Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I've been busy

This residency has been so so so so busy. Yet, I have learned so much. I learned about the importance of verbs in moving action. I learned about how to avoid sentimentality in writing. We read some really really awful pieces.

I was workshopped and basically need to change my whole book. Imagine writing 140 pages then being told to change everything. It was refreshing and I didn't cry. I actually felt okay and looking forward to rethinking everything.

This residency has been a lot of fun. I've had good conversations about writing and with people. Over lunch, myself and a bunch of authors and students played desert island albums, movie, and book. I chose:

1) Confederacy of Dunces as a book
2) Beatles White Album as the album
3) Annie Hall as the movie (though I'm not confident on this one.)

I heard some great readers. My advisor David Elliot read from his book (Wuv Bunnies from Outers Pace). It was hysterical. I have a workshop with MT Anderson today and he is reading tonight. So I'm excited.

I also read yesterday and people were rolling in the aisles and laughing. A couple people said I intimidated them, which I found funny, because I think I'm lest intimidating person.

I'm off to read and need to get to Lesley to learn about point of view. YAY.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Juxtaposition

I'm about to learn about juxtaposition and parallel structure - YAY

Saturday, June 21, 2008

REVISION!!! AHHHHHH

I just had two seminars on revision and ate a wonderful veggie wrap.

I want to comment on the second revision seminar - It was intense and humorous. Our class is starting to bond - awesome.

During the time, we really looked at our intentions behind scenes and characters. And, we asked ourselves these questions:

Why did you invent the characters you invented?
How am I similar to this character?
How can I heighten the similarities?


We talked about using active verbs, "word" choice, knowing our dramatic tension, line breaks, sentence variety, being able to enter the story through the backdoor, the importance of well-placed fragments, etc.

The instructor, AJ Verdelle, quoted good ole' Bill Shakespeare - "Action is eloquence" - USE ACTIVE VERBS. This is the same thing I tell you. Be active, not passive.

She told us, if we have a word more than eight letters in our work, that we better be prepared to lie on the ground and fight for it. I love long words. I'm so reminded of what I tried to convey with clutter, specifics, etc.

I'm enjoying the talks and the workshops, but I am feeling dread about my own story. I feel like a don't have a plot. This is big. REAL BIG.

YIKES !!!!!! PLOT, WHERE ARE YOU?!!!

Residency: Day One

Last night was our opening reception. It was great to see people I hadn't seen in six months. There was a lot of energy and I felt ready to get back to studying and writing.

I took the opportunity coming off much praise for my reading a few weeks ago to lobby myself to be the commencement speaker for our graduating class next June. I managed (with some shady backroom dealings) to secure myself the spot as commencement speaker - a dream come true for me. I already have a title: "Writers in the Hand of an Angry God" - I plan on delivering it as a 17th century Puritan preacher, complete with whipping rod and compulsory biblical recitation. It is going to be sweet.

After the delightful lunch meat and sushi spread, we had our opening reading. I was thrilled because Susan Goodman, my advisor my first semester, read from her new book: See How They Run - It is about presidential elections. The book is hysterical and she gave some great advice to non-fiction writers. I'm going to try to get her to do a classroom visit next year. She is so funny, and would probably really make fun of me.

I don't start today until 10:45. In one great ironic twist, my reading today consisted of the chapter from On Writing Well entitled Bits and Pieces - the same one I assigned to you - proving that yes, we are still learning.

I'm off to get caffeine and perhaps a toffee bar at Starbucks - um, toffee bar.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Oh - this is so funny...

I'll be live-blogging my residency starting this Friday, then shutting the site down. My blogging adventures will not end, and I hope yours won't either. Keep blogging. 

I found this on McSweeney's. Being from Philadelphia, I always had a wonderful love for Will Smith a.k.a. the Fresh Prince.

Friday, June 13, 2008

End of the Year...

Well, thank you for this year. I have enjoyed you all as students and as people. Thank you for your hard work, your intellect, your kindness, and your humor.

I'm always a sucker for good summer music. I'm currently revisiting Neutral Milk Hotel and everything by Bruce Springsteen (great BBQ music). Post any recommendations of good summer tuness.

I'm going to live-blog my MFA week, which begins next Friday. I have a class with M.T. Anderson, the author of Feed. I found this helpful for me to remember what I was learning as well as hopefully interesting to you all.

I included a video from Bryan Adams. It is classic 1980s. Yes, I had hair like this. This song always reminds me of my teenage summers, with the world before me, wanting to be a rock star. I remember having band practice in my living room and we were really rockin' out and I was ready for my monster solo, when my mom interrupted us with Strawberry Shortcake. I knew from that moment on I was not going to be a rock star. Rock Stars don't take Shortcake breaks.




Have a safe summer. Stay out of trouble. Don't do anything genuinely stupid.

Oh, and Read.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Extra Credit Reminder

Hey everyone,

The assignment is below for extra credit.

I just wanted to remind everyone about the reading and Seussical. The reading is at 4 p.m. today on the 5th floor of the Barnes and Noble at BU. The address is in a below post.

Seussical is at 340 Dorcester Street at Fourth Presbyterian Church in South Boston. It is at 7 p.m. It is right off of Andrew Station T stop.

Both events are free and are one hour in length.

If you attend, you get extra credit. Bonus points if you make signs.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Blog Extra Credit

Choose one of the following assignments for extra credit (20 points)

1) Choose an ending to any of the novels/plays we have read this year. Rewrite the ending. Don't just provide a summary, but actually WRITE a new or additional ending. Try to mimc the author's voice.

2) Think of a situation in which a long-held fear or anxiety that you have comes true (this should be a situation which could, but has not yet happened). Now, using the third-person mode of narration, write a scene describing a fictional version of yourself dealing with the situation.

3) Write a dialogue between two characters where each character has a secret. Imply the secret, but do not tell the secret outright. This scene should have exposition, climax, and a resolution. Ex. Husband has lost his job, the wife has been having an affair.

4) Choose one of the following characters: Holden Caulfield, Sydney Carton, Gene Forrester, Bottom, or Antigone. Write song lyrics that best express their character. You may wish to put the lyrics to a familiar tune. Instead of Billy Idol's "Mony Mony", you could write Holden's "Phony Phony".


HOW LONG? (200-300 words)

Due June 12th.

HAVE FUN!!!!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Humor in Shakespeare

We've talked lately about how Shakespeare creates humor. This video "reduces" his humor and combines all of his comedies. They also mock him as a formula writer.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Midsummer Night's Dream - Part of Act 3, Scene 2



Not the best quality, but worth a watch.

Shameless Self-Promotion


As we approach the end of the year, I wanted to name two upcoming events that I am involved in.

1) PEN New England Reading on June 7th @ 4:00 p.m. at the Barnes and Noble in Boston. I will read excerpts of my novel in progress. The information is below.

2) Seussical the Musical - June 6th and 7th @ 7:00 p.m. It is at Fourth Presbyterian Church in South Boston. 340 Dorchester Street. I have spent the last ten Tuesdays teaching 70 elementary school kids to sing and dance.

Both events are free and open to the public. You are more than welcome to attend. Both are good, clean fun. I am firm believer in life-long learning. These are two examples of ways I am still striving to increase my understanding of English (writing and literature) and hone my skills as a director. IT NEVER STOPS and it shouldn't.


Here is the information on the reading:
PEN/New England and U. Mass Boston will sponsor a reading by a six local students from the Lesley MFA Program in Creative Writing

Place: BU Bookstore (BU Barnes & Noble in Kenmore Square )
Date/Time: June 7, 2008, 4:00 pm.

Readers:

· Jennifer Badot, poetry
· Jessica Belt, nonfiction
· Philip Holland, fiction
· Alyssa Lovell, poetry
· Sareeka Rai, fiction
· Sean Walsh, young adult fiction

Lesley MFA Program Director Steven Cramer will introduce the readers read briefly from his own work.

Sponsored by PEN New England and coordinated by Barbara Perez, an MFA student at U. Mass Boston, and Joyce Peseroff, Director of the MFA Program at U. Mass Boston, the reading series is intended to connect students, faculty members, and artists in Boston area, and to foster an atmosphere of mutual inspiration.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Annotated Bibliography

For the research you will use in your presentation, your group will create an annotated bibliography.
An annotated bibliography "is a list of citations to books, articles, and documents. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words) descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of the annotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality of the sources cited" (http://www.library.cornell.edu/olinuris/ref/research/skill28.htm#what)


The bibliography uses MLA format for citation of sources. Click on this link or refer to the Writer's Inc. book on how to properly cite your sources. Your group will be graded on the accuracy of your citations.

Your response to your citation should address the following questions (to the best of your ability). Your writing style should be scholarly, not in the first person, not a journal entry:
Write a concise annotation that summarizes the central theme and scope of the book or article. Include one or more sentences that (a) evaluate the authority or background of the author, (b) comment on the intended audience, (c) compare or contrast this work with another you have cited, or (d) explain how this work illuminates your bibliography topic. (http://www.library.cornell.edu/olinuris/ref/research/skill28.htm#process)


A sample annotated bibliography can be found here. Notice that this site refers to the need of writing in the present tense. A habit you MUST kick.

YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR HAVING AT LEAST ONE SOURCE PER STUDENT IN YOUR GROUP AND AT LEAST TWO PRINT SOURCES. ALL OF YOUR SOURCES SHOULD BE "REPUTABLE" - If you have a question about this, see me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Procrastination....


Slate.com, which is a great news and culture website, has a special issue on Procrastination. I stumbled upon as I was working on your grades.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Poem for the Weekend

I’m a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf’s big with its yeasty rising.
Money’s new-minted in this fat purse.
I’m a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I’ve eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there’s no getting off.


- Sylvia Plath


What’s the answer, you say? NO CHEATING!!!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More on Feet (Poetic Feet that is)


I just wanted to post some information on different meters and beat used in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Here is information on Trochiac Tetrameter used by the fairies.

Here is great information on Iambic Pentameter. Here is some more on verse and poetry in Shakespeare's world. It is a glossary and AWESOME!

Friday, May 9, 2008

I just added...


I added to the class links, a link to the complete text of A Midsummer Night's Dream. You can use this for your explication and reading. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Shakespeare, Inc.


Could Shakespeare survive Hollywood? How would the BARD do in our modern world?

Listen to this radio story on NPR - It is about eight minutes in length.

Write a response, addressing the following:

1) What did you find interesting about this radio cast? What did you learn? What did you question?

2) Do you believe Shakespeare would survive in Hollywood and our modern world? Why or Why not?


Your response should be a brief paragraph and refer specifically to the audio show. The assignment is due May 9th.

Monday, April 28, 2008

About your blogs...

You can find your blog, if you scroll down and click on "view my complete profile".

You are required to post TWICE from now until 5/19. You MUST comment on every post. This assignment and adventure is a test grade. It is your working journal for your independent reading book.

What should the posts look like?

Open-ended questions for clarification
Questions that predict
Passages
Links to important research websites
Statements or Debatable Assertions that spurn dialogue


Comments should be of an appropriate length, and you are encouraged to comment more than once when necessary. Remember, this is a public website and a school website. NO SARCASM. Address everyone with respect. You are here to discuss literature and have fun. I'm looking for you to focus in and large ideas and structure.

Best of luck.

My final comments on the Feet essay...


Man, I was really impressed at the level and depth that all of you were able to look critically at a student's paper. I wanted to share some of my final thoughts on the essay to help you.

FOCUS I felt within each individual paragraph the student was incredibly focused. As far as the thesis statement goes, it was vague, but I felt purposefully so. In looking back, I would encourage the student to make sure they go back to the thesis within the paragraphs - keep going back to past, present, and future. I think, though it builds to the conclusion,I would encourage the author to make his/her building to the conclusion more visible.

CONTENT This is what blew me away. The author managed not only to fully explore the use of feet, but tie it into wine, stones, doubles, pureness, and weather. The amount of quotes, which were occasionally jarring, showed an incredible depth of time and research. This paper is not summary, but rather makes a point to analyze each element of when and why characters hear feet, how it affects them, and what footsteps tell us about the characters and the revolution. This is pretty neat stuff.

STYLE
Throughout this process, we have been trying to find our own style, being more conversational in order to help us focus. Many times, this works for the author - particularly with the internal questions. At times, it doesn't. Most of you pointed this out. For me, the introductory paragraph doesn't work. I would encourage a more academic approach, since the paper is very academic. Having read this paper in several drafts, I can attest to the student's desire to try something different stylistically and I think he/she ended up at a solid place, but there are some areas that could be tightened.

Overall, I felt this paper was one that showed thought, effort, and a great understanding of how a motif works and knowledge of the text. I applaud the student's effort and ability to tackle "feet" as a motif. Yes, there is room for improvement, there always is, and I think your comments were helpful, insightful, and most welcomed.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Shakespeare is Coming Up and I thought you might enjoy this...



YOUR HW IS THE POST BELOW ON THE PAPER ON "FEET IN A TALE OF TWO CITIES" - This is entertaining.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Tale of Two Cities: Exemplare Paper: Period 4

Tale of Two Cities Exemplare Paper
Read the following essay and comment on the author's technique. This is a fine paper and a fine bit of scholarship from one of your classmates. Do not be afraid to point out areas in which the writer could improve. Responses should be eight to ten sentences in length.


Feet: On the Path of Past, Present, and Future
Feet. They are smelly and easily forgotten, but they are a vital part of the body. They provide a foundation. They bring a person to a place. One can wear shoes (or go shoeless). They often make sounds (or are silent). They do ordinary things, easily forgotten things; they are second nature to breathing. In A Tale of Two Cities, the forgotten feet, too, provide a foundation. Charles Dickens uses the motif of feet, a reoccurring image, to symbolize a path that is taken in which connects the past, present, and future of the French Revolution and the people the revolution affects.

To truly grasp the true meaning of why Dickens uses feet as a motif, we must first examine it everyday function and the meaning that Dickens creates behind it.

A sound is made when a person takes a step. Dickens uses sounds as a metaphor to contrast the difference between the footsteps that echoes in Lucie Manette’s life and the footsteps that echoes in France to show the difference between France and England. In Lucie’s life, the echoes are “sometimes pensive, sometimes amused and laughing” (196). “[T]he echoes of her child’s tread…, and those of her own father’s,…and those of her dear husband” (196) are “near to her heart” (196). The footsteps bring happiness and joy to Lucie’s life; they are “music to her” (196) and they are “sweet in her ears” (196). “But, there [a]re other echoes, from a distance [in France], that rumble menacingly in the corner all through this space of time” (197). These footsteps are not “pensive…amused…or laughing” (196) but they “have an awful sound” (197). Footsteps are footsteps. However, Dickens uses the simple everyday action and creates a meaning behind it. Dickens uses footsteps to juxtapose the peacefulness of England and the chaotic of France. In England, the footsteps are “music” (196). In France, the footsteps are “a great storm” (197) that give “an awful sound” (197). The metaphoric contrast of footsteps and a great storm shows that these footsteps are powerful and they come with a great force. The use of sounds that appeals to the ears affectively highlights Dickens’s point. Sure, footsteps can be seen. However, one person can effectively identify the person’s identity or mood by the sound they make with their feet. Even though both countries share the same “space of time” (197), they are in two different worlds. In one country, England, the people are living a peaceful and quiet life, at ease. In another country, France, the people are living in a chaotic and chaotic life, oppressed. The footsteps tie these two countries together and show their differences.

Dickens uses the feet in more than one way. The stained feet illustrates the oppression of lower class in France and foreshadows the French Revolution. When “a large casket of wine ha[s] been dropped and broken” (24), “all the people within reach ha[ve] suspended their business, or their idleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine” (24). The people are hungry, literally and figuratively. The drinking of wine from the ground is a metaphor for their desperation to overthrow their government. The “red wine” (25) that “stained many naked feet, and many wooden shoes” (25) foreshadows the blood that will stain the revolutionaries’ feet. From the fact that the feet are naked or wear wooden shoes shows how poor these people are in contrast to the “softly-slippered feet” (118) of Monsieur the Marquis. However, with or without shoes, they do make sounds. These are the sounds of cries from the oppressed people. In Monsieur the Marquis case, “his softly-slippered feet mak[es] no noise on the floor” (118). Noises are made due to frustration. Monsieur the Marquis is happily content with this luxurious life, no need to stomp and pout like a child. The oppressed people stomps their feet in frustration to show their anger and their need for attention. Are they heard? Lucie hears the “echoes of all the footsteps that are coming by-and-bye into [her] lives” (97). She hears the footsteps from the angry revolutionaries that will later come into her life. The sound of the footsteps also foreshadow the inevitable revolution in France.

Footsteps make sounds and foreshadow the future. Darnay, Lucie, and Carton hear the echoing footsteps in the corner. But why do only Lucie and Carton really understand what it truly means? Lucie and Carton hear the footsteps as “black and solemn” (97) and as a “great crowd bearing down upon [them]…by the Lightning”, “com[ing], fast, fierce, and furious” (97). Yet, Darnay thinks that the echoes of footsteps are “not impressive” and “foolish” (97). Dickens portrays Lucie Manette as the perfect human being. She is beautiful, gentle, loving, and caring; the epitome of a pure figure. Because she is so pure, she can pick out the flaws and darkness of the world even when it is unnoticeable. Dickens portrays Sydney Carton as a pessimistic. He is a drunkard, “moody and morose” (139); the epitome of a failure. Because he sees the world in darkness, he can see the darkness of the echoing footsteps. And then there is Darnay. Why does Dickens leave Darnay in the cold, oblivious to the truth? Darnay is a person with pride; he neither sees nor hear “hardly any danger” (224) when he makes the decision to go the France, a grave in-waiting, in order to save his name, his pride.

