Monday, December 7, 2009

AP--Waiting for the Barbarians

What does the magistrate learn from his experiences?

1. He is wrong when he tells the barbarian girl, "Don't make a mystery of it, pain is only pain" (31) He cannot understand the meaning of what happened to her by having her tell him what Colonel Joll did to her. Doing so is compassionate but misguided. Pain cannot be understood second hand; it must be experienced to appreciate its power.
2. In the face of pain, nothing else matters any longer. "My torturers are interested only in demonstrating to me what it meant to live in a body, a body which can entertain notions of justice only as long as it is whole and well, which very soon forgets them when its head is gripped and a pipe is pushed down its gullet and pints of salt water are poured into it till it coughs and retches and flails and voids itself. . . They came to my cell to show me the meaning of humanity, and in the space of an hour they showed me a great deal" (113). The truth learned by every brutal regime, by every political prisoner, by every torturer and their victims, is that pain is more powerful than dignity, than humanity, than justice, than truth. Where there is pain, there can be nothing else. It is the only reality.
3. If one difference between the civilized and the barbaric is the existence of law, The Empire forfeits the right to consider itself civilized. The Magistrate, who represents and administers and believes in law and the force of law, who wants from the Empire nothing more than his day in court, his moment before the law, discovers that the law no longer has any meaning in a corrupt Empire run by its secret police. "They will use the law against me as far as it serves them, then they will turn to other methods. That is the Bureau's way. To people who do not operate under statute, legal process is simply one instrument among many" (82).
4. Nothing, not even the Empire, is more powerful than History: "Empire dooms itself to live in history and plot against history. One thought alone preoccupies the submerged mind of Empire: how not to end, how not to die, how to prolong its era" (131). Prolonging its era is the mission of agencies like the Bureau, but eventually their methods backfire, they doom themselves to defeat, and the forces of history, as they did long ago with the civilization the Magistrate has studied for the last twenty years, once again prevail.
5. No matter how painful the knowledge, the Magistrate must accept his own complicity in the nature of Empire. The events of the novel shatter his naive belief that the outpost under his rule was a benign, harmonious environment where Empire and Barbarian co-existed peacefully, where neither harmed the other. He is not, as he wished to be, the opposite of the Colonel, merely the other side of the coin: "I was the lie that Empire tells itself when times are easy, he the truth that Empire tells when harsh winds blow. Two sides of imperial rule, no more, no less" (133).

Thursday, November 26, 2009

AP--end-of-semester schedule

Week of November 30
Day 1--Read WFB, part 4, to p. 119; begin student-led discussions; blog 1 contfor WFB due if not written last week.
Days 2 through 4--Finish reading WFB; continue student-led discussions. No quiz.

Week of December 7
Day 1--Blog #2 due for WFB. Topic: Make a meaningful connection between WFB and Conrad's HOD. Before writing your blog, read "Three Ways of Going Wrong" by Douglas Kerr on JStor, (Modern Language Review, vol. 95, #1, http://www. esp. pp. 21-27. Length: 400-500 words.
Day 2--Finish discussion of WFB. Both sections meet both Monday and Tuesday.
Wednesday, December 9--Reading Day. No classes meet.
Friday, December 11--Office Hours. I will be available to answer questions from 11:00 AM (following the math exam) to 12:30 PM. Please bring a specific question you would like answered.

Week of December 14
Semester Exam Monday December 14, 9 AM, Hormel Arts Center. Format: AP-style multiple choice questions (one-third), essay analyzing prose passage (one-third), essay on WFB/HOD (one-third).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

English IV-final paper

For your last essay of the semester, identify an important area of human life, human nature, or human values and write a paper of five to seven pages (1600-2000 words) discussing the theme you have identified. In your discussion, refer generously to three works we have studied. Choose one work from each of the following groups. Your third work may be chosen from either group.

Group A—Antigone; Things Fall Apart; A Doll's House; One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; Much Ado About Nothing; The Post Office

Group B—“War,” “Torn Lace,” “The Heavenly Christmas Tree,” “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” “Sunrise on the Veld,” “Good Climate, Friendly Inhabitants,” a Garcia Marquez story, “Forty-Five a Month,” “Interpreter of Maladies”.

Your papers are due Monday, December 14 by 11 AM, hard copy with turnitin receipt number (turnitin title: 2009-Final Paper). Papers are to be turned in at the Upper School office. They will be collected as soon as my exam is over at 11 AM; papers arriving after that time will be marked late and penalized accordingly. Use MLA parenthetical style for textual references with list of Works Cited.


Week of November 30:

Day 1: Finish Much Ado about Nothing discussion, including examples of findings of search teams

Day 2—Much Ado About Nothing Quest

Day 3—Preliminary thesis and list of texts for final paper due, in writing, with a short note on each explaining why it was chosen—10 points

Day 4—Outlines brought to class for discussion and approval—10 points

Week of December 7
Monday, December 7—Three pages of draft due in class for editing—10 points

Tuesday, December 8—Five-page drafts brought to class for editing—20 points

Week of December 14

Monday, December 14—11 AM—papers due, both hard copy and, 1600-2000 words—150 points

(N.B.-point values may be adjusted slightly, as this assignment is weighted as 25% of the semester total by Upper School policy.)

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.

You may of course find other similarities around which to build your papers. An ethical issue, a question of human relationships, a political question, the idea of conscience, the issue of identity—any of these or a wide array of potential topics lie at your disposal. But choose wisely. You want a topic that lends itself to the three works you will discuss, and it must be not too broad an issue to develop specifically in the assigned length. For example, the question “What is human nature,” while intriguing, is too general to be useful here. Pick something narrower and try to go deeper in your discussion.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

AP assignments November 09

Week of November 2

Days 1, 2, and 3--Finish discussion of The Sound and the Fury; continue second round of mini-blogs

Thurs/Fri--multiple-choice quiz #4, questions 39-53.

Day 4--(Friday November 6) Style analysis exercise for Heart of Darkness--read the opening paragraphs of the story, especially paragraphs # 2, 3, 4, & 6, more than once, and make notes in the margin. Consider diction, syntax, tone, organization, & tension, and the introduction of the character Marlow.

Monday, November 9--in-class essay on The Sound and the Fury; also, read part 1 of Heart of Darkness, pp. 3-31.

Week of November 9

1. Heart of Darkness: read part I for Day 1, part II for day 3 (pp. 31-54), part 3 for Friday, November 13 (pp. 54-77). Continue annotating the text, noting significant passages, key images, new vocabulary, and examples of Conrad's stylistic devices. Cite specific passages in mini-blogs.
2. Vocab quiz, lessons 11 & 12

Week of November 16

1. No class day 1, Monday, November 16.
2. Begin reading Waiting for the Barbarians: read parts I & II (to p. 55) for Day 4
3. Blog: Read your assigned section of background and criticism; summarize its most important ideas on your blog in a series of bullet points; due before class day 2 (T/W), to be presented in brief oral summaries.
4. Cumulative Vocabulary Review Quiz, lessons 1-12 Friday, November 20. Begin presenting mini-blogs on Waiting for the Barbarians day 4.

Week of November 23

1. Waiting for the Barbarians: Read part III (to p. 74) for Monday.
2. Both sections meet both Monday and Tuesday, no school Wed-Fri (Thanksgiving holiday)
3. No vocab quiz
4. Blog: due day 1 describing initial responses to characters, style, and content of WFB (approx. 300-400 words)

Essay assignment: Things Fall Apart

Topic choices for a three- or four-page paper on Things Fall Apart (approx. 1000-1200 words)

Topic choice and thesis due in class Friday 11/6
Draft due in class Monday or Tuesday (day 1) depending on section, 11/9 or 11/10.
Paper due in class and on by class time day 2 (Tuesday or Wednesday 11/10 or 11/11).

