Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Reading Period 19: Feb 24 - Mar 2: Pleasant, Cheerful Snobbery and Orchestras

Long Read: 

The Great Gatsby, chapters 7-8.

Short Read: 

"The Catbird Seat" by James Thurber


e.e. cummings:
All in green went my love riding
Buffalo Bill's
anyone lived in a pretty how town
my father moved through dooms of love

Hart Crane:
At Melville's Tomb
To Emily Dickinson

Creative Assignment: 

Create a drawing or painting to illustrate some of the annoying phrases that Mrs. Barrows uses in "The Catbird Seat." For example: Are you lifting the oxcart out of the ditch? Are you tearing up the pea patch? Are you hollering down the rain barrel? Are you scraping around the bottom of the pickle barrel? Are you sitting in the catbird seat? Show at least two in your artwork, and use the characters of Mrs. Barrows and Mr. Martin as your subjects. Scan it or photograph it and post it to the Google+ Community.


We discussed in class how imagist poets pared down their words to the fewest they could possibly include and still get across their meaning. Choose any poem in your American poetry book that we've read -- from last semester or this semester. Make it a long one! Now pare it down to the smallest possible amount of words you can. You don't have to include all the ideas in the poem, just the one you think is most important. Imagine yourself sitting, as Pound might have, agonizing over every word in "In a Station of the Metro."

Writing Assignment:

What are "foil" characters? Read about this literary device here. Then write a short essay about foil characters in "The Catbird Seat" and The Great Gatsby. How does Thurber contrast Mr. Martin with Mrs. Barrows to show their differences and highlight their character traits? What traits does each one possess, and how do their play off each other in the story? How does Fitzgerald use the contrast between George Wilson and Tom Buchanan to show their differences? What is he showing us about Tom Buchanan by contrasting him with George Wilson? Or are Buchanan and Gatsby better foils?


Read this article about Ezra Pound's anti-semitism. The Canto referenced here is the one we read for class -- the one about "usura." Reflect on your feelings about Pound's behavior and beliefs, and write a short essay about whether his poetry should be read and included in anthologies, or whether we should stop reading his work. Should textbooks tell students about the extremity of his beliefs and that he was anti-American and anti-Semitic, to the point of being arrested and put in an insane asylum? Or should they say he is "controversial" and leave it at that? What should we do with Pound and why?


Your quiz covers chapters 7 and 8 of The Great Gatsby.

1. Why does Gatsby's kitchen now look like a pigsty?
2. What weather situation are the characters facing in chapter 7?
3. What does Gatsby mean when he says of Daisy, "Her voice is full of money."
4. Who is driving which car and who is riding along, on the way to town?
5. What does Gatsby want Daisy to say about Tom, in the hotel suite, that she refuses to say?
6. Who is driving which car and who is riding along, on the way home?
7. What happened just before Mrs. Wilson ran out into the road?
8. What does Nick see, peeking in the pantry window at the Buchanan house, after the New York trip?
9. What does Gatsby's gardener want to do, and why does Gatsby stop him?
10. George Wilson thinks the expensive dog leash is proof of what?

BONUS: What object does Tom Buchanan take into town and bring back unused?
BONUS BONUS: The conductor exclaims something in the train in chapter 7. What children's movie does this exclamation remind you of?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Reading Period 18: Feb 17-23: A Green Light that Burns All Night

Long Read: The Great Gatsby, chapters 5 and 6

Short Read: "Sophistication" by Sherwood Anderson (from Winesburg, Ohio), AIAL p 582-589


Ezra Pound: 
The Seafarer
In a Station of the Metro
The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter
Canto XLV
The Moon in Your Hands

The Helmsman
The Moon in Your Hands

Creative Assignment: 

After reading the poem, "This is Just to Say," by William Carlos Williams, imagine a scene in which these words are discovered by the intended recipient. You may decide this is a note left on a refrigerator for a spouse or a roommate, or written in some other way in some other situation. Decide what happens when the note is read, describe who reads it and what he/she thinks of the person who wrote it. Will the reader be understanding and forgiving? Enraged and vengeful? Write about it. (300 words)


Read the full lyrics to the songs "The Love Nest" and "Ain't We Got Fun" which are quoted in chapter 5 of The Great Gatsby. Why do you think Fitzgerald included these songs? Is he being sarcastic? Choose one or the other, and rewrite at least one verse with lyrics that are more appropriate to the situation Gatsby and Daisy find themselves in, in this scene. 

