Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Reading Period 15: January 12-25: Greece

Class meeting: January 25
Due date: January 24, 7pm

Long Read: Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, chapters 2 and 3.

Short Read: The Iliad, by Homer. Book 22, The Death of Hector

Poem: 

Fragment by Sappho (read all the translations here)

Some an army of horsemen, some an army on foot
and some say a fleet of ships is the loveliest sight
on this dark earth; but I say it is what-
ever you desire:

and it it possible to make this perfectly clear
to all; for the woman who far surpassed all others
in her beauty, Helen, left her husband --
the best of all men --

behind and sailed far away to Troy; she did not spare
a single thought for her child nor for her dear parents
but [the goddess of love] led her astray
[to desire...]

[...which]
reminds me now of Anactoria
although far away,

--Translated by Josephine Balmer

Creative Assignment:

Create a set of before and after illustrations for the characters in The Metamorphosis. Begin with the "status quo" before Gregor was transformed into a bug. End with the final moments of the novel. Use objects, colors, facial expressions, angles, and lighting to indicate the difference in everyone's situation before and after.

OR

Sappho, from a wall painting in Pompeii
One of the most challenging literary jobs is translator. Translators study linguistics and languages, and also literary forms and devices, and work hard to bring life and meaning to ancient and contemporary texts, giving access to audiences that wouldn't normally be able to read them. Sometimes this involves changing idioms and vocabulary to make it relatable for readers in a different culture or time. The most important step in translating is understanding the original work and what the author was trying to communicate, so that rather than giving a word for word decoding, a translator can give readers the intention of the author. After reading all the translations of the Sappho fragment, decide which one you think is the best. Then write your own translation of this poem, giving it meaning for a contemporary audience. Even though you can't understand the original Greek, glean the meaning and message from the other translations before you create your own. You can change some of the references and vocabulary to fit 2016. Your post should include a short explanation of which translation you liked best and why, and then your own translation.

Writing Assignment:

Think about your life and how you feel about your existence at this moment in time. If you were to wake up transformed into an animal that reflects your situation, what would you be transformed into? A hamster in a wheel? A caged bird? A velociraptor? A slug? A robot? A tiger? A lamb? Write a short story in which you describe what happens when you wake up in the morning and experience your own metamorphosis. You can choose whether you can communicate with your family or not, depending on the level of alienation you wish to portray.

OR

Write a 300 word essay about any aspect of Greek art or architecture that interests you, and also an outline of that essay. Whether you write the outline first is up to you, but you must include the outline with your post. Make sure you choose a topic that you can at least summarize in 300 words, and cite the web site(s) from which you derived information.

OR

Read this 19000 word letter that Kafka wrote to his father, and then write a 19000 word letter to your own father. JUST KIDDING! Don't do this one. You have other choices. YOU HAVE CHOICES! Go back! Write about Greek urns! Or being transformed into a wildebeest! Do it!

Quiz:

No quiz! Finish reading Metamorphosis and study for the final exam. There will be at least one question on the final to check that you read the end of the book.

Final exam prep:

1. Read over your notes.
2. Read over all the old quizzes.
3. Read over all the old blog posts.

The final will cover everything in geography from the Phillippines to Austria/Romania/Hungary and everything in literature including The Good Earth, Haroun and the Sea of Stories, and Metamorphosis.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Reading Period 14: December 15 - January 11: Romania / Hungary / Austria

Class meeting: January 11
Due date: January 10, 7pm

Long Read: Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, Part 1

Short Read: "A Hunger Artist" by Franz Kafka. As you read this translation, it will make more sense if you know that the hunger artist's "impresario" is sort of like his handler or owner. The master of ceremonies of his show.

Poem: "I Love My Life's Dark Hours" by Rainer Maria Rilke

I LOVE MY LIFE'S DARK HOURS




I love my life's dark hours
In which my senses quicken and grow deep,
While, as from faint incense of faded flowers
Or letters old, I magically steep
Myself in days gone by: again I give
Myself unto the past:—again I live.

Out of my dark hours wisdom dawns apace,
Infinite Life unrolls its boundless space ...

Then I am shaken as a sweeping storm
Shakes a ripe tree that grows above a grave
'Round whose cold clay the roots twine fast and warm—
And Youth's fair visions that glowed bright and brave,
Dreams that were closely cherished and for long,
Are lost once more in sadness and in song.

Creative Assignment:

If Gregor Samsa had only been able to communicate with his family, how different his story would have been! If you're like me, then as you were reading, you were pleading with Gregor just to nod his head, or spell out his name in bread crusts, or something! Just by eliminating this one form of connection, Kafka dooms his character completely. Rewrite the first section of Metamorphosis (at least 300 words) as you imagine it would be if Gregor could communicate with his sister. What conversation might they have? How might they manage to talk back and forth, given that Gregor can't form human words? How might the story go differently and how might the family approach the problem with this change in the way his "metamorphosis" functions?

OR

Listen here, you young poet you. 
Read at least one of these "Letters to a Young Poet," written by Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke to a 19-year-old German boy about to go into the military. He questioned Rilke over whether his poems were any good and if he should keep writing. Especially the first letter has some very good advice about the writing life. For this assignment, write a poem in which you take into consideration some aspect of Rilke's direction to this young man. If you can do it, quietly, thoughtfully, I encourage you to "go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows." Then write about something that you "see and feel and love and lose." When you post your poem, let us know what advice you are responding to, or what advice you are reacting against. For example, Rilke cautions young writers not to write love poetry, but then wrote this:

LOVE SONG

When my soul touches yours a great chord sings!
How shall I tune it then to other things?
O! That some spot in darkness could be found
That does not vibrate whene'er your depths sound.
But everything that touches you and me
Welds us as played strings sound one melody.
Where is the instrument whence the sounds flow?
And whose the master-hand that holds the bow?
O! Sweet song—

Writing Assignment:

Alienation means feeling like you don't belong, either to society or even to yourself. Alienation is a major theme of both Metamorphosis and "The Hunger Artist." In a 300 word essay, tell how Gregor Samsa and the hunger artist are both alienated from society. Think about their differences in circumstances and their similarities. Don't just say "Samsa is alienated because he's been turned into a bug." That's obvious, but doesn't really tell what the alienation means. Explain the things he can't do now, the rituals and social structures he can't participate in, the connections that are severed because of his situation. Then talk about the hunger artist and how he's isolated, unable to engage with society. By whose choice is each man alienated? Could either man willingly end his alienation? What do you think Kafka is trying to tell us about alienation in a post-industrial world?



OR

Rilke and Kafka both lived in Prague in the late 19th century, when Prague was the capital of Bohemia and part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Kingdom of Bohemia no longer exists, nor does the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Have you ever even heard of these places? What happened to them? Do some research and write a 300 word essay on the history of the last 150(ish) years of Prague. Make sure you document (just link to) the sources you used to write your essay. Illustrate it with a photo of any building in Prague that's relevant to Rilke or Kafka, if you can find one. This link may help.

