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Wednesday, April 24

April 24, 2019

Fiction Workshop: Today: Began R6. Nascimento/McCoy/Geagan.

For Friday: Van Houtem/Bartlett/Slavic.

CNF Workshop: Today we workshopped Alissa. You got Henry’s essay; this and Mason’s essay are both due for Friday. Also, the first due date for Round 4 is Friday!

Siren: Plan on having the April edition ready to distribute tomorrow.


Books: Today we watched parts of this documentary about C.S. Lewis:

The focus is on his journey from atheism to theism, which means parts of it don’t scan for us. But I do think his journey plays a pretty important role in the book we’re reading — since he, like the “patient,” represents a conversion story.

We touched on the historical context of the book, including:

  • author Iain Murray’s argument that it was the rise of fiction during the late 19th century that charted Britain’s path away from Christianity. (Religious books were the most popular reading material in England in 1870; less than 20 years later, it was fiction, and drama that were most popular. Murray’s take is that authors like Robert Louis Stevenson reflected this shift; he makes this case in a provocative little book called The Undercover Revolution.)
  • The belief that — as the Prussian philosopher Georg Hegel held, with Karx Marx concurring — history is the story of progress. That was a powerful belief in the century between Waterloo and WWI. Then two world wars shook the West’s faith in this optimistic notion, and Lewis became a star during WWII in large part because he argued the opposite idea.
  • However, the current number show that if people in England reverted back to the old faith during this time, it was only a temporary move. Here’s a Guardian story from 2018 that charts quite clearly the current state of Christianity in Europe.

For Monday: finish Screwtape. There are a couple of things we’ll want to do next week, and one of them will be for me to give you the final book.

Survey: Screenwriting: 

If you are a non-Survey student…

April 23, 2019

…who is interested in going on our field trip Friday to see The Avengers: Endgame at the Center Cinemark, then you need to have your permission slip and $7.50 turned in tomorrow, Wednesday, April 24.

We will leave at 10:15 a.m. and return at approximately 2:30 p.m.

Here’s the slip: Permission Slip Avengers Endgame April 26 2019

(If you are in Shakespeare v. SpongeBob, you don’t need to turn in any money, because this film is part of our class.)

Tuesday, April 23

April 23, 2019

SpongeBob: A short quiz on Taming of the Shrew. We discussed afterward the significance of the frame story (which isn’t really, in most versions — including this one and the familiar First Folio Shakespearean one — a true frame story). How does the character and behavior of “Sir” Christopher Sly change the way we view Katharine’s “taming” — or does it change anything at all?

We also mentioned that there is another version of the play — The Taming of a Shrew (emphasis mine). This one dates from 1594, but we aren’t sure whether it is an early draft of the more familiar play, or, in fact, whether it was written by Shakespeare at all. What is particularly significant about it is that the character of Christopher Sly doesn’t just disappear midway through the piece. This one is a true frame story, which ends with Sly back in his own world, convinced that everything that just happened was a crazy dream — and that he now knows how to “tame” his own shrewish wife. That has a potentially dramatic effect on our interpretation of the whole piece.

I would like for you to read this analysis of the play for Thursday. (I know I said in class that there would be two pieces for you to read, but I changed my mind because of the length of this first one. We may look at the second one in class.)

Remember: you MUST turn in your permission slips for Endgame tomorrow. Your tickets are covered because you’ll be doing an activity related to this film. If you need an extra copy, here it is: Permission Slip Avengers Endgame April 26 2019

Critical Reading: You handed in your Rear Window papers and then did an activity in class. A short reading assignment was handed out for Thursday; no need to do annotations, but you can expect a very basic “did you actually read this” quiz or something along those lines. See you then.

Journalism: Remember: your third installment is due next Thursday, May 2.

In our meetings before break, I told several of you that you need to 1) interview more people, and 2) tighten up the focus of your series. I’m REALLY expecting those improvements to occur in this penultimate installment.

Publishing: Progress.

Books: We took a quiz on Screwtape to date.

We also discussed the decline in European Christianity during the time BEFORE Screwtape, which is pretty important to understand if you’re going to get why the book exists. In particular, we mentioned four important works/authors that helped chart its decline during the 19th century.

  • David Strauss – a German Protestant theologian who wrote a book called The Life of Jesus: Critically Examined in 1831. It sounds fairly innocuous, but Strauss actually broke new ground in treating Jesus as a historical figure, rather than just a Biblical one. Part of that involved Strauss claiming that the miracles attributed to Jesus didn’t happen, and that he was not divine, which obviously goes against Christian orthodoxy.
  • Ludwig Feurbach – a German philosopher who published The Essence of Christianity in 1841. It sounds, again, like the sort of book you might get Grandma for Christmas. But in this volume, Feurbach pioneered a theory of alienation. That is, that man is alienated because he ascribes all the good things in life to a divine being, instead of realizing that he possesses all these qualities himself. Feurbach objected to being called an atheist, although only in a technical sense can you argue that he wasn’t. His theory of alienation would go on to inspire other philosophical atheists, including Karl Marx and Nietzsche.
  • Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, meanwhile, was a sensation upon its publication in 1859. His theory of natural selection would become — still is, actually — controversial — although Darwin’s own religious views were something he mostly kept private. (He appears to have been more of a theist — his writing does mention “The Creator” — than an atheist.)
  • And finally, economist and rabble-rouser Karl Marx (along with help, and money, from Friedrich Engels) wrote both The Communist Manifesto (1848) and Das Kapital (1867).

The effect of these four quite different authors and their works was not necessarily immediate upon Christianity in Europe, but they were each influential in undermining central tenets of the faith.

There’s another element we have yet to discuss: we’ll get to that tomorrow.

Survey: Screenwriting: 

Monday, April 22

April 22, 2019

Fiction Workshop: Today: Van Houtem/Nelson/Lenkner.

For Wednesday: we begin R6 with Nascimento/McCoy/Geagan/Pauchnik.

CNF Workshop: Workshopped Jake and Bailey. Two new essays were handed out: Alissa is for Wednesday and Mason is for Friday. Henry was also due to post today, so hopefully you’ll get that one by Wednesday as well (and if so, that will be due on Friday).

Round 4 due dates begin THIS FRIDAY. For real. Make these good, please.

Siren: We continue to work toward April and May simultaneously.

BatCat: Printed, cut linen, speckled paper, counted boards, proofed 19 Letters… all in all, a pretty productive day.

Books: I was not here, but left this assignment. If you were absent, I would like it for tomorrow’s class.

We are going to postpone the first quiz — on letters I through XV — until Tuesday. Therefore, we’re going to get a headstart on the first of three writing assignments I have planned for this book.

The Screwtape Letters, as I’m sure you have realized (or have read), is an example of something called Christian apologetics. “Apologetic” does not mean “to apologize for” something — in this case, Christianity — but to defend it, instead. (An apologist, by this definition, is someone who argues in favor of something, instead of apologizing for it.)

In this book, C.S. Lewis does something we have talked about in many other classes, from Survey Poetry to Argument. Rather than making an argument for something in a straightforward way (e.g., “Racism is bad!” “”Tolerance is good!”), Lewis approaches it from the opposite direction: he argues from the other perspective, to show why it is, in his opinion, mistaken.

It’s inevitable that we’ll end up discussing a little theology in the course of talking about this book, but our goal here is more to talk about the book itself — the way it was written, and the context that produced it. So to that end, for your first writing assignment, I’d like you to address a letter to a demon.

Here we are not necessarily talking about a demon, as envisioned in Judeo-Christian thought, but a more generic type of demon. The “demon” that makes you procrastinate. (#Toosoon?) The demon that makes you tell white lies (or other types of lies, even when you don’t have to). The demon that causes you to gossip, or waste money, or not take advantage of opportunities when they’re presented to you. You could also approach this tongue-in-cheek: write a letter to the demon who started you listening to death metal, or who made you poison your younger sibling’s friends at a birthday party.

Which brings us to an important question: does this have to be true? No. We will treat this like poetry and will assume that it isn’t true, though it could be. Or it could be based on a true story very closely — so closely that we’ll never know what’s true and what isn’t. Again, our assumption will be that it’s fiction. Keep in mind, though, an important question: why is your protagonist writing this letter? (Not “because I told you to do it.”)

I want this to be at least a page long, typewritten, and to a demon who is named. You can sign it however you choose, but please a greeting and closing, in standard letter form. This is due at the end of class today if you are here; it’s due at the start of class tomorrow if you aren’t.

Survey: Screenwriting: The current assignment (Screenwriting 4.22.19 – Story Dev Part 4, Story) is due Friday. It looks like it’s going to be an extremely small class tomorrow and Wednesday, so make sure you’re spending time outside of class working on this assignment. As I said in class today, in addition to working out the general details, you should absolutely be thinking about how you’re going to pitch these stories, because pitching is going to happen the week after next. And most of you know what that’s going to look like.

BatCat People…

April 15, 2019

…please check your email regarding an event later this week.

Survey CNF people…

April 15, 2019

…as promised, here is your “What If?” brainstorming list. I took the liberty of combining it with last year’s Survey class list, to give you a few more ideas. (I didn’t say better ideas…just more ideas.)

What If Brainstorming List Survey CNF April 2019 + April 2018

A few notes:

A “What If?” essay…

* tries to answer a question that many people have wondered about, but which (usually) few people have actually tried. It could also pose a question that many people have wondered about AND that many people have tried; obviously, several of you have, like Ann Hodgman, tried your pet’s food — but the most popular ones tend to address questions that most of us have neither the time nor the inclination to answer.

* tries to not only answer the question — What if I only ate beets for a week? What if I wore my clothes backwards to school? — but address the bigger question, as well: What does this activity mean? That is, what did I learn? What did I show other people? How were people’s perceptions — mine and/or my audience’s — challenged by this event? What does this activity — or people’s reluctance to do it — tell us about human nature, generally or specifically?

I should point out that this has become one of the hot subgenres in CNF: lots of authors have taken a premise like this, and expended it to book length. For example:


But also remember this:

  • The point of a “What If?” essay is not to do something potentially dangerous, nor something that could get you (or anyone else) in trouble. It is not meant to embarrass you, nor anyone else. Please don’t do these things, for reasons that I hope I don’t have to explain. (Also don’t do things that are going to cause problems in your household, even if they’re not dangerous or embarrassing. There’s plenty of topic you can choose that won’t cause problems.)
  • Even if you don’t “succeed” — for example, if you try to go a weekend without gaming, but give up halfway through — that doesn’t mean you can’t write the essay. The essay is about the experience and what you learn from it — not your “success” in achieving whatever the goal is that you set.
  • Also, it’s worth reminding you that “No Wonder They Call Me a Bitch” is satire. That doesn’t mean it’s made up; it does mean that you’re allowed to have fun with this and not take it dead-seriously.
  • If you choose to do one of the more popular topics from years past — for example, “What if I didn’t speak for a day?” or “What if I changed my major for a day?” — then you’ll need my help.
  • I will be checking in with you on Monday, April 22 to see what you’ve decided to do, and if I can assist you.
  • These essays are due on Friday, April 26.

Friday, April 12

April 12, 2019

Fiction Workshop: Today: Caudill/Slavic/LeRoy.

For Monday, April 22: Your R6 story is due on the blog by 8 a.m.

CNF Workshop: Workshopped Chip and Julia. Two new essays for Monday after break (Jake and Bailey). Everyone should start (or, hopefully, continue) working on their Round 4 pieces – those due dates will be upon us soon.

Siren: Met with people about the Intro projects. I think we got to just about everybody.

Remember: May copy is due Monday, May 6.

We’ll get the April edition together when we return.

BatCat: Enjoy break.

Prompt: We play Liebrary. It was actually… not terrible this time. As your entry: reflect upon some aspect of the game, or take one of the lines and run with it.

Survey: CNF: You turned in the first drafts of your Dr. Goodman sketches.

We briefly discussed Ann Hodgman’s “No Wonder They Call Me A Bitch,” which satirizes food reviewing, but also is an example of a “What If?” essay. That is, an essay which sets out to answer a burning (or not-so-burning) question that is of general interest.

I’m going to post here, shortly, your list of suggestions, as well as some past suggestions, for this essay. Some of these may be something you can do over break; some of these may need to happen when we return. Either way, figure out something you can write about — keeping in mind that this essay, like all the others, has to have moments and imagery and focus and theme. Asking a bizarre question might be good for a laugh — but is it actually good for an essay? Think hard about that.

These essays will be due two weeks from today — on Friday, April 26. I’ll be checking in with you on Monday the 23rd just to see how everyone’s doing.