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Questions and Answers (continued)
Literature (add predicate)
“Literature is a point outside of our hodiernal circle, through which a new one may be described. The use of literature is to afford us a platform whence we may command a view of our present life, a purchase by which we may move it.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles”
“Literature is news that stays news”
Poetry and Poetics
There is no way you cannot have a poetics
no matter what you do: plumber, baker, teacher
you do it in the consciousness of making
or not making yr world
—Dianne di Prima, “Rant”
“To ask a poet about poetry is like asking a bird about ornithology.
To ask a critic about poetry is like asking a dog about a hydrant.”
Readers of poetry are interested in different things. Some readers are interested in poems. Other readers are interested in poetics, ideas about the making of poems, as well as the discussion that poems generate and the myriad reasons for poems and poetry. For example, one of my interests in exploring how poems come alive for me, and for others, and trying to share that experience with others who may be interested. This is difficult and ongoing work. Among the best ways to share poems is to read them aloud and then to model how to think through (and with) a poem. One hopes that with practice the thinking through (and with) the language of poems becomes a habit.
Below are a selection of statements, by poets and critics, about poems and poetry. Browse the selections to find examples that affirm what you already think about poems or that perhaps opens you up to a new way of thinking about poems and poetry.
“Any poem is an. . .inquiry into the resources of language it makes available to itself.”
“A Poem is a composition written for performance by the human voice.”
—the editors of the Norton anthology of Poetry
“Poetry is language at its most intense.”
—The editors of The Practical Imagination
“Poetry is the kind of thing poets write”
“A poem is a walk.”
“Poetry is anything said or put on paper in such a way as to invite a certain kind of attention.”
“What the poet is called upon to clarify is not answers but the existence and nature of questions; and his likelihood of so clarifying them for others is made possible only by dialogue with himself.”
“Poetry is the way we [the pronoun is gender specific here, “for women poetry is not a luxury. . .it is a vital necessity] help give names to the nameless so it can be thought.”
“Poetry is the skilled and inspired use of language.”
“Poetry is discovery and projection of the self.”
—Richard Wilbur (“It is myself that I remake,” W.B. Yeats)
“Poetry is a kind of saying.”
—Robert Penn Warren and Cleanth Brooks
“Poetry is an action that mediates and sustains the self in the world.”
I look for the way
things will turn
out spiralling from a center,
things will take to come forth in
so that the birch tree white
touched black at branches
will stand out
totally its apparent self:
I look for the forms
things want to come as
from what black wells of possibility,
how a thing will
not the shape on paper—though
that, too—but the
uninterfering means on paper:
not so much looking for the shape
as being available
to any shape that may be
from the self not mine but ours.
Criticism and Theory (continued)
What is English?
What is Literature?
What kind of questions are these? See Culler 20–41. Page 22, “What is a weed?” See Michael Pollan Weeds are Us
Ralph Waldo Emerson, who as a gardener really should have known better, once said that a weed is simply a plant whose virtues we haven’t yet discovered. “Weed,” that is, is not a category of nature but a human construct, a defect of our perception. This kind of attitude, which draws on an old American strain of romantic thinking about wild nature, can get you into trouble. At least it did me. For I had Emerson’s pretty conceit in mind when I planted my first flower bed, and the result was not a pretty thing.
Having read perhaps too much Emerson, and too many of the sort of gardening book that advocates “wild gardens,” and nails a pair of knowing quotation marks around the word weed (a sure sign of ecological sophistication), I sought to make a flower bed that was as “natural” as possible. Rejecting all geometry (too artificial!), I cut a kind of kidney-shaped bed in the lawn, pulled out the sod, and divided the bare ground into irregular patches that I roughly outlined with a bit of ground limestone. Then I took packets of annual seeds—bachelor’s buttons, nasturtiums, nicotianas, cosmos, poppies (California and Shirley), cleomes, zinnias and sunflowers—and broadcast a handful of each into the irregular patches, letting the seeds fall where nature dictated. No rows: the bed’s arrangement would be natural. I sprinkled the seeds with loose soil, then water, and waited for them to sprout.
