It's Elementary, My Dear Watson

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Oops!  It looks like I was so caught up in preparing for my presentation that I forgot to write a blog about chapter 7.

"As you analyze works for ideas, it is important to avoid the trap of confusing ideas and actions" (121).  

I think this is a basic idea that readers learn at a relatively young age.  It is the difference between retelling the plot of a story or explaining what the author intends for the reader to take away from the tale.  I have yet to take an elementary education classes, but I'm going to take a guess that children begin to make this distinction during the same time that they are able to understand Aesop's Fables.  Every single fable is written to teach a lesson.  If the child is able to distinguish the moral from the story without simply retelling the tale, they can distinguish the difference between ideas and actions.   

Portfolio Four:Merry Christmas!

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Carissa Liberty Altizer

Dr. Jerz

Writing About Literature, EL 237

December 4, 2009


Portfolio 4:

It looks like the class is coming to a close and we all get a nice long break!  Sorry guys, unfortunately I won't be blogging to you about whatever book I happen to be reading, so don't check my blog for updates ;)  It's been a great semester and I look forward to seeing you in the spring.  Merry Christmas!

Coverage: I wrote a response for every article, poem, and work of literature that we have read thus far.

Chekhov -- Also spelled Tchekhov. Who knew? -Getting ready for my presentation

1836 CSI Screenplay - A look at "Porphyria's Lover"

Sorry, no convenient restrooms, you have to pee in the woods.  English majors aren't exactly taking the easiest roads to job security...

Missing the Eight Count Dancing and poetry, two things I love -- but will I ever be able to actually count the beats for a formal dance or hear the stress and unstress of iambic pentameter?

Is "A Christmas Carol" an Original Idea? My church has always explained sinners as men and women who carry around sins like chains dragging behind them.  Did Dicken's classic give them the simile?

New Movie Trailer Yet another A Christmas Carol in theaters.  Check it out!

Another Scrooge/Sinner Comparison Why exactly did Scrooge change his ways?

Papa Don't Preach, I'd Rather Hear a Story. Growing up surrounded by symbolism and allegories and why we need them.

It's Elementary, My Dear Watson Distinguishing the difference between action and theme

2. Depth: These are what I believe to be my best blogging samples.  

Chekhov -- Also spelled Tchekhov. Who knew?

Sorry, no convenient restrooms, you have to pee in the woods.

Is "A Christmas Carol" an Original Idea?

Papa Don't Preach, I'd Rather Hear a Story.

3. Discussion: These articles have sparked comments or discussions from my peers.  

Another Scrooge/Sinner Comparison

Is "A Christmas Carol" an Original Idea?

Sorry, no convenient restrooms, you have to pee in the woods.

Chekhov -- Also spelled Tchekhov. Who knew?

4. Interaction: These articles are examples of blogs where I either disagreed with the opinions of my fellow classmates or added a meaningful comment to their blog discussion.

Just Words? - Melissa

One Thing I Can Tell You -Aja

How Much Food Does One Ghost Need? - Karyssa

Selfishness Prevails - Karyssa

The Ghost of Economic Hardships - Glady 

5. Xenoblogging:


Comment Informative:

Just Words? I suggested I'm an English Major, Now What? to give Melissa a few ideas about the different job opportunities for English majors.

Comment Primo:

Just Words?

How Much Food Does One Ghost Need? I found a movie clip with the ghost of Christmas present and added a link so Karyssa could check it out.  

Comment Gracious:

Selfishness Prevails Karyssa's link inspired my own blog.

6. Wildcard:

New Movie Trailer

7. Timely

Submitted at least a day before class:

Chekhov -- Also spelled Tchekhov. Who knew?

Sorry, no convenient restrooms, you have to pee in the woods.

Missing the Eight Count

Another Scrooge/Sinner Comparison

New Movie Trailer

Submitted before class: 

Is "A Christmas Carol" an Original Idea?

