Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Please post your Plato questions as comments here:

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tuesday October 20

Greetings from another sort-of Sunny Monday,

Please post your question on the Earl Shorris reading in the comment section here.



Monday, October 12, 2009

Tuesday's discussion sections

Greetings from a Sunny Monday,
Just a quick reminder about your work for this week. You should be working on your papers, which are due on Thursday. Remember that you need to take a draft to the learning center before you turn it in. Please bring a draft to class on Tuesday, too. It's OK if this is just an outline, notes, or if it's a full blown draft; just bring whatever you have.

For tomorrow, you should also read the short essay entitled "The Shot" from Jans' The Glacier Wolf. Be sure to bring both this book and the selection from Hayes' Blonde Indian to section on Tuesday so we can discuss both the guest lectures and the readings.

Finally, you don't need to post a new reading question to the blog.



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thursday October 8

Per the announcement in class, please post a question relevant to the selection from Ernestine Hayes's Blonde Indian in the comment section here. As we did on Tuesday, you'll want to post a question that you might ask the author, as she'll be visiting our class on Thursday.

See you Thursday,


PS: In case you misplaced your hard copy, I've pasted the text of the writing assignment below. Remember that we're asking you to take a draft to the learning center, so you probably want to get started on the assignment straight away. It's due next Thursday, October 15.

Humanities 120--Assignment #2:

Our goal in this section of Humanities 120 is to attend to the overarching question of how story, words, and images inform our sense of the world. All of the texts we have read in this section attempt to come to terms with how we ought to interact with the natural world, making claims (sometimes implicitly) about how we should engage with Alaska's landscapes and animals. That is, these are all stories that are about Alaska, Alaskan animals, or about a sense of place.

To give you an idea of what I mean, recall that I argued in lecture that Eliza Scidmore's 1893 Appleton's Guidebook asked nineteenth century tourists to see the landscape in terms of glacial history and potential wealth, while re-peopling an already storied landscape with tales about explorers and travelers. Sherry Simpson's more recent meditations on Alaska also ask us to think about how maps, placenames, and stories shape our interactions with the natural world. Werner Herzog and Nick Jans both explore Timothy Treadwell's bizarre attempt to forge a relationship with Alaska's wild bears, playing with and amplifying mythic ideas of these animals and our state. In The Glacier Wolf, Nick Jans tells of his experiences here in Southeast, ultimately telling stories that ask us to interact with place and animals in particular ways. Finally, Ernestine Hayes's compelling memoir Blonde Indian offers stories about a deeper sense of place, asking us to attend to history and story as we consider what it means to live in Alaska.

Your assignment, then, is to continue thinking about Alaska, animals, and place, composing a 2-3 page essay focusing on one of these texts. In this short essay you should first assess the point of view presented in the text you choose and then offer your own position on the issue you find of central importance in the text. You can frame your essay as a response to any number of questions, and you can make almost any argument that you want—the only guidelines are that you think carefully about your own sense of place or your relation to animals and that you address the sense of either Alaska or animals presented in one of the texts. This means that you should offer a quotation or two, and you should attentively "read" this quotation to make your point, but more importantly you should express your own position.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tuesday October 6

Thanks for a great class today!

For next Tuesday, you should post a question that you plan to ask Nick Jans about his work. This can be about either Grizzly Maze or The Glacier Wolf. Additionally, you should bring your notebook to class and you should probably start working on your paper.

To that end, a few students asked me to share my powerpoint slides about effective close reading, so I'm pasting the text below.

Happy weekending,

Tips for effective Close Reading


1) don't be afraid to state the obvious.

2) the text will not speak for itself. If you don't explain your quotations and how they work, your reader won't understand your argument.


1) Thesis—What's my point? Before you return to the text, you should have a thesis in mind about the text as a whole.

2) Selection of text—Choose the passages you will quote and that exemplify your argument.

3) Paraphrase—Immediately following every quotation in your essay, you should provide as full a summary of the passage as possible. Remember, don't be afraid to state the obvious—even if the passage seems self-evident, tell your reader what you think it means.

4) Textual analysis—after you've established what the author or speaker is saying, you'll want to establish how he or she is saying it.

5) Reformulate your thesis. Just as a scientist concludes his or her experiment by reassessing the starting hypothesis, so too must you return to your original thesis and revise it in light of all you've discovered in the process of analyzing a specific passage. In a sentence or two, that is, you need to say what your close reading has proved—just how it has supported or developed your argument.


1) Context. Determine the context of the passage. Where does the passage or line appear in the text? How do the surrounding ideas or action affect our reading or the passage's meaning?

2) Vocabulary. Make sure you know what each word in the passage means. Are there allusions to historical events or figures? Are there concepts that need to be clarified? You should gloss any allusions or unfamiliar words or familiar words that are being used in an unfamiliar way.

3) General claims. Determine the basic thrust of the passage. That is, what is the speaker or author trying to say?


1) Figures of speech or rhetorical devices. How are syntax and/or sentence or paragraph structure manipulated, and what effects are thereby achieved? For film, you might think about how editing or transitions between images are constructed.

2) Diction (word choice) and allusion. Does the author use words drawn from other well-defined spheres of life (e.g. economics, legal discourse, Biblical contexts)? What sort of tone or value judgments are implied by the words chosen? Might more neutral terms have been chosen?

3) Form: Are there formal conventions you can identify? How do these forms impact the meaning?

A common misconception about literary analysis is that it's merely "subjective"—that anything goes, one opinion or impression being as good as any other. However, like any other rigorous field of inquiry, far from being merely subjective, the arguments of literary critics require evidence to make them convincing. Of course, as in other humanistic disciplines, there may be no final answers about the meaning of a text—but that doesn't mean that all interpretations are equally valid, compelling, or meaningful.