France, indeed, is a massive grave. The footsteps that Lucie and Darnay heard are coming closer and closer until they knock at Lucie’s door. In the beginning, Lucie only hears the footsteps “echoed and re-echoed with the tread of feet; some, as it seemed, under the windows; some, as it seemed, in the room; some coming, some going, some breaking off, some stopping altogether; all in the distant streets, and not one within sight” (97). They are “afar off, and scarcely audible yet” (195). As time goes by, these “echoing footsteps of years” (195) gain momentum and they are coming closer to Lucie’s life. They are “[h]eadlong, mad, and dangerous footsteps” (195) and “in the years so long after the breaking of the cask at Defarge's wine-shop door, they are not easily purified when once stained red” (204). The wheel of the bloody French Revolution has turn and blood is spilled. The one that once has been oppressed is now the oppressor. The foot that once has been stained with red wine is now stained with red blood. Blood, unlike wine, cannot be washed off the mind so easily. Lucie comes face to face with the footsteps when “[a] rude clattering of feet over the floor” of “four rough men in red caps, armed with sabres and pistols” (271) enter her life and take Charles Darnay away. Again, only Lucie hears the footsteps of these men. Dr. Manette does not hear the forbidding footsteps and tells Lucie that that “staircase is as still as Death” (271). Like Darnay, Dr. Manette is oblivious to these footsteps but for a different reason. In Dr. Manette’s mind, he “ha[s] saved [Darnay]” (271). There is no reason for the raging footsteps to be coming and take Darnay away; therefore, he does not hear it because he does not expect it coming. Even after Darnay is released, still, Lucie’s “mind pursue[s]” “the dreadful carts rolling through the streets”, looking for [Darnay] among the Condemned” (268). Lucie is still afraid that Darnay will be taken away from her; wherein, Dr. Manette is positive that Darnay is safe. The footsteps coming up the stairs to take Darnay away are expected by Lucie, not Dr. Manette; therefore, he is oblivious to it.

So, the footsteps that Lucie hears echoing in her life belong to the revolutionaries that are madly raging through France. But that is not all. Feet step on the ground. Dickens uses the stains of feet as a measurement of how sinful a person is. In the 1700s, religion was a vital part of everyday life. Yet, Jerry’s occupation is a “Resurrection-Man” (152). The sinister of his occupation is shown through his “clay-soiled” (151) and “very muddy boot[s]” (55). The mud on Jerry’s boots shows the person of Jerry is tainted. Dickens has the Defarges “picking their way on foot through the black mud and offal” (164). Wherein, Lucie Manette, the perfect figure, Dickens lets her walks in a “lightly-snowing afternoon” (258) as “the feathery snow f[alls] as quietly and lay as white and soft” (260). Dickens paints a beautiful picture of perfect whiteness of the snow around Lucie. The pure whiteness of the snow matches the pureness of that Lucie. Needless to say, when the revolutionaries dance the Carmagnole across Lucie, the ground turns into a “slough of blood and dirt” (260). When Madame Defarge appears, she puts “[a] footstep in the snow” (260), says her greeting and she is “gone, like a shadow over the white road” (260). The act of stepping on and crushing the pure white snow and the shadow of Madame Defarge gives an ominous feeling and foreshadows the danger that will come to Lucie. “Barsad, and Cly, Defarge, The Vengeance, the Juryman, the Judge…the new oppressors…have risen on the destruction of the old” (347). The feet from the revolutionaries “are not easily purified when once stained red” (201). Are there any ways to prevent the feet from getting stained?

Yes. Carton and Dr. Manette. In one scene, “there was a little girl with a mother, looking for a way across the street through the mud. [Carton] carried the child over” (292). He prevents her feet from touching the muddy ground. Okay, he carries the child over, big deal. But we have discussed how mud is a symbol for corruption. The fact that he carries the child over the mud symbolizes his wants to protect the little girl from the corruption and madness that are happening all around France. Carton has made the decision to sacrifice his life for Lucie, his love. In the silence night he chanted “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die” (292). In the quiet street, “the words were in the echoes of his feet” (292). These words mixing with his feet show that he has chosen his path. In more than one way, his sacrificing his life is a way to protect Lucie from corruption. The death of Darnay would have drove Lucie overboard which would lead to her looking for revenge. He protects Lucie in breaking the cycle of revenge.

On the other hand, there is Dr. Manette making shoes. During his time in prison, Dr. Manette took up the occupation of making “[a] young lady's walking shoe” (181). In making ladies’ shoes, he’s trying to protect a woman’s feet from getting “stained red” (204). The shoes are protecting the innocent people from corruption and hunger that have taken over many of the revolutionaries. Additionally, these are walking shoes; Dr. Manette makes the walking shoes in a hope that the people will flea from the evil of France, especially the women and not to be swept by the revolution. Locked in his prison, making shoes gives a sense of freedom since the shoes are for walking to places and in his small prison of “five paces by four and a half” (240), he has nowhere to go. He is making the shoes for the people being oppressed, but in a sense, he is also making it for himself. The shoes are a way to run from the revolutionary and from danger. After Dr. Manette saw the incident with Madame Defarge’s siblings, he saw the true meaning “of being oppressed, bursting forth like a fire” (301). He makes comfortable walking shoes in a sense that it will protect the oppressed people and to help them run away from the evil of France and its contagious corruption.

Do the footsteps ever stop making awful sound and step on mud? Dickens names the last chapter “The Footsteps Die Out for Ever” for a reason. In the literal meaning, the only two persons that hear the footsteps, Lucie and Darnay, do not hear it anymore. Lucie has fled France, leaving the awful footsteps of the French revolutionaries behind. Carton is the victim of the Guillotine, leaving the awful footsteps and the world behind. Figuratively, there is more to the footsteps dying out. In his last moments, Carton sees that in the “long years to come”, “a beautiful city and a brilliant people” will “ris[e] from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats…the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth” will “gradually mak[e] expiation for itself and wear out” (347). Dickens has compare footsteps and the action of the revolutionary as a “great storm” (197). A storm can be awful, it floods and kills people. However, in the end, it gives water and the flood leaves the land with rich topsoil. Like a storm, the revolution will not be pretty, and it will kill many people. However, in the end, when the storm passes and when the revolution passes, the government will be a better one. The raging footsteps will eventually subside just like a storm will subside.

In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens uses the motif of feet to link the past, present, and future of the French Revolution. The use of feet contributes to the sad fact that change will only come after a great storm of bloodshed. The novel ends in a sad note of Carton loosing his life. However, it also ends in hope of a better future. When the storm of the revolution dies out, the sun will come out, and with it, a new and improved government along with a true sense of freedom.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tale of Two Cities Exemplare Paper: Period 2

Read the following essay and comment on the author's technique. This is a fine paper and a fine bit of scholarship from one of your classmates. Do not be afraid to point out areas in which the writer could improve. Responses should be eight to ten sentences in length.

Feet: On the Path of Past, Present, and Future
Feet. They are smelly and easily forgotten, but they are a vital part of the body. They provide a foundation. They bring a person to a place. One can wear shoes (or go shoeless). They often make sounds (or are silent). They do ordinary things, easily forgotten things; they are second nature to breathing. In A Tale of Two Cities, the forgotten feet, too, provide a foundation. Charles Dickens uses the motif of feet, a reoccurring image, to symbolize a path that is taken in which connects the past, present, and future of the French Revolution and the people the revolution affects.

To truly grasp the true meaning of why Dickens uses feet as a motif, we must first examine it everyday function and the meaning that Dickens creates behind it.

A sound is made when a person takes a step. Dickens uses sounds as a metaphor to contrast the difference between the footsteps that echoes in Lucie Manette’s life and the footsteps that echoes in France to show the difference between France and England. In Lucie’s life, the echoes are “sometimes pensive, sometimes amused and laughing” (196). “[T]he echoes of her child’s tread…, and those of her own father’s,…and those of her dear husband” (196) are “near to her heart” (196). The footsteps bring happiness and joy to Lucie’s life; they are “music to her” (196) and they are “sweet in her ears” (196). “But, there [a]re other echoes, from a distance [in France], that rumble menacingly in the corner all through this space of time” (197). These footsteps are not “pensive…amused…or laughing” (196) but they “have an awful sound” (197). Footsteps are footsteps. However, Dickens uses the simple everyday action and creates a meaning behind it. Dickens uses footsteps to juxtapose the peacefulness of England and the chaotic of France. In England, the footsteps are “music” (196). In France, the footsteps are “a great storm” (197) that give “an awful sound” (197). The metaphoric contrast of footsteps and a great storm shows that these footsteps are powerful and they come with a great force. The use of sounds that appeals to the ears affectively highlights Dickens’s point. Sure, footsteps can be seen. However, one person can effectively identify the person’s identity or mood by the sound they make with their feet. Even though both countries share the same “space of time” (197), they are in two different worlds. In one country, England, the people are living a peaceful and quiet life, at ease. In another country, France, the people are living in a chaotic and chaotic life, oppressed. The footsteps tie these two countries together and show their differences.

