Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Immitating Crane


The best way to learn how to write is often by immitating the style of published and critically acclaimed authors who display their literary prowess by poetic force.

As you read Crane's novel, notice how rich his language is--especially in his descriptions of setting and his protrayal of the inner turmoil with which the young Henry must deal in the face of battle.

For the weekend, I would like you to find a passage--at least two (2) to three (3) paragraphs in length--that struck you as both profound and poetic.

Immitate the style in which the passage was written and rely upon (or even manipulate) Crane's sentence structure to create the framework for your own passage, while changing the subject matter to suit your purpose.

For instance, you could express the inner turmoil--or even happiness--that you feel during the course of the school day; or while at practice for some athletic team, club, or group to which you belong; or while in proximity to someone you either loathe (despise) or love. You could also take a passage the includes dialogue and set something up in which you are speaking to someone with whom you often associate in the context of academic life, social life, or family life. And even still, you could describe some setting relevant to your own lived experience in which you explore the details of your surroundings.

The point of the activity is to have you enter into your own, everyday psychic (i.e., psychological) experiences and explore them by replicating Crane's style of verse.

Post your "immitations" to the blog by the beginning of class Monday morning (12/18) so that we can review them in class. Please indicate the page number on which we can find the passage you choose to immitate.

Enjoy the experience!


Monday, December 11, 2006



Some reminders and project proposals:

1. Pick up Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage and begin reading it for the purposes of class discussion and assignments.

2. Begin working on your revisions for the papers your wrote during our discussion of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I will start in-class conferences on this coming Wednesday to review the writing process with each of you one-on-one. In order to revise thoroughtly, please refer to the comments and suggestions I wrote in response to your first draft essays.

3. Assessment, re:
Transcendentalism -- Emmerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and Dickinson

Instead of an in-class essay exam, I would like you to choose one of the following options that will test your interpretive ability and your ability to think critically as well as creatively. This assignment is due, in class, January 3 upon your return from the holiday recess. As a supplement to the project you choose to complete, please write a one-page reaction sheet explaining the significance of your choice and its meaning to you, personally.

- compose a song with lyrics written in the style of Whitman or Dickinson's poetry. For instance, if you are to write a song based upon Whitman's poetry, your lyrics should resemble his free verse style as well as his physical and emotional appreciation of nature and the world. If you are to write a song based upon Dickinson's poetry, your lyrics should resemble her elliptical style, using a rhythmic structure that uses breaks in lines to allow room for "pause." You should also focus on an abstract theme or quality (i.e., truth, death, beauty) and recreate them using metaphorical images in your lines of lyrical verse. You can record yourself with audio or video tape; or make an in-class appearence to perform your piece. Please be sure to print your lyrics and attach them to your one page essay.

- create a work of graphic art (i.e. drawing, painting, sculpture, computer graphic) that creates a vivid image of some symbol or abstract quality discussed in either Emmerson, Thoreau, Whitman, or Dickinson (i.e. beauty, nature, the soul, God, death, the city, the working man, etc.).

- write an essay (at least two, double-spaced pages in 12 pt. Times New Roman font) in which you mimic the style of either Emmerson or Thoreau. Your composition should be essentially philosophical, in which you theorize about some abstract aspect/concept of life that is relevant to you. What you are trying to express should be the stuff of interior revelation. What do you want to explore that you think we, as your readers, have not yet discovered ourselves about the world, about nature, about society, about school, about family,about the government, about religion, pagan death metal, kelly clarkson, etc.? This is, in essence, an immitation exercise by which you are challenged to become more familiar with reading, writing, and speaking in a more formal, intellectual style.

another essay possibility: write a "take-off" passage in which you spend at least two-pages "taking up" where Emmerson or Thoreau "leave off" in one of their essays. is there an area in their philosophical essays that you think could use some further discussion or elaboration? then write more, immitating their style, as though you were in essence Emmerson or Thoreau. Please photo-copy the original passage from you which you are working--be it a specific sentence, paragraph, or page.

- lastly, you have the choice of composing five (5) poems written in the style of either Whitman or Dickinson. refer to my insight regarding option one concerning their respective thematic styles. if you feel inclined to immitate their line, stanza, and grammatical structures in composing your own verse then please feel free (it is recommended).

Questions? See me in class.


Thursday, December 7, 2006

It's Your Take: Interpreting Dickinson


Emily Dickinson is well known for--as far as I'm concerned--two things:

1. imagism: her imagery; the images she uses to capture a moment in time, or a physical or emotional state of being.

For instance, instead of placing the word "isolation" in a poem about "isolation," she will instead capture the emotions one feels when isolated and use them as an indirect indication of the overall theme of "isolation." Her poetry is therefore suggestive and rooted specifically in man's mental, emotinal, or physical experience of some state of being. More simply, a poem about God doesn't have to include God's name if we were to write one in Dickinson's poetic style.

2. ellipses: the omission from a sentence or other construction of one or more words that would complete or clarify the construction; her thoughts, then, are "elliptical" and this is most evident in her short phrases and the incomplete sentence structures within her verse. You'll notice various dashes and other breaks in lines of her verse that give the reader "pause" to reflect on the images she creates.

All that said, take some time this weekend to read and reflect upon her poems as excerpted in 101 Great American Poems. After parousing some of her work, take one poem that struck you and interpret it.

If you decide to read your fellow classmate's commentary and wish to respond with your own opinion, please feel free to do so. I recommend you doing it, but with discretion, open-mindedness, and respect.