Class Comments

Papa Don't Preach, I'd Rather Hear a Story.

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What makes a story worth retelling?  How many fairy tales and parables have only lasted one generation?  What keeps a narrative alive, and how do people decide which protagonists live on to entertain, lecture, and preach for centuries after the original was written?

"To study a work of literature in historical and cultural perspective is to determine the degree to which the work belongs in, and perhaps transcends, its period" (132).

Most every well known parable, fable, myth, poem, and novel include symbolism or allegorical statements commenting on religion, politics, social situations, or morality -- some are blatantly obvious while others are so ingrained in our minds from childhood that we never even realize it.  

Let's take a look at a few examples, the first is Little Red Riding hood.  Before the young girl heads out of the house alone, her mother warns her to stay on the path and go directly to grandma's house.  We all know how the story goes -- little girl stays, meets big, bad wolf, and as a result she and grandma almost die.  On a simple note, the tale warns children to listen to their parents and never stray into the woods.  If one were to look further into the moral and possible religious aspects of the story, it is clear that Red's wise mother is telling her to stay on the well-lite path -- the road to righteousness.  Straying will only lead to temptation, sin, and possible death.

Charles Dicken's The Christmas Carol is an allegory on morality and possibly Christian religious beliefs.  Although, if the time of year is changed (as the class suggested) Muslims preach giving alms to the needy as one of the five pillars, so I suppose A Christmas Carol could be renamed and considered a religious allegory to several different religious faiths.

Gulliver's Travels is an example of a political and social allegory written because "The threat of censorship and the danger of political or economic reprisal have often caused authors to express their views indirectly in the form of allegory rather than to name names and write openly, thereby risking political prosecution, accusations of libel, or even bodily harm" (152).  Swift's satire and wit ridiculed wars, leaders, and religious fanaticism. 

Dr. Suess has underlying political statements, while The Wizard of Oz warns people to be grateful for what they have.  So, why exactly are all of our favorite stories pumped up with lectures, political stances, and morals?  The answer is easy -- because nobody wants to listen to political speeches and moral lectures!  Parables and allegories explain possible consequences to undesirable behavior in a fun, memorable, less preachy form.  It's like the difference between telling a kid to choose between watching their favorite movie or going to church.  Which do you think they would choose?

These stories become a part of our lives and are passed down to new generations because the stories have something to say to the reader.  The clock in Edgar Allen Poe's The Masque of the Red Death illustrates a common symbol that explains how short life is; once the minutes tick away, they are never coming back.  Sparkly red heels remind us of the joys of going home to Aunty Em, and the ghost of Christmas future reminds us to not be greedy.  Great stories connect people.  Not only do they help us understand the world around us, but they give us all something in common and they help us to understand each other better.   

Another Scrooge/Sinner Comparison

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After reading Karyssa's blog, Selfishness Prevails, it made me think again about this classic Christmas story and my last blog when I compared the church's unsaved metaphor as a sinner carrying chains to Marley's ghost.  If Scrooge and a sinner are essentially the same person carrying the burdens of their sins, why exactly did they decide to change in the end?  

I would like to believe that it was because they both saw the error of their ways.  Scrooge was genuinely touched and needed to do something to improve Tiny Tim's living conditions.  He actually realized the joy of giving and the stupidity of hoarding when he didn't even have anyone he loved to leave his money to after he died.  The sinner finds the Lord because he feels guilty about his/her past and desires to live a better life through the church and the Bible's direction.

In the end, how many people decide to change for purely selfish reasons?  How many people are just scared of going to hell?  Was Scrooge just scared to become another Marley, living his own life of hell -- condemned to walk the earth while dragging his sins behind him?  Questions to ponder. 

New Movie Trailer

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A Christmas Carol movie trailer

Hello everyone!  Just in case you don't know, Disney just came out with a new movie for Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.  Jim Carey is the voice of Scrooge and it looks pretty good.  Check it out!

