Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Code Duello

From Sam Milligan (section 001), here are a couple of PBS sites (here and here) explaining the rules for dueling. I should add that, if I've incorrectly calculated your quiz point total, I prefer a less dangerous way of resolving the dispute.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Those Extraordinary Twins

Via Maegan Cary (section 002), here is a link to Those Extraordinary Twins.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Quiz 12 (take-home; due in class 5-5-10)

Pudd’nhead Wilson may or may not be your favorite text of the semester. Even if it isn’t, though, I think we can all acknowledge that it works perfectly well as a novel in and of itself. It can be said even to resemble an episode of the TV series Law and Order, since what we get in the first chapters is the commission of several crimes, in the middle chapters an investigation of those crimes, and in the final chapters a dramatic courtroom scene in which those crimes are revealed.

So why Those Extraordinary Twins? Why in the world might Twain have taken a perfectly good novel in Pudd’nhead Wilson and appended to it the strange “do-over” that Those Extraordinary Twins represents? For Wednesday, read all of the novella that concludes Twain’s text and think about its relationship to the main text. Then, as best you can, explain in ~500 words why you think Twain decided to rewrite the novel with the one significant variation involving Antonio and Luigi.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Quiz 10

We discussed in class today how Harriet Jacobs presents a set of discrete incidents in her text rather than a seamless narrative. For Friday, finish the book then ask yourself which one incident from chapters 30-41 stands out to you as most important or evocative. Explain why in ~500 words.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mark Twain, Literary Critic

A link to a piece in yesterday's New York Times about the marginal notations Twain would make in the books he read. To know he read so widely and commented so pointedly may make Pudd'nhead Wilson seem all the more interesting a text.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Audiobooks for Jacobs, Stowe, etc.

David Hellberg (section 001) lets us know about a website, LibriVox, that provides free audio versions of several of the books on the syllabus. Both Stowe and Jacobs are available, e.g.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Monday's class CANCELED

I am called out of town on Monday, 4/12. Class will not meet. Instead we will discuss chapters 27-35 of Uncle Tom's Cabin on Wednesday and the remainder of the novel on Friday. Enjoy your day off (from English 303, anyway)!

Week 11 Lectures

DOWNLOAD 4-9-10 lecture.

DOWNLOAD 4-7-10 lecture.

(There is no lecture to download for 4-5-10 since the heat forced us outside. Elements of that lecture are incorporated into the 4-7 and 4-9 lectures.)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Uncle Tom's Cabin & American Culture

The University of Virginia hosts an excellent site devoted to Uncle Tom's Cabin and its cultural contexts. In addition to information about its publication history and Stowe's life, it indexes a large number of images, many of them illustrations of the various editions of the novel published from 1851 (when it was first serialized) onward. Those of you who like to analyze visual culture might see the potential for a paper #3 here--how do the images in one edition compare to another, e.g., and/or how do they compare to what Stowe herself authors in the text?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Quiz 8 (Take-home; due Monday, 4-5)

For Monday, read Uncle Tom's Cabin, chs. 1-8 + Stowe's preface. As you do, keep in mind that Benito Cereno was published only three years later and, of course, that it is also about slavery. Do the comparisons end there. Identify one interesting commonality or difference between the two texts and discuss it in ~500 words.

Week 10 lectures

DOWNLOAD 4-2-10 lecture.

DOWNLOAD 3-31-10 lecture.

DOWNLOAD 3-29-10 lecture.

Dickinson, Demonized!

Abby Morgan (section 002) contributes this interpretation of "My Life had stood--a Loaded Gun." It's a very original analysis--and a surprisingly plausible one, if one takes the "demon" to represent some force to which Dickinson feels drawn even though her society and religion forbids it. In any event, it suggests once again how extraordinarily flexible, hence meaningful, this amazing poem is.

"Sedgwick, Hawthorne, and Me"

A belated post, but as I say, I'm catching up. . . .

Rosalind Whitley (section 001) produced these in conjunction with the paper #1 assignment.

