Tuesday, November 27, 2007

English IV: Final paper

English IV: World Literature
Final essay
December, 2007

For your last essay of the semester, identify an important area of human life, human nature, or human values and write a paper of six to eight pages discussing the theme you have identified. In your discussion, refer generously to three or four of the seven authors we have studied. (If you use your summer reading novel, please include three others from the semester.) Your papers are due Tuesday, December 18 by noon, hard copy with turnitin receipt number (turnitin title: 2007-Final Paper).

Sample Questions (develop your own variations):
What does it take to be a successful human being in the world? Is “success” a matter of getting what one wants, of attaining a desired result—love, money, power, freedom, social status—or is it a question of character, of developing within the self those qualities most essential to a complete human being: virtue, wisdom, compassion, spiritual enlightenment, moral insight, ethical depth, duty, honor?

Can social institutions, cultural traditions, or rituals help develop successful people, or does the literature portray these customs more as impediments to growth?
What is a “complete” human being? What components are most important in defining what a human being “should” be?

Under what conditions do the characters’ worlds become traps, bringing out the worst in people, debasing their lives and stripping their existence of meaning or purpose? What happens to the hearts and souls of those who live in such worlds?

Professor Robert George of Princeton says, “the conquest of the self is part of what it means to lead a successful life.” Which characters have inner demons or parts of themselves they must conquer? How successful are they?

William Faulkner said that literature is composed of “old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed—love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.” Which of Faulkner’s truths find most powerful expression in the literature we have read this semester.

Dr. Carl Hammerschlag, a psychiatrist, writes, “Mental health . . . can be described as having your head, mouth, and heart in a straight alignment. Mental health happens when what you believe in your heart is the same as what you say with your mouth. You are mentally healthy when what you feel is something you also believe. . . .You have to keep in balance if you want to stay healthy.” In these terms, which characters are healthiest? Which are not? How do they achieve balance? What are the costs of not finding it?

Many works we have read center on characters who, because of their personalities, beliefs, or personal circumstances, find themselves in conflict with their society. Choose three important characters from different works and discuss the ways in which they are out of synch with the world around them. For each character you discuss, say whether the conflict primarily reveals a flaw in the character or in the society’s assumptions and moral values.

Monday, November 26, 2007

On Lovers and Madmen

from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 5, scene 1:

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact.
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold;
That is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt.
The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven.
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation, and a name.

How does this passage suggest any of the central themes of Love in the Time of Cholera?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Down the Pear Tree

(for Quentin)

Uncle Jason hates her, wishes she’d never been born,
Grandmother locks the door, opens it next morn.
But she won’t be confined, she’ll leave this family,
She has her own way out, down the pear tree.

Once down the tree, she finds the freedom to run,
Young man in a red tie waiting, “come on, we’ll have fun.”
Thousands of Uncle’s dollars, taken from the box,
Escaping his cruelty, evading her locks.

Thirty years earlier, only a little girl,
Her mother began to know the dark power of that world,
Climbed that same tree, to see what she could see,
Had her muddy bottom spanked, coming down the pear tree.

Curiosity not rewarded, love not to be found,
Once down the pear tree all you hit is the ground.
Disgraced and guilty, like her mother, believes she's bad,
Both have to get out, before they run mad.

The future of the family dies the night she leaves,
Grief, despair, and anger, only Dilsey believes.
She disappears forever, finds her own way free,
Out the window at midnight, climbs down the pear tree.

Love in the Time of Cholera blog suggestions

As you read the novel, look for and think about the importance of the following elements. Feel free to choose any of these topics for further exploration in your blog posts.


Varieties of Love—unrequited, marital, sexual, devotional, devastating, forbidden, loveless, intimate, convenient, passionate, passionless, etc
Cholera/ disease/ illness/ death/mortality
Old age (“gerontophobia”)
History of the country—civil war, modernization vs. tradition, influence on present
Cultural issues/prejudices—race, class, gender, age, European ideas, and the author’s attitude toward these issues (social criticism?)
Absurdity & irony of life
Perverseness of human nature

Elements of style

Sensual imagery
Use of flashbacks
Abrupt transitions of subject, time, or tone; juxtaposition of extremes
Use of figurative language—poetry written in prose
Exaggeration, use of non-realistic elements (“magical realism”)


Human body
Sense of smell

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Things Fall Apart study guide

Background research and oral work:

Both from your reading and from research, identify examples of the following elements of culture as they occur in Things Fall Apart. Consider the importance of each to Ibo life as Achebe portrays it. Share your findings with the class.

•Customs / Ways of living (Rituals & ceremonies, Traditions, Manners & etiquette,
rites of passage, family structure)
•Religion / Moral values / Taboos / Superstitions
•Economy / Money
•Government / Social institutions / Structure of social hierarchy
•Agriculture / Food
•Science / Technology
•Education (Formal vs. informal), Gender roles
•Language (oral vs. written) / Proverbs / Wisdom
•Clothing / Fashion

Things to look for as you read

1. What are the distinguishing features of Ibo culture as presented in the novel? How do these features compare with what you learned from your search?

2. Which elements of that culture are most comfortable to us? Which most resemble elements of our (your) culture? Which seem more foregn, more difficult to accept?

3. In what ways does Okonkwo embody the values and principles of Ibo culture? What are the strengths of his character?

4. In what ways does Okonkwo deviate from traditional Ibo values? What are his weaknesses as a character?

5. What is Achebe’s attitude toward Okonkwo? How does he communicate this attitude to us?

A few selected web sites ( also google Achebe + “Things Fall Apart” + Ibo culture):


William Butler Yeats: "The Second Coming" (1921)

Yeats was attracted to the spiritual and occult world and fashioned for himself an elaborate mythology to explain human experience. "The Second Coming," written after the catastrophe of World War I and with communism and fascism rising, is a compelling glimpse of an inhuman world about to be born. Yeats believed that history in part moved in two thousand-year cycles. The Christian era, which followed that of the ancient world, was about to give way to an ominous period represented by the rough, pitiless beast in the poem.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre (1)
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center 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 (2) is at hand;
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi (3)
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 (4)
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?

Eng IV assignments Oct 29-Dec17

Schedule of Assignments
November-December, 2007

Week 10: October 29—November 2
Reading: Kafka's Metamorphosis
Style: Sections 3.3, 3.4, & 3.5
Vocab: none
Blog: Weekend—“The Metamorphosis”—see prompt on my blog

Week 11: November 5 - 9
Reading: Things Fall Apart, chapters 1-8
Style: Sections 3.6, 3.7, & 3.8
Vocab: none
Blog: Research Ibo culture on web; list the best links you found; write about the most important or interesting information you discovered relating to religion, customs, history, food, social structure, gender roles, etc.

Week 12: November 12 – 16
Reading: Things Fall Apart, chapters 9-19
Style: Sections 3.9, 4.1, & 4.2
Vocab: Cumulative review, lessons 1-12
Blog: Select one of the questions on the TFA study guide or from an online study guide

Week 13: November 19-23 (No school Wed, Th, Fri—Thanksgiving)
Reading: TFA, chapters 20-25; finish novel by Tuesday, November 20
Style: 4.3
Vocab: None
Blog: None

Week 14: November 26-30
Reading: Chronicle of a Death Foretold, “chapters” 1-3
Style: Sections 4.4, 4.5, & 4.6
Vocab: Lessons 13-15--quiz postponed to the following Tuesday because of conflict w/ essay assignment
Blog: Choose one of your existing blog entries for either Kafka’s Metamorphosis or Things Fall Apart; revise it to a 600-700 word essay, adding textual references, supporting ideas more fully, expanding commentary, clarifying a thesis statement, strengthening your ending. Due Friday, November 30, hard copy and turnitin.com (title: Kafka-Achebe blog essay)

Week 15: December 3-7
Reading: Chronicle of a Death Foretold, sections 4 & 5
Style: None
Vocab: Lessons 13-15, quiz Tuesday, postponed from previous Friday
Blog: CDF—find your own topic--see my list of suggestions, titled "Your class blog" dated July 25 on mrcoonsenglish

Week 16: December 10-14
Class Monday and Tuesday, discussing final papers
Style: None
Vocab: None
Blog: None
Reading day Wednesday
Exams begin Thursday, December 13--History first, science last

Week 17: December 17-21
Final papers due Tuesday, December 18, hard copy and turnitin.com, by 12 noon. Papers may be turned in at the Upper School office or to my classroom (if I'm there), not to the exam room where AP students are taking their final.

Monday, November 5, 2007

AP Assignments Nov 12—Dec 20

Week 12: November 12-16
Tues: (all sections)—have read by the beginning of class Love in the Time of Cholera, pp. 3-51.
Fri: (all sections)—LTC, pp. 53-103; vocab quiz cumulative review lessons 1-12

Week 13: November 19-23
Monday—LTC, pp. 105-163
No class Wednesday, Thursday, Friday—Thanksgiving break

Week 14: November 26-30
Day 1: Read LTC, pp. 165-224
Friday: LTC, pp. 225-278, vocab quiz lessons 13-15

Week 15: December 3-7
Day 1: Have finished Love in the Time of Cholera
Friday: Multiple choice quiz 6
Other assignments TBA

Week 16: December 10-14
Monday and Tuesday—all classes meet—Multiple choice workshop
Wednesday—Reading day
Thursday & Friday—Exams begin

Week 17: December 17-21
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday—departmental exams continue
Thursday—make-up and conflict exams
Friday—First semester ends

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Kafka's Metamorphosis

An imaginary panel of experts debate the meaning of Gregor’s transformation:

Expert #1: Gregor is angry, frustrated, bitter, helpless, trapped in his family’s downwardly degenerating dependence on his bread-winning capacity. Unconsciously he seeks to escape the unreasonable burdens placed upon him, although he can never allow this desire to reach his consciousness. The psychic symbolism is clear—his transformation from human to insect is the physical manifestation of a repressed psychological desire, a form of unconscious wish-fulfillment.

Expert #2: No, you pseudo-intellectual, pretentious, Freudian wannabe, as usual you miss the point entirely. Gregor has been an insect in human form for years. Don’t you see the disgusting groveling, the overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, the cringing, abject, vermin-like posture he has adopted toward both father and employer, the two most potent authority figures in his life? His body is merely catching up to the true state of his identity.

Expert #3: Alas, my sad, misguided friends, I’m afraid you fail to grasp the heart and soul of the matter (and not for the first time I might add). By repeatedly emphasizing the difference between the way Gregor thinks and feels—his internal, human existence—and the way others see him, Kafka forces us to feel what it is to be completely alienated by external circumstances from one’s essential humanity. In this way he not only comments on the fundamental dehumanization of all of twentieth-century existence, he foreshadows the terrors of such historical developments as the Holocaust, the World Wars, and the genocides that have plagued the world for the last century.

Expert #4: Losers! You just can’t get the picture, can you? The guy’s family hates him, despite all he’s done for them, and they project their image of Gregor so strongly onto him that after a while he has no choice but to fulfill their expectations of him. It’s not that complicated a story, but you guys just can’t get that, can you? It’s the lack of love, understanding, and acceptance that turns him into a big bug.

Which of these views do you see as having the most merit? Why? Explain, in two or three meaty, lively paragraphs, making clear connections with the text.