Monday, April 25, 2011

Junot Diaz

What kind of stories are those collected in Drown, if you had to place a "genre label" or other kind of descriptive label on them? Are they "coming of age" stories? "Stranger in a strange land" stories? Some other readily recognizable type?
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Phillis Wheatley

Of Wheatley's poems, which one did you like the best? Why? And which did you think demonstrated most strongly her autonomous will, her strength of beliefs, and perhaps her own individually articulated defense of the morality and humanity of African American people?

Louis Adamic

Given Adamic's political leanings as a teenager in Blato, what part of American democracy is so attractive to him and so lures him to the nation's shores? How/why does his political activism make him feel that American might be an appropriate new home for him? Other than political strife at home and the unrest he experiences, what other elemental life-factors inspire him to recognize that he must move to America?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The City and New Arrivals

Dunbar paints a pretty dismal picture of New York City in The Sport of the Gods. Might we attribute some of the problems that befall the Hamilton family to their status as "greenhorns," as most of the events we see happen in their first year in the city? Does Dunbar make a big deal out of the differences between huge megalopolises like New York City and other, more rural places? What problems in the text are particularly attributable to conditions that cities uniquely promote or enable?

Monday, April 4, 2011

W. E. B. DuBois

Based on your reading of excerpts from DuBois's The Souls of Black Folk, how does his philosophy regarding the uplift of African American people differ from Booker T. Washington's?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lily and other women

In your response to this prompt, I'd love to hear your assessment of the range of women Wharton presents in her novel. Who do we meet? What are they like? What features characterize each? For what were they trained or not "trained"?
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

House of Mirth

So far, you've read half of Wharton's House of Mirth. Given what you know of Lily so far, what or who would you say is chiefly responsible for Lily's various predicaments? What is the central problem she is facing and what kind of social commentary might Wharton be making via this presentaton if Lily?
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Friday, March 4, 2011

Abraham Cahan

So, I jokingly said in class that I was going to require you to use a Yiddish word or two in your response to Cahan's "A Sweatshop Romance." Now, I am going to stick to that! Do a search for "Yiddish/English Dictionary" or for "Yiddish phrases." I am sure you'll find some good ones. Now, tell me about "translation" in the short story. To what degrees does the story concern translation and how might it be considered a kind of translation? I want you to describe this in terms of the "world of the text" as well as the world "beyond" it, the one in which is was written and published. Don't kvetch about it . . . just enjoy this opportunity to share your thoughts about Cahan's story!

Charles Chesnutt

For this post, I want you to think about the original publication context of "The Wife of His Youth." The short story appeared in the December 1989 edition of The Atlantic Monthly.

(Paste the above into your browser. From the page that loads, you'll have to scroll up.)

Visit the GoogleBook version of the issue and scan through it. What do you learn about the Atlantic reader's taste? What other kind of fiction interested this "reader"? What kinds of political stories? For what kinds of products are there advertisements?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Hart Crane

I know many of you found parts of Hart Crane's The Bridge hard to understand, and that, my friends, is totally normal. I told you a bit about Crane's biography and his poetic "ancestry" (to Whitman, he believed); Tyler also gave you some information about Crane's life. We haven't spoken explicitly about "modernist" poetry, but I want you to do a little web-searching and tell me here what you've come to learn about how Crane's style is or is not reflective of some of the features of modernist poetry of the 1920s. Give me the URL in your response here and your own summary. Then, if you wish, make a connection if you can between Crane's style and his biography -- I know it might be a stretch, but how does the challenge of his style reveal to us anything about Crane himself?

Whitman and form

Pick one numbered section from "Song of Myself" that you found most comprehensible and interesting and tell me about its "form." Also, tell me about the "content" of the lines. So, this question asks you to think about two things: what does Whitman say and how does he say it? Do you think his form is a helpful strategy for the conveyance of his point or an obscuring one?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The court...

Think of the metaphorical devices McCullers uses in her short story "A Court in the West Eighties." We particularly discussed the function of the "court" itself relative to the interpersonal dynamics in the story. What role does the court itself play? How does it work as a passable or impassable domain and what can we learn from that device in conjunction with some of the other "othering" devices we've examined this term?
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Language and motherland

If your native language is English and your home nation is the United States, you might have never thought much about the relationship between a mother-tongue and a motherland. As we discussed in class, Jacques Derrida thinks that there is a kind of psychological relationship between land and language and dissonance can result from prohibitions on use of the native tongue and movement away from the motherland (and language). How do you respond to this given our discussions of Viramontes's novel?
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Monday, January 31, 2011

Women's health and artistry...

In our examinations of Chopin's novel, we've examined some of the ways in which Edna resides in a cultural margin. How does the culture in which she lives correlate her "health" status to her compliance with cultural codes of/expectations for women's behavior? As she delves more deeply into "art" and music in the middle third of the book, what is the consequence on her health? From her husband's perspective? From the doctor's? From outside observers'? From the narrator's?
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Welcome to ENGL 436!

Hello students! I am excited for us to embark on our readings for this semester, which I think are going to be interesting for all of us. We are going to investigate texts by authors who were writing from the "outside" in some way or another, a notion that depends on our acceptance of the idea that there are "streams" in American culture (i.e., a "mainstream" and something marginal to that mainstream). As you can acknowledge, there are always people-- be it in a school, in a workplace, on a sports team -- who feel as if they don't "belong" for some reason or another. This feeling of being an outsider, whether it is a feeling that is embraced or one that is struggled against, has long caused people to craft texts that make strong social and/or political commentaries on the more dominant American culture of their era. In fact, many of these textual commentaries have inspired in readers a desire to fight, along with the authors, for change (and such changes have included women's suffrage, the emancipation of enslaved peoples, increased tolerance for various kinds of immigrants, etc.). We are going to be reading some texts that make such commentaries and we are going to investigate the political and social circumstances in America that catalyzed them. I am excited to read these texts with you and for us to earnestly engage with these writers, who I have dubbed "other" writers (against or) within the canon of American literature -- a large idea with which we will grapple right away.