What does a woman have to do to get noticed at an English department function?

Week 9 lectures

DOWNLOAD 3-26-10 lecture.

DOWNLOAD 3-24-10 lecture.

DOWNLOAD 3-22-10 lecture.

Walt, Wordled

Recently I stumbled across a site named wordle, which allows you to create "word clouds" from any piece of text you copy and paste into its generator. A word cloud measures the frequency of individual words and then arranges them into a picture in which the words that occur most often appear largest.

What's above is the 1855 version of "Song of Myself," wordled. Big surprise as to which word is the largest!

Updating the blog. . . .

As you may have noticed, I've fallen behind on blog updates. I'll catch up this weekend. Stay tuned. . . .

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dickinson en Deshabille

Billy Collins, the former U.S. poet laureate, has a poem about Dickinson that you may appreciate, given the last few we studied. I cannot find a recording of Collins reading it, but here is the poem plus a reading of it by Garrison Keillor.

Collins' own reading of his poetry is always entertaining. If you've never read or heard him, start with this one, "The Lanyard," among poetry's great odes to motherhood.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Quiz 7 (Take-Home; due Monday, 3-29)

(The quiz originally scheduled for Friday is now moved to Monday. For Friday, we will discuss those Dickinson poems in which death proves conspicuous.)

We will devote next Monday’s discussion to what is perhaps Emily Dickinson’s most famous and most complex poem: “My life had stood—a Loaded Gun” (Pearson 209-210). None of her poems has attracted a broader range of interpretations than this one. What I want you to do for Monday is to develop your own. Do so by answering the following questions first:

Who or what is speaking in the poem?
What is the “Life” to which the speaker refers?
Why is this “Life . . . A Loaded Gun”?
Who is the “Owner”?

Read and reread the poem, testing as you do various possibilities until you find a combination that seems to work. You might think back over the other poems we have read and discussed to assess whether this poem seems to belong to one or more of the thematic categories we have identified. Once you have settled on a set of answers, develop an interpretation of the entire poem in which you explain how your understanding of its metaphors work.

Monday, March 22, 2010

With Emily ... the Skipper, too ... the Millionaire, and His Wife!

Apparently my singing Emily Dickinson was so bad that Abby Morgan (section 002) decided we needed a proper version. Here it is, complete with visuals:

Well done!

Week 8 Lectures

DOWNLOAD 3-19 lecture.

DOWNLOAD 3-17 lecture.

DOWNLOAD 3-15 lecture.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Paper #2

Here is the handout for your second paper, due Friday April 2.

On Exploring. Lying About It. . . .

Stacie McDaniel (section 001) sends along the following link to Cracked.com's very funny (and also very smart) take-down of some of Europe's most famous explorers, including our very own (we get to claim him now) John Smith.

Quiz #6

For Friday, read the Dickinson poems in the Pearson anthology, pp. 187-191. All are more-or-less about poetry itself. For your take-home Quiz, think about one way in which, different though they are, Whitman and Dickinson may be thought of as similar. Discuss by way of specific references to the poetry of each. (~500 words, due at the beginning of class)

Whitman, Pitch Man

As part of a recent ad campaign, Levi's used two Whitman poems, "Pioneers! O, Pioneers!" (1865) and "America" (1888), to promote its brand. (Both poems were eventually incorporated into later editions of Leaves of Grass.)

Here they are. What do you think? What would Whitman have thought?

Note: the first commercial uses what may be the only recording we have of Whitman's voice.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Week 7 Lectures

DOWNLOAD 3-5-10 lecture.

DOWNLOAD 3-3-10 lecture.

DOWNLOAD 3-1-10 lecture.

Additional Poe Texts

In lecture I referred to Poe's review of Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales, in which he offers his view that effect is the most important aspect of any literary work, and his essay, "The Philosophy of Composition," in which he explains (truthfully or not) how he composed "The Raven." Here are links to those works.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The A stands for. . . .

