Isabel Allende, “And of Clay Are We Created”

–What do you think the significance of Allende’s title is? What does it mean to be made of clay? –

-What happens to Rolf in his encounter with Azucena?

–Why do you think Azucena becomes a symbol of the tragedy that is unfolding in the story?

–What did you make of the President’s visit to the site of the disaster? What kind of commentary is Allende making here?

–How can you connect this story with your own experiences of natural or other disasters? Are there elements of the story that you can relate to? How?

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Toni Morrison, Recitatif

  • How is the theme of maternity explored in the story? Give at least two examples.
  • Morrison adds issues of class to what is already a complicated story about race. Why? Where in the story do you see evidence of this?
  • What is the meaning of Morrison’s title, Recitatif? How does it work as a title for this story?
  • What are Twyla and Roberta fighting about in the section about school busing? What’s going on between them?
  • Is the story’s perspective on race relations ultimately pessimistic or optimistic? Why?
  • Why do you think Morrison chooses not to be explicit about which girl is African American and which girl is Caucasian?
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Essay #3: Structure and Organization

How does one organize an essay about two different texts?

To begin, let me state the obvious:  Before you begin to draft your essay, you MUST have a plan!  It doesn’t matter whether your plan is a traditional outline or just a list of body paragraph ideas, but you need to sketch out the structure of your essay before you begin to write.

When I write a paper, I start by collecting the “textual evidence” that I want to use (all the quotations and examples from the text that address my question).  Then I sort the evidence into different paragraphs, based on the idea that each piece of evidence illustrates or supports.  Then I decide what order of paragraphs would be most effective.  This means that before I begin writing my first draft I already know what idea each body paragraph will be exploring, what textual evidence I will be including in each body paragraph, and what order I will be presenting my ideas in.

For your final essays, you have two different possible paths for organizing your body paragraphs:  The Sequential Option and The Alternating Option.  I describe both below.  The alternating option is slightly more challenging to execute.  It works best when you discover that your texts are very closely aligned and that the ideas you have about one text hold true for the other text as well.  Do not “mix and match.”  Choose one of these structures, and stick with it!  These examples each have three ideas.  I just stopped at three because that was enough to make my point; I would imagine that you would have at least three ideas for each of the texts you’re writing about.  By “ideas,” I mean claims about the text that respond to your over-arching question.  Each of these ideas gets its own body paragraph.  You will notice that in both options, only the introduction and conclusion discuss the two texts together in a single paragraph.  Each body paragraph focuses on a single text.

The Sequential Option 

1.Introduction:  Lays out your question in relation to both Text A and Text B

2. Text A – Idea #1

3. Text A – Idea #2

4. Text A – Idea #3

5. Text B – Idea #1

6. Text B – Idea #2

7. Text B- Idea #3

8. Conclusion – Brings together Texts A and B, recaps the argument you have made in the body of your paper, and provides an answer to the “so what?” question.  What are the implications of what you have shown us in this essay? What do we learn from it?

The Alternating Option

1.Introduction – Lays out your question in relation to both Text A and Text B

2. Text A – Idea #1

3. Text B – Idea #1

4. Text A – Idea #2

5. Text B – Idea #2

6. Text A – Idea #3

7. Text B- Idea #3

8. Conclusion – Brings together Texts A and B, recaps the argument you have made in the body of your paper, and provides an answer to the “so what?” question.  What are the implications of what you have shown us in this essay? What do we learn from it?

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Jamaica Kincaid, “Girl”

–How would you describe the STYLE of this text? Be specific in illustrating your response.

–Where do we see conflict in this text?  What is the nature of the conflict?

–What does this text tell us about the expectations placed on girls and women?

–Explain the text’s last line: “you mean to say that after all you are really going to be the kind of woman who the baker won’t let near the bread? “.

–Choose a specific instruction or prohibition from the text that stands out to you.  What do you make of it?

–To what extent do you feel that you have been given, either explicitly or implicitly, instructions about what it means to be a woman or a man?  Share an example of an instruction that you have received.

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Tayeb Salih, “The Doum Tree of Wad Hamid”

–The narrator tells us that “every new generation finds the doum tree as though it had been born at the time of their birth and would grow up with them.” What do you make of this?

–What seems to be the story’s perspective on the government in newly independent Sudan? What’s the relationship between the government and the villagers?

–Explain the shift in narratorial perspective in the final passages of the story? How does it change our own view of the text

–At the end of the story, the old man refers to his own son and says, “it is my hope that he will stay where his is and not return.” How do you explain this?

–What do you think this story’s ultimate perspective is on the issue of tradition vs. modernity?

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Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen

–What did you learn from this story that you did not previously know about life in Nazi concentration camps?

–This story can be described as a kind of “initiation story” for the narrator. How is he changed or transformed by the events of the narrative?

–A tall, grey-haired woman who has just arrived on the “transport” whispers, “My poor boy,” to our narrator. What does she mean?

–“Are we good people?” asks our narrator. What is this exchange about? What do you think?

–Explain the significance of the story’s title, “This Way to the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen.” What seems strange about it?

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Extra Credit Opportunity

As I explained in class, I am offering this assignment as an extra credit opportunity, so do not feel any pressure to squeeze it into your schedule during this busy time of year. However, if you are looking for fun things to do over your Spring Break, a visit to one of these museums could be a nice way to spend some time and get out of your usual routine.

