September 2009 Archives

Chapter 13, "House-Warming" Chapter 18, "Conclusion"
Thoreau's Walden is not a novel or an autobiography, but rather a series of interconnected essays that describe his life apart from society, in the woods where he fled in order contemplate nature. In many ways, this book founded the tradition of nature writing. (Certainly authors and artists had examined nature before, but not in the context of nature being threatened by industrialism.) Thoreau was one of the American Transcendentalists, who loved nature, but also loved intelligent society. They were frustrated idealists, who held out great hopes for the soul of humankind, but disgusted at the pettiness and materialism they found in human society. They looked at nature with the eyes of a poet,

Please post one blog entry that responds to all of chapter 2 and all of chapter 4 (but that's not the entire reading assignment, as you can see on the outline page). Please pick, for your agenda item, a quote from a passage other than the passages below. (I will get you started by offering some commentary on these two selections.)
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan- like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. For most men, it appears to me, are in a strange uncertainty about it, whether it is of the devil or of God, and have somewhat hastily concluded that it is the chief end of man here to "glorify God and enjoy him forever."
The above is from Chapter 2, "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For." I am also asking you to read Chapter 4, "Sounds". A note to help you get into the book:
Walden is a difficult book to read for three reasons: First, it was written by a gifted writer who uses surgically precise language, extended, allegorical metaphors, long and complex paragraphs and sentences, and vivid, detailed, and insightful descriptions. Thoreau does not hestitate to use metaphors, allusions, understatement, hyperbole, personification, irony, satire, metonymy, synecdoche, and oxymorons, and he can shift from a scientific to a transcendental point of view in mid-sentence. -- Ken Kiefer
You may also wish to pay a visit to the Walden section of the American Transcendentalism Web.
One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin. It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide--plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions. The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight. It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others. No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long. There comes John, and I must put this away,--he hates to have me write a word.
I AM a rather elderly man. The nature of my avocations for the last thirty years has brought me into more than ordinary contact with what would seem an interesting and somewhat singular set of men, of whom as yet nothing that I know of has ever been written:--I mean the law-copyists or scriveners. I have known very many of them, professionally and privately, and if I pleased, could relate divers histories, at which good-natured gentlemen might smile, and sentimental souls might weep. But I waive the biographies of all other scriveners for a few passages in the life of Bartleby, who was a scrivener the strangest I ever saw or heard of. While of other law-copyists I might write the complete life, of Bartleby nothing of that sort can be done. I believe that no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man. It is an irreparable loss to literature. Bartleby was one of those beings of whom nothing is ascertainable, except from the original sources, and in his case those are very small. What my own astonished eyes saw of Bartleby, that is all I know of him, except, indeed, one vague report which will appear in the sequel.
Due Today:

Portfolio 1

An evaluative presentation of your participation in the online discussions. More details below.
Due Today:

Ex 1: Pro/Con

Use your close reading skills to examine more than one side of a complex argument about one or more of the literary works we have studied. (Choose a different work than the one you discussed for Ex 0.) Length: 3 pages minimum (about 700 words).
Treat this as a separate reading, choosing an additional passage from these chapters and posting an additional agenda item.
Key Concept:


Rhetoric -- the use of language to persuade. One of the three most important of the "liberal arts" (those skills that free citizens were expected to have). Classical rhetoric recognizes three main ways to persuade. We can make emotional pleas (pathos); we can make ethical pleas (ethos), or we can use logic (logos).
This book begins with an introductory essay called "The Customs House."  I'm actually asking you to skip the introduction for now and get right to chapter 1.  (We'll come back to it later.)
Throughout Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter it is shown that Dimmesdale conceals his sins about the adultery that he committed with Hester. This takes its toll on him both mentally and especially physically. (32 words)

The above is a perfectly acceptable introduction to a pro/con paper, though I'd rather see a more forceful opinion. Before I get to that, however, I want to address over-emphasis of plot summary and wordiness. In this case, the two problems are related.

Due Today:

Ex 0: Close Reading

Write a close reading of one or more of the assigned works.

Length: 2 pages (about 500 words). Bring to class. (In the future, I will ask you to submit your exercises to

Demonstrate your ability to use direct quotations from the  literary works in order to defend a non-obvious claim about the literary works.

People can be hypocrites.
The above claim is about real people, not about a literary work, so it's not appropriate for this class.

The story "Young Goodman Brown" shows that people can be hypocrites.
While the above claim does focus on a literary work, it's pretty obvious.

Despite his hypocrisy, Young Goodman Brown is a sympathetic character. His insistence that his father and his wife could not have failed to live up to their own moral standards suggests humility, and his final decision suggests that he does not see himself as morally superior to anyone else.
The above version is a much stronger thesis, since an intelligent reader might actually disagree with the claim. To make your case, you'd need to quote specific passages from the work, and build an argument with that textual evidence.


Keep the Focus on the Author's Words
Pitfalls to Avoid

For pagination, please refer to this version of the text

That same version (with pagination) is also available through
"Too far, too far!" exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming his walk. "My father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a race of honest men and good Christians, since the days of the martyrs. And shall I be the first of the name of Brown, that ever took this path and kept--"

"Such company, thou wouldst say," observed the elder person, interrupting his pause. "Well said, Goodman Brown! I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans; and that's no trifle to say. I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem. And it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Philip's War. They were my good friends, both; and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path, and returned merrily after midnight. I would fain be friends with you, for their sake."
This text is out of copyright, so there are numerous free versions online.

So that we will have a common text, and can refer to page numbers, I have prepared a simple electronic edition, using the text from Project Gutenberg. (Here is a copy in a generic word-processor format:
Hawthorne, YGB.rtf 

Here is the same file as an MS-Word document:

Hawthorne, YGB.docx

If you are a visual or auditory learner, you may wish to visit the version online at the Adam Smith Academy. It features some simple illustrations and an MP3 of a narrator reading the story.   But please do cite the page numbers on the electronic edition I have prepared.

2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30 31          
    1 02 3 4 5
6 7 8 09 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      
        1 2 3
4 5 6 07 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31
1 2 3 04 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30          
    1 02 3 04 5
6 7 8 09 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31