Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Onward and upward!

There is an astonishing and horrifying article in the Dec. 24 New Yorker that explains two things:

  1. We are reading far less than we were fifty years ago
  2. The neurology of reading suggests that regular readers are simply better thinkers

We get in this Pavlovian habit of thinking that because reading happens at school, we should read only when books are assigned to us. If this is the way you think, here is your assignment for this break: read as much as you can.

Ah, but what to read? Here are a few possibilities:

If you liked A Midsummer Night's Dream, try...

  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Twelfth Night, which is appropriately Christmas-themed
  • As You Like It, which is a bit more cerebral a comedy than MSND or Much Ado, and is hence something of a darling among academics

If you liked Henry V, then try...

  • The prequels, 1 Henry IV and 2 Henry IV
  • Richard II, which is something like the pre-prequel (H4 deposes R2)

If you liked Macbeth, then try...

  • Hamlet
  • Othello

If you liked The Tempest, then try...

  • A Winter's Tale

If you liked Slaughterhouse V, try...

  • Cat's Cradle, a Vonnegut novel which is at once apocalyptic and optimistic
  • The Sirens of Titan, which features the return of the Tralfamadorians

If you're interested in reading about Shakespeare, try...

  • Stephen Greenblatt’s Will in the World, which is currently the most prominent biography
  • Bill Bryson's Shakespeare: The World as Stage (which I haven't read but have heard generally good things about)

But perhaps you have had enough with Shakespeare for a while, and would like to try something a little less 400-year-old-ish. Here are some books I heartily, heartily commend to you:

  • The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon (Pulitzer-prize winning author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay) is one of the funniest and most satisfying books I read this summer
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl, is a snarky and thoughtful murder mystery, and an unrelenting delight of a read
  • Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel, is a perfectly-paced story set in a future that looks more or less like our own world
  • On that genre-fiction note, if you are a science fiction sort of person and have not yet read Ursula K. LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea, you should probably set aside an afternoon this break to do that
  • The next book on my to-read list is Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao -- read it with me and we can talk about it next week

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Discussion Questions (week 14)

Welcome to the end! This week there are several short questions to think through in preparation for the final exam.
  1. Read through the preliminary exam instructions (which might soon be replaced by the official exam instructions) and the final exam study guide carefully. What questions do you have?
  2. Look over your lecture notes from the last half of the semester. What questions do you have about
    1. Terms?
    2. Themes?
    3. Main ideas?
    4. Historical contexts?
    5. Other arguments and ideas Prof. Dubrow has shared in lecture?
  3. There are four sample questions posted in the study guide. Although these questions will not appear on the final exam, they will get you started thinking about the broader topics that will appear. Pick one of the sample questions and answer it with reference to The Tempest.
  4. To conclude our literary analytical work for the semester, develop a close reading of the last lines of The Tempest. How does Prospero's epilogue differ from Puck's epilogue in MSND? How does it differ from the Chorus's epilogue in H5?
  5. Think ahead to the evaluations I will ask you to fill out at the end of discussion. What do you feel were some of the strengths of discussion? More importantly, what do you feel were its weaknesses? I tried to address some of the feedback you gave me after the midterm evaluations, but how well did I actually do? Next semester I will probably be teaching a section of English 100, which is an introductory composition class. If you have any thoughts about how writing can be taught most effectively I would love to hear them.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Extra office hours for week 14: Essay 2 conference sign-up sheet

I have scheduled some extra office hours for next week on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. If you would like to sign up for one of these slots, please send me an email. I will try to keep this post updated, but you might want to send me 2 or 3 times that will work for you in case your first choice has been taken.

If these times do not work for you please send me an email and suggest a couple of times that will -- I'm happy to arrange a meeting at your convenience.

