Monday, August 20, 2007
It has been some time since our last online meeting. I hope you are all well.
I'm in Pittsburgh now, soon to jump into another new school year with a whole new group of freaks like yourselves. The school is called Central Catholic. It is the only all boys Catholic high school in Pittsburgh. Check it: pittcentralcatholic.org
Otherwise, I am just checking in to see how your respective summer breaks went. Mine was eventful, for sure. Went to a theology conference in June, hosted by an organization of which I am a part. It is the International Thomas Merton Society, formed to foster scholarship on one of America's renown social critics and theologians (now deceased).
Sounds like fun, right? It was!!!
A highlight was seeing Rage Against the Machine in New York as part of a day long hip-hop festival called Rock the Bells.
In July, meanwhile, I schooled it. Took a course on Literary Criticism. Very dry, but it helped me with refining my writing skills, which is a lifelong process, for sure.
Otherwise, know that you guys have been in my thoughts and prayers.
Best to you as everything gets underway at La Salle.
As per usual: Tell your parents and/or guardians you love them, stay off drugs, and be safe.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
I just wanted to let you know that you are one of the best teachers that I have had in a long time and im am sure I am speaking on behalf of the whole class. Thank you again and have a great time in Pittsburgh.
Peace and Love,
The goal is to be a poet and a carpenter
To be one who loves to be one who works
Monday, May 21, 2007
Bro. Robert K. Peach, F.S.C.
ENG 320 Sections 2 and 4 (American Lit/Composition)
Please choose one of the following two essays to answer in full. Write your response in your Blue Books and fold the test sheet inside of it upon finishing. Be sure to write your name on the front cover of the booklet as well as on the top of this test sheet. Lastly, be sure to mark which option you are choosing to complete in your Blue Book. Enjoy…
I am reading a book right now called Reading Lolita in
One of the male Muslim students complained to her about the morality of the book, how it exposed the sinful decadence of American society, and that it should be banned, certainly not taught, as it would teach sin, lust, prostitution, greed, etc. to the young people.
Instead of censoring, the teacher decided to put the book on trial (the book itself was the defendant).
Heated debates ensued about morality and the rightness of allowing fiction like that into the classroom – but also about the value of fiction itself: “ ‘You don't read Gatsby,’ I said, ‘to learn whether adultery is good or bad but to learn about how complicated issues such as adultery and fidelity and marriage are. A great novel heightens your senses and sensitivity to the complexities of life and of individuals, and prevents you from the self-righteousness that sees morality in fixed formulas about good and evil...”
The student who had been the defense attorney, at the end of the trial had nothing more to say in its defense. The novel was its own defense. Perhaps we had a few things to learn from it, from Mr. Fitzgerald. She had not learned from reading it that adultery was good or that we should all become shysters: Did all people go on strike or head west after reading Steinbeck? Did they go whaling after reading Melville? Are people not a little more complex than that? Do they never fall in love, or enjoy beauty?
‘This is an amazing book,’ she said quietly. ‘It teaches you to value your dreams but to be wary of them also, to look for integrity in unusual places.’
Based on the above excerpt taken from an e-mail sent to me by a friend, construct an at least five paragraph essay in which you agree or disagree with the last statement.
Please incorporate your own insight and that of class discussion regarding The Great Gatsby into your essay. As your answer, consider whether or not we find any bit of integrity in the characters or the choices they make in the novel.
What are the dreams or illusions they have which impel them to make certain decisions?
Did they find integrity at all in trying to fulfill their dreams? If so, where? Or in whom?
Also, consider whether or not you approached the novel and its characters with the fixed formulas of morality.
Can we sympathize with any of the characters based off of the complexity of emotion and their own emotional experiences? If so, which characters do you sympathize with?
In your conclusion, make some final statements as regards the quality of the novel. Is it an amazing book? Back up any statements you make with supporting details, either by using examples from the text or by elaborating upon your own thought.
Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye abounds in complex thematic issues of growing up and the suffering innate to transitioning from one state of life to another. I think we’ve all been there, and if we haven’t, we will be there at some point in our collective existence.
Transition is the nature of growth. Often times, if we do not successfully endure the pain of change, we remain in a stasis: beings of mental, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual stagnation. Bitterness and anger thus come to define our existence.
Unfortunately, we ran out of time to discuss in full the various shades of meaning that at once shadow and illuminate the text.
That said, pick up where we left off in class discussion. In at least five paragraphs, dissect some aspect(s) of the novel that we did not discover or talk about during class time. You can incorporate a definition of themes, literary elements, techniques, setting, imagery, irony, character etc. into your reflection.
Be sure to rely upon the text, or instances in the text to support your statements.
Substance is everything, here, so be sure to elaborate if you make a certain claim, such as: “Holden is a young man who cannot accept the inevitability of change.” You can then back that up using Holden’s thoughts on the changelessness of the
Some themes to consider: immaturity, freedom, enslavement, responsibility, childhood, and migration (movement).
For your conclusion, please do not restate what you have already said. Rather, tie things up with a paragraph on what makes the novel a “coming of age” story. That is, what more can be said about the issues of growing up in a society that has us easily forget our childhood in light of technological advancement and the societal push for a career lifestyle.
In other words, is there a way to remain rooted in the experiences of childhood while moving on into young adulthood? How so?
The experience has been faith affirming for me.
My time here, this year, has helped solidify my current place in this Brotherhood.
I thank you for accepting me.
Know that you will ever remain in my thoughts and prayers as we each progress on our respective journeys.
Never fail to see your goodness or your innate ability to cross the threshold.
Live Jesus in our hearts…
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
So, here we are: the last blog of the year (I think). First Huck Finn, now Holden Caulfield of Catcher in the Rye fame.
What'd you think? In at least 400 words, tell us what's up. Be sure to incorporate some aspect of literary analysis into your essay. In other words, is there any literary technique that stands out as meaningful to you in reading and understanding the novel?
Or what do you make of Holden's vocational vision? What do you make of the characters themselves? What do you make of the symbolism, imagery, irony, etc. ?
Monday, April 30, 2007
As part of your screening of the 1974 Academy Award-nominated adaptation of Fitzgerald's novel, please answer the following questions with detailed explanations.
1. How are characters portayed on film? Do these portrayals match your own characterization in light of reading the text? Explain.
2. How about setting, imagery, and dialogue (i.e. character interaction)? Explain.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I would like you to spend some time constructing a reflective piece on Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Please do not feel threatened by the assignment. The purpose of this is to guage your response to a novel rich with imagery, theme, conflict, and symbol.
Really, what I want to know is whether or not this resonated at all with your own experience of life up to this point. Or, in reading it, what does it inspire you to say about society, about life, about relationships? What's your take? Philosophize, theorize, vent--just do it with some formality and dignity.
Below is my own reaction, mixing some literary analysis with social critique and personal response.
Br. Rob Peach
Br. Rob Peach
ENG 320 Section 2
17 April 2007
Reaction Sheet, re: The Great Gatsby
A Search for the Soul in Gatsby's Shadow
I think we've all been there--that place of loneliness, longing, and searching into which we peer in the eyes of such characters as Daisy, Gatsby, and Nick. The question for all of us, including the characters involved in a complex network of relationships, is not so much "What do I want out of life?" but "How will I answer and respond to my own emptiness?" For Gatsby, it is not necessarily about getting what he desires as it is about filling the void of his lover's absence. For Nick, his move to West Egg is fueled by the desire to appease his restlessness after taking part in the First World War. Unfortunately, both of these men find an answer to their longing in superficialities, mechanincally maneuvering their way into a society crowded with unfamiliar faces and bookshelves of unread materials.
In an instance of irony providing us with a foreshadowy sense of false hope and, as we realize by the end of the novel, an unrealizable ideal, Nick claims, "And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer" (4). Certainly there is some potential for personal growth, and perhaps Nick ultimately does recognize his role as the one, faithful friend that Gatsby has (or had). Yet even still, Nick goes about buying into the one lifestyle that he scorned and which Gatsby, in his frivolity, represents: senseless hedonism. We should keep in mind, too, that Daisy and the rest are no less guilty of living such an illusion which is magnified by lies, deceit, and undisclosed secrets of the past.
And so the future seemingly offers no hope for change in a world deadened like the ashy wasteland that leads into the city. Like the eyes of the distant observer, Dr. T. J. Eckleberg, this land is empty. It is devoid of meaning, and even where there is a glimpse of hope, as with the green light blinking at the edge of Daisy's dock, jealousy seems all the world has to offer.
Thus the question becomes, "How will you fill the void?" We can easily fill our life with distractions; I cannot plead innocent in this matter myself. But with some honesty and a healthy dose of self-awareness, we certianly have greater possibility in finding that one thing that Gatsby and his cohorts are lacking: a soul. Whether they know it or not, the characters in Fitzgerald's masterpiece are searching for exactly that. Unfortunately, they never seem to find it, their vision obscured in the shadows of an illusion that leads backwards despite the promise of the future. In the end it is as Nick suggests when he says, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessy into the past" (180).
Friday, March 30, 2007
Br. Rob Peach
ENG 320 Sections 2 and 4
30 March 2007
Essay Test, re: Ethan Frome
Short Answer: (15 points)
We’ve talked a lot about the meaning of names in the novel. Explain the significance and relationship of the following names—Ethan Frome, Zeena (Zenobia), and Mattie Silver—to the plot conflict and theme of the novel. In other words, compose a list of possible definitions for each name and then write why you think the descriptions are appropriate to what happens in the text. Essay: (25 points)
Essay: (25 points)
We’ve talked quite a bit about the major motifs of Wharton’s Ethan Frome, namely those thematic issues of “effacement,” “obscurity,” “power,” and “identity.” Based on what you have in in the text, your notes, and what we’ve discussed in class, construct an essay in which you delve into three of the four aforesaid elements, exploring their meaning as well as their relevance to the text. For your concluding paragraph, please synthesize your chosen themes by explaining their inter-relationship.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by John Madden
Buena Vista Home Entertainment 03/93 DVD/VHS Feature Film
PG - thematic elements
When a young minister (Tate Donovan) arrives in a turn-of-the-century New England town, he is taken aback by the tight-lipped rural community's chilly treatment of Ethan Frome (Liam Neeson), a poor, lame farmer. The minister's landlady tells him the startling story of this man whose spirit and body have both been broken.
Following the death of his mother, Ethan marries Zeena (Joan Allen), a cousin who had served as a caretaker for them. She's a cold and ill-tempered woman who develops into a full-fledged hypochondriac. Unable to handle chores, Zeena takes in her orphaned cousin Mattie (Patricia Arquette) as a housekeeper. This charming and vibrant young woman soon becomes Zeena's doormat.
Although both Mattie and the emotionally remote Ethan lack the words to describe their attraction to one another, they have an opportunity to be together alone when Zeena visits a doctor in another town. Like two flowers who have never had the chance to bloom, they express their love. However, when Zeena discovers what has happened she sets in motion an event which will leave them all trapped together in mutual misery.
Edith Wharton wrote Ethan Frome in 1911 and it remains one of her most popular novels. John Madden has perfectly cast this stark drama which unfolds from a spare screenplay by Richard Nelson. Shot in Vermont, the harsh rural landscape comes across as another character in the story.
On one level, Ethan Frome can be interpreted as an adult fairy tale where the wicked witch wins and the lovers do not live happily ever after. On a more serious level, as literary critic Lionel Trilling has suggested, the story examines what happens to individuals who are hobbled by "the morality of inertia." The lovers lack both the courage and the conviction to forge a new life for themselves, thanks to their subservience to community standards. Their fear dooms them to the routine, death-in-life existence that they so desperately yearned to transcend. The real moral of Ethan Frome is — follow the imperatives of your heart or risk losing your soul.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
Br. Robert K. Peach, F.S.C.
ENG 320 Sections 2 and 4
15 March 2007
Critical Thinking and Vocabulary, re: Ethan Frome
Preface (pp. 1-10)
- What is nature’s role in the life of characters in the story based off of the narrator’s description of the town? What is the town’s name? Pick it apart. Why is this name appropriate considering the narrator’s description?
- Consider the narrator’s role in telling the story. Why do you think Wharton chose to have an out-of-towner tell the story of Ethan instead of a townsperson? How did the narrator craft the story? Based off of Wharton’s introduction, why is this technique of gathering information significant to the story’s unfolding? (cf. second full paragraph, xiii).
- What does the narrator call his account of Ethan’s story? What quality does this give to the events that unfold in the plot of the novel?
- Light and dark. Obscurity and clarity. How is it that these ironic contrasts are revealed in the chapter using character and setting?
- Notice the water imagery that Wharton uses to open the chapter. First of all, what words does she—through the narrator’s voice—use to enhance our sense of this imagery? What effect does this have on the reader’s sense of setting, plot, and character?
- Another ironic contrast or parallel: Mattie vs. Zeena. Elaborate.
- Summarize Mattie’s situation. Summarize Zeena’s situation. Where is Ethan caught in all of this? With whom does Ethan find favor? Who do you favor? Should we feel any sympathy for Zeena?
- Consider the kitchen. Consider the house in Zeena’s absence. Consider the presence of
Mattie. Describe the sense—based on the narrator’s imagery and descriptions—that we get in each context.
- Why did Ethan decide to marry Zeena? What is the thematic significance behind his reasoning?
- See the epitaph inscription on page 33; What literary technique do you think Wharton is using by placing it in the middle of the story? Explain (keeping in mind the novel’s outcome if you have read that far).
- What do you think the broken china is representative of (as it is one of the strongest metaphorical images in the novel).
- There are instances in the novel where Ethan’s life takes on the quality of an illusion. Find examples in this chapter where we see this happening.
- How about desire and human longing? There seems to be a tense interplay of suppressed emotion and incommunicable feelings that pass between characters. Cite an example of such tension from this chapter.
- Notice the emphasis on dark corners and obscurity in this chapter and others. What is the dramatic function of such imagery? In other words, what purpose does it serve in terms of theme, setting, and reader response?
- There is one paragraph in this chapter that stands out as a definite foreshadow of what is to come at the novel’s climax. See if you can find it and explain why it is a definite portent of things to come.
- “Ethan’s heart was jerking to and fro between two extremities of feeling, but for the moment compassion prevailed” (46-47). What are those feelings? Explain why Ethan feels the way he does.
- Do you think Zeena knows about or senses a love or romance between Ethan and Mattie? Explain, citing the text.
- What central image returns at the end of the chapter? What’s going on in this chapter (plotwise) that enhances the metaphorical significance of the image?
- How does the theme of imprisonment play into the imagery of this chapter?
- What had Ethan planned to do on this night with Mattie? Explain the irony here (see paragraph five on page 57).
- Mattie takes on an organic quality. That is, she seems to be—like Eve in the Book of Genesis—a child of the earth. Find an example or image in this chapter whereby we see Mattie as being “of the earth.”
- What does Ethan step away from doing? Why?
- Again we revisit the organic quality of Mattie Silver. Find a passage with imagery that indicates this aspect of the lovely Mattie.
- What effect does Ethan’s passion have on him?
- Find aspects in imagery that contribute to the theme of surreality (i.e. fantasy, or unreality). Be sure to indicate the passage and page number.
- What effect does setting—which is to say, nature—have on character action and the overall mood of the chapter? Name instances wherein we see nature almost controlling the course of direction taken by either Ethan or Mattie.
- Darkness. What role does darkness and shadow play in Ethan and Mattie’s relationship? Why is it appropriate that Shadow Pond would be the name of the place where Mattie first fantasized about running away with Ethan?
- Refer to the paragraph beginning, “He laughed contemptuously…” (69). Notice the description of twilight as the most visually obscure part of day. How does this imagery parallel with what’s going on between Ethan and Mattie? How does it serve as a foreshadow of what’s to come?
- Notice the use of the word, “transparent” on page 79, in the paragraph beginning with, “Her somber violence…” How does this idea of transparency contrast with the theme of obscurity that runs through the novel? Why is there a sudden interposition of this theme towards the story’s climax? (keep in mind what’s happening between Ethan and Mattie).
- Why do Mattie and Ethan decide to do what they do on the second ride down the hill?
- Lastly, consider the grotesque imagery used to describe the consequences of the suicidal sleigh-ride. What literary technique is Wharton exercising, re: the noises Mattie makes in her pain? What dramatic function does this imagery serve?
Epilogue (pp. 74-76)
- What are the tragic transformations that characters undergo at the story’s end? How are they ironic?
- Speaking of transformations; what of the kitchen? How is it before Mattie’s injury? How is it after Mattie’s transfiguration? What other room takes on a tragic/ironic transformation following the accident? Why is it significant?
- What does Mrs. Hale conclude about life regarding Ethan and Mattie?
- Lastly, what is your opinion regarding the moral integrity of the central characters, namely Ethan, Mattie, and Zeena? Can we sympathize with any of them? (Consider what the narrator says at the story’s end in answering your question: “My heart tightened at the hard compulsions [irrational decisions] of the poor...” (76).
Vocabulary (in order of appearance): Please define twenty of the following words, selecting them from the various—not just one—columns.
Friday, March 2, 2007
Bro. Robert K. Peach, F.S.C.
ENG 320 Sections 2 and 4
2 March 2007
Performing The Merchant of
To develop a deeper understanding of Shakespeare’s craft as a playwright
To work cooperatively to dramatize selected scenes
To exercise your proficiency in using formal language from Vocabulary Workshop
- The class will break into acting companies to prepare scenes for presentation.
- Each acting company will prepare a promptbook for its scene. The additional handouts provide more specifics about the promptbook and the preparation of the scene.
- In addition to presenting a scene from The Merchant of Venice, each acting company will write and present a one minute commercial promoting some consumer product which relates to one of the following:
The Merchant of
- Each company is allotted four class days to complete this assignment:
March 5, 6, 7, & 8
Each company will likely have to work outside of class to meet the presentation
Deadline of March 12.
- To receive an A each actor must memorize his lines. The highest grade a group will receive if the actors choose not to memorize their lines is B+. The commercial must also be memorized and include visual aids.
I.1.1-83 Salarino and Solanio try to help Antonio determine why he is sad.
I.3.106-194 Shylock, Antonio, and Bassanio set the terms for the loan.
II.4 Lorenzo, Gratiano, Solanio, and Salarino try to arrange a masque for
Bassanio’s dinner. Lancelot gives Lorenzo Jessica’s letter.
II.7. Portia and
II.9.1-90 Nerissa, Portia, and Arragon: choosing the silver casket
III.2.1-110 Portia, Bassanio have a dialectic about love and the game
III.2.111-222 Portia, Bassanio, Gratiano, and Nerissa share in each other’s joy
III.1.23-72 Shylock, Salarino, Solanio: “Hath not a Jew…?”
IV.1.169-418 Courtroom scene: “The quality of mercy…” Duke, Portia, Shylock,
Bassanio, Gratiano, Nerissa
V.1.192-249 Portia is upset that Bassanio gave away the ring to the lawyer. Gratiano,
Portia, Bassanio, Nerissa
Instructions for preparing your scene
You have four class days to complete the preparations and to memorize your lines. Be productive. Be creative. Do your best. Your classmates and I look forward to your production.
- Appoint a director and cast the scene. When you perform, each person in the company should have a chance to be on stage with at least one line.
- Read through the scene aloud at least once, preferably twice. Decide collectively on the cuts and make the cuts right away. Your scene should not take longer than ten minutes to perform. The commercial should take about two minutes and is not included in the ten minutes for the scene. Read the scene aloud after you have decided on the cuts, timing yourselves, and making necessary adjustments. Allow extra time; performing a scene takes more time than just reading it.
- Talk about characters: What they want in a scene; how they talk and move. Decide upon each character’s actions and gestures during the scene.
- Memorize your lines if you want an A.
- Plan costumes and props. These do not have to be elaborate, but should show that you took the trouble to think about what would best convey the impression you are after.
- Appoint a prompter and establish clear signals about how the prompting should be handled. If actors are not memorizing their lines, write the lines and cues on large note cards to glance at during the performance.
- Give your acting company a name.
- If you like, plan extra touches like music, sets, and programs.
- Throughout this process, record your decisions in a Director’s Promptbook, due the day the scene is presented.
Should include the following in the order listed below:
Table of Contents
Introduction (a summary of the scene)
Stage Design (a description of stage set up, including props, etc.)
A script with production notes (indication of character mood, character stage placement/movement, expressions, etc.)
- you may remove some lines from the script as indicated above; you may not, however, add any lines
- this all must be in direct line with the original language of the text; no modern translations
Commercial script (at least twelve words from Units 1-9)
Costume design (a description and explanation of what style of dress was used and why)
Lighting and music (optional)
Credits and Student participation (a list, using names, of who did what in the process of preparing the performance and in performing)
Acting Company Name:
Names of Actors and Role Played:
Individual grades except where indicated
Preparation: reading, rehearsals, cooperation, staying on task 30 ______
Understanding of characters 10 ______
Understanding of language 10 ______
Memorization of lines 10 ______
Well-planned movements 10 ______
Props and costumes 10 ______
Promptbook (group) 10 ______
Commercial 10 ______
Total 100 ______
Friday, February 23, 2007
Please choose one of the following passages from Act 4, and transcribe it into everyday speech as we have done before:
Duke's speech (IV.1.ii 17-35) beginning, "Make room, and let him stand before our face."
Shylock's speech (IV.1.ii 36-63) beginning, "I have possessed your Grace of what I purpose."
Antonio's speech (IV.1.ii 71-84) begginning, "I pray you, think you question with the Jew."
Gratiano's speech (IV.1.ii 130-40) beginning, "O, be thou damned, inexecrable dog."
Bellario's letter (IV.1.ii 153-66) beginning, "Your Grace shall understand that..."
Portia's speech (IV.1.ii 190-212) beginning, "The quality of mercy is not strained."
Antonio's speech (IV.1.ii 276-93) beginning, "But little. I am armed and well prepared.--"
Portia's speech (IV.1.ii 361-78) beginning, "Tarry, Jew."
Please choose one of the following passages from Act 4, and transcribe it into everyday speech as we have done before:
Lorenzo's speech (V.1.ii 57-76) beginning, "Let's in, and their expect their coming."
Lorenzo's speech (V.1.ii 78-97) beginning, "The reason is, your spirits are attentive."
Portia's speech (V.1.ii 215-24) beginning, "If you had known the virtue of the ring."
Bassanio's speech (V.1.ii 225-38) beginning, "No, by my honor madam, by my soul."
Enjoy the weekend, be safe, see you Monday!
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
In viewing the film adaptation of Shakespeare's play, we can better visualize the nature of character and conflict as it develops through the five acts. Also, it is important to consider how the play is interpreted through the eyes of the director. We must keep in mind the various prejudices--which is to say, preconceptions or biases--that the director has in making the movie. In other words, what issues become central to him or her in crafting an adaptation of a play written centuries earlier?
With that in mind, please answer the following questions in complete sentences:
1. What is the central issue upon which Radford focuses in adapting the play to film?
2. How is Venice portrayed; How is Belmont portrayed? What effect does this create in terms of atmosphere and dramatic function?
3. Remember what I said about the value of male friendship in Elizabethan England? In Shakespeare's time it was valued over and above the marriage bond between a man and a woman. How does Radford portray the relationship between Antonio and Bassanio in the film? Be specific in referring to instances in the movie to support your answer.
4. Shylock. How can he be considered a tragic hero? Does the film have us sympathizing with him in a spirit of both pity and fear? How does the film portray his character? Are we supposed to feel a certain way towards him? Does Portia display any sort of remorse for the way he was treated in court? If so, how does that come across in her mannerisms?
5. Portia. What's your opinion regarding her role, her character in the film? Think about the suppressed role of women during Shakespeare's time and the way her character contrasts with opression. What is her protest? How does she protest?
6. Last question: Was this an accurate re-presentation of the play? Explain.