Friday, April 30, 2010

American Literature Critical Essay #2 Updated

American Literature Critical Essay 2 (Updated 1 May 2010)

This assignment sheet contains added information about the second critical essay and the seminar paper. It has been updated as a result of discussion with students at the week 8 classes. Add this sheet to the original instructions or view the new combined version on the web site.

Special note on seminar papers: as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, either of these topic choices could also be turned into a possible seminar paper by expanding the topics (maybe more works, authors, or depth, such as a study of multiple Hughes or cummings poems—or those of another appropriate poet with whom you are familiar--as social criticism or a study of domestic and family conflict in multiple works by Hemingway and/or Faulkner or other writers of fiction). Unlike simple project papers, seminar papers do require use of the primary texts and at least 2-3 reputable research sources to support your generalization. You don’t have to do this topic if you choose to do a seminar paper; this is only a possible suggestion. Also, you don’t have to do your seminar paper with me. If you turn in a seminar paper, it will also be graded and scored as critical paper #2—you’re not required to do an added paper. Many other seminar topics are possible, of course.

Clearly label the paper you submit as to how you want it counted: Paper #2, Seminar Paper, or Both. Put this note right under your name. If you don’t label the paper, I will assume it is a paper #2 submission.

Deadlines: Paper #2 as shown on schedule (for printout) or 21 May (electronic submission). For Both or Seminar Paper, 11 May (printout) or 27 May (electronic submission). Any forms you need completed by me should be given to me at the American Literature colloquium or by appointment during earlier times when I am on campus. E-mail me to set up appointments, but remember that I am not on campus on an every day basis. I do expect to be on campus in Skopje on 3-4 and 10-11 May. I will be at Struga 13 May.

Specific situations:

3. If you plan to turn in project #2, but NOT a seminar paper.
• Just turn in the essay as shown on the schedule, in either print-out or electronic form.
• No research is required.
• The % average of your two papers will determine your project/assignment points.
4. If you plan to do a seminar paper AND project #2.
• Just turn in the seminar paper as explained above; it will count for both assignments. As a project, it gets graded; as a seminar paper, it’s evaluated pass/fail. (Warning: plagiarized papers fail.)
• Research as explained on the seminar paper handout is required. See section 4, below, for added topic choice information.
• Seminar papers must demonstrate at least limited command of the following skills: literary analysis; use of primary and secondary research; writing ability; English language use; producing a document of appropriate development and length (about 5-10 pages).
5. If you plan to do a seminar paper, but NOT project #2.
• Follow the instructions shown above in section 4.
• Research is required; must demonstrate the four skills; pass/fail (no grade).
6. Topic Information for seminar papers (See special note above.) Choose from four options.
• Develop your own expanded version of the topics of either critical essay, as described above.
• Begin with a study guide question from those I’ve provided— one that can be developed further into a seminar paper that demonstrates the skills listed in section 4, above.
• Choose any of the topic suggestions on the seminar paper guide sheet, and develop the paper from that starting point.
• If you wish, propose an alternative topic to me in a short written proposal that tells me the topic, explains exactly what you plan to do with that topic [for example, “the paper will show that ….”], and give citations for any primary sources and 3 or more of the specific secondary sources you have examined that you plan to use.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Toomer and Hurston Guide Questions

Fiction of the 1920’s and 1930’s Guide Questions

Jean Toomer: "Blood-Burning Moon"

1. Who is to blame for the violence in this story--including the fight that starts the racial conflict? How are your sympathies managed in the story? What are your reactions to the themes of potential miscegenation, lynching, racial tensions?

2. Consider the story's structure. Are their elements that seem contrived or overly dependent on coincidence?

3. Discuss the significance of the physical scene in Blood-Burning Moon. How does the landscape have an effect on the characters? To what extent does the Southern locale determine the action of the plot?

4. How different would the story be in another setting, say, in the slums of the industrial North?

5. Comment more fully on the regional and ethnic qualities of the story. Is it limited by these? Does it transcend these? What seems to be the story's focus?

6. How does the three-part structure of Blood-Burning Moon relate to the three figures in the “love triangle”?

7. Comment on the symbolism in Blood-Burning Moon. The moon seems to be the central symbol, but note also the significant references to burning, glowing, etc.

8. What is the significance of the fact that both men die in the story? Is Toomer suggesting inevitable total destruction following racial conflict?

9. Are the primary motivations in Blood-Burning Moon racial? Does the story suggest that sexual desire or love is more fundamental to human actions than racial differences and racial antagonism?