Is "A Christmas Carol" an Original Idea?

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"I wear the chain I forged in life," replied the Ghost.  "I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.  Is its pattern strange to you" (49).  

I was raised in a church where this image is given to explain the bondage people wear when they haven't declared to give their life over to Jesus Christ.  There are plenty of pamphlets and preachers who will give an explanation of their unsaved life by saying they felt like they were hauling around huge chains of sin before the Lord set them free.  I understand the comparison, it makes perfect sense and it is a good way to explain the burden of sin; however, now I'm curious to know if that explanation was used before Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol was written.  Did the church always explain a sinner's burden as heavy chains and misery, or did they decide to use Scrooge's future penance for greediness to explain all sin?  I even remember one story that described people who are unsaved as carrying around large garbage bags on their back.  Some people had to drag several bags while others only had a small pack -- but they were still forced to carry garbage everywhere they went because they refused to let go of their sin.  If I could remember the name of the story I would add a link to it, but I've completely forgotten.  If anyone has any idea of who stole whose idea for a great story, comment on my blog -- I'm curious!

Missing the Eight Count

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"Posody describes the study of poetic sounds and rhythms" (182).  

I love to dance.  Whether it's in Pittsburgh on Fridays or Saturdays with friends, dancing with my family at a wedding reception, or jumping around my apt to loud music -- I've always been the first on the dance floor.  I never took classes and I don't know any fancy moves, but I can feel the beat when I'm dancing and I never have to think about whether my body is in time with the rhythm or not.  It's just fun, and after my one and only pageant -- I think I'm going to keep it that way.  

My senior year I competed in Pennsylvania's Outstanding Young Woman contest and one of our judged requirements was a dance routine.  I went in thinking it would be fun and relatively easy, and then I noticed that every other girl there was either a professional dancer or a cheerleader.  Also, it wasn't just one song for the routine, we needed to learn six songs in 5 days.  I had a crash course in 8 counts, and saches.  Needless to say, I still can't count a decent 8 count and I can't remember a single thing that we learned.  The dance routine didn't go so well, but afterwords we all had a big end of the pageant dance.  I went out there and just did what I normally do and the other girls were shocked.  They all honestly thought that I didn't have any rhythm at all.  

I feel the same way about poetry.  I've been writing poems all my life.  Last semester one was published in Eye Contact, but I couldn't tell you the prosody of it.  For the life of me, I don't think I'll ever hear the stress and unstress of iambic pentameter.  I've been to several creative writing camps (like band camp, only better) and I've always written, but I don't feel like I'll ever get the specifics of poetry.  I understand the guts of it -- emotions, tone, pace, word choice, theme, and purpose, but when it comes to chapter 13, my eyes glaze over a bit.  I try to get it.  Every time I get a chance to study the information over again I do, but I just can't seem to put the steps in order and hear the 8 count.  

And just for the record, I never studied music and I never played an instrument.  I'm convinced the absence of music education was detrimental to my ear.  I think I'm going to make my kids  play the piano when they're little so they get it when they're young.  

Sorry, no convenient restrooms, you have to pee in the woods.

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"The notion that the literary humanities in particular have been at the heart of American higher education is, I think, a mirage." 

I began as a Communications major and Marketing minor because I thought that was as close to the English major as I was going to get.  The article is right, English majors don't seem to have very many options.  In today's society, we have to prove that we're versatile.  We can't just wave our license in front of an employer's face and say, "See, I'm qualified!"

 I feel like we chose to take the back roads without a GPS.  We'll get there eventually.  Sure, there were no restrooms so we had to stop to pee in the woods a few times.  Pack our own picnic lunch because there aren't any Burger Kings along the way, but in the end, English majors (and liberal arts majors in general) have seen more on the journey.  I like to think that our unnecessarily large debts have given us more knowledge and an edge on other job seekers who only know one field.  Most people will have (what's the statistic?) 7 to ten jobs in their life? 

