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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Blog Post #13 - Best of/Worst of...

Assignment: I'd like you to enter into a discussion about the following:

What was your favorite poem? Your least favorite poem? Why?

What was your favorite short story? Your least favorite short story? Why?

Should next semester's ENGL150 students read Death of a Salesman?

How did you feel about watching Hollywood versions of Bartleby and Death of a Salesman? Is there utility in seeing a visual version of something you're responsible to read?

What was your favorite in-class activity? What was your least favorite in-class activity?

You'll notice that I didn't have your small groups present (even though the syllabus claimed you would). Did you miss that? Would you have rather that whole-class discussions were led by students doing presentations?

Finally, what are your feelings on the creative blog entries? Which entry did you enjoy most? Least?

I won't specify a length for this, as long as you answer the questions above. However, the more specific you can be, the more helpful your answers will be as I reflect on this semester and what I'm going to change for the next ENGL150.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Blog Post #15 - "Grandpa" Willy

Assignment:  Write a monologue (at least 250 words--basically the equivalent of one typed, double-spaced, MLA format document) in which either Happy or Biff is describing what his father was like to one of their children who never met their grandfather.

Would Happy or Biff tell a child the truth? Or would they try to sugar coat the past? What actions would they emphasize? What actions would they de-emphasize?

If they recalled certain speech or mannerisms that characterized their father, what speech would they remember?   Remember that memorable tagline from Forest Gump? Remember how that character is forever saying, "Mama always said, 'Life is like a box of chocolates..." Does Willy have any taglines?

Be sure to write this so that it is appropriate for a child. You choose the age. Remember, you're role-playing. Feel free to key into whatever thoughts and emotions you think are in keeping with Biff or Happy. Finally, you might consider that, often, when we tell people about those who are no longer on the earth, we do so as a means of paying tribute or damning that person.

By virtue of his words and actions, Willy taught his sons lessons about what it means to be a husband and father. He taught them about money. He taught them lessons about love and marriage and parenting. He taught them about the value of work. He defined success and failure. He taught them about the American Dream. Were these positive or negative lessons? Which of these lessons might Biff or Happy pass down to a son? Or daughter?

Concentrate on tone. Try to express feelings appropriate to the data you've gathered about either Biff or Happy and their relationship with their father.  "Correctness" of this assignment depends upon your ability to refer to specifics in the play. However, you SHOULD NOT merely be providing plot summary. Instead, you're trying to internalize the events as they'd be seen through the eyes of this one character.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Blog Post #14 - Linda's Diary

Assignment:  Based on the events of Act I of Death of a Salesman, write two diary entries that Linda might have written. Each entry should be at least 100 words. Date one entry to indicate it was written in the past. Date the other entry to coincide with her current situation. What might this wife and mother have written? 

Be sure to write these two diary entries in first-person, using words like "I," "me," "my," and "mine." Basically, you're role-playing. What is happening with your life? What are you thinking about your husband, your sons, your finances, love, marriage, parenting, the American Dream, success, etc.? 

Concentrate on tone. Try to express feelings appropriate to the data you've gathered about this family in Act I.  "Correctness" of this assignment depends upon your ability to refer to specifics in the play. However, you SHOULD NOT merely be providing plot summary. Instead, you're trying to internalize the events as they'd be seen through the eyes of this one character.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Blog Post #12 - Making Connections to "The Lottery"

Assignment: This is an exercise in providing proof for claims/assertions. In this case, I'm going to take the pressure off you, a little bit at least. You need not come up with a theme or subject matter. For the sake of this post, I want you to begin with ONE of these themes:

a - The 'tribal' nature of any small community.

b- The need that all human beings have to feel in 'control' of what they
perceive to be an essentially hostile environment (universe).

c- The concepts of magic and superstition and their place in society.

d- The concept that it can be acceptable to require the individual to
sacrifice for the greater good.

e- 'stoning'

f- Man's ability (and need) to rationalise generally unacceptable actions.

Begin your post by introducing the author, the name of the short story, and the premise theme you've chosen from above. Then enter to a discussion about how this theme is present, not only in the short story but also in present society. Turn the theme into a thesis. Make it arguable. Then provide textual evidence for your assertions. Likewise, provide specific examples from society (pop culture or your family or school or neighborhood sphere) that seem to serve as proof for your belief.

Aim length-wise for the equivalent to a 1-page double-spaced "P" assignment.

Note:  There should be no need for outside research. Your ability to complete this blog entry really requires only your textbook and your ability to mine your personal experience and/or observation.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Blog Post #11 - What would this character's Facebook page look like?

Assignment:  For the sake of this blog post, I'd like you to do some thinking about the main characters in "The Story of an Hour" or "the Yellow Wallpaper."  What do you know about their hopes, dreams, fears, interests, hobbies, friendships, etc.? If they were alive during our modern times and were hip to social media, what would their Facebook pages look like? For either of the main characters (choose ONE), complete the following activities:

  1. In character, create at least ten (10) mock Facebook posts. What would this character likely announce to her friends on Facebook? Related: Who would she be friends with? :)
  2. Post at least one photo or image or meme you believe this character would post to her Facebook wall.
  3. Post at least one link to an article you believe this character would share with Facebook friends. 

If you're wondering what I'm talking about, look at this example:

You'll find another example here:

Note:  I'm not asking you to literally create a profile within Facebook, as it's kind of a hassle to do so. It requires a separate e-mail address, among other things. I'm satisfied with you using your blog entry space to accomplish these goals.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Blog Post #10 - From "Girl" to "Boy"

Assignment: In Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl," we have a story that does not have a conventional structure. We are missing fiction elements like plot, character development, and setting. We have a story featuring all dialogue (though there aren't the conventional markers of dialogue, like indenting with each speaker or quotation marks). The dialogue is primarily spoken by a mother who is delivering advice to her daughter.  It seems that the advice is broken up into:
  • homemaking skills (cleaning,cooking, sewing, etc.)
  • manners
  • morals
  • how to carry on relations with the opposite sex
  • social conventions
  • accusations
Via this mainly one-person dialogue (the daughter is only heard 2 times), we get a sense of the setting, Antigua. We get a sense of the relationship between the mother and daughter. And we get a sense of conflict (whether the daughter is or isn't a slut). There are also plenty of implicit lessons about what it means to be a female within this setting.

For this assignment, I'd like you to write an imitation in which you have a mother or father deliver similar instructions/advice to a son. Rather than Antigua, set your story in the U.S. What sorts of practical skills would a boy need to have? What sorts of manners would his mom/dad call for?  What advice would the mother or father give regarding how to interact with the opposite sex? Finally, I'd like for your set of instructions/advice to have its own hidden conflict. Be sure to have a strand of similar worries that come out in the mother or father's advice.

A successful imitation will give a sense of the setting (is it suburban or rural, big city or small?) A successful imitation will give the reader a sense of the relationship between the parent and the son. A successful imitation will imply lessons about what it means to be a boy or young man in the U.S. in 2013. Finally, it will provide the conflict that is necessary to any piece of fiction.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Blog Post #9 - Dialogue

Realistic dialogue is one of the most powerful tools at a writer's disposal. Done well, dialogue advances the story and fleshes out the characters while providing a break from straight exposition (telling rather than showing). It results in immediacy. The reader feels as if he/she is in the room and part of the situation. However, just as realistic dialogue is one of the most powerful tools at a writer's disposal, nothing pulls the reader out of a story faster than bad dialogue.You can find some examples of BAD dialogue HERE:

You'll find, as you read the stories I've selected for the class, that famous writers avoid certain pitfalls when writing dialogue:

* They avoid stilted language. Instead, they write in natural speech patterns. What's a natural speech pattern?  Well, think about the things you say over the course of the day. Your statements are surprisingly short. You might also find that you rarely speak in complete sentences. When having a conversation, we rarely lapse into dramatic monologue, wherein we're speaking in paragraphs before someone responds.

Hint: you might need to tune your ear to the patterns of normal conversation. To do this, you certainly should study the dialogue you find in the short stories I've assigned, but you should also engage in a little spying or eavesdropping. Find a crowded place such as a restaurant, a bar, or a shopping mall and listen to the conversations you hear.

* They avoid Filler. They don't include any dialogue that does not further the plot and does not deepen your understanding of the characters
* They don't use it to explain the plot or repeat information for the benefit of the audience.In some instances, backstory will be necessary to the plot of a story. However, dialogue isn't the best place to deliver that data.

*They don't use people's names in dialogue.  People almost never say other people’s names back to them.

*They don't use too many attributive tags  (e.g. shouted, exclaimed, cried, whispered, stammered, opined, insinuated, hedged, etc.). A good writer can express the tone of a conversation and the emotions behind it without having to resort to using attributive tags. It's all about precision of word choice.  If they use them, they usually keep them simple (e.g. said, told, asked, etc.), and they only add them when it's absolutely necessary.

Assignment: Write a short scene (let's say that, if it was a double-spaced, MLA-format document, it would be 1 1/2 to 2 pages long) in which one person is listening to two other people have an argument or discussion. There should be some sort of conflict or tension. For example, maybe you'll write about a child listening to her parents argue about money. Have the third character narrate the argument and explain what is going on, but have the other two provide the entire dialogue.Think of this as primarily a script. If you gave your writing assignment to a couple actors, those actors should be able to act out the that script primarily via conversation. Try to follow the rules of a good fiction dialogue that I've outlined above.

Notice how Raymond Carver's story, "Popular Mechanics," reads like a script with very little in the way of blocking. That is, we don't get tons of setting description. We don't get tons of physical description about appearance or action. Almost everything we know about the characters and the plot (particularly the conflict and it's climax or point of most tension) is delivered within one conversation.

You can see his story played out in cinematic form here: