I wanted to use this post to circle back to a conversation we had in class late last week, where several classmates and I raised our concerns/critiques of Nobakov’s “Good Readers and Good Writers.” I want to reiterate and clarify that, although I understand the need for a framework when reading in a literature class, I deeply disagree with his argument about things “good readers” do. Nobakov says that in order to be a “good reader” one must use an “impersonal imagination,” where they do not see themselves in the story nor connect it to their own life, but instead properly immerse themselves in the world they are reading about. I see where he is coming from here, but I stand by that a key rule of art–maybe the only rule art has–is that the artist gets no say in how people interpret their work. To try and demand how a reader sees your writing is not only impossible, but also somewhat narcissistic. It’s a sign of a god-complex: a hubris large enough to think that an author has the right to control the inner workings of a readers brain. One of the most valuable aspects of art is the variation in how different people interpret the same piece. When Nobakov tries to control how we read, he attacks that aspect of the process, which does a disservice to the readers and to the work itself.
Category: Course Stuff
Welcome to the blog for our AP Lit class. It is the space in which we will continue conversations from class and start new ones. We’ll be discussing and debating literary conundrums and so much more. We might even see a little poetry.
So, what’s a blog? And how will we be using it class? For information on blogging and how to join and post to our blog, see “All About Blogging.”
We’re looking forward to a great year.
Make sure you check your e-mail for your invitation to join the blog. Also – and this is very important – the first step you should take after you accept the invitation is to edit your user profile so that you control how your identity and your communication preferences. Click on the icon in the upper right corner of the browser and edit your profile
You can fill out as much of it as you want, but the only requirement is — under “Identity” — make sure your “Display name” is your first name and last initial only — so we provide some anonymity while still allowing your classmates and teacher to be able to identity who you are. For example, change “Bernie Heidkamp” to “Bernie H.”
The Old Blog is Dead! Long Live the Old Blog!
For many years, we used the Blogger platform for the AP Lit blog. Since it is owned by Google, it integrates pretty seamlessly with your Google accounts — which made it easy to use, in some respects — but it is a very limited and bug-ridden platform. So this year, we have decided to construct a new class blog from scratch using the most more powerful and stable WordPress platform.
If you are interested, though, in seeing what past AP Lit students have been thinking and writing about, feel free to wander over to the old blog.
The Tale of a Wonderful Yesterday
When I first found this song I was watching a movie called “Our Idiot Brother” with Paul Rudd, and in the movie, there was a dog whose name was Willie Nelson, so naturally, the director of the movie had countless Willie Nelson songs whenever the dog showed up. The song “Wonderful Future” by Willie Nelson from the album The Willie Way discusses the life of Willie Nelson, as a person who has lived his life and experienced great things, and because of this he reflects on his life and expresses that his memories are all he has to remember, and because of these memories he has nothing for him in his future. Throughout this song the speaker is Willie himself, talking to someone who he loved (as in a relationship) and he is explaining his pain to them. This takes place possibly in Nelson’s home while reflecting on his life and how he feels now (or while he was thinking about his past). The song first begins by expressing his reflection of his dreams as he (metaphorically looks at them) or as though he is introducing to the audience the beginning of the walkthrough of his past. However, he explains that he is the same person of his past, and that the memories of his past still resonate with him in this moment of reflection. The song is explaining to the listener that holding on to the memories of your past is important but this then leads you to nothing in the future because you have lived the moments that leave you with imprints. More specifically the likes that struck me the most are:
I’m alone in the sweet used-to-be
My past and my present are one and the same
This part of the song (the introduction) tells the listener directly that as he walks through his past and dreams, though they are the same person (or he is the same person he’s always been) he is alone with only those memories to ponder
Yesterday’s kisses still burning
And yesterday’s mem’ries still find me
Scenes from the past keep returning
This part alone allows the reader to think of this song as the reflection of a relationship that ended (with the word “kisses”). Also, the use word “burning” alludes to pain from these never-ending memories that keep returning. It almost seems like he’s trying to escape this pain that he feels but the “scenes” of his past keep haunting him almost
You say there is happiness waiting for me
But I know this is just fantasy
Let me trade one tomorrows for one yesterday
Live in my garden of dreams
The use of the word “you” entails that someone specifically has said this but also that he’s speaking to someone, possibly someone he was in a past relationship with. Furthermore, the last line of this stanza reflects back to his “garden of dreams” similar to how his past keeps returning his dreams come back as well. What’s more interesting though, is when he explains that he would trade a day of his future to be able to live another day in the past, because it illustrates his sadness and desperation to live his past again.