I was never able to dive far enough into Communications to declare what I didn't like about it. I just realized that I wanted to be a teacher (and hoped to marry rich). I know you all are concerned about what you're going to do because you don't want to be teachers, but hey, at least you have teaching as a backup plan?

Maybe this is naive, but I feel like learning on the job is the only real kind of training a person needs for a large portion of careers. Obviously this doesn't apply to doctors or lawyers, but numerous secretarial/desk positions, hospitality, management... I think with a few extra classes (many companies are willing to pay for if you've proven yourself to be a good employee) will train you for the particulars of a job as long as you have the skills to learn the material. I feel like most undergraduate degrees are simply to teach people how to learn on their own, research, study, ask questions, and seek out the answers from reliable sources.

I guess we'll all find out whether we were foolish to choose English as our major in a few short years.  The good part is that we can always change our minds.   Sure, that means several more years dedicated to schoolwork and knee deep in debt, but it can be done.  Hopefully by then we'll know exactly what career we want and how to go about getting it... 

Class comments

1836 CSI Screenplay

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Creepy, but well written.  "Porphyria's Lover" is like reading an 1836 screenplay for CSI.  We went over this poem in class for quite awhile so I really don't have to much to add that hasn't already been said.  I'm still questioning just how long the lover's hair must have been (or how tiny her neck) for her hair to wrap around it three times.  I haven't studied any other poetry by Robert Browning so I am still indecisive on whether the poem is about murder or erotic asphyxiation.  No matter which it began as, I'm pretty convinced it ended with a dead woman leaning on a crazy man in bed stroking her long blond hair while writing a poem.  Creepy imagery.  It's just another story to warn people about who they trust and choose to love.  Even if he was made crazy by the disease porphyria (which I'm assuming is quite rare?) the man's behavior is frightening to try and rationalize.    

Chekhov -- Also spelled Tchekhov. Who knew?

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Tomorrow is my presentation, and I admit, I'm a little nervous.  Public speaking is the number one fear, even above dying, so I know I'm not alone.  It may be strange that I'm worried about giving a presentation when I want to be a teacher, but teaching a lesson to kids and giving a presentation to my college peers are two very different types of public speaking. 


I had a really difficult time attempting to locate a peer-reviewed article on Chekhov and The Bear.  Actually, not a single person has written any literary criticism on the play in English (I'm not sure about Russian).  With the librarians help, I did eventually find a great book of literary criticisms titled, A Chekhov Companion, Edited by Toby W. Clyman.  I decided to discuss Martin Esslin's piece on "Chekhov and the Modern Drama.  I'm going to explain Chekhov's contributions to modern drama. First, I'll explain the main elements of traditional drama, and then I'll discuss the original changes he made that have drastically changed modern theater (and as a result, radio, movies, television). 


Next, I'll take a closer look at The Bear and focus on how Chekhov uses the lover's unappealing qualities to bring humor to the play through exaggeration and sarcasm, while making love their only redeeming quality.   We'll examine Luka's humorous contributions, and then focus on Mrs. Papov and possible explanations why her mourning doesn't seem sincere.  We'll examine her relationship with her past husband, and why she has decided to mourn in such an extreme manner.  I'll finally finish off the discussion with a look into Smirnov's character.   


In order to put together my presentation I started by reading the play, researching a bit of his biography, and then consulting on-line data bases for articles.  Next, I headed to the library.  There I discovered that Chekhov is also spelled Tchekhov.  Who knew?  I examined my article options, and then I did a close reading.  I wrote down everything I found interesting when I was close reading and when I read several essays in A Chekhov Companion.  I eliminated excess information that wasn't relevant, and then I typed my notes for my presentation.  Tomorrow, I will take one final look at my classmate's blog entries for additional question ideas, although I'm afraid I need to cut my presentation as it stands.  Tomorrow I'll practice with a stop watch and then I'll continue to trim it down.