Posted in Reading, Teaching, Theatre, Writing

ENG 126: Drama Follow-Up, Introduction to Poetry

Drama Follow-Up

Thank you for all of your thoughtful and detailed feedback on the untitled monologue and The Story of Shabath. Before we turn from drama to poetry, I offer these follow-up notes:

Untitled Monologue

  • Mia noted the problematic detail of Deen’s parole. I didn’t mention that issue in my introductory remarks because it’s one with an easy fix. The officer needs a motive for his encounter with Deen, but that motive needn’t be a parole violation. A confrontation prompted by an unrelated minor offense—such as a speeding ticket or a shoplifting arrest—would add to the monologue’s irony. That said, who other than an officer might prompt Deen’s rant?
  • Brendan, Zane, and Brandy recommended delaying Deen’s revelations about her role in her family’s tragedies. I addressed the subject of sequence in my previous post for the same reasons that Brendan, Zane, and Brandy mentioned. If the audience is introduced to Deen as an unlikable young woman but one who is nevertheless a devoted friend to Carol, the revelation that Deen is responsible for her parents’ death and her brother’s paralysis will transform her from mildly annoying to morally reprehensible. The structure of that transformation might be similar to that of Donald Barthelme’s “The School,” as Brendan suggested.
  • Trevor recommended “Six Feet Under” and “An Inconvenient Inheritance” as possible titles. Is there a line of Deen’s—such as “So here’s the thing”—that might serve as the title?

The Story of Shabath

  • Trevor suggested that the monorail could appear as a projected image in the background, and that sound effects and props could differentiate Shabath Aizwald’s memories. Those recommendations remind us that playwrights’ scripts—unlike creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry—are starting points for collaboration (among the director, the actor/s, and the technical crew); it’s important to imagine how the story might move from page to stage. Trevor’s mention of props and sound effects leads me to Mia‘s observation about the number of acts and scenes
  • If stage hands costumed as citizens of Laghaz entered and exited with the props that signal shifts from one memory to the next, those visual cues could enable the monologue to unfold as one seamless scene.
  • Brennan, Zane, Mia, and Brandy observed that the audience learns more about the kingdom of Laghaz than they do about Shabath himself. What motivated him to found Faya? What in particular was painful about his regenerative process? What were the physical and emotional costs, and how might Shabath convey those through his words and actions?
  • Mia noted Shabath’s potential drug problem. Whether the elixir he injects is medicinal or detrimental to his health, its effects could develop his character and serve as a source of tension.
  • Brennan‘s words “the rain . . . mixed with a man pondering his life on a high-speed monorail” brings to mind  Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a novel that the writer might find instructive to read, or reread, with an eye toward the rendering of the speech of the bounty hunter Rick Deckard.

To the writers of both scripts, I recommend Jane Wagner‘s play The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. It’s a one-woman show featuring a series of monologues linked by the narrator, Trudy, a deranged bag lady who befriends alien visitors who are studying Earth as “a planet still in its puberty” (136). I recommend it to the writer of the untitled monologue for the characters’ diction and speech patterns. To the writer of The Story of Shabbath, I recommend examining how Wagner’s monologues develop the individual characters while also addressing social problems.

Work Cited

Wagner, Jane. The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. 1985. Harper & Row, 1986.


Introduction to Poetry

As we turn from drama to poetry, consider again Janet Burroway’s, Carolyn Kizer’s, and Theodore Roethke’s observations about the similarities between the two genres:

Her [Carolyn Kizer’s] mentor Theodore Roethke . . . advised thinking of a poem ‘as a three-act play, where you move from one impulse to the next, and then there is the final breath, which is the summation of the whole.’ Kizer points out that Roethke’s poem ‘I knew a Woman’ (p. 127) contains the line ‘She taught me turn, and Counter-turn, and Stand,’ which is ‘the essence of the dramatic structure. It’s what a long poem has to do. It doesn’t require physical action, but there has to be some mental or emotional movement that carries through the poem.’ (313-14)

If a poem mimics dramatic structure and involves movement, it will need, like a story or drama, to achieve conclusion. In Roethke’s description, this achievement is the ‘final breath,’ or, in his line above the ‘and Stand’ of the poem. (314)

In Chapter 10 of Imaginative Writing, Janet Burroway includes three self-reflexive poems about language and writing (319-21). If you haven’t chosen a subject for your workshop poem/s, consider writing a poem that focuses on language or one of your own pieces of writing, another poem or a work of prose.