10. What effect do the short poems that conclude each section have on the story as a whole?

11. How are Bob Stone and Tom Burwell alike? How are they fundamentally different?

12. Is Louisa a fully realized character? Does she function primarily as an individual or as a catalyst to bring Tom and Bob together?

Zora Neale Hurston: "The Gilded Six-Bits"

1. How does Hurston symbolize various stages in Missy May's life and her relationship with Joe. (Consider "gilded" vs. "gold" images, other symbols.)

2. How can this be approached as a different sort of maturation story?

3. How important is setting in this story? In what ways is that setting established? What use does the story make of dialect?

4. What is the effect on the reader of the description of the neat house and yard in the first three paragraphs of the story? Is that effect sustained or reinforced throughout the story?

5. What is accomplished by the use of an educated narrator of Hurston’s story?

6. Does the educated narrator provide a framework that helps to detach the reader from the characters in the story?

7. Hurston maintains a stylistic contrast between the standard English of the narrator and the dialect of the characters. To what extent is this contrast essential to the story?

8. Why is the “voice” of the narrator less necessary at the end of the story?

9. The narrator is omniscient but presents few of the thoughts of the characters. Why is that? Is the narrator reliable?

10. Does the omniscient narrator offer a perspective on the characters that they themselves lack and that an unassisted reader is unlikely to perceive?

11. Comment on the descriptive functions of the dialect. Comment on Hurston’s use of metaphors and similes in the African American dialect she presents:
a. “Turn it go, Joe”
b. “A real wife, not no dress and breath”
c. “puzzlegut,” “chuckle-headed,” “a pone behind his neck”
d. “You womens sho is hard to sense into things”
e. “making little feet for shoes”
f. “her ma used tuh fan her foot round.”

12. Does “God took pattern after pine tree and built you noble” ring true, or does it sound contrived?

13 . If the problem of adultery is not the main theme of The Gilded Six Bits, what is? Or does the story lack an identifiable, well-developed central idea or theme?

14. To the reader “Mr. Otis D. Slemmons, of spots and places—Memphis, Chicago, Jacksonville, Philadelphia and so on” is an obvious fraud. Why do the two main characters fail to see what the reader so quickly sees?

15. What besides Slemmons’ jargon, his bragging, and his appearance, suggests that he is a fraud?

16. Missie May’s assertion that she dislikes Slemmons, when she first discusses him, seems genuine. Why is that?

17. Slemmons is described as being a “heavy-set man wid his mouth full of gold teethes” and having “a pone [roll of fat] behind his neck.” Is his appeal to Missie May—even with his promises of money and his persistence—convincing?

18. Is Missie May’s explanation that she fell because “he said he was gointer give me dat gold money and he jes’ kept on after me” convincing?

19. What is suggested by the elaborate game, centered on money, that Joe and Missie May play? For what does it prepare the reader?

20. Does anything in the story suggest that Missie May’s character changes? Does Joe’s character change?

21. Is Joe’s response, when he discovers Missie May’s adultery with Slemmons, consistent with his character?

22. What might be Hurston’s response to the criticism that her stories lack adequate plots and adequate character development?

23. Identify key similarities and differences between this story and Toomer’s.

American Literature AJ484 Seminar Paper Information

FON American Literature Seminar Paper Guidelines forAJ484 Students
Gerald Siegel, Ph.D. (Visiting Professor, Spring 2010)

I have been asked by several students, both those in my classes and those whom I’ve never seen before, to serve as a reader for their “seminar papers” topics that relate to American Literature. I will certainly consider doing this for qualified students during my stay at FON as a visiting professor. There are some guidelines for this. These remarks pertain specifically to seminar papers and only partly to the critical essay project for the second half of the semester. See the separate instructions for that assignment if you’re doing that assignment instead.

An obvious guideline. I leave and return to York College at the end of the semester, and I expect to be quite busy for various reasons during the month before I leave. So any requests, especially those by students from previous semesters and previously resident professors, must be made by the last day of classes in May, or I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to read your paper. It’s best to start work at least a month in advance, so that I can review your proposal and research question, look at your preliminary bibliography, and comment about rough drafts.

My expectations for an acceptable paper: a research-supported study of a literary topic in American Literature using a primary source (and primary and secondary analysis). The topic should be focused and based upon a clear research question. The discussion questions I provide in my classes can often be a starting point for research topics. In most cases, the primary sources plus 2 or three reputable secondary sources used correctly will suffice, although you may go beyond this. You’re demonstrating your ability to use research to support a critical analysis—and, of course, your ability to write in English.

