Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Final paper 2011

English IV & AP

Instructions for final paper

Fall 2011

For your final paper of the semester, go back to the questions I shared with you the first day of class. Develop a paper around one or more of the essential questions for this course. Your papers should be approximately five pages in length and are due Friday, December 9 at 9 AM (AP) or between 9 & 11 AM (English IV).

For English IV, incorporate references and ideas from TWO or THREE of the following: Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Frankenstein, and Hamlet. You may add a character from a piece of literature of your choosing (my summer list, for example) as long as you do not repeat the choice you made for your comparison paper earlier. For AP, include two of the above plus John Gardner’s Grendel. For ease of reference, I list the original questions from the course syllabus below, plus a few new ones.

Why do stories contain heroes and monsters?

What purpose do characters with extraordinary powers or abilities serve?

Are there reasons why heroes and monsters “have to” exist?

Are all monsters inherently evil? Are some more sympathetic than others? Why?

What qualities other than exceptional powers make a character heroic? Can a character be heroic based on beliefs, codes of ethics, intelligence, or inner strength?

What qualities make a monster monstrous?

Is it always easy to tell the difference between the heroes and the monsters? Why?

What is honor?

What is integrity?

What is courage?

How do characters hold onto or lose their honor, courage, or integrity?

Is revenge moral or immoral? How do the beliefs of characters we have studied differ?

How important is loyalty? How do loyal characters choose who or what to be loyal to?

For the novel Grendel, consider the significance of Grendel’s idea (as I understand it) that the heroic ideal is a lie invented by poets to give the illusion of meaning and purpose to an otherwise brutish physical existence. Would the authors of the other texts agree or disagree? Why?

Spend some time thinking about an approach you can use to link multiple works from our reading list. Then begin to develop a series of paragraphs interpreting the works you choose in light of the question you are attempting to answer. Use whatever combination of comparison and contrast makes your ideas strongest. Your writing will be judged on the originality of your choice, your use of examples from the various texts, and the depth of your analysis. No research is required, or indeed recommended. Use examples from the readings to advance your position on the topic you choose.

For English IV, this paper replaces a final exam and is weighted 25% of the semester grade. For AP students, the paper is weighted 15% and the sit-down portion of the final 10%.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

I-Search notes

English IV & AP

I-Search Word History assignment

Notes on content and process

1. Questions to include in your introduction and first page:

· What does your selected word mean to you going into this assignment?

· What do you already know about your word?

· Why did you choose it?

· Is there a specific moment or incident or association you have with your word?

2. For the body of your paper:

· Look closely at the sources you have found, both print and online, for a deeper, fuller understanding of your word's ultimate meaning. Consider evidence of your word’s “age” in English, its original meaning, how its meanings have evolved over time, and how it is being used today.

· The next portions of your paper will include some or all of the following:

· an overall description of your search

· any difficulties you experienced

· any surprises you encountered

· specific insight into the information you find about your word

· interesting examples of your word’s historical significance or prominent uses

· In the body of the essay, you will combine an analysis or interpretation of what you learned (including direct citations from your sources), along with personal commentary and reflection on that information.

3. Ideas for the concluding section of the paper:

The last page (or so) of your paper will contain your final reflection on your search, focusing both on the process and on what you learned about your word from the various sources.

4. N.B. (that’s nota bene or “note well” in Latin):

· This is an I-search paper; therefore you will combine analysis of the information you uncover with personal reflection on your research and learning processes as you investigated your word.

· You will include a Works Cited page at the end of your paper, so be sure to keep records of the full bibliographic information for each source you consult.

· Keep track of your notes, printouts, and photocopies. Organize them in a logical manner with key information highlighted and/or annotated. These copies all go in your binder along with the peer-edit draft and final copies of your paper.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Word search online sources

a page of links to several good online resources for gathering more information about your word.

Check the assignment itself for source requirements.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Word Search 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
· Weird
· Wisdom
· Wonder

Word Search 2011

English IV & AP November 2011 “I-Search a Word” assignment (paper #3)

Assignment: Write a paper of 6 to 8 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 in our library—what are the earliest uses and contexts for your word recorded in the English language. Does the OED mention the word occurring in either Sir Gawain or Beowulf? What meanings have evolved over time?