Quiz:

1. What is Gregor Samsa's job?
2. What does that job require him to do on a usual day?
3. Who lives in the apartment (or flat) with Gregor?
4. Who comes to visit on the morning of his transformation, and why?
5. How do we know that Gregor's words are not understood by the people outside the door?
6. What does the Chief Clerk say the boss thinks about Gregor?
7. How does Gregor manage to get the door unlocked and open?
8. According to Gregor, what is hard about being a traveling salesman? List at least two things.
9. What is the Chief Clerk's reaction to Gregor's appeal to him?
10. What was Gregor's father's solution to the problem created by Gregor's presence?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Reading Period 13: December 8-14: Turkey

Class meeting: December 14
Due date for quiz: December 13, 7pm
Due date for assignments: December 20, 7pm
Due date for turning in your paper: In class, Monday December 14

Long Read:

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, chapters 7-12

Short Read:



You've heard the song, now read this short article about the name change in this city. It's also an interesting dissection of how language and politics are linked, and how semantic battles play out, and why it's always important to examine your source.

Poetry:

"Moving Water"
"Only Breath"
"Not Here"
These poems by the Persian poet Rumi can all be found on this page.

Creative Assignment:

The Hagia Sophia is considered the perfect example of Byzantine architecture (the Eastern Roman Empire). Create a drawing or painting or colored sketch of this building, including the domes, spires, and the "wishing column." You'll have to do a little research to figure out what that is and how it works.

OR

Take one of these first lines of Rumi's poems, and create your own poem after it.

1. Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
2. What the material world values does not shine the same in the truth of the soul.
3. The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
4. If you want what visible reality can give, you're an employee.

OR

Turkey is currently a very dangerous place to visit or live. Tourism is definitely suffering as the Syrian civil war has put the whole region in crisis mode, plus Turkey recently shot down a Russian plane and is on the brink of war with that superpower. Yet take a look at this Turkey tourism web site. In the spirit of this cheerful, inviting web site, write a 300 word essay making Turkey seem like a great place to visit, completely ignoring the current situation. Use specific examples of things to see and do in Turkey, based on this site. Bonus points if you include satirical references to the looming conflict with Russia.

Look at the Ottoman Empire! It's YUUUUUUUUGE. 
Writing Assignment:

We have been discussing examples and anecdotes in class. In expository writing, examples and anecdotes can be used to support your thesis statement, but they're not the same thing! An example is a category of situations, and an anecdote is a specific situation. For example, if your thesis statement is "The beach is fun!" you may provide the following examples: Waves are fun to jump. Sand castles are fun to build. It's fun to watch the seagulls. And you may provide anecdotes about one specific sand castle you built, one specific time you jumped in the waves, or one funny thing that a seagull did. To practice differentiating between examples and anecdotes, write a 300 word essay with the thesis statement: "I have more fun with my friends." Use examples of things you enjoy doing in groups more than you enjoy doing alone, and include anecdotes of specific times when you enjoyed being with your friends more than you would have enjoyed being alone.

Paper:

Your paper is due on Monday in class! Please bring the following things:
1. Nice shiny final draft, printed.
2. Rough draft with my comments on it.
3. Peer editing form that your parner gave you AND the draft your partner commented on.

Remember as you revise that you're writing for an audience that has not been sitting in our classroom. They don't know about the character archetypes and they did not hear our discussion of The Brothers Karamazov. Take the time to explain everything, because you're writing for a person who needs everything to be very clear. This was a challenge with everyone's paper! You all need to consider your audience and make sure you're giving enough background information on your ideas for them to be understood. Assume nothing. Explain everything.

Quiz:

1. What real life person does Khattam-shud remind Haroun of?
2. What is Khattam-shud's evil plan to ruin the Sea of Stories forever?
3. What essential part do the Chupwalas remove from Butt the Hoopoe?
4. What details about Batcheat do people keep finding important to mention?
5. What language does Mudra speak, and how does Rashid communicate with him?
6. What is Mali's job and what does he look like?
7. What trick does The Walrus play on Haroun?
8. What clever wish does Haroun make to save the world?
9. What happy ending comes to the sad town that had forgotten its name?
10. What happy ending comes to Haroun and his father?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Reading Period 12: December 1-7: India

Class meeting: December 7
Due Date: December 6, 7pm

Long Read:

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, chapters 1-6

Short Read:

Preface to The Bhagavad Gita by Sri Swami Sivananda (pages 7-16 of the linked PDF).

Poem:

Poems by the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar, read by Salman Rushdie in Urdu and then in English:



This web site has more of his poems with English translations. The translations are forced into rhyme -- not sure how wonderful the poems become after this treatment.

Creative Assignment:

Create an illustration of one of the scenes in Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Use color and create your image on unlined paper. We should be able to determine which scene you are illustrating by looking at the picture.

Haroun and the Sea of Stories has been compared to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz because of its imaginative landscape and nonsense elements. The scenes and characters in these stories are absurd because they're obviously just made up out of someone's crazy imagination. However, as the novel is teaching us, such imaginary landscapes have value even in absurdity. Write a 300 word description of a made-up place like Kahani. Give it a name. You might include its origins, its inhabitants, its modes of transportation, its plants and animals, its history, its purpose, its imports and exports, its holidays, its landmarks, etc. Make sure your absurdity is on point.

Writing Assignment:

Salman Rushdie's novel, The Satanic Verses, was published in 1988. It was rejected by Muslims as blasphemy, and the Ayatollah Khomeini, then the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwa against Rushdie, ordering any Muslim who saw him to kill him. Learn more about this fatwa and write a 300 word essay about this topic. You may look for biographical information about Rushdie, for news of what the actual effects of the fatwa were at the time, information on what a fatwa is (historically and in modern times), or more about the Ayatollah Khomeini. You can use quotes from Rushdie to support your ideas, anecdotes of specific incidents, quotes from Khomeini, examples of other fatwas, etc. Whichever direction you take your essay, please cite your sources.

OR

Watch the movie, "Gandhi" from 1982, about the life of Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of the revolution in India, proponent of non-violence, and a popular spiritual leader and hero of India. Write 300 words about Gandhi's life, based on what you saw in the movie. You can include a personal response to the film -- what you thought of it and if you were inspired by Gandhi's ideas as a result. Here's the trailer for the movie, to give you a taste of what it's like:



Quiz:

1. Give a line from chapter 1 that shows you are being told a story, not just reading a book. Where does the narrator make his presence felt?
2. What is the difference between a glumfish and a pomfret?
3. What is Haroun's mother's reason for leaving?
4. Why does Haroun blame himself for his father's inability to tell stories?
5. Why does Butt not stop to pick up or deliver the mail when driving to the Dull Lake?
6. Why does Haroun think that Dull Lake is in the Moody Lands?
7. What is Haroun's second clue that the places in his father's stories might be real?
8. What is a P2C2E?
9. Why has Kahani remained invisible?
10. Who is the stranger arrested by the Guppee patrols?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reading Period 11: November 24-30: Palestine / Syria / Israel

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, by Jan Brueghel the Elder
Class meeting: November 30
Due date: November 29, 7pm

Long Read: 

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, chapters 26-34

Short Read:

Genesis 1-8 from The Holy Bible. This link takes you to the New International Version translation but if you prefer another translation, you can read that instead.

Poem:

Psalm 19 from The Holy Bible. This link takes you to the King James Version but if you prefer another you can take a look at that too.

