Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Paper #2

English IV: Monstrous Ink
Paper #2 assignment: Beowulf and Grendel
September, 2014

Length: 1000-1500 words (4-5 pages) Develop one of the following topics into a focused, well-developed essay.

Due dates: Drafts in class Friday, September 26 (#16). Incomplete drafts will lose one point per missing page. Missing drafts will earn a half-letter-grade deduction. Papers due, hard copy and turnitin, class #17 (Monday or Tuesday).

·      Narrow and deep. Repeat after me: narrow and deep. That’s your mantra for this assignment.
·      Write a concise opening paragraph, clearly identifying your key point in the form of a provable thesis, then develop that point in 4-6 further paragraphs. Maintain a tight focus on the central idea throughout; no extraneous comparisons or digressions.
·      Offer several ESSENTIAL pieces of evidence and draw the most specific conclusions you can about their importance.

·      What is Grendel’s “arc” as a character in the novel Grendel? In what important ways does he grow, change, or develop? What are some of the key human values he observes, considers, and possibly rejects? Why do these values fall short of what he wants to believe in?
·      Gardner suggests that the Danes are unhappy with the arrival of the Geats. Take a close look at the passage in Beowulf describing their arrival and reception. Compare it to the arrival scene in Grendel. On what does Gardner base his interpretation?
·      Look at the character of Wealtheow in both versions, especially chapter 7 of Grendel and the celebratory banquet after the slaying of Grendel’s mother in Beowulf? What are the key features of her character? Are the two portrayals consistent? Is there more to her than meets the eye?
·      What does it mean to be a hero? How do the two texts differ on this point?
·      What is glory? Why is it important? Is it worth believing in?
·      Put the two versions of Beowulf’s argument with Unferth side by side. Then consider the most important differences. How do those differences give that scene two very different meanings?
·      Contrast Grendel’s view of Beowulf to that of the Beowulf poet? What effect does
Gardner create by giving such a different view of Grendel’s killer?

There is waaaay too much information available online on some of these questions. My very strong advice to you is to do no online research whatsoever. You will only run the risk of inadvertently or deliberately plagiarizing that material. Think about your interpretation of the question and go from there.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


See instructions here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Monsters--basic terms of personality

A brief article defining the three key terms of Freud's theory of personality: Id, ego, and superego.

Useful in thinking about human monsters like HH Holmes, John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, etc; also for thinking about the relationship between any form of monsters, from earlier mythologies to the present, and our ideas of humanity.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Format for all essays

Here is a link to my document regarding format for writing assignments in my classes.


Enroll in English on turnitin.com

Class ID: 8495927

Password: pcds

You will also need the email address and password you created when you joined turnitin.

Good luck.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Devil in the White City prompts

Monstrous Ink
The Devil in the White City prompts

1.              In the summer of 1895 Detective Frank Geyer captured the imagination of America, making Geyer (according to Erik Larson) “the living representation of how men liked to think of themselves” (355). In what ways do you think this statement is true?

2.              Erik Larson says, “exactly what motivated Holmes may never be known” (395). How much sense can you make of Holmes’ motives? Is it important to try to understand someone like Holmes? Why?

3.              One of the distinctions Larson draws between, on the one hand, men like Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmsted and, on the other, the murderer H.H. Holmes is that the former “choose to fill their brief allotment of time engaging the impossible” while the latter devoted himself to “the manufacture of sorrow” (xi). Men like Burnham “make no little plans,” seeking instead “the magic to stir men’s blood.” Holmes, on the contrary, says, “I was born with the devil in me.” How do the differences between Burnham and Holmes illustrate what Larson calls “the ineluctable conflict between good and evil?”


Time Out
Slaughterhouse-5 prompts

1.         The phrase that runs throughout the novel is, of course, “so it goes.”  Look at several examples of its use. Certainly, it occurs every time death is mentioned, but what does it mean? Does Vonnegut use it only in one way, or does it accrue several meanings as its use develops throughout the novel? Is it a useful phrase for Billy to repeat to himself as his personal mantra?

2.         The novel is structured using the idea of time travel. Rather than presenting Billy’s life chronologically, Vonnegut presents Billy’s experiences to us in a non-linear fashion, in the order in which Billy experiences them. How does this unusual structure affect our understanding of the novel? Does it help Vonnegut show us the connections between different parts of Billy’s life? Does it allow Vonnegut to achieve greater depth in portraying the effects of Billy’s experiences? Are there other advantages you can identify?