Dickens uses the feet in more than one way. The stained feet illustrates the oppression of lower class in France and foreshadows the French Revolution. When “a large casket of wine ha[s] been dropped and broken” (24), “all the people within reach ha[ve] suspended their business, or their idleness, to run to the spot and drink the wine” (24). The people are hungry, literally and figuratively. The drinking of wine from the ground is a metaphor for their desperation to overthrow their government. The “red wine” (25) that “stained many naked feet, and many wooden shoes” (25) foreshadows the blood that will stain the revolutionaries’ feet. From the fact that the feet are naked or wear wooden shoes shows how poor these people are in contrast to the “softly-slippered feet” (118) of Monsieur the Marquis. However, with or without shoes, they do make sounds. These are the sounds of cries from the oppressed people. In Monsieur the Marquis case, “his softly-slippered feet mak[es] no noise on the floor” (118). Noises are made due to frustration. Monsieur the Marquis is happily content with this luxurious life, no need to stomp and pout like a child. The oppressed people stomps their feet in frustration to show their anger and their need for attention. Are they heard? Lucie hears the “echoes of all the footsteps that are coming by-and-bye into [her] lives” (97). She hears the footsteps from the angry revolutionaries that will later come into her life. The sound of the footsteps also foreshadow the inevitable revolution in France.

Footsteps make sounds and foreshadow the future. Darnay, Lucie, and Carton hear the echoing footsteps in the corner. But why do only Lucie and Carton really understand what it truly means? Lucie and Carton hear the footsteps as “black and solemn” (97) and as a “great crowd bearing down upon [them]…by the Lightning”, “com[ing], fast, fierce, and furious” (97). Yet, Darnay thinks that the echoes of footsteps are “not impressive” and “foolish” (97). Dickens portrays Lucie Manette as the perfect human being. She is beautiful, gentle, loving, and caring; the epitome of a pure figure. Because she is so pure, she can pick out the flaws and darkness of the world even when it is unnoticeable. Dickens portrays Sydney Carton as a pessimistic. He is a drunkard, “moody and morose” (139); the epitome of a failure. Because he sees the world in darkness, he can see the darkness of the echoing footsteps. And then there is Darnay. Why does Dickens leave Darnay in the cold, oblivious to the truth? Darnay is a person with pride; he neither sees nor hear “hardly any danger” (224) when he makes the decision to go the France, a grave in-waiting, in order to save his name, his pride.

France, indeed, is a massive grave. The footsteps that Lucie and Darnay heard are coming closer and closer until they knock at Lucie’s door. In the beginning, Lucie only hears the footsteps “echoed and re-echoed with the tread of feet; some, as it seemed, under the windows; some, as it seemed, in the room; some coming, some going, some breaking off, some stopping altogether; all in the distant streets, and not one within sight” (97). They are “afar off, and scarcely audible yet” (195). As time goes by, these “echoing footsteps of years” (195) gain momentum and they are coming closer to Lucie’s life. They are “[h]eadlong, mad, and dangerous footsteps” (195) and “in the years so long after the breaking of the cask at Defarge's wine-shop door, they are not easily purified when once stained red” (204). The wheel of the bloody French Revolution has turn and blood is spilled. The one that once has been oppressed is now the oppressor. The foot that once has been stained with red wine is now stained with red blood. Blood, unlike wine, cannot be washed off the mind so easily. Lucie comes face to face with the footsteps when “[a] rude clattering of feet over the floor” of “four rough men in red caps, armed with sabres and pistols” (271) enter her life and take Charles Darnay away. Again, only Lucie hears the footsteps of these men. Dr. Manette does not hear the forbidding footsteps and tells Lucie that that “staircase is as still as Death” (271). Like Darnay, Dr. Manette is oblivious to these footsteps but for a different reason. In Dr. Manette’s mind, he “ha[s] saved [Darnay]” (271). There is no reason for the raging footsteps to be coming and take Darnay away; therefore, he does not hear it because he does not expect it coming. Even after Darnay is released, still, Lucie’s “mind pursue[s]” “the dreadful carts rolling through the streets”, looking for [Darnay] among the Condemned” (268). Lucie is still afraid that Darnay will be taken away from her; wherein, Dr. Manette is positive that Darnay is safe. The footsteps coming up the stairs to take Darnay away are expected by Lucie, not Dr. Manette; therefore, he is oblivious to it.

So, the footsteps that Lucie hears echoing in her life belong to the revolutionaries that are madly raging through France. But that is not all. Feet step on the ground. Dickens uses the stains of feet as a measurement of how sinful a person is. In the 1700s, religion was a vital part of everyday life. Yet, Jerry’s occupation is a “Resurrection-Man” (152). The sinister of his occupation is shown through his “clay-soiled” (151) and “very muddy boot[s]” (55). The mud on Jerry’s boots shows the person of Jerry is tainted. Dickens has the Defarges “picking their way on foot through the black mud and offal” (164). Wherein, Lucie Manette, the perfect figure, Dickens lets her walks in a “lightly-snowing afternoon” (258) as “the feathery snow f[alls] as quietly and lay as white and soft” (260). Dickens paints a beautiful picture of perfect whiteness of the snow around Lucie. The pure whiteness of the snow matches the pureness of that Lucie. Needless to say, when the revolutionaries dance the Carmagnole across Lucie, the ground turns into a “slough of blood and dirt” (260). When Madame Defarge appears, she puts “[a] footstep in the snow” (260), says her greeting and she is “gone, like a shadow over the white road” (260). The act of stepping on and crushing the pure white snow and the shadow of Madame Defarge gives an ominous feeling and foreshadows the danger that will come to Lucie. “Barsad, and Cly, Defarge, The Vengeance, the Juryman, the Judge…the new oppressors…have risen on the destruction of the old” (347). The feet from the revolutionaries “are not easily purified when once stained red” (201). Are there any ways to prevent the feet from getting stained?

Yes. Carton and Dr. Manette. In one scene, “there was a little girl with a mother, looking for a way across the street through the mud. [Carton] carried the child over” (292). He prevents her feet from touching the muddy ground. Okay, he carries the child over, big deal. But we have discussed how mud is a symbol for corruption. The fact that he carries the child over the mud symbolizes his wants to protect the little girl from the corruption and madness that are happening all around France. Carton has made the decision to sacrifice his life for Lucie, his love. In the silence night he chanted “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die” (292). In the quiet street, “the words were in the echoes of his feet” (292). These words mixing with his feet show that he has chosen his path. In more than one way, his sacrificing his life is a way to protect Lucie from corruption. The death of Darnay would have drove Lucie overboard which would lead to her looking for revenge. He protects Lucie in breaking the cycle of revenge.

On the other hand, there is Dr. Manette making shoes. During his time in prison, Dr. Manette took up the occupation of making “[a] young lady's walking shoe” (181). In making ladies’ shoes, he’s trying to protect a woman’s feet from getting “stained red” (204). The shoes are protecting the innocent people from corruption and hunger that have taken over many of the revolutionaries. Additionally, these are walking shoes; Dr. Manette makes the walking shoes in a hope that the people will flea from the evil of France, especially the women and not to be swept by the revolution. Locked in his prison, making shoes gives a sense of freedom since the shoes are for walking to places and in his small prison of “five paces by four and a half” (240), he has nowhere to go. He is making the shoes for the people being oppressed, but in a sense, he is also making it for himself. The shoes are a way to run from the revolutionary and from danger. After Dr. Manette saw the incident with Madame Defarge’s siblings, he saw the true meaning “of being oppressed, bursting forth like a fire” (301). He makes comfortable walking shoes in a sense that it will protect the oppressed people and to help them run away from the evil of France and its contagious corruption.

Do the footsteps ever stop making awful sound and step on mud? Dickens names the last chapter “The Footsteps Die Out for Ever” for a reason. In the literal meaning, the only two persons that hear the footsteps, Lucie and Darnay, do not hear it anymore. Lucie has fled France, leaving the awful footsteps of the French revolutionaries behind. Carton is the victim of the Guillotine, leaving the awful footsteps and the world behind. Figuratively, there is more to the footsteps dying out. In his last moments, Carton sees that in the “long years to come”, “a beautiful city and a brilliant people” will “ris[e] from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats…the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth” will “gradually mak[e] expiation for itself and wear out” (347). Dickens has compare footsteps and the action of the revolutionary as a “great storm” (197). A storm can be awful, it floods and kills people. However, in the end, it gives water and the flood leaves the land with rich topsoil. Like a storm, the revolution will not be pretty, and it will kill many people. However, in the end, when the storm passes and when the revolution passes, the government will be a better one. The raging footsteps will eventually subside just like a storm will subside.

In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens uses the motif of feet to link the past, present, and future of the French Revolution. The use of feet contributes to the sad fact that change will only come after a great storm of bloodshed. The novel ends in a sad note of Carton loosing his life. However, it also ends in hope of a better future. When the storm of the revolution dies out, the sun will come out, and with it, a new and improved government along with a true sense of freedom.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Night: Intolerance


One essential question of the text is How does intolerance lead to cruelty and inhumanity?