SO WHAT IS A WEED? I consulted several field guides and botany books hoping to find a workable definition. Instead of one, however, I found dozens, though almost all could be divided into two main camps. “A weed is any plant in the wrong place” fairly summarizes the first camp. The second maintains, essentially, that “a weed is an especially aggressive plant that competes successfully against cultivated plants.” In the first, Emersonian definition, the weed is a human construct; in the second, weeds possess certain inherent traits we do not impose. The metaphysical problem of weeds is not unlike the metaphysical problem of evil: Is it an abiding property of the universe, or an invention of humanity? Weeds, I’m convinced, are really out there. But I am prepared to concede the existence of a gray area inhabited by Emerson’s weeds, plants upon which we have imposed weediness simply because we can find no utility or beauty in them. One man’s flowers may indeed be another’s weeds. Purple loosestrife, which I planted in my perennial border, has been outlawed in Illinois, where it has escaped gardens and now threatens the wetland flora. Likewise, I pull easily enough dandelions and purslanes from my vegetable garden every day to make a tasty salad for Euell Gibbons. What I call weeds he might well call lunch.
“She is convinced that when language dies, out of carelessness, disuse, indifference and absence of esteem, or killed by fiat, not only she herself, but all users and makers are accountable for its demise. In her country children have bitten their tongues off and use bullets instead to iterate the voice of speechlessness, of disabled and disabling language, of language adults have abandoned altogether as a device for grappling with meaning, providing guidance, or expressing love. But she knows tongue-suicide is not only the choice of children. It is common among the infantile heads of state and power merchants whose evacuated language leaves them with no access to what is left of their human instincts for they speak only to those who obey, or in order to force obedience.”
Word-work is sublime, she thinks, because it is generative; it makes meaning that secures our difference, our human difference – the way in which we are like no other life. We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives.”
—Toni Morrison, 1993 Nobel Lecture
A Common Project
Alyssa: we are all in this (English) together, but for different reasons; writing the book list as discovery
Criticism and Theory
Meeghan: What is the difference between criticism and theory (particularly pertaining to literature)?
While critics usually dig for a deeper meaning, they use literary theory to do so. It is a ‘toolbox’ of sorts that can be used to justified various types of criticism. Something I have found very interesting about literary theory is the idea that text and pieces of literature are more the product of a culture than an individual writer. The idea that culture creates a text and, therefore, that text creates culture is fascinating.
Paige: and essay on reading and writing and “voluntary reading”
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” — Oscar Wilde.
“There are things to be learned about oneself through the process of writing. It asks you; are you patient? Are you kind? Are you able to look into someone’s eyes and experience their thoughts as your own?”
Definitions and Difficult Questions
Aidan: In my opinion, it does not need to use special language to be considered the textbook definition of literature. If we look at the definition of what it is, it states that literature is writing that holds great artistic value or superior value. But what does that even mean? Who decides that? When you strip away all the scholarly titles and awards and merits, then someone’s opinion of what literature is means just as much as a scholar’s does. It is all subjective and there is no real definitive answer to what is considered literature and what isn’t. A children’s book can hold just as much “Artistic Merit” as an old manuscript written by Newtown or other scholars, it just depends on who you ask. To a child, a book about Christmas or the ABC’s obviously holds more merit than a page out of a Newton’s diary, while a page out of Newton’s diary will have more artistic merit to someone in the field than a children’s story. Asking these broad questions about such a complex subject is, in my opinion, ridiculous. The same people asking these questions are the ones who know there is not going to be a correct answer. So by asking these things, it’s just inviting people to have discourse. It is very hard to think about, let alone try to explain or answer which is why when we were given this assignment, it actually concerned me since I had no idea how to tackle this, and I still don’t.
Blogs and Blogging
Our blogs are so important because we can finally share our own ideas with the world and other people can build off of our ideas. In many ways, the creation of our blogs can also directly link to the definition of English, where we can critique and analyze pieces of writing with our own pieces of writing. That, to me, is exactly what English is all about: finding meaning within a wall of words. We use words to interpret other words, and so on. Our blogs are just the streetlamp that illuminates the path we are headed down with English.
