Skip to content

Friday, November 16

November 16, 2018

Poetry Workshop: Today: Haddox/Nascimento/Kashuba.

For Monday: three more — Nelson/McKoen (“lucid”)/Holten. Here’s the packet if you missed it: Poetry Workshop Fall 2018 R5 packet 11-16-18

R6 poem due on the blog by 8 a.m. Monday as well.

Screenwriting Workshop: Workshopped Julia & Steviee. Two new scripts for Monday: Hailey and Henry. As you already know, Henry’s is quite long (and yes, you are absolutely expected to read it all and lightly annotate it, and you are absolutely expected to write a thoughtful and thorough comment). Have both ready to go Monday.

Siren: December copy planning. Stories due 11/28.

BatCat: Haiku pins and printing practice. Regarding submissions: you’ll notice that the queue has diminished quite a bit. Look for the “Needs More Readers” label and review some of these over the weekend. The end is near.

Violence: Today I gave you a prompt for Monday. If you were absent today, I still expect to see this Monday, because it really doesn’t require you to do anything you haven’t already done.

There are actually two questions I’m asking you to respond to, in typewritten form. Figure about a page apiece: this is the major writing assignment for Native Son:

  • What effect does Section Two, “Flight” — and Bigger’s treatment of Bessie, specifically — have on your view of him, and of the book? Remember: if Richard Wright had wanted to make this an easier book — a book about the tragedy of racism or poverty or whatever — he could have ended it as Bigger fled, at the end of Section One. Bigger could have been shot in the back as he tried to escape, and this could have been a neat (albeit tragic) little story about how a frightened black youth was victimized by society. That is NOT the book Wright chose to give us, and so we have to deal with what happened in the second section (and the third).
  • Is it possible for a person to fulfill their destiny through violence — specifically, through murder? Bigger says as much to Mr. Max near the close of the book, and Mr. Max is so horrified that he can barely speak. He wants to present Bigger as a victim (just like Clarence Darrow portrayed Leopold and Loeb); Bigger instead sees himself as liberated through violence, truly a person for the first time. Is he right? Is it possible? Is it only possible for a certain kind of person — say, a disadvantaged one like Bigger — or could it be true for anyone? (Remember, Leopold and Loeb were the children of privilege, who had every advantage and still murdered to show their superiority.)

I expect you to use examples from the book, of course: in the second prompt, if you truly believe that a person can achieve their destiny through violence, it’d be swell if you could provide examples from real life, as well. One reason we talked about Leopold, Loeb, Michael Brown, Robert Nixon and all the rest is so you could draw on these examples for responses just like these.

Survey: You had some time with the Norton anthologies to pick your poet for the notecard final. If you weren’t here or were taking the makeup Fiction midterm, we’ll probably do this again after the formal poetry test Tuesday. Your choices are due on Tuesday, Nov. 27 — our first day back from break.

I went over this sample Betjeman presentation, as an example of what I’m looking for from your final presentation: sir-john-betjeman

It doesn’t have to be this formal; it DOES have to find devices that apply across multiple poems. That is what shows that you really understand what your poet was doing.

Remember: next Tuesday, we have our formal poetry quiz. You’ll need to know:

  • The names and lines lengths of stanzas, from couplet to octave.
  • The names, background and characteristics of the styles of formal poetry we studied: sonnets (English and Italian); rhyme royal; rondeau; villanelle; pantoum; sestina; terza rima. Plus haiku for good measure.

Thursday, November 15

November 15, 2018

Professional Writing: Today I gave back the makeup tests you guys took Tuesday. Just about everyone was helped gradewise, at least a little, by this. More important: I feel like at least some folks are starting to see the errors in text a little bit more naturally, even if they don’t always fix them correctly.

Then we reviewed pronoun stuff from Chapter 5. We focused on:

  • the difference between subjective and objective pronouns. It’s exactly what you’d think. Pronouns like “I,” “we,” “you,” “he,” “she” and “they” can all be the subject of a sentence. Pronouns like “us,” “them,” “her,” “him” and “you” — which can go both ways — are all objects of a sentence. You can’t say “Him was going to the game” or “I gave the scissors to she.” These pronouns only work in certain situations.)
  • the difference between who and whom, and whoever and whomever. The rule is the same in both cases: who=he/she and whom=him/her.
  • One trick: if you have a sentence like this: “I will give the tickets to ___________ gives me the correct answer,” then you have to do a two-part test. I will give the tickets to him. He gives me the correct answer. If the correct answer in both of those cases is he/she, then you use “whoever.” If the correct answer in both cases is him/her, then you use “whomever.” But if, like in the example above, the answers are mixed — he and him, or she and her — then you have to use “whomever.”
  • vague pronoun references. These usually involve rewriting the sentence to make clear to which object the pronoun refers.
  • keeping things consistent. In the same passage, try not to start in the first person (by using “I”) and then shift to second person (by using “you”), or vice versa.
  • That’s what’ll be on the test Tuesday. If you were absent, here is the practice handout we did, with the answers marked: Pronoun practice Nov 15 2018
  • Remember that your revised college essays are due — WITH THE ORIGINALS — on Tuesday as well.

Bookbinding: You got the final instruction set for Project 6. I would like to see how far you all get by Tuesday; the official due date will likely be Tuesday, Nov. 27. You will very likely need to do some work outside of class, especially if you are running behind.

Journalism: Working on November. Tomorrow: planning for December.

Publishing: Printed patches, made haiku pins, made further progress on submissions. There are quite a few submissions that now have the “Needs More Readers” tag – READ THESE PLEASE. Asap!

Style: Discussed Found Magazine. Here’s the board:

IMG_3466 2

What do you have to due for Tuesday? You have a lot of latitude for this one. Here are some possibilities:

  • Use the FORM of Found: make a collage, photocopy it. Make a few pages (2 – 4 would be ideal). Try to tell a story in collage form.
  • Use the PROCESS of Found: use found items in some way to construct a narrative. It could be a collage, a presentation, a photo essay, or something else – instead of just writing from personal experience or from your imagination, use found items to inform a narrative.
  • Play around with the power of CONTEXT: write an essay or a story with the use of footnotes, or editor’s notes (sort of in a similar way that Rothbart & his team type and print off captions, explanations, etc.). Or take two seemingly unrelated pieces of writing or art and put them together in an unexpected way, or retell a familiar story but use context to change its meaning.
  • Come up with your own CONCEPT for a zine and make it happen – make copies for the whole class.

You don’t have to take one of the above suggestions, but hopefully this gives you a place to start. If you decide to do something that isn’t really physical (like a presentation), please type up a paragraph to explain what you decided to do, why, and how it relates to Found.

If you have questions, feel free to ask, but I deeply prefer you to be creative, come up with a story/strategy/concept/idea you believe in, and commit to it. Found is a really unique and creative concept – try to come up with one of your own.

Survey: Poetry: Today you turned in your terza rimas and we read a few aloud. Nice work.

Then we discussed the final formal poem, which due Tuesday, Nov. 27. Here are the guidelines: Survey Poetry final formal poetry guidelines Nov 2018

Then we analyzed a poem by John Betjeman: “Slough.” We did this as a prelude to your final project.

What did we find?

  • It’s written, like many of Betjeman’s poems, in simple language, and in regular foot and meter — quatrains, with three lines of iambic tetrameter, and one line of iambic dimeter. Why did he do this? It makes the poem more accessible; it also gives the poem a playful quality that takes the edge off what is being suggested: that it would be a good idea to bomb this very modern town called Slough, which the narrator finds unpleasant.
  • There are some striking images; every stanza has an image, and a few — the “tinned minds, tinned breath” of stanza two; the lecherous old man in stanza four; the woman bleaching their hair in the penultimate stanza — stand out. In each case, the poet makes Slough’s modern conveniences sound like a step backward, not forward.
  • That is part of the idea: this poem, like many of Betjeman’s other works, values the old days over the modern world. That is one of his favorite themes: that we’re kidding ourselves if we think that newer is always better. We compared it to Wordsworth’s Italian sonnet “The World Is Too Much With Us,” which dates from the early 19th century and shows that this idea has been around a long time!

Remember: on Tuesday, Nov. 20, we have our formal poetry quiz. You’ll need to know:

  • The names and lines lengths of stanzas, from couplet to octave.
  • The names, background and characteristics of the styles of formal poetry we studied: sonnets (English and Italian); rhyme royal; rondeau; villanelle; pantoum; sestina; terza rima. Plus haiku for good measure.

Wednesday, Nov. 14

November 14, 2018

Poetry Workshop: Today:  Kennedy, Brody, Erb-White

I gave out a new packet of two poems for Friday: comments and annotations due for Kashuba and Bocek.