Tuesday 12/11, Fair Trade Coffee House
  • 3:30 pm - Carl
  • 3:50 - Lucas
  • 4:10 -
  • 4:30 - Leah
  • 4:50 -
  • 5:10 -

Wednesday 12/12, Open Book Cafe
  • 3:30 pm - Christie
  • 3:50 - Todd
  • 4:10 - Kathy
  • 4:30 - Nina
  • 4:50 -
  • 5:10 - Elise

Thursday 12/13, Open Book Cafe
  • Noon - Kaylin
  • 12:20 pm - Morgan
  • 12:40 - Jack
  • 1:00 - Tim
  • 1:20 - Shannon
  • 1:40 - Benton

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Reviewing the rhetorical terms

I've been putting together a handout on some of the terms we've encountered this semester, and in trying to remember the meaning of all the rhetorical terms we've learned this semester (commutatio, etc.) I've found this website -- the Silva Rhetoricae -- enormously helpful. You might find it useful in your studying for the final exam...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Discussion questions (week 13)

We have two goals for this week, best articulated through lame puns:
  • Finalizing the rules and expectations of close reading
  • Essaying to simplify the rules for finding and articulating a thesis statement
To which end, here are two discussion questions:
  1. In lecture this week we have looked at multiple ways of reading Prospero and Caliban, first by looking at images from productions to see how they are presented as characters (Druid or Bishop; monster or victim) and then by looking at the sorts of speech acts they use.

    Do the same thing with Miranda, in the following order:

    1. Google for images of Miranda from productions of The Tempest -- you might want to print out one or two to bring to class so you can make your point
    2. Identify the different ways we can read Miranda's character: we know that Prospero can be read as manipulative or as gentle, and that Caliban can be read as monstrous and as victimized. What are two options for our reading of Miranda?
    3. Read Miranda's first speech -- I.ii.1ff (1662a)
    4. Identify the sorts of speech acts she uses (commands? curses? storytelling?)
    5. Close read her speech in at least two ways you identified as being possible approaches to her character

  2. When Prof. Dubrow was talking about her own recent analytical work, she explained, first, that the topic she was interested in was the relationship between space and storytelling. Then she defined that relationship a bit more specifically: How does storytelling create or control space? This process is fairly straightforward: Prof. Dubrow chose two topics* that we have tackled this semester -- space and storytelling -- and asked a question that tried to articulate the relationship between them.

    Now you try! Pick two topics that pertain to The Tempest and formulate a question that asks about the relationship between these topics. Does one topic control or shape the other? Are they interdependent?

    * Note that a "topic" is not necessarily the same thing as a theme. A theme can certainly be a topic, but we've never really thought about space as a theme, or closure. Also, you should not feel tied down to the themes Prof. Dubrow has put on the board in lecture.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Discussion questions (week 12)

  1. [This question is more or less a repeat of question 3 from our last discussion. You are welcome to recycle your notes.] Look back at your notes from Prof. Dubrow’s lecture about soliloquies from two weeks ago, and particularly the way she connects the soliloquy to a specific function—the creation of sympathy between character and audience. Do the same with a different form: the list. What is the function of the list? Why are there so many in this play? Answer this question by looking closely at one list, e.g.
    • II.iii.28
    • III.i.91ff
    • IV.i passim
  2. I am interested in seeing if we can use the form of discourse that seems to be at the heart of Macbeth to better understand its characters. How do Macbeth and Lady Macbeth soliloquize differently? How can we see the way they soliloquize as representative of differences in their characters?

    Look at four soliloquies: Lady Macbeth's "Unsex me here..." (I.v.38-54), Macbeth's "If it were done..." (I.vii.1-28) and his "Is this a dagger which I see before me..." (II.i.33-64), and Lady Macbeth's "Out, damn'd spot" (V.i.35-68). Here are some specific questions to work through:

    • How do the contexts of these soliloquies differ? Are they -- like the "Two truths are told" soliloquy -- just vocalizations of what the character is thinking? Are they spoken out loud? What do these differences mean?
    • What are the purposes of these soliloquies -- answering questions, a là the Senecan monologue? Giving the audience insight into characters' psychologies?
    • How do they use metaphors (and other figurative language) differently?
    • How do they refer to the physical world differently?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Lecture notes and videos, 11/27

Here are the lecture slides from 11/27 in a variety of formats:

  • PPT (1.8 MB)
  • PDF (14.1 MB)
  • RTF (40 KB, no images)

...and here are a couple of the clips that we looked at in lecture:

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and tomorrow"

"Unsex me here"