3.         What if Billy Pilgrim was not kidnapped and taken to the planet Tralfamadore? What if he invented this fantasy as an escape from his own life experiences? Is it an example of the belief that “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is”?
            If Tralfamadore is a fantasy existing only in Billy’s imagination—you needn’t believe it to be so, just explore the possibility—how would that fact affect our understanding of the novel? Would it be in keeping with Billy’s character? How? Would it relate to his experiences as a prisoner of war? How? Would it help Billy find peace and serenity in his life? In other words, is it something someone like Billy might invent as a comfortable fiction?
            As you explore this possibility, consider not only what we know about Billy’s life but also the Tralfamadorian views on time, fate, free will, happiness, and war. Gather a few pieces of evidence from the novel to support your argument, whichever direction you choose to take it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Exam info

Here is the link to the student information section of the AP English Literature exam, including practice questions of all 4 types (MC, poetry, prose, and literary topic) as well as other information about scores, individual colleges' policies regarding credit and placement, and perhaps more. Feel free to explore.

Monday, March 31, 2014

AP--topics for final papers


AP paper assignment

There is one final paper remaining before we complete our year together. Choose a novel from the list below (one you can finish over the next 3 weeks; therefore I've not included Anna Karenina or Crime and Punishment, as wonderful as they are) for a paper of 3-5 pages on a topic you will select.  Our study of British literature has taken us to the beginning of the twentieth century, so perhaps you would like to read a classic novel of the last 100 years. Or perhaps you've always wanted to read Dickens or one of the Brontes and never quite gotten round to it. At this point in the year, even a talented American might satisfy that craving for a quality AP reading book. Or choose an AP-caliber author not on this list and dig into one of her (or his) novels.

Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1984)
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (1847) 
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte (1847)
The Awakening, Kate Chopin (1899)
Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad (1900)
Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens (1854)
Middlemarch, George Eliot (1874)
A Passage to India or Howard's End, E.M. Forster (1924, 1910)
Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy (1895)
Catch-22, Joseph Heller (1961)
Obasan, Joy Kogawa (1981)
Cry the Beloved Country, Alan Paton (1948)
Native Son, Richard Wright (1940)
Pat Barker, Regeneration (1991)
Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (1962)
Gustav Flaubert, Madame Bovary (1856)
Nadine Gordimer, July’s People (1981)
Graham Greene, The Quiet American (1955)
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932)
Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day (1989)
Yann Martel, Life of Pi (2002)
Ian McEwan, Atonement (2001)
George Orwell, 1984 (1949)
Barry Unsworth, Sacred Hunger (1992)
Edith Wharton, Age of Innocence (1920)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

AP Poetry exercise

One of Jane Austen's contemporaries was the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834). Although he and Austen never met, and they wrote in vastly different styles, both are now considered among the most significant writers of that period. One of Coleridge's most famous poems in "Kubla Khan," a poem inspired by his reading of a work of history on the medieval Mongol emperors. Please complete the following activities for Friday.

1. Read the poem, found here.

2. Read the story of the poem's creation found here (1st paragraph of the Wikipedia entry).

3. Choose your favorite image or lines from the poem and be prepared to explain your choice.

4. Google the poem and bring a statement you found which helps you better understand some part of the poem's meaning.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Notes on the Novel as Form

Notes on the NOVEL as FORM

DEFINITION—a novel is a prose fiction to be read in more than one sitting, containing a complete and complex ACTION. Think of the novel as a whole as a design or structure in which each element plays an important part and contributes to the overall development of the complete action. As students of literature, we assess the relationship between each of the parts (characters, scenes, ideas, etc) and the whole, the form of the entire novel.

ACTION—structured beginning, middle, and end; prior stability, introduction of instability, complications (generally posing THREAT to the happiness of the characters we care most about), leading ultimately to a new, more permanent stability; working out of the complications and the new stability constitutes the PLOT.

PLOT—a meaningful arrangement of events linked in a logical chain of cause and effect; each event builds on what came before and leads to what happens next. These events are dramatized to the reader in a series of SCENES.

SCENE—the building block of plot. Each scene contains a single event allowing the CHARACTERS to interact with each other, forming new relationships, building or resolving problems.

CHARACTER—are related to each other (and to the reader) by problems we as readers care about. These problems, and the natures of the characters themselves, determine the events of the novel. In this way, plot is seen as organic, growing out of character. Characters also invite us to form judgments or their words and actions, largely on moral grounds. We approve or disapprove of the characters as they meet or fail to match the implied moral and ethical standards of the novel itself and of its readers.  SECONDARY characters remain much the same throughout the novel in values, behavior, and attitude; thus they are largely FLAT or STATIC in their portrayal. PRIMARY characters, on the other hand, should change as a result of their experiences; they must be capable of moral, psychological, or social growth. That growth occurs as a result of the SCENES they participate in, and it leads to the ultimate RESOLUTION of the central problem. Thus they are ROUND or DYNAMIC in their development throughout the course of the novel.

