Friday, May 6, 2016

Reading Period 28: May 6 - 12: Kenya, Tanzania

Long Read: 

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, chapters 20-25

Short Read: 

Yeats' Vision. The Irish poet William Butler Yeats had a vision about human history, including a concept that history is divided into repeating series of 2000 years, divided further into 28 different phases. This is a web site, and the structure and length of some of the pages can be overwhelming. Make sure you read about what a gyre is, and about cycles of history and the great year. This is weird and complicated stuff, but important. It is to Yeats' theory that Achebe's title refers.


"The Second Coming" by W. B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre  
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere  
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst  
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.  
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out  
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert  
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,  
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,  
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it  
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.  
The darkness drops again; but now I know  
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,  
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,  
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Creative Assignment:

Read the poem a few times. Now, after reading this page and the poem, create your own illustration for Yeats' concept of the widening gyre. It should have geometric elements, but should also include at least one image from the poem.


Draw a map of Africa, freehand, as best you can. You will need a large piece of paper! There are 54 countries -- include them all! Add in all the names of the countries, the rivers and major lakes, and label the surrounding bodies of water. Now the twist: Your map does not have to be exactly accurate. You can use a collection of different sized rectangles or triangles to make your map, or circles. Your map should reflect the correct location of each country, relative to the other countries, and be labeled with the capital, but other than that, you have complete creative freedom as to the shape of the countries and continent.

Writing Assignment:

Having looked over the web site I assigned you to read, come up with a brief summary of Yeats' concept of the widening gyre and the repeating cycles of history. Pretend you are explaining it to a friend on the bus, and you must explain it quickly, before your friend gets off at the next stop, because your friend is going to take a test on modernism and how this Yeats idea relates to Chinua Achebe. Try to distill what you've learned about Yeats' cycles into just a few paragraphs. Begin your essay with "Alright, you've got this gyre, see?"


In class, we talked about cultural relativism and how learning about other cultures can lead to judging other cultures and then to fixing other cultures. Read chapter 1 from the Peace Corps workbook, Culture Matters. Think about your own personal boundaries for where knowledge meets judgment, and where observation turns to action. How does your own culture and the situation you were born in create your worldview? Where do you draw the line between an "I'm ok, you're ok" response to violence and traditions you see as immoral, and the urgent need to help the people who are engaging in these traditions? Your essay should consist of four paragraphs -- an interesting introduction, maybe using an example from the novel, a paragraph about what you consider to be tolerable, a paragraph about what you consider to be intolerable, and a conclusion about where you draw the line and what action you see as necessary.


No quiz this week! I will quiz you on the rest of the novel next week.

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