It will normally be 5-10 pages long, but I’m more concerned about quality and original work than I am about specific length. You’ll find information about writing techniques and research practices at my web site at, where I’ve also posted an extensive list of free online research and reference sources, most of at least minimal quality and some quite good. I am also providing some instruction on writing literary papers and avoiding plagiarism during my American Literature classes and will distribute a small booklet on the subject at those sessions.

I expect papers to be printed out in 11 or 12 point type, double spaced, or submitted to me electronically (after I have agreed to read them) in the same format, as MSWord files. Please use security software on your computer so that you send me virus-free files.

Because these papers are being done in English and on American Literature topics, I expect you to follow American research ethics and practices, including complete, correct documentation for borrowed information (using MLA or APA format) and use of quotation marks to identify any words taken from any source. If the ideas or the words aren’t yours credit them. Be especially careful to follow these practices if you are not my student and have not had me explain these practices to you. Perhaps you have not had to follow them during your academic career so far. If you want me to read your paper, you do now. Mainly, I’ll look for an honest attempt to follow those practices. They can be complicated, and small errors that don’t affect a paper’s meaning aren’t a significant concern for me. The most important documentation responsibility is giving credit where it’s due; clearly identify the words and ideas of others and you’ve done the most important part of documentation.

I take plagiarism and academic dishonesty very seriously. Please be sure any work you give me is original and uses correct documentation practices. I have written a short booklet explaining research writing and documentation. If you don’t already have a copy and need guidance in these skills, send me an e-mail at and I’ll be happy to send you a copy of the file. Don’t insult me and embarrass yourself by turning in a paper that you have purchased from a print shop, another student, or an internet source. Don’t waste my time and yours by turning in as original work and your own words blocks of material entirely or mainly cut and pasted from internet resources or term paper mills and printed out under your name. As Lunsford observes, “deliberate plagiarism . . . is particularly troubling because it represents dishonesty and deception: those who intentionally plagiarize present the hard thinking and hard work of someone else as their own, and they claim knowledge they really don’t have, thus deceiving their readers.” (206) I do check for this, I’m pretty good at spotting it, and it’s easy to find with some internet searching.

Apart from academic integrity issues, student research can be interesting to read; student critical writing can open up and support new insights that may differ from those in traditional scholarship. Student writers who do honest research work hard and learn from the experience. They deserve the approbation and thoughtful responses of their colleagues, and I hope that those of you choosing to do American Literature seminar papers take time to share what you’ve learned with others in your classes.

You are free to develop your own research topics, although I must approve both your general subject area and your restricted topic, which I must have in writing or email by 2 May. You need my approval before going on. You’ll find a list of useful free online research sources at my web page, . Be sure you don’t pick too big a topic, and don’t even think about using other people’s papers, whether bought, borrowed, or cut and pasted from websites and study guides. You could just develop a workable topic from some of my study guide questions. I’m also listing a few possibilities below. These are just preliminary ideas.

Develop a seminar paper topic from any of our guide questions.
Discuss Bradstreet’s incorporation into her poetry of the imagery of her everyday life.
How does Franklin’s Autobiography demonstrate his importance as an international figure?
How does the America shown in Sarah Kemble Knight's The Journal of Madame Knight reveal the culture of her day?
What were the sources and applications of Washington Irving's use of myth and legend in 2 specific works?
How did Puritanism have specific impacts upon two or more specific Hawthorne short stories?
Compare Hawthorne’s “The Maypole of Merry Mount” with Thomas Morton’s account of these events.
Explain Poe’s critical theories an explained in any two works besides “The Philosophy of Composition.”
Explain Poe's views of the theory and practice of fiction as expressed in two works of his own critical writing?
What relationships between individual and society does Melville present in Benito Cereno?
How does Melville use history in Billy Budd?
In what ways did Walden or Civil Disobedience function as social criticism?
How did Whitman change and develop Leaves of Grass over its various editions?
Discuss the notion that Whitman’s poetry is not devoid of any structure or shape, supporting your answer by specific references to two or more poems of at least 20 lines each.
An overview of Some Contemporary (19th century) Responses to The Awakening
What varying interpretations exist for the character of Mrs. Mallard in Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”?
Is Frost’s work that of a cheerful New England poet who creates pleasant regional images, a poet who creates a troubling, frightening world bordered by anxiety, anguish, doubts, and darkness, or both? (Discuss at least two poems.)
Discuss the attitudes toward religion expressed in Stevens’ “Sunday Morning”
Discuss Hughes’ use of rhyme, rhythm, meter, and musical elements in at least three poems.
Discuss conflict in Faulkner’s “A Rose for Emily,” “That Evening Sun” or “The Bear.”
Discuss Faulkner’s use of innovative and specialized narrative methods in “Barn Burning.”
Characteristics and origins of Imagism
Faulkner's Use of Yoknapatawpha in two Stories
To what extent do the concepts of honor and tradition influence the action in “A Rose for Emily”?
Compare and contrast Faulkner’s characterizations (especially how he builds sympathy for the characters) of Emily in “A Rose for Emily” and Abner Snopes in “Barn Burning.”
Discuss the attitudes toward honor and patriotism implicit within “Soldier’s Home.”
Examine how a specific work uses, changes, and fictionalizes history of some sort.
Examine how an extended poetic work demonstrates the unique characteristics of the poet.
Develop comparisons and contrasts between two works of fiction that deal with similar themes.