RESOLUTION—the combined purpose of all the scenes in the novels is that the characters’ problems must be resolved in the end, and the resolution should depend more on the characters themselves (their moral qualities and our expectations for them as characters) rather than on chance events, coincidence, or random circumstance. Resolution may occur TRAGICALLY, if characters we come to care about are destroyed by their own shortcomings or the actions of others, or COMICALLY, if characters we care about are rewarded in the end with happiness and the characters who pose THREAT to that happiness are ultimately rendered harmless or ineffective. The author’s ability to resolve these problems appropriately gives us as readers a sense of CLOSURE at the end of the novel.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Subtext assignment--Shakespeare

Preparation of performance text

After you locate and print your text, identify as much subtext as you can. This is the most important first stage of the assignment.

Subtext refers to all the meanings not directly contained in the text.:

Specifically, subtext contains all of the following:

·      Implied stage directions,
·      Character’s thoughts,
·      Feelings,
·      Motives (what is the character’s goal, for the scene as a whole and each part,)
·      Tone of voice (for each speech and for places where it changes,)
·      Movements,
·      Gestures.

Make your paraphrase and subtext easy for us to identify by putting them in a different type face from the text itself. For example, set your additions in bold face to make them stand out from the characters’ lines in the text.  Perhaps add a couple of hard returns between speeches or in the middle of a speech where you add subtext notes.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Shakespeare paper

Messrs. Burns and Coon
Essay assignment

Write an essay of two to three pages (not including heading) or approximately 600 – 750 words based on one of the following prompts.

1.              This play is often called a “problem play” because it fits neatly into neither the conventions of comedy or tragedy. In your view, is the play more a tragedy or comedy? Why?

2.              Of friendship, parent and child, romantic love, and love of possessions and money, which is the strongest form of love in the play? Which displays the greatest tension? What examples can you cite to support your view?

3.              Is this an anti-Semitic play that promotes hatred toward Jews? Or does the text offer a different message? If so, what is that message?

4.              Slightly different take on a similar topic: Is Shylock more of a villain or a victim? What support can you find for your view?

5.              How does the plot of the rings relate to the other “obligations” presented in the play? Does the tension between justice and mercy relate to this part of the plot differently from its role in the trial scene?

6.              Identify a topic from the play you would like to explore in more detail: a close reading of a scene, an analysis of a key speech, a comparison of two characters, or something else. If you choose this option, please let one of us confer with you on your choice of topic.


LENGTH:         2 to 3 pages (approximately 600-750 words), typed, double spaced, 12 point serif font, one-inch margins all around.

RESOURCES:  None, please. If you look up ANY external information, be sure to cite it thoroughly and properly both in your paper and in a Works Cited page. Otherwise you do not need a Works Cited. Cite any quotations by act, scene, and line (4.1.321-24, for example).

DUE: In class, Tuesday, February 4 (day 6 schedule) Turnitin.com title: Merchant of Venice.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Revised January Schedule--AP

See the AP assignment page for new due dates for draft, acts 4 & 5 of Hamlet, and final paper.

Friday, January 17, 2014

I-Search paper tips & hints

When you are ready to begin writing, look here for suggestions about the content of the paper.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Online resources--I-Search

Here is a link to some online reference works dealing with words and word history.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Biography of a Word assignment

AP English                 January 2014                         “I-Search a Word” assignment

Assignment: Write a paper of 5 to 7 pages containing an extended definition of a single word, a commonly used word, but one with an abstract or intangible quality to its meaning. In your paper you will make full reference to the sources you have consulted, but the style of the paper will be a first-person account of your search for the word’s ultimate meaning and an analysis of what you learn along the way.

