What do they know?


December 11th, 2009

Themes: , , , ,

Ooh La La – Faces



November 26th, 2009

Themes: , , ,

We’ve been working on breaking down Ovid’s tales into their most basic elements, and I’ve often used modern works to illustrate that the themes (jealousy, unrequited love, change, naïveté) are being pondered still, two millennia after they put down by the Roman.

Your objective over the break (as you continue journaling for our discussion of Book V on Monday) is to find as many connections to these ancient stories in modern works as you can. Here are a few I may have mentioned before. I’m using music, but look in movies, television, advertising, novels, and the like for inspiration.

See if you can name the stories:

“Running Bear” is the story of two young Native Americans separated by a “raging river.” This, like many of the teenage tragedy songs of the ‘50s and ‘60s, ends badly for both. (It also gives us insight into the offensive mid-20th Century opinions of other cultures.)


A bit more modern, this track from the Decemberists’ Castaways and Cutouts tells the story of two other star-crossed lovers:

A subgenre of the teenage tragedy is the car crash ballad. Here’s one of the most famous:

This one had to be included:

Lastly, this song from Thrice subverts the moral from one of our myths. Or maybe they just didn’t get it:

Frankenstein, the Gothic, and the Sublime

British Literature

November 9th, 2009

Themes: , , , ,

Welcome back! (So it’s only been three days, but with the new semester and all…)

We began Frankenstein in a bit of a roundabout way today—with a discussion of what it means to be Gothic. While the first image that came to many of you was a pale kid in black with eyeliner1, we eventually came up with this:

 Notre Dame dr Strasbourg Flying buttresses. It’s a good start.

Basically, things (be they art, architecture, literature, or music) that fall under the “Gothic” heading are eerie, ominous, looming, grotesque, and sometimes monstrous.2 Coming out of the realism and social commentary that dominated the Age of Enlightenment (think Gulliver’s Travels and “A Modest Proposal”), authors writing Gothic literature in the 19th century turned away from such practical views of the world and focused on settings and the emotional experience of events.

This is exemplified perfectly by Schubert’s Erlkönig (1815)3, a piece based on Goethe’s poem (1782) of the same name, which in turn was based on a creature from Danish folktales.4 The Leid tells the story of a boy and his father traveling through deep dark woods, with the son becoming more and more frightened by a supernatural presence. Of course, the father doesn’t seem worried, and by the end of the journey, he finds he’s carrying a dead child. Emotional, terrifying, grotesque, sublime: Gothic.

Architecture, art, and music at the time emphasized these emotions and attempted to elicit feelings of awe and the sublime in their audiences. (Remember our awe discussions with the Existentialists and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead?)

As you read Frankenstein, keep this in mind. Shelley was certainly commenting on the effects of the Industrial Revolution (a solid insight by a few of you). But more than anything, she elicits a feeling of the sublime and grotesque in her audience.

Things to Journal:

Before Class Tomorrow:

Read everything within and around the book (cover, title page, notes at the back, and foreword) that isn’t the story itself. Journal as you have with previous works. (See “Things to Journal” above if you need a kick-start.)

  1. BTW, did you know there is a Goth Day at Disneyland? Something about all that black and the CA sunshine gives me images of streaking makeup… []
  2. There’s a great gallery of 19th century Gothic architecture at Boston College’s website. []
  3. You can thank your band teacher for this connection []
  4. I found this information, along with an English translation, on the wiki page. []

Reading Notes: The Pirate’s Dilemma Ch 2

AP Language

May 19th, 2009

Themes: , , , , ,

If you haven’t watched the video yet, do so.


“Pirates create positive social and economic changes, and understanding piracy today is more important than ever, because now that we all can copy and broadcast whatever we want; we can all become pirates” (Mason 35).


Reginald Fessenden Image from WikipediaMason makes a clear argument here, drawing from the history of our country, music, and movies: Nearly every major innovation has piracy in its history.

See Reginald Fessenden, for instance, who made news with his “wireless station.”


Today we discussed the fact that companies have jumped on the DIY bandwagon (and the charity and “green” offshoots of this), understanding that consumers are looking for the feeling that they are “making a difference” or “outsmarting the man” by buying products that give them a feeling of empowerment. Regardless of whether you feel this is appropriate, sneaky, or just a smart move, it highlights the fact that this ethos has gone mainstream.


“The mainstream news media are being undermined by bloggers and citizen journalists offering a wider variety of local and niche coverage” (Mason 49-50).


This is leaking into other arenas, as well. We now have blogs (as Mason describes on 48), youTube (which allows people to get their video out, but also provides a forum for citizen journalists to effect change [think Rodney King]), a general acceptance of “street art,” a rise in superhero culture (ask me about this one), and a general sense of self-empowerment fueled by the free tools at our disposal. Punk isn’t dead; punk went mainstream.


[T]he only way to stay on top is to offer the best content, the most variety, and the latest, most entertaining, and accurate information. . . . [W]ith millions of bloggers vetting each other, inaccuracies in stories on the most popular blogs are usually pointed out quickly. (Mason 55)


We’ll talk about this tomorrow.

Your Final [Sniff] Project

World Literature

May 18th, 2009

Themes: , , , , ,

We will culminate this year with creative projects based on your chosen archetype. So far, you have discovered many examples (at least 50) of your archetype in literature ancient and modern, in music, in film, and in television. You created a visual representation of this archetype, combining elements from all of these sources in an attempt to discover the “essence” or most basic characteristics. The papers you have just completed not only further illustrated the ubiquity of your archetype, but also showed that the way an archetype changes over time can also reflect changes in cultures (father and damsel archetypes after WWII is an excellent example of this).

Your final job in this project is to continue the story of your archetype. You have seen where they’ve been, you have seen how they are being portrayed; now it’s time to continue the story. The parameters of this part of the project are broad, so I will be working with each of you closely in the next week to guide your progress. The only requirement that applies to all projects is that you must tell a complete story that reflects your archetype. That’s it.

Some thoughts to get you started:

You may choose your medium (play to your strengths). Short story, fable, song (with lyrics), visual art (must tell a story; that is, it must be more than one “panel” long), movie script, television show pitch… The possibilities are endless.

As far as ideas go, you should look back at how your archetype has been/is being portrayed. Do you like it? If not, change it! The power to control your archetype’s fate is in your hands as the author. Want to take her back to her roots? Do it. Want to completely re-interpret it? You can.

Have another idea? Post it in the comments area; you may inspire others.

Find something like this on the Interwebs, on youTube, etc? Post a comment for the same reason.

I’m excited. We’re finishing strong.