Monday, April 25, 2011

Sample Summary

The following derives from another blog I maintain.

On April 23, 2011, Charles McGrath's "Why the King James Bible Endures" appeared in the online New York Times.  In the article, McGrath argues that a major cause of the text's endurance is specifically in its removal from everyday language.  He comments that the language chosen by the fifty-four member group that initially produced it chose wording that was deliberately archaic--though accessible to the readership of the time--so that even on its first printing, the text would have been different from the presumed common speech of the readership.  McGrath also voices annoyance at the tendency of more recent English transliterations of the Bible to assume a conversational tone, commenting that "Not everyone prefers a God who talks like a pal or a guidance counselor."  The article effectively articulates and provides support for one view of why the KJV endures, although more could be done to support its assertions and there is certainly room for debate.

Archaic /âr*kā'ĭk/ (adj.)- after an older pattern, style, or model no longer in common use, often several decades or more out of common use

Monday, April 18, 2011

About the Summer Theme

I tend to teach my composition and reading classes to a theme.  I find that doing so gives shape and guidance to my lectures, which helps me.  I find also that it allows students to develop a knowledge base and to work from it, which helps them.  It allows them to deal with information that they have already learned, so that they can focus on the application of the knowledge rather than trying to acquire an entirely new set of knowledge every few weeks.  Also, it gives them confidence in their own ability to gain and exhibit expertise in a given subject.

Selecting a theme is always a difficult thing for me.  Since I will be spending fourteen or fifteen weeks dealing with it, the theme needs to be one that will not bore me.  Since I am doing a lot of other work, it has to be something that I either already know or am working with in my own research.  And it does, in fact, have to be one that I can have some certainty is accessible to the students--I tried one a semester or two ago that did not work well at all, largely because it called for my students to stretch too far.*

In the spring term, I used genres of music.  While there was some initial difficulty, I did get a number of the students on board, and I was able to get in some pretty good papers.  It was also fun putting up examples; I think I did a little bit of decent writing, and it is useful to stretch myself a little outside what I normally do.

For the summer, I am returning to my own literary work (though not exclusively, as should become evident).  It is a truism that a hero cannot be any better than the opposition that hero faces.  Antagonists, then, drive the plots of stories--whether in writing, on stage, on screen (big or small), in games, or whatever.  And it is the antagonist, in any of a number of forms, that is the theme for my composition courses in the summer term.

*I tend to adhere to Vygotsky's concept of the "zone of proximal development," which is that level of difficulty just beyond what a student can do unaided.  It provides a comfortable stretch for the students' abilities, challenging them to improve without being so far ahead of where they are as to promote disengagement because "there's just no way I can do it."  Sometimes, though, I do miss.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Beginning Recommended Reading List

At one point during this semester, I discussed with one of my classes a set of readings that I consider vital to understand English-language literary (and broader artistic) culture*; in brief, I asserted at least part of my own canon.  Not long ago, one of the students in that class asked if I would kindly post the list so that it could be referenced.  Hence, the following (which may or may not line up with what I noted in class):

  • The Holy Bible (particularly the King James Version for English literature, though a good English version of the Catholic canon will also be of help)
  • Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey
  • Virgil, The Æneid
  • Beowulf
  • Dante, Divine Comedy
  • Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • Machiavelli, The Prince
  • Malory, Le Morte d'Arthur
  • Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier
  • Spenser, The Faerie Queene
  • Elizabeth I, "Speech to the Troops at Tilbury" and "The Golden Speech"
  • Shakespeare (all of it, really, but notably Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, Julius Cæsar, Romeo and Juliet {I hate the play but it gets referenced frequently}, Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, and the sonnets)
  • Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
  • Bacon (aside from having a cool name), Essays
  • More, Utopia
  • Sidney, A Defence of Poesy
  • Donne, "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning," "The Flea," Elegy 8, Meditation 17 from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, and the Holy Sonnets
  • Jonson, Volpone
  • Milton, "Areopagitica" and Paradise Lost
  • Behn, Oroonoko
  • Butler, Hudibras
  • Hamilton, Mythology (not an original source but a good introduction)
The list is only partial, but it provides a solid start.  I may revisit it at some point in the future.

*I am aware that the list I provide is largely Anglo-normative.  I do not mean by this to disenfranchise other languages and literatures, but the list was compiled in response to a specific question by a student, and so it is relatively narrow in its scope.  Also, it reflects my own readings, which have, admittedly, been Anglo-normative and largely defined by the traditional patriarchal literary canon.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Summer 2011 Schedule Preview

As posted on the portal site for the college where I teach, in the Summer 2011 term, I shall teach the following classes:

ENG 099: Basic Communictaion (one section)
ENG 101: Freshman Composition 1 (one section)
ENG 202: Technical Writing and Presentation (two sections)
HUM 110: Speech (three sections)

If the schedule holds as is, my usual Tuesday student conference time will be suspended.  Thursday afternoons, though, will be pretty good meeting times.