Category Archives: Discussion

Final Discussion!

As you prepare for the final exam, share your ideas with the class to extend the discussion beyond your finals-filled minds. You might write about:

  • which topic you want to write about and why, OR
  • thoughts or questions you have about thesis statements, OR
  • thoughts or questions you have about the five-step method for incorporating quotations as evidence, OR
  • passages and elements of fiction you would want to write about in the first part of the final exam (remember how we did this for the midterm exam?), OR
  • questions you have about other aspects of the assignments due before the end of the semester.

One other point: I said that there was no homework, but that isn’t entirely true. As we did for the midterm, please bring a sheet with the quotations you will use for the three possible responses you have prepared. I will check that sheet and give you credit for Week 15 homework.

The topics again:

1. the power of freedom (12 votes)

2. sacrifice as altruism (12 votes)

5/6. family as a source of dysfunction or of strength (11 votes for dysfunction, 8 votes for strength)

9. the journey of self-discovery (8 votes)

11. the effects of characters pushed to their limits (9 votes)

As you can see, there was a tie for the last spot (8 votes), so I combined the two about family.

Remember as you prepare: what’s up? how come? so what?

I will choose 3 of the 5 from the list above for the final exam. You will prepare 3 of the 5 so that 1, 2, or 3 of those you prepared will be on the exam. On the day of the exam, you will write about 1.

Instead of writing an essay, you will write:

  • your thesis statement
  • a paragraph (or more as needed) supporting your thesis statement using the five-step method of incorporating quotations with a quotation from a text we read after the midterm
  • a paragraph (or more as needed) supporting your thesis statement using the five-step method of incorporating quotations with a quotation from a text we read at any point this semester

Additionally, there will be quotation identification questions that ask you to identify title, author, element of fiction, and to explain how that element of fiction is represented in that passage.

Final reading; final exam

We’re discussing our final reading this week, and will also start getting ready for the final exam. As you read Sherman Alexie’s 2003 short story, “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” use it to help you review all of the different things we’ve read and learned this semester. To do this, you can add a comment here in which you:

  • choose some aspect of the story to either highlight an element of fiction we’ve discussed
  • focus specifically on the style of narration (who is the narrator? is the narrator reliable? what vantage point does this particular narrator offer us as readers? etc)
  • choose a moment in the text to compare and/or contrast with another reading or set of readings from this semester
  • use the five-step method to highlight for us a particular passage in the story that stands out to you so we can understand it, too.
  • write something else that will productively apply something else we’ve learned or discussed this semester to better understand this short story.
  • write something else that wil use this story to help us understand better the things we’ve learned or discussed this semester.

Since I was late in posting this discussion, please feel free to take until Monday to complete your thoughtful addition to our discussion.


“The Shawl” and “The Shawl”

This week, we have two powerful stories to read, “The Shawl” by Cynthia Ozick, and “The Shawl” by Louise Erdrich. They’re very different stories about people from different cultures, facing very different hardships. However, we can think about them together, and in the context of Beloved, when we think of

  • how people react when pushed to their limits
  • what holds families together and what drives them apart
  • how material objects drive stories, holding both real and symbolic meaning

among other issues that these narratives address. These are some ideas for you to address in this discussion. Please don’t attempt to answer them all–instead, choose one from the list above or another idea that you want to address and write about it in the comments.

Feel free to connect either or both of these stories to texts we read earlier in the semester.

Feel free also to ask questions in the comments that any of us can answer. This is particularly important in Erdrich’s narrative because each time I’ve taught it, students have found it difficult to make sense of it at first, but then come to understand it as we discuss it.


Letting Beloved inspire

For Part 2 of Project #2, you will let Beloved inspire you to get creative. I encourage you to try something new, or to hone your skills in any medium that interests you. This need not be tech-involved, other than posting the finished product on our site. I’m including in the comments below a few ideas I’ve had that I’ve discussed with some of you, but this is not an exhaustive list (if you have questions about any of these ideas, reply to my comments). Keep in mind that some of the examples below would involve the very minimum level of involvement–it would be up to you to make it something more involved to keep to the goals of the assignment.

In your comments below, describe what your approach will be. In another comment, suggest another way of approaching Part 2. Think about what you might dream of doing if you had the tools, time, or skills to make it happen. Maybe another classmate can help, or can benefit from your imagination. Sometimes dreaming big can help you shape what you’re able to accomplish more realistically. Let inspiration and creativity guide you.

Remember that you will need to write about your creative interpretation of the event, moment, scene, or passage, so keep track of what you did and why!

Finally, remember that your draft of Part 1 of Project #2 is due Sunday night. Homework will involve commenting on these drafts–more information to follow in my Homework Instructions post. When you post your project draft, please use categories Project #2 and draft. Use any tags you find appropriate.


Finishing Beloved

As you finish reading Beloved for Wednesday’s class, share your questions, concerns, and ideas here: I had asked everyone to follow certain recurring ideas in the novel–motifs–so that we could talk about how they shape the story and our understanding of it. Add a comment here about one or more of those motifs, looking at different examples from the novel. For example, in our first discussion on Beloved, we looked at two passages that dealt with memory, and then added another in our last class when we thought about Paul D’s rusted tobacco tin in his heart. Is there a consistent point your motif raises, or does it leave more questions or concerns?

