It's time to come up with an original thesis for your Great Gatsby papers!
First, I'd like you to choose one of these "lenses" as a focus:
-Psychological (Desire, fantasy, shame, identity, etc.)
-Sociological (Class conflict, gender relations, etc.)
-Historical (WWI, Prohibition, American Dream, etc.)
-Mythological (The Hero's Journey, Archetypes, etc.)
-Existential (The Individual, Existence/Essence, etc.)
Looking at F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel from that particular angle, what point do you want to make about its story, its characters, its themes, its symbols, and/or its enduring legacy?
Before you decide, I'd like you to read the introduction and first chapter (7 pages total) of the book linked here, How to Read Literature Like a Professor, to get yourself in the right mindset for going beneath the surface and finding something interesting to say. Please print and textmark this.
Then, turn your interpretation into a thesis statement, using the novel or author as subject:
F. SCOTT FITZGERALD'S NOVEL THE GREAT GATSBY (demonstrates/explores/questions/etc.)
IN HIS NOVEL THE GREAT GATSBY, F. SCOTT FITZGERALD (creates/reveals/presents/etc.)
Finally, I'd also like you to do some freewriting, brainstorming or outlining so that you have some direction when we start working on the papers next class. This can be informal, but bring it in.
So to sum up,
1. Print and read the Intro and first Chapter of How to Read Literature ... from that link.
2. Write an original thesis interpreting aspects of the novel through your chosen lens.
3. Do at least a page's worth of freewriting, brainstorming or outlining for your paper.
We've now read 4 short stories, and you'll have a quiz on them next class ("Tick-Tock Man," "Red Death," "Bartleby" and "Omelas"). This post is on "Omelas," specifically, the question of how we should interpret the Child imprisoned in the basement:
In one corner of the little room a couple of mops, with stiff, clotted, foul-smelling heads, stand near a rusty bucket. The floor is dirt, a little damp to the touch, as cellar dirt usually is. The room is about three paces long and two wide: a mere broom closet or disused tool room. In the room a child is sitting. It could be a boy or a girl. It looks about six, but actually is nearly ten. It is feeble-minded. Perhaps it was born defective or perhaps it has become imbecile through fear, malnutrition, and neglect. It picks its nose and occasionally fumbles vaguely with its toes or genitals, as it sits haunched in the corner farthest from the bucket and the two mops. It is afraid of the mops. It finds them horrible. It shuts its eyes, but it knows the mops are still standing there; and the door is locked; and nobody will come. The door is always locked; and nobody ever comes, except that sometimes-the child has no understanding of time or interval – sometimes the door rattles terribly and opens, and a person, or several people, are there. One of them may come and kick the child to make it stand up. The others never come close, but peer in at it with frightened, disgusted eyes. The food bowl and the water jug are hastily filled, the door is locked, the eyes disappear. The people at the door never say anything, but the child, who has not always lived in the tool room, and can remember sunlight and its mother's voice, sometimes speaks. "I will be good," it says. "Please let me out. I will be good!" They never answer. The child used to scream for help at night, and cry a good deal, but now it only makes a kind of whining, "eh-haa, eh-haa," and it speaks less and less often. It is so thin there are no calves to its legs; its belly protrudes; it lives on a half-bowl of corn meal and grease a day. It is naked. Its buttocks and thighs are a mass of festered sores, as it sits in its own excrement continually. They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child's abominable misery.
Give your interpretation of this allegory in the comments below. Who or what does the child represent, and what is "our" relationship to it? Are we the people of Omelas? What would it mean for us to "walk away" from the city based on this child's pain - and is that what we should do?
Please also come up with an idea for your compare/contrast midterm essay on two of these stories! We'll be developing and outlining those essays next class, so be ready. Good luck!
Now that we've spent some time collectively discussing the plot, themes and symbolism of Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener," it's your turn to individually interpret this cryptic story. Post a 1-3 paragraph summary of your idea using this general framework:
1. INTRODUCE an original thesis offering your "reading" of the story in the first line.
2. DEVELOP that thesis statement in a few sentences of explanation and detail
3. PROVIDE examples from the story, and perhaps comparisons with other sources
I'm going to count this as the equivalent of two quiz grades (50 points) so please give it your best effort. That means taking a creative risk if you think you've got a cool idea.
Now that we've competed V for Vendetta, we're going to look at one of its inspirations:
American Essayist Henry David Thoreau's writing on peaceful resistance of corrupt power.
Our goal is to compare and contrast Thoreau's theories of resistance with V's, and as always
to focus on the crucial role played by language in shaping and communicating that message.
Along with Thoreau's "On the Duty of Civil Disobedience" we'll read four short stories:
-Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death"
-Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street"
-Ursula K. LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas"
Our motto for this unit is a quote from the last author, LeGuin, upon receiving a lifetime award for her science fiction: "Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art - very often in our art, the art of words." How do these writers encourage resistance, and what shape might that resistance take in our own lives?