As an extension of our study of Modernism, you are invited to explore Modernism in visual art through a visit to one of the NYC museums listed below.  (Check the museum’s website before your visit for information about location, hours, etc…)

Museum of Modern Art ( 11 W.53rd Street

         CUNY students can visit MoMA for free.  When booking your visit, click on the button that says “Reserve Affiliate Tickets”.

 Neue Galerie (www.neue 1048 Fifth Avenue

         This small museum focuses specifically on Austrian and German art.  It is housed in a beautiful mansion.  Admission is free on the first Friday of every month.  All other times, student admission is $12.

 The Metropolitan Museum of Art ( 1000 Fifth Avenue

         This museum is “pay as you wish” for full-time students in NY and for all NYC residents.  In addition to the many modernist works in its permanent collection, there is also a temporary exhibition called “The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism” on view.

At the museum, you will select one piece of work created between 1890 and the beginning of WWII in 1939 that you believe can be described as modernist.   It might be helpful to keep in mind that impressionism, expressionism, cubism, and surrealism are all streams of modernism.   Choose a work that calls to you!  While you are at the museum, take a picture of the work, and spend some time taking notes about what you notice both in the work and in your response to it.

On our course blog, post an image of the work (either a photograph taken by you at the museum or an image found online) and a post of 400-500 words about the work.  If you consult any sources to complete this assignment, please include that information.  It’s fine to look up basic biographical information, but all description and thoughts about the work you’ve selected should be entirely your own.  Please include the following elements: 

–Basic information about the artist.

–A description of work you selected.

–An analysis of how this work reflects the aesthetic preferences associated with Modernism.

–A description of the context in which you encountered the work. 

–An explanation of what drew you to this piece.

–Any questions you have about the work.

***To receive “extra credit” for this assignment, your work must be posted to our course blog by Monday, May 13th.

Please retain proof of your visit to the museum to be submitted to me in class after your visit.  You can do this by showing me your ticket stub in class or by sending me a photo of your ticket.

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Franz Kafka, “The Metamorphosis”

–Do you think that Gregor is more powerful BEFORE or AFTER his metamorphosis?  Explain your response.

–How is Gregor’s family transformed in the wake of his metamorphosis?

–At the end of the second section of the story, Gregor’s father pelts him with apples.  What do you think this episode is about?

–Gregor emerges from his room one last time when he hears his sister playing her violin for the lodgers.  What is the significance of this? What meaning does music hold for Gregor here?

–Ultimately, what do you think Gregor’s metamorphosis means?  What does it mean to be transformed into a giant bug?

–Explain your understanding of Gregor’s death.  How/why does he ultimately die?

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Lu Xun, “In the Wineshop”

–The story’s narrator is revisiting a place he once lived. Explain the significance that this “revisiting” has in relation to the themes of the story.

–What is the connection between our narrator and Weifu? Why do you think so much of the story is spent on Weifu’s life, while the narrator shares very little about his own life experiences?

–Explain the significance of the story about reburying Weifu’s little brother?

–Weifu recalls when he and the narrator used to pull the beards off religious statues in the Temple when they were younger. What is the significance of this memory?

–Describe an instance of filial piety in the story. What is its significance?

–What aspects of this short story seem to you to be particularly modernist?

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T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

  • The poem opens, “Let us go then, you and I….” Whom do you think the speaker is addressing here?
  • What is Prufrock’s relationship to time?  How can you tell?
  • Look at the description of the yellow smoke in the second and third stanzas of the poem. What do you make of this description?
  • “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,” laments Prufrock. What do you think this line means?
  • Describe the overall mood of the poem. What feelings does it leave you with?
  • In the final lines of the poem, the speaker shifts from “I” to “We.” How do we explain this shift?
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Extra Credit

This art piece is named Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones, and Tints, Portrait of M. Félix Fénéon done by Paul Signac in 1890. To understand the meaning of this portrait we need to know who Félix Fénéon is. When Signac and the likes of him had started the movement neo-impressionism in French painting, Felix was the one that coined that term and defended the movement. 

Paul Signac using Felix in his painting was symbolic especially since it was neo-impressionism. I believe that was also the reason the painting caught my eye. Compared to other paintings I saw it was full of color and pattern. For example, the use of the kaleidoscopic pinwheel was unique because it had different patterns relating to algebra with the use of pointillism. Another detail I found interesting was how the flower Felix is holding resembles is goatee. This goes to show how intentional Signac was in incorporating Felix in his painting.  

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Extra credit museum visit

This piece is called Percolator, by Stuart Davis. He is an early American modernist painter. He lived from 1892 to 1964. He took inspiration from Jazz and pop to make his art, and was one of the first artists to apply for the Federal Art Project. This piece, Percolator, sees a white background with many different shapes within it. There is a clear number 6 here, and also what looks like a gas tank to the left of it. What I believe to be a gas tank, along with many sleek lines and shapes, goes to show the ideals of the time. Factory working and efficiency, yet also something deeper in the hearts of the workers, which is what I see to the right of this gas tank, is an open room to enter. I found this piece while looking for modernist pieces in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and it immediately struck my eye. It’s open, yet closed off. Efficient and fast, yet soft and inviting. It’s modernist aspects really come to life here.

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Extra Credit Museum Visit

Gino Severini Italian,1883-1966 Visual Synthesis of the Idea: “War” 1914 oil on Canvas
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