Writing Assignment:

William Carlos Williams and W.H. Auden both wrote poems about Pieter Brueghel's "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus." You may remember from last year, an assignment where you had to create a contemporary scene where Icarus falls from the sky and everyone ignores him. Read both poems. The write a short essay (300 words) comparing and contrasting these works. Use as many literary vocabulary words as you can as you discuss the form, the language, and the message of the two poems.

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus by William Carlos Williams

Musee des Beaux Arts by W.H. Auden


After you've read "Sophistication" by Sherwood Anderson, write a 300 word personal essay in which you discuss whether you have felt this sensation of "sophistication," specifically as described on the second column of the first page (the fifth paragraph of the story). Is this something you look forward to or dread? Do you agree with Anderson that everyone experiences this feeling as they reach a certain age? George Willard is 15 in the story. Do you think "growing up" happened to people at a younger age back in the first part of the 20th century? 


The quiz covers the historical selection, "Literature in Modern America" and the page titled "Modern Fiction" in your textbook, pages 565-581. 

1. What are the dates of the two World Wars, and what damaging period happened in America between these two wars? 

2. Give an example of something that gave Americans confidence and optimism before World War I. 

3. How did World War I affect the writers of the time in America, causing them to call themselves "The Lost Generation"?

4. What literary movement was driven by a desire to "make it new"? 

5. Give an example of some literary experimentation that happened during this movement. 

6. Give an example of a writer questioning conventional attitudes and societal norms. 

7. In the 20th century, science caused a breakdown in the unity of beliefs among Americans. What did writers turn to and write about during this fragmentation of perspective?

8. Define pluralism. 

9. What positive can be found in the "disintegration of the nation's most cherished ideals" in the 20th century?

10. What is the difference between the 19th century short story, as Poe and Hawthorne wrote, and the 20th century short story, exemplified by Sherwood Anderson? 

BONUS: Who is James Gatz?

ANOTHER BONUS: Were women allowed to play polo in 1922? Are women allowed to play polo in 2015?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Reading Period 17: February 10-16: Music From My Neighbor's House

Gatsby's house, no big deal, whatever.
Long Read: 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chapters 3-4

Short Read: 

"To Build a Fire" by Jack London, AIAL 482-494


William Carlos Williams

Danse Russe
Queen Anne's Lace
To Elsie
The Red Wheelbarrow
This is Just to Say
To a Poor Old Woman
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

Creative Assignment:

Consider the poem, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens. We talked in class about the structure of the poem, the way it ranges from absurdity to profundity, and Stevens' choices in arranging the different stanzas or mini-poems. Write your own poem in this style, expressing the modernist idea of finding meaning (or horrifying lack of meaning) in the everyday. Your subject could be a pencil, or a lightbulb, or a golden retriever, or a doorknob, etc. You get the idea.


Jack London writing stuff while adventuring.
You've read two classic naturalist short stories: Jack London's "To Build a Fire" and Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat." Demonstrate your understanding of naturalism by creating your own very short naturalist story in about 300 words. You don't have to give your reader much set-up or resolution -- just enough of the story to show you know what naturalism is.

Writing Assignment:

Write a short essay (300 words) comparing Tom Buchanan to Jay Gatsby, based on the information you have so far. How are they similar, and how are they different? Use the format we've used before for compare/contrast essays -- either write all about Tom and then all about Gatsby, or write about Tom and then Gatsby on one point of comparison, then Tom and then Gatsby on another point of comparison, etc. Spend some time before you write deciding what the scope of your essay will be. Given the fact that you only have 300 words, you can't write an exhaustive study of this topic, so make a plan to accomplish something reasonable in the time you have.