Please read the following speech by Elie Wiesel entitled The Perils of Indifference.

In your blog entry, respond to following question:

In his writing, both in Night and in his speech, and through his words in the video, what image of humankind does Wiesel portray and what appears to be his message to his audience(s) and the world about humankind and humanity ?


This will be graded on an open response rubric - 4=95, 3=85, 2=75, 1=65. I'm looking for you to refer to the works. Start with an assertion. One page will suffice.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Passive Voice, Words to Avoid, etc.

For your paper, I'm looking for you to fix some reoccurring stylistic problems.

1) Reduce your usage of passive voice. Use this website as your guide. We will go over this in class, but here is your reference.

2) Avoid the following weak words and vague phrases:

good, bad, nice, kinda or kind of, seems, totally, a lot, 'in conclusion', sort of, "word choice", "similar, yet different", "stuff", "deeper meaning"

3) Write in the present tense. Yes, this book is old and the action is during the French Revolution; however, your paper is current and it needs to be written in the present.

Best of luck.

Friday, April 4, 2008

A mini-reminder: Plagiarism

I felt it was a good time for a little reminder.

Plagiarism is using others words and ideas as your own. It is cheating.

At Malden High School, one count of plagiarism will prevent you from entering National Honors Society; two counts will result in a suspension.

Let us play a game. Let us call it: Plagiarism (P)/Not Plagiarism (NP)

Talking to your friend about your paper and bouncing around your ideas. (NP)
Taking your friends ideas and writing them as your own. (P)
Talking to your friend about papers of similar topics and sharing assertions/ideas. (P)
Talking to your friends about paper of similar topics and going over background information or context. (NP)
Copying your friends paper or using their questions as your own. (P)
Talking to Mr. Walsh and having him help you create an assertion and questions. (NP)
Using an article from wikipedia or How to Read like a Professor, citing it, to help create your own ideas (NP)
Using ideas found on sparknotes, cliff notes, etc. as your own (BIG TIME P)
Using other people's assertions as your own (BIG TIME P)
Failing to cite quotes. (P)
Passing off Mr. Walsh's ideas as your own. (P)


You are free and strongly encouraged to use information presented class in your paper, but in doing so, do not claim that you came up with this idea, if in fact, you didn't. There is a fine line; if you have questions, don't be afraid, just ask.

This is all about learning. I am not out to get anyone. I'm excited about your ideas. I'm really want to read these papers.

I will guide you in making your own assertions. Do not go elsewhere. Much of the grade on this paper is about the process of creating and building an assertions. It is a challenge, an intellectual one. Let's shine.

-Best of luck, Mr. Walsh

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Structure of your Motif Paper

HELP IS ON THE WAY!!!

1) Introduction should build to your assertion. Think about describing the function of your object or image, and then build to what you will attempt to prove.
2) For your assertion, make sure it is pointing to a larger idea and not just a fact. It must be something that can be debated.
3) Outline your paper with a series of questions. For now, keep the questions in the body of the essay; we can get rid of them later if needed.
4) Within each answer, keep focus. You need not summarize. I know the book. Just give me context. The necessary facts.
5) Hopefully, your analysis ties all of your answers together and reinforces your initial assertion. You may find you need to go back and revise your initial assertion/claim. That is okay.


Here is what I did:

1) I created my assertion: In the novel The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger uses the red hunting hat as a motif, a recurring image/object to suggest Holden’s struggle to cover up his past and his search for the future.

2) I knew I would have to focus on the function of the object. So I listed questions.
What does it cover?
What does it protect?
What is he hunting/searching for?
What is he hunting or shooting?
Does the hunt end? If so, what is important about it?

3) I proceeded to answer each question and focus my writing to lead to the next question. They typically did.

4) In answering each question, I analyzed the evidence as I went. I knew I had to keep going back to my assertion. If I was going to say that the hat protected Holden from the weather, I better be sure to say that the weather had something to do with his search for the future. Always go back to your assertion.

5) I made sure to only give the necessary details. For example, instead of describing the whole scene with Holden and Ackley and how Holden judges Ackley, I chose to simply say that Holden called him a "goddam moron", that was enough.

6) My conclusion was brief, because I felt I said most of strong points in the proceeding paragraph.

WHERE TO BEGIN? Use the questions. Use your paper proposal. I will work with you on organization. The key to this assignment is constantly go back to your assertion. What is the big idea/message that the motif is pointing towards? This is not just what it symbolizes, but rather what it means.

Good luck.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Motif paper example

Please read the following example paper: Comment on techniques, style, and anything else you find relevent. Don't simply say "He/she did a nice job", but point out what worked.

“It’s a people shooting hat”: Motif in The Catcher in the Rye

A hat can do many things. It can cover. It can protect. It hides your hair. It keeps one warm, especially in cold weather. It is a symbol of expression. It is rebellious, if worn backwards. This functional object, in the world of Holden’s search for maturity, too acts in many distinct and figurative ways. When Holden Caulfield muses that his red hunting hat is more than just a hunting hat, it is actually a “people shooting hat”, the character himself attaches meaning to the object. It is symbolic to him and to us the reader. Throughout this work, Holden uses the hat in the ways any common person would, but it is how and why he uses the hat that is vital to understanding the character and the whole text. In the novel The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger uses the red hunting hat as a motif, a recurring image/object to suggest Holden’s struggle to cover up his past and his search for the future.

To truly understand how the motif functions in the text, we must look at its everyday function and how Salinger creates meaning from it.

It covers. But what does it cover? First, it covers Holden’s hair, which is “gray” with “one side of [his] head…full of millions of gray hair” (9). The hat here conceals Holden’s appearance of age or maturity. Holden claims he has had “them ever since [he] was a kid” and that people mistake him for being older. Holden, who says he “acts like [he’s] only thirteen”, desires to remain young and not be confused as an adult or live in the adult world. Second, the color of the hat helps Holden cover up his signs of maturity. The red hat can be seen as a substitute for his dead brother Allie. As Holden remembers, Allie “never got mad at anybody” unlike the stereotype of “people with red hair [who] are supposed to get mad very easily” (38). It is interesting that in making this observation of Allie and his red hair, Salinger juxtaposes the scene wherein Holden breaks “all the goddam windows with [his] fists, just for the hell of it” (39). Holden cannot control his maturing and he cannot control his anger or rage at a world, which had deprived him of his brother Allie. Therefore, he uses the hat to cover up his pain, anger, and his signs of maturity. Holden through the use of the hat desires to remain in arrested development, perpetual adolescence. He is twelve when Allie dies, the same age his hair begins to gray, and it is this age and this sense of innocence that the hat provides.

So, the hat protects as well. Yes, the hat is protecting Holden from his own realization about maturity, but they are other elements from which the hat protects Holden Caulfield. It is, after all, winter and weather is important. Here, Salinger uses the motif of the red hunting hat in conjunction with his setting. The winter season, in all its gloom and frozenness, acts as a season of despair to with Holden tries to escape:
You wouldn’t even have known it had snowed at all. There was hardly any snow on the sidewalks. It was freezing cold, and I took my red hunting hat out of my pocket and put it on – I didn’t give a damn how I looked. I even put the earlaps down. (88)


The hat is a way for Holden to retreat from the cold. Moreover, the cold serves as the environment in which Holden must hunt and seek. But what is he hunting or what is he hunting for?

First, we have already explored how the hat covers the pain he feels about Allie’s death and how the hat acts as a means of protection in this depressed period of his life. But, the hat as a “hunting” hat functions in two more distinct ways: 1) his search for his own childhood, and 2) his sarcastic defense against those who he perceives as phony.

Let us first explore the hunt itself. Along with the hat, Salinger populates the hunt with images that reinforce Holden’s desire to hold on to childhood: the paper on Egyptians in which Holden wonders about mummies, the Museum of Natural History where “everything always stayed right where it was”, the carrousel where childhood is repeated in a circle, and finally, the pond. To get to the point of what Holden is searching for, we must look at his desire to find out where the ducks go.
“Well, you know the ducks that swim around in it? In the springtime and all? Do you happen to know where they go in the wintertime, by any chance?”
“Where who goes?”
“The ducks. Do you know, by any chance? I mean does somebody come around in a truck of something and take them away, or do they fly away by themselves – go south or something?” (81-82)



Again, the desire to escape winter and depression is revealed in this scene. He is looking for a way out of his problem and is realizing that remaining “frozen” in childhood is no longer an option. Perhaps, somebody will come around in a truck; (in the end, he is committed to an institution). Or perhaps, he could fly away. The fleeing ducks can be seen as his childhood that is escaping, that will not freeze, and will not come back when it/he is thawed.

