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Tuesday, Feb. 4

February 4, 2014

WWTWWT: Today we began by identifying four basic questions that we’re gonna spend the semester examining in one form or another:

1. What is the nature of reality? (This is the branch of philosophy, roughly speaking, that we call metaphysics.)

2. What is the nature of human existence? (This is usually referred to as ontology.)

3. What can we know and how can we know it? (This branch of philosophy is normally called epistemology.)

4. How should we act? (Ethics, in other words.)

Then I gave you a handout from the (soon-to-be-arriving) textbook. There’s an introduction, and descriptions of four Greek philosophers.

First: why did Western philosophy start in Greece? We said it was because their society was stable; that people had a natural curiosity about the world around them; and because that curiosity was largely uninhibited by a religious system that infringed on such inquiries. (That’s another way of saying that Greek mythology was as much for entertainment as it was for worship.)

The first two Greek philosophers we talked about were Thales and Pythagoras. Each one was a metaphysician: they each tried to determine the nature of reality. For Thales it was water: he believed everything was made of water. For Pythagoras it was numbers: he believed everything could be explained by a mathematical formula.

The difference in these two ideas is that Thales believed that the explanation for the world was something we could experience with our senses (water). Pythagoras believed it was something that only existed as an abstract concept, something we needed reason to comprehend. (Remember me asking you to bring me a three?) This is the beginning of a long schism in Western thought between the body and the mind, or between the senses and reason.

For Thursday: please read over the packet, paying attention to the last two philosophers: Heraclitus and Parmenides. Both were metaphysicians as well, though their ideas of the nature of reality were a little different.

Adaptation: Today we were down a few people, but we still had a pretty good discussion. You shared the results of your homework, and it was interesting. By the numbers, 76% of the material on your list was either the product of an adaptation or the source material for one (it’s actually a higher percentage than this, thanks to Easy A, but I’m not digging out the calculator).

On the board we compiled a list of the most familiar shifts in form. The list was pretty extensive, so here’s a picture:

You have a response to write out for Thursday, which can be found here: Adaptation 2.4.14 – Response 1. As I said in class, there are some obvious “relationships” or connections that can usually be identified – plot, characters, imagery, etc. In your response, try to reach for some higher-level analysis – go beyond the obvious, if you can. Also, try to come up with examples to go along with your thoughts!

Siren: Finished editing February copy. Planned to rip the head off a bear. More later.

Film Studies: At the beginning of class we went over the expectations for notes and you received the guidelines for your film responses, which will be due after each film that we watch. More on this later. Spielberg 2.4.14 – Notes GuidelinesSpielberg 2.4.14 – Film Response Guidelines

There is a reading assignment, which is due for next Tuesday. If you were absent, see me for a copy.

And we started watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind. No homework for Thursday.

Bookbinding: BRING IN YOUR SIGNED WAIVERS. Today you broke into groups and started project #1: Bookbinding 2.4.14 – Softcover Booklet.

8th Grade: We talked about literary history. I gave you seven literary eras, with a great writer and a great work from each (there was a handout with artists’ renderings — OK, my drawings — of the authors in question:

1. The Classic Era. Epic poetry was the thing, because it was recited instead of read. Homer, the blind poet, wrote some of the most famous works of this B.C. period, including The Odyssey.

2. The Old English Era. Skip forward about 1500 years, to around 1000 A.D. Epic poetry is still a thing. Beowulf, a poem about a brave fellow who has to kill a monster named Grendel (and his mom!), is written by someone whose name we don’t know. But we do remember the poem.

3. The Elizabethan Era. Late 16th-early 17th century. Named for the reign of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth I. A guy named William Shakespeare gets pretty famous writing poetry (sonnets), but also plays. Like Romeo and Juliet.

4. The Romantic Era. Early 19th century. The Romantics write lots of formal poetry, much of it about nature and beauty. Lord Byron, otherwise known as George Gordon, is one of the best-known romantics. His work includes the poem “Darkness.”

5. The Victorian Era. Mid-19th century. Poetry is the most popular literary form until now, when serialized novels by authors like Charles Dickens make fiction the dominant style. (A Christmas Carol is more of a novella, but you get the idea.)

6. The 20th Century, Pt. 1. Fiction is popular, but poetry ain’t dead just yet. Robert Frost fights against the growing move toward free verse and becomes hugely popular. “The Road Not Taken” may be his best-known poem.

7. The 20th Century to present. Fantasy fiction becomes more and more popular. Pick your favorite author. Tolkien. Rowling. Meyer. All represent the ascendance of fantasy. Which in a way, brings us right back where we started. Neat, huh?

Quiz next Thursday.

We watched “Man In A Bottle” in the second half of class, and you made some wishes (and explained how they might go wrong).

Survey: CNF: You turned in you “first” moment. Then we talked more about the difference between riff and moment. I gave you some examples. Then we looked at the David Sedaris essay “Today’s Special.” While I’m oversimplifying just a little, we could say that this essay begins with a moment, transitions into a riff (“As a rule, I’m no great fan…”) and then returns to the interrupted moment (“When the waiter brings our entrees…”) until the close.

The goal here is not to convince you to try to separate moment and riff artificially in your work, but instead to get you to see the difference, and be sure you have both in your essays.

We then reviewed a list of CNF guidelines — what it is, and why it is; what rules you have to always follow, and what rules you can sometimes bend. Keep this handout: it will become part of the text for this class and is quizzable material.

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