Other assignments:
Day 3--Read "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings," p. 577 in anthology
Day 4--Read "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World," (handout); vocab quiz, lessons 11 & 12.
Monday, November 16/Tuesday 17th--begin reading Much Ado About Nothing, Act I
Friday, November 20--Cumulative Vocabulary Review Quiz, lessons 1 through 12. (Rescheduled)

Choose one of the following topics to develop into an essay based on your understanding of the novel Things Fall Apart. In your essay, refer to specific passages and examples from the novel to support your ideas. This is an interpretive essay based on your reading of the novel; no outside sources should be used.

•Is Okonkwo a tragic figure? Review what you know from our study of Greek tragedy and assess to what extent those ideas apply to Things Fall Apart in general and Okonkwo in particular.

•How does Achebe’s narrator both endorse and critique the values and practices of Ibo culture? Why does he present some elements of the culture as problematic or flawed and others as sources of strength for the Ibo people?

•How does Okonkwo determine right from wrong? Choose three examples of decisions Okonkwo makes and examine what belief systems, values, laws or traditions he uses to choose a course of action. Evaluate the wisdom or effectiveness of these decisions.

•What kind of leader is Okonkwo? Choose three strong actions which demonstrate his leadership. Identify the values, beliefs, and/or traditions on which he bases each action and evaluate its effectiveness.

•Of his daughter Ezinma, Okonkwo thinks, “She should have been a boy” (p. 64). Why is it necessary to the story that Okonkwo’s favored child be a girl?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

AP--October 15 papers

  • The written portion of the assignment is a paper of approximately 5 pages (1500 words) in which you cover three key points: your reasons for choosing the story, some biographical background on the writer, and an analysis of some aspect of the story using the methods and vocabulary we have discussed and practiced in class. The analysis will be approximately two-thirds of the entire essay, the other sections a paragraph or two each.
  • Drafts of your papers are due in class Thursday October 16. Final papers are due, both hard copy and, on Friday, October 17.
  • Documentation should be included for the following information: titles and sources of all stories you read as you made your decision, source of biographical information on the author (Wikipedia is getting better but still needs independent verification for academic purposes). Mention the source of the information in the body of the essay or in a parenthetical citation, and include full documentation on your works cited page.

AP English

October , 2009

Study guide for The Sound and the Fury

I. Characters—Identify each of the following characters and gather information about their actions and personalities:

Benjy (Maury)

Caddy (Candace)

Mother (“Miss Cahline” or Caroline)

Father (Mr. Jason)--actually Jason III

Jason IV (usu. referred to simply as “Jason”)

Quentin (brother)

Quentin (daughter of ??)

Uncle Maury







II. Events—How many different scenes or events does Benjy remember?

What are the key elements of each memory?

What does Benjy love? What upsets him most?

Who died?

Who was married?

What were the four siblings (Caddy, Quentin, Benjy, and Jason) like as children? Who was their leader? Describe the various relationships among them. What have they become as adults?

Why are there two Quentins? What happened to the first? Who is the second? Describe her relationship with her Uncle Jason.

What happened June 2, 1910?

Why did it happen?

III. Images and motifs—climbing up trees to look in windows, climbing out windows and down trees, running away, funerals, weddings, swings, water (the branch), fire, smells, crying, golf, Uncle Maury and the Pattersons, “Sasspriluh,” sickness, watches, time, virginity, child support payments

AP assignments October 2009

October 12-16

Day 1--No school Monday--Fall Break
Day 2--Finish Sound and Fury, pp. 3-75 (April 7, 1928)
Day 3 (Th)--Begin part II of Sound and Fury, pp. 76ff. (June 2, 1910); drafts of short story papers due
Day 4 (Fr)--Continue part II; vocab quiz 7 - 8; short story papers due, hard copy & turnitin

October 19-23

Day 1--Finish S&F, pp, 76-179
Days 2 & 3--Read a scholarly article from JStor regarding the novel; begin reading pp. 180-264.
Day 4--Multiple choice quiz; continue reading part III (April 6, 1928)

October 26-30

Day 1--Finish reading S&F, pp. 180-264; blog a comment on your scholarly article. Give the citation of the source of the article, quote a brief passage or summarize an idea you found helpful, interesting, or just plain puzzling, and write a brief comment in the form of a blog entry.
Day 2--Begin reading pp. 265-321 (April 8, 1928)
Day 3--Continue
Day 4--Finish pp. 265-321; vocab 9 & 10

Thursday, October 1, 2009

English IV assignments for October 2009

Week 6: September 28-October 2
Finish reading One Day; work on reading guide; vocab 5-6; reading quiz

Week 7: October 5-9
Day 1: Blogs due: One day in the Life of . . . .
Day 2: “Quest” on One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (day 3 for section 2—Carroll-Villadolid)
Day 3: “Interpreter of Maladies” handout (day 2 for section 2)
Day 4: No school Friday, Fall Break

Week 8: October 12-16
Day 1: No School Monday
Poetry day for section 1 Tuesday—Attaway-Troutman
Tuesday: "Interpreter of Maladies," (handout) for section 2 (Carroll--Villadolid)
Wednesday: "Forty-five a Month," p. 495 in anthology, both sections
Thursday: "The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket," p. 464, section 1
Friday: "The Post Office," p. 411, both sections; vocab 7 - 8 quiz

Week 9: October 19-23
Day 1: “A Sunrise on the Veld,” p. 308
Day 2: “Good Climate, Friendly Inhabitants,” p. 316
Day 3: Begin reading Things Fall Apart (paperback), chapters 1-3
Day 4: TFA, chapters 4-6

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

English IV blog assignment (One Day)

Follow this link to this week's blog assignment, due BEFORE day 1 of the upcoming week.

Monday, September 21, 2009

AP--Paper on additional short story

In addition to the short essay on the story you have been assigned, your final assignment for our study of short fiction is to research and write a paper on a story you choose based on your own interest. Listed below are the requirements and guidelines for this assignment:

• Your story must have been published for the first time in the last 5 years, that is 2005 to the present.

• Your story must have actually been “published”; no self-published internet pieces by amateur writers, please.

• Since I am asking you to research the author and write an analysis of the story, I strongly suggest that you read several stories,  minimum three, from a variety of sources, then choose the one you enjoyed the most. As you read new stories, I encourage you to post short responses to them as part of your weekly blogs commenting on our assigned short stories.

• Published short stories are not as abundant as they were 50 or 75 years ago. Nevertheless, you may find excellent material in a variety of places: New Yorker magazine publishes short stories regularly, and Mr.Thommen has set over 100 issues out in the reference section of the library. Also, Mr. Thommen has begun a subscription to a periodical called One Story, each issue of which contains, you guessed it, a single short story. The Best American Short Stories series publishes a new edition every year (guest editor for the 2007 edition was Stephen King), and I have ordered copies of the two most recent collections. Finally, literary journals in libraries often contain new stories, and both single-author and anthology collections of stories may be found in bookstores as well. For example, Jhumpa Lahiri, author of The Namesake on my summer reading list, has a new story collection called Unaccustomed Earth.

• The written portion of the assignment is a paper of approximately 5 pages (1500 words) in which you cover three key points: your reasons for choosing the story, some biographical background on the writer, and an analysis of the story using the methods and vocabulary we have discussed and practiced in class.

