Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Congratulations to Caeley Arney, the first student to solve the mystery of May the fourth.

And the early-bird bonus points go to Caeley and these nine additional students: Grey Sacona, Breanna Bowman, Paige Lewis, Bryan Alba, Luke Noble, Madison St. Clair, Ruben Castillo, Joe Van Story, and Joe Robins! Well done, and May the Fourth be with You!

What links English 242 to the British actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller? The answer is three characters, two that we reflected on when we moved online in March and a third that’s the focus for the final week of the course, which begins today.

Both Cumberbatch and Miller have played the role of Sherlock Holmes; Cumberbatch portrayed him in the BBC series Sherlock (2010-17), set in present-day London, and Miller played him in the CBS series Elementary, which transformed the Scotland Yard detective into an investigator in present-day New York City. In between the launches of those two series, Cumberbatch and Miller performed together in the Royal National Theatre production of Frankenstein (2011). The two actors alternated the roles of Victor and the Creature and shared the Olivier Award (the equivalent of Broadway’s Tony) for their performances. The pairs of photographs that follow feature Cumberbatch and Miller as Holmes and in their dual roles in Frankenstein.

Top: (L-R) Cumberbatch and Miller as Sherlock Holmes / CBS, BBC; Bottom: Trading the roles of Victor and the Creature in Frankenstein / Royal National Theatre

Playwright Nick Dear‘s Frankenstein and the series Sherlock and Elementary are but three of the many adaptations that attest to the enduring appeal of the narratives that bookend our semester. The popularity of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s detective and his many incarnations in film and television inspired the first of three options for your blog response this week.

Option One:

Have you watched Sherlock, Elementary, or one of the Holmes films featuring Robert Downey, Jr. as the title character? If so, address the similarities and differences between the portrayal of the detective on screen and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s portrayal of him in “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” If you write about Sherlock or Elementary, don’t focus on the obvious difference in the time setting, ditto for the location (New York City) of Elementary. Include both the title of the series/film and the actor’s name in your response.

Option Two:

The Adventure of the Speckled Band” belongs to the subgenre of detective story known as the locked room mystery, in which a murder occurs in a closed space where the perpetrator seemingly vanishes into thin air, and there are few, if any, suspects. Which detail about the locked room mystery of Julia Stoner’s death, or her bedroom where the murder took place, do you find most intriguing?

Option Three:

In The Norton Anthology of British Literature, the editor notes that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle named “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” as his favorite Sherlock Homes story and that “[m]any fans have agreed; readers’ polls over the years have frequently rated ‘The Speckled Band’ as the best Holmes story of all” (920). If you have you read another Sherlock Holmes story that you favor over “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” write a response that addresses its merits. If you’ve read other Holmes stories and prefer “The Speckled Band,” explain why.

Extra Credit:

It’s no mystery why the force is with us today, but how does May the fourth figure in one of the works of Victorian literature that we’ve studied? In your response, cite the two lines that together solve the mystery. Follow each quotation with a parenthetical citation.

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

Work Cited

Robson, Catherine. Biographical Note: “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1859-1930.” The Norton Anthology of British Literature: The Victorian Age. 10th ed. Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor. W.W. Norton, 2018. pp. 920-21.

Congratulations to Breanna Bowman, the first student to identify the error in “Dr. Lanyon’s Narrative.” And the early-bird bonus points go to Breanna and these nine additional students: Joe Robbins, Madison St. Clair, Joe Van Story, Ruben Castillo, Luke Noble, Caeley Arney, Allison Lasher, Kenna Sipe, and Ashton Canipe! Well done!