Creative Assignment:

The Hebrew psalmists use metaphor to create images and express ideas. Choose one of these verses and create an illustration of the metaphor using colored pencils, markers, paint, crayons, etc:

1. "The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul."
2. "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."
3. "The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?"
4. "The LORD says to my lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.""
OR

Write 300 words projecting what you think will happen after the ending of The Good Earth. What will the sons do with the land? What will happen to Pear Blossom and Lotus? Keep in mind that the communist revolution is coming, and Chairman Mao is going to make some big changes. Will the family be able to hold onto the land and their money?

Writing Assignment:

Does Wang Lung love his wives? Answer this question in 300 words. Consider the word "love" and what it means to us in our western romantic tradition. Does that definition even apply here? What does "love" mean according to the book's portrayal of traditional Chinese life? Does Wang Lung love Lotus? Did he love O Lan? Pear Blossom? Use specific examples of things he did or said in the novel to show that he did or didn't love these three women. This is about your opinion, but also an exercise in finding evidence in the text to support it.

OR

The Entry of the Animals into Noah's Ark by Jan Brueghel the Elder
The assigned excerpt from the book of Genesis contains the Hebrew flood myth. There are similar flood myths in many cultures around the world. Take a look at a few examples on this page. Write 300 words comparing at least two other flood stories to the Judeo-Christian one you read in Genesis. Why do you think flood stories are common to all mythologies?

Paper:

You have your peer editing form and your partner's paper. If you need another copy of the form, check out this link. Remember that personal essays are personal, and be respectful of the expression of personal ideas and feelings in the paper. Finish marking up your partner's essay and filling out your form by next class period.

Quiz:

1. Wang Lung gets two coffins on sale. Who are they for?
2. What does Wang Lung like about Liu's daughter when she comes?
3. Why was it a good idea to put the graves on high ground?
4. Why was Wang Lung's house safe from robbing in a time of famine?
5. Why was Wang Lung's uncle and family allowed meat and tobacco when the rest of the household had none?
6. Why did they move Wang Lung's second daughter to the house of her betrothed?
7. What convinces Wang Lung that it's a good idea to move to town?
8. What is Wang Lung's reaction when Cuckoo compares him to the old lord?
9. Wang Lung's third son doesn't want to be a farmer. What does he want?
10. What did Wang Lung's uncle's wife keep beside her bed for comfort when she moved to town?
11. Who invites the soldiers into Wang Lung's house?
12. Who does Wang Lung's cousin call "Old Mistress"?
13. When Wang Lung is giving a slave to marry a farmer, he says he wants to "taste the whole flavor of the strange moment." Why? Why is it strange?
14. What does Wang Lung's youngest son want to go off and do?
15. Which slave does the youngest son find attractive and why is that a problem for Wang Lung?
16. Why does Wang Lung buy poison at the medicine shop?
17. In what house does Wang Lung want to spend his last days?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Reading Period 10: November 17-23: Saudi Arabia

Class meeting: November 23
Due date: November 22, 7pm

Long Read:

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, chapters 17-25

Short Read:

"The History of Ali Baba and of the Forty Robbers Killed By One Slave" from Arabian Nights Entertainments. (You'll have to click through to get to the table of contents and find the story.)

Poem:

Excerpt from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, translated by Edward Fitzgerald

Creative Assignment:

Practice the fine art of summary! After reading the story of Ali Baba, create a 300 word version of it. Not a 200 word version, and not a 400 word version, but a 300 word version exactly.

OR

Practice the fine art of paraphrase! After reading the excerpt from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, create a prose version of this section of the poem.

OR

Practice the fine art of illustration! Create an illustration of the tea-shop Wang Lung visits. You could do your version of the pictures on the walls, or what the tea room would have looked like, or the outside of the building. (Side note: Do you think these people know that the "tea room" in The Good Earth was actually a house of prostitution?

Writing Assignment:

Wang Lung's uncle's wife says, "It is only the poor man who must needs drink from one cup." Traditionally, having many wives was considered a sign of wealth and success. Read this Wikipedia entry about the history of concubinage in many different cultures. Nowadays, polygamists are becoming more public in American culture, as some are featured on reality TV shows like "Sister Wives" and "Big Love" and "My Five Wives." We find ourselves as a culture asking the question: Is polygamy or concubinage wrong and oppressive to women, or is it okay for consenting adults to marry or live with whomever they want? Write 300 words giving your opinion. In an opinion essay, you must actually give an opinion. Don't say "There are many ways to look at this, and all sides have merit." Actually pick a side.

OR

How does Wang Lung become like the old Lord in the House of Huang? Give specific details from the text. In some ways Wang Lung gets everything he ever dreamed of, and yet in some ways his life becomes more miserable than it was in the opening chapters. Or does wealth and ease override personal misery? Do you think that wealth and success has ruined Wang Lung or has it improved him? Write 300 words giving your opinion. In an opinion essay, you must actually give an opinion. Don't say "There are many ways to look at this, and all sides have merit." Actually pick a side.

Paper:

Your full 2000-word draft is due to me on Sunday, November 22, at 7pm. You must submit it in email or as a shared Google document. You must also bring two paper copies to class on Monday, November 23 at 10:30am. One is for me to mark up, and one is to exchange with your peer editing partner. Failure to bring these hard copies will mean you lose points on your first draft and you lose points on your peer editing.

Quiz:

1. Wang Lung has land and money, but what still shames him?
2. Why do the neighbors think the old man in the small school by the city gates is a good teacher?
3. What did the boys not have before they went to school that they now have?
4. What was the cause of Wang Lung looking at O Lan as a dull and common creature for the first time?
5. At the new tea-shop, what does Wang Lung find out about the women in the pictures on the walls?
6. How does Wang Lung change himself for Lotus?
7. What is O Lan's reaction to the Uncle's family moving in?
8. Who in the household figures out what Wang Lung is up to at the tea-shop?
9. How does Wang Lung prepare his house for Lotus?
10. What criticism does Wang Lung's Uncle's wife have of Lotus when she arrives?
11. How do Cuckoo and O Lan know each other from years ago?
12. Who calls Lotus a harlot?
13. When Wang Lung's older daughter, who they call "the fool" went into Lotus' courtyard, Lotus got angry. What is Wang Lung's reaction?
14. What changes for Wang Lung when he goes back to work in the fields?
15. Why does Wang Lung's son become melancholy, when he never was before?
16. What causes Wang Lung to try and throw his Uncle out of the house?
17. What does Wang Lung discover in his Uncle's coat, and what does it mean?
18. What "enemies from the skies" does Wang Lung want to fight?
19. What does Wang Lung discover in the inner courtyard when he comes home early?
20. O Lan complained of a fire in her vitals. What was it?

Reading Period 9: November 3 - 16: Iraq / Iran

Class meeting: November 16
Due Date: November 15, 7pm

Long Read:

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, chapters 9-16

Short Read:

"The Story of Sinbad the Sailor" from Arabian Nights Entertainments, told by Andrew Lang
"The Adventures of Haroun Al Raschid, Caliph of Baghdad" from Arabian Nights Entertainments, told by Andrew Lang.

Poem:

"Recollections of Arabian Nights" by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Creative Assignment:

Listen to the Scheherazade symphonic suite by Rimsky Korsakov. The video I linked to has no visuals, so you can listen to it while you read or do your art. Here's something you should read: this article about Scheherazade the storyteller. It was written to accompany the Scheherazade suite. Now create an illustration of Scheherazade telling her stories to the sultan, using whatever medium you like. You can do a line drawing, a watercolor painting, a paper collage, or even create a Lego minifig tableau.