• Drafts of your papers are due in class Thursday October 16. Final papers are due, both hard copy and, on Friday, October 17.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

English IV--September 11-October 2

Week 3: September 8-11
Friday, September 11— Read A Doll’s House, Act I, pp. 140-165; introduce Spiderman blog assignment

Week 4: September 14-18
Day 1—Spiderman blogs due
Day 2—A Doll’s House, Act II, pp. 165-184
Day 3—A Doll’s House, Act III, pp. 184-202
Friday, September 18—Vocabulary quiz, lessons 3-4; bring hard copy of spiderman blog to class for peer edit workshop

Week 5: September 21-25
Day 1—Revised Spiderman blogs due as hard copy and to
Day 2—“The Heavenly Christmas Tree,” pp. 121-125
Day 3—“How Much Land Does a Man Need,” pp. 126 – 138
Friday, September 25—Begin reading One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; start Wednesday night, average, 20 pages per night Thursday night and all weekend, finish reading by Monday night September 28

Week 6: September 28-October 2
Day 1—Continue reading One Day
Day 2—Finish reading One Day, possible quiz
Day 3—Continue discussion of One Day
Friday, October 3—One Day blogs due; vocab quiz lessons 5-6

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Spiderman blog

Reread Jim Hall's Spiderman poem "Maybe dats your pwoblem too." Think about how the metaphor of a "fwame-wesistant" suit might apply to people other than Spiderman. Perhaps the suit represents, for example, a part of our life we cannot escape, some aspect of our identity difficult or seemingly impossible to shed, even if we would like to do so, to be able, as Hall says Spiderman wishes to do, to become "someone different, something new."

Consider the following questions:
How might this metaphor apply to all of us?
Can you apply the metaphor to yourself? Are there parts of your "suit" you would like to burn?
Which pieces of our identity are most difficult to rid ourselves of ("fwame wesistant")?
Are there times when people would most like to "buin der suits"? Why? What can lead to such a desire?
If you could reinvent yourself, what would you do to make your "heart beat at a diffwent wate"? What prevents you?

You needn't try to answer all these questions. Do some brainstorming and choose your strongest ideas to develop into a personal piece of some 500 words. And since it is a personal piece written for a public audience (your classmates and me) choose how much personal information you wish to include.

You may, if you wish, consult the poet James Hall's blog and read what he says about his poem. Be aware, however, that Hall says a poet should never be the final authority on what a poem can mean to a reader.

Finally, here is a link to the poem itself.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Blog starters for Antigone

Follow this link to some ideas that occurred to me as possible topics for your Antigone blog. To be written any time between now and next Tuesday September 8. Also, look at section III of the course syllabus for other suggestions of blog starters that may be used with any literary work. Suggested length: 400 to 500 words.

See you Tuesday.

Monday, August 31, 2009

AP--short story unit

Here is a link to the document describing various responsibilities for presenting material from the short story anthology in our textbook.

The list of story titles and page numbers may be found on the current assignment schedule.

Pride and Prejudice essay--AP

Write an essay of approximately 600-750 words (2-3 typed, double-spaced pages), in which you discuss in as much detail as space permits the significance of the following passage to the work as a whole. In your discussion you may focus on an appropriate combination of the following elements:

• How does the passage characterize its participants and Austen’s methods of characterization?
• What is the relationship of this scene to the “action” of the novel? Does it contribute to either the complication of the action or to its resolution?
• How does it embody or advance themes important to the novel?
• In what sense is the scene “comic”?
• How does it most significantly illustrate Jane Austen’s style?

Drafts are due in class day 3 for peer editing and essays are due Friday, September 4, both hard copy and electronically to Here is a link to the formatting requirements. Here is a link to the syllabus, section 5 of which details procedures.


“Tell me once for all, are you engaged to him?”

Though Elizabeth would not, for the mere purpose of obliging Lady Catherine, have answered this question, she could not but say, after a moment’s deliberation, “I am not.”

Lady Catherine seemed pleased.

“And will you promise me, never to enter into such an engagement?”

“I will make no promise of the kind.”

“Miss Bennet, I am shocked and astonished. I expected to find a more reasonable young woman. But do not deceive yourself into a belief that I will ever recede. I shall not go away, till you have given me the assurance I require.”

“And I certainly never shall give it. I am not to be intimidated into anything so wholly unreasonable. Your ladyship wants Mr. Darcy to marry your daughter; but would my giving you the wished-for promise, make their marriage at all more probable?” . . . .

Her ladyship was highly incensed.

“You have no regard, then, for the honour and credit of my nephew! Unfeeling, selfish girl! Do you not consider that a connection with you must disgrace him in the eyes of everybody?”

“Lady Catherine, I have nothing further to say. You know my sentiments.”

“You are resolved then to have him?”

“I have said no such thing. I am only resolved to act in that manner which will, in my own opinion, constitute my happiness, without reference to you, or to any person so wholly unconnected with me.”

Friday, August 28, 2009

My Most Memorable Books

1. Catcher in the Rye, Salinger (when I was 15 I thought it the truest book I'd ever read)
2. The stories of Edgar Allan Poe (the summer I was 12--couldn't stop reading--I can still picture the library book)
3. All the Kings Men, R. Penn Warren--first time when I was 20--lots of times since
4. Master and Commander, P. O'Brian--the whole series, 20 volumes--counts as one for me. Read them all at least twice.
5. Winter's Tale--Mark Helprin--a burglar, a consumptive heiress, a flying horse, and bridges from the future
6. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole--the most outrageously funny book I've ever read.
7. Outlander, D. Gabaldon--another series--volume 7 is due out next month.
8. Lonesome Dove--Larry McMurtry--my all-time favorite western
9. Crossing to Safety--Wallace Stegner--wonderful story of friendship between two married couples lasting 40 years
10. Gone to Soldiers--Marge Piercy--my favorite WW2 novel
11. Anna Karenina--Tolstoy--read it one chapter a night before bedtime for three months--amazing story.
12. Absalom Absalom, W. Faulkner--even better than the Sound and the Fury, which I also love.
13. Pride and Prejudice, Austen--my 2nd favorite 18th century novel
14. Tom Jones, Henry Fielding--my favorite 18th century novel
15. Great Expectations, Dickens--he may be out of fashion now, but I love Dickens
16 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn--the book I've read the most times, so many I've lost count.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

English IV & AP--blog assignment #2

For FRIDAY, August 28, all sections:

N.B. This blog assignment is NOT subject to the usual suggested length of 500 words.

This summer, one of the topics bouncing around facebook between me and some of my friends went something like this:

What are the 15 books you have ever read that have stayed with you the longest and made the greatest impression on you? Don't think too hard about this topic. Just list the ones that come into your mind first as books that have made a lasting impression on you.

I'd add the following notes: a) your lists don't have to be 15 titles long, although I hope you have at least 5 or 10 you can honestly name that have stuck in your mind; b) for each title on your list, write a sentence, two at the most, explaining why it's on your list.

2 PS's: Remember to turn off "word notification" if you have not done so already; it will speed up my process of replying to your initial blog posts; second, if I have your url, delete my e-mail address from the notification box. If I don't have your url, well, you're already a bit behind, so please get with the program.

Blog vs. essay

Revising a blog


1. Look at the blog entry you’ve chosen for the idea that you can develop into an essay of several paragraphs. It may or may not be the topic most addressed in the blog, but it should be one which forms a considerable part of your blog discussion and which you think you can develop further in essay form.

2. Rewrite the current opening statement or write a new, brief opening paragraph. Keep your opening concise, identify the focus of the essay, and, at the end of the paragraph, make a clear, specifically worded statement of thesis, the interpretive idea whose validity you wish to prove in the essay.

3. Look at the middle paragraphs of your blog entry. Are they too long? Too short? If they don’t already begin with sentences that state ideas rather than facts, add clear topic sentences that relate to your thesis. Check within each of those middle paragraphs for a balance between specific textual evidence, preferably both examples and brief quotations, and your own commentary designed to identify the significance of your evidence and fully develop the depth of each paragraph. Finally, make sure each of these middle paragraphs helps support the validity of your thesis.

4. Check your final paragraph. Make sure it does not simply repeat what you have already stated. Draw a conclusion from the evidence you’ve presented. Save your most important idea, the one everything else in your essay leads up to, for last.

