readings: February 2008 Archives

Assigned Text:

Hamilton (68-97)

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Hamilton (32-65)

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O'Connor, "The River"

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A short academic article (TBA).

Update: (I'm going to delay this until we've seen the play... more later.)

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Close Reading


  • John Donne's "Song: Go and Catch a Falling Star"
  • Blythe, Hal and Charlie Sweet. "Eliot's 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.'" Explicator 62.2 (2004) 108-110. (The full text of this article is available through the SHU library website. Last time I gave you a link to the exact page, but this time I'm asking you to demonstrate you can find the article on your own. You can start by going to the Reeves Library Home Page and clicking the "Find Articles" button.)
Note how the close reading written by Blythe and Sweet does not re-tell the main idea of the poem, or offer anecdotes about what the poem means to them personally, or offer a list of what the poem "could" mean.

Blythe and Sweet make a specific argument -- an non-obvious claim about Eliot's poem (and they bring in Donne's work for comparison). 

In English, we defend our claims by quoting evidence (usually from the literary work we are studying) in order to SHOW the point we want to make. 

But some observations don't count as non-obvious claims. Let's imagine a story about a protagonist who uses ice cream flavors to sort out all her relationships.

  • Ice cream is mentioned a lot in this story.
  • There is foreshadowing in this story.
None of the above statements would qualify as a non-obvious claim that needs to be defended.

  • Lucinda's mild surprise at learning that her aunt ("the craziest, freeest woman" in Lucinda's life) eats only vanilla ice cream prepares the reader to understand Lucinda's total shock at learning "Aunt Vivian punched a time clock and paid her bills" just like all the other unimaginative and barely distinguishable members of her family.
Note that in the above sentence, I did not first spend a whole sentence setting up the idea I want to talk about, then quote a long passage from the work, and then spend a whole sentence explaining the quote.  Instead, I did all three tasks in a single sentence.

Your agenda item can be any passage from Blythe and Sweet's article, but your reflection paper should:

  1. Quote the main claim or argument (the thesis) that Blythe and Sweet set out to prove.
  2. Quote at least one important piece of evidence the authors use to support their claim.
  3. Find an important paragraph in Blythe and Sweet's article, and analyze it.  Note that Blythe and Sweet don't summarize the works they discuss, or discuss whether they agree with the opinions presented in the poems.
    • What do Blythe and Sweet spend their time talking about? 
    • How do they work their own opinions into their article? 
    • How do they communicate the idea that their claim is worth arguing -- that it's not so obvious that everyone would automatically see it their way?

Assigned Text:

Sonnet -- Donne

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Shakespeare, MWW (Act 1)

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Sonnet -- Shakespeare

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Monteiro, Katherine A. "Dickinson's 'Victory Comes Late'"   Explicator 44:2 (30-32).

The full text of this article is available through the EBSCOhost.  It is erroneously cataloged as if Emily Dickinson herself is the author of the article, so you won't be able to find it by searching for Monteiro's name. 

In the future, finding the article will be part of the homework assignment, but this time I'll give you the link.

Assigned Text:



VICTORY comes late,    
And is held low to freezing lips    
Too rapt with frost    
To take it.    
How sweet it would have tasted,            5
Just a drop!    
Was God so economical?    
His table's spread too high for us    
Unless we dine on tip-toe.    
Crumbs fit such little mouths,               10
Cherries suit robins;    
The eagle's golden breakfast    
Strangles them.    
God keeps his oath to sparrows,    
Who of little love                                  15
Know how to starve!

Full Text (with annotation).

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Foster (6,9, 11-14)

The first story in the collection.

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Short Story Tips

For homework, blog your agenda item as you would for any reading assignment. Come to class prepared to workshop some scenarios for your short story that is due Monday.  You are welcome to use your blog to start developing your ideas for your story.
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Hamilton (1-31)

Rather than just picking one quote at random, I'd like you to choose a set of related terms (for instance, epigram and aphorism; or the difference between a novel and a short story) and briefly demonstrate your ability to apply those concepts to one of the readings we have looked at so far this term.

I'm not asking you to do every exercise in the book, but if one of the exercises give you a good idea for a blog entry, you're welcome to use it.

Assigned Text:

Glaspell, "Trifles"

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Foster (19.20)

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Foster (2, 3, 5)

The full text of this out-of-copyright story by F. Scott Fitzgerald is available online.

To do the RRRR (Read, React, Respond, Reflect) sequence:

  1. Read the assigned text.
  2. React by posting an agenda item (quote and brief comments) ON YOUR OWN BLOG, about 24 hours before class meets.

    On this page, type your chosen quotation and include a link to your blog entry. You can just paste the URL after your quote, or you can add a few lines explaining your response to your quote.

    Note -- pay attention to the URL that you post on this page.

    Your URL should look something like the following:

    The following link is not specific enough. Your reader will have to hunt for the specific page.

    A link like the following is only useful to you, because it points to your editing pages -- your readers will find it useless.
  3. Respond: Before class meets, post 2-4 comments on agenda items that your peers have posted to their own weblogs. (If you have been asked to look at 2 separate readings, then I am asking for 4-8 comments.)
  4. Reflect: Bring to class a half-page reflection paper, that names a student whose agenda item made you see the assigned reading in a different way. I will occasionally, but not always, collect the reflection papers. If you wish, you may do your half-page reflection at the same time you write your agenda item -- but that should mean doing them both early, rather than waiting to post your agenda item until the night before or the morning of the class discussion.
  5. Recommended: An optional 5th step. You are welcome to post your half-page reflections on your blog, with a link to the classmate's blog. 

Assigned Text:

Foster (Intro, 1)

Also, a short work of fiction (TBA).

Update, Jan 30: I'm going to save the work of fiction for later... so you can ignore the reference to fiction.

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