Some vary narrowed topic drawn from one of these subject areas might also work.
Relate multiple works by an author to specific biographical backgrounds. (Many possible topics)
Feminism in American Literature (various aspects)
Literary Responses to War
The Harlem Renaissance (an aspect not covered in class)
A study of one of the following as regional or local color fiction:
• Jewett, “The Revolt of Mother”;
• Chesnutt, “The Sheriff’s Children”;
• Paul Dunbar, “The Lynching of Jube Benson;
• Alice Dunbar-Nelson, “The Goodness of St. Rocque”;
• Zona Gale, “Nobody Rich, Nobody Poor,”
• Bret Harte, “The Luck of Roaring Camp,”
A study of one of the following as naturalist fiction:
• Sinclair, The Jungle;
• London, The Call of the Wild;
• Crane: Maggie, A Girl of the Streets;
• Dreiser, Sister Carrie;
• Norris, McTeague;
• Garland, “Under the Lion’s Paw”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Hughes Guide Questions

FON American Literature Langston Hughes Guide Questions

1. Discuss the connections between the narrator and his ancestors in The Negro Speaks of Rivers.

2. Comment on Hughes choice of free verse for this poem.

3. What is the connection between rivers that The Negro Speaks of Rivers implies?

4. In The Negro Speaks of Rivers, what is the poetic effect of the repetition of “I,” “I’ve known,” “My soul has grown deep like the rivers”? Does it produce greater emphasis, greater musicality? Does it become tedious?

5. What do you think is the political stance of the speaker in Un-American Investigators?

6. What is the historical background of the poem Un-American Investigators? Learn what you can about the U.S. House of Representatives’ Special Committee on Un-American Activities. How is this background information relevant to an understanding of this poem?

7. How does the speaker characterize the investigators in this poem? How does he use imagery and other techniques to achieve that characterization?

8. In Cross, what do you think has caused the speaker to retract his or her hard feelings about his or her parents?

9. Discuss possible meanings of the title of Cross.

10. Why do you think the speaker regrets having “cursed” his or her father and mother? Is it possible to determine if the speaker is male or female? Why or why not?

11. What informs the speaker’s attitude toward life?

12. Explain the allusion made in the first line of each stanza of Song for a Dark Girl. How is the allusion ironic?

13. What is “the use of prayers” in this poem? Is the question answered? What leads to your conclusion?

14. Discuss the relationship between love and hatred in this poem.

Cullen Guide Questions

FON American Literature Countee Cullen Guide Questions

1. Discuss the themes of exile and Africa and the image of the sun in Cullen’s poetry.

2. Comment on Cullen’s use of irony and tone in For a Lady I Know.

3. What is the psychological effect that Cullen is trying to achieve in "Incident"? What is the effect of the poem's title and the poem's content? Why does Cullen call the eight-year-old a "Baltimorean"? What is the source of racism as shown here? Is it more powerful for being less definite?

4. In Incident, what distinctions can you find between the feelings of the narrator and those of the author?

5. What traditional form does Cullen use in From the Dark Tower, and what, if anything, does he accomplish by using this structure?

6. How is color imagery employed in the poem?

7. Comment on the presence of the image pattern of water and fire (coolness and heat) in the ending of Heritage.

8. Characterize the speaker of Heritage. What problems and conflicts is this speaker depicted as encountering?

9. Explain the use of meter, especially the handling of trochaic tetrameter and pentameter.

10. Discuss the religious attitudes evident in Cullen’s poetry, particularly in Heritage.

11. Does Cullen’s poetry create “representative” black people? What representative dilemmas, ideas, and aspirations are prominent in his poems?