5. Last but certainly not least, read all your sentences out loud for clarity and clutter. Have you expressed your biggest ideas in simple words? Have you taken out who, which, and that whenever possible? Are you varying the length of your sentences, alternating complex and compound sentences with simple ones? Does the punctuation of your sentences help make them clearer and more meaningful? Have you caught the spelling mistakes spellcheck won’t catch?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Headings, formats, and style tips

HEADINGS FOR PAPERS—Always head your papers with the following information:

  • Your name,
  • Course and section number (Monsters 2, Time 1, for example)
  • Paper ID number from
  • Word count (your word processing program should perform this last task for you automatically).


  • Use 12-point font
  • Choose a font with serifs (Times New Roman, for example)
  • Set 1 inch margins all round
  • Give your paper a title which indicates its subject; when writing about literature, give more than just the name of the text you are writing about.
  • Double space text
  • Keep quotations brief; for quotations of FIVE lines or longer, block the passage with one and one-half inch margins and single spacing.
  • Remember to put novel and play titles in italics, poem and short story titles in quotation marks, and to give your paper a title different from the literary work it discusses.
  • Use American spelling and usage: double quotation marks, not single; toward, not towards; judgment, not judgement; gray, not grey; honor, not honour, and so on.
  • Avoid "naked" pronouns: this, that, which.
  • Whenever possible, omit who, which, and that--make the relative clause either the main clause or a participial phrase.
  • Simplify your language; use everyday words to express important ideas.
  • Omit unnecessary words from your sentences, unnecessary sentences from your paragraphs, unnecessary paragraphs from your essays. Be studious of brevity.
  • Whenever you face a choice between a general term and a specific word, opt for the latter.
  • Use parenthetical citation for primary texts (the literature from the course)
  • If you looked at any outside sources, be sure to cite them fully and accurately. This responsibility extends both to direct language (in quotation marks) and paraphrased ideas (your own words, not in quotation marks, but clearly cited).

English IV--assignments to September 8

English IV—World Literature
Mr. Coon
Schedule of Assignments
August—September 2009

Note: Assignments are DUE on the day indicated.

Week 1: August 24—28
Day 1. First day—welcome, syllabus, blog intro, assignments
Day 2. Set up account with Google Reader (see “how to start a blog,” below); write the blog entry indicated in the instructions after you establish your blog; vocabulary intro (bring books)—
Day 3. Print blog entry, bring to class for discussions and workshop (blog to essay in five easy steps); begin peer review
Day 4. Continue peer review; begin revision and re-writing of draft 2

Week 2: August 31—September 4
Day 1. Essays due, both hard copy and; introduction to tragedy
Day 2. Read Antigone, pp. 14 to 32 (to line 593 “enter Ismene”)
Day 3. Antigone, pp. 32-44, to line 1034;
Day 4. Antigone, finish reading to page 57; vocab quiz 1, lessons 1 & 2

Week 3: September 8—11 (No school Monday--Labor Day)
1. Read “Torn Lace,” pp. 73--77
2. Read “War,” pp. 79-82
3. Writing activity TBA

AP--Assignments to October 8

English IV—Advanced Placement World Literature
Mr. Coon
Schedule of Assignments
August—October, 2009

Note: All assignments are DUE for the class day listed.

Week 1: August 24—28

Day 1: First day—welcome, syllabus, blog intro, assignments
Day 2: Set up account with Google Reader (see “how to start a blog,” on; write the letter indicated in the instructions after you establish your blog; vocabulary intro (bring books); Introduction to close reading
Day 3: Bring Pride & Prejudice; continue introduction to close reading
Day 4: Quiz 1—Multiple choice (15 minutes); close reading exercise

Week 2: August 31—September 4
Day 1: Discussion of passages
Day 2: Discussion of Pride and Prejudice; introduce short story presentations & roles
Day 3: Essay draft due in class on Pride and Prejudice; vocab quiz 1 (lessons 1 & 2)
Day 4: Read A Rose For Emily (28) (LCC); revised essay due

Week 3: September 8—11 No classes Monday (Labor Day)

1: Everyday Use (p.443)
2: Teenage Wasteland (35)
3: Interpreter of Maladies (p. 579); Multiple choice quiz 2

Week 4: September 14—18
1: A & P (p. 14); blogs due
2: Parker’s Back (382)
3: A Good Man is Hard to Find (p.358)
4: Cathedral (p. 98); Vocab quiz 2 (lessons 3 & 4)

Week 5: September 21—25
1: A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (156); blogs due
2: Battle Royal (p. 526)
3. Shiloh (p. 604)
4: The Yellow Wallpaper (p. 424); Multiple choice quiz 3

Week 6: September 28—October 2
1: Greasy Lake (p. 129); blogs due
2: Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been (p. 613)
3. I Stand Here Ironing (p. 637);
4: The Things They Carried (p. 625); vocab quiz 3 (lessons 5 & 6)ALSO, spend one free period in the library browsing the short story collections Mr. Thommen has set out.

Week 7: October 5—8—No school Friday (Fall Break)
1: The Five Forty-Eight (p. 503); half blogs due--update on independent short story project--less than 500 words is preferred.
2 & 3: Begin the Sound and the Fury (pp. 3-75); finish reading and research for short story papers.

How to Start a Blog

Go to You should be automatically directed to their start page. Follow the "three easy steps" :
--Create your account using your PCDS e-mail account and a password of your choice (suggestion: use the same account and password for your account). Since your blog will only be read by me and by your classmates, please use your first and last name as your display name; that way I always know whose blog I'm reading and you get credit for having written it.
--Name your blog. Whatever you like, but it's a school assignment, so be appropriate, please. For your blog's url, use firstname-lastname so that we may find each other's blogs easily during the year.
--Select a template for your blog. Pick whichever one you like, with one condition. My eyes are getting older and I can't read text set against a black or dark blue background, so please don't choose one of those templates.

After you create your template, click "start posting" to go to the editing page of your blog. From there, you have one more crucial task. Click the Settings tab, then the e-mail tab. Type my e-mail address in the box marked "BlogSend": ( After I have an RSS feed for your blog, I’ll ask you to turn this setting off. But to get started you need to include this step or you may not receive credit for your blog entries. (IMPORTANT: Be sure to click "Save Settings" before closing this tab.)

Finally, one crucial setting. Open the "comments" tab, scroll down, and click the "NO" button next to a setting called "show word verification for comments." This one is important to save me a great deal of time and bother when I write comments back to you about your blog posts. Again, click "save settings" before you leave this section of your settings.

When you have completed all these steps, click the "Posting" tab and create your first blog entry.

For AP English: Write your first blog about the reading you did this summer. I’m interested not only in the books you chose from my recommendations but also any books you read on your own. Include a list of any books you have read since the beginning of June, both titles and authors, and then write a short piece about ONE of the titles you read. Pick the one that made the strongest impression on you, or the one you enjoyed the most, or the one that stayed with you the longest after you read it. Here is a link to such a piece, one I wrote last summer after I read Cormac McCarthy’s novel The Road. As you write, remember to be as specific as you can in your language, your reasons, your examples.

For English IV: Write a blog about the book you chose from the grade 12 Summer Reading List. If you read more than one title from the list, choose the one that made the strongest impression on you. In your blog (500 words or so), identify which aspects of the novel are most prominent, which ones go the furthest to explain the impression the book made on you. Was it an idea, a character who seemed particularly lifelike, a relationship, the ambiguity of the book's ending or meaning, something about the writer's style? Your blog will serve as the first draft of a paper to be turned in next week, so give some thought to identifying and discussing those elements of the book which are most notable.

I recommend that you write, edit, spell-check, and word-count your letter as a word document then paste it into the box on the posting page of your blog. When you're done, give it a title, click the orange button marked "publish post," and voila!—you have created your first blog entry (436).

