Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Recreating the Mystery of Shakespearean Sonnets


Over the course of the year, we've been dealing with a lot of poetry, perhaps without even recognizing it.

As we have done this, you may not have been aware of the underlying structure in such poetry for establishing cadence (that is, tone), rhythm, and meaning.

We must keep in mind the importance of learning to read poetry by writing it ourselves.

That said, I ask you to take on the 14-line, Shakespearean sonnet formula (iambic pantemter; ABAB CDCD EFEF GG) while modifying the text to suit your own needs and subject matter related to the deeply emotional experiences presented in Shakespeare’s sonnets:

· Time
· Death
· Love
· Friendship

Your focus should be centered on issues of RELATIONSHIP!

Thus, you will want to evoke a whole range of emotional experiences from joy to despair; from love-loss to the fulfillment of love; from loneliness to peace; from depression to happiness.Be sure to pay attention to how Shakespeare uses the sonnet to “bring the fundamental experiences of life—time, death, love, and friendship—into tight focus" (TV 250).

DUE Friday, May 15 by class time: blog or hard copy.

Below is an example from my own in-class writing on the theme of spiritual transformation (from life to death to life):

The promised land awaits in the silent
Growth of the fruits of God's great love.
On this Western front all time is thus spent
In the white mist of reverie above

Wherein I seek only what's beautiful
In scope of truth in sound that sings a song--
This melody is a momentary lull
Into scapes of dreaming so deep and long,

Where human deserts become oases.
Barren and dry hearts are like thirst quenched.
Where sullen countenance of death ceases
To shade all that was once prefigured

In the advent of your second coming--
A story of death to birth succumbing.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Freudian Analysis of the Brave New World


According to Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic theory, the human psyche (or mind) is constituted of ego, superego and id. The ego is the rational part of the mind that is ultimately responsible for channeling (sublimating), repressing (frustrating) or releasing the aggressive and sexual demands of the id (or libido/blind animal instincts). The superego, meanwhile, is that part of the personality system involving the conscience and morality, demanding total abstinence of the individual in the interests of the work ethic (Schindler, "Introduction to Freud" 1). The healthy, well-adjusted individual is one who meets the demands placed upon him by external forces such as work. We call this the reality principle. As Ronald Schindler says of this "principle of constancy": we must learn, through the functions of the ego, to "postpone and modify pleasure and its pursuit to fit the needs dictated by reality" ("Introduction to Freud" 4).

Accordingly, the individual who is not well adjusted, otherwise known as a neurotic personality, is subject to anxiety and frustration as he has not learned to properly channel his sexual energy into such things as work, play, or creative means of expression such as art. The individual's anxiety can develop into severe forms of "neuroses" including a complete break from physical reality called, psychosis. Interestingly, the indvidual's childhood experiences play a key role in how he develops and functions psychologically and socially, or psycho-socially, later in life.

Freud developed a theory about what he called the Oedipal complex, basing it off of the Greek tragedy of Oedipus the king who incidentally killed his father and married his own mother unbeknownst to him. Accordingly, Freud theorized that the young male child, in growing into a self-aware indvidual, must learn to reconcile with the authority his father represents while gaining independence from his reliance on the protection and nurturance that his mother represents. If this issue is unresolved, says Freud, the individual's pscyhological growth will be stunted, leading to anxiety issues and sexual perversions. All the frustrated energy of childhood sexual instincts will eventually manifest themselves in symptoms of agression, ascetism (extreme self-discipline and self-denial, including forms of self-abasement and, at its worse, self-destruction), masochism, sadomasochism, sexual dysfunction and generalized anxiety. Ultimately, a healthy, adult ego will find some balance between the pleasure and reality principles, establishing an equilibrium between repression, sublimation and gratification of sexual urges natural to the animal instinct within man.

This brings us to a discussion of the superego, or conscience, which manifests itself socially in the moral codes such as those of the world's great religious traditions. As Freud would have it, religion is essentially a barbiturate (opiate or narcotic) for the masses; it is a way to keep individuals within society stablized, giving them the "mass delusion [of] substitute gratifications [in place] of pleasure and the acting out of aggressive impulses" (Schindler on Civilization and its Discontents 3). Religion is a function of the social order within a given society that maintains a system of checks and balances so to speak, along with other institutions such as government, family, and industry. All civilization is the result of a given culture's attempt to find a balance between the will to love and the will to violence (represented in Freudian psychology by the Greek gods of Eros and Thanatos respectively).