Abby Morgan (section 002) answers the question.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

HOPE LESLIE's Central Character

Laura Dickey's (section 002) argument, via YouTube.

"Would a madman have been so wise as this?"

Mark Harken (section 002) sends along this link to a great rendition of "The Tell-Tale Heart" read by Derek Banner.

Monday, February 22, 2010

"Mrs. Hutchinson"

Here is a link to what seems to be a reliable version of Hawthorne's 1830 sketch, "Mrs. Hutchinson," to which I have alluded in lecture.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Salem Witch Trials

At the beginning of ch. 2, Hawthorne discusses the crowd gathered to watch Hester's ascent to the scaffold and mentions that "at a later period in the history of New England," such a crowd would have indicated that someone was about to be killed ("It could have betokened nothing short of the anticipated execution of some noted culprit . . ."). What he's alluding to are the Salem Witch Trials, which took place during the early 1690s, or about forty years after the period represented in The Scarlet Letter. (The allusion here is oblique, but, hey, this is Hawthorne. In an earlier short story, "Rappaccini's Daughter," he claims not to have written the story but to have translated it from a French story from a writer named Monsieur L'Aubepine. "L'Aubepine" is the French word for "Hawthorne," so he was claiming to have borrowed the story from himself. Talk about oblique.)

The are many websites devoted to the trials. The University of Virginia's is the best I know of. Of note: Hawthorne's interest in the trials was more than merely historical, for his great grandfather was actually one of the judges who condemned supposed "witches" to their deaths.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Week 4 Lectures

DOWNLOAD 2-12-10 lecture.

DOWNLOAD 2-10-10 lecture.

DOWNLOAD 2-8-10 lecture.

William Apess

For those of you who may want to know more about William Apess, Google Books makes available portions of his 1831 autobiography, A Son of the Forest,the first such book we have from a writer of Native American descent.

Apess also wrote a history of a 1670s English-Native war from the natives' persepective--a project very much in keeping with Hope Leslie and its giving Magawisca a voice to tell her side of the Pequod War.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Paper #1

Your first paper is now due Wed., 2/24. The assignment sheet may be accessed here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Now that you've finished the novel. . . .

Thanks to Brooke Jackowski (section 002) for passing this along!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Quiz #2 (Take home: Due in class 2-8-10)

On page 188 (vol. 2, ch. 2) of Hope Leslie you will encounter a scene in which the following words are spoken:

‘God forbid! . . . My sister married to an Indian!’

If we were to do a spot-passage quiz on Monday, this would be one of the passages I would ask you to identify. Since we are a bit behind in this course—and since a take-home quiz will conserve ten minutes of class time and perhaps make for a more focused discussion—I’m going to go ahead and make Quiz #2 a take-home quiz.

For Monday, type up a 400-500 word (or 1-page, single-spaced) response to the following questions. Bring your response paper to class.

Who speaks these words? To whom is she speaking? And above all, why does she say them?

To answer the “why” question, think about two things. First, what is going on in the character’s mind that would move her to say them? And, second, why might Sedgwick have included this scene in the novel? What risks do you see her taking, if any? Does it make you think differently of the characters involved?

Week 3 Lectures

DOWNLOAD 2-5-10 lecture.

DOWNLOAD 2-3-10 lecture.

DOWNLOAD 2-1-10 lecture.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Mystic Massacre

American Public Television and the Rhode Island PBS put together an excellent documentary on the Pequot War a few ago. A website associated with the documentary provides additional information about the war and the Mystic Massacre, the event that in effect "begins" Hope Leslie.

Anne Bradstreet & Mary Rowlandson

Here are links to the two additional writers mentioned in lecture on Monday, Anne Bradstreet and Mary Rowlandson. Each proves that women could find a voice in the public sphere even in 17th-century New England, though only perhaps in certain genres (poetry and personal narrative, e.g.) and only if she made clear her intent to glorify God and celebrate rather than disrupt Puritan society.

Give them a look. Bradstreet's "The Author to Her Book" is my favorite poem of the period.