You might also try writing an ekphrastic poem: one about or inspired by another work of art. “Overblown,” the sample poem that I posted for you on Blackboard, is an ekphrastic poem that I wrote based on Momoyo Torimitsu’s Somehow I Don’t Feel Comfortable (the giant inflated pink rabbit in the photo) for an Art of Poetry Catawba Valley event at the Hickory Museum of Art.

For additional models and sources of inspiration, I encourage you to reread these poems in Imaginative Writing:

  • “I Knew a Woman” by Theodore Roethke (127)
  • “Nude Interrogation” by Yusef Komunyakaa (156)
  • “A Story about the Body” by Robert Hass (187)
  • “Columbine High School/Littleton, CO” by Albert Goldbarth (188)
  • “Woodchucks” by Maxine Kumin (188-89)
  • “The Hammock” by Li-Young Lee (189-90)
  • “The One Girl at the Boys Party” by Sharon Olds (312-13)

Also consider reading Louise Glück‘s “Gretel in the Darkness” as well as her poems posted on the Poetry Foundation website.

Since you are working on your poetry workshop assignment this week, you are not required to post a comment in response to this post, but I strongly encourage you to post one of the following as a brief response:

  • Any other poems in Imaginative Writing that you recommend to your classmates as models or sources of inspiration
  • A link to a poem that you admire and would encourage your classmates to read
  • Any of Janet Burroway‘s “Try This” exercise that have been helpful to you as you’ve drafted your poem/s

Remember to check your CVCC email and Blackboard regularly for updates and assignments.

Work Cited

Burroway, Janet. Imaginative Writing. 4th ed. Pearson, 2014.

Posted in Reading, Teaching

ENG 242: “Curiouser and Curiouser!”

The title of this post, “Curiouser and Curiouser!,” is the first line of Chapter 2 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Though the phrase is grammatically incorrect—as Alice acknowledges later in the sentence (the standard comparative is “more curious”)—it’s a fitting response for someone who finds herself, as Alice does, “opening out like the largest telescope that ever was” (Carroll ch. 2). “Curioser and curiouser!”: apt words for Alice, as well as for us as we slog our way through these nonstandard days in Coronaland.

Before the curiousness of Chapter 2 begins, in Chapter 1, Alice asks, “What is the use of a book . . . without pictures or conversation?” With those words of Alice’s in mind, consider the illustrations in the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ones drawn by Carroll’s collaborator, John Tenniel. (Since they aren’t included in the Project Gutenberg edition that you’re reading, I have included a link to them above).

Alice Liddell photographed by Dodgson (Carroll) / W.W. Norton

If you had received your copies of Volume E of the Norton Anthology, you would see in its pages the picture of Alice Liddell here. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Caroll)—who photographed Liddell and was a friend of hers—was an early advocate of photography, which was a new art form in the Victorian era. Liddell was the inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, but she wasn’t the model for Tenniel’s illustrations.

Costumed in rags for this picture, Alice Liddell was far from a beggar child; she was the daughter of Dean Liddell, principal of Christ Church College of Oxford University, where Dodgson (Carroll) taught mathematics.

Dodgson’s profession as a mathematician leads me to the first of four options that I have developed for your assignment on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Be sure to read the directions (below the options) before you begin, and note the extra-credit opportunity that follows the directions.

OPTION ONE: Although the Alice books are his legacy, Dodgson was a mathematician by profession. Address one or more passages in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that are demonstrably the product of a mathematical mind.

OPTION TWO: In The Norton Anthology’s introduction to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandthe editor notes that both Alice books “provide a wealth of information about the forms and contents of a well-to-do little girl’s education at the mid-point of the Victorian era” (724). Address one or more passages that reveal details of the “forms and contents” of Alice’s schooling.

OPTION THREE: In 1989, two American high school students who were researching Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland made a new discovery about Chapter 3, one that led to the publication of their findings in Jabberwocky, (now named The Carrollinian), the British journal of the Lewis Carroll society. Read the New York Times article about the students’ discovery, and address both the discovery and the “Long Tale” of Chapter 3.