How does the hat fit in? The hat, which protects him from the world and covers his maturity, affords him the remaining time to hunt for his perpetual childhood. Without the hat, his hunt is over. The hat is off, and he is mature. When Holden decides his hunt as fruitless, he bestows the hat upon his sister, Phoebe; through her, he desires to protect and see everlasting childhood. He beams when she is on the carrousel, and bemoans lost when her favorite childhood record Little Shirley Beans is broken and can no longer spin. Even though, she “didn’t want to take [the red hat]”, he “ma[kes] her” (180). He forces her into his desire of perpetual adolescence. Despite her age, Phoebe, unlike Holden, has no desire to hold on to childhood and confronts Holden’s idea about being “the catcher in the rye” who saves kids. Phoebe corrects Holden’s memory of the Robert Burns poem: “It’s ‘If a body meet a body comin’ thro the rye’” (173). Holden’s desire to save children is in contrast to Phoebe’s understanding that one must move on; to her, “Allie is dead”, and people need to interact, not try to save something that is lost.

This brings us to the second point: “It is a people shooting hat”. Holden promotes that he “shoot[s] people with this hat” (22). He does - with wit, with sarcasm, with glib portrayal. To survive the hunt, Holden uses the hat as a protective shield of sarcasm and that allows him to remain immature and avoid the necessary interaction to grow up – the one Phoebe and others beg him to engage it. He ridicules everyone as “phony”. He criticizes all those who try to engage him: Carl Luce is a “flit”, Ackley is a “goddman moron”, Spencer is “old”, etc. Holden shoots down the advice of those who desire for him to grow up. When Mr. Antolini warns that he is for “some kind of terrible, terrible fall” (186), (perhaps off the cliff to adulthood), Holden does not concentrate, changes the subject, and ultimately, whether justified or not, dismisses the affection of Mr. Antolini as a “flitty pass” (189), Holden consistently and often consciously shoots down those trying to help.

So how does the hunt end? In the end, Phoebe returns the hat to Holden’s head, in a moment where she realizes Holden has more use for its protection than she does. Holden sits in the rain wearing his hat and muses: “My hunting hat really gave me quite a lot of protection, in a way, but I got soaked anyway” (211-212). Despite all that Holden does, he invariably will grow up. Though he is happy for now, as “Phoebe ke[eps] going round and round” on the carrousel, the story ends with the protection and Holden broken. His defense and desire to reclaim and preserve his childhood is soaked.

Throughout the text, the motif of the red hunting hat contributes to the idea that one cannot hold on to childhood or protect oneself from the inevitability of maturing. The tragedy of this bildingsroman is Holden’s error in his worldview. He refuses to accept this inevitability and allows himself to be broken. The sadness of the end, as Holden sits soaked, is that he tried to hold on to what will always slip away.

Note: This is over four pages in length.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

MCAS WEEK

HELLO! - I hope everyone is having a good week. I know you are all succeeding and doing well. Take it easy. Rest. Work hard. Remember your TEA charts. Talk to the text. Process of Elimination. All the good things!

Here is a great clip from my favorite show to relax your minds. It is satire. Notice the irony of the tagline: Limitless Paper in a Paperless world.



Also, there is a movie opening this weekend called Chapter 27 about the Mark David Chapman murder of John Lennon, which was supposedly inspired by The Catcher in the Rye. Note, Catcher only had 26 chapters. Oh, it is supposed to be terrible.

Monday, March 10, 2008

MOTIF: A Tale of Two Cities



From the all-knowing and occasionally reliable wikipedia:
In a narrative, such as a novel or a film, motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes. The narrative motif is the vehicle of means by which the narrative theme is conveyed. The motif can be an idea, an object, a place, or a statement.


I want to know what motif you are tracing. Easy Homework grade.

Write down what motif you chose and a few sentences why you picked that motif.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Forgetfulness - Video



Here is the video for the Forgetfulness, the poem below.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Period Two - Explication Analysis

For this assignment, I want you to read the following Poem Explication and comment about the writing.
Focus on what works and what may need improvement in the explication. Focus on the student's assertion, support, organization, style, etc. I included the poem first, then the paper. You will need to read the poem to understand the paper. This is a paper from a student in period 4.

Your response should be a full paragraph in length (8-10 sentences). This is due by March 7th.

Forgetfulness by Billy Collins


The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.


Forgetfulness
BY: Billy Collins
Explication

The poem Forgetfulness is about the fading of memories. Throughout the poem, Billy Collins’s speaker suggests that with the increasing of age and the approaching of death, the memories that the brain harbors start to fade away one by one. In order to point the audience to the larger idea, the speaker uses form, personification, irony, allusion, and a touch of humor.

The form of the poem mimics the idea of forgetfulness. The title of the poem, Forgetfulness is an irony in itself since after first reading the poem; the reader would discard the poem as nothing memorable. In order to create this effect, the author does not use any fancy rhyme scheme, alliterations, or makes the poem awkward to read. The poem starts out with a four-lined stanza, and gradually, the form of the poem starts to fall apart which creates a parallel to the fading of memories. Using form and many other techniques the author defines the symptom of forgetfulness that comes with getting older.

The genius of the poem starts to unravel itself after rereading the poem. In the first stanza, the author recalls forgetting “the name of the author …/ followed obediently by the title, the plot,/ the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel” (line 1-3). “Obediently” (line 2) suggests that the memories fade away without much thought. When the poem is starting, the speaker speaks specifically of the “novel” (line 4), “the names of the nine muses” (line 8), and “the quadratic equation” (line 9). However, as the poem progresses, the speaker starts to forget what he/she has forgotten, referring to the memory as “whatever it is” (line 13) and “whose name begins with an L” (line 17). Moreover, the connotation of the poem is pointing toward the idea of getting older and eventually death. The author uses allusions throughout the poem, referencing to math, Greek mythology, geography, and many more. One of the allusions is “a dark mythological river whose name begins with an L” (line 13). L stands for Lethe, a Greek river from the underworld that erases the memories of the person who drinks from it. The speaker continue with “on your way to oblivion” (line 14) which is also hinted toward death since the word “oblivion” (line 14) not only refers to forgetfulness but to death since Lethe’s other name is the “River of Oblivion”. Lethe is located in Hades, where the soul of the dead goes. The speaker uses the allusion to the Greek’s mythological river Lethe to express the idea that as a person gets older and approaches death; his/her memory will unconsciously fade way.

Though the poem is about getting older and the probability of death, the tone of the poem is not sad or gloomy. The use of “you” throughout the poem points to the fact that the speaker is addressing to his/her audience informally, creating a conversational tone. The tone of the poem is also rather humorous. The author created this effect by using irony, such as the last line which suggesting the fading “of a love poem that [one] used to know by heart” (line 24), “poem” might mean this poem. Another irony is the tone itself. The poem is about death yet the tone is a bit mocking. Also, the author uses personification that includes the “memories” (line 5) “retir[ing]” (line 6) to a part of the brain, “pack[ing] (line 9) its bag”, “poise[ing] on the tip of the tongue” (line 14), “lurking” (line 15) in the corner, or “float[ing]” (line 16) down a river. While reading the poem, the reader might laugh at the “little fishing village” (line 7) and the “slipping away” (line 11) of memory. Yet, as the reader continue and finishes the last lines, the fear of forgetfulness takes over.

In the last five lines of the poem, the speaker brings to reader back to the common place that shifts the poem to a more serious note. The suggestion of forgetting “how to swim and how to ride a bicycle” (line 15) is arduous; therefore, the speaker is implying the old age or death, where these simple tasks are not needed, and forgotten. In the last stanza, the author suggests that with the forgotten of memory, there is always an attempt to bring a memory back. A person would “rise[s] in the middle of the night/ to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war” (line 20-21). The last sentence of the poem is also the shift of the poem. The idea of “the moon drifted out of a love poem that [one] used to know by heart” (line 21-22) suggests that the speaker have suffered a significant emotional lost. The lost is not something the speaker can replace by looking it up, like a date, a name, or a place; it is something more than that. Billy Collins' speaker leads the reader through an emotional maze that leaves him/her at an ending place that is completely different from the beginning point.

Even though the poem is leaning toward the idea of death, the tone and shift of the poem is pulling toward another idea. The juxtaposition of the feelings of fear and amusement bring out the message of Collins' speaker. Most readers can relate to Forgetfulness, the forgetfulness of something is common, yet the poem guide the reader from being forgetfulness to the path of death. Intertwine with the ideas of getting older and death is the humorous and conversational tone. However, the poem ends in a more serious tone. The combination of the distinctively different tones brings forth the larger meaning that as age increases, it is all right to let that one small insignificant memory to slip away because those memories can be replaced; however, there are also precious memories that cannot be replaced. The memories that cannot be replaced are the most important of all; those are the memories that should not be forgotten so easily.

Period Four - Explication Analysis

For this assignment, I want you to read the following Poem Explication and comment about the writing.
Focus on what works and what may need improvement in the explication. Focus on the student's assertion, support, organization, style, etc. I included the poem first, then the paper. You will need to read the poem to understand the paper. This is a paper from a student in period 2.

Your response should be a full paragraph in length (8 to 10 sentences). This is due by March 7th.


