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Wednesday, February 24

February 24, 2016

Poetry Workshop: Today: Cianfarano and Denny. The schedule for Monday: McKinzie, Thellman, McClintock.

Due on Monday: comments and annotations for Paul.

Also due Monday, by 8:45 a.m. on the blog: your second round poem. If you think there is going to be a problem with posting, please try it (and see me) BEFORE Monday morning.

Fiction Workshop: Workshopped Danielle and Victoria. Nova and Andi are for Monday.


  • Keep your verbal comments focused. It’s great to have a list of things that you want to comment on, but please stay on one topic at a time so that our discussion can follow a natural flow. If you have more to say, or want to address a different topic, just raise your hand again. 🙂
  • Annotations still need to improve. Make sure to use the hard copy as a chance to mark things that would not normally be discussed at length in class – things awkward sentences or phrasing, word choice, and of course little errors (punctuation, spelling, etc.), as well as making notes as you go (“talking back to the text”) and commenting on specific issues.
  • WORK HARDER. As I said in class, I don’t mean to make it sound like what we’ve done so far this semester hasn’t been good – much of it has been – but there seems to be a general malaise when it comes not only to comments but to the pieces themselves. Remember that workshop is an opportunity. Don’t take it for granted. Round 2 is a free-choice round – start working on it now. Knock it out of the park.

Cultural Literacy: Today we continued discussing the three Os and P — that is,

  1. Oedipus: the first tragic hero. (Tragic hero: an essentially good character with one flaw that proves his or her undoing.)
  2. Odysseus: the first action hero. Like most action heroes, Odysseus is brave, cocky, and has problems with authority. John McClane, whom we watched in the first 20 minutes of 1988’s Die Hard, is one such character. He’s also like Odysseus because, in those first 20 minutes, we learn that he has been separated from his wife (partly because of his own stubbornness) and arrives, after a long journey, to find that she has other suitors (at least one), and that he’ll have to fight to win her back. (And also kill quite a few German terrorists.)
  3. Orpheus: the first rock star. The best parallel I can give you is the album that made the late David Bowie David Bowie:


Ziggy Stardust (1972) was the first truly successful (or at least, half-successful) attempt at a concept album. (The first side mostly sets the scene; the second side pretty much tells the story of Ziggy, a “space invader” and “starman” who “played guitar.” He comes to Earth and becomes a huge success, but ultimately loses control and is destroyed by his fans. That makes a hell of a lot more sense than The Who’s Tommy, often cited as the first concept album — a title it should probably share with The Kinks’ Arthur, The Small Faces’ Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, and The Pretty Things’ S.F. Sorrow.)

  1. Prometheus. We could call him the first mad scientist, which isn’t completely accurate. However, it wasn’t for nothing that Mary Shelley subtitled Frankenstein “The Modern Prometheus.” Maybe a better way to say it is that he was the first hubristic hero. (Which can sometimes also be a tragic hero, sometimes not.)

Prometheus is essentially any character who allegedly tried to do good, even when he was warned it would probably go wrong, and did it anyway. So, that’s a huge chunk of horror and sci-fi right there, as well as stuff from other genres (As Miss Lepczyk pointed out, Tony Stark in Age of Ultron, anyone?)

The Greeks loved these cautionary tales of hubris, like Tanatalus, Arachne, Daedelus and Icarus, etc. etc.

These four characters from classical mythology have launched thousands, maybe millions of spinoff stories, songs, poems, etc. Your homework for Monday is to pick one character and find one modern — i.e., 20th century or later — spinoff (NOT any mentioned above, or that we talked about in class). Bring in a well-written paragraph of two of explanation. Try to go beyond the stuff you get from the initial Google search of, say, “modern Orpheus.”

BatCat: We are NOT staying after school tomorrow, given that it will likely snow and who needs that? And anyway, I could use some extra time to remix the marbling paints, since it’s likely they’re all messed up. 🙂 We’ll set a date for next week.

Spread the word about the class! We have two sign-ups so far – let’s get that number up.

Survey: CNF: Quiz #1. Then we read an excerpt from Henry Louis Gates’s memoir Colored People, and talked about sense of place. We said that every place in the world has its own:

  1. History (its full history, as well as your personal history in it)
  2. Geography (the physical geography — as in, the bank is on Fourth Street; the library is behind the Post Office.But also, the geography we impose: The bad part of town. The rich people’s street. The Italian neighborhood. Etc.)
  3. Characters (you shared a bunch from your own hometowns: Lemonhead. Wayne the Crane. The crazy cat lady, or gentleman.)
  4. Language. (Pittsburghese is a good example, but so is Lincoln Park, and your house. Any place has in it certain things that are said there and nowhere else — “Lincoln Park Time”; your cute childhood nickname, etc.)

Your job for Monday is to finish filling out the notecards you started. You picked out a place you’re familiar with — a town, a house, a school, a room, a hangout spot, etc. — and have some amount of mixed feelings about. Then you listed the history, geography, characters and language of this place on one side, and a moment representative of this place (and your experiences in it) on the other. I will collect these cards at the start of class Monday.

Survey: Screenwriting: Finished watching Tootsie. There will be a quiz on the film and perhaps other topics we’ve discussed on Friday.

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