Fu, quiz on your log read, and creative assignment.
Monday: All assignments and quiz due at midnight. Late assignments will receive half credit.

Here's what's coming up on the horizon:

Twitter: Create an account (use a fake name or your real name) and follow some of the feeds that I've listed here. Norfolk students should follow all that I've listed. Zoe can sub in some Northern VA feeds for the ones that are specific to Norfolk.

Real Literature Project: Start thinking about a project you can do that will have an actual impact on the real world of literature. Remember some of the ideas we brainstormed in class: Paint a literature-themed public mural, read to children/elderly, create a helpful web site about an author or work, host a Twitter feed for a dead author, make a clickable map related to an American novel or author, teach something about literature to someone else you know. When you have an idea for something you'd like to do, something you could then present to the class in a 10 minute speech, let's talk about it!

Paper: Your paper will be a generalization essay. You will defend the statement: "X is a real American!" where X is the name of an author or historical figure of your choice, relevant to pre-1870 America. This will involve creating a generalization about what it means to be an American. Start thinking of who you would like to choose as a topic.

With that, here are this week's assignments:

Long Read: The Scarlet Letter, chapters 16-18, 22-24

Short Read: William Byrd, “The History of the Dividing Line” AIAL p 50 (1729)
                  Ben Franklin, "An Apology for Printers"
Poetry: Ben Franklin “Freedom of the Press” 1757
            Ben Franklin,  “Death is a Fisherman” 1733
            Billy Collins, "Rain", 2008
            Dixie Chicks, "Not Ready to Make Nice" 2006

Creative Assignment:

Create an illustration for the poem, "Death is a Fisherman."


Write a dramatic version of the "Canterbury Tale" (or tall tale) of the man who found his way out of the Great Dismal Swamp, referenced at the end of our excerpt from Byrd's "The History of the Dividing Line." Your version should be at least 250 words long and can be as exaggerated as you like, but should include the episode with the insect.

Google Fu

This week let's practice your image searching prowess. Find me three images of the Great Dismal Swamp. These three images should be quite different from each other. The difference can be seasonal, geographical, or just vary in what is pictured. Try not to include anything in your pictures that William Byrd would not have seen, when exploring. Post the links to the Google+ Community.


Read this article on Salon, "I Shall Not Burn My Press Or Melt My Letters." It relates to one of your short reads, Benjamin Franklin's "An Apology for Printers." This article talks about two Franklins -- Ben and his grandson. I want you to focus your note-taking on ways to represent the comparison and contrast between these two. Maybe you want to make your notes in two columns on the page, or create a Venn diagram, or some other visual aid. Try to contain your notes to one page.


The quiz is over chapters 16-18 and 22-24 of The Scarlet Letter. It is open book.

1. Where are Hester and Pearl in chapter 16?
2. According to local superstition, what mythological figure lives in the woods?
3. What mark does Pearl ask Dimmesdale about?
4. What secret does Hester reveal to Dimmesdale?
5. Hester urges Dimmesdale to make a change in his life. What does she want him to do?
6. What happens to the scarlet letter in chapter 18?
7. What special occasion is going on, where Dimmesdale will give a sermon?
8. Describe the woman who is pestering Hester in the market-place.
9. Who is the "Prince of the Air"?
10. What does Dimmesdale reveal about himself to the crowd, both literally and in terms of information?

BONUS: What does this line mean? "We must not always talk in the market-place of what happens to us in the forest."