The Best Laid Schemes o’ Maus

The Graphic Novel

March 22nd, 2011

Themes: , , , , ,

. . . ‘an men / Gang [na] agley.

I’ve uploaded several journal articles to the folder in Google Docs. Read over a few1 —during class tomorrow you will choose one to present later in the week.

Here is the plan (with dates!).


  1. Wrap up your reading of Maus.
  2. Skim through the articles in the Docs folder, choosing a few that look interesting (for your group’s discussion and your own research).
  3. If you’ve already finished Maus, begin work on your analysis by reading one or two of the articles and working on your hypothesis.

Tomorrow (Wednesday 23rd):

  1. Read and discuss the articles you skimmed (or read) last night.
  2. Choose one article to read thoroughly and present to the class. You may run your presentation as you wish, but your goal should be to help your audience understand the article (they will have read it the night before) and the place of the argument in the context of our discussion of the work. You will need to cover the following:
    1. The author’s thesis
    2. Clarification and examples of any major points
    3. Examples of the author’s argument in areas of the text not explicitly mentioned in the article (I will have a copy of Maus that you can project, if you wish)
    4. Questions and comments for class discussion.
  3. Write a synopsis (individually) of the article to be turned in the day you present.
  4. At the end of the hour I will let you know which group will be presenting on Thursday.

Thursday 24th–Wednesday 30th:

  1. If your group is presenting, you will have the full period. You may wish to divide the major points in the article among the members of your group, then come together for comments and discussion, but it is up to you.
  2. If you are not presenting, read the article the night before and come to class with a copy. Be prepared to ask questions about the work (for clarification) and comment if necessary (in support or rebuttal).
  3. All should take notes with the development of your thesis in mind, asking questions of the class if you are having difficulty with its formulation or support.
  4. In the evenings you should be reading the article to be presented the next day (or skimming it if you’ve already read it) and working on the outline of your analysis. Let me know when you have finished the outline (shared through the Docs); I’ll give you feedback before you begin your rough draft.

Thursday 31st:

  1. Come to class with a rough draft and works cited for your own analysis. (Google docs is fine.)
  2. You will have all hour to work on it in the lab; if you finish, you should trade with another for editing and support.

Friday 1st:

  1. We will discuss the analyses and reflect on the process, planning for further investigation of the medium in the weeks to come.


That may have been overly specific, but I hope it clears up any questions you may have about our process. Let me know if you have any further questions.

[A copy of this is also in the communal folder in Google Docs.]

    1. You’ll be using several in your analysis, so any work you do tonight can go towards that. []

    From Gothic to Graphic

    British Literature

    December 12th, 2009

    Themes: , ,

    Not that kind of graphic.

    We spent much time on the imagery within Gothic literature—from the dramatic scenes of creation and destruction to the weather that cast an eerie (sometimes eerily calm) glow on the action. We’re going to continue this look at imagery (and plenty of other devices) with a study of graphic novels.

    Your homework for this weekend is to travel to your favorite local book purveyor  and browse the graphic novel shelf (the library has a solid collection, just check before you drive).  Find a book that interests you, purchase (or borrow) it, and bring it to class on Monday.

    "But wait," you say, "I don’t like superheroes and I’ve never even touched a graphic novel.  Heck, I don’t even know where to start."  Tilting my head in consolation, I respond: "Aww, shucks.  I’ll help you."  Offering a nick to the chin, we begin our journey:

    Graphic Novels 101: A story in which your kindly teacher leads you through the illustrated world of the graphic novel, ending in your personal discovery that the most often looked down upon medium actually contains stories worth reading.  And studying.

    First lesson, a list.  These are the cream of the crop.  The first three are autobiographical (though Jimmy Corrigan is only partly so); Sandman is masterfully written fantasy; Cerebus is part fantasy, part social satire (think Gulliver’s Travels with an aardvark); the final two are modern superhero tales.

    Now, go out and consume.

    We’ll begin a formal look at graphic novels on Monday, so please pick one up before then.

    Remember, this list is merely a starting point; find a work that piques your interest, not one that you think I want you to read.  Remember, remember, graphic novels are occasionally violent and may contain images that are inappropriate for high school.  You should get parental approval before purchasing anything not on the above list. Also, remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot…

    [Note: I realize that I am completely ignorant of authors, titles, movements, styles, etc. in the manga genre.  Please forgive this, and know I will accept any guidance you can offer in this realm.  I also realize that the Graphic Novels 101 subtitle contains an overly long sentence followed by a fragment.  Do as I say, not as I do.]

    Enter Lord of the Flies

    British Literature

    October 13th, 2009

    Themes: , , ,

    We will begin discussing Lord of the Flies by Wm. Golding when we return from Fall Break. You may pick up a copy at Gardener’s on the cheap (though they may not have many copies in stock) or at any other fine bookseller in the area.

    We will be journaling as we go, so start as soon as you open the book. We’ll be focusing on themes of power and democracy, as well as social interaction. Keep in mind our discussion of money in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead:

    PLAYER: Everything has to be taken on trust; truth is only that which is taken to be true. It’s the currency of living. There may be nothing behind it, but it doesn’t make any difference so long as it is honored. One acts on assumptions (51-52).