Questions about Beloved

Hi this is Keith, and I have some questions about where I am at in Beloved. First why is Beloved(the child) not mentioned in the story until her death. There was many mentions of Seethe’s sons throughout the story. It would have been nice to know her before her death. Also the Beloved that is living with Seethe and Denver was contemplating her body parts falling off. I would imagine that if she was a zombie, but she is not. She is a living person. I also have questions of Denver, such as why she let Beloved choke Seethe, and did not talk about her activities with Paul D. If she wanted to get rid of Paul D, It would have been the perfect way. About Paul D. it was something I would not have seen. That he was being controlled by Beloved totally shot dead my theory that he was the only normal person in the story. How could he do what he did with Beloved (more than once), and how could he leave Seethe for what she did 18 years ago. She was frightened and delirious back then. The only thing I did notice is that he stayed in town so I feel he still has a big part in the story. I have to assume that Baby Suggs ability to endlessly feed the party that day is probably a symbolic gesture that she was more than a person but someone who held special powers. Though I don’t see why that was important. It has been a hard book to read when it is constantly phasing in and out of different times. But now I am interested in how this will play out. That is usually a good sign that the story is well written, even though I would have never thought to read it. So I give Toni Morrison a lot of credit of being a good author.

Continuing Beloved

As Spring Break winds to an end, your reading beckons. The last time we met, we agreed to read through page 247 (if you have the red cover). This is the chapter that begins with the sentence “Beloved is my sister.” It ends with “She’s mine, Beloved. She’s mine.”

Since we’re covering so much of the novel before we meet in person, let’s use this week’s online discussion to formulate questions and do our best to answer them. In the comments below, please ask a question of the class–something you want to think more about, something you want explained, something that bothers you, excites you, intrigues you. Frame your question with what you do understand and what you’re thinking about it, and quote specific passages that help you set up the question. You can ask related questions in one comment, but if you have more than one unrelated question, please ask them in separate comments.

For homework (instruction post to come soon), we’ll all dive in to answer these questions.

Since we’re still on spring break, discussion participation is due after break: Monday at 3pm.

Beginning the story “Beloved”

In Beloved, We focus on the three main characters; Seethe, Denver, and Paul D. with Beloved’s entrance into the story. I think this is around the time of the Civil War, because there is mention of a war. I believe this is a third person narrative (omniscient) because we are really in the thoughts and memories of all the characters. I also feel that this is an unreliable narrator, that a lot of symbolism is incorporated in the story. In fact, I had a real hard time of following the story in the first 30 pages. I really felt the author could have been a little more real in her telling. After that she seemed to space out her imagination and really tell the story. I really liked how Paul D. came around in trying to start his life over. Becoming a supporting man and helping to take care of Seethe and Denver. The carnival was a great way to open their eyes to more than what they thought about themselves. I personally do not like to read about rape and abuse, so this story already leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I have to assume that the author is portraying these hardships so that there is a happy ending. I personally came from a place that no human would want to be in, and now I getting ready to land my second degree in four years, so that is what I am hoping;– that the author is going to turn this pain around. Beloved’s entrance in this story is really amazing as she describes things that are in her memory. It really makes me think that she is really Seethe’s daughter. I also see Paul as the mediator between what is real and what is fantasy. So at this point in the story, I think the main symbolism is that Seethe and Denver have opened their arms in being able to accept Beloved, which negates the painful way she died. Which actually I am not sure of yet. I see Paul D. trying to figure out what is really happening. Though showing the house as haunted early in the story tells me that this is about a girl who has come back to life. So I assume that ghosts are real in this story. And it is up to me, not to read to much into it. I have read many great stories that has things that are not real. The Redwall Series of animals running their kingdom. Hobbits and elves having great adventures. And the Shannara Chronicles written by Terry Brooks. This is not a Tom Clancy novel and I shouldn’t expect it to be.

Beginning Beloved

With the midterm behind us, we can begin looking forward to Spring Break. In the intervening week before Spring Break, we will begin reading and discussing Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel,  Beloved. Remember to get your copy: ISBN 978-1400033416. The City Tech bookstore still has copies, or you can find it in any bookstore. Look online if you want a used copy–you should be able to find one for only a few dollars. We have several weeks devoted to our discussion of Morrison’s acclaimed novel, and we’ll use the time to consider how our study of fiction can apply to a longer text, how we can bring research into our examination of the novel, and can even consider film within our study of narratives–all really exciting opportunities.

By next Wednesday, April 1, please read through page 100. If you want to get started before you have a copy of the book, you might start reading here, but I expect you to have a copy of the book that you can mark up in class. In case you start there, our reading for the week ends approximately halfway through Part 1 with the words “‘That’s pretty, Denver. Real pretty.'” You can use the find function to locate the end point for the week.

For our discussion (due Sunday night, 3/29), there are so many directions we can go, and collectively we can cover a lot of material if we don’t duplicate each other’s comments but instead build on each other’s comments or move the discussion in a new direction. If your comment contributes to what someone else has added, please reply to that comment so we begin to group together like topics. To get started, let’s each choose something from the list below to focus on:

  • setting
    • location
    • time
    • social or cultural situation
  • characterization
    • who are the characters? focus on one to bring them into our discussion
  • narration
    • who is the narrator?
    • is the narrator consistent throughout these chapters?
  • imagery
    • what descriptive language helps you visualize the story?
    • do you see symbolic meaning in the descriptions?
  • themes
    • choose a theme that has begun to emerge and trace it in the story so far
    • do any of the themes connect to our previous readings?
  • quotations
    • are there any passages that stand out to you that you want to bring to the class’s attention?
  • questions
    • what questions do you have for clarification?
    • what questions do you have to move our discussion forward?


‘   The  Story  of an  Hour’, who is the protagonist, which is Ms Mallard, who I think is dealing with her husband death is taking it hard like anyone else would feel if they lost their love which will happen in life. But on the other hand people, some  people can change their ways of thinking bad things about people. for example, the wife was kind of giving us an impression that she was relieved of his reading the story of the hour it seems like the two couples in the story was both having problems with their relationships. One couple wanted to escape there relationship and not deal with the problems it was having and the other relationship they were having problems as well. In reading the conclusion of the story, it was told in a third person telling the story.