English IV Syllabus 2009

English IV Syllabus
Mr. Coon; Fall, 2009

I. Goals

In the courses which comprise English IV, we seek to expose members of the senior class to significant pieces of literature from the world tradition. The required semester selection of world authors includes pieces from the classical Mediterranean world, Asia, Africa, South America, and Continental Europe. Canonical authors such as Sophocles, Shakespeare, Ibsen, Kafka, Tolstoy, Achebe, and Solzhenitsyn provide depth and balance to the assigned material. Authors and works are chosen with an eye toward providing significant intellectual, esthetic, moral, and literary challenges to readers. Each course asks students to read and think carefully, to listen and discuss, and to develop their language skills, especially in writing, critical reading, vocabulary, and English usage.

II. Readings

World Literature (first semester)
1. World Literature , Donna Rosenberg (editor)
2. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
3. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
4. Short stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez
5. selected novel(s) for summer reading

Advanced Placement World Literature (two semesters)
1. Literature: An Introduction, (10th edition) X. J. Kennedy & Dana Gioia, editors
2. Waiting for the Barbarians, J. M. Coetzee
3. The Sound and the Fury , William Faulkner
4. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
5. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (summer reading)
6. selected novels for summer reading

African-American Literature (second semester)
1. Black Boy, Richard Wright
2. Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansberry
3. Fences, August Wilson
4. Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

Shakespeare (second semester); team taught with Mr. Burns
1. Hamlet
2. As You Like It
3. The Merchant of Venice

III. Additional text for all sections: Vocabulary for Achievement, 6th course

IV. Written work
The primary forum for written work is your blog. You are required to post weekly blog entries relating to the literature studied in the classroom. Your blogs will receive a gradeat the end of each marking period, accounting for 30% of each quarter’s grade. Blog entries should be approximately 500 words in length (please indicate word count in parentheses at the end of each entry). I will not, however, grade by length alone; rather, quantity will be one of four criteria, along with regularity of entries, style, and originality of content. Instructions about creating and posting blog entries may be found on my blog at
Occasionally I will ask you to respond to particular prompts or questions on my blog, but often there is no set topic for your weekly entries. Rather, I ask you to find an element of the assigned reading that interests you and discuss it thoughtfully. This comment may take many forms, a few of which are suggested here:
• Discuss a character’s actions, words, personality, moral values, or humanity.
• Comment on the writer’s style, use of language, tone, irony, or imagery.
• Consider a topic or idea raised in class discussion, trying to go beyond what has already been stated.
• Raise and discuss a question about the text under consideration.
• Discuss the importance or meaning of a key passage or scene from the reading.
• For longer works, show how a scene or passage develops a theme or pattern identified in class.
• Make a comparison between a scene, character, or idea from the literature and something from another source or from your own experience
• Use an idea from my blog or from that of one of your classmates as a point of departure for your response.
• Locate relevant research material on the web, post a link to the site on your blog, and discuss your choice.
• Using first person, tell the story of your reading of and interaction with the text.

In all cases, your goals are to demonstrate close, careful reading of assigned texts, challenge yourself to creative, original thinking, and develop your fluency as a writer. In addition to blog entries, several times each semester, I will assign papers, either revisions of blog entries or interpretations of asigned novels, plays, poems, or stories. Your papers will account for another 30% of your grade.

IMPORTANT: HEADINGS FOR PAPERS—Always head your papers with the following information: your name, date, turnitin receipt number, and word count (your word processing program should perform this last task for you automatically).

In addition to submitting hard copies of your papers this year, you are required to submit electronic copies of all papers to These instructions will help you submit your papers. Use the same e-mail address and password for that you use for your account at
• On your web browser, go to Register as a new user or login to the personal home page you created last year. You must give your e-mail address and a personal password which contains both letters and numbers to register. Click “student” as your user type. Give whatever other information may be necessary as you move through the required fields.
• When you reach your personal home page, click “join new class.” Then enter a class ID and a class enrollment password. For AP students, the class ID is 1598905 and the password pcdsap; for World Literature students (non-AP) the class ID is 1875359 and the password is pcdswl. Click “submit” when you finish. N.B: You only need to complete this step once.
• Then submit your paper. When you click on the class title, you will go to the class history page. Click on the word “submit” in the middle navigation bar. Enter the title of your paper and select the assignment with the correct date from the pull down menu. Assignments are listed by the title of the work and the date an assignment is due.

• After entering your title and selecting the correct assignment, paste your essay into the box marked “main text.” (In my experience, the copy and paste method works better than the upload method. You may, of course, find otherwise). You may ignore the boxes marked abstract and bibliography unless otherwise instructed. When your paper has been pasted into the “main text” box, click “submit.”
• Remember to put your digital receipt number on the assignment before you give it to me. Otherwise your assignment will be marked late and penalized accordingly.

VI. Participation and attendance
• Class discussion is a crucial part of the course. Therefore, it is imperative that we all treat one another with respect and behave in such a way as to contribute to, not disrupt, an atmosphere conducive to maximum learning.
• Participation in class is mandatory. I understand that the introverts have difficulty speaking in front of your peers and me; nevertheless, I expect you to contribute meaningfully to class activities and discussions. You must come to class having done the reading assigned and be prepared to discuss the material, answer questions, venture informed opinions, and articulate personal responses.
• Participation grades are assigned as follows and account for 20% of your grade in the class: "A" students are fully engaged, on time with the necessary books and supplies. They display obvious enthusiasm for the tasks of the class: reading, talking, listening, working in a group, thinking about a problem. "B" students' engagement varies slightly, sometimes at "A" level, sometimes not. "C" students are generally involved but with noticeable lapses. They may arrive late to class or frequently forget materials. They spend time on things other than the work at hand: chatting with friends, doing homework for another class, catching up on sleep, or staring off in space. "D" students exhibit these behaviors to an even greater degree, becoming a distraction to the work of the class, having a negative impact on the group's ability to get its work done, regularly coming to class unprepared.
• Read the student handbook statement on attendance policies. After six absences in a class, a letter is sent home. After nine, students and parents meet with the Dean of Students. Also, be aware that beginning with the third unexcused lateness to class, you will be assigned to serve detention for each subsequent lateness. Please be on time to class.

VII. Vocabulary
• Three new lessons in the vocabulary book are assigned every other week.  Quizzes will take place the first 10 minutes of class on alternate Fridays unless otherwise notified.
• For first semester, we will cover lessons 1-15; for the second, lessons 16-30. Quizzes will contain all 30 words from the three lessons.
• Missed vocabulary quizzes must be made up at your earliest possible convenience. After one week, barring extraordinary circumstances, missing scores will be entered as zeroes.

VIII. Grading policy

• Grades are determined on a point system in which each assignment is weighted by the number of points it contains. Points will be totaled at the end of each quarter and semester and grades determined in accordance with the percentages contained in your student handbook.
• Grades from individual assignments are then weighted into categories as follows: blogs (30%), papers (30%), vocabulary and quizzes (20%), participation and attendance (20%).
• Assignments are due at the beginning of class. Work turned in during or after class is considered late and will be penalized. Late work is eligible for a score no higher than 75%, depending on the quality of the assignment and the degree of lateness. If you are absent the day an assignment is due, either have a classmate turn it in or fax the assignment to the Upper School office (602-224-6177).
• Students who miss quizzes or tests because of excused absence must make arrangements for make-up immediately upon returning to school. Missing work (quizzes or assignments never turned in or made up) will result in an incomplete grade for the quarter or semester.
• Any student who establishes a clear pattern of failing to complete the assigned reading according to the prescribed schedule will receive a semester grade of D or F, regardless of that student’s scores on other assignments. Repeated missing or poor written work, failed quizzes or tests, or the inability to supply basic factual information in class will be taken as signs of not reading.
• All assignments must be completed in accordance with the school’s honesty policy. See your handbook for details and be certain you know the difference between plagiarism and acceptable use of source material. Also, any assignments written for other courses may not be submitted without my specific permission.