What is English?
Umbrella term: takes many forms and emphases: the study of language
Lauren finds a sentence after considering a few departments, including Bowdoin English:
“English . . . is based upon building skills as a reader and implementing those skills as a writer and editor.”
Julia finds words at Harvard English
“We think about, study and write about the artful ways in which people can and do use words”
Personally, I think this is perfect. While evaluating the meanings of literature and fiction and analysis, what brings them all together is how and why words are used. This brings everything back to the basic definition of English; the language itself.
Final words of her essay
After thinking long and hard about exactly why I have chosen to dedicate my life to literature, I have realized that I want to make people connect to the world around them in ways they could not foresee. I want to help people, and my definition of helping is to show the tragic beauty of the world we live in through voices that can express it fluently; in other words, I want to teach literature.
Imaginative literature (imaginative and non-imaginative)
Content (literature) and skills (critical thinking, analysis and argument, professional writing): it appears that most departments are talking more about the latter (skills) and less about the former (content, or literature)
A workshop on marginalia, annotation, explication, analysis, interpretation
“Faith” is a fine invention (202)
“Faith” is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see—
But microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.
Perception of an object costs (1071)
Perception of an object costs
Precise the Object’s loss —
Perception in itself a Gain
Replying to its Price —
The Object Absolute — is nought —
Perception sets it fair
And then upbraids a Perfectness
That situates so far —
“Hope” is the thing with feathers – (314)
“Hope” is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul —
And sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all —
And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard —
And sore must be the storm —
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm —
I’ve heard it in the chillest land —
And on the strangest Sea —
Yet — never — in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of me.
Calm comes from burning.
Tall comes from fast.
Comely doesn’t come from come.
Person comes from mask.
The kin of charity is whore,
the root of charity is dear.
Incentive has its source in song
and winning in the sufferer.
Afford yourself what you can carry out.
A coward and a coda share a word.
We get our ugliness from fear.
We get our dangers from the lord.
—Heather McHugh, The Father of the Predicaments, 1999
Explication of Etymological Dirge annotations
Week Two: On reading and Writing in School
Lauren: “I truly believe I am the person I am today because of the literature I was exposed to throughout my days in school.” we are what we read
Jacob: love of stories and storytelling; Stories made from other stories (Percy Jackson) and retelling stories through Fanfiction
Meeghan: Appreciation of language (read to as a child); Love of Reading and book Discussions
Aidan: Reading and writing as “escape” and therapeutic (Matthew Crawford, the world beyond your head: on becoming and individual in an age of distraction, sustained attention)
Meeghan: Learning about self and world through reading
Jacob: reading as a way into different cultures (past and present)
Paige: Reading as a writer
Reading in school
Lily: books chosen by teacher were good books (“classics”) that might not read on own
Trent: “I just am unable to get into forced reading.”
Aidan: teacher cared about what we thought (not recycled questions)
Julia: read Thomas C. Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor
Meeeghan (and Lauren): Challenge of Reading vs. peers content with Sparknotes and plot summary
Jamie: Mrs. Locke. She was the typical “everything has a deeper meaning” English teacher, I think I might’ve been the only one in the class who enjoyed that about her. I found myself being taken by surprise by different things she would point out to me in the books we read.
Reading and ideas: Advanced Studies Program at St Paul’s School: Forbidden Fictions. (Banned Books: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Persepolis by Marijane Satrapi, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, and The Black Maria by Aracelis Girmay.)
“I don’t like work–no man does–but I like what is in the work–the chance to find yourself. Your own reality–for yourself not for others–what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show and never can tell what it really means” (Conrad 19).
Jamie (situational) “my relationship with reading can be a bit unstable”
Nick: “The main reason why a reading was excruciating in high-school, also correlated with the interest level the reader had in the subject. One of the questions I frequently asked myself was: “Why am I reading this”.
“As an athlete, I would always push through temporary pain in order to meet my ends. I think that my perception of reading is very similar to that as I am not enjoying it as much as writing, but I will most certainly complete assignments in order to reach my objective.”
