April 2009 Archives

An Eye Opening Experience

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"Did you like have a seizure when you were writing those posters?"

-- High School English Student, directed towards me about five seconds after I walked into class

           As long as I know my information thoroughly, I’m usually not nervous before a formal presentation. Even in front of my peers, who I have been told it is hardest to present a lesson to, I never have felt very uncomfortable. This past history is what caused me to be surprised at the small butterflies I felt before entering the tenth grade high school English class Greta and I were about to teach. It was this small, unusual nervousness that made me realize this project was going to do more than help me complete part of this class: it was going to provide me with an eye opening experience that was going to help me to decide if a career as a teacher is what I definitely want to do with my life. As someone who has always been on the fence about my decision to become a teacher, I became even more nervous when I began wondering which way this experience may push me.

            Greta and I spent a lot of time preparing our lesson plan. Starting a few weeks before spring break, we met once or twice during a week in order to make sure our lesson plan would carry through as smoothly as possible. We worked together on deciding what specific information we should teach, what activities we would include, and how we would divide the presentation up between us. We also practiced our lesson several times, which again opened our eyes up to some situations which we had not planned for on paper (such as where we should be positioned in the room, how it was easier for one person to cover several steps of the lesson at once rather than to split the presentation up too much, etc). It also helped to give us a sense of how much flexibility we would have time wise in the class since the class period we were working with was only thirty nine minutes.

            Along with the preparation of what we were going to say and do during our presentation, Greta and I spent a lot of time into making the props for the activities we were going to do. This aspect of the project helped me to realize how much planning, time, and money I will eventually have to put into planning my future lessons, especially during my first few years of teaching. It made Greta and I really look at the resources we had at hand first and to become creative when it came to selecting items such as prizes (Tinkerbell wands were a must).

Although I was immediately torn apart by one student at the very beginning of class for my “seizure-like” handwriting on the posters, I really enjoyed the overall experience. The students were very bright and were great about participating, which I had been desperately hoping for. However, thus plus came with a slight side effect: being bright coupled with the willingness to participate led them to be a very talkative and excitable group. I learned within the first few minutes how quick I would have to be verbally to not only attempt to keep control over the classroom, but to try to at least attempt keep up with them. I was thankful it was a co-teaching cooperation because it definitely took the strength of two college brains to keep up with fifteen high school minds.

            The lesson, thankfully, went very smoothly thanks to the several trial runs Greta and I had practiced. Also, in general Greta and I were able to easily feed off each other during the lesson, especially when unexpected questions or situations came up. Had we not been able to work so cooperatively, I think this lesson would have had some major problems. Since the class had a very quick pace because of the amount of information we were trying to cover and the talkative atmosphere of the class in general, it would not have gone over so well had Greta and I stood there waiting for the other to take the lead. We each knew what we needed to do to keep the class moving in the right direction and it made it all work out very well.

            I learned that one major point I need to work on when it comes to teaching is the volume of my voice and my classroom presence. I noted, along with Mrs. Herman-Smith who included it in her evaluation, how confident Greta was in delivering the information and how her voice carried well throughout the class. I, on the other hand, had a much quieter voice that probably didn’t carry fully to the back of the room. This is something I hope to continue to work on with every presentation I will have in the future.

            Despite all the work and time this project required for its completion I feel like I received a lot from the experience. I learned how much work goes into creating a solid lesson plan and how much practice I will need till I become comfortable with my own teaching style. I also learned, with the help of Greta, how useful it is to learn from other’s strength’s to improve upon my weaker areas, such as projecting my voice and being more confident in front of the class.

            Even though I enjoyed my experience, I can’t say that I feel any better about the decision I have made to go into education. The experience failed to push me one way or another. It instead only seemed to make the fence I have found myself on become even higher from the ground.

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Not for Personal Political Gain

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"The feminist critic is not studying representations of gender simply because she believes that this will further her political ends. She also believes that gender and sexuality are central themes in literature and other sorts of discourse, and that any critical amount which surpresses them is seriously defective" (Eagleton 209).

What I mainly got from this section was that feminists aren't just tearing apart representations of gender because they want to cause problems for certain writers, but mainly because they realize that the sometimes degrading representations of women in literature can expand beyond just text and go into our everyday conversation and living. This makes sense because it gives even more purpose to what they are trying to accomplish. In other words it's not just to boost their political position, but to help with the well being of the gender itself.

Check out Sue's blog from a couple of weeks ago when she touched upon some of these topics.