We just read the most controversial panel in Alan Moore's V for Vendetta:
Some readers never forgive V for kidnapping Evey, deceiving her about the location, and torturing her to the brink of madness. Others agree with V that only this ordeal could free Evey from the mental imprisonment into which she was born: "I didn't put you in prison, Evey. I just showed you the bars." At first, Evey violently rejects this claim: "You're wrong! It's just life, that's all! It's just how life is. It's what we've got to put up with. It's all we've got. What gives you the right to decide it's not good enough?" V's response is worth quoting in full:
"You've been in a prison so long, you no longer believe there's a world outside. That's because you're afraid, Evey. You're afraid because you can feel freedom closing in upon you. You're afraid because freedom is terrifying. Don't back away from it, Evey. Part of you understands the truth even as part pretends not to. You were in a cell, Evey. They offered you a choice between the death of your principles and the death of your body. You said you'd rather die. You faced the fear of your own death and you were calm and still. The door of the cage is open, Evey. All that you feel is the wind from outside.”
What do you think? Is this argument convincing? Why or why not? What is your opinion of V and his values at this point in the story? Post a thoughtful response below, supporting your judgments with evidence from the text and real-world examples.
As a prelude to Alan Moore and David Lloyd's V for Vendetta, we introduced three political philosophers who theorized society as a particular kind of "agreement":
Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau agree humans form societies for some kind of mutual benefit. But because they have different beliefs about human nature, they disagree about the nature of that benefit, and the shape society should take. Hobbes and Rousseau take opposite positions about human nature, leading to opposite views on government, as explained in this short video. In contrast to Hobbes's insistence on an absolute monarchy to protect us from ourselves, Rousseau believes that that no official government is needed, because people can govern themselves according to their own voluntary social contract. John Locke, as explained in this video, took the compromise position that there should be an official government, but only to protect the "natural rights" of life, liberty and property - and any State which violated those limits could be overthrown.
Your task is to give your opinion on one or both of these questions (25 points):
a.) Whose theory of human nature and government is best, and why? We began to discuss this in class, so you can elaborate on points you started making or reference classmates' ideas.
b.) Some philosophers argue that a "contract" is the wrong model for thinking about society, since we are simply born into a social world we did not help create or even agree to join. Instead, they emphasize how any society is defined by power struggles over who gets to make the rules. This tradition includes thinkers like Niccolo Machiavelli and Friedrich Nietzsche (the "God is dead" guy). Do you think there is any truth to this argument? Why or why not?
At the crescendo of Act III, a furious Proctor tells the town, "I say GOD IS DEAD!"
This is a reference to controversial German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900).
For a quiz grade (25 points), post your interpretation of Miller's use of the quote. Consider:
-Why does he put these words in Proctor's mouth at that moment? What might Miller be trying to get us to notice by referencing Nietzsche, the famous atheist? Does it connect to Miller's life struggle with McCarthyism in the Red Scare, which inspired him to write this play?
-What does Proctor mean? Is he accusing Salem of destroying their own religion? Or does his quote have deeper significance? Look at the context for clues.
-Finally, do you have any personal insights based on your own experiences or beliefs?
Post your research into Arthur Miller and the composition of The Crucible here. (15 pts)
In the Block 2B class, our discussion of Whitman's views of democracy veered into questions of equality and justice. The image above came up as an example of two competing views of fairness.
While it's definitely a generalization, conservative Americans typically see the redistribution of wealth and resources as unfair to the most successful, while liberals think that without redistribution, the least well-off don't get the same chance at success, which they see as unfair.
So which is it? More specifically, WHAT is a fair/just/good society, WHY is our society not fair/just/good enough, and HOW do we make it fairer/more just/better? That's what we're going to discuss here. Anyone interested in extra credit can post a paragraph with their thoughts, or respond respectfully and substantively to another's post. I'd like you to try to use some of the following terms and names from political philosophy if possible. So to begin, check these out:
The idea is that you can define a society by its economic system and its social system.
"Left" economics are more communitarian and cooperative - an economy based on shared wealth. "Right" economics are more capitalistic and competitive - an economy based on ownership rights and market trade. Authoritarian social systems are based on strict control of personal behavior; libertarian social systems are based on broad personal freedoms of action and lifestyle choice.
This boils down to four combinations: Do you think any offer a way to a strong society?
RIGHT LIBERTARIAN: An individualistic small-government society based on free-market trade
Examples: Philosopher Ayn Rand, Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec, Candidate Gary Johnson
LEFT LIBERTARIAN: A non-hierarchical, cooperative society based on
Examples: Philosopher Noam Chomsky, Tibetian Leader The Dalai Lama, Candidate Jill Stein
RIGHT AUTHORITARIAN: A hierarchical society valuing tradition, order and nationalist ideals
Philosopher Thomas Hobbes, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Candidate Donald Trump
LEFT AUTHORITARIAN: A welfare-oriented society with strong regulations and top-down leadership
Philosopher Karl Marx, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Candidate Hillary Clinton
(Note that the presidential candidates aren't exact matches to these philosophies.)
It's worth considering, too, that no of these ideas fully comprehend our situation...
For example, the best-off people (the 1% of the 1%) have far more than we sometimes realize.
And what if the real issue has to do with the nature of the fence blocking people in the first place?
(What would that fence be? Government? Social biases? Ignorance? What holds us back most?)
The picture below introduces these perspectives as additional possibilities to consider.