Generally, as Freud says, individuals within society are discontent as they must undergo the constant pain of adjusting their instinctual drives to the value systems provided to them by their superego and its moral codes. Social aggression in the form of war and conflict thus stems from a breakdown in the equilibrium between the satisfaction or sublimation of the sex instinct and the aggressive instinct. If there is an imbalance in the dual energies, then the unbridled release of frustrated or repressed aggression and sexual energy can lead to destruction on a social level, including that of genocide.

And so we must now consider two things, which I would like you to develop in an at least five paragraph essay due Monday, May 11, 2009 on hard copy according to MLA format.

They are:

1. A Freudian analysis of John Savage according to Freud's theory of psychoanalysis and Civilization and its Discontents.

2. A Freudian analysis of the World State according to Freud's Civilization and its Discontents.

We will discuss more in class, but for now, you should begin applying aspects of Freud's theories as they pertain to John Savage and the society of the World State. I expect you to engage both the Freudian fun pack and the actual text of Brave New World in order to expound your insights fully and thoughtfully. This is a 25 pt. assignment.

Dr. Peach, FSC

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Home Stretch: Crafting Criticism


The aim of any literature class is to enhance one’s own ability to analyze a text through a critical lens—essentially, to heighten one’s critical thinking ability. Literary criticism, then, is concerned with searching a text like detective to a mystery for deeper meaning, to “read between the lines” and thereby discover a world of themes that pertain to the human experience. To root out such themes from the text involves a search for and understanding of literary techniques such as irony, conflict, figurative language, symbol, imagery and dialogue—each indicates a certain something more that is going on beyond what is presented by face value of mere words on a page. Every story communicates something unique and everything unique is important. To do a work of literary criticism is serious work, but, as the poet Rainer Maria Rilke says to Mr. Kappus, the subject of his Letters to a Young Poet, “But they are difficult things with which we have been charged; almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious” (35).

To begin our own search, I want to invite you first to consider topics for discussion that will inform and dictate your 5-7 page piece of literary criticism with a works cited page that includes the primary source and three other secondary, scholarly sources (non web-based). These topics should revolve around one of the major works read in class this year, which are as follows:

· Beowulf
· The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
· Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
· The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
· The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
· Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
· 1984 by George Orwell
· Brave New World by Alduous Huxley

Once you have invented a topic for the purposes of completing your work of literary criticism, I would like you to craft a thesis paragraph that will set out to examine at least three aspects of the topic to be discussed. You may treat this paragraph as a more informal topic proposal or prospectus. I will discuss specific format for such an assignment in class. Due, typed and according to MLA format, Wednesday, April 22, 2009.

After you have generated a thesis paragraph, you are responsible for re-typing it and crafting an outline to give a skeletal frame to the piece. Please list the works you will be using for research along with the title of the work itself on a separate works cited page, due with the ouline. Due, typed and according to MLA format, Monday, May 4, 2009.

Lastly, once the outline is finished, you will be responsible for fleshing out an actual draft of your essay, which I will accept for review before you turn in your final work.

The due date for this thesis project is Wednesday, May 20, 2009.

We will begin discussing ideas, expectations, and format guidelines for the paper and the constituent assignments leading up to its final submission as the quarter carries on.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

This Time YOU Decide: Pop Culture and 1984

As per the last prompt, I would like you to choose one video and/or song for individual analysis of themes presented in lyrics, image or dialogue that parallel with themes presented in 1984.

Be sure to use textual support to back up your claims regarding both the element of pop-culture you are analyzing and the text of Orwell's classic, dystopian novel.

Your response is to be submitted with a link to the relevent piece of of pop-culture as part of your heading. Thus it will read as such:

Your Name
Bro. Rob Peach, FSC
ENG 141.07
Due Date

This is due by class time on Easter Tuesday, April 14, 2009.

For help with MLA guidelines for citing source materials such as novels, songs, film, etc. see the links to the left of this blog prompt. They should guide you in the right direction.

In the meantime, begin generating term paper ideas, which we will discuss in fuller detail starting Monday of next week, April 6, 2009.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cracking THE BOOK in 1984


"Part Two" of George Orwell's 1984 is thematically significant for its explication of The Party philosophy that undergirds Ingsoc, newspeak for the so-called movement of English socialism. Really, Ingsoc and The Party are part of what Emmanuel Goldstein more accurately names "Oligarchical Collectivism" in the title of his work that Winston reads in chapter IX (nine) of 1984. In his "The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectism," Goldstein explains the historical roots, logic and contradictions of The Party slogan advertised at the beginning of 1984. Winston, however, focuses primarily on that part of the Ministry of Truth's banner which reads: "Ignorance is Strength," and "War is Peace."