12. Critic Arthur Davis has observed that Cullen often “states or implies that the Negro in America is a perpetual alien, an exile from a beautiful sun-drenched Africa, his lost homeland.” In which poems can you detect these themes?

13. Discuss Cullen’s use of color imagery, irony, meter, and traditional forms in his poetry. In particular, how does he employ traditional devices in various poems? Which poems do you think make the best use of these devices, and why?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Schedule--Second Half of Semester

FON American Literature Second Half Schedule

Except for “Trifles” and some of the writing materials, all of these selections should be in the course pack, although they may be in different sections of that pack. Let me know in advance if you find some materials have been accidentally omitted and I will make alternate arrangements to get them for you.

The page numbers here refer to McMichael, 9/ed., vol 2. +Many of the readings can also be found in the 1985 concise edition. Others are in the supplementary materials in the course pack. #These works can also be accessed online through Project Gutenberg, Wikisources, or the e-collections of the University of Adelaide and the Online Library.”Trifles” is on the web site. This schedule is tentative, subject to changes in the university events calendar. *Some may be deleted in the final listing.

On the following schedule, sessions marked JS are being conducted mainly by Dr. Jerry Siegel and those marked ES are being conducted by Ms. Elida Bahtijaroska. This schedule is subject to change; it will be incorporated within the next few weeks into a revised syllabus version which you will find at JS

Because each meeting with me is scheduled for two class periods, notice that up to two topics are listed for each of those sessions. JS

7. Week of 19-23 April
Writing about literature and literary research; discussion of course writing tasks. Modern American Drama: Glaspell: Trifles (available online). JS

New Directions in Poetry. cummings, 1334: In just-, 1335; Buffalo Bill's defunct,1336; r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r, 1339; anyone lived in a pretty how town, 1339; *l(a), 1341. EB

8. Week of 26-30 April
Continue Glaspell: Trifles (available online). Stevens, 1381: *Peter Quince at the Clavier; Anecdote of the Jar, 1390; Idea of Order at Key West, 1391 JS

W. C. Williams, 1395: Spring and All, 1401; The Red Wheelbarrow, 1404; This is Just to Say, 1406. EB

9. Week of 3-7 May
Continue Stevens. Harlem Renaissance. Cullen, 1445: For a Lady I Know, 1446; Incident, 1447; *From the Dark Tower, 1447; +Heritage, 1289. New Directions in Fiction. Toomer, 1452: +Blood-Burning Moon, 1453. JS

+Langston Hughes: The Negro Speaks of Rivers; Harlem; Un-American Investigators; Cross; Song for a Dark Girl. EB

10. Week of 10-14 May
New Directions in Fiction. Hurston, 1462: +The Gilded Six-Bits, 1467. Faulkner, 1529: That Evening Sun, 1530 +1760. *+A Rose For Emily +1771. Critical essay #2 due (This date could also change. This could be a version of your seminar paper; it would also count as the second half project.) Possible review session. JS

Fitzgerald, 1481: Bernice Bobs Her Hair, 1483. #+The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. EB

11. Week of 17-21 May (These sessions will probably be rescheduled.)

Hemingway, 1515: *Big Two-Hearted River, 1516. +Soldier’s Home. EB

Because each meeting with me is scheduled for four class periods, notice that up to four topics are listed for each of those sessions. JS

7. Week of 19-23 April

New Directions in Poetry. cummings, 1334: In just-, 1335; *Buffalo Bill's defunct,1336; r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r, 1339; *anyone lived in a pretty how town, 1339; *l(a), 1341. EB

8. Week of 26-30 April

Writing about literature and literary research; discussion of course writing tasks. Modern American Drama: Glaspell: Trifles (available online). Stevens, 1381: *Peter Quince at the Clavier, 1382; Anecdote of the Jar, 1390; Idea of Order at Key West, 1391. Harlem Renaissance. Cullen, 1445: For a Lady I Know, 1446; Incident, 1447; From the Dark Tower, 1447; +Heritage, 1289. JS

W. C. Williams, 1395: Spring and All, 1401; The Red Wheelbarrow, 1404; This is Just to Say, 1406. EB

9. Week of 3-7 May

+Langston Hughes: The Negro Speaks of Rivers; Harlem; Un-American Investigators; Cross; Song for a Dark Girl. EB

10. Week of 10-14 May

Conclude Stevens and Cullen. New Directions in Fiction. Toomer, 1452: +Blood-Burning Moon, 1453. Hurston, 1462: +The Gilded Six-Bits, 1467. Faulkner, 1529: That Evening Sun, 1530 +1760. *+A Rose For Emily +1771. Possible review session. JS

Fitzgerald, 1481: Bernice Bobs Her Hair, 1483. #+The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. EB

11. Week of 17-21 May

Hemingway, 1515: *Big Two-Hearted River, 1516. +Soldier’s Home. Possible Review session. EB.