Remember that your R6 poems are due on the blog by 8 a.m. Monday.

Screenwriting Workshop: Workshopped Bailey and Hannah. Two scripts from Steviee and one from Julia for Friday.

Check your Round 4 dates – they are up on the calendar.

Siren: Working on November edition.

BatCat: Submissions and HA discussions.

Violence: Today we discussed Book One of Native Son. We covered the three things that the major violent acts (Bigger’s killing of the rat; his attack on Gus; his smothering of Mary) had in common.

1. All were motivated by fear
2. All were triggered by a sound (the alarm clock; whistling; the door creaking)
3. All were a result of failure of vision, especially Mary’s death.

And failure of vision often = hubris = violence. Which is pretty much the same idea we’ve been talking about all semester.

We’ll talk more about this failure of vision Friday.

Then we talked about realism (which this book is an example of) and naturalism (which it is also an example of). Realism becomes an artistic force in the second half of the 19th century, in part as a reaction against romanticism. We discussed a couple of reasons this reaction emerged:

  • The Industrial Revolution (which helped create the sorts of urban settings that we see in Native Son)
  • Darwinism (which, among other things, purported to show that evolution could provide answers for why things are the way they are in nature, and thus helped erode belief in Christianity, at least in Europe)

Realism in art purports to be the artist showing us the world as it really is: no flowery and heightened language; no fairy tales. That is the artist’s sole mission: to give you reality with no cushion. It’s a little like photography, which — perhaps not coincidentally — was the Next Big Thing at around the same time.

(Don’t get confused: I showed you the slides of Impressionist paintings — impressionism was emerging as an artistic school at roughly the same time: mid-to-late 19th century — to point out that even though realism was gaining in influence, it wasn’t the only game in town. Certainly we couldn’t say that Monet’s “Water Lilies” paintings were “realistic” in the same sense we’re talking about here.)

Naturalism, by contrast with realism, not only seeks to depict the world as it is: it tries to explain WHY the world is the way it is. Native Son is not just a book about the fact that a character like Bigger Thomas could (and did) exist in his time, it wants to know how we got there. We can imagine some of the easy answers: Institutionalism racism! Poverty and societal inequality! Capitalism! Etc., etc., etc. But I don’t think all of those answers — not even all of them put together — fully explains Native Son, or its problematic protagonist. To do that, we have to take a deeper look still.

To begin, I showed some inconclusive footage of the Ferguson riots from four years ago, and asked you to read this piece for Friday. Remember: just because I have you read something doesn’t mean I agree with it.

Survey: Fiction: Midterm. If you didn’t take it today, we’ll need to find a time before the end of the week.

Contest deadlines

November 13, 2018

Here are a few:

Beaver County Humane Society essay contest: Friday, Nov. 16

CMU Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Awards: Friday, Nov. 23

Lincoln Park/Midland Martin Luther King Jr. Writing Awards: Friday, Dec. 14

pulp.: Friday, Dec. 21

Remember that the CMU MLK Awards and pulp. require you to sign up for Submittable, so be sure you’ve done that/allow time for that before submitting. It doesn’t take long, but those submission windows are automated, so if you submit at 11:59 on those due dates and you haven’t signed up for a Submittable account yet, you probably won’t be able to submit.

Tuesday, November 13

November 13, 2018

Professional Writing: On-the-Books makeup test #1. It will replace your lowest test grade.

I gave back college essays and met with most of you to talk about what you need to do for the revisions, which are due next Tuesday.

Bookbinding: Today you got a demonstration on the rest of the forwarding process. You should have this complete by the beginning of class on Thursday.

If I didn’t get a chance to grade your rounding and backing, please show me your textblock before you move on. I can have the grading done in 30 seconds.

If you’re behind, please make every effort to catch up by Thursday. Thanks.

Journalism: We worked on the November edition; some enterprising folks did an app exclusive piece about Stan Lee’s death.

Publishing: Submissions and discussed posters for HA.

Style: You read and handed in your imagine monologues. The style for this week is Found Magazine. You got an excerpt from class, and the website is here:

Notes are due on Thursday, as usual. The notes on this one should focus more on physical style, process, theme, etc. as opposed to details of the writing itself (since all of these bits and piece, with the exception of the captions, are written by different people).

Survey: Poetry: Today we talked about our final formal poetry form, the terza rima, which was invited by the Italian poet Dante for use in his epic The Divine Comedy.

