Welcome to English 1101, Introduction to Composition.
Over the course of this semester we will explore the America’s literary history through fiction, poetry, speeches, legal documents and other primary source manuscripts from various periods, locations and times. You will also be engaging in high level writing and research assignments geared to preparing you for Advance Composition next semester.
I look forward to our journey through American Literature together!
Over the next two days we will be reading the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. A feminist, social reformer and novelist, Gilman based the story of “The Yellow Wallpaper” on her own experiences with depression and the popular 19th century ‘rest cure’. In her short story she examines the impact that this ‘cure’ has on the mental state of her female protagonist, and makes a clear statement against the control that a patriarchal society held over every aspect of women’s lives in the 19th century.
As we examine this text, remember to apply the lens of Feminist Criticism to your analysis. If you’ve forgotten how to do this, remember:
Feminist Criticism: Feminist criticism is concerned with the impact of gender on writing and
reading. It usually begins with a critique of patriarchal culture. It is concerned with the place of female writers in the literary cannon. Finally, it includes a search for a feminine theory or approach to texts. Feminist criticism is political and often revisionist. Feminists often argue that male fears are portrayed through female characters. They may argue that gender determines everything, or just the opposite: that all gender differences are imposed by society, and gender determines nothing.
Advantages: Women have been underrepresented in the traditional cannon, and a feminist approach to literature attempts to redress this problem.
Disadvantages: Feminists turn literary criticism into a political battlefield and overlook the merits of works they consider “patriarchal.” When arguing for a distinct feminine writing style, they tend to relegate women’s literature to a ghetto status; this in turn prevents female literature from being naturally included in the literary cannon. The feminist approach is often too theoretical.
Checklist of Feminist Critical Questions:
- To what extent does the representation of women (and men) in the work reflect the place and time in which the work was written?
- How are the relationships between men and women or those between members of the same sex presented in the work?
- What roles do men and women assume and perform and with what consequences?
- Does the author present the work from within a predominantly male or female sensibility?
- Why might this have been done, and with what effects?
- How do the facts of the author’s life relate to the presentation of men and women in the work? To their relative degrees of power?
- How do other works by the author correspond to this one in their depiction of the power relationships between men and women?
Paul Laurence Dunbar was an American poet, novelist, and playwright of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dunbar’s parents had both been slaves prior to the Civil War, and he was apart of the first group of African Americans to be born free and emancipated from slavery in the United States. His work focused on the dialect and language of the Southern slaves and African Americans, though he had a difficult time publishing this work. He wanted to record and preserve the language of the southern African Americans, as slaves had been kept illiterate, and he knew that this history would be lost. Eventually Dunbar would go on to write poems, stories and articles in standard forms, and would receive acclaim and praise for them.
In class we are analyzing Dunbar’s poem ‘We Wear The Mask’, and tracing how not only the tone of the poem shifts in each stanza, but also how the speaker feels about the ‘mask’ they where. Please be sure to analyze this poem thoroughly, and it will be on your test!
As we continue to look into the topic of Education in America in order to answer our essential question ‘Do we provide an equal education to all citizens?’, we turn our attention to the prolific post-post-modern writer David Foster Wallace and his commencement address to the graduating class of 2005 at Kenyon College.
In this commencement speech Wallace addresses and poises a few questions for his readers/audience:
- How do we understand the ‘real world’, if we only live it through our own immediate experiences and point of view, where we are the ‘center of the universe’?
- How much of the task of adapting our world view actually involves or requires ‘higher education’?
- How do you construct meaning from experience?
- What is the difference between ‘teaching you how to think’ and ‘learning what to think about’?
- What is the role of higher education in your everyday life?
Consider these questions as you read the speech, and prepare for a collegiate discussion of the text in class tomorrow.
The audio of this commencement speech is available on YouTube if you would like to hear Wallace deliver it himself. Additionally, I have included a link to the full version of the speech, as a few paragraphs were missing in our textbook’s abbreviated version.