That said, I would like you to delve into Goldstein's essay, giving an in-depth, textually supported summary and interpretation of, first, what he means by "oligarchical collectivism" and secondly, what the phrases, "ignorance is strength" and "war is peace" essentially mean. You decide the length of this piece, which will likely exceed the structured, five-paragraph format.

Please follow MLA guideliness for quoting, summarizing and paraphrasing that are explained in the packet I gave you a few weeks ago.

This is a 25 point assignment that will start the fourth quarter.

It is due by hard copy on Tuesday, March 31, 2009.

Big Brother

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Pop-Culture and 1984


In discussing George Orwell's 1984 it is difficult not to find a number of references--whether explicit or implicit--to the novel's themes: industrialism, militarism, capitalism and totalitarianism, social control, imperialism, and the subjugation of the individual to the whims of the institution, namely, a government hijacked by a minority group with a vested interest in securing itself as a world superpower that, in its Machiavellian lust for empire, is devoid of a moral obligation to uphold human rights or the common good.

In every age and in every culture, such themes are relevant as history is marked by the rise and fall of various world powers who came into a position of such authority as a result of conquest, invasion, and colonization. Orwell's 1984 is a profound allegory in this sense, likening the fictional world of Oceania to imperial London. It is a time where industry and institution govern the personal lives of individuals to the point where they no longer have a sense of self-identity, nor a sense of history, for that matter. Any search for history or self-identity is immediately quashed by a police system of discipline and punish (eg., Though Police). And so the powers that be--i.e. Big Brother and his Party--because they operate on a system of fear and paranoia, keep the masses in check and submissive to their regime.

The videos listed below are just a few examples of Orwellian philosophy as portrayed in pop culture, namely, rock and hip-hop. Both musical forms provide a platform for the democratic ideal of protest against perceived injustices that favor the institution over the individual's human rights. Each of the videos below pertain both lyrically and imagistically to the themes presented in 1984.

For this assignment, I would like you to choose one video for individual analysis of themes presented in lyrics and image. I would then like you to compare the themes in the video to those presented in 1984, using textual support to back up your claims, including quotes from song lyrics as they pertain to the text of 1984.

This assignment is to follow MLA guidelines for formatting quotations. It is to be completed on the blog by Tuesday, March 26, 2009.

Big Brother Peach, FSC

Incubus' "Megalomaniac": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFnnV595byE&feature=channel

Rage Against the Machine's "Testify":

El-P's "Stepfather Factory":

Talkdemonic's "Duality of Deathening": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCVRv6mZhkA

Aesop Rock's "None Shall Pass":

Mike Finnegan's "i1100":

Radiohead's "All I Need"

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Exploring Themes in 1984: Chapters I-V


As discussed in class, the opening chapters of Part One of George Orwell's 1984 are rife with themes as well as literary techniques that magnify the various subject matters of the text: political suppression, censorship, militarism, media spin-control, the manipulation of historical fact, thought control, despair, treason, and totalitarianism among other things. Undoubtedly, 1984 is a work of social critique in which Orwell, through the character of Winston Smith, prophesies the onset of a dystopia--one characterized by unbridled industrialization, dehumanizing thought control, and totalitarianism. The scary thing in all of this is that 1984 allegorizes modern society, mirroring its effect on the human person. Given the technological advancements of science and industry in our own world, and the increased globalization of free market capitalism, humans are easily subjugated to slavery for the purposes of increasing productivity and profit for ruling systems such as government, big business, and even religious institutions.

Moreover, in order to keep the machine of industry and profit running, humans are often censored from advocating for their individual rights, including the right to a fair salary and unionization. This is particularly true in underdeveloped countries where workers are locked in an economic system ruled by developed, "first world" countries, that exploit people for profit. They do this without considering the injustices of unfair trading practices that leave local businesses little on which to thrive. There is a level of political suppression involved in all of this when workers are censored from speaking out against those shady business practices which keep them in the dire straights of low wages, poverty, and hunger.

Anyhow, I want you all to keep in mind the various themes we've brought up in class as they appear in character dialogue, in setting, and in the observations Smith makes of his dismal surroundings.

