Link to University of Washington
Information for Current and Prospective Students
Puget Sound Writing Project
Course Portfolios
London Theatre and Concert Tour
About Me
Contact Information


English 270 A, Winter, 2019

Assignments and Updates

See also: Blackboard

(Back to Main 270 page)

This page has the most up-to-date information available on this website. Please check this page frequently throughout the quarter!!

(Information on this page will be listed in reverse chronological order--beware!)

For help with grammar and mechanics for ELL/ESL students, first, read my short essay on the challenges of learning English at:

then try:

Final Exam

As I have already explained, this will be an electronic final. At the beginning of the scheduled exam time, 2:30pm PDT on Tuesday, March 19, I will post a link to the final from this webpage. (I will also send you an email with the link, but that may be delayed, depending upon where you are on this earth, though probably not for long.) You will then write an essay of up to 500 words on ONE of the passages. Obviously this means that you can write the exam at home or anywhere else. You will be given two different prose passages to choose from; you will write on just one. You will have until 5:00pm PDT to complete your essay.

After you have finished your answer, please copy and paste your essay into an email addressed to me: DO NOT SEND THE EXAM AS AN ATTACHMENT!! Your answer must arrive NO LATER THAN 5:00 pm.

The Link to the Exam will be HERE.


Wednesday, March 13:

We'll do more passages in class, and then have a mock final. But here to study with are some Passages we have already looked at with "essays" attached. Begin by rereading the passage and making notes towards a stylistic reading. Use the text--cite specifice words and phrases to support your claims. Then read the sample essays about the passages. Come with Questions.

What is due today is your Portfolio. You can see the assignment for that on the Blackboard page at: the English 270 Course Portfolio. (If you need an extension, let me know and we may be able to arrange that.)

Monday, March 11:

Reading: Two passages: the first from Ralph Ellison's "Living with Music"; the second from Alice Munro's "Boys and Girls."


1. Again, some exercises. This passage is from an essay by National Book Award winner Ralph Ellison entitled "Living with Music." It is the title essay in a collection of essays written about jazz. I've numbered the sentences (the numbers are in parentheses at beginning of each sentence).

We have talked some about rhythm and sound in sentences (as with both Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Ecclesiastes). For Monday I want to work more on this, and this paragraph offers a good chance to do so. "Living with Music" is its title, and Ellison's prose is designed to provide a musical complement to his descriptions. Read the paragraph through, aloud as well as silently, and listen to the rhythms and sound effects. Look for the ways "music" itself becomes a theme in the paragraph, and listen for the ways in which this is reinforced by stylistic choices. Having located a sentence in which you can see a kind of verbal "music" being made, explain how Ellison uses language to create that effect.

Then pick three sentences (it can include the one whose sound patterns you describe) and analyze them as carefully as you can in stylistic terms. Include descriptions of how they fit the theme of the two paragraphs, and how they manage to do so by the language choices they make. Make sure that your three sentence choices are drawn from sentences 1,2,4,6,7,8,9.

Finally, pick one from the sentences numbered 1,2,4,6,7,8,9 and write your own sentence, but with a different topic, following as closely as you can the syntactic and rhythmic structure of your model. You don't need to be exact; the point here is mainly to help yourself see and hear more clearly what Ellison manages to do.

For Example: If I were imitating sentence 3, I might describe a visit to a disappointing natural history museum by writing:

"Happily there was the tyrannosaurus, various castings, and a tea room."

Finally, for the sentences you compose, include a brief description of what in your new sentences is the same and what differs from Ellison's sentences. In my example I have closely imitated the syntax—substituting a different adverb to begin the sentence but maintaining the underlying syntax and its short list of illustrative items—which are, like the original, written as a three-unit parallel structure of NPs.

Ralph Ellison, from “Living with Music”

(1)In those days it was either live with music or die with noise, and we chose rather desperately to live. (2)In the process our apartment—what with its booby-trappings of audio equipment, wires, discs and tapes—came to resemble the Collier mansion*, but that was later. (3)First there was the neighborhood, assorted drunks and a singer.

(4)We were living at the time in a tiny ground-floor-rear apartment in which I was also trying to write. (5)I say “trying” advisedly. (6)To our right, separated by a thin wall, was a small restaurant with a juke box the size of the Roxy. (7)To our left, a night-employed swing enthusiast who took his lullaby music so loud that every morning promptly at nine Basie’s brasses started blasting my typewriter off its stand. (8)Our living room looked out across a small backyard to a rough stone wall to an apartment building which, towering above, caught every passing thoroughfare sound and rifled it straight down to me. (9)There were also howling cats and barking dogs, none capable of music worth living with, so we’ll pass them by.