“Finally, I would say that reading and writing in school is something necessary that everyone will go through. From texts that will be forgotten to the most meaning passage of one’s life, these two aspects will be a vital part of anyone willing to be educated. When thinking is involved as well, these three major components of education can truly alter’s someone’s way of thinking and that was, and still is, a reality for me.”
Reading outside of school
Lily : Reading Hunger Games with dad
Jacob: to organize thoughts and to tell stories, “to create order from chaos”
Trent: to learn more about myself
Meeghan: Honors ITW and writing about interest (sustainable consumption)
Meeghan: Working on papers for months, doing them step by step, process.
Paige: when the writing unravels: importance of picking up the pieces: not only interest but intent (purpose?)
Lily: very often in school writing is about reading
Julia: writing about interest and in context in which teacher and peers care
Paige: writing from or to a rubric (the A is easy) vs. “so what”? Why does this writing matter to the writer?
Meeghan: Peer Tutoring: “My hope is to go into the publishing field as an editor and plagiarism and copyright infringement are definitely issues that editors encounter.”
Paige: “The ecosystem of an essay depends on the climate, and it took time for me to understand how each form demands its own style. While each form shares the same initial structure; an initial topic, an intro, body, and a conclusion, there remains stark differences between what is considered an academic essay and what is a personal essay.”
Trent: “My other problem was research essays. A big thing was that they were very repetitive. We had to do them all the time and they would all be the same page length and about a topic we didn’t care about. I think we had one essay ever where we got to pick what we were writing about, but the options were from a list, so it was like kind of meeting in the middle. But with that said, I cannot for the life of me remember what the topics were.”
Lauren: Rubrics, outlines, 5-paragraph essays, busywork
Nick (on feedback): “As far as writing goes, teachers would very rarely give grammar tips and focus heavily on the content, but when grading took place, the opposite was observed frequently. I found that quite ironic, but the teaching model for writing is obviously very hard to deviate from previous experiences because the art itself is at the same time extremely distinct in style, but similar in actuality.”
“My experiences reading and writing in school is somewhat interesting because despite the fact that I’m an English major and want to be an author, I don’t like reading.”
Penultimate paragraph in Lily’s paper:
The final essay I want to include is my college essay. I believe this essay was one of the best I wrote, and I also have to give thanks to my 11th and 12 grade teacher Mrs. Kaste. She had us write about anything that came to our mind without stopping for eight minutes straight about five times until we found something personal that we could show had meaning to us.
Near end of Aidan
“The best example I can think of is my college essay that I had to submit before applying to Keene. This is probably my best work, the one I am most proud of, and the one that I really would say is my crowning essay achievement. I was able to sit down and reflect on everything in my life up to that point, almost like looking back at my very own autobiography, and pick out my most defining chapters to write about in my essay.”
“Knowing exactly what you are writing about is probably the number one most important thing you need to have in order to write a successful essay.”
Domain of One’s Own
- Creating an Integrated Domain
- Learner – Learning Environment – Network
- Building and Sharing
Integrated Domain (multiple courses, other college experiences, personal interests)
Kscopen > Documentation
- username is ksc Net ID
- create a password
- domain name: your first and last name or a domain that is distinctive but portable
- install word press (nb: under settings, enter your username and password)
- bookmark cPanel and go directly to My Apps (your sites) or WordPress for installations. Or to go directly to your site go to https://yoursite.kscopen.org/wp-admin/
The English Program encourages students to develop sophisticated ways of understanding, creating, and responding to texts.
Production and Reception: The program teaches how historical, social, and cultural contexts shape literary works—including those works produced by cultures whose humanity and identity have been devalued, denied, or dismissed
Language and Poetics: The program introduces students to the major genres of literature, rhetorical and literary strategies, and the ways in which literary works relate intertextually
Criticism and Theory: The program introduces students to historical contexts and critical theories that shape literary analysis and inform scholarly debates in the field of literary studies
Reading and Writing: The program teaches careful reading, the use of literary vocabulary, an orderly critical approach, and the use of writing for a range of purposes