OR

Here in Norfolk, we do not have enclaves of beggars living with children in huts made of reed mats, like Wang Lung's family. However, we do have soup kitchens, not dissimilar to the rice kitchen in The Good Earth, and we do have homeless people who do occasionally beg at street corners or on sidewalks, using handwritten signs or tin cups to inspire charity and collect money. Often they are harrassed, ignored, made to move on from public spaces, and ridiculed. Do some research as to the help and benefits available to homeless people in your town. Look at the web sites for Union Mission Ministries, For Kids, and The Salvation Army Emergency Men's Shelter. Write a letter to city council regarding begging in the city of Norfolk. Should people be allowed to beg on the street? Are there enough resources available? Your position should either be that people should be allowed to beg without being bothered, or that beggars should be picked up by the police. If you take the second position, please say what should happen to them at that point.

OR

Build a functional rickshaw. It can be full sized, American Girl doll sized, or smaller as long as you have built it and not just found a Playmobil rickshaw or whatever, if such a thing exists. (Oh look, IT DOES!) It must be able to carry a rider and be pulled around on wheels.

Writing Assignment:

Read about the Chinese Revolution of 1911. Write a 300 word essay about what happened in the revolution, including the causes of this revolution. To support your reasoning, give evidence from The Good Earth. Where do you see injustice in the novel? Consider what Wang Lung's family had to go through, and his neighbor's ominous line: “When the rich are too rich, there are ways.”

OR

Pearl S. Buck's novel, published in 1931, created sympathy for the Chinese people and support for their government, which had arisen from the revolution of 1911 as portrayed in the book. Read these critiques of The Good Earth from the time it was published:

Since Mrs. Buck does not understand the meaning of the Confucian separation of man’s kingdom from that of woman, she is like someone trying to write a story of the European Middle Ages without understanding the rudiments of chivalric standards and the institution of Christianity. None of her major descriptions is correct except in minor details.... Its implied comparison between Western and Eastern ways is unjust to the latter.
                                                    Younghill Kang in The New Republic, 1931 

Mrs. Buck has enabled us to witness and appreciate the patience, frugality, industry, and indomitable good humor of a suffering people, whose homes the governing intellectuals would hide from the sight of the world.
                                                      editorial in The New York Times, 1931 

One of the main reasons Americans felt such sympathy for rural Chinese people after reading The Good Earth was because of their horror of things that were a natural part of Confucianism -- like the inequality between men and women, the duties to parents, etc. as we discussed in class. Do you think that critics of The Good Earth have a point, when they say that an American person writing about Chinese culture could not possibly understand or communicate the struggles and experience of that culture? Or do you think that her attempt to write about Chinese life was worthy and had merit? Maybe a book that Americans sympathetic to the Chinese would be valuable, even if the reasoning involved is faulty. You can discuss in your essay whether outsiders should be allowed to write about native cultures in this way, or if they should only write about their own experiences in these countries as foreigners.

The Xinhai Revolution, 1911


Memorization:

We are going to memorize a stanza from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam in class. It's not included in the excerpt linked above. If you'd like to get a jump on it, here it is:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
 Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
   Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
 Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

Paper:

Your full first draft is due on Sunday, November 22 at 7pm. To make sure you are not leaving it until the last days to work on, I'm going to require half of it to be turned in on Sunday the 15th at 7pm. It must be typed and submitted in email or as a shared Google document. 

Quiz:

1. Who gets to eat first, in Wang Lung's household, when they find any food?
2. What kind thing does the neighbor Ching do for Wang Lung and his household?
3. What happened to the fourth baby?
4. What does Wang Lung's uncle want when he visits in chapter 9?
5. What is a fire wagon?
6. What instructions does Wang Lung receive for survival in the southern city, from people who have been in the south before?
7. Why do poor people have to eat the charity rice while they're still in the building, and not take it home?
8. At one point in chapter 12, Wang Lung stops feeling like such a foreigner in the city. Why?
9. What is the cause of the "angry growling" talk among the young men of the city?
10. What is inside the wall next to which Wang Lung has been living?
11. Why does Wang Lung see himself differently from the other men in the huts?
12. What is on the piece of paper given to Wang Lung by the tall man with blue eyes?
13. Wang Lung witnesses common men being taken against their will by armed soldiers. Where are they being taken?
14. What are Wang Lung and O Lan discussing just when the gates of the city are breached?
15. What does Wang Lung take away from the raid on the great house?
16. How does Wang Lung repay Ching's kindness?
17. What did O Lan take away from the raid?
18. What does O Lan want to keep, from all her stolen treasures?
19. Who answers Wang Lung's knock at the House of Huang?
20. Who is now in charge of the House of Huang?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Reading Period 8: October 27 - November 2: China

Long Read: 

The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, chapters 1-8

Short Read: 

The Analects of Confucius, Book 1.

Poetry:

The Tao Te Ching, chapters 1-37

Note: We will spend a considerable amount of class time in discussing Taoism and Confucianism, and it will be enormously helpful if you read a bit of both of these texts.

Creative Assignment: 

Consider the significance of the color red in the novel -- in Wang Lung's celebrations of his first son's birth, for example. Read this article about the meaning of color in Chinese culture. Now write a poem which features colors. You can write about an idea or image or event, using color to help you describe your theme, or you can write about a color itself. You can interpret a color according to the traditional Chinese symbolism or in your own way.

OR

Wang Lung makes two trips to the House of Huang -- the first when he meets Olan, and the second when he returns to show off his son. Create two illustrations to reflect the differences in those two trips. How has his identity changed? How have the visuals changed? How has his posture and attitude changed?

Writing Assignment:

Research and write a short essay (300 words) about Pearl S. Buck's life. Focus on the elements that qualify her to write about China, and include in your essay an assessment of whether or not her interpretation of Chinese culture could be authentic and believable, even though she is not Chinese. This article is a good place to start, and has many links to other resources. Make sure you cite any site you use for information.

OR

Based only on evidence from the novel, write a short essay (300 words) describing women's role in rural Chinese society in the early 20th century (around 1910.) Make sure you cite specific examples from the story to illustrate your points. What do women do? What is their value? Where do they have power and where are they powerless? Based on the novel, what rights do you think they had? Who was in control of them?

Quiz:

The quiz is over The Good Earth, chapters 1-8.

1. What important change has happened in Wang Lung's life between the time he wakes up at the beginning of chapter 1 and the time he goes to bed?
2. What is one small change in chapter 2 that is a result of the big change in chapter 1?
3. Give an example of one Chinese custom in chapter 1 that seems odd to you. For example: Wang Lung's wife walking behind him.
4. Give an example of one Chinese custom that seems normal and familiar to you. For example: Wang Lung insulting the food while secretly thinking it's great.
5. Who is working harder on the farm -- Wang Lung or the woman?
6. What plan for the future does the woman reveal in chapter 3?
7. What are the causes of Wang Lung's bountiful harvest?
8. What are the causes of Wang Lung's uncle's pitiful harvest?
9. What did Olan take as a gift for the mistress of the House of Huang?
10. What are the causes of the Huang's financial troubles?
11. What causes does Wang Lung's uncle blame for the uncle's poverty in chapter 7?
12. The family calls the firstborn son a "man." What do they call the girl child?
13. Who slaughtered the ox, and why?
14. Why was Wang Lung not sorry that he had bought land with his silver, even though now they are starving?