*The Collyer Mansion was famous for a while as a place left crammed full of papers, magazines, and other collections of all kinds at the death of its wealthy, but very disturbed owners (brothers, both of whose corpses (one of which had mummified) were actually found in the building when it was finally forcibly entered after no one had heard or seen either of the two brothers in some very long time). (You can find pictures of the by clicking here: Collyer Mansion)

Writing 2:

This is the opening paragraph of Nobel prize-winning writer Alice Munro's short story "Boys and Girls." You know the drill. Analyze this paragraph for its voice and style. It is the voice not of Munro herself, but of the young woman who is telling a story of an important moment in her life. This paragraph is the opening paragraph in the story.

Alice Munro: Boys and Girls

My father was a fox farmer. That is, he raised silver foxes, in pens; and in the fall and early winter, when their fur was prime, he killed them and skinned them and sold their pelts to the Hudson's Bay Company or the Montreal Fur Traders. These companies supplied us with heroic calendars to hang, one on each side of the kitchen door. Against a background of cold blue sky and black pine forests and treacherous northern rivers, plumed adventurers planted the flags of England or of France; magnificent savages bent their backs to the portage.

Wednesday, March 6

Reading: On the Blackboard there are a pair of essays on Metaphor. Read the first of these two, on literary metaphor (the second is on conceptual metaphor—we won't be dealing with that in this class). Then go on to the Writing Assignment below.

Writing: We talked about metaphor last week; the reading here on metaphor repeats a lot of what we said. After reading this account of how metaphors work, then read "Cat in the Rain"(click on link) —a two-page short, short story by Ernest Hemingway. As you read, look for any word that is connected with "cat." Once you have finished reading the story, then go back and first underline each and every reference to any sort of cat (not just the cat that is out in the rain), and second, write about how you think "cat" functions as a metaphor in the story. What features of cats does Hemingway invite you to transfer, and what features does he NOT invite you to transfer? (Hint: what is relevant early in the story may not be the same as what is relevant later on.)

Don't worry if you feel you are not very good at this. The point is not to be a great literary critic (you can become that NEXT week!), but only to approach the story from the perspective of one who has begun to think about metaphor in a more conscious and analytic way.

Monday, March 4

Reading: Just the two passages below.

1. Ecclesiastes, from the Bible, King James Version

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever. The sun also riseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. All things are full of labor; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. The thing which hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

2. Margaret Atwood, from Surfacing

I can’t believe I’m on this road again, twisting along past the lake where the white birches are dying, the disease is spreading up from the south, and I notice they now have seaplanes for hire. But this is still near the city limits; we didn’t go through, it’s swelled enough to have a bypass, that’s success.

I never thought of it as a city but as the last or first outpost depending on which way we were going, an accumulation of sheds and boxes and one main street with a movie theater, the itz, the oyal, red R burned out, and two restaurants which served identical gray hamburger steaks plastered with mud gravy and canned peas, watery and pallid as fisheyes, and French fries bleary with lard. Order a poached egg, my mother said, you can tell if it’s fresh by the edges.

Writing: These passages are obviously contrastive. Read through them and then list 3-4 adjectives for each that you think could be used to describe the speaking voice. Then go on to note 5 or more characteristics of the language in first one passage and then in the other that you think help to create the effects you have described with your adjectives. They two passages are very different, but your task is to use your growing knowledge of syntax, diction, and any other language choices the author has made that creates each passage's voice.

Monday, February 25

Time to reset. We will work with things I bring to class--and get back on track.

Wednesday, February 20: Midterm

Monday, February 18: No Class. Presidents' Day

Wednesday, February 13: [POSTPONED from Monday on account of weather]

Reading: Finish The Speaker in the Text, including the sample paper on "The Gettysburg Address."

Writing: Two things: your first memorization of a sentence for this class, and an exercise with "The Gettysburg Address," and second, the set of practice sentences as review for the Midterm. (You'll be doing the mini-midterm on Monday as well.)

On the Gettysburg Address: Look carefully at the structure of Lincoln's sentences. This has been one of the most famous, most quoted, and best remembered of all the speeches ever given in this country. Every single sentence of this speech is carefully "built." Pick a sentence you think is particularly well made (a case can be made for ANY of the sentences here, so don't worry about making a bad choice!) and memorize that sentence. As you do, close your eyes and listen to its sound, its rhythm. Then write your own version of this sentence, not about Gettysburg or about history—just about ordinary life. Imitate its structure and its rhythm as closely as you can, though you don't have to make it exact. An example:

A very long time ago my grandfather created in Reading, Pennsylvania a new business, planned as an optical company and organized expressly to provide lenses of value to every customer.