Last updated 3 May 2010

Williams Guide Questions

American Literature Williams Guide Questions

1. Williams felt that American speech was distinct from English: how does his poetry idioms, syntax, and punctuation to suggest these unique qualities? To what extent does he capture the rhythms of American speech?

2. What is the main image used in “Spring and All”? How is the poem developed through contrasts? What stylistic devices does Williams use to create a feeling of nervous excitement? (Notice, for example, his use of word connotations and his delay of the main verb until line 15; consider connotation, rhythm, the relation of syntax to verse line)

3. What is the principal image of “Spring and All”? Spring? Its emergence? Nature ruined by urban industrialism?

4. What is the relevance of the first line of “Spring and All”?

5. What are the strengths and/or limitations you find in “The Red Wheelbarrow” as imagist poetry? Can only the poet really know what mental associations are involved--how much “depends,” or can the poem be appreciated as a way to appreciate the beauty and significance of ordinary objects—or do you think the value of the poem lies elsewhere?

6. Is it likely that the majority of those who read “The Red Wheelbarrow” would regard it as a successful poem, or not? Why?

7. Notice the rhythms of the lines. “The Red Wheelbarrow” is largely iambic. But the final word in each of the last three stanzas is trochaic: "barrow," "water," and "chickens." What is the effect of the shift in stress patterns?

8. To what extent can “This is Just to Say” be considered an effective example of imagist poetry?

9. William Carlos Williams explained his most famous dictum, "No ideas but in things," as follows: “The poet does not ... permit himself to go beyond the thought to be discovered in the context of that with which he is dealing.... Not to talk in vague categories, but to write particularly, as a physician works, upon a patient, upon the thing before him, in the particular to discover the universal.” It has been said that, “One of the qualities which keeps Williams from pessimism is his faith in the sensual, the earthy, the real. He is firm in his conviction that everything in existence is good in its own right, even a plum, stolen in an early-morning icebox raid, becomes a statement on the sweetness of life.” To what extent do you find this philosophical position illustrated in “This is Just to Say”?

Stevens Guide Questions

Wallace Stevens Guide Questions

1. Identify or explain the following references and terms used in the Stevens poems: a. Peter Quince b. clavier c. anecdote d. slovenly e. Key West f. artificer

2. How does Stevens develop parallels between music, sensuality, and beauty in “Peter Quince at the Clavier”? How does he use musical effects within the poem?

3. How does he link different art forms in this poem?

4. What does the poem say about permanence and art?

5. How is the jar in “Anecdote of the Jar” different from its surroundings? What effect does the jar’s placement have upon the “slovenly wilderness”?

6. Stevens’ poem begins and ends with its setting, Tennessee. Discuss why Stevens might have chosen this place.

7. What relationships does “The Anecdote of the Jar” suggest exist between art and nature? Consider, for example, what happens to the landscape in the poem after the jar is placed on the hill.

8. In what sense might this poem be regarded as an anecdote about the power and limitations of art and nature?

9. What does the poem say about the importance of establishing a point of view for the imagination to take toward reality?

10. Describe the aesthetic concepts developed in “The Idea of Order at Key West.” What relationship does Stevens suggest exists between a natural setting and the uses made of that setting by made “objects” of various sorts? What effect does the singer have upon the seaside setting?

11. “The Idea of Order at Key West” contains two poems or singers: the woman who sings and the poem's speaker. Analyze the relationship that exists between the two of them.

12. The poets in this unit all also worked in other fields besides poetry. What were those fields, and how, if at all, do you think their poetry was influenced by their other areas of interest?

cummings Guide Questions

FON American Literature: e. e. cummings Guide Questions

1. How does cummings’ use of typography and the poem as an object affect his poetry? How do word choice, syntax, and line construction play a major role in his poems? Consider a variety of poems in your response.