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Reading Period 7: October 20 - 26: Malaysia / Singapore

What? You finished my novel? But it was so long!
Class meeting: October 26
Due date: October 25, 7pm

Long Read:

The Brothers Karamazov, Book 12 and the Epilogue: The end!

There is no short read this week. Work on filling out your Novel Autopsy Report for The Brothers Karamazov and bring it to class on Monday with any questions or empty spaces you have. We'll work on filling in the rest of it in class, but you will be turning it in at the end of class for me to look at and grade, so please get as much done as you can at home. Another link to the blank form:

Novel Autopsy Report

Poetry:

"Unggun Bersih" by A Samad Said. Click here to read an article about this poem and poet, and here to read the poem in Malay.

Creative Assignment:

In your Novel Autopsy Report you're asked to make a list of significant objects in the novel. Illustrate this list in a collage, using any medium -- drawing, painting, color, etc. Include at least 5 objects in your illustration.

OR

Take a look at a few Malaysian bloggers. Here's a list to get you started:

Kenny Sia
Kit Siang
Jane Chuck
Cheeserland

Consider all the different reasons people blog: personal diaries, parenthood, fashion, food reviews and recipes, movies and technology -- pretty much anything people want to talk about or share opinions about. Now think of a blog you'd like to write. To complete this assignment, you'll need a title, a description of your blog, and a list of five post titles.

Writing Assignment:

Until fifty years ago, Singapore was an undeveloped island, a former outpost of the British Empire. Watch this video about modern Singapore. Write 300 words about the city state of Singapore, highlighting at least three things that make Singapore a unique place in the world. You may want to mention the rapid urbanization, the drinking water, and Palau Ubin. In your conclusion, tell whether you'd want to live in Singapore.



OR

Write 300 words giving your opinion: Who killed Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov? Consider the suspects presented at the trial, but also consider oher people in the novel who may have had some responsibility in the crime. I will accept any answer, including an accusation that you or I killed him, as long as it's argued reasonably.

Quiz:

This quiz is over book 12  and the Epilogue of The Brothers Karamazov.

Book 12: 
1. Of whom did Mitya say "He was a dog and he died like a dog!"
2. How does the lawyer discredit Ratikin's testimony?
3. What did the doctor buy for Mitya when he was a child?
4. What proof does Alyosha have that Dmitri is not lying?
5. a. What physical evidence does Ivan present?
    b. What physical evidence does Katya present?
6. What does the prosecutor say the REAL Dmitri Karamazov would have done with the money sewed up in the bag?
7. How does the prosecutor combat the argument that Dmitri wrote the suspicious letter when he was drunk?
8. Tell three words the prosecutor uses to describe Smerdyakov.
9. What does the prosecutor say that Mitya's plan was, when he was on the way to Mokroye to see Grushenka?
10. The prosecutor said that Dmitri ran back to Grigory to see whether he was alive or dead, but why does the defense attorney say he ran back?
11. According to the defense attorney, who is the only person who ever saw Fyodor Pavlovich's money stash?
12. Who does the defense attorney suggest is the real murderer?
13. What does the defense attorney say will happen if the jury acquits Dmitri?
14. What is the verdict?

Epilogue:
1. What is Alyosha trying to get Katya to do?
2. From who does Katya beg forgiveness while visiting Mitya?
3. What does Alyosha tell the children is the highest and strongest thing, the most wholesome and important thing for their lives in the future?

BONUS: What do you think? Isn't it kind of cool how Alyosha gets to end the book?

Uh, not that Alyosha.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Reading Period 6: October 13 - 19: Philippines / Indonesia

Alas Smerdyakov. You were a jerk.
Class meeting: October 19
Due date: October 18, 7pm

Long Read:

The Brothers Karamazov, Book 11.

Short Read:

"The Summer Solstice" by Nick Joaquin

Nicomedes Márquez Joaquín is a literary hero from the Philippines, writing in English. This is one of his iconic stories, published just after World War II.

Poem:

Rizal's execution.
"Mi Último Adiós" by Jose Rizal

Scroll down to see a side by side translation of this poem, written days before Rizal's execution, in Spanish, English, and Tagalog. Take a quick peak at Rizal's biography to see why he was shot by the Spanish.



Creative Assignment:

Illustrate the scene in "The Summer Solstice" when the parade of women comes down the street during the Feast of John the Baptist. What do the women look like and what does the statue look like? Try to capture the feeling in the scene that lead Don Paeng to feel angry.

OR

Philippine poet Jose Rizal created a sculpture called "The Power of Science Over Death." He spent much of his life speaking against the Catholic church and the Jesuits, as they had a hand in colonizing and oppressing the Philippines with the Spanish government. It is rumored that he retracted his anti-Catholic sentiments on the eve of his execution, and got officially married, and was blessed by a priest. After reading about Rizal and his rejection of Catholocism (and his questionable retraction of said rejection), create your own piece of art with this title. It can be a sculpture, a drawing, a collage, or a digital work -- whatever works to express the theme of the title in your own way.

OR

Pretend you are going to be executed for your political resistance to the oppressive regime under which you live. Write a poem titled "My Final Goodbye."

Writing Assignment:

Research and read about this week's poet, Philippine author Jose Rizal. He has been called the Philippine Joan of Arc for his against the Spanish colonial government. Write a 300 word essay summarizing his biography.

OR

Write a eulogy to be spoken at Smerdyakov's funeral. Remember not to speak ill of the dead. In your eulogy, try to defend the position that his suicide was not his fault -- it was everyone else's fault.

Paper:

Your long writing assignment this semester will be a personal essay. You will write on the topic of family identity and personal individuality, in the context of the Karamazov brothers and the character archetypes we have been discussing. In your paper, you'll define your own family's collective character, and also your identity within the family and as an individual. This will be a great way for you to use the insights we've been gaining on The Brothers Karamazov, and also good practice for writing college or award essays. We will also be submitting your final drafts to the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards in the Personal Essay category. Take a look at some of the other categories (there are art categories too) to see if any others interest you.

On Monday, you'll turn in your thesis statement. "We are _____. I am ______." Read this example of a similar personal essay to inspire you.

Due dates:

Thesis Statement: October 19
Outline Draft: October 26
Outline Revision: November 9
First Draft: November 23
Peer Revision: November 30
Final Draft: December 14

Comic by Anne Emond


Quiz:

The quiz covers The Brothers Karamazov, Book 11.

1. What change does Alyosha notice in Grushenka?
2. Why is Madame Khokhlakova upset about the article in the St. Petersburg Tattler?
3. Who is the man that Lise called to come visit her so she could tell him about the pineapple compote and the tortured boy? He laughed at her...
4. a. Why does Dmitri feel sorry for God?
    b. What is the big secret Dmitri tells Alyosha?
5. What was in Lise's note to Ivan, judging from his reaction?
6. What does Ivan accuse Smerdyakov of faking?
7. a. Of what is Smerdyakov accusing Ivan? He doesn't accuse Ivan of actually killing Fyodor Pavlovich but of what?
    b. What does Ivan conclude after he reads Dmitri's letter to Katya?
8. What does Smerdyakov confess to Ivan and what is his physical proof?
9. Who is Ivan's visitor and why does he appear?
10. What does Alyosha believe has driven Ivan crazy?