This song, to me, not only tells the story of not being able to escape your emotions from the past but also that having those memories are important in the sense that you’ve lived such a part in your life that you want to go back to it.
“Song of Ourselves”
Coming off our final unit on Romantic poetry, specifically a deep dive into Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman, we wrote a final send-off poem together, inspired by Whitman’s send-off in section 52 of “Song of Myself.”
Here is the text version of our “Song of Ourselves.” And here is our video:
The Most Important Sentence in the Novel “God of Small Things”
When I initially read the first chapter of God of Small Things, I was feeling very confused. There were so many names, relationships and situations mentioned in the first chapter, and I struggled to keep up and retain this new information.
After a closer analysis of the first chapter and its crucial application and introduction to the rest of the story and many themes of the book, I have realized that this confusing chapter is crucial to understanding the larger meaning of the book as a whole.
More specifically, the last few lines of the chapter really got me thinking…
That it really began in the days when the Love Laws were made. The laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much.God Of Small Things, page 33
This last sentence of the first chapter basically explains the meaning of the text, the differences and disparities between the classes.
As I continued to read farther into the novel, I began to connect more and more information to that in the first chapter. The first chapter acted as a “flash forward,” as it explained to the audience many of the big events that occurred, such as Sophie Mol’s death, and how theses events have had a profound impact on the lives of the family.
The first chapter, more specifically, the last sentence of the first chapter establishes the overall theme of the novel, and it gets the audience to begin making connections and uncover the layers of the theme and meaning.
As I finish the novel, I am looking forward to uncovering new dimensions and layers to the theme of this novel that were established in the very first chapter. The first chapter of God of Small Things peaked my interest in both the novel itself, as well as the themes and historical and cultural context present in the book.
Orientalism, Racism, and the Coronavirus Pandemic
On March 14th in Midland, Texas, an Asian-American family was brutally attacked and stabbed in a Sam’s Club store by a man because “he thought the family was Chinese and infecting people with the coronavirus,” (ABC News). This is just one example of many hate crimes against Asian-Americans have occurred in the United States and around the world.
In addition to this, President Trump has repeatedly, and purposely, referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus”, which only further amplifies prejudice against Asian-Americans during this time.
These examples of racism towards Asian-Americans can be considered as modern Orientalism, which is still very present in the United States and around the globe.
Orientalism is defined as the belief among Europeans and Americans that Arab and Asian societies are “exotic, backward, uncivilized, and at times dangerous” (Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes).
As defined, both the man who attacked the family in Sam’s Club, as well as President Trump, who referrers to the coronavirus in an incorrect and racist manner, are examples of how Orientalism is present today, during a global pandemic.
Orientalism is not dead, and it never has been. During this time of global crisis and at all other times, it is important to destroy these racist stereotypes that Asian-Americans are currently living with, as they are in fear for their lives. During this period of uncertainty, it is essential that everyone from around the globe stands together as one in order to defeat both the coronavirus, and the racism that is incorrectly being associated with this pandemic.
Blogging God of Small Things …
Since we are all getting back into the groove, I thought I would re-articulate the blogging expectations during our reading of God of Small Things. I am imagining our unit spilling over a bit into next week, so the deadlines might bend a bit as the week progresses.
The blogging assignment is to complete at least TWO of your own blog posts and at least THREE substantial comments on other classmates’ posts. See “Blogging Responsibilities” for general guidance to the assignment. Since we reading God of Small Things this week, though, here are some specific recommendations:
- Posts: At least one of your posts needs to reflect a close reading of God of Small Things (most likely, quoting — and citing page #’s — for multiple passages). The second blog post should probably be an evaluation and/or application of the theory of Orientialism (see the separate resources on Orientalism that will be part of a separate assignment this week) — but it could be another close reading of the novel, if you are inspired.
