English 270 A, Fall, 2016
Assignments and Updates
See also: Blackboard
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, try:
or our own OWRC's page:
Thursday, December 8:
Writing: the rewrite of your Stylistic Self-Profile
My Stylistic Self-Profile, Step 2
You are to give me a profile of your own style. You did a version of this at the beginning of the quarter, though you did not know much about how to describe your style(s). I say Styles because we all have more than one. What you are to do here is to write a 2-3 page description of one of your "Stylistic Registers."
The purpose of this second step now that we are at the end of the quarter is for you to revisit the question of your style, but now from the perspective that a term's worth of study will have provided. Step Two will thus give you a chance to demonstrate how much more sophisticated you will have become about your own stylistic language use by the end of this quarter, but also a good deal about how much you've learned about the study of language in general.
So describe an example of your style using a passage of 50-75 words as you can recognize its characteristics now. You don't have to be a great writer--just one who is aware of your style and of how to describe it.
My grading criteria will look to the accuracy and fullness of your characterization of your style, along with your pointing out evidence for your claims.
Course Grades: This has been an experimental course; I have been writing the curriculum as I go, and not everything I have asked for or tried to do has worked. That is not your fault. So while I will certainly give you grades, the grade range I intend to use will run from 3.3 to 4.0.
Tuesday, December 6: Group Report Day.
Portfolio due. See The English 370 Course Portfolio for details.
Thursday, December 1:
Updated Assignment Sheet:
You have a group of 4 people. What each of you need to do before December 6 is:
1. Find a stylistic passage you think is of interest. Write a short paper (no more than 2 pp) describing your passage's style. (Refer to the Speaker in the Text if you have questions about how to proceed. The final section deals with writing about style.)
2. Meet as a group and share your paragraphs. Talk about what you see in your pragraphs, and then choose one of your four as the oe you feel has the most interesting stle. This will be your presentation piece to present on Dec 6.
3. We will go to Seminar mode class: groups 1-5 will present in the first hour, and groups 6-10 in the second. You only need to attend the hour your group presents, though you can come to both if you wish.
4. For the presentation each of you will take a role. Your group will have 8 minutes, which means each of you has 2 minutes. One of you will introduce the paragraph and give a general account of its style, and the lead the class in reading it aloud (limit the size of your passage to NO MORE THAN 150 words!) Then each of the other three will take a sigle sentence from the paragraph, read it aloud (better yet, recite it!) and give an account of how it contributes to the overall stylistic effect of the paragraph.
5. Remember that you will have ONLY 2 minutes apiece. I will be the time keeper and make sure you don't goover. This means you will have to practice as a group ahead of time!!
Bring your materials to class on Thursday, December 1. We'll review the assignment, give you time to work together, and go over what will be due on Tuesday and Thursday of next week. We will also stage a mock final.
Tuesday, November 29:
Reading: The two passages below.
Writing: These paragraphs are both drawn from the genre of the adventure/detective novel, and both are in the so-called “hard-boiled” tradition. How are they alike in their styles? Having thought about similarities, do you also see any differences? Do a one page stylistic analysis of each, comparing and contrasting the styles of the two passages as best you can.
1. From: Lee Child, Tripwire. 1999
2. Mickey Spillane, from I, the Jury 1947
Tuesday, November 22:
Reading: The passage below from "Living with Music.".
Writing: Again, some exercises. This passage is from an essay by Ralph Ellison entitled "Living with Music." I've numbered the sentences (the numbers in parentheses at beginning of each sentence).
We have talked some about rhythm and sound in sentences (as with Ecclesiastes). For Tuesday I want to work more on this, and this paragraph offers a good one to do it. "Living with Music" is its title, and Ellison's prose is designed to complement his descriptions. Read the paragraph through, aloud as well as silently, and listen to the rhythms and sound effects. Look for the ways "music" becomes a theme in the paragraph, and listen for the ways in which this is reinforced by stylistic choices.
Then pick three sentences to describe as carefully as you can in stylistic terms. Include descriptions of how they fit the theme of the two paragraphs, and how the manage to do so by the language choices they make. Make sure that two of your 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 a sentence with a different topic, using your own words, but 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 force yourself to 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 and write:
"Happily there was the tyrannosauris, various castings, and a tea room."
Finally, for the sentence you compose, include a brief description of what in your sentence is the same and what differs from Ellison's sentence.
Ralph Ellison, from “Living with Music”
*The Collier 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 somewhat disturbed owners (brothers, both of whose corpses 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 from the era by search for the Collyer Mansion)
Thursday, November 17:
Reading: The passage below.
Writing: Here I would like you to do an exercise. First, read this through and again look for 3-5 adjectives to describe the voice. Then, second, I want you to work on its diction. First do this simply by replacing as many of its Latinate (or Greek) words as you can with words from the English language's Anglo-Saxon/Germanic lexicon. (Look up etymologies in your dictionary if you don't know where a given word has been borrowed.) What effect does this have, do you think? Where is it clearest? Would you change any of the 3-5 adjectives you used to describe the voice?
And second, now, just with the first paragraph, replace as many of the