In a response of decent length (you decide what is most appropriate), I would like you to develop a discussion on a theme presented in chapters one through five of Part One. This will involve using plot details to back up your claims. You will also need to indicate what plot, or literary, devicesOrwell uses to demonstrate the specific theme.

For instance, if you are discussing the theme of dehumanization, you will want to pinpoint specific instances where "inversion" takes place. Recall that inversion is the opposite of personification. It is the application of inanimate attributes to human characters to suggest themes such as the dehumanization of the individual.

Some literary devices to pay attention to:

–Narration/point of view
–Symbol/imagery (indicating mood, atmosphere, tension)
–Metaphor (including objective correlative, personification, inversion, and other examples of figurative language)

This assignment is due, Tuesday, March 17, 2009 by class-time on the blog. Be sure to indicate your name, my name, course, and date due as well as a creative title pertinent to the theme you are discussing. Be sure to indicate the author's name and the title of the work being discussed in opening.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bro. Peach Does His Homework

Bro. Rob Peach, FSC
ENG 141.07
March 11, 2009

After "Darwin and After": A Response to Student Inquiries on Bratlinger

· What is the thesis statement of Patrick Bratlinger’s chapter, “Darwin and After” from Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800-1930?

Bratlinger states his thesis from the outset of the chapter: “Although the ‘Darwinian revolution’ produced new ideas about human races, societies, and cultures, it did not much alter and in several ways strengthened extinction discourse” (164). That is to say that while Darwin’s theories on evolution widened the world’s perspective on the physiological development of the human species, stemming as his theories suggest, from the lowest forms of reptilian life, to the highest form of mammalian life, they narrow-mindedly envisioned the termination of “lower races” within the one human species that progressed to the top of the animal kingdom’s hierarchy. This happens, according to Darwinian-minded evolutionists—or social Darwinists—as societies that are of a more scientifically and culturally progressed nature essentially oust those societies whose advancements in science and culture are less wholly developed and thus unable to compete with the standards of advancement or keep the laws of progress of the “civilized” world. Thus, as Bratlinger states: From the 1830s on, Darwin believed that, though humanity formed a single species, certain primitive races were so far behind civilization—so lost in the immense past of social evolution—that their extinction was likely if not inevitable. With few exceptions—Lewis Henry Morgan and Alfred Russel Wallace are perhaps the main ones—most evolutionists treat primitive races and cultures negatively, not only as doomed by the inexorable laws of nature but also as meriting their pending extinctions. (165)
In this way, Bratlinger concludes his chapter with a critique of social Darwinism, saying that the proponents of Darwin’s evolutionary theory—Malthus et. al—validate “extinction discourse” by way of “naturalizing” or “biologizing”—that is, applying natural or biological explanations for—such unnatural or artificial means of selection and competition within or between species as war, imperialism, and the “supposed progress of white civilization [i.e. racism]” (188). Therefore, social Darwinism and the evolutionary theory of such men as Malthus and Huxley serves as an inadequate rationalization of injustices that force races considered primitive or savage into extinction.

· Explain the chronological and cultural distance between the savage and the civilized conditions of human existence.

According to Darwin’s evolutionary theory as delineated by Bratlinger in his chapter, “Darwin and After” from Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Exntinction of Primitive Races, 1800-1930, the chronological distance between the savage and the civilized conditions of human existence pertains to the time gap between what is known as prehistory (or history before there were written records of it)—characterized by savagery—and history (referring to what is accounted for in written record)—populated by civilized races. Savages, for Darwin, are the “parents” or progenitors of a more civilized race of the human species that supposedly caused the extermination of the savage parent-species in its natural progression towards a higher state of physiological development. In this theory of chronological distance involving “geological ‘deep time’ ” as it is called, “Both new species and the advanced human races supplanted—or extinguished—older, supposedly less fit or less adaptable ones” (Bratlinger 168). In this way, the “children consume the parents” over time (Bratlinger 168).
As for cultural distance between the savage and the civilized conditions of human existence; it is measured by the social Darwinists according to scientific and social progress of individuals within the human species. It entails social cooperation and the strengthening of such cooperation over time (Bratlinger 168) for the sake of survival. This perceived cultural distance between the savage and the civilized, as gauged by scientific progress, ultimately legitimated a theory of extinction that, though professedly concerned with “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest,” implied the actual extermination of supposedly primitive races by means of industrialization, war, capitalism, and racism. Bratlinger admits that Darwin leans in his written discourse on natural selection and survival of the fittest towards a theory of violent extinction, often applying the “active, violent rhetoric of the discourse about racial extinction to processes that are long-term and nonviolent [such as a famine, disease, or natural disaster]” (169). Thus, Darwin fails to delineate clearly the discrepancies in his theory as Bratlinger suggests: “Darwin here leaves unclear whether he means that the unimproved species will be directly, violently ‘exterminated’ by ‘its competitors,’ or whether instead it will gradually disappear through diminishing access to the means of subsistence that the improved species gradually monopolize [such as industry, trade, scientific invention, etc.]” (170).

