Tuesday, December 16, 2008

If you're interested in reading it for yourself

Here's the text for "How I Met My Husband."  It wasn't available when I last searched for it, I guess.

Fun with emoticons!

From Amy Scott...

A cute--but not entirely accurate--animated synopsis of the deaths in Hamlet.

Who knew dying smileys could be so Shakespearean?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Life and Times of Edith Jones

I hope you were paying attention to the last Ethan Frome lecture, for obvious reasons. I don't usually have a prompt that so perfectly matches up with the reading that precedes it, so it seems particularly fortuitous that everyone was present in class on Thursday. Now I can see who actually listens and retains information.

For a fuller understanding of Wharton, check out these links:

Full text of "New Year's Day."

An article about her transformative affair by her biographer, R.W.B. Lewis.

Some of the things I was looking for in your essays:

1. Narrator not only flashes back to his childhood, but even to the era of his grandparents, a clear and obvious way to compare distant past, near past and present. Not just two, but THREE time periods are evoked in this short passage.

2. Use of detail to show old age and infirmity (mother's spectacles, Sillerton's "china set"...false teeth), sets narrator up in opposition to their weak old-fashioned values. The excessive attention paid to fabrics also draws attention to the fashions of a bygone era (the extensive footnotes indicate just how archaic this knowledge is).

3. The specificity of locations were of much more interest to the older generation: not just any hotel, but "the Fifth Avenue Hotel;" the sharp demarcation of the Thirtieth Streets as the outer limits of acceptable addresses; city v. country houses. Metaphorically, this is because place matters deeply to them...everyone and everything has its proper place, and to violate those boundaries shakes up their ordered world.

4. As New York grew and neighborhoods blurred into each other, the residents also blurred their lives together. The new generation was comfortable with this melding of classes and cultures, but their parents resisted, clinging to their harsh judgments of anyone who broke their rigid codes of acceptable conduct. (bonus points if you could relate this to the multicultural ethos we have today, or the current controversy over gay marriage).

5. Edith Wharton's own life, the judgment she endured from her own people, obviously informs her portrayal of those who are quick and eager to judge, or care too much about being fashionable. The mother's malevolent gossip, old Sillerton's affectations, make them pathetic characters. If you actually read the entire story, you will see how their judgments arise out of ignorance, and the true story behind Lizzie Hazeldean and Henry Prest's affair is far more complex than this short passage would indicate...but you might've guessed this just from what we've talked about this week, between Edith's affair with Morton Fullerton and the romance between Ethan Frome and Mattie Silver.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Teasdale & Rossetti

I'm working on your 4.A essays, should have them back to you tomorrow. They're generally pretty good, but so far, no nines.

Some things I was looking for:

The trek up/over the hill as a metaphor for one's journey through life: death at the top in Rossetti; death at the bottom of the other side in Teasdale. (Without this central idea, you could not score higher than a 5.)

Rossetti's poem is a conversation between two people of indeterminate gender, in the 2nd person, that takes place before the journey commences. The questioner is hesitant, anxious; the responder is confident, reassuring, experienced. No specific obstacles are mentioned, although the questioner's anxiety hints that the journey may not be without difficulty.

Teasdale's poem is told from a woman's 1st person perspective, past the climax of the journey, approaching the end. The tone leans towards a resigned, yet resolute attitude, possibly relieved that the rest of the journey will be easier, or else with a feeling of "it's all downhill from here." Either way, the speaker continues moving forward, as there's no purpose in going back. Brambles have consistently made her journey difficult, although not impossible, and distracted from any pleasure she would've experienced.

It was a pretty simple comparative task...take a look at some more samples:

A blog entry on Hill poems. Not really AP analysis, just an interesting perspective from the POV of a cancer patient.

Sample essay below: This would be scored a low 5 for AP work.

The journey of life can be described in many different types of literature; poems are the choice of many writers. Sara Teasdale’s poem “The Long Hill” and Christina Rossetti’s poem “Uphill” reflects their views on the journey of life. Although both poets write about the journey of life, Teasdale approaches the topic on a more pessimistic note describing life as a hill where nothing good comes from the way down, whereas Rossetti presents her thoughts in an optimistic tone showing life as a journey where a person looks forward to finding the end.

One difference in Teasdale and Rossetti’s poems is the way they were written. Teasdale writes using a stream on consciousness, this enables the reader to relate to what is going on in the poets mind, and decide if they feel this way. Rossetti however writes using conversation between two people, creating a story line which is easier to follow than the Teasdale poem.

Another difference in these poems is the use of imagery. Rossetti brings imagery into her poem by using such lines as “A roof for when the slow dark hours begin” and “May not the darkness hide it from my face”. Imagery creates a setting for the reader to relate to. Teasdale doesn’t use much imagery, she instead lets the reader use their imagination.

Perhaps the biggest difference in these poems is the outlooks on life that they present. Teasdale has a more negative approach to life then Rossetti has. Teasdale describes the journey as long in her title. She uses a line “Now I am going down—Strange to have crossed the crest and not to know” that shows that nothing good is to come from life after you have past the crest. She writes her poem in first person which says that the journey will be lonely with no one to help along the way. She ends with, “But it’s no use now to think of turning back, The rest of the way will be only going down” saying that its to late to enjoy anything she will live in sadness. Rossetti however chooses to use a more positive approach. She believes that she is traveling with people, “Shall I meet other wayfarers at night? Those who have gone before.” She asks, “Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak” this shows her curiosity for what is to come. She ends her poem by saying “Yea, beds for all who come” this shows that when the journey is completed she will get to be comfortable and relaxed with everyone else who is already there.

Teasdale and Rossetti’s poems are written about the same topic, however portray a different meaning. They differ from the way they were written. Rossetti uses imagery to get her point across whereas Teasdale chooses to let the reader use their imagination. Rossetti uses an optimistic approach in her journey of life, whereas Teasdale uses a pessimistic approach.

Monday, December 08, 2008

So much for the future

With the conclusion of Brazil, we also arrive at the conclusion of our dystopian future unit. Here are your discussion prompts:

1. Compare the physical environments presented in our three dystopian texts. Compare the social structures (government systems, cultural values, etc...). What are the most salient features? What do they have in common? How do the differences reflect Huxley's, Orwell's and Gilliam's personal worldviews?

2. In all three texts, consumer products make repeated appearances (cigarettes and gin in 1984, Malthusian belts in Brave New World, the "executive toy" in Brazil). Consider what the detailed descriptions of these products convey about the world they come from.

3. At the heart of each story is a romantic/love relationship. Why? What message do you think the creators intended by centering the conflict around the love a man has for a woman? What do the outcomes of these relationships have in common? What does that say about love?

4. How are each of the protagonists (in Brave New World, let's assume that Bernard Marx is the protagonist in the first half of the novel, and shifts to John the Savage in the second half) complicit in his own oppression, even as he strives to subvert society's rules?

5. Consider the timelines of these three texts: Brave New World in 1932; 1984 in 1948; Brazil in 1985. Can you connect historical events from each era to the text? What do you think informed the author's choices?

Remember, you can address all or some of the questions using all or some of the texts. Try to be as analytical as possible, citing textual evidence to support your assertions...it's just a good habit to develop. Engage each other in discussion, respond to other people's ideas, either building on what is already said or offering an opposing viewpoint. Be civil and use your name in all postings.

Thank you.