X. Contact information
• In person—room 311. Stop by to talk or ask a question anytime I’m free. My schedule is posted on the door of my classroom. To make up a quiz, go over an assignment, a speech draft, or a college essay, please make an appointment first.
• By voice-mail—602-956-0253 x4296
• By fax—602-224-6177
• By e-mail—

Monday, April 27, 2009

Shakespeare--Final projects

Select a scene from one of the following plays:

Twelfth Night
A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream
Romeo and Juliet
Julius Ceasar
Much Ado About Nothing
Merchant of Venice

Present the scene either as a live, memorized performance or by some other creative medium that suits your particular talents. Examples: Set the scene to music, create a filmed version of the scene, animate (or stop-motion animation) and provide voice-over for dialogue.

Note: Memorization is required for all options (see “off book” due date).

As this is the final project of the year, expectations are higher than previous presentation assignments. Work toward a complete final product, fully costumed, carefully staged and rehearsed, as though it were being presented to a paying public audience.

Length of scenes will be longer than earlier assignments. If desired scenes are too short, you may prepare multiple scenes from the same play.

Each group must submit a written "script" for its scene, containing all the Shakespearean dialogue plus stage directions, written blocking, full subtext for each character, notes for tone of voice, characters' emotions and actions, goals and motives, etc.

4/22- Project Assigned, begin forming teams and identifying possible scenes
4/23 - Shakespeare's birthday (and Sarah's); announce teams
4/27 - Teams present ideas for possible scenes, create a “short list”
4/28 - Scenes approved, begin work
5/6 - "Script" drafts due and “off book”
5/7-12 - Continue rehearsals; Present scenes for notes and direction
5/11 - "Script" final draft
5/11-12 Dress rehearsals (costumes/props required)
5/13 - THURS - Final presentations: Students and faculty will be invited
(Class rescheduled to block 5, lunch period, 11:30 AM)
5/14 Final class: course evaluation; Mr. Coon’s “Senior Speech" & farewell

Monday, April 13, 2009

SHK--essay assignment--movie review

For this assignment, write a paper of approximately 800-1000 words in length (approximately 3 pages) based on the following prompt. Papers are due Tuesday April 21, both hard copy and to

Watch a movie interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s plays and write a review. Identify and evaluate the choices the director and actors made in order to bring the text to life. Was the setting changed from the renaissance to another historical period? Did the change add to the effectiveness of the presentation? Did the actors give strong interpretations of the characters? If this is a play you have not read or seen before, what were the most dramatically compelling parts of the story? Which characters have the strongest personalities? If you watched a movie of a play you already know, how successful were the performances in communicating what is essential about the play? What were the most or least effective choices made by the director and actors?

Avoid movies which are loose adaptations of Shakespeare’s stories (O, Ten Things I Hate About You, etc) done in modern language. Choose a film which contains the original language and story.

Suggestions (N.B. the PCDS library has over a dozen Shakespeare films, and I have several as well.)
Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet
Michael Hoffman’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V
Laurence Olivier’s Henry V
Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet
Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet
Franco Zeffirelli’s Hamlet
Trevor Nunn’s Twelfth Night
Richard Loncraine’s Richard III
Laurence Olivier as Richard III
Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing
Roman Polanski’s Macbeth
Ian McKellen as Macbeth
Ethan Hawke as Hamlet
Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet
Al Pacino as Shylock in Merchant of Venice
Al Pacino as Richard III in Looking for Richard

(Simply identify in the text of your essay which film you are referencing and you will not need a works cited page for this assignment, since the text of your essay will contain only your own thoughts about the movie.)

Monday, March 30, 2009


For some thoughts on my way of approaching the study of lyric poetry, look here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

AP--Reading list for final paper

Select a novel for independent reading during the month of April. You may choose from the list below or another novel of “comparable literary merit.” Also, look for three critical analyses of the novel in a local library or JStor. Write a paper of 1500-2000 words (5-7 pages) developing in some depth one key aspect of the novel’s meaning, using both direct quotations and your 3 outside sources. You must bring five typed pages to class Monday, April 26. Papers are due Wednesday, April 28, both hard copy and

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
Reservation Blues, Sherman Alexie
Handmaid’s Tale or Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood
Persuasion or Emma, Jane Austen
Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
My Antonia; O Pioneers!, Willa Cather
The Awakening, Kate Chopin
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevski
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
Absalom! Absalom!, William Faulkner
Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
A Passage to India, E.M. Forster
Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy
Catch-22, Joseph Heller
A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey
Obasan, Joy Kogawa
Lady Chatterley’s Lover, D. H. Lawrence
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy
Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
We Were the Mulvaneys, Joyce Carol Oates
The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien
Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys
Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren
Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
Native Son, Richard Wright

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Juniors--course requests

AP vs. English IV
  • Year-long course or two semester courses (World Lit + Shakespeare or Composition or African-American Lit); AP requires permission
  • More reading in AP
  • More difficult, challenging texts
  • Faster pace
  • More papers, blogs, and other writings
  • More responsibility for leading class discussion approx. every other week
  • Tough multiple choice quizzes every other week
  • More demanding grading scale
Who should take AP?
  • People who like English better than any other subject, love to read and discuss
  • B+ or better grades in English II and III
  • Careful readers, logical thinkers, strong writers
  • Highly motivated, always prepared for class (especially important)
  • Like to participate in discussion
  • Highly recommended by Ms. Driscoll
Who should take English IV
  • English class not your highest priority
  • Taking 3 other AP's in Math, Science, Foreign Language
  • Thought the Emily Dickinson questions on the semester exam were impossible
  • Cut corners on daily reading assignments this year
  • Think Beloved is boring and confusing
  • Writing essays not your strength
My selection policy is explained in slightly more detail in this link.

If you think you are right for AP and AP is right for you, see Ms. Driscoll first, then see me for my initials on your course request form.

Monday, March 9, 2009


An essay from Midsummer, the publication of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, which staged a revival of Death of a Salesman in 1991.

Friday, March 6, 2009

AP--March 6 - 20

For March 9/10--Day 1--Write a brief blog, approximately 400 words, commenting on an idea raised during class discussion of Death of a Salesman, trying to take that idea a little further and giving your own take. Also, please read pp. 1833-35 for our discussion.

Day 2--We'll go into the computer lab and post comments on one another's blogs and watch a brief video on the career of August Wilson.

Day 3--Fences, act 1--pp. 1996--2026

Day 4--Multiple choice quiz; continue discussion of Fences

Week of March 16
Day 1--Fences, act 2, pp. 2026-2047
Days 2 & 3--finish discussion of Fences
Day 4--Enrichment day/ IFF/ last day before spring break

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Shakespeare--paraphrase assignment

Today, write a paraphrase of your scene or monologue. Work line by line and thought by thought, trying to put your characters' thoughts into modern-day equivalent English. Try to catch each speech's meaning as exactly as you can.

Here is my example, taken from the opening lines of The Merchant of Venice.

Act I, scene I, lines 1-7:
Antonio: In sooth I know not why I am so sad.
It wearies me, you say it wearies you.
But how I caught it, found it, or came by it,
What stuff ‘tis made of, whereof it is born,
I am to learn.
And such a want-wit sadness makes of me,
That I have much ado to know myself.

Antonio: To tell you the truth, I don’t know what’s making me so sad.
I’m really getting tired of it, and I hear you, I know you are too.
But I can’t say how I “caught” this disease, where I found it, or how it happened to me.
I’m still trying to figure out where it comes from and what it’s based on.
And the worst is, it makes me feel like such a fool, it’s hard to even know who I am any more.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

SHK--Performance assignment #2

Assignment: Prepare and perform a memorized portion of The Merchant of Venice.

•    “off book” (able to recite the text from memory) by Wed, March 11.
•    carefully blocked (detailed movement planned and rehearsed)
•    believably bring characters and action to life.
•    Incorporation of actual props and suggested costumes is encouraged and in some cases may be required, depending on how critical they may be to the scene.