· Explain what is meant by Huxley’s conclusion that, as Bratlinger notes of his evolutionary theory, history is a spectacle of races in collision?

Huxley’s conception of history as such a spectacle assumes an imperial outlook on the dynamics of history as a time-bound interaction between races defined primarily by war and colonization, rather than by cultural diffusion or economic exchange as Bratlinger notes (173). Most historians, or those studying history, will admit that man develops not only physiologically, or morphologically (in terms of bodily structure), but culturally as well. Huxley disregards the anthropological perspective of history that takes into consideration man’s advancement not just through competition with other men through violence, but man’s development in terms of art, religion, music, government, and law. Huxley’s ethnology—that is, the study of ethnicity in light of history—is delimited by his narrow-minded perception of historical progress as one war after another between the more “vigorous and fertile race” and its weaker counterpart. Ultimately, as Bratlinger states, “For Huxley, there is apparently not much more to be understood about human history or prehistory unless it sheds light on the evolutionary changes that the physical structures of the different races have undergone” (173). Thus, with morphology as his primary lens through which to view history, Huxley sees violent collision as the only way to measure a race’s superiority over another. Such an outlook validates imperialism, unbridled capitalism, and oppressive colonialism as seemingly ethical forms of competition between races and their respective societies. Bratlinger says it best in reference to Huxley’s perspective: “In the external struggle between societies, civilization is virtually identical to imperialism, because both entail the conquest and domestication of savages” (176). In this way, the civilized man is no less a savage than the primitive man, using violent means to attain a supposed Utopia of social cooperation. Bratinlger's explanation of Tylor's anthropology fits here: “But it is not just that groups of savages resemble one another; civilized peoples also resemble savages, as ‘higher’ stages of culture continue to reflect ‘lower’ ones” in terms of superstition, fear, and violence (180).

· What is the difference between Tylor’s theory of a nascent relativism and his ethnocentrism?

According to Bratlinger, Edward Burnett Tylor’s evolutionary theory argues that all races of the single human species “were progressing through identical stages of cultural development, from savagery through barbarism to civilization” that differed in degree rather than in origin (178). In other words, all species develop relative to their specific condition in time and place. This is part of Tylor’s theory of “nascent relativism”: all races are progressing through different stages of development according to their given situation in continent, tribe, and cultural tradition. At the same time, Tylor held an ethnocentric view of development that recognized the existence of “superior” and “lower” races within this dynamic of overall development. Tylor was thus able to cleverly claim “the ‘educated’ elites of Europe and North America as the ‘standard’ whereby to judge all ‘lower’ cultures” (Stocking 162, qutd. in Bratlinger 179). In this way, all of humankind develops, but at different rates, which allows for those who have surpassed the “slower” to essentially supersede other cultures according to its own code of progress—one that is ultimately Eurocentric.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Going into Out of the Silent Planet


In assessing C.S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet, I would like you to answer one of the following questions in an essay of at least five, typed paragraphs:

  • What are some indications that Malacandra is Lewis' fictional representation of a Utopia in which differing species live in peace and harmony without succumbing to the violent competition Darwin describes in his writings?
  • How is the society of the hnau a representation of the "Mystical Body of Christ"?
  • What are some indications of social Darwinism in Ransom's initial outlook regarding the planet and its various species as well as in Weston's attitude towards Malacandra? Keep in mind, also, Weston's views on scientific progress.
  • How are Weston and Devine representations of an evolutionary perspective that is based on perceived progress and ultimately unrealistic promise of science?
  • How is Ransom's journey from Earth to Malacandra and then through Malacandra in his trek to meet Oyarsa indicative of a spiritual adventure involving the archetypal steps of the mystic's journey to God that involves the following: awakening, purgation, illumination, dark night, and union (see explanations of each below).
  • What are the various landscapes involved in Ransom's journey and how are they relevant to a spiritual journey towards union with God?
  • What, ultimately, separates Earth--or Thulcandra, the "Silent Planet"--from Malacandrian society? How does Oyarsa's reacton to Weston and Devine imply that Earth is a "bent" society?
  • Define and explain the philosophical meaning of the novel and its basis as a critique of modern society as essentially Godless.
  • How is Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet an extension of the creation story and Milton's Paradise Lost?
  • How does fear of death play a role as a plot device that moves the story forward?
  • What is the role of philology as a plot device that moves the story forward?
  • Create your own question and answer.

