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?