2. A good unabridged or international dictionary—what key definitions does the dictionary give for the word?

3. 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.

4. A Concordance to Shakespeare—in which plays does the word occur? Copy the 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.

5. A Concordance to the Bible—list the 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?

6. A statement of what the word means to you, both before and after you conduct your research.

7. For AP students, two of the following: 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. (One such source is optional for English IV.)

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 one other person (optional--a third peer, a parent, a friend), and a section containing the printouts of all your research materials with sources clearly indicated in full MLA format.

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 29 (November 4 & 7. (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 blog for class 30 will include your previous understanding of the word along with a brief statement of why you chose the word. It may be incorporated in some fashion into your draft later.

· Class 35 (November 18 & 21), bring your drafts to class, five pages minimum to earn credit for this part of the assignment.

· Binders are due in my classroom by 3PM, Tuesday, November 22 for all sections.. 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. Information should be cited parenthetically, linked to a list of Works Cited at the end of your paper.

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 28, November 2 & 3, I will accept email requests for words beginning Thursday at 1:30 PM. By class 29 (November 4 & 7), everyone must have selected a word to work with.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Turnitin for paper #2

Submit your papers this week to the assignment titled "Beowulf or Sir Gawain."

Submissions should be done before you turn in your assignment to me.

Thank you.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Book review on superheroes

I found this book review on the website of Powells Book Store and thought it might be useful to some of you as you develop ideas for the upcoming paper assignment.

Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human
by Grant Morrison
A Review by Greg Baldino

Whether they be gods or angels, the idea of sentient beings beyond us mere mortals but recognizably similar has influenced human thought since the earliest days of tale-telling around the fire. In some tellings, they are of a state of grace from whence humans fell; in others they are a potential, something that might, by labor or virtue, be reached by all. In the 20th century, these tales were given new form with the advent, at the publishing of Superman's first adventure in Action Comics #1 , of the superhero. This sub-genre of a sub-genre, born of the highest mythologies and the lowest pulp denominators, rose up from a declasse and maligned artform to become the dominant mythology of the modern world, influencing philosophical discourses as much as box office receipts.

Grant Morrison is no stranger to these creatures. Long before he became one of the most acclaimed and popular comics writers of the last two decades, being trusted with the corporate treasures of Batman, Superman, and the X-Men, he was writing adventures of atypical ubermenschen, from suburban patriarch Animal Man, to outsider art vigilantes the Doom Patrol, to post-human popstar Zenith. With a somewhat holistic view of storytelling, Morrison is as well-versed in the writings of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola as he is in the secret origin of Spider-Man, and a full-length work by him on the superhero genre is a veritable literary occasion.

Following a chronological structure beginning with the Man of Steel's debut in 1938, Morrison looks at superhero comics as both diagnosing and predicting the psychological flow of the modern western world. The shifting nature of Superman as an icon is explored, touching on the socialist revolutionary tendencies of the early stories which were revised to project a strict patriot visage come the outbreak of war. Wonder Woman, like so many super characters, is revealed to be born of her creator's world view as well -- William Moulton Marston, in addition to being the creator of the polygraph test, lived in a polyamorous relationship with his wife and their girlfriend, a sexuality beyond radical for the time and that greatly influenced many of those early Wonder Woman stories.

As superhero adventures rose in popularity, the light struck from Krypton's last sun split in the prism of commerce, and soon they flew through the newsprint as thick as gnats. In the so-called silver age, when Marvel Comics created both a new breed of character and story, the stories became even more complex, with the emotional stresses of post-war America, youth culture, and the Vietnam War bleeding through from our world onto the page, and then back into the minds of impressionable youth everywhere. The icons shifted, seemingly without moving, ebbing and flowing between power fantasy manifestations to outcroppings of imagination -- Jimmy Olson gets a nod as a precursor to the identity-shifting art mechanics of David Bowie, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. The creators began to be recognized, no longer unknown draftsmen, and for some, such as artist-savant Jack Kirby, this acclaim brought with it enough power to begin to experiment not only with the form, but with the message.