What you will essentially be doing is taking these questions and making thesis statements of them that will inform your body paragraphs. The aim of your body paragraphs will be to use specific textual evidence to back up the various claims made in your thesis paragraph.

Your essay should be double-spaced in 12 pt. Georgia font and should follow MLA format for all citations.

Your front page should include a heading formatted as follows:

Your Name

Bro. Robert Peach, FSC

Eng 141 / British Literature

March 10, 2009

(a creative title that is centered, but not in bold or underlined)

Body paragraphs...

Some Key Terms

  • awakening: involves the expansion of one's consciousness and one's conscious experience of the world, revitalizing the self in relationship to the world, heightening one's intuitive sense in a way that magnifies the interior life of the individual; awakening is thus a psychological awakening, a deepening of one's awareness of forces that are both cause for joy and of pain in light of the divinity which the mystic aspires to grasp as a result of his felt separation from the Divine.
  • purgation: involves renunciation of worldly attachments that distract the mystic from reaching out to the world more charitably and prophetically; directly related to the concept of self-denial and ego-death, purgation requires utter self-sacrifice and a disregard for all distractions of ego-desire, often through a sustained period of sensory deprivation.
  • illumination: involves a catharsis, or release, of psychological tension stored up after a period of sustained self-sacrifice and sensory-deprivation characterized by a sense of physical, emotional, mental, and intellectual radiance; involves a feeling of absolute harmony with the Absolute, leading inevitably to a heightened intuitional knowledge and expansion of consciousness.
  • dark night: involves a sense of emptiness that follows illumination; involves a profoundly painful sense of self-awareness together with a lack of God-awareness--a sort of doubt and a shocking knowledge of one's "smallness" in the universe and the grand scheme of things; the inner longing for union with God becomes acute; entails psychological fatigue as well as physical exhaustion.
  • union: a gradual merging with God, preceded by a deep healing, an increasing sense of "oneness with God--as well as oneness with other selves and, indeed, the whole of creation" (Richard Woods 55).
  • Mystical Body of Christ: stemming from St. Paul's theology, it entails the unity of all individuals within creation, contributing equally to the spreading of God's kingdom of love by way of natural talents and abilities
  • Utopia: An imaginary island, represented by Sir Thomas More (1516), in a work called Utopia, as enjoying the greatest perfection in politics, laws, and the like.
  • Philology: the study of literary texts and of written records, as well as language, the establishment of their authenticity and their original form, and the determination of their meaning

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin on Survival, Descent, and Evolution


In chapter three of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, he makes the case—as the chapter title suggests—for his theory regarding “The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” Darwin defines the term, “natural selection,” and its part in a process which he calls “the universal struggle for life” (Darwin 1255). In the chapter, “General Summary and Conclusion” from The Descent of Man, Darwin goes further to expound upon the basic thrust of his evolutionary theory regarding humankind: “man is the co-descendant with other mammals of a common progenitor” (Darwin 1260). He goes on to give various bases for a system of thought known as “Social Darwinism”: a theory that says “competition among all individuals, groups, nations, or ideas drives social evolution in human societies” (from Wikipedia).

That said, I would like you to do the following:

· Sum up, using Darwin’s words, the ideas of natural selection and the struggle for survival according to what he has written in “The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.”

· Pinpoint four statements of Darwin that proffer a basis for “Social Darwinism.” Rewrite them and explain how they fit in to the philosophy set forth by the Social Darwinists (see section on subject in your fun pack to help you elaborate).

· Your responses should be fully developed, typed, and according to proper format for heading, quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing.

· Please submit to me on hard copy by Friday, February 20, 2009.