A Question I Hear Too Often in English Classes

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"One result of this emphasis has been a number of investigations into literary study itself as a cultural practice. What gets defined as 'literature', what texts get assigned in schools and colleges, what kinds of topics get discussed in classes and in standard exams? And who decides the answers to these questions? In short, what social forces influences reading practices and what are the social consequences of these practices?" (Keesey 413).

Hmmm....I think I have heard these questions before. Weren't these some of the same questions we raised at the beginning of the course? Aren't these the same questions that seemed to be raised at the beginning of every English literature course? I have debated about what is or isn't or should be or shouldn't be literature so many times I'm ready to declare everything from the Bible to the messages inside fortune cookies literature. I had to laugh at this part because we are how far into the course and we can still ask ourselves the same questions as we did when we first began it. A little disheartening? Nope...why? Because in literature there is no right answer, so why even bother racking your brains with these types of questions.

I think for me, the last question Keesey asks in this passage is most relevant and useful. As, hopefully, a future teacher, I do have to ask myself what I consider worthy to teach in a high school class and what shouldn't be. I have influences that will make me decide one way or another and most of the decisions will probably end to extternal influences before I even reach the internal influences. However, as a teacher, I will be deciding what the classroom literature will be. So...how will I define literature? It will be whatever doesn't cost me a job and what I think will be challenging enough to students that they will need some of my help to be guided through it.

The repetition of this question in all my college classes makes me wonder if I should raise it to future students...but then how should I answer them if I don't know the answer myself? I guess this would be the beginnig of the explanation that there is no right or wrong answer in literature.

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Can't Trust Her

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"If we read 'The Yellow Wall-paper ironically and not simply as a case history of one woman's mental derangement, the narrator's madness becomes questionable, and the question of madness itself, an issue raised as a means of problematizing such a reading." (Feldstein 403).

I remember going over this is class, and it just seems like most of our criticism on this story has to be based around this fact: that the narrator is unreliable, therefore we can't completely trust what she is saying, especially as a historical document. I think I wrote one of my earlier casebooks on how "The Yellow Wall-paper" was all about women and post-partum depression, and I remember thinking how I thought I actually was doing something right. Well, that all ended when I arrived in class and my thesis, along with about half the class's, got shot down when it was determined that the narrator was definately unreliable and couldn't be trusted. I think that aspect of it is what makes it hard for me to write about it. Alot of the criticism I tried to apply to it didn't work when I had to remember that the narrator couldn't be trusted. This characteristic didn't really give me a problem for reading the short story, but it definately gave me some fits when trying to write about it.


Hello Keats...Nice of You to Show Up Again

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"Virtually no critics have thought of reading the questions Keats addresses to the urn literally- that is, not as rhetorical exclamations, but as sincere and urget demands for information- and therefore it has not occurred to anyone that Keats is, as de Man would put it, attempting to read, rather than to imagine, the urn. It has been noticed that the poem is composed primarily as a series of questions..." (Guetti 387)

It figures that I would mention Keats in an earlier blog for this week's readings and he would appear the entire way through another essay later on. I thought it was also weird how I mentioned the same point before, how de Man made me think about the questions in Keats's poem which at first seemed very distracting to me.

However, I didn't consider reading Keats questions as real questions until I read Guetti. Sure, I probably at first tried to read them as real questions, but I read them probably too literally and tried to find the answers myself. What Guetti seems to do is to take those questions and pick apart at them as if they were real questions. He's not looking for an answer, but rather looking for the hidden information that is inside the questions. He states that he kind find out what Keats supposedly knows about the urn by the questions he is posing. This makes sense and I can see then how you could actually approach these questions as none other than just real questions. So for example, instead of at first trying to determine who the speaker of the questions were, I could instead determine what the speaker of the question knows or doesn't know about what he is addressing.


Not Quite Finished

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"Does this play have loose ends of not? Those who lean towards heavily symbolic readings tend to think not; those who favor character analysis and even moral analysis tend to think it does." (Miko 375).

I think, along with Miko, I would be in the second group as well. It just seemed that when the play ended, everything didn't seem so patched up and seamless as it may have appeared. I didn't feel like the story was complete when I finished it, as if something had been left out or forgotten.

I can't really say if I agree that the symbolic readings have loose ends left or not. I guess they wouldn't because there are probably enough present that they were sufficent for the story to progresss. However, when it comes to analyzing characters, it doesn't seem like there would be enough to go off of. For moral analysis, I feel the same way, it just seemed that the story came to an end abruptly before it had a chance to go any deeper.

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Mixing Keats and Yeats

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"Yeats's poem is not explicitly 'about; rhetorical questions but about images or metaphors, and about the possibility of convergence between experiences of consciousness such as memory or emotions-what the poem calls passion, piety and affection-and entities accessible to the senses such as bodies, persons or icons." (de Man 369).