Jack London wrote about the cold from experience. He dropped out of school to join the 1897 gold rush in the Klondike, and had many adventures in the Arctic. Write a 300 word essay giving us some information on the Klondike (where is it?), the gold rush (who participated in it and how?), and where Jack London traveled and lived. Use Google and web sites to do your research, but make sure you cite the web sites where you found your information, when you post your essay. Here's a good web site to get you started.


This quiz covers the first four chapters of The Great Gatsby. Email it to me when you've read the chapters and answered the questions.

1. Where is Nick's house, where is Gatsby's house, and where is the Buchanan house?
2. Who is the narrator of the story?
3. How do Tom Buchanan and Nick Carraway know each other?
4. What does Jordan Baker do for a job?
5. Look at the image below. Why is this guy wearing this t-shirt?

6. Tom Buchanan takes Nick to Manhattan to party in his apartment. Who else does he take to Manhattan in chapter 2?
7. What's weird about the moment when Nick meets Gatsby for the first time?
8. At the end of the party in chapter 3, what happened to the man who was admiring Gatsby's library?
9. What object does Gatsby show to Nick that makes Nick believe Gatsby's wild stories about his past?
10. What does it mean that Meyer Wolfsheim "fixed the World Series" in 1919?

BONUS: Interpret this line in chapter one: "Life is much more successfully looked at from a single window, after all."
EXTRA BONUS: Interpret this line in chapter three: "I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy."

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Reading Period 16: Feb 3-9: East Egg, West Egg, USA

Long Read: 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, chapters 1-2

Short Read: 

"The Open Boat" by Stephen Crane, AIAL p 450

(For class on 2/3:
Edwin Arlington Robinson:
Richard Cory
Miniver Cheevy
Mr. Flood's Party

Robert Frost:
Mending Wall
The Road Not Taken
Fire and Ice
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Neither Out Far Nor In Deep
The Gift Outright)

For class on 2/10:
Wallace Stevens:
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
The Emperor of Ice Cream
Of Modern Poetry
The Plain Sense of Things
Not Ideas About the Thing but the Thing Itself

Creative Assignment: 

Choose one:

1. Make a map of The Great Gatsby geography from chapters one and two, including East Egg, West Egg, the Valley of Ashes, the Motor Road, Long Island Sound, and New York City. For bonus points, make it look like a map in a video game, where these locations are levels to be played. So take something that looks like this or this:

And combine it with something that looks like this:

To make a world map for a Gatsby video game. Or just make a map of the places in these two chapters, however you like.


2. Write a poem that is similar to Miniver Cheevy, except where Miniver Cheevy feels he is born too late, the subject of your poem will feel he is born too soon. He or she yearns for future times and imagines a different life, more appropriate to his/her sensibilities. Choose an appropriate name for the title, but use whatever form and style you like. What will the subject of your poem long for, and what will be despise about contemporary life?

Writing Assignment:

1. We learned that Edwin Arlington Robinson's biography and Robert Frost's biography are vastly different. Write 300 words describing how each one's personal experiences may have affected the tone and content of his poetry, in your opinion. Is it important to understand a poet's life, in order to understand a poet's work? Would you read the poem Richard Cory the same way, if you didn't know about Robinson's brother? In your short essay, there's no need to cite sources if you're recalling what we discussed in class. If you do extra research, do include citations.


2. Watch this video and read this article about Prohibition. Write 300 words answering this question: Why was prohibition called 'The Noble Experiment' and why, if it was so noble, did it fail?


Read the historical selection on Realism and Naturalism in your textbook, pages 436-449. Then answer these questions:

1. What date marked the official close of the American frontier?
2. Why was the steam engine considered a fitting image of the age?
3. What were two technological changes that bound Americans more closely together in the last decade of the nineteenth century?
4. How were Americans divided by the new economic forces?
5. Who were the muckrakers?
6. Explain the relationship between the Utopian novel and new scientific ideas of the age.
7. What was the most significant impact of science upon literature?
8. According to the naturalists, what two forces governed the individual life?
9. Name some American writers often classified as naturalists.
10. How is the work of Henry James different from that of other naturalists?