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Thursday, December 3

December 3, 2015

Violence: Today we began by talking about Chicago, circa the mid-1930s. We are in the middle of the Great Depression. Gangsters still hold sway; Chicago remains a Wild West town in many ways, much as it was when it was founded a century earlier. The “Black Belt,” on the city’s South Side, is filling up with migrants from the South, and conditions are overcrowded and fairly bleak for many residents, especially if you are black. The blues and jazz joints throughout the city are a good place to drown your sorrows, if you afford to, listening to music like this:

(It says 1945, but the song dates from earlier.)

Hitler was, to most Americans, an unknown quantity; Stalin even less so. The lure of communism was real in a rough economy, and at a time of heightened racial tensions.

This is the backdrop for Native Son, as are the two cases I had you read about: Leopold/Loeb and Robert Nixon. The latter is obvious; the former (the basis for the Hitchcock film Rope) might be less obvious, but the connection will become more clear.

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.

For Tuesday I want you to — in written form — try to explain why these three acts reflect a lack of vision. That could be literal; that could be physical. But both connect to our thesis statement: that violence is a natural result of man’s inability to understand/acknowledge nature. In other words, a lack of vision.

Radio: Today we did an in class exercise in which you all shared information about what you recorded over Thanksgiving, then you tried to come up with possible stories to form out of the raw recording materials. Some good ideas were pitched!

The rest of class was spent going over the final project, which will take up most of the rest of the semester. Here are the guidelines that were handed out: Radio 12.3.15 – Final Project Guidelines.

Weekly listening is no longer required (although I thought about it, and if you’d like to continue doing this and want to report it to be briefly, it could improve your overall grade. Up to you). Tuesday will be a work day in your groups. You may want to talk about this stuff ahead of time; you may need more than just a block to get your ideas and proposals together.

Siren: Deadline writing. Everyone pitched in and did a great job today! Here’s the result.

We’ll do this again sometime soon. Tuesday we’ll talk about what went right, and what we can improve.

Style: Today we heard the last of the stand-up routines (EXCELLENT JOB, EVERYONE – seriously, this was the best year yet). The style for this week is William Carlos Williams’s poem “This Is Just to Say.” Here is the TAL segment that we listened to in class:

Your WCW-inspired poem (or poems) is due on Tuesday.

Middle School: 

Survey: Poetry: Today we talked about some review terms (from Fiction): persona, denotation/connotation, diction and syntax. Then I assigned you a new poem for Tuesday. You picked “theme slips” out of the Hopes and Dreams jar, and are to write a free verse poem of any length that includes:

  1. At least one external organizer from Chapter 8
  2. At least two internal organizers from Chapter 9
  3. A persona

Survey: Fiction: Today we worked on sketching out some more ideas about your inanimate object characters. Your notecards need to be handed in with the story next week, so please keep track of them!

The second half of class was spent reading and discussing a short story in which time is manipulated in a variety of ways: Bullet in the Brain by Tobias Wolff.

Your homework for Tuesday is to re-read A Rose for Emily. As I mentioned in class, we are going to be breaking the story down in very specific ways, so it is extremely important that you are VERY familiar with the story and all of the events that take place (or are mentioned) within it. If you don’t look at it again, it’s guaranteed to be a problem. So please do it! 🙂


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