2. What is the effect of e e cummings’ rejection of traditional capitalization and punctuation rules in his poems? (Take note of words which are capitalized.)

3. Would the poetic devices of “in Just-“ still have their effect if the words of the poem were set in conventional stanzas of, for example, five lines each?

4. Discuss how the success of the poem “in Just-,” its transmission of feeling, is aided by various poetic devices, such as:
a. the tactile and visual effects of “mud-luscious” and “puddle-wonderful”
b. the aural effects of “far and wee”
c. the effect of motion created by running names together and varying spacing, as in the “whistles far and wee” line
d. the symbolic implications of “goat-footed”
e. the ambiguity of the phrase “in Just- / spring.”

5. Is “Buffalo Bill’s defunct” a pronouncement that even frontier heroes have to die? Is Bill merely a comic circus faker in his old age?

6. In “Buffalo Bill’s defunct,” how is “defunct” different from “dead”?

7. What is gained in “Buffalo Bill’s defunct” by running numbers together? And why “blueeyed” boy? The typographical placement of “Jesus” allows it to refer to the lines that both precede and follow it. What is gained by that?

8. What words are included in the poem “l(a)”? If you wrote it out on one line, what would it say? How does the arrangement of lines contribute to the theme?

9. How much does interest in poems like “r-p-o-p-h-e-s-s-a-g-r” and “1(a” depend upon just trying to decipher the poems? Once deciphered, do they lose their ability to maintain reader interest?

10. What kind of story is narrated in “anyone lived in a pretty how town”? Who are the main characters? How can “anyone lived in a pretty how town” be read as a poem of ideal lovers. Do lines 9 and 10 suggest that it is a poem on the tragedy of growing up

11. cummings sometimes used one part of speech in a sentence position where "normal" grammatical structure requires another part of speech. For example, in “anyone lived in a pretty how town,” the adverb “how” is used between an adjective and noun, where adverbs never occur in ordinary usage, and the verbs “didn’t” and “did” are used like nouns, as the objects of “sang” and “danced.” Also, indefinite pronouns (“anyone,” “someone”) are used in contexts in which they normally would not make sense.

12. Find other examples of this type of “ungrammaticality” in this and other poems. What are the effects of violating grammatical rules in this way?

13. How do sound and sense match up in “anyone lived in a pretty how town”?

14. Comment on the matching of sound to sense—the rising and falling of the bells in line 2.

15.Discuss the critical judgment that Cummings’s poetry is merely a sentimental barrage, a shuffling of “monotonous vague counters: ‘death,’ ‘flower,’ ‘rain,’ ‘spring,’ and others.”

16. What relationships between cummings’ poetry and his other efforts in the arts can help us understand his poetry?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Trifles Guide Questions

Glaspell: Trifles Guide Questions

1. As Lewis Hale's narrative suggests, the murder of John Wright triggers all of the remaining action of the play. If Wright's death is so central to the story, why doesn't Glaspell open the play with a scene depicting his murder or one depicting Hale's discovery of the body?

2. Why do the women go to so much trouble to hide the evidence from the county attorney? What explains Mrs. Peters' sudden change of allegiance?

3. If Trifles is about the deep social and emotional conflict between men and women, is there a winner at the end of the play? If so, who is it? If not, what message does that convey?

4. How does Glaspell establish the division between the men’s view of things and the women’s view? What is the difference between the two?

5. Note that two of the three men have official titles (Sheriff and County Attorney). Is this a commentary here on the ways in which social roles inhibit the exercise of individual sensibility and conscience? What do the official titles, as opposed to the women’s titles—“Mrs.”—suggest about power relations between the sexes.

6. What is the significance of the play’s title?

7. The play contains a number of unusual terms. What is meant by the following? a, party telephone b. roller towels c. red up d. pleating e. cupboard f. Ladies Aid g. tippet h. close (describing Wright)

8. What is the significance of Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale moving “a little closer together” when the men speak critically of Minnie Wright?

9. Compare the positions of the men and women at the beginning and end of the play. How are their relative positions of dramatic significance?

10. What is the thematic and symbolic significance of the dead bird? Why is it significant that the bird is a canary?

11. What does the play suggest about the relation between laws and justice? Is the choice that Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale make the right choice?

12. Why does the county attorney prefer to discuss the details of evidence upstairs and out of hearing of the women (and the audience)? What significance is there in Glaspell's physical placement of the men's and women's actions?