When I read this quote, it kind of had me thinking a little about Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn". I remember at the beginning semester when Dr. Jerz had this poem displayed on the projector screen and then asked me about the questions, such as who was speaking them, who were they being spoken to, and what were they asking. I remember I couldn't answer any of them, and later I found out no one technically had the "right" answer to those questions. However, after reading this passage from de Man, it helps to make more sense of why those questions in both Yeat's poem and Keats's poem weren't necessary the main focus, but rather the images or metaphors they created that affected how the rest of the poem was interpreted. When I first read Keats's poem, the questions he poses in them were a little distracting at first, especially when Dr. Jerz asked some more questions about them that couldn't necessarily have a solid answer. Using what de Man points out, I think the questions become less distracting and I can see how they over all fit into the poem.


Twilight vs. Romeo and Juliet

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Deemed the new modern day Romeo and Juliet, Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight reintroduces the idea of “forbidden love”. However, Meyer’s Edward Cullen and Bella Swan are not simply rewritten versions of Romeo and Juliet. Instead, when comparing these two stories together, the reader can recognize more than the “forbidden love” that occurs between two opposing sides in both books, but they can also use the comparison to understand each character as individuals more thoroughly.

Perhaps the most obvious signal that the two texts are related can be found in the beginning of Twilight when Meyers inserts a quote from Romeo and Juliet. To begin with, each story has similar romance scenarios: Shakespeare presents two teenagers falling in love while being forbidden to have anything to do with each other because of their families feuding. Meyers has two teenagers fall in love, although their problems with their relationship result not because of family feuds, but because of race in a very nontraditional way. Juliet is a Capulet while Romeo is a Montague; Bella is a human while Edward is a vampire. The relationships end in their own separate ways: Romeo and Juliet die, Edward and Bella continue on with their lives although their relationship, and possibly their lives, are at stake and in question. Despite the similarities of the circumstances of the relationships and the difference in their endings, the readers of these two works will benefit most from comparing the main characters of each. Through these comparisons, the readers can better understand each relationship and their importance beyond the text they are created for.

Romeo is presented in Shakespeare’s play as someone who is emotionally weak and shallow. This flaw is pointed out in his relationship with Juliet which occurs quickly and never really develops any further into anything but them being completely obsessed with each other. He also appears very immature in comparison with his younger female counterpart in the way he acts when he first meets her. When compared to Edward, the main similarity that the two share is that they are shallow with their relationships. They also both appear dominating over their female counterparts, although the females perhaps have more strengths.

Juliet and Bella are similar in that they both have strong character, but they are both submissive to their male counterparts. Juliet is presented as more mature than Romeo, however she is submissive to him by following along with all of his ideas, including getting married after only knowing each other for a short time. Bella has a strong character in that she is always willing to help others while not being afraid of taking on challenges alone. However, she too is submissive towards Edward: she follows along with his ideas and eventually seems to believe Edward is a better person than she could ever be. This submissiveness of both of these female characters is what causes their relationships to become shallow as well. They are presented as having stronger characters than what they exhibit by giving in to their male counterparts which are presented as shallower characters. This point is especially highlighted through Juliet’s suicide over Romeo’s death and Bella’s determination to eventually become a vampire so she can continue living on through eternity with Edward. Both are forms of self destruction in an attempt to sacrifice themselves for the “love” of their male counterpart.

The comparison of the characters, especially of Juliet and Bella, help to highlight the importance of the romances that occur in both Romeo and Juliet and Twilight. Through these character comparisons, a reader can understand the level and depth of importance of the relationships presented. This shallow level, once revealed, takes away some of the excitement each relationship presents on the surface because of the total obsession with the relationship that is coming from both main characters. This revelation is important, especially for the young adults who have become engrossed with Meyer’s Twilight, because it tones down the “glamour” of the forbidden love and presents each relationship in a more realistic view.


Works Cited


"Bella Swan -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 07 Apr. 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bella_Swan>.


"Bella Swan: The Other Side of the Coin: No Character is Perfect. Does the Twilight Heroine Have Any Flaws?" Teen Fiction @ Suite101.com: Classic and modern fiction for young adults including reviews, bestsellers, award-winning books and author interviews. 07 Apr. 2009 <http://teenfiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/bella_swan_the_other_side_of_the_coin>.


"Deconstructing Bella Swan: What Makes Her Tick? Is the Twilight Saga Heroine a Good Role Model for Girls?" Teen Fiction Series @ Suite101.com. 07 Apr. 2009 <http://teen-fiction-series.suite101.com/article.cfm/deconstructing_bella_swan>.