You should be able to recognize which sentence you have imitated from the rhythm and structure of your model, even with the diction and the subject of the sentence completely changed. (I'll ask you to recite your sentences in class next time!)


1. Jim played Sudoku while Alex changed the tire.

2. Someone who loved his friend would buy chocolates for that friend on Valentine’s Day.

3. Catherine caught fish while the barbecue was started by her friend.

4. While the players were treated for their injuries, the reporters who covered football were writing their stories.

5. He heard the speech that had been given by the governor that evening.

6. That he had given a good speech meant that he had impressed the committee that had asked him to speak.

Hint for sentence 6: Remember that all infinitives [like “to speak”] are the result of for-to nominalization—even when the “for” is (optionally) deleted.


Wednesday, February 5 (Wednesday, February 13 on account of snow)

Monday: February 20.

Reading: Two things. First, read the opening sections of The Speaker in the Text, through to the end of the Speaker Checklist. (That's the first 19 paragraphs; you can stop when you get to "SPEAKER ANALYSIS--Step 2.") Then go on to read the two style examples below—they are the openings from two very famous novels:

1. Dickens, from David Copperfield

    Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.  To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night.  It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously. 

     In consideration of the day and hour of my birth, it was declared by the nurse, and by some sage women in the neighborhood, who had taken a lively interest in me several months before there was any possibility of our becoming personally acquainted, first, that I was destined to be unlucky in life; and secondly, that I was privileged to see ghosts and spirits—both these gifts inevitably attaching, as they believed, to all unlucky infants, of either gender, born towards the small hours on a Friday night.

2. Salinger, from The Catcher in the Rye

   If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.  In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.  They’re quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father.  They’re nice and all—I’m not saying that—but they’re also touchy as hell.  Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything.

Writing: We have been working with the syntax of sentences over the first weeks of the quarter, and we are now going to work on using that knowledge to become better readers of and writers about the sentences that a range of accomplished writers have created. Having read the two passages above, and having read the opening paragraphs of The Speaker In the Text, print the two openings out, and then first describe the speaker of each passage. What 3 adjectives would you use to describe Dickens' speaker? What 3 adjectives would you use to describe Salinger's speaker?

Then go on to describe their language and syntax as best you can. Underline and annotate the texts on your paper. (You still don't know enough to do this particularly well--but you can get started, and you'll know a whole lot more once we have finished the next few classes.)

(Don't worry too much about being right or wrong at this point. We are still just beginning our close work with written texts!)

Writing 2: I'll be posting practice sentences below--just five of them--as a review before the mini-midterm. We have another review session late next week.

1. That we have diagrammed sentences has tested our mettle.

2. After she turned into the parking lot, Sally gathered her belongings before locking the car-door.

3. I found a wallet during my walk that had been dropped in the street.

4.The man we had invited to dinner arrived early.

5. The man who wrote the best-seller was praised to the skies by a local book reviewer.

Wednesday, January 30

Reading: This section begins our review to get ready for the Midterm on February 6th. We'll also add or review how we can represent English verbs.

Writing: Eight sentences for today. Most are pretty challenging, and we'll have special study sessions to work on them together. First, though, I'll let you see how far you can get by yourselves.

Practice Sentences:

1. The Sheriff's having left town meant that citizens would have to defend themselves.

2. I met you for the first time by the stream that runs down the hill.

3. The stolen car was driven by a tall blond car-thief.

4. Surprisingly, the exam was completed at 10am.

5. The man whom you met believes that the moon was created by pixies.

6. Before the police arrived, the man who took the money ran from the scene.

7. The architect who designed Padelford-Hall wanted people to think it was like a medieval castle.

8. Those students who procrastinate when a paper is due may need first aid before their last paragraphs have been written.

(!!This one is complicated!!) (But it's easier than The Declaration's first sentence....)

Monday, January 28

Reading: If you haven't already done so, read How We Make Sentences: The Basics of Constituent Structure, Part 3 (on adverbs--which we introduced last week) and Part 4, on relative clauses. That's will help prepare you for what we'll be working with today.

Writing: Meanwhile, here are sentences to diagram, and a passage to analyze stylistically.

Practice Sentences: Give DS diagrams along with the rules required to convert them into their surface forms for the following sentences, and then show on your diagram how those rules apply:

1. For children to eat well ensures our clinic's goal.

2. My car was totaled by a terrible driver.

3. I knew that the TV had been stolen.

4. The TV's being stolen surprised the guard.

5. My having lost my wallet complicated my life.

6. The teacher was surprised that someone would answer the question incorrectly.

7. The library book was reshelved by a passing patron.

8. The thief ran because he saw that a police car was approaching rapidly.

Stylistic analysis:: Then read the writing sample below carefully. Give some adjectives to characterize its voice, and then write what you can about the syntax and word choice that would make the second paragraph effective for many readers as a restaurant review. (You don't quite have enough syntax to identify structural elements, but note that there are only two sentences in the review, and they are very different structures. How are they different and with what effect?)