Interpret away,

p.s. For those of you who have not published your own poetry in the previous blog assignment, please do so. I enjoy reading your work and find in it inspiration for my own.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Question for Bro. Rob

Hey brother, I wanted to ask, can we create our own blogs on here? For instance, if we are discussing poetry in class and you don't have a homework for us could we write our own poetry and express our own thoughts on the blog? Of course, rules still stand, with its appropriatness. But i was just wondering. The reason i posted it on here was to see other peoples comments and to see if you would consider. I hope its not trouble, you're of course the executive decision. So with that, I'll see you all in class.


Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Free your mind with some verse


Walt Whitman (1819-1892)--romantic, humanist, and transcendentalist--is professed to be the greatest American Poet and, if not that, then the "father of free verse": a type of poetry without strict meter (beat) or rhyme.

That's not to say, however, that Whitman's poetry was not rhytmic. It certainly had its "flow" as we might say.

You ask, but what is "poetry" in the first place? Well, that's not easy to answer. Poetry, origining from the Greek, poiesis--"making" or "creating"--is an art formed in speech and word.

It is a type of language, really. It is a way of expressing thought and emotion through images, through symbols, through description and metaphor (drawing on comparisons between objects and people, for instance).

That said, consider what we've done in class: taking an image, an emotion, or a theme; transforming it through the imagination; and expressing it through poetry.

Pick from the following list of abstractions (or make up your own) and expound on one "idea" with some lines of free verse. Try to stay away from rhyme, but keep in mind the importance of rhythm even though there is no professed "meter" (or syllabic beat) involved:

faith, soul, body, mind, spirit, eterninty, the forest, fire, water, the universe, the cosmos, the common man, music, buildings, home, hatred, love, the ocean, the mountain, the coast, prayer, family life, friendship, school, sports, clothing, heroes, enterntainment, villains, God, Buddha, the Over-Soul, religion, conformity, nonconformity, isolation, loneliness, solitude, joy, despair, hope, grief, baptism, funeral, the sacraments, war, peace, burning churches, fish, sea-faring adventures, animals and the list could go on..........


Monday, December 4, 2006

I went that I could live deliberately.


Seated by the shore of a small pond, Thoreau--Emmerson's contemporary--took up his abode in a log cabin amidst the tall pines of the New England forest. He lived for two years, from 1845 to 1847, in an area just south of Concord, Massachusetts in order to withdraw from society and its obligations.

During that time, he used nature as his inspiration to "rift" his way "into the secret of things" (68). Each morning, he awoke to greet the dawn with a renewing bath in the waters of Walden Pond. He watched the sun rise, "throwing off" the "nightly clothing of mist," to reveal the soft ripples of the water that reflectled the light of that "divining rod" in the dome of the great sky.

Thoreau's surroundings were "pasture enough for [his] imagination" (61).

That said:

What is pasture enough for your imagination? Where would you go to live deliberately, as Thoreau did? Would this place of refuge be one of solitude? Or would you have company? What would you do with your time in such surroundings? What would you take with you, if anything? What would be your dwelling place?

Be sure to use metaphor in describing your surroundings. For instance, if you describe the ocean's waves, how is it that they crash? Do they lay like blankets upon the soft bed of the shore? Or the trees of the forest: Does the sun's light pour through branches like droplets of rain from the roof of a house?

Where would you go to live deliberately?


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Two questions: You pick one and delineate!


In his chapter on "Idealism," Emerson discusses religion with regard to humankind's identification with Nature. That said, I proffer my first question:

1. What is the value of religion or religious experience? Or, put another--perhaps more controversial--way: Is there value to revealed religion and its ritual practices? Draw on your own experience of God and Nature in answering the question.

In his chapter on "Spirit," Emerson ends with a rather poignant quote: "The poet finds something ridiculous in his delight, until he is out of the sight of men" (509). Wow! He's saying a lot with a short phrase. That said, I proffer my second question:

2. What the heck does Emerson mean by that saying? Be as rigid or as loose in your interpretation as you feel necessary!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Nature, the Soul, and God...


As I mentioned in class today, the transcendentalists were greatly concerned with the spiritual element of nature and its relationship to God and the Soul.

But what does all of this mean according to you?

Put another way:

What is nature? What, or who is the Soul? And of course, what, or who is God?

Reflect upon these questions and post your answers to this thread (remember, click the subject heading above and scroll down in order to click "comment"). You can use as much room within your "dialogue box" to answer the questions as you see fit. I challenge you to use your imagination and consider those images which come to mind when you hear or read the words: Nature, Soul, God. Be creative and offer feedback to your classmates should you feel so inclined.


Monday, November 13, 2006

"The Greatest American Novel"?

As I was saying in class,

A friend of one of my friends claims that there is a quote, which stands out in the novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, that indicates both its thematic depth and reputation as the "greatest American novel."

What quote did you find that supports this claim? Why did you choose that quote?

Click on "comments" below this post to leave your mark.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Freedom Ahead...


The great Southern novelist, Eudora Welty, once said that "freedom ahead is what each story promises."

I hope this much is the same for you as everything we read in and outside of class is an invitation, given to you by the author, to enter into your deepest self--that piece of you that too often goes unheard during the course of the school day.

And so this act of searching on your part thus becomes an act of liberation--a means for connecting with the truth that lies inside of you. It's there and waiting to be released by the power of the written and spoken word. You are your vehicles for your own freedom--the freedom of thought and the freedom of expression.

With this online blog, I invite you to share your deeper insights regarding the texts we read throughout the course of our time together this year.

I have purposely titled our blog community: "The Black, White, n' Read: A Forum on American Lit." Because not only do we read on the literal level--that is, to understand the "black and white" of the text--but also to discover the hidden messages, the figurative and symbolic, by way of interpretation--that is, by what we "read" in between the "black and white" lines of the text.

The power and freedom is yours...