Monday, May 2, 2011

For Credit: Five Years From Now

The following clip, "The Five Minute University," featuring Father Guido Sarducci (comedian Don Novello), is a few decades old, but still current:

What will you remember from English 206/CWL 257 in five years' time?

There are two ways to answer this question:

1) As Father Guido Sarducci would.

2) As a hard-working and idealistic college student fresh from the course would.

You can decide how to answer (giving two answers in an option).

Deadline: Friday (5/6), 11am.

For Credit: The Final Exam

The final exam was handed out in class today, you can also find it over there in the sidebar and here. In class on Wednesday, you will have the opportunity to discuss the readings for the exam, which are over there in the sidebar. Please bring a copy to class, along with any questions you have about either text.

If you have questions about the exam, it would be best to ask them in class on Wednesday or by e-mail (with the understanding that I will send the response to the class). I may not see responses to this post in a timely manner.

You CAN, however, respond to this post with your thoughts about what the exam does NOT cover. What have you learned this semester that you don't have the opportunity to display on the final? What would you have liked to have been asked, but weren't?

Deadline: Friday (5/6), 11am.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

For Credit: The Big Picture Revisited (Deadline Extended)

How has your understanding of the Enlightenment era changed since the beginning of the semester?

Read on before you answer!

On the first day of class people identified a number of concepts that they correctly associated with the Enlightenment:

  • doubt and skepticism about religion
  • new ideas about equality among people
  • distrust of monarchical and authoritarian forms of government
  • exploration
  • the development of empirical, scientific thought
  • emphasis on reason
At the same time that we discussed these concepts and wrote them on the board, I explained that the word "Enlightenment" in the course title didn't necessarily apply to all of the literature that we would be studying--that the narrow course title (which was laid down in stone some years back) doesn't quite correspond to the breadth of literature implied by the CWL cross-listing of the course or by its  placement within the sequence of 200-level English department courses. 

So, you've now read literature from that era that spans the globe, as well as the wide range of functions literature can serve, from advancing new ideas, to supplying entertainment, to repackaging old certainties in new ways, to validating the realities of readers' lives.  You've done some archival research of your own, and in the company of your classmates you've explored the time period largely unconstrained by national boundaries or by preconceived ideas of what "Enlightenment" literature ought to be (after all, the word appears nowhere in the title of your Longman anthology).

What have you learned from the reading for this course?  Identify ONE specific thing that you now know that you didn't on the first day of class.  If a classmate has already responded with the thing you wanted to say, identify something else that you have learned.

Deadline: Monday (5/2) Wednesday (5/4), start of class.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Just So You Know

I'm a week behind in the blog grading.  The priority at the moment is getting your third papers graded, so I'm probably not going to get on top of it this weekend.  FYI.

For Credit: The Easy Answers

Our discussion of Candide today ended on an optimistic note: This may not be the best of all possible worlds, but by consistently questioning, thinking for oneself, and (I daresay) laughing at oneself, perhaps a better world that the current one can be gradually achieved.

Is such a hopeful, forward-looking view in fact what Voltaire seems to be suggesting through Candide?

What separates the phlegmatic cynicism of Martin or the old lady from more modern forms of anomie?

What (if any) limitations are there to the world-view presented in the conclusion to Candide?

What would you have liked to say, ask, suggest in class today if you had had the opportunity?

Deadline: Monday (5/2), start of class.  Whether your post counts for Week 14 or Week 15 depends on which side of midnight Saturday it appears. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

For Credit: All the Single Ladies... (BUMPED, deadline extended)

The women represented in Candide are either the victims of rampant and unremitting sexual violence...or they are prostitutes (which does not necessarily preclude being a victim of sexual violence). Or they cheerfully make love to monkeys.

What are we to make of this?

Deadline: Wednesday (4/27) Friday (4/29), start of class (since we didn't have much opportunity to discuss this issue on Wednesday).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

For Credit: Things I Learned This Evening

1.  My facetious suggestion (you know, the one that produced dead silence: that the old lady is quite deliberately presented as "half-assed") turns out to be anachronistic.  Worse, it relies on a pun only available in English translation (the native-French-speaking friend I consulted tells me there's no equivalent French term that combines butts with the sense of things being poorly done or ill-considered.)  In case you're curious, the term originates in American English, with a first recorded usage of 1938.  It doesn't appear in British English ("half-arsed") until 1961.

2.  People seem to name their cats after characters in Candide more frequently than one might expect.  Or so I have gathered from searching Google Images for graphics to put on the blog. 

Why doesn't the old lady have a name?

Deadline: Friday (4/29), start of class.