    Here’s our schedule for the remainder of the semester. Of course, this is subject to change with advance warning:

    Date Discussion (Chapters) Due
    Mon. (19) Character names, setting, historical background (1-2) Journal over R&G and beginning of Lord
    Tues. (20) Symbolism (3-4)  
    Wed. (21) Diction, imagery (5-6)  
    Thurs. (22) Allegory and microcosm (7-8)  
    Fri. (23) Primitivism, Hobbes, the social contract Journals over 1-8
    Mon. (26) Simon, Bacchae, (9-10)  
    Tues. (27) Simon, con’t (11-12) Journals over novel
    Wed. (28) Reflection on themes, brainstorming  
    Thurs. (29) Thesis writing, begin outline from journals  
    Fri. (30) Peer review of outlines, group discussion Outlines
    Mon. (02) Peer review of rough drafts Rough drafts
    Tues. (03) One-on-one discussion of rough drafts, begin writing final  
    Wed. (04) Presentations of final drafts Final drafts
    Thurs. (05) Con’t presentations, discussion of plan for next semester  


    All missing or reworked assignments must be turned in by Monday, the 26th of this month—there will be no exceptions.

    Love in the Time of Cholera Overview

    World Literature

    October 10th, 2009

    Themes: , , , , , ,

    Update: I’ve received a few questions about our plans after my absence. We’ll continue the schedule as laid out, but I’ll be looking over your journals on Monday the 19th. Thanks, JS

    Love in the Time of Cholera is not for the faint-of-heart, as I’m sure you’re all aware by now. I’ve posted a reading schedule below. It would be wise to read ahead (and journal all the way) over the weekends and breaks if you’re afraid of falling behind. (For those who find themselves lost in discussions of passages they’ve read beyond, the reading journal is a good way to refresh your memory.)

    Journaling is vital to the creation of a solid paper towards the end of this novel. If you scroll to the end of the schedule, you’ll notice that we end the novel on a Wednesday (the 28th) and turn in a final draft of your term paper the next week (the 3rd). By journaling as you go, you are keeping track of patterns that emerge (see “Some things,” below). When you formulate your thesis, you are explaining what these patterns say about the work as a whole. From there, creating an outline is a matter of going through your journal and grouping quotations and insights that support your thesis, then putting them in a logical order. Writing a rough draft should be mostly copying your comments and their accompanying quotations from your journal.

    It is not a simple process, but most of the insight work should be done while you’re reading and during our discussions. The writing process is communication work: organizing, working on flow, reinforcing your points.

    I’ll work with each of you as we go, but I can’t read/journal for you; I can merely guide you in the right direction.

    Possible essay topics:

    These are only ideas; let me know if you come up with another one.

    Some things to be journaling:

    We will have a brief quiz on Monday. If you are having difficulties keeping up with the reading, see me and we’ll work it out.

    To check your understanding, check out this site, which has a list of basic questions about each section. This isn’t an assignment, though it would be beneficial to read over them after you finish a section.

    Reading/writing schedule:

    Date Discussion Due
    Thurs. (08) 3-25 (Ferm. has put on a loose…)
    Fri. (09) 25-51 (Ch. 2) Journal
    Mon. (12) 51-74 (Flor’s life has changed…)
    Tues. (13) 74-103 (Ch. 3)
    Wed. (14) 103-124 (the 3rd letter in Oct…) Journal
    Fall Break
    Mon. (19) 124-150 (that night she stopped…) Journal
    Tues. (20) 150-163 (Ch. 4)
    Wed. (21) 164-191 (sooner had the convers…) Journal
    Thurs. (22) 191-224 (Ch. 5)
    Fri. (23) 224-278 (Ch. 6) Journal
    Mon. (26) 278-301 (Death’s passage…)
    Tues. (27) 301-323 (She insisted with so much…)
    Wed. (28) 323-end; overview; discussion of thesis statements; prewriting in class Journal
    Thurs. (29) outline writing; thesis revision Thesis statements due
    Fri. (30) Peer review of outlines Outlines due
    Mon. (02) Peer revision Rough drafts due
    Tues. (03) Peer review; begin final drafts Second drafts due
    Wed. (04) Final drafts due

    The Reading Journal Experiment

    British Literature, World Literature

    September 23rd, 2009

    Themes: , , , , ,

    On Monday I proposed a deal: If you keep a detailed (definition of “detailed” below) reading journal for our current work, one that includes as much or more information than an average essay, and turn it in at the end of the reading, you do not have to write a paper.

    My hypothesis: A few of you would decide to just write the paper, as you are familiar with that routine and comfortable with your writing process; most of you would write down a few words you don’t know, perhaps a summary of the reading, a few questions, and be through with it; and a few would run with the idea, draw character maps, look up outside information, learn new words, come to class with questions about weird sentences and quote interesting passages.

    The bell curve, right? Shame on me; I should have known better.

    The past few days in class have blown me away. Nearly all of you have come to class with questions about the reading (or viewing, in Brit Lit), words you’re not sure about, connections you’ve made with outside works, points I’ve missed, and interpretations I hadn’t considered. You all seem to be enjoying the readings more (even though you have to write as you go), and understanding them in more depth. I’ve practically thrown out all my prepared questions for the past few days; yours are much better. I can’t wait to sit down with your journals at the end.

    While I wrote this on the board, here is the list of things to look for or record in your journal:

    You will turn in your journals the day after we finish the work. I will read them over that night, and return them to you the next day. I will not write in them, but simply give you advice on organization, some things you should focus on, etc. (I might steal some ideas for my own journal, too. Hope you don’t mind.)

    If your journal is detailed enough (covers the entire work, or Act III through the end of Hamlet), you will be excused from the final essay. If you chose not to create a journal, or it seems a bit sparse (or is simply a list of quotations without your reactions), I will ask you to write the paper.

    We will be creating reading journals for every reading assignment from here on out. For our next unit, I’ll show you how to write most of your essay in your journal before we even finish the novel.

    Send me an email if you have questions, or post them below.

    This is going to be an amazing year.

    1. is great for this. Simply put all of the words, separated by commas, into the search box, and you’ll have a list of definitions. For the truly adventurous, try this online etymology dictionary for where it came from and related words. []