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Reading Period 5: October 6 - 12: Thailand / Myanmar

In Imperial Russia, everything comes in threes. 
Class meeting: October 12
Due Date: October 11, 7pm

Long Read:

The Brothers Karamazov, Books 9 & 10

Short Read:

"On my Way to See the Buddha" by Willard van de Bogart. This is a personal essay written by an American about visiting a rural shrine in Thailand that combines Hindu and Buddhist traditions. He includes descriptions of local village life and a lot of interesting illustrations.

Poems:

"Mandalay" by Rudyard Kipling (more about Rudyard Kipling)
"Chin" by Mya Kabyar (more about Mya Kabyar)

Creative Assignment:

As requested, here is your knot-tying creative assignment option! First, watch this video on Chinese decorative knot tying:



Extending our knot-tying activity from Monday's class, use your extra paracord to tie two more knots, chosen from this list:

Emperor's Snake Knot
Double Coin Knot
Dragonfly Knot
Monkey Fist

OR

Thai cuisine is enormously popular in this country. Read this page about the history and characteristics of Thai food, and then try at least one of the recipes on the page. Document your efforts with photographs and write up a commentary on the cooking process and the end result.

OR

We talked in class about the fable of the onion and the quote: "I may be wicked, but still I gave an onion." Lots of people have used this and other quotes from The Brothers Karamazov to inspire tattoo designs. Choose a famous quote from the book and create a tattoo for yourself based on it. You can use part or all of one of these quotes or choose another:

"In sorrow, seek happiness."
"I may be wicked, but still I gave an onion."
"Above all, don't lie to yourself."
"You are trying to save me."
"Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible."
"Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams."
"Life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we refuse to see it."
"Everything passes; only truth remains."
"Forgive me for my love, for ruining you with my love."

Writing Assignment:

In book 9 chapter 9, the police captain tells Dmitri Karamazov, "We are all ready to recognize that you are, at bottom, a man of honor, but alas, one who has been carried away by certain passions to a somewhat excessive degree." In our society, we have always dealt less harshly with someone who has been "carried away by certain passions" than we have with people who have dispassionately plotted a crime. Write a short essay (300 words) in which you explain the legal difference between a "crime of passion" and a crime that is "premeditated." Use examples to illustrate your point. In your essay, explain why it's possible to forgive the first and punish the second, and say whether you think that is fair, if the crime is the same. If someone murders their father on impulse, and another person plans and plots the murder, the father is still dead. Should they be treated differently?

OR

Over the last 100 years, several different proposals have been put forward for creating a canal through Thailand's isthmus, to connect the Gulf of Thailand with the Andaman Sea. Do some research on this topic (you can start here) and write a short essay (300 words) introducing the topic and then outlining at least three possible effects of such a canal. You can talk about positive and negative effects. Think about the structure of your essay before you begin, and start a new paragraph when you talk about a different effect. Your conclusion should mention why you think the project has been talked about for hundreds of years but never goes anywhere. Bonus points for comparing this situation with the one in Panama, which we discussed last semester.

Quiz:

Book 9
1. What two people does Pyotr Ilyich Perkotin question about Mitya's actions?
2. What (possible) murder weapon was found on the garden path?
3. Mitya receives good news for which he says he has prayed all night. What is it?
4. Although he is mostly very forthcoming with his testimony, what info does Mitya say he must withhold from the police?
5. Why does Mitya say the murderer is NOT Smerdyakov?
"Thanks for reading my novel." --FD
6. Why does Mitya say the murderer IS Smerdyakov?
7. Mitya has an explanation for why he was so broke earlier in the day and so flush with money in th evening. So where did he get the money he was spending so excessively in Mokroye?
8. Witnesses against Mitya are examined in his presence. Who is the last witness to be questioned?
9. When Mitya is being carted away, who does he ask for forgiveness, and what do they answer?

Book 10
1. What bet did Kolya Kossotkin take at the railway station, that established him as a desperate character?
2. Why does Kolya have to wait for Agafya to return before he can go out?
3. When Kolya asks the peasant for forgiveness, what does the peasant say?
4. Why does Ilusha feel guilty about the dog named Zhutchka?
5. What secret has Kolya been keeping about his dog Perezvon.
6. What does Kolya admit is the reason he didn't come to se Ilusha sooner?
7. What is the doctor's prediction for Ilusha?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Reading Period 4: September 29 - October 5: Vietnam / Cambodia / Laos

Class meeting: October 5
Due date: October 4, 7pm

Long Read:

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Books 7-8.

Short Read:

"Xiang Miang Outwits the King": a Lao Folk Tale.

Read the story here, then watch this video of a Laotian man telling the story. The words aren't exactly the same, but here you can hear the language.



Poem:

"Song of Napalm" by Bruce Weigl

For other poetry by Vietnam war veterans see this page.

"What Were They Like?" by Denise Levertov

Creative Assignment:

Illustrate the spring onion parable, from book 7, chapter 4. You can do it as a comic, or as just one image, or a series of images, or however you like. You can make it funny, horrific, or instructive.

OR

Buddhism is the dominant religion in Laos. Create an illustration Pha That Luang, the golden Buddhist temple in Vientiane, Laos. Use unlined paper and colored markers, pencils or crayons to make your artwork.

OR

Write a letter to Grushenka. Pretend you are a conservative, critical old aunt and you have heard of the doings at Mokroye and are furious with her. Preach to her, reprimand her, advise her, and lecture her. Use specific details from the novel to point out her mistakes,

Writing Assignment:

Having read the two poems assigned for this week, ask yourself this question: Can anyone write a war protest poem? Or do you have to have fought in the war to protest against it? The first of the poems was written by a veteran, and the other one was written by someone who lived through the war but did not fight. Knowing what you know about the authors, does it affect the way you read the poetry? Do you feel the one written by a veteran has more weight, more authenticity? Write 300 words where you discuss the role of the author's biography in your interpretation of a poem, in the context of these two war poems.

Read this page, about the temples at Angkor, including the central temple of Angkor Wat and the temple of Ta Prohm. The temple of Ta Prohm has been allowed to deteriorate as a result of trees breaking up the stones and walls. The central temple of Angkor Wat has been lovingly and expensively restored. Check out some more pictures of Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat. Now pretend you are writing a letter to a rich donor to archeological and historical sites. Make your case that the target of your letter should donate money to preserving one of these temples. In your letter, argue that it's better to clean up and restore the temple to its original state OR argue that it's better to protect and preseve the temple as it falls into natural decay.

Quiz:

Book 7
1. What is strange and disappointing about Father Zosima's corpse?
2. Who says, "I did believe, I do believe, and I want to believe and I shall believe"?
3. What is the rumor about how Grushenka came to be in a state of poverty before she was rescued by Kusma Kusmich Samsonov and set up to live at Mrs. Morozova's?
4. Who speaks to Alyosha in his dream?