- Comments: The main idea here is quality over quantity. I’d rather see ONE lengthy engagement with another classmates’ ideas than 3-4 quick comments that just affirm what is already being said, although quick affirmations are great too.
- Extra Credit/Makeup: If you are inspired to add more than two posts and are extra-active in the comments, you will be rewarded. The week after Spring Break, besides the start of the 4th Quarter and the rest of the year, is also the time our administration has given us to shore up any incomplete 3rd Quarter assignments. So one of my first thought will be to find a way to go back and give at least partial points back on missed assignments.
Important: The blog is our space in which we will try to recreate a version of class discussion that both allows us to share our ideas, listen to the ideas of others, and advance all of our knowledge. We can certainly be passionate and have fun with it, but it should be approached with seriousness and a sense of community.
SNL ¨Subsitute Teacher¨
The SNL skit ¨Subsitute Teacher¨ is about how substitute teachers always come into the classroom with the goal to be able to relate to a class of young teens. And by relating to them the teacher uses hip hop to connect to the students to understand the music of the orchestra. The plan that he comes up with does not work since there have been many teachers just like him who come into the class to build connections with he students using the exact same method that makes all the kids embrace by him resulting in him being kicked out the class.
The comedy behind the skit is that older people always treat younger people as if they are from two different worlds as if when they were there age people did not do the same towards them. The skit also shows how it combines all young teens to be interested in rap music as if we all were based on one set of styles. The skit also makes fun of the idea that any substitute teacher is trying to be the person that changes the ideology of a group of trouble kids for the better through there own likes to get them to see a bigger picture. The skit also makes a mockery of the quiet student and how they are to themselves but in the skit, the student that seemed quiet was more embarrassed by the teacher than anything else. The skit uses comedy to bring up situations that all high school students deal with but in a more comedic manner that puts a smile on the audiences face to not just make them laugh but to also show that everyone has had a similar situation in there lives as well no matter the age and makes the awkward moment of a teacher and student relationship more relatable and normal.
“English Rose, ” A Love Poem
The song, “English Rose” by Ed Sheeran appears on his album, Multiply: Wembly Edition. The first time I heard this song, I immediately fell in love with both its musical and lyrical elements, and it has been my favorite song for almost two years.
This song is most certainly poetry in every way, through its flowing metaphors, rhythm, diction, imagery, rhymes and deep emotion that helps the listener understand the strong love and longing Sheeran is expressing through his music.
In this song, Sheeran is describing being on tour and playing shows in Tennessee, across the sea from his home in England.
I spend my days, just traveling and playing shows
But my heart still beats, for my home and my English Rose
In these particular lines of the song, the metaphor “English Rose” Sheeran is describing is his love interest, an English woman back at his home in England. The term “English Rose” is often used to describe a very beautiful English woman, as well as a type of beautiful and vibrant rose, and this is whom Sheeran is describing his longing for throughout this song. Sheeran is also describing, through powerful diction and imagery, how he loves to perform and tour with his music, but that his heart really belongs with his love interest back at home.
In addition to the metaphors in these lines of the song, the words “shows” and “Rose” rhyme, which is another poetic element that adds rhythm to the lyrics of the song.
I told my dad, on the phone it’s amazing
From the street to the craziest places I’ve seen
but I’d long to be
In the arms of my true love
Like he loves my mother, he understands me
In this section of the song, Sheeran is describing how he discussed, with his father, his feelings of longing towards the woman he loves. His father describes his love for Sheeran’s mother, and is able to understand the pain Sheeran feels in not being able to be with the one he loves. Sheeran uses the imagery of yearning to be in the arms of his “true love”, which helps the listener to understand the deep desire he feels to be with his “English Rose.”
The use of multiple poetic devices as well as the strong and deep emotion and desire conveyed in this song make it poetry in every sense, as it made me, and so many other listeners, feel these deep feelings along with Sheeran in this beautiful song.
Beloved and The Middle Passage
In class one day, we discussed that passage in which Beloved talks about where she came from. Beloved doesn’t name a specific location of her origin, but rather gives the reader a detailed description.
Beloved described the place that she came from as “dark” and “hot. Nothing to breathe down there and no room to move in” and that “A lot of people is down there. Some is dead.”