We’ve reached the last essay in our preparation for the exam in May – rejoice! Q3, or the Argumentative Essay, is similar in form to Q1, The Synthesis Essay. You will be required to take a position on a topic – either defend, qualify or challenge – and support your argument with evidence. However, unlike the Synthesis Essay, College Board will not be giving you a packet of 8 sources to pull your information from. You must come to this essay with enough personal experience, observations from current events and real-world situations and knowledge of readings/texts, that you can cite reliable evidence off the top of your head.
For those of you that do not feel comfortable with current events or the scope of your literary background, you may want to spend some time between now and May reading, reading, reading.
Before we dive into how to write the Argumentative Essay, watch the short video below that will help to explain the essay a bit more.
Now that you’ve watched the video, let’s look at the 2007 prompt:
Notice the prompt is much shorter than the Synthesis Essay, though it follows the same basic format: pick a position, and argue that position.
For the Argumentative Essay we are going to use the ‘PRO’ method of pre-writing and brainstorm. This will ensure that you are writing a well-balanced argument, and that you use the required types of evidence.
If you were to do this for the 2007 prompt it would look something like this:
You may use personal pronouns in this essay, however, you must be careful to maintain a mature authorial voice. If you’re not sure you can do this, I would try not to use the personal pronoun ‘I’ too often.
As you can see, the depth and maturity of your writing will depend on the PRO evidence you can provide – mature personal experiences, in-depth knowledge of relevant texts, and astute and applicable observations of the world around you. If you do not feel comfortable with aspects of your ability to ‘go PRO’ for this paper, please see me for suggested readings and activities you can do on your own to improve your chances of scoring a 3 or higher on the exam.
“We know almost nothing about the 14th century Italian painter Laurentius de Voltolina, except that his signature appears on one of the most remarkable images of the late middle ages. The drawing appears in a preserved […] manuscript […] by a medieval scholar named Henricus de Alemania (Henry the German). We scarcely know more about Henericus than we do Laurentius. All we can say for sure is that he is the figure at the front of the class in the famous illustration that decorates his book. This drawing by an obscure painter in a virtually unknown manuscript has become famous in our day as one of the earliest concrete pictures of a medieval university classroom. […] The reactions of the students give us a window into education in the 14h century […] some of the students, primarily in the front row, listen to his words with rapt attention. Other follow along studiously in the text. Towards the back of the room, students seem more distracted; some look bored, others are socializing with each other, and at least two appear to have fallen asleep. It is, in other words, like many college classrooms today.”
As we begin our next unit over the argumentative Q3 essay for the AP Language exam, we will be focusing our reading through the lens of education, and will specifically be looking to answer the essential question: “How do we provide an equal education to all citizens?”.
We’ll be answering this question through a series of documents from a variety of sources in order to help you improve your ability to make text-connections during the Q3 essay. You will have the chance to practice the essay itself, and build other skills through Socratic seminar, collegiate discussion, and a series of projects.
You did an excellent job today of starting your discussion of this essential question by deciding to break it down further and negotiate the specific meaning behind this question. In doing so you clarified that by ‘provide’, we should instead rephrase our question to reflect ‘the opportunity for’. Additionally, you chose to define’equal education’ as meaning ‘equal regardless of economic means, race, gender, religion, disability, ect.’. You further defined the idea of the ‘education’ you were discussing as one ‘that takes into account a student’s learning style, that differentiates, that has highly trained teachers, that provides students access to technology, promotes good student/teacher relationships, and that prepares students for the real world’.
Your revised essential question is therefore: “How do we provide the opportunity for all citizens, regardless of economic means, race, gender, religion, or disability, for an education that takes into account a student’s learning style, that differentiates, that has highly trained teachers, that provides students access to technology, promotes good student/teacher relationships, and that prepares students for the real world?” Whew! That’s a difficult question to answer – but I’m sure you guys will do a great job working towards that answer the next two weeks!
You also did a wonderful job today connecting the similarities and differences with the image above to the modern classroom. Be sure to take notes in class over our seminars and discussions, and this material can still show up on any quiz or test we have! 🙂