Mitya and Grushenka living it up in Mokroye
Book 8
1. a. Why does Mitya feel he must return the 3000 rubles to Katerina Ivanovna?
    b. Who does Mitya first approach, to get the money?
    c. Who does this first person send him on to ask?
2. Why does Mitya have so much trouble getting Lurcher to negotiate with him?
3. Who does Mitya ask for money next, and what is that person's suggestion for him?
4. a. When Mitya sees his father sticking his head out the window, who is his father calling for?
    b. What state is Grigory in when Mitya leaves him?
    c. Where has Grushenka gone?
5. What two things does Pyotr Ilyich find surprising about Mitya's appearance?
6.  What five people are staying at the inn when Mitya arrives?
7. a. Exactly how much money does Mitya offer the Polish gentleman in exchange for him leaving.
    b. How does Grushenka now feel about the Polish gentlemen she ran away with?
8. When Mitya says "The old man's blood! I understand!" what old man does he mean? And what old man does the police chief think he means?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Reading Period 3: September 22 - 28: Korea

Class meeting: September 28
Due date: September 27, 7pm

Long Read:

The Brothers Karamazov, Books 5-6

Short Read:

Four Korean Folk Tales by Susan Crowder Han

Poem:

Ten Poems of the Joseon Dynasty.



Creative Assignment:

Choose one!

There ya go. Recipe done.
In Book 5, Chapter 3, Alyosha and Ivan eat fish soup, tea, and cherry preserve. Russian fish soup is called uhka, and there are many variations and recipes. Create your own menu for this meal, and serve it to yourself or others. You can interpret ukha and cherry preserve however you like, but do take pictures, show your recipes, and post to the Google+ community.

OR

This section references three Bible stories: Cain, Joseph, and Job. Read all three of these stories in the bible, using this index to find them. Create a mash-up comic that uses characters from each one. How would Joseph react to Cain? How would Cain feel about Job's problems? Think about the role of brotherhood in each of these stories, and the role of suffering inflicted by god and suffering inflicted by men, and see what you can come up with when they all meet. Maybe they're all doing their laundry. Maybe they're all trying to order a pizza.

OR

If you are not reading The Brothers Karamazov: What is K-Pop? Choose a music video that perfectly exemplifies K-pop music, and link to it, explaining what K-Pop is and why this song/video is a good example. For bonus points, dress yourself (and your friends?) as K-Pop stars, and take a photo.

Writing Assignment:

Choose one!

Voltaire is the "old sinner" that Ivan references in Book 5, chapter 3. He is quoted as saying this: ": "Si Dieu n'existait pas, il faudrait l'inventer" ("If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him"). This quote came from Voltaire's letter to the author of a book called The Three Impostors, which was a critique of religion. Read Voltaire's letter here. It's in French but you can scroll down for the English translation (or have a look at the French, if you're in French class!). Now pretend that you are friends with the author of The Three Impostors. He comes over to your house, holding this letter in his hand, and he just doesn't understand! Does Voltaire believe in God or doesn't he? Is he for religion or against it? It's too difficult to figure out what Voltaire is saying! In a short essay (250 words) paraphrase Voltaire's argument in this letter, for your friend the atheist. You can go paragraph by paragraph and put the letter into your own words, or you can take the idea and run with it, capturing the essense of the argument.

OR

These Korean train tracks meet in infinity.
Ivan talks about parallel lines possibly meeting somewhere in infinity, a reference to the writings of Nikolai Lobachevsky, a Russian mathematician. Write a short essay in which you answer the following questions: Why has no one been able to prove Euclid's fifth axiom? What did Lobachevsky publish in his Imaginary Geometry and what impact did it have on Einstein's work? What is hyperbolic geometry and who is Bernhard Riemann?

OR

If you are not reading The Brothers Karamazov, write a short essay answering this question: Why is Korea divided into North Korea and South Korea? When did the division happen and what foreign countries controlled and supported which side?  Make sure you use quotation marks for direct quotes from your source, and list the sites where you learned about it, if you didn't already know.

What a hussar looks like.
Quiz:

This quiz covers The Brothers Karamazov books 5 and 6. Remember you can use your book to help you answer these questions, arranged by book and chapter. Send me an email with your answers!

BOOK 5
1. Why does Alyosha want to marry Lise?
2. In the garden of his father's neighbor, Alyosha disturbs a man singing to a woman. Who is the man and who is the woman?
3. Fill in the blank: Ivan says he does accept _____ but he does not accept _______.
4. Ivan can understand the need for suffering, but whose suffering can he not understand?
5. Who is the prisoner in Ivan's tale, The Grand Inquisitor?
6.     a. What medical condition does Smerdyakov reveal he suffers from?
        b. What secret signal did Smerdyakov tell Dmitri?
7. Where is Ivan headed, in the morning, and where does Fyodor Pavlovich want him to go instead? Which place does he end up going?

BOOK 6
1. Which brother does Father Zossima want Alyosha to seek out, to prevent something terrible from happening?
2.     a. Give one example of an enlightened idea that came to Father Zossima's brother when he was dying.
        b. What was the outcome of the duel, and why?
        c. How did Father Zossima's "mysterious visitor" confess his crime?
3.     a. List one example of how life in the monastery is liberating and free.
        b. Give an example of Father Zossima's advice for life.
        c. What is hell? Give Father Zossima's answer.
(15 questions in all)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Reading Period 2: Sept 15-21: Japan

Class meeting: September 21
Due date: September 20, 7pm

Long Read:

The Brothers Karamazov Books 3-4

Short Read:

"Bamboo Hats for Jizo: The Grateful Statues"

Read the story at the link above, a direct translation from the Japanese, with the Japanese characters on the page. You should know that the Ojizou-sama were roadside statues of deities.

Thanks for the hats, buddy.


Poem:

Haiku poems are the quintessential Japanese poetry, and also an impossible translation puzzle. Traditional haiku contain a "cutting word," or kireji, and these words have no English translation. Traditional haiku also juxtapose two different elements and contain seasonal words. Check out this page, which has a whole lot of haiku poems from the most famous writer (and possibly inventor) of haiku, Matsuo Basho.

Creative Assignment:

Write three haiku poems. Your poems must use seasonal words from this list of 500 seasonal words. Your haiku must communicate a juxtaposition of two elements. If you can find a simple hut to write them in, do that. If not, at least try to "rest aloof of odious common living."

OR

Read Schiller's poem "Ode to Joy" and listen to its musical setting by Beethoven. Consider why Dmitri Fyodorovich would want to begin his confession with this poem? What, in it, would speak to him? Pull at least three lines or stanzas from the poem and explain why those particular sentiments would feel important or sympathetic to Dmitri.

User Eliz7 on DeviantArt


Writing Assignment:

Sort the four Karamazov brothers (now you know there are four, right?) into Hogwart's houses. Dmitri, Ivan, Alexei, and Smerdyakov. Which would be a Slytherin? Which a Ravenclaw? And why? If you aren't a Harry Potter fan, try sorting them into Dungeons and Dragons classes: Warrior, Cleric, Mage, and Thief. Or into Divergent factions, or races of Middle Earth. We're going to be talking about character archetypes. Start by thinking of these four brothers in the categories most familiar to you from literature you like. You could even compare them to the types represented by the sisters in Pride and Prejudice! Write a 300 word essay explaining how you would "sort" them, if they were eleven-year-olds and you were the sorting hat. Must have four categories. Is Dmitri Dauntless? Is Ivan Erudite?

OR

If you are not reading The Brothers Karamazov, please write a 300 word essay on one of the following topics: Noh theater, the Shinto religion, or Samurai warriors. Make sure you write the paper in your own words and cite the web sites or books where you got your information.

