Response to Literature
Response to Literature
Three Teachers Talk just posted the superlative just-in-time idea. Go through the post which wanders and meanders through their thinking process which all of us teachers are going through now: just what would be the best, most important, bang-for-the buck first days lessons, and get to their landing place: User Manuels.
This is really a great idea: it’s a personality/reading/writing inventory as well as deeply personal and engaging. I have the composition notebooks, I have the pencils. Now all I need are some students. But this is my last week of summer break, and I’m not quite ready yet. Maybe I should create my own “Mrs. Love’s User Manuel” first.
ThugNotes is narrated by Sparky Sweets, Ph.D., and yes there is some language, but the plot summaries and analysis are epic. For a secondary audience, this modern version of CliffsNotes is helpful and entertaining. Since I’m teaching a unit on Lord of the Flies next year I am thankful for his analysis and insight.
Here they are to preserve and keep:
The linear narrative essay: This essay structure is self-explanatory. The story is told in a straightforward narrative, and is usually told in chronological order. Sometimes, there are flashbacks contained in the essay, but that doesn’t disrupt the forward motion of the narrative. One essay that may be of interest in the coming weeks as we approach the August 21 “Great American Eclipse” is Annie Dillard’s “Total Eclipse,” which is published in her collection, Teaching a Stone to Talk.
The triptych essay: Just as a triptych painting features three panels, so too does a triptych essay feature three separate sections that are not continuous with each other, but that may shed light on the other two parts. See “Triptych” by Samina Najmi, which was published in World Literature Today.
The collage essay: This type of essay features bits and pieces – vignettes – of prose that are collected together to form an essay. They often resemble poetry as the writing for a collage essay tends to be lyrical. One of my favorite collage essays is Sherman Alexie’s “Captivity,” which appeared in First Indian on the Moon.
The experimental essay: These essays seem to buck all known structures. One of the most unusual of these essays is “The Body” by Jenny Boully. The pages of the essay are blank – except for the footnotes, which are extensive. It turns out that the footnotes are the entire essay. “The Body” is characterized as a lyrical essay
The last two forms of essay that I wish to discuss are the “hermit crab” essay and the “braided” essay, and here I’d like to offer more exploration of two particular essays that are examples of them.
The hermit crab essay: In 1972, John McPhee wrote “The Search for Marvin Gardens,” and it was published in the New Yorker. He used the original game of “Monopoly” – the original American version that was based on the streets of Atlantic City, New Jersey – and he uses going around the board as the frame for the essay, making this a perfect example of a “hermit crab” essay.
In the essay, McPhee is playing a game of Monopoly but he is also recounting walking the streets of Atlantic City. The game is taking place at an international singles championship of Monopoly play, where it is possible for two skilled players to play an entire game in fewer than fifteen minutes.
McPhee intersperses the history of America in the details, but also how Atlantic City was the planned “invention” as a railroad terminus that would be a “bathing village.” In preliminary sketches, the village was labeled as an “Atlantic city,” and the name stuck. In the early 1930s, Charles B. Darrow took those early sketches of the city and based a game board on it.
So, as McPhee lands on each property or group of properties, he tells the story of each part of town. When McPhee’s piece lands him in jail, he uses it as an opportunity to visit the city jail, which in 1972 seemed to be chock-full of drug offenders. He also documents the “facade” aspect shared by resort towns. Once you travel off the beach-side main drag, you are in “the bulk of the city, and it looks like Metz in 1919, Cologne in 1944. Nothing has actually exploded. It is not bomb damage. It is deep and complex decay. Roofs are off. Bricks are scattered in the street.”
He walks these streets and sees long lines of people standing in line at the unemployment office. Newspapers in 2017 tell us that we have an “opioid crisis,” but a multiplicity of signs urging addicts to get help are present in Atlantic City in 1973 (perhaps another reminder that something doesn’t become a crisis until middle class white kids in the suburbs are dying).
McPhee walks through these neighborhoods looking for the one Monopoly property he can’t find: Marvin Gardens. No one with whom he speaks, those living in their bombed-out neighborhoods, has heard of it. It turns out that Marvin Gardens, “the ultimate out wash of Monopoly, is a citadel and sanctuary of the middle class.” It is a suburb within a suburb, what we might now refer to as a “gated community,” separated from the rest of Atlantic City and patrolled with a heavy police presence to keep the rest of the city out.
If you’ve been paying attention while reading, you realize that McPhee has used his hermit crab essay to write a critique of capitalism.
The braided essay: “The Fourth State of Matter,” by Jo Ann Beard is, I must confess, my favorite essay. It, too, was originally published in the New Yorker in 1996. Beard offers a braided essay – in which she is telling a number of stories that are all related to the time she spent on the editorial staff of a physics journal at the University of Iowa. Over the course of the essay, which begins with Beard’s poignant description of the daily routine she experiences as she cares for her aged, incontinent dog, the reader is braced in anticipation that the dog will die.
What about an enduring understanding about the history of dance as an answer to societal issues?
Possible Teaching Point: Music and dance are considered humankind’s earliest language. Dance speaks with the whole body and the whole community. In order to understand culture, society, and communication in physical forms we must study the effects and purposes of dance in social justice, protests, and acknowledgment of community’s needs.
Question: Do you think people should focus on dance over violence, and if yes, how should the message spread?
Here are some resources that may help you if you wish to put together a unit on dance and its place in human communication. This could easily lend itself to a Humanities/Physical Education cross-content unit.
Shakiah Danielson leads Northwest Tap Connection dancers as they practice in Rainier Valley for a show Friday, part of EMP Museum’s ongoing Black History Month programming. (Erika Schultz and Corinne Chin / The Seattle Times)
Though these movies get a lot of play, I’m including them as a contrast for discussion with students. What is being ‘protested’ in these movie clips? Does the majority of white actors influence the lack of gravitas or does it make any difference?
One idea that lingers for me is the dance scene from the Titanic: the third class steerage looks like they’re having so much more fun than the stuffy dinner party:
(Northwestern me in the summer…)
For summer, between walks and mini extensional crisis, I shall produce a series of posts designed to curate some of the key and critical ideas.
A few weeks ago, I fell trap to a fake news story. As my husband says, the amygdala is the boss. Wait. The Amygdala is the Boss. My amygdala took over, after the daily onslaught of anxiety-dipped 31-flavors of horrors froze my brain, and I posted a story (about a hate crime that may or may not had taken place) and a friend (whom I frequently joust with regarding politics) called me out on it. Imagine my embarrassment. However, our unwavering vigilance needs reinforcement, what with the take-over of multiple news outlets spouting the same thing, the news is no longer journalism but continued, biased rhetoric.
Gathering credible, verifiable information is critical in making decisions, including life or death decisions. Understanding how writers and sources manipulate readers into believing falsehoods and lies are critical to survival. In order to know the difference between truth, facts, and opinions, and fake news from credible journalism, many factors must be understood and analyzed.
And I got this link from the Notice and Note site:
Add graphic literacy, too!