One Art
by Elizabeth Bishop


The art of losing isn't hard to master;

so many things seem filled with the intent

to be lost that their loss is no disaster.


Lose something every day. Accept the fluster

of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.

The art of losing isn't hard to master.


Then practice losing farther, losing faster:

places, and names, and where it was you meant

to travel. None of these will bring disaster.


I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or

next-to-last, of three loved houses went.

The art of losing isn't hard to master.


I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,

some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.

I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.


--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture

I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident

the art of losing's not too hard to master

though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.



Poem Explication: One Art by Elizabeth Bishop

In the poem One Art by Elizabeth Bishop, the speaker shows the audience that losing things is infinitesimal compared to losing the one she loves. She reveals herself through repetition and metaphor, but it is mostly her diction that tells her feelings
In the first line she says “The art of losing isn’t hard to master”. The line sets up the mood that losing things is easy. Though by repeating it in lines 6 and 12, she puts emphasis on the words and seems to want that line to be the truth. In the last repetition of the first line, she adds the word “too”. This means that it is hard to master, to some extent, though the end result “may look like…disaster (line 19)” She further backs it up her original statement by saying that their intent is “to be lost” (line 3), saying that things are meant to be lost, no matter what happens. She instructs the audience to “lose” and “accept” (line 4), which suggests that she has gone through loss before and it would be better to accept losing things since it would not hurt as much. She then instructs the audience to “practice” (line 7) losing, so her heart will not be crushed when the audience is accustomed to losing. By line 6, the speaker gets frantic. Her words become careless and the words take a sort of rhythm. She says “losing farther, losing faster”. Both phrases start with the word losing and start with the letter f. She then loses “places, and names, and where it was [she] meant / to travel” (lines 8-9). She lost more important things, but they were bearable. At this point, she is still talking to her original audience. When she says “And look! My last, or / next-to-last” (line 10), the exclamation point indicates a careless abandon. The fact that she can’t point out any details of the item she lost shows she doesn’t care about it and it doesn’t matter. She starts using the first person, saying that the items she lost were hers. She starts out losing small things like “lost door keys, the hour badly spent”. Then she lost her “mother’s watch” and then “three loved houses”, but still she was able to bear with it. She lost “two cities”, “some realms [she] owned, two rivers, a continent” (line 13-14) but it didn’t matter to her. The things she lost were worth nothing to her and were easily disposable. But there is one thing that she can’t just throw away.
The only time she admits that she misses any of her items is when she mentions her pairs of items, two cites, two rivers, and the item that hold them together, the continent. This is a metaphor to show that she misses the unity between herself and her lover. But she can’t have it anymore because she lost both pairs of items, symbolizing she also lost the relationship. The shift of the poem occurs in the last stanza of the poem. She admits she “shan’t have lied” when saying losing things is easy because she found the one thing that hurts to lose: “you”. Her audience changes to her lover. She still loves him; she uses the present tense word “love”. She hasn’t gotten over it. Looking back, she seems to be losing things to cope with the loss she has suffered. She thought if she lost some things, she might get used to the feeling of loss and accept his loss. But it didn’t happen that way. She still loves that man no matter what.
The speaker of the poem loss of the one she loves could not possibly compare to any other loss. She has a hard time getting the words out at the last line, prompting her to include the words “Write it!” just to get that last word out. She doesn’t want it to be true, but because of the nature of the poem, (it’s a villanelle) she has to say it. She says that losing a loved one is the hardest type of losing there is.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities #1: REVOLUTION!


In preparation for A Tale of Two Cities, we need to examine the principles of revolution. The time period of A Tale of Two Cities is during the French Revolution of the late 18th century. We will look at how the events of the past inform us about our events today.

Anticipatory Questions:

1) DO STEP ONE, before STEP TWO: In your own words, define revolution.

2) Search the internet and find another definition of revolution. Cite where you found them. Use online dictionaries, google search, wikipedia, etc.

3) In your own words, how does revolution differ from rebellion (if they do)?

4) Go the following sites and then briefly comment on what they collectively say about revolution. To receive credit, you must cite the article in your response. You should read them all and synthesize the information.
Elements of a Revolution
The Beatles' Revolution
Political Revolution
Revolution Quotes
Blog must be completed by March 1st. I pushed back the date.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Period 4 - Catalyst Group C



Andy
Malik
Matt
Marissa
Amir

Feb. 1 - 1-80
Feb. 7 - 81-157
Feb. 14 - To the end

Please Post by 8 p.m. before the discussion date.

Period 4 - Catalyst Group B


Casey
Laura
Victoria
Jen

Feb. 1 - Chapters 1 -5
Feb. 7 - Chapters 6 - 9
Feb. 14 - To the end


Please Post by 8 p.m. before the discussion date.

Period Four - Catalyst Group A


Ngoc
Belinda
Thanh
Elaine

Feb. 1 - 1-78
Feb. 7 - 79-149
Feb. 14 - To the end


Please Post by 8 p.m. before the discussion date.

Period 4 - The curious incident of the dog in the night-time


Heba
Ashley
Kellie
Jonathan

Feb. 1 - 1-74
Feb. 7 - 75-155
Feb. 14 - To the end


Please post by 8 p.m. prior to the discussion date.

Period 4 - It's Kind of a Funny Story


Katherine
Lynn
Will
Steven

Feb. 1 - 1-110
Feb. 7 - 111-220
Feb. 14 - To the end



Please post by 8 p.m. prior to discussion date.

Period 2 - The Complete Persepolis


Hillary
Conseulo
Martin

Feb. 1 - 1-100
Feb. 7 - 101-200
Feb. 14 - To the end


Please post by 8 p.m. prior to the discussion date.

Period 2 - It's Kind of a Funny Story


Jennifer
Herman
Evelyn
Trang

Feb. 1 - 1-181
Feb. 7 - 182-349
Feb. 14 - To the end


Please post by 8 p.m. prior to the discussion date.

Period 2 - About a Boy Group B



Barbara J.
Kyle
Jillann
Cristina

Please post by 8 p.m. before the discussion date.

Period 2 - About a Boy Group A


Barbara B.
Nashally
Jimmy
Henry

Feb. 1st - 1-102
Feb. 7th - 103-206
Feb. 14th - Finish

Please post by 8 p.m. prior to discussion date.

Period 2 - Perks of Being a Wallflower Group B



Sandy
Jillian
Aaron
Kim C.

Feb. 1 - 2-65
Feb. 7 - 65-121
Feb. 14 - To the end


Please post below by 8 p.m. prior to the discussion date.

Period 2 - Perks of Being a Wallflower Group A



Chloe
Nikita
David
Jessica F.
Jessica L.

Feb. 1 - 1-73
Feb. 7 - 74-139
Feb. 14 - To the end


Post comments below by 8 p.m. before the discussion date.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thank you...

Hey guys, my residency is done and now the work begins. My reading list for the next four months:

Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger, Short Stories of Mark Twain, White Church by Chris Lynch, Slot Machine by Chris Lynch, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, About a Boy by Nick Hornby, I am the cheese by Robert Cormier, After the First Death by Robert Cormier, Little Children by Tom Perrota, Weetzie Bat and Wasteland by Francesca Lia Block, Buffalo Tree by Adam Rapp, and Chris Lycnh's collection of short stories.


Ugh - plus I need to read Tale of Two Cities like the rest of you.

-Mr. Walsh

A Whirlwind Ending...

I have my final meeting with my advisor to solidify my reading list. Right now, it includes some Robert Cormier, Mark Twain, Nick Hornby, and, by my request, J.D. Salinger.

Yesterday, I attended a workshop on how movement helps character development. I never connected my theatrical world and my writing world. It was interesting how, even in writing, one needs to embody the physical character. I thought of Julie Taymore, my hero, and how I can apply her techniques of dance and acting to my writing.

Lunch with Chris Lynch and we discussed where I am going from here. I was excited and have most of my study plan worked out.

I was workshopped. Really positive stuff. I feel comfortable that I can go forward. People were laughing aloud at many of my passages. Very affirming.

Dinner was good - Quesadillas!!!

I am ready to teach! I can't wait to get back. It has been so long and Separate Peace needs some discussing!

-Mr. Walsh

Friday, January 11, 2008

Two Things

Take this survey about elections from my previous advisor Susan Goodman. The survey is at the top of the page.

Here is information on Chris Lynch, my current advisor.

I will offer Inexcusable by Chris Lynch in our next round of Independent Reading. I will not offer The Truth about Poop by Susan Goodman. Though, I own it and I know you would love it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Separate Peace Reminder

Hey - I know you are all enthralled in the story of Gene and Phineas. Remember, trace those items we discussed. Pick a favorite character and roll with it.

The day of the midterms your journal is due!!! YIKES!
Reminder, you need to have completed all 13 chapters and...

Have 2 entries per chapter that employs different strategies and traces an idea
Two vocab words with definitions and parts of speech per chapter
A "Somebody wanted...but...so..." for each chapter
A new title for each chapter with explanation


We will move on to independent reading, creative writing, and some memorized poetry when I triumphantly and exhaustedly return!

