Friday, May 27, 2016

Reading Period 29: May 13 - June 9: Review

Jorge Luis Borges liked geography. Look at him liking it.
Class Meeting: June 4, 6 pm

This month we will return to South America briefly, to pick up our discussion on a couple of authors we briefly looked at last spring. You'll be writing two 500-word essays, one based on a poem and one on a short story. Before writing your essays, you'll be working on a literary analysis of each work, via your Poetry Dissection Kit and an abbreviated version of your Novel Autopsy Report. This effort represents a culmination of a lot of the work we've done this year in analyzing fiction and poetry. Don't let the length of the essays intimidate you! If you work hard on filling out your analytical documents, you'll have plenty to say. Writing a 500 word essay about a work of literature will be one of our main goals for next year's study, so this essay is a beginning benchmark for all the work you'll do next year. Do your best, but realize that this is a stretch. These are the essays you'll look back on as a first attempt. While each essay counts for ten points this week, work turned in on time that completes the assignment may be rewarded with up to 10 bonus points.

Due dates: Wednesday, June 8, 7pm

Short Read: "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Yeah, I'm a symbol. Yeah. 

"A Wolf" 
by Jorge Luis Borges

Grey and furtive in the final twilight,
he lopes by, leaving his spoor along the bank
of this nameless river that has quenched the thirst
of his throat, the water that repeats no stars.
Tonight, the wolf is a shade who runs alone
and searches for his mate and feels cold.
He is the last wolf in all of Angle-land.
Odin and Thor know him. In a commanding
house of stone a king has made up his mind
to put an end to wolves. The powerful
blade of your death has already been forged.
Saxon wolf, your seed has come to nothing.
To be cruel isn’t enough. You are the last.
A thousand years will pass and an old man
will dream of you in America. What use
can that future dream possibly be to you?
Tonight the men who followed through the woods
the spoor you left are closing in on you,
grey and furtive in the final twilight.

(Trans. by Robert Mezey)

Final Challenge #1 (instead of a creative assignment): 

After reading and rereading "A Wolf," print and fill out a "Poetry Dissection Kit" on this poem. Here is a link to the document if you don't have one on hand. You may not be able to fill out all the elements! For example, there may not be an example of litotes in this poem, but you will find an apostrophe and several allusions! When you have filled out your kit, put it in your binder, and then use this analysis to create a 500 word essay about this poem. You may start with information about the author and the movement he is part of, and move on through the different "trays," finishing with theme. Or you may start with theme and go from there. Think carefully about the structure of your essay, and make a plan that takes the reader somewhere new in the conclusion. Post your essay to the Google+ community. If you use sources, link to them at the end of the essay. 

Actual photo of real winged man.
Final Challenge #2 (instead of a writing assignment): 

After reading and rereading "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings," do a brief "Novel Autopsy Report" on this short story. You should include these elements, one of each unless otherwise indicated.

Title, Author, Something about the author, Year, Something else happening in that year.
Characters (3)
Settings (3)
Plot points (3)
Significant object:
Literary technique:
Discussion question:

Email me your brief novel autopsy report, and then use this analysis to create a 500 word essay about the story. Your essay needs an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Which information will you put in your introduction? What will you save for an interesting conclusion that takes the reader to a new place? I'll give you a hint: the literary technique at work here is magical realism. You may need to look it up. If you do, or if you use any other sources, for example to find out about the author, you need to cite your sources at the end of the essay, even if this just means providing a link to the web site where you found your information. Post your essay to the Google+ community.


As promised, here is a quiz over the last section of Things Fall Apart

1. What does Okonkwo threaten will happen to any of his sons who become Christians?
2. Okonkwo realizes that even though the Igbo are strong enough to fight the white men off, it will still be very hard to get the white men out of Umuofia. Why?
3. What positive benefits has Mr. Brown the missionary brought to Umuofia?
4. How is Mr. Smith different from Mr. Brown?
5. Why is it such a big deal when Enoch unmasks one of the egwugwu?
6. How are the leaders of Umuofia treated in jail?
7. What is the price of their release?
8. Who does Okonkwo kill with his machete, during the meeting of the clan leaders? 
9. Why can the villagers not take down Okonkwo's body?
10. What is the name of the commissioner's book?

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.