"Edward Cullen (Twilight) -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 07 Apr. 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Cullen_(Twilight)>.


"Romeo and Juliet -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 07 Apr. 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romeo_and_Juliet>.


"Stephenie Meyer's Twilight: The Next Romeo and Juliet? Not Quite." Teen Fiction Series @ Suite101.com. 07 Apr. 2009 <http://teen-fiction-series.suite101.com/article.cfm/stephenie_meyers_twilight>.


"Twilight (novel) -." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 07 Apr. 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twilight_(novel)>.


"WikiAnswers - Does anyone know the quote from Romeo and Juliet in the beginning of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer." WikiAnswers - The Q&A wiki. 07 Apr. 2009 http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Does_anyone_know_the_quote_from_Romeo



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An Abudance of Literary Criticism (and blogging)

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Once again, members from the EL312 Literary Criticism class came together to create a second blog carnival. After great success with out first carnival, we were all a little nervous at how well our second would match up. Within a week, our second carnival was off and running. For this carnival, we decided to apply different schools of literary criticism to An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. This was a young adult book several of us had read for our Young Adult Literature class with Dr. McClain. Check out our blogs and discussions that followed to see what we had to say about our attempts at applying literary criticism.

Angela kicked our carnival off last Monday by stating our topic and providing some guidelines for anyone who was interested in joining. By the blog submission deadline, we had five main carnival participants who provided plenty to discuss.

Greta was the first to join in with her entry called An Abundance of Holes: Green's Colin vs. Salinger's Holden. In her blog, Greta applies intertextuality to An Abundance of Katherines and to Catcher in the Rye.She takes a close look at the comparison of the each book's main character: Green's Colin and Salinger's Holden. She also raises some important questions to think about such as which book would you personally decide to teach in a high school classroom.

Derek's blog was titled An Abundance of Katherines (The True Meaning). By applying historical criticism to the work, Derek discussed how Colin's multiple relationships with Katherines in the book (all 19 of them) was similar to biblical times. He also provided us with what the name Katherines means...check out his blog to see what he found!

In her blog, Angela decided to psychoanalyze Colin, the main character of An Abundance of Katherines. Throughout her entry, An Abundance of Water, Angela dives into the depths of Colin's mind, especially with his reasoning and addictions. Her final diagnosis: a "quarter life crisis". Read the full report and see what others had to say about her discovery.

My blog, An Abundance of Average, attempted to make a claim on the author's intent. I provided some information from an interview with Green to develop a claim as to what his intention was with creating Colin as his main character and having Hassan as Colin's best friend throughout his journey.

Finally, Jenna's blog brought up some very important points for our topic through her mimetic criticism in An Abundance of Emotions. In her disucussion, she talks about how realistic or unrealistic the characers and situations in the book are. Her conclusion: although the book provides some out of the ordinary situations and characters, the emotions the characters feel and experience are realistic. Take a look to see if you agree.

Thanks again to everyone for participating and creating such thoughtful discussions. To everyone else, we hope you will enjoy exploring our carnival and we hope that you will join in on our discussions!

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An Abundance of Average

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"Q. Where do you get your ideas?
A. I have no idea. I really don't. All I know is that my books all start with a person. (Alaska started with Alaska; Katherines started with Hassan.) " (Green)

After reading An Abundance of Katherines, I thought it was interesting in his interview that Green said he didn't know where he got his ideas from. I think on one part of his website it said that he did base all the Katherines off of having many girlfriends, but his main characters seemed to have developed in a very round about way. For example, Green said this book began with the creation of Hassan. Could Colin have been possibly built around Hassan, as in filling in everything Hassan wasn't? I think by learning this key to the book's creation, I can day that Green created Hassan first with the intention of creating him so readers could have a character that was flawed, yet realistic and able to relate to. Colin I think was created with the intention of showing his readers how you have to interact with the world around you and can't become completely lost in textbooks or other material objects. I think with these two characters Green intended to show his audience how even though someone may not become the next president or find the cure for cancer doesn't mean they should stop living the "average" life that they are meant to live.

Tell me what you think....

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pinter on Twilight vs. Romeo and Juliet: I firstly read the book ( http
Katerina on Twilight vs. Romeo and Juliet: this is really helpfull i am d
Laqueshia Jordan on Twilight vs. Romeo and Juliet: Wow now that i think about tha
Jenna on Not for Personal Political Gain: Good analysis, Katie. Eagleto
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Jenna on Hello Keats...Nice of You to Show Up Again: I used the same quote you did.
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