Also, continue reading Out of the Silent Planet, chapters 5-10, and underline key passages that suggest the mentality of Social Darwinism.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

JSTOR and Paradise Lost

Ok Bros:

I hope you haven't forgotten about the wonderful resource that is JSTOR.

I would like you to choose an article to summarize. Please include at least three quotes from the article to help us get a good sense of what it's all about.

Please post your summary on the blog (hard copy if you cannot access blog).

Your summary is due this Friday, February 6, 2009.


Below are some basic MLA (Modern Language Assocation) guidelines for incorporating quotations into your paper:

Short Quotations

  • To indicate short quotations (fewer than four typed lines of prose or three lines of verse) in your text, enclose the quotation within double quotation marks.

  • Provide the author and specific page citation (in the case of verse, provide line numbers) in the text, and include a complete reference on the Works Cited page. Punctuation marks such as periods, commas, and semicolons should appear after the parenthetical citation.

  • Question marks and exclamation points should appear within the quotation marks if they are a part of the quoted passage but after the parenthetical citation if they are a part of your text. For example:

According to some, dreams express "profound aspects of personality" (Foulkes 184), though others disagree.

According to Foulkes's study, dreams may express "profound aspects of personality" (184).

Is it possible that dreams may express "profound aspects of personality" (Foulkes 184)?


Long Quotations

  • Place quotations longer than four typed lines in a free-standing block of text, and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented one inch from the left margin; maintain double-spacing.

  • Only indent the first line of the quotation by a half inch if you are citing multiple paragraphs. Your parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark. When quoting verse, maintain original line breaks. (You should maintain double-spacing throughout your essay.)

JSTOR options for articles on Paradise Lost:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Performing The Merchant of Venice

ENG 141 / British Literature
Bro. Rob Peach, F.S.C.
Performing The Merchant of Venice

To develop a deeper understanding of Shakespeare’s craft as a playwright
To work cooperatively to dramatize selected scenes


1. The class will break into acting companies to prepare scenes for presentation.
2. Each acting company will prepare a promptbook for its scene. The additional handouts provide more specifics about the promptbook and the preparation of the scene.
3. In addition to presenting a scene from The Merchant of Venice, each acting company will write and present a one minute commercial promoting some consumer product which relates to one of the following:

The Merchant of Venice
Current Events

4. Each company is allotted four class days to complete this assignment:

Each company will likely have to work outside of class to meet the presentation
Deadline of January 28, 2009

5. To receive an A each actor must try to memorize his lines. The highest grade a group will receive if the actors choose not to memorize their lines is B+. The commercial must also be memorized and include visual aids.

Suggested Scenes

I.1.1-83 Salarino and Solanio try to help Antonio determine why he is sad.
I.3.106-194 Shylock, Antonio, and Bassanio set the terms for the loan.
II.4 Lorenzo, Gratiano, Solanio, and Salarino try to arrange a masque for
Bassanio’s dinner. Lancelot gives Lorenzo Jessica’s letter.
II.7. Portia and Morocco together discuss chests
II.9.1-90 Nerissa, Portia, and Arragon: choosing the silver casket
III.2.1-110 Portia, Bassanio have a dialectic about love and the game
III.2.111-222 Portia, Bassanio, Gratiano, and Nerissa share in each other’s joy
III.1.23-72 Shylock, Salarino, Solanio: “Hath not a Jew…?”
IV.1.169-418 Courtroom scene: “The quality of mercy…” Duke, Portia, Shylock,
Bassanio, Gratiano, Nerissa
V.1.192-249 Portia is upset that Bassanio gave away the ring to the lawyer. Gratiano,
Portia, Bassanio, Nerissa

Instructions for preparing your scene

You have four class days to complete the preparations and to memorize your lines. Be productive. Be creative. Do your best. Your classmates and I look forward to your production.

1. Appoint a director and cast the scene. When you perform, each person in the company should have a chance to be on stage with at least one line.

2. Read through the scene aloud at least once, preferably twice. Decide collectively on the cuts and make the cuts right away. Your scene should not take longer than ten minutes to perform. The commercial should take about two minutes and is not included in the ten minutes for the scene. Read the scene aloud after you have decided on the cuts, timing yourselves, and making necessary adjustments. Allow extra time; performing a scene takes more time than just reading it.

3. Talk about characters: What they want in a scene; how they talk and move. Decide upon each character’s actions and gestures during the scene.

4. Memorize your lines if you want an A.

5. Plan costumes and props. These do not have to be elaborate, but should show that you took the trouble to think about what would best convey the impression you are after.