Sources: Consult the following sources to include all the necessary information in your paper:
1.     The Oxford English Dictionary (20 volume 2nd edition) in our library—what are the earliest uses and contexts for your word recorded in the English language? What meanings have evolved over time? Which uses are now obsolete? Which ones match your understanding of your word? Which contain surprises?
2.     Webster’s Third International Dictionary (3 volumes) in our library—what key definitions, examples, and other information does the dictionary give for the word? How is the information organized differently from the OED?
3.     Either or both of the following: Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary (available online) or Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary (available through onelook.com).
4.     A dictionary of etymology, either online or in our library. How does its information compare to that of the OED?
5.     A print or online thesaurus—what are the most important synonyms for your word? Include a list from the thesaurus in the sources section of your folder.
6.     A Concordance to Shakespeare—how frequently does your word occur? Copy a few key speeches containing the word and the plays in which they are found. Give an example of an interesting or original way in which Shakespeare uses the word.
7.     A Concordance to the Bible—list a few important verses containing the word and copy these verses onto a page in your sources section. How do they help you understand the full significance of your word? Pay special attention to the Authorized or King James Version of 1611 (KJV). Compare a key verse to that of the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of 1946.
8.     A statement of what the word means to you, both before and after you conduct your research.
9.     Optional sources to round out your understanding: a dictionary of slang, a poem in which the word occurs, a citation from an online quotations list, a work of art or music, a book about words and language, a work of history, a newspaper article, cartoon, television show, or movie.

Process: Gather your findings in a binder. The first thing in the binder you submit will be the final copy of your paper, then your draft, edited by two peers, and a section containing the annotated printouts of all your research materials with sources clearly indicated.

Rationale: According to Edward Jenkinson and Donald Seybold, “it is extremely difficult for anyone to define a word that does not have objective [meaning]. Yet the ideas, feelings, and emotions that are most significant in our lives are conveyed [by such words]. . . .Everyone who uses such words as freedom, rich, or love has slightly different notions about what those words mean, [yet] we frequently act as if we are talking about the same thing when we use such words.” Thus, this assignment is to sift through our assumptions about one abstract word to find relevant historical information about its uses and meanings throughout the history of the English language.

·       Have your word chosen and approved by me by the beginning of class 3 (January 13, preferably sooner).  Everyone must have a different word.
·       We will spend parts of two classes in the library looking at the OED and other source material.
·       Your journal for class 4 will include your previous understanding of the word along with a brief summary of what you have learned so far in your research. It may be incorporated in some fashion into your draft the following week.
·       Class 8 (January 27), bring your drafts to class, five pages minimum.
·       Binders are due at the beginning of class 10, January 30. Final drafts must also be submitted by that time to turnitin.com (assignment title: I-Search a Word).

Style: Write your paper as a first-person account of your search for the ultimate meaning of your word. Use your sources to make your analysis of the word credible, but connect those sources to your personal quest for the word’s meaning, your previous understanding of the word, and what you learned along the way, both about the word and the research process. You should both summarize and analyze the information you gather from your sources in the body of the paper, searching for meaningful connections between sources. Information should be cited parenthetically, linked to a properly formatted list of Works Cited at the end of your paper.

Words: I’ve brainstormed over 100 words, but you may suggest a word not on this list, as long as it meets the requirements stated above. Everyone must have a different word. Here is my list:

·       Anger
·       Atonement
·       Beauty
·       Belief
·       Bliss
·       Brave
·       Burden
·       Calm
·       Chance
·       Chaos
·       Charity
·       Charm
·       Confusion
·       Courage
·       Courtesy
·       Cruel
·       Cunning
·       Curious
·       Curse
·       Darkness
·       Despair
·       Destiny
·       Doom
·       Doubt
·       Envy
·       Evil
·       Faith
·       Fame
·       Fate
·       Fear
·       Fortune
·       Freedom
·       Friend
·       Generous
·       Genius
·       Glee
·       Glory
·       Glutton
·       Good
·       Grace
·       Greatness
·       Greed
·       Guile
·       Guilt
·       Happiness
·       Hatred
·       Heart
·       Holy
·       Honor
·       Hope
·       Human
·       Idea
·       Ignorant
·       Illusion
·       Imagination
·       Inspiration
·       Jealousy
·       Journey
·       Joy
·       Justice
·       Kindness
·       Knowledge
·       Love
·       Loyalty
·       Luck
·       Lust
·       Mercy
·       Mind
·       Miracle
·       Natural
·       Normal
·       Pain
·       Passion
·       Patriot
·       Peace
·       Pride
·       Quest
·       Rational
·       Reality
·       Reason
·       Redemption
·       Revenge
·       Riches
·       Righteous
·       Romance
·       Sacrifice
·       Savage
·       Serene
·       Shame
·       Sin
·       Sorrow
·       Soul
·       Spirit
·       Sublime
·       Success
·       Terror
·       Trust
·       Truth
·       Valor
·       Vanity
·       Wealth
·       Weird
·       Wisdom
·       Wonder

What word interests you sufficiently to spend two weeks researching and writing about its history and most important meanings? After we review this assignment during  class 1 for both sections, I will accept requests for words beginning after lunch Wednesday January 8.. By class 2 (January 9), everyone must have selected a word to work with.