It's in the midst of the silver age that Morrison's own storyline intrudes into the book. Born in Scotland to a World War II veteran turned anti-nuclear pacifist and a bohemian renaissance woman, he grew up against the backdrop of the second age of heroes, the rise and fall of flower power, and the height of cold war paranoia. "Before the bomb was a bomb, it was an idea," he writes in the introduction, but Superman was a better one.

Using his own life as an example, Morrison tries to drive home the concept of superheroes as altruistic ideas, archetypes of the transformation of tragedy into triumph. In Glasgow a depressed, lonely teenager has everything turned around by the magic (ritual and metaphorical) of strange clothes, fake names, and abilities far beyond those of mortal men; through the superhero, with its special name and costume, there is the concept of reinvention and the celebration of self. Beyond just wearing his heart on his sleeve, Superman bears his initial on the front of his shirt as a full realization of everything individual identity offers, proffering shades of Ayn Rand and Friedrich Nietzsche covered with day-glo glitter as a counter to nihilistic anti-life. It's the zenith of Morrison's exploration of what superheroes mean, and why this 20th-century genre took off as it did.

Unfortunately, it's also the point where the book unravels a bit. The autobiographical inclusions certainly add several new layers to the book. If you treat Supergods as one of Morrison's famously multi-layered pieces of imaginative writing, such as his acclaimed series The Invisibles, it's another facet to reflect the whole. But as a critical essay on the meaning and relevance of the superhero, the structure starts to go off the rails when Morrison diverts into autobiography.

As Supergods moves on to explore the last thirty years of the genre, the subject matter starts to resemble a situationist feedback loop. All of the unconscious emergences that shaped and defined the heroes of the golden and silver ages are now fully recognized and calculated by their modern creators. The histories and critiques are all well known, and the tropes have become so well-rehearsed and self-referential that the content becomes trapped in the context rather than enriched by it. Alan Moore's Watchmen may be the best example of this, as the book loses entire layers of relevance for the reader unfamiliar with the mystery men it deconstructs. Modern superhero comics, in a variety of ways, are shown to make more presumptions about their audience, obfuscating with elaborate liturgies or quantum continuities when they aren't stripping everything back to the most basic of archetypes. It's a completely alternate universe from the almost automatic writing of the seminal storytellers, one that probably merits a separate analysis altogether.

All of which is not to say that Supergods isn't interesting, well-written, and exceptionally dynamic. Morrison is the ideal Virgil to have at your side in the divine comedy of superhero comics, an epic journey still underway thanks to creators like him.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Notes on Medieval Romance

Some of these notes I posted in 2010; part II was added in 2011.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


1.     FORMAT: 3 x 5 index card, collected at the beginning of class each day there is a reading assignment.
2.     HEADING: Your name, the title of the reading, and the pages you read on the top line.
3.     PURPOSE: to demonstrate to me your effort and engagement with the assigned readings; to encourage the practice of thinking for yourself about what is important, meaningful, or problematic in the readings; to generate discussion items within your team. Thinking about the significance of specific details and ideas from the reading is one of the best ways to deepen your understanding of the material and derive maximum benefit from the reading assignments.
4.     CONTENT: Think of the bookmark as a one-question quiz you create for yourself, allowing you to show that you have done the reading carefully. Each bookmark contains ONE of the three following items. In each case, the more specific your comments and the more responsive to the text, the better.
·      your best quiz question about that day’s reading and your answer to the question;
·      one brief quotation from the reading and a short statement of why you think it is important;
·      one thought or observation relating to a specific aspect of the day’s reading.
5.     REQUIREMENTS: each entry should be two-three sentences in length; fill one side of the card (2nd side optional); bookmarks are turned in to me as you enter class, and I will read them while you do your daily check-in and write your “take five”; without a bookmark you do not receive credit for that day's discussion of the material.
6.     GRADING: Bookmarks will receive a check (occasionally a + or -) and be returned to you for team discussion. They receive no individual grade but count toward your class participation as evidence of close, thoughtful reading of the assigned texts.