OPTIONS: You must choose whichever you did not do for Hamlet.
•    A 2 to 3 character scene with dialogue evenly distributed among the characters (minimum 2, maximum 3 pages of the class text)
•    A monologue or soliloquy (minimum 20, maximum 40 lines)

The writing assignment in conjunction with this performance will be a “paraphrased” version of the scene text. This will begin as an in-class writing assignment on Thurs, March 5. Students will use this paraphrased text in rehearsals, and perhaps as part of the performance.

Text selection should be determined by Wednesday, March 4.
Class time will be provided for rehearsals.
“Off book” quiz on Wed, March 11
Notes will be given by Mr. Coon and Mr. Burns on Thurs and Fri, March 12 & 13.
Final performances are scheduled for Thursday, March 19.

Friday, February 27, 2009


There will be vocab quizzes the NEXT two Fridays, lessons 19, 20, and 21 on Friday March 6, and 22, 23, & 24 on Friday March 13.

I have been most neglectful of keeping this schedule current; now I am clear about such matters. (There will be two more vocab quizzes in the month of April, on the 10th and 24th.)

AP English--March 2 - 6

For Monday March 2 (Tuesday for section 3): Death of a Salesman, act 1, pp. 1763-1795.

For Wednesday, March 4 (day of the command and National Grammar Day), Act 2 & Requiem.

Friday, March 6--vocabulary 22, 23, & 24.

Monday, February 23, 2009

SHK--more on Shylock

Jacob Adler was an actor and producer in the thriving Yiddish theater scene on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early 20th century. In his production of The Merchant of Venice, Adler spoke Shylock’s lines in Yiddish, while the other actors spoke in English.

In an interview for Theatre magazine in 1902, after his play had moved from the Bowery to Broadway, Adler had this to say about his portrayal of Shylock:

Shylock is rich enough to forgo the interest on his three thousand ducats for the purely moral satisfaction of his revenge. I say [he] would be richly dressed and proud of mien rather than the poor cringing figure time has made familiar. Antonio, on the other hand, is far from the chivalrous gentleman time has made familiar. . . The two men are confronted in a supposed court of justice, a court packed with Antonio’s friends, the judge openly committed to Antonio’s cause, the prosecuting attorney a masquerading girl soon to be the bride of his bosom friend, and Shylock alone against them all without counsel, without advocate, with nothing on his side but the law.

The verdict, of course, goes against him. A quibble reverses the case, Antonio and the court divide the spoils between them and–exit Shylock. That’s the end of him as far as Shakespeare’s stage direction goes. But having bought so dearly the right to his contempt for his Christian enemies, would he not walk out of that courtroom head erect, the very apotheosis of defiant hatred and scorn? That is the way I see Shylock, and that is how I have played him. 1

1. “Jacob Adler—the Bowery Garrick,” Theatre (November 1902): 18, quoted in Marjorie Garber, Shakespeare and Modern Culture (New York: Pantheon, 2008), 140-141.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

AP--week of February 23

Day 1--A Doll House, read act 3. Blogs for the play written by Sunday, 2/22. Comments to be written Monday, 2/23.

Day 2--Continue discussion. Begin work on "Blessay" assignment (for instructions on this assignment and suggestions on revising a blog post into a more fully organized short essay, click here.)

Day 3--Finish discussion of Ibsen. Bring revised blog posts to class for half a work period.

Day 4--Friday, February 27. Blog to essay assignment due, 600-800 words. Turn in both the printout of the original blog post and the revised version. The usual rules for headings. Turnitin assignment titled "Blog to Essay." Also on Friday, multiple choice quiz, part 1 of exam #3.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shakespeare--Shylock paper

WHAT: A three- to four-page paper (approximately 1000 words) discussing and evaluating Shakespeare’s presentation of the character of Shylock and the extent to which that presentation either endorses or subverts prevailing Elizabethan anti-Semitism.

WHEN: Papers are due, both hard copy and to, Tuesday, March 2 by noon. Please arrange in advance if extenuating circumstances force you to request an extension.

HOW: Begin by reading the resources available at Prof. Grant Stirling’s web site: You may find other relevant resources, but this site will serve as an introduction to the issues and evidence of this debate. In your essay, show your understanding, both of the topic and of the play, by evaluating the evidence on both sides and presenting your own conclusions.

Since this essay involves some research, be certain both to document your sources and to give credit for ideas as well as direct quotations. Your essays must include a works cited page which should include, at a minimum, the play and the web site listed above.

DETAILS: Include a word count and digital receipt number in your heading. If you still haven’t “enrolled” in the class through, the class number is 1875359, the password pcdswl). Submit your paper under the assignment titled “Shylock paper”. I have created a similar assignment on the home page for AP English for those of you enrolled in that class as well.

SUGGESTIONS: Read all the available information, paying special attention to what you find most persuasive. Give fair treatment to the different sides of the question. In your evaluation, state which ideas you believe are strongest and why. Support your reasons by referring to the play itself.

Monday, February 9, 2009

AP--February 9 - 23

Monday, February 9/Tuesday--last day of Hamlet discussions; make sure you have posted both blogs and at least 10 different comments.

Tuesday, February 10/Wednesday--Write in class on either Oedipus, Antigone, or Hamlet.

Wednesday, February 11/Thursday--Review multiple choice exam #2. Calculate raw and scaled scores and look at correlations to AP exam scores for the class of 1991.

NB--because of the AMC exam, days 2 and 3 are reversed for section 2, royal blue.

Tuesday, February 17--no assignment due. Begin reading A Doll House, pp. 1677-1736.

Acts 1 & 2 due Wednesday 18th and Friday 20th, respectively. Vocabulary 19, 20, & 21 also Friday Feb 20.

Act III to be read for Monday, February 23.

Everyone writes a short blog answering one of the questions on pp. 1734-35 (300-400 words maximum) by Sunday February 22.

Everyone writes 4 or 5 substantive comments the evening of Monday, February 23.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Vanity Plate Oedipus

Oedipus, King of the Road by Daniel Nussbaum

From PL8SPK, a collection of famous stories told through personalized license plates registered with the California Motor Vehicles Bureau. (First featured in Harpers Magazine, September 1992.)









AIEEEEE! (154 license plates were used in writing this story.)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Shakespeare--February 3 - 12

Tuesday February 3--Continue practicing performance scenes

Wednesday February 4--Annotated performance scripts due, with complete subtext (for your character) and vocabulary notes. Begin workshopping "dress rehearsals" of performances with oral notes from class and instructors.

Thursday February 5--Finish workshopping

Friday February 6--Presentation of performance scenes; KB and LCC take brief written notes.

Tuesday February 10--Read Act I, The Merchant of Venice; which characters are most prominent? How many plotlines does Shakespeare set in motion? How are the plots related to each other?

Wednesday February 11--Continue discussion of Act I

Thursday February 12--Read Act II; vocabulary quiz covering lessons 16 - 18 in Vocabulary for Achievement.

Friday February 13--No school--Presidents' Weekend Holiday

Monday, January 26, 2009

AP--Assignments Jan 26--February 9

Weeks 4 & 5--Hamlet--Read acts 1 & 2 during week 4 (Tuesday Jan 27 & Thursday Jan 29), read acts 3, 4, & 5 during the week of February 2 (Act three Monday, Act 4 Wednesday, Act 5 Friday February 6) .

Over the weekends of Jan 31/Feb 1 and February 7/8 : 400-500 word blog on a scene, speech, character, motif, theme, or problem from Hamlet. Same groups as last time for Sophocles blogs. Blogs are due Sunday evening; comments are due Monday evening.

Quizzes: Friday, January 30: Vocabulary lessons 16, 17, & 18; Friday, February 6, Multiple choice.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shakespeare--Performance project #1

Prepare a monologue or dialogue to be presented in class for a performance grade.

“Prepared” means:
• Memorized, carefully blocked (detailed movement planned and rehearsed); and performed, not simply recited (believably bring characters and action to life).
• Incorporation of props and costumes is encouraged and in some cases may be required, depending on how critical they may be to the scene.