6. Appoint a prompter and establish clear signals about how the prompting should be handled. If actors are not memorizing their lines, write the lines and cues on large note cards to glance at during the performance.

7. Give your acting company a name.

8. If you like, plan extra touches like music, sets, and programs.

9. Throughout this process, record your decisions in a Director’s Promptbook, due the day the scene is presented.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Merchant of Venice, Acts III and IV

Ok Sweethearts,

Please answer one question from each of the following scenes in complete sentences.

Be sure to indicate from which act and scene you are taking the question.

Do not forget to include your heading, indicating your name, my name, the course number, and the date.

This is due on the blog or hard copy by Thursday, January 8, 2008.

Lord Peach

Act III Scene 1

1. Do we have reason to sympathize with Shylock in his upset and anger? Explain. Also: How is he portrayed comically throughout the scene? How as a villain? How as a romantic?

Act III Scene 2

2. Do you think Bassanio is only after Portia for the money? After all, see I.1.ii 129-41. How might the dialectic (intellectual exchange, or discussion) between Bassanio and Portia in this scene (by which Bassanio is tested to both prove his love and win that of Portia) indicate otherwise? Explain.

3. How is it that Bassanio could be classified as a “bankrupt spendthrift” based on his pursuit of Portia and what we can gather from his external image?

4. Portia is certainly described as beautiful, but how else might we consider her beauty based off of what Bassanio says in lines 120-26 or thereabouts?

5. How does Gratiano’s sudden coupling with Nerissa contrast with what our obnoxious friend said earlier in conversation with Solerio and Solanio? What effect does this pairing have on the play in relationship to Bassanio and Portia’s union?

6. Contrast what is going on in Belmont versus what is happening in Venice at this point of the play? What does this contrast provide for us as an audience?

7. Recall Gratiano’s words, “We have won the fleece” (i 241), upon return from Belmont to Venice. What does this say of his attitude regarding love/marriage?

8. Bassanio’s calls himself “worse than nothing” (i 260). Why?

9. How is Portia portrayed as both a charitable and rational woman in the last part of this scene? Explain.

Act III Scene 3

10. What does Shylock have working to his favor? Is he willing to bestow any mercy upon Antonio? What does this situation imply about societal law and how it was administered?

11. Antonio is said by Shylock to have called him what? And so how does Shylock decide to act? What literary technique is used with, then, with such imagery in mind?

12. Antonio seems to want Bassanio to witness his suffering. Why do you think that is? What do you think he wants to demonstrate to Bassanio, especially considering that Portia is now in his best friend’s life?

Act III Scene 4

13. What is the plan that Portia and Nerissa set in motion towards the end of this scene? Consider their initially planned disguise: Why is it appropriate in a sexist society that they would disguise themselves as such?

Act III Scene 5

14. Here we have a brief, humorous dialectic between Lancelet and Jessica. Summarize it, in brief and discuss its thematic significance.

Act IV Scenes 1 and 2

1. What is the reason Shylock gives for his repulsion of Antonio? What are some of the metaphors he uses?

2. What is the Duke trying to persuade Shylock to do? Whom has the Duke favored? What is Antonio’s response to all of this?

3. Consider the master/slave dynamic that’s playing out in this “dramedy” (or is it, “dramady”?). Anyhow, what are the various master/slave pairings that develop throughout the story? That is, who is beholden or indebted to whom? How so?

4. Gratiano makes a clever play on words (i.e., “pun”) in lines 125-28. What does he mean by saying what he does of Shylock’s “soul”? What is his general attitude towards Shylock? Gratiano compares him to what? What is this literary technique called?

5. Portia and Nerissa disguise themselves as what/whom?

6. What does Portia say of mercy, man, and God? (cf. ii 190-212)

7. Male friendship. Brotherhood. As we’ve discussed, both are very important in Elizabethan England and are thus incorporated into Shakespeare’s drama of Italian life as strong themes. See lines 276-299 and summarize the dialogical exchange (i.e., dialogue) between Antonio and his best bud, Bassanio.

8. What legal loophole does Portia jump through to save Antonio? What are the consequences for Shylock? What does Antonio decide? What does his decision reveal regarding his character? Has he been transformed at all by his experience?

9. What do you think the significance of Portia and Nerissa’s “ring game” with their respective lovers is? Tell me more, tell me more, tell me mooooo---eee----ooore!