OPTION FOUR: Read “9 Ways Artists Have Imagined Alice in Wonderland,” and address one of the nine artists’ illustrations. Include the artist’s name and cite at least one short passage that the illustration captures effectively.

DIRECTIONS: Compose a comment of at least fifty words. Include a minimum of one quotation from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland introduced with a signal phrase and followed by a parenthetical citation. If you name Carroll in the signal phrase, include only the abbreviation for the chapter followed by the chapter number. For example: (ch. 1). If you do not name Carroll in the signal phrase, include the author’s last name, the abbreviation for the chapter, and the chapter number. For example: (Carroll ch. 1). Note that the c is lower case. For more information on citations, see OWL. Post your comment no later than 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 23.

EXTRA CREDIT: Emily Brown was the first student to identify the ghost of Hamlet’s father as the literary ghost that the narrator mentions in the first stave of A Christmas Carol. That earned Emily an extra-credit assignment in the participation and preparedness category. Shakespeare himself is mentioned in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The first student who posts a comment identifying the sentence that mentions him will receive an extra-credit assignment.

Remember to check your CVCC email and Blackboard regularly for updates and assignments.

Work Cited

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 1865. Project Gutenberg, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/11/11-h/11-h.htm. Accessed 20 Apr. 2020.

Posted in Reading, Teaching, Writing

ENG 011/111: Readings for Reflection

Your third and final essay for English 111 will be a reflection on your work over the course of the semester. Think about what you’ve accomplished, and ask yourself what element or elements of our class have contributed the most to your development as a writer, a reader, and a thinker. You are welcome to focus on one component of the course—such as studying Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, or planning, drafting, and revising one of your previous essays—or you may reflect on a variety of features, including the ones I just mentioned as well writing for an online audience, studying model essays in The Norton Field Guide to Writing, writing in your journal, drafting longhand, writing snail mail, or playing Scrabble.

In your essay, you will cite at least one text that’s relevant to your reflection. For example: If your reflection addresses how the study of Educated benefited you as a writer, you might quote a short passage of Westover’s memoir that you found particularly instructive. If you reflect on developing your word power and creative problem solving skills through Scrabble, you might quote The New York Times article “New Scrabble Words Get the ‘OK’ (Now Worth 6 Points).”

As an opportunity for you to think about the aspects of the course that you may address in your reflection and for additional practice in introducing quotations with signal phrases, I developed the following exercises for this week:

Option One:

  1. Read the article “Blogs vs. Term Papers” by Matt Richtel.
  2. Compose a short passage of twenty-five words or more that addresses your experience maintaining a blog this semester and includes a relevant quotation from the article.
  3. If you name Richtel in the signal phrase, do not include a parenthetical citation. If you do not name him in the signal phrase, include a parenthetical citation with his name alone: (Richtel).

Sample: Here’s what I would write if I were reflecting as an instructor on your blog requirement.

In “Blogs vs. Term Papers,” Matt Richtel reports that Andrea Lundsford’s students who maintain blogs for their composition classes at Stanford, “feel as if they’re actually producing something personally rewarding and valuable, whereas when they write a term paper, they feel as if they do so only to produce a grade.” That value some students find in writing for a broader online audience is one of the reasons that I require my students to maintain blogs. It gives their writing a life beyond the classroom.

Option Two:

  1. Read the article “Skim Reading is the New Normal” by Maryanne Wolf.
  2. Compose a short passage of twenty-five words or more that addresses your experience reading away from the screen this semester (primarily before remote instruction began) and includes a relevant quotation from the article.
  3. If you name Wolf in the signal phrase, do not include a parenthetical citation. If you do not name her in the signal phrase, include a parenthetical citation with her name alone: (Wolf).

Sample: Here’s what I would write if I were reflecting as an instructor on our time spent reading away from the screen.

Psychologists’ studies that indicate “students who read on print [are] superior in their comprehension to screen-reading peers” (Wolf) have led me to devote more class time to reading on the page rather than the screen.

Remember to check your CVCC email and Blackboard regularly for updates and assignments.

Works Cited

Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers.” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/education/edlife/muscling-in-on-the-term-paper-tradition.html, 20 Jan. 2012, Accessed 20 Apr. 2020.

Wolf, Maryann. “Skim Reading is the New Normal.” The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/25/skim-reading-new-normal-maryanne-wolf, 25 Aug. 2018, Accessed 20 Apr. 2020.