• A 2 to 3 character scene with dialogue evenly distributed among the characters (minimum 2, maximum 3 pages of the class text, 75-100 lines total)
• A monologue or soliloquy (minimum 25, maximum 40 lines)

Each student will create written subtext for their own character’s thoughts and motives prior to performance day.

Students who perform a scene will be required to perform a monologue or soliloquy for the next performance assignment and vice versa.

All have the option of writing a paraphrased version of the text and performing that in addition to the original text. (Yes, this is optional, but it’s really fun and strongly encouraged. It also helps the process of performing Shakespeare’s language.)

Text selection should be determined by Thursday, January 28.
Class time will be provided for rehearsals. Performances will take place February 4 & 5.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Shakespeare--Subtext assignment

Subtext assignment (due as hard copy and Wednesday,January 20):
Go to Download act 3, scene 4 from the beginning to the stage direction "exit Ghost" (line 156 in the Folger edition). Delete everything beginning with the Queen's line "this is the very coinage of your brain."

1. Turn this scene into a word processing document. It will be several pages long. If you don’t know how to do this step, ask someone who does.

2. Keep the entire text as it is, except change the name Queen Margaret to Queen Gertrude
at the beginning of the scene (a mistake on the web site).

Write a paraphrase of Polonius’ first speech (lines 1-7). A paraphrase contains
exactly the same meaning as the original, only in literal, everyday language. Don't change person for pronouns.

4. Identify as much subtext as you can. This is the most important part of the assignment. Subtext refers to all the meanings not directly contained in the text. Specifically, as we discussed in class, the subtext contains implied stage directions, the character’s thoughts, feelings, and motives as the lines are being spoken, as well as notes indicating tone of voice, movements, and
gestures. Put in everything Shakespeare left out.

5. 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. Or use a different color, or do something clear and easy to follow.

6. N.B. This is an individual assignment, not group
work. Any scripts whose similarities cannot be reasonably explained as
coincidental will be dealt with according to the school’s honesty

7. assignment may be found under the title "Hamlet Subtext 2010."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Shakespeare--Week of January 12

Tuesday--Assignment: Read act 2; In class: review 2.1 & 2.2
Wednesday--Performance exercise from 2.1
Thursday--Assignment: Read act 3. In class: finish review of 2.2 and begin discussion of 3.1.
Friday--Vocab quiz, lessons 13-15; assign subtext writing assignment (due Wednesday, January 20); watch video segments of 3.1; continue discussion of act 3.

AP Assignments January 12-26

Week 2 (January 12-16): Finish discussion of Death of Ivan Ilych. Read Oedipus The King, page 1285. Also read my Introduction to Tragedy and the questions at the end of the play. This is one of the most famous plays in all of Western literature. Why do you think that is? How does Sophocles give the play both philosophical and psychological depth in addition to developing the emotional tension which is central to the experience of all drama, especially tragedy? What does Oedipus’ story represent? How does it raise issues relevant to all human life? This week, half of you will blog on some aspect of this play (entries due over the weekend by Monday evening, please), while the other half of you will post comments on at least 5 of your classmates blogs (be polite, be respectful, be responsive to others’ ideas—comments also due by Monday night January 19). Vocabulary quiz, lessons 13-15, Friday.

Week 3 (January 19-23 No school Monday):
Read Antigone, page 1324 in our anthology. Look at the links on my blog and the questions at the end of the play. Why is Antigone’s dilemma important? What does it represent? Which character, Antigone or Creon, best fits the definition of the tragic character from the Introduction to Tragedy? Blog entries, for those who did not write the week before, are due Sunday, January 25. Comments (at least 5) from those who blogged last week are also due by Sunday evening the 25th. Multiple choice quiz Friday the 23rd.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Blog starters for Ivan Ilych

The following statements have all been culled from Ronald Blythe’s introduction to The Death of Ivan Ilyich.  You may choose one and comment on its relevance to the novella. By all means if there is another issue you want to discuss, do so (Ilyich’s relationship with Gerasim, materialism, authenticity, fear of death, what does it mean to be human, etc).

1.    The novel evokes “the sheer desolating aloneness of dying.”

2.    “[Love] could have rescued Ivan Ilyich from all the fright and despair which terorized him during the final two weeks had he allowed it to. . . Love masters death [only at the end].”

3.    Tolstoy condemns “Ivan Ilyich’s opportunism, marriage of convenience, vanity, and limitation, and then, with astonishment, the reader finds himself beginning to like this conventional man and to be sorry when he starts to lose out to death.”

4.    The story “is the tragedy of a man who is a death illiterate and who has to make his way out of the world through the ranks of other death illiterates.”

5.    Tolstoy shows us “a man. . . who had not taken the trouble to grow up, morally speaking, while he was passing through [life], and. . .then [shows] how salvation could overtake a slowing pulse rate, bringing maturity at the last.”

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

AP Assignments January 6 2008

Week 1 (Tuesday January 6-Monday January 12): Read The Death of Ivan Ilyich, p. 280 in our anthology. As you read this story and the discussion questions, think about the story’s central message and the techniques Tolstoy uses to convey meaning. In what ways is Tolstoy’s story critical of bourgeois Russian culture? Is Ilyich meant to be a unique or a representative character? What is the role of the narrator in shaping our understanding of the story’s meanings? We will discuss questions 1 through 6 beginning Wednesday (read chapters 1-6) afternoon through Friday and finish our discussion Monday (read 7 - 12) and Tuesday morning. Blog entries are due by Monday, January 12. No quiz this week. Vocab lessons 13-15 next Friday, January 16.

1. What purpose is served by placing Ilyich’s funeral at the beginning of the novella rather than at the end?

2. What is Pyotr Ivanovich’s role in chapter 1? Why does Tolstoy describe his thoughts in such detail?

3. Explain the significance of the first sentence in section 2. How does it set the tone for what follows?

4. Describe Ilyich’s professional and personal life up to the move to Petersburg. What are his motives? How does he make decisions? What is the narrator’s attitude toward him?

5. What is the source of Ilyich’s illness? Discuss the significance of his symptoms? How do his physical problems affect him psychologically? Is his illness symbolic?

6. At what key points does Ilyich begin to re-evaluate his life? How does Tolstoy attempt to make this process credible? Does he succeed?

7. Re-read the two paragraphs beginning on page 305 (¶ 217) (“What tormented Ivan Ilyich most . . . ) to the end of the chapter. According to Tolstoy, why is Ilyich suffering? What is the source of the lie? What does Ilyich most want? Why can’t he have it? What does Tolstoy mean when he refers to “this falseness in himself and in those around him”? What is the peasant boy Gerasim’s role?

8. Consider Ivan Ilyich’s prayer in chapter 9 and the response. Look at the dialogue between mind and soul. Does this dialogue contain the seeds of an important realization? What does the voice which answers him represent? Why does Ilyich “dismiss this bizarre idea”?

9. What is the source of the “moral agony” Ilyich experiences in chapter 11? Why does Ilyich answer “yes” when his wife asks him if he feels better? How does this answer affect him? Why?

10. In chapter 12, what is “the real thing”? Why does the fear of death leave him in the hour before his death? Does dying change Ivan Ilyich in any important way?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Shakespeare schedule

Messrs. Burns and Coon
Semester schedule (subject to revision)

Weeks 1 through 5 (January 6—February 7):


Weeks 1, 2, & 3—Script study
Week 4—“On book” performance
Week 5—Memorized performance

Weeks 6 through 11 (February 10—March 20

The Merchant of Venice

Weeks 12 though 16 (March 31—May 1)

As You Like It

\Weeks 17 & 18

“The Shakespeare Project”—individual performances of scenes, creative interpretation of scenes, films. Legos, etc

Class ends Friday May 15
Prom is Saturday May 16
Awards Assembly Monday May 18
Senior trip May 19-22
Graduation Thursday June 4