Quiz:

The quiz covers books 3 and 4 of The Brothers Karamazov. Questions are numbered to show in which book and chapter the answer can be found. Quizzes are always open book!

Book 3

1. At the time the story takes place, who lives in Fyodor Pavlovich's main house and who lives in the "outhouse"? (Not an outhouse like an outdoor toilet, in this case!)
2. Who are Smerdyakov's mother and father?
3. Where was Alyosha headed off to when he runs into Mitya leaning over his father's neighhor's fence?
4. What two things did Mitya consider doing, on the night Katerina Ivanovna visited him, before he decided to give her the money?
5. a. Why is Mitya breaking off his engagement to Katerina Ivanovna?
     b. Why does Mitya owe Katerina Ivanovna 3000 rubles?
     c. What is in an envelope in Fyodor Pavlovich's house?
     d. Why is Dmitri staying at Fyodor Pavlovich's neighbor's house?
     e. What is Mitya worried he might do?
6. What is Smerdyakov's job in Fyodor Pavlovich's house?
7. To what person is Smerdyakov directing his hostil arguments on religious faith?
8. Fyodor Pavlovich asks if God exists. What does Alyosha say and what does Ivan say?
9. Who is the "she" in the cry "She's here!"
10. a. Does Katerina Ivanovna know about the squandered rubles?
      b. Does Katerina Ivanovna know about Dmitri fooling around with Grushenka?
11. a. In Dmitri's last speech in this chapter he says, "Do you see, here, just here--" What gesture does he make while delivering this line?
      b. What does Lise confess in a letter to Alexei?

Book 4

1. What vision does Father Therapon have at the Abbot's?
2. How is Fyodor Pavlovich feeling about Mitya today? Give your answer and then give a direct quote to support it.
3. What physical damage does the schoolboy do to Alyosha?
4. Did Alyosha take Lise's letter seriously?
5. a. What has Katerina Ivanovna decided to do, with regard to Dmitri?
     b. Why is Katerina Ivanovna sending 200 rubles to the staff sergeant?
6. What does the staff sergeant do with the 200 rubles?
(24 questions in all)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Reading Period 1: Sept 8-14: Russia

Look! It's a classic Russian novel! 
Class meeting: September 14
Due date: September 13, 7pm
(Late assignments will receive half credit for one week, then no credit.)

Long Read:

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Book 1 and 2

Short Read:

"The Two Brothers" by Leo Tolstoy

Poetry:

"The Bronze Horseman" by Aleksandr Pushkin

Creative Assignment:

Choose one creative assignment from the two options below. When you've finished your assignment, scan it or copy it and post it in the Google+ community. Part of your assignment is to look at the work of your classmates and comment.

Take a virtual tour of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York. This is a contemporary Russian Orthodox monastery right here in the USA. Then watch this slide show of pictures showing Russian Orthodox monks in different time periods. And visit this web site, for the monastery that Dostoevsky visited while he was developing The Brothers Karamazov. Now using descriptions from the book (beginning in Book 2) and inspired by the images you have seen, create an illustration of Father Zossima in his cell. Use as many details as you can.

OR

Take a virtual tour of the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York. This is a contemporary Russian Orthodox monastery right here in the USA. Click around on their web site and read some of the descriptions and welcome text. Visit this web site, for the monastery that Dostoevsky visited while he was developing The Brothers Karamazov. Now write a 250 word introduction to a welcome page on a pretend web site for the monastery in The Brothers Karamazov. What options are available for someone who wants to visit? What are the interesting features a tourist would want to check out? Make it sound intriguing and be sure you include a push for donations.

OR

If you are not reading The Brothers Karamazov, here is an alternate assignment: Create an illustration for the story, "The Two Brothers." Make it obvious from your drawing which part of the story you're showing us.

Writing Assignment:

Choose one writing assignment from the two options below. When you've finished your assignment, scan it or copy it and post it in the Google+ community. Part of your assignment is to look at the work of your classmates and comment.

Consider this quote from Father Zossima:

Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love, and in order to occupy and distract himself without love he gives way to passions and coarse pleasures, and sinks to bestiality in his vices, all from continual lying to other men and to himself. The man who lies to himself can be more easily offended than anyone. You know it is sometimes very pleasant to take offence, isn’t it? A man may know that nobody has insulted him, but that he has invented the insult for himself, has lied and exaggerated to make it picturesque, has caught at a word and made a mountain out of a molehill — he knows that himself, yet he will be the first to take offence, and will revel in his resentment till he feels great pleasure in it, and so pass to genuine vindictiveness.

What does he mean by "it is sometimes very pleasant to take offence"? Can you think of an example of someone finding pleasure in taking offense, on the news or in current events, maybe in your personal interactions? Where do we draw the line between someone being too sensitive, making a mountain out of a molehill, and someone being legitimately offended? How can you tell? Write a 250 word essay giving your thoughts on this topic, including one real life example.

OR

Do some Russian history research online! Tell me everything you can about Tsar Alexander II in a 250 word essay. Cite your sources by linking to any web sites you used, at the end of your essay. The essay should be in your own words but you can use quotes from your sources, if they're in quotation marks. Here are some web sites to look at: Russiapedia, Alexander Palace, History.com. You can also search for documentaries on YouTube.

OR

If you are not reading The Brothers Karamazov, here is an alternative assignment:  Write a 250 word essay on one of the following topics: The Trans-Siberian Railroad, the prison camps in Siberia (either in Imperial Russia or Soviet Russia or both), or the three species of humans who have inhabited Siberia.

Quiz:

This quiz covers The Brothers Karamazov, books 1 and 2. You may use your books to answer the questions! Please email me your answers. If you like, you can copy and paste the questions into an email or a document, then write the answers after each question. If you use a Google document to write your quiz, please still copy and paste the questions and answers into the body of an email to me. Do not post them to the Google+ community. Your answers don't need to be detailed, but try to use complete sentences where it makes sense to do so. The quiz is organized by book and chapter, so you'll know where to find the answers if you're stuck. This may be confusing at first but hopefully will be helpful in the long run.

BOOK 1
1. What happened to Fyodor's first wife?
2. Who raised Mitya?
3. a.What happened to Fyodor's second wife?
    b. List Fyodor's sons and each one's mother.
4. Which son is the narrator's favorite?
5. a. What is an Elder (or in some translations Starets)?
    b.  At the end of book 1, the characters are planning to meet up. Where will they meet?

BOOK 2
1. Who is Pyotr Alexandrovich Miusov?
2. a. What does Fyodor tell Father Zossima about himself? What name does he call himself?
     b.  What advice does Father Zossima give to Fyodor?
     c.  What is Miusov's attitude toward Fyodor?
3. How old is Mrs. Kholakova's daughter?
4. a. How are Madame Hohlakov and Lise different from the other people at the gate? How are they the same?
     b. What does Lise reveal about herself and Alexei?

5. Who wrote the article that is upsetting Father Paisy?
6. a. Who does Dmitri blame for his having been late to the meeting?
    b. What dispute with Dmitri does Fyodor explain to Father Zossima?
7. Before the banquet, what does Ratikin predict will happen?
8. a. Why does Fyodor denounce the monastery? What is his reasoning?
     b. What is Father Superior's reaction to Fyodor?
     c.  What does Fyodor demand that Alexei do, after the banquet?
     d. Which brother is going home with Fyodor?
 (22 questions total)