13. Trifles was written and produced at the height of the women suffrage movement, just a couple of years before women won the right to vote in 1920. Women at the time also could not serve on juries in all but four states, an inequity emphasized by the ironic title of the short-story version of this play, "A Jury of Her Peers." Can you find other examples in the play where the men and the women read evidence differently. Whose interpretations are more nuanced and thoughtful? What argument(s) about male and female judgment and decision-making abilities does Glaspell seem to be making?

Writing Process Overview

Writing Process Overview

Approaching writing as a process can avoid many of these problems, and many introductory writing courses have taken such an approach to writing. In them, students invent, organize, and write over an extended period, moving back and forth through different stages of the process. Eventually, after a series of revisions, a final draft emerges. While this approach to writing may take time, certain elements can work for writers in business, education, human services, literary studies, and many other professions.

The notion of writing as process can work for many writing contexts. Although these comments are intended for use with the English language and American and Western European cultures, the principles can be applied for written tasks in other languages as well.

Much workplace and academic writing involves completing some sort of communication transaction, often within a limited time span. The job to be completed may be routine—interpreting a literary text, examining the impact of a writer’s life with that writer’s fiction, completing a pre-sentencing investigation, bidding for a contract, describing the diagnoses of patients in a hospital, answering a customer inquiry about an order. Often, even if the specific situation isn't one you've encountered before, simple literary analysis , using information gained in class and lectures, or on-the-job experience will provide all the necessary background.

Evidence suggests that, faced with the realities of such academic or workplace communication, effective writers move through a linear sequence rather than through the series of communication "loops" often associated with the writing process. But these writers do go through a clear writing process, and they characteristically spend more time on the other stages of that writing process than they spend generating the actual draft that others will see.

Most writers may go through the same operations. But the successful ones control that sequence. As a result, written communication becomes less threatening, and the messages produced do the job the first time. Awareness of what happens during the process of writing can help lead to that control.

The PASS System for Writing

The characteristic stages of writing involve four major activities:
Preparing to convey information
Arranging your ideas so that a reader can follow them
Saying what you wish in conventional written prose
Shaping that prose for clarity, correctness, and effect

The acronym PASS provides a convenient reminder of these stages of the writing process (described in table 1). Remembering the four stages and consciously working with each separately can make writing easier and more productive than trying to generate a completed written product in a single (often overwhelming) operation.


Think through situation read texts carefully
Respond/react to message received or the writing task; read texts carefully
Review previous similar situations on file
Decide upon purpose/goals
Decide on persona/audience
Assess difficulty of communication situation
Match preparation to time available
Use formal invention strategies
Decide if you need to do research; if necessary, do that research (primary/secondary)

Consider familiar strategies (including files)
Group/cluster ideas
Organize from lists; try informal strategies like numbering the order of the ideas in the lists
Develop trees, grids, organizing diagrams, etc.
Develop subtopics, support
Select/delete the information you’ll use.

Produce drafts
Refine/revise drafts
Add/delete material
Check content against goals
Develop graphics, documentation

Revise paragraphs
Revise sentences
Revise for appropriate style
Revise for appropriate tone
Revise for suitable diction and syntax
Edit for correctness, grammar, mechanics, and usage, and correct translation aspects
Edit for conciseness
Adopt appropriate formats
Meet any special requirements (e.g., seminar paper policies and research practices)

Movement back and forth between the different stages--especially adjacent ones--characterizes much writing. Still, evidence suggests that writers in business and the professions tend to complete one stage at a time. If a piece of writing involves several sections, of course, each section can go through the stages of the process separately. During the final shaping, the entire message or report emerges. At this point, various features of word processing programs (such as the red and green underlines of Microsoft Word) can alert you to possible problems.

Each stage also involves a variety of specific operations. A controlled composing process includes using these operations in any number of sequences within a given stage of the writing process. Different people use different operations within each stage. As you become a more confident writer, you may decide to modify the approaches suggested in table 1 to reflect your own writing habits. If you encounter a problem as you go through the writing process, very often you can move back to the previous stage and find a step that will solve the problem without your having to rewrite the entire document.

Since the specific concerns are smaller with a process approach, writing becomes less formidable. Separating invention and thinking about the writing task, then organizing those ideas, next writing a draft, and then finally revising the draft and doing needed proofreading allows you to control the writing process. In some cases, you may find that adding headings can clarify organization or that analysis and careful reading may make research unnecessary. For all but the simplest tasks, approaching writing as a process can save needless work and generate a document—the product of this process—that does its job effectively.