The date of Jekyll’s letter to Lanyon should be January 9, not December 10. Here’s the note on the error in The Norton Anthology of English Literature:

Stevenson’s own error; the first sentence of ‘Dr. Lanyon’s Narrative’ makes it clear that the letter should be dated ‘9th January.’ Literary critic Richard Dury attributes the slip to the following circumstances: Stevenson had originally wanted to publish his story in time for the Christmas market and align Lanyon’s witnessing of Hyde’s transformation with December, a time for mysterious events. Later he forgot to change the detail. (794n1)

Work Cited

Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 1886. The Norton Anthology of British Literature: The Victorian Age. 10th ed. Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor; Catherine Robson, Volume Editor. W.W. Norton, 2018. pp. 767-809.

As I reread the last chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, John Tenniel’s illustration of the cards “flutter[ing] down” on Alice reminded me of my earliest memories of Robert Louis Stephenson. He was part of my childhood not only as the man behind A Child’s Garden of Verses but also as one of the faces that stared out from the cards in my hand when my sister, my cousins, and I played the game of Authors.

Writing of Stevenson as a children’s author, the Scottish novelist Margot Livesey notes:

That I and so many others came to his work so young has made us consider him a children’s author from whom we have little to learn as adults. This opinion is one that his contemporaries would not have shared, either in his particular case or as a general rule. Victorian adults felt free to embrace so-called children’s books without apology. Stevenson’s father often reread The Parent’s Assistanta volume of children’s stories, and Virginia Woolf records being taken to Peter Pan on her twenty-third birthday with no signs that this was a childish treat.

Though Stevenson’s first commercial successes were two of his books for children—Treasure Island and A Child’s Garden of VersesThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde marks a major departure from the realm of childhood, a journey into what Livesey calls “[t]he labyrinthine streets through which we pursue Hyde.”

Writing of the experience of reading Stevenson’s Gothic tale, Livesey observes that

[s]lowly but inexorably we are being led into a strange country, where the relationship between Jekyll’s prim white hand and Hyde’s orgiastic hairy paw will be revealed. The two are not merely opposites, or alter egos. In [novelist Vladimir] Nabokov’s helpful analogy Hyde is a precipitate of Jekyll. We might also think of him as Jekyll’s son.

That idea of Hyde as Jekyll’s son inspired the first option for this week’s assignment.

Option One:

Henry Jekyll’s scientific ambition and its monstrous product, Edward Hyde, link Stevenson’s novella to one of its Gothic precursors, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Do the similarities between Victor Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll seem more apparent in Dr. Hastie Lanyon’s accounts of Henry Jekyll, or in Jekyll’s own “Full Statement of the Case”? Why?

Option Two:

The editor of the Victorian volume of The Norton Anthology of British Literature notes that “our familiarity with the outline of the story may not prepare us for the psychological and ethical complexity of the original” (Robson 766). What passage in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde best exemplifies that complexity?

Option Three:

In “The Double Life of Robert Louis Stevenson,” Margot Livesey names Mr. Utterson, Jekyll’s lawyer, as “the best possible witness to the horror of Hyde.” Do you think Utterson is the best character to guide readers through the story? Which other character might serve as guide, and how would that change alter the narrative?

Extra Credit:

Early in “Dr. Lanyon’s Narrative,” Robert Louis Stevenson made an error that went unnoticed by his editor. What is it?

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

Works Cited

Livesey, Margot. “The Double Life of Robert Louis Stevenson.” The Atlantic, , Nov. 1991, Accessed 24 Apr. 2020.

Robson, Catherine. Biographical Note: “Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850-1894.” The Norton Anthology of British Literature: The Victorian Age. 10th ed. Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor. W.W. Norton, 2018. pp. 765-66.

CONGRATULATIONS to Keara McCann, the first student to identify the reference to Shakespeare in Chapter 3 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

In “A Caucus Race and a Long Tale,” the narrator describes the Dodo as standing “for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him).”

And the early-bird bonus points go to Keara and these nine additional students: Courtney Powell, Bryan Alba, Emily Brown, Joe Van Story, Ruben Castillo, Madison St. Clair, Ashton Canipe, Joshua West, and Crowson Roosa! WELL DONE!

Work Cited

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 1865. Project Gutenberg, Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.

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.

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, Accessed 20 Apr. 2020.