The Besalu Bakery [on 24th Ave NW in Ballard], now under new ownership, still feels remarkably the same: unpretentiously sweet, with its floor of tiny tiles, its peachy-orange walls and KEXP playing.

The plain croissant remains a classic beauty, unabashedly browned on the exterior for that perfect shattery-crispness, producing a cascade of happy shards, with whorls upon whorls of buttery tenderness inside, like eating a divine fingerprint. (I brought one of these back to my possibly equally pastry-obsessed colleague, Tan Vinh: “Holy cow,” he said.)

Wednesday, January 23

I know that many take the King holiday to give their time to various service activities, and there are parades scheduled as well, so no assignment for today.

In class we will introduce ADV movement (a new and very important rule for adverbs), as well as how to represent verb forms and the passive voice. Then on Monday we'll introduce relative clauses and, except for a few details, that will finish the syntax section of the course. We'll then continue to use your new knowledge of syntax for analyzing passages we will be engaging over the rest of the course.

Monday, January 21

NO CLASS--Martin Luther King Day

Wednesday, January 16

Reading: How We Make Sentences: The Basics of Constituent Structure (Now go on to read Part 2)

Writing: Write out constituent structure diagrams of the following sentences (and then notice how really hard it is to do this for a complex sentence!).

1. Sally reported that little creatures landed on the beach.

2. For him to complain about the food annoyed the cook.

3. His playing the trumpet irritated every ear.

4. That Fred had built a computer suggested that he had a technical mind.

Finally, here is the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence. Print it out and then locate and circle the main subject and the main verb. Then try to underline each of the embedded clauses you can find, and bracket the subject and the verb in each.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

(Don't worry if this is confusing!--we'll straighten it out in class. As a class we are still just beginning to become able to look at complex sentences, and this is one very complex sentence! [by my count the sentence is 70+ words long!!!!] I give you this exercise as a way of testing what you already know about complex constructions. You will know a lot more in three weeks' time!

Monday, January 14

Reading: First, read the Syllable Supplement at:

There will be an inclass quiz on the Syllabus and the Syllabus Supplement!

Second, read How We Make Sentences: The Basics of English Language Constituent Structure (Read just Part 1)

Writing: Write out constituent structure descriptions of the following sentences:

1. Mary fixes cars.

2. The old building collapsed. 

3. The bricklayer knew his new neighbor. 

4. The very tall children played baseball.

Example: A healthy child needs calcium.

This is a simple sentence whose subject NP is "A healthy child" and whose predicate VP is "needs calcium."


NP1 = det adj N [a healthy child]

VP = V (NP2) [needs calcium]

Wednesday, Jan 9

(Remember that we are only just beginning this course, so I don’t expect you to be very good at answering these questions, but I would like to see how much sense they make to you now, as we begin.)

Reading: Read the following paragraphs carefully, and think as best you can about their writer-speaker's style. 

Writing: Write up answers to the following questions. 2pp limit —typed and double-spaced. 

1. What sense do you have here of the speaking voice?  What adjectives would you use to describe that voice?  Find three or four or five. 

2. What do you make of his sentences?  Pick one that you think is an interesting sentence (or pick one at random if you feel that you don’t yet know how to recognize an “interesting” sentence).  Explain as best you can 1) the structure of the sentence, and 2) give an answer to the question:  Why does Cohen use that particular sentence structure in that particular place?

3. Finally, give me a capsule summary of your own sentence style.  When would you use sentences different from these?  When might you use sentences like these?  Why would you make the choices you imagine yourself as making?  What would you be trying to do?

Roger Cohen, “The Rage of 2016”
December 5, 2016 New York Times

            The long wave unfurled at last. Perhaps it is no surprise that the two societies that felt its furious force — the United States and Britain — are also the open societies at the hub of globalized turbo-capitalism and finance. For at least a decade, accelerating since the crash of 2008, fears and resentments had been building over the impunity of elites, the dizzying disruption of technology, the influx of migrants and the precariousness of modern existence.

            In Western societies, for too long, there had been no victories, no glory and diminishing certainties. Wars were waged; nobody knew how they could be won. Their wounds festered. The distance between metropolis and periphery grew into a cultural chasm. Many things became unsayable; even gender became debatable. Truth blurred, then was sidelined, in an online tribal cacophony....