This description sparked much discussion and interpretation among the class. Some commonly agreed upon ideas within the classroom were Hell, a coffin, and a womb.
Then, Mr. Heidkamp gave a suggestion that nobody in the class had brought up, that Beloved was describing her journey through The Middle Passage.
The Middle Passage is the route slaves took from Western Africa to North America, where they would be sold into slavery. The Middle Passage was described by some slaves as the worst form of punishment, and in most slave autobiographies, this middle passage through the Atlantic Ocean isn’t even mentioned.
About 50% of Africans forced onto these slave ships died in The Middle Passage due to little to no food, water or shelter, as well as disease. Many debates in the colonies and later on, the states, involved whether these slave ships should be “tightly” or “loosely” packed with slaves.
The extreme dehumanization and of these people on The Middle Passage speaks to the horrors of slavery, and the disgusting actions the European colonists in North America.
Beloved expressed her dislike, and possibly even fear, of the place that she came from earlier on in the novel. It made me think a lot about this Middle Passage, and the other horrors that people faced due to the abuse of European power and force.
After I left that day in class, I heavily reflected on the emotional and physical impact of this passage, and how if a person was able to survive it, they would still be left with the horrible emotional trauma of the gruesome journey.
Did Nadia And Saeed Ever Love Each Other?
In the story Exit West by Mohsin Hamid shows that in the extreme and deadly city Nadia and Saeed seem to fall in love based on normal reasons for example behavior and looks. As the war increases and spreads further into the city causing deaths you see a change in the relationship between the young couple. The relationship becomes more forced like when Saeed’s mother passes away and no one speaks much it began to set a principle for dislocated conversations and communication. When Nadia promised Saeed’s dad to stay with him she made this promise until they made it to a new piece of land through the doors Saeed meets a prests daughter that he began to like and the same went for Nadia; this shows that even though a war and through a promise neither off the two characters actually felt true love but a need to want to be together only to reach a place for them to be able to find their way and be able to leave each other in separate worlds as they were before they meet .
Woman at War and Maternity
The movie Woman at War tells the story of a woman named Halla, who is a social activist fighting to end climate change in Iceland. Halla’s strong passion for protecting the environment has led her to extreme actions, as she has repeatedly turned off and even completely destroyed power lines that power the city.
In the midst of Halla’s extreme political activism, she received a call that her application for adoption has been approved, and there is a young girl from the Ukraine named Nika who is in need of a new home.
This news did not stop Halla from continuing to fight for the environment, and she was eventually arrested for her crimes.
After her arrest, Halla’s sister had agreed to be the new mother of Nika, and had planned to go to the Ukraine and bring her back to Iceland.
But, during a prison visit, Halla’s sister was telling her about her plan to move to the Ukraine when she gets Nika. Halla’s sister chooses to switch places with Halla in order for her to become the mother of Nika, which is something she has always wanted.
Halla then makes the journey to the Ukraine, and is able to adopt Nika and start her new life in the Ukraine.
Halla is depicted as an independent, resilient and determined woman, and is a strong, influential female protagonist.
In society, women who become mothers are often told to “settle down” and only focus on raising their children in the home. For Halla, this reality of motherhood is quite the opposite.
Even immediately after she leaves the orphanage with Nika, the bus they are on breaks down and they are forced to walk through extremely high levels of water.
Halla’s strength and aspirations will most certainly not “slow down” as she begins to parent Nika. Halla represents an independent woman who will be both a loving mother towards her child, as well as an activist that will keep on working persistently to change the world they live in.
First Days of School Mix
And speaking of music and mixes and soundtracks, I put together my own First Days of School Mix — new music that puts everything in perspective and provides some needed boosts of inspiration. Any new songs I should add? Anyone have their own back-to-school soundtrack?
Music Poetry, Thanks to the Class of 2019 …
I don’t know about you, but I like to have a soundtrack to pretty much everything I do. And in that spirit, a class should have its own soundtrack.
But a soundtrack is personal — or at least should reflect the community that listens to it. So our class soundtrack is going to come from you — in the form of a Music Poetry assignment we will get to later in the first semester.
In the meantime, last year’s AP Lit classes have created their own soundtrack that we can borrow until we get up to speed. Enjoy!