-Mr. Walsh

More workshops and seminars

Today began with a seminar on beginnings. Apparently, I have no idea how to begin a book. We discussed the importance of not misleading the reader in the beginning. You can't open with a story about a girl and a dog and then have the book be about aliens and tree frogs. The beginning needs to hook and create the appropriate atmosphere as well. I felt I did that, but I'm not sure if I truly honored my reader.

I had lunch: grilled chicken and some beef barley soup. It was lovely.

Then our small group workshop met again. I get workshopped tomorrow. It is a lot of fun, but I can tell we have all hit a wall. I don't know how you do it. Go to school everyday. Man, I'm running on caffeine. Per usual.

There is a reading tonight, which I plan on attending. I hope my car is not towed.

-Mr. Walsh

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Gang signs

WE spent much of my small group workshop creating gang signs for all of the writing for young people students. Imagine of a bunch children's literature authors flashing symbols. We also have a motto:
Adverbs are ForNEVER.
You won't find adverbs in picture books. I learned this. Interesting.

Chris Lynch read tonight. It was hysterical. The poet Spencer Reece followed. I cried. It was wonderful and beautiful. There is a poem I'm planning on sharing.

Keep reading!

-Mr. Walsh

A case of the Wednesdays...

To begin, yesterday afternoon we discussed the difference between YA novels and Adult novels. We talked about Catcher in the Rye, Separate Peace, To Kill a Mockingbird, and others. My job was to talk about Running with Scissors. I argued that it was an "adult" novel, because though it was told from the perspective of a young person, it had the distinct advantage of being filtered through an adult Augusten looking back. 33 Snowfish, which included more "graphic" content, was told from a different point of view and with a different sensibility - therefore, it was a YA. I put it much more eloquently to my peers.

This morning, I had a seminar on observation as a writer. We talked about Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time among others. There was a great line from the seminar - "People who live by the ocean, don't hear the sea...". Another great line from the seminar about relationships - "you enter for the cheese, but stay for very different reasons." OUCH!

After that workshop, I went to a panel discussion on having the "killer instinct" as a writer - which I lack. It was informative, but a tad long. I was getting mentally restless - as you must feel when I blabber on and on.

I just ate a turkey sandwich. After this, my workshop group reconvenes to discuss another picture book.

Tonight, Chris Lynch is reading. So I'm excited.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

My meeting with Chris Lynch...

I met with Chris Lynch today to organize my study plan. It was great! He said he loved my work and was reading it aloud to people. He kept smiling and laughing. I couldn't help but have a dumb grin on my face.

Then, he said I needed to start over from the beginning.

I stopped grinning.

Such is the life of a writer.

I hope Separate Peace is going well. I can't wait to talk about it. I'm chomping at the bit to discuss Gene and Phineas. I have a workshop this afternoon and we'll discuss Running with Scissors and I heard Catcher in the Rye as well. I'll dominate the second I fear.

All the best, Mr. Walsh.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Metaphor, Picture Books, and Chicken Parm...

This morning I learned about metaphor - and it is not simply a comparison without like or as. It is so much more than that. We talked about how all language is metaphor and how metaphor is about transfer. I have some great poems to share with you. We focused on several poems, one called The Cement Truck, about using a cement truck as a metaphor for the creation process. We also read some sudden fiction, which is prose under 2000 words that play with elements of plot, characterization, poetics, etc.

Lunch - Caesar Salad bar - AGAIN

In the afternoon, the workshop group met again. I looked at three pieces from fellow students. We spent some time working on picture books. This was totally fascinating. So so so much goes into picture books. It is really like analyzing poetry. We looked first at the text, then the pictures. It is interesting how the pictures aren't necessarily of the text, but complement the text.

Dinner - I ate with Brian Bouldrey, a non-fiction writer. He decided to give everyone American Gladiator names. Our program director was Pentameter. I was named Working Class - because I'm from Levittown. I had Chicken Parm. It was gross.

Tonight, I have to read and get ready for my meeting with Chris Lynch to design my study plan.

How is Separate Peace going?

Hey everyone, Comment back - how's separate peace going? Any questions? Any favorite characters yet - Gene, Finny, tree, Leper, etc.?

I'm off to learn about metaphors - I found a great poem for us.

-Mr. Walsh

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A long day...

In the morning, I attended a workshop about writing that takes on the world. We explored several poems, novels, etc. that dealt with social justice issues without being preachy. I found this appropriate considering what I am exploring in my text. She basically trashed Animal Farm - I was not happy about that.

For lunch, I had a really gross pumpkin soup and some cous-cous.

After lunch, I was workshopped. This consisted of being quiet (not a problem in this setting) and having Chris Lynch and others examine the 1st forty pages of my book. People loved my humor and my characters, but want me to make some major structural changes - GRR - I knew it was coming. It was great. I love the feedback.

The best part of the workshops and everything is the people. It is totally like summer camp. We pal around and gossip and encourage each other and are already getting nostalgic. My group consists of an middle-aged woman from Connecticut, a Columbian picture-book writer, an English teacher from Dallas, and an outdoor Science teacher from San Francisco.

As for meals...dinner was better - caesar salad and stir fly. Nice.

After dinner, I saw a film version of a play by Kate Snodgrass. I will be taking a playwriting course with her this semester. She teaches at BU and is artistic director of the Boston Playwright's Theater. I'm so stoked to be working with her. The play was an interesting look at family relationships when one child is autistic. Very compelling.

I have reading to do.
-Mr. Walsh

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Poets and Football....

Currently, a bunch of poets are watching football and yelling at the television. They are not using metaphors.

Second Person - You, you, you...

I just finished a workshop regarding second person. We talked about its role and function in poems, particularly female narratives. We discussed how "you" can be used to bring us in or to push us away, the specific vs. the universal you, and the "you" can be used to persuade or seduce the reader. Pretty interesting stuff. I was reminded of reading "Girl" in the beginning of the year and how we looked at the same thing.

I will spend my afternoon reading for tomorrow and Monday and will avoid the open mike.

One thing Chris Lynch said this morning, which was great, was not to let your ideas sit and just go with it. I think this is so good advice for writing.

Write even though it is terrible...

Chris Lynch said this in our morning workshop. I think it is great advice. He also has tons of post-it notes. He has post-it notes with post-it notes on them.

I met with my playwriting advisor over lunch and I have to read the Handler from Talking With, which I'm directing now. Sweet.

Lunch consisted of steamed veggies and a turkey sandwich. Delicious.

I am about to embark on a two-hour workshop on Second Person. I'll write more later, when time permits.

-Mr. Walsh

Friday, January 4, 2008

It begins...

Oh man oh man,

The evening started out with a reception and a wonderful cheese spread - a variety of yellows and oranges. I bumped into people from the summer. It was nice, like the first day of school. Lot of pleasantries and talk about travel and the weather.

I saw my advisor from the last semester, Susan Goodman - who wrote the wonderful book - The Truth about Poop. I love all things scatological. I met Chris Lynch. He seemed reserved, but pleasant. We (the Writing for Young People folk) have our workshop with him tomorrow. I need to think of questions to ask him - got any?

Tonight's readings were excellent.

Alexandra Johnson, a nonfiction writer, read from her book The Hidden Writer. She read about Tolstoy, the author of War and Peace, and his relationship with Sonia, his wife. The focus of the piece was does writing come out from the choices we make in life. She mentioned a wonderful Flaubert quote about writers, which I'm paraphrasing - that writers must think like a radical and have the mind of a bourgeios. Well, if that's the case, I need to think more liberally and get more money.

Anita Riggio, a YA writer, read a short story called Bingo - which I'm going to try to procure a copy, because I think you guys would love it. Very moving.

I need to read a ton tonight and avoid the temptation of Office DVDS and relaxing.

I'll blog in the morning.

Best,
Mr. Walsh

Thursday, January 3, 2008

MFA residency Liveblog

Hey guys,

Starting this Friday evening, I will be attending my second residency at Lesley University for my Masters in Fine Arts. I am getting my degree in Creative Writing with a focus on Writing for Young People (Young Adult Fiction). Basically, I never got over my Holden Caulfield obsession.

This week - I will be liveblogging my residency, which means posting a couple of times a day about courses I am taking, workshops, readings, etc.

During the week, I will attend many, many workshops including "Second Person in Female Narrative Poetry" - Talk about specific! I also will have my writing (the first 90 pages of a novel) critiqued by classmates. I will meet with my advisor Chris Lynch, who wrote Inexcusable. Furthermore, I have to prepare a discussion on Running with Scissors on whether or not it is meant for Young Adults - I just found this out - IRONY.

Part of my desire to get my MFA is to help be a better teacher of reading and writing. I couldn't think of a better way to share this experience of studying English at a graduate level than using the blog format.

Feel free to comment and ask questions. I will be busy. Keep reading A Separate Peace and behave yourselves.