I am asking you to write a terza rima — in iambic pentameter, and following the rhyme scheme described on the handout: survey-of-forms-poetry-terza-rima

for Thursday, Nov. 16.

We brainstormed some rhyming lines, which you can use any or none of:


Here are the deadlines coming up:

Thursday, Nov. 16: Terza rima due. We’ll take a look at the Norton Anthologies for your notecard final.

Tuesday, Nov. 20: Final formal poem due. Formal poetry quiz.

Tuesday, Nov. 27: Have poet for notecard final chosen. Remember: they must be in the Norton Anthology, unless we’re talking about Shakespeare. Begin bringing the Betjeman and Hayes packets to class.

Here are those Humane Society essay contest guidelines again…

November 13, 2018

… if you need them. The deadline is Friday!

Essay Contest Announcement

Friday, November 9

November 9, 2018

Poetry Workshop: Today we began R5 with Michalowski, Woelfel, and McCoy.

We held over Kennedy for Wednesday.

I gave out a new packet of four poems: comments and annotations Wednesday for: Brody/Erb-White/Haddox/Nascimento.

Screenwriting Workshop: Four script for Wednesday: Grant, Jordyn, Bailey and Hannah. The schedule has been updated for Round 4 due dates. Let me know if there’s an issue.

Siren: We made, all told, almost $170 from the Overground and Underground bake sales. Thanks to everyone who baked, worked and brought stuff in for us!

BatCat: Did you grade yourselves?

Violence: Short, weird class today, which was all my doing. Not worth the price of admission.

Despite that failing, we did manage to hit on a couple of key points about the book — including, probably, the most important one.

  • Communism in America began officially in Chicago in 1919, just two years after the Russian Revolution. The party gained a foothold there, in part, through unionized labor, and it got a huge boost during the Great Depression, as the poor economic conditions made some Americans more willing to consider alternatives to capitalism, and FDR’s “New Deal” got government involved in the economy like never before. Even if you couldn’t openly join the Communist Party, you could become a “fellow traveler” — someone who supported communism without doing so overtly. Wright was a member of such a group: the John Reed Club, a writers’ organization with communist sympathies. Later he would join the party, but it was never an easy relationship: as early as the late 1930s, he had experienced racism and threats from party members in Chicago. By the early 1940s, he had left the party altogether, and it’s possible to see some of his skepticism in Native Son, especially Book Three.
  • We talked briefly about why the three sections of the book are titled as they are. “Fear” and “Flight” are pretty self-explanatory: Bigger begins the book afraid of everything, including his own demise, and his fear leads him to violence. “Flight” seems to be a cruelly ironic title, as Bigger’s big dreams of escape and outsmarting his white foes through an ill-considered ransom scheme (just like Leopold and Loeb) are quickly dashed. But it’s “Fate” we needed to talk about.
  • You can consider “fate” a synonym for “destiny,” and Bigger says himself, early in the book, that he fears his destiny is that something terrible will happen to him — presumably, given the time and the circumstances, a violent death at the hands of whites. And when we leave Bigger at book’s end, it appears that this is what he will receive.
  • But in the interim, something unexpected and perhaps even wonderful (from Bigger’s point of view) happened: he committed two murders, and in doing so, became a real, autonomous person for the very first time. He is not sorry. This is what so disturbs Mr. Max, who has defended Bigger by arguing that Bigger’s destiny was shaped by racism, and that he is thus a tool of forces that he did not understand nor control. But Bigger is glad of what he did, and believes that these acts have freed him to be in control of his destiny at last. This, Mr. Max — and quite a few readers of the book, did not, and did not want to try to, understand. Understandably: it is one of the most disturbing takeaways that any major novel had ever offered.
  • You can imagine that some white critics found Native Son problematic, but so did some black ones. James Baldwin, in a 1948 essay titled “Everybody’s Protest Novel,” took Wright to task for Native Son; others feared that Wright was confirming whites’ worst stereotypes about blacks.
  • In the second half of class, I had to leave. You ate pie (or no-bakes, or cupcakes) from the Underground Bake Sale, and listened to these two NPR segments
  • about The Great Migration. Expect me to ask you about them Wednesday.

Survey: Fiction: Review game! Here are all of the question, with answers: Fiction 11.9.18 – Review Questions With Answers. If you have questions over the weekend, send me an email! The midterm is taking place on Wednesday. Your notes are due to be handed in at that time as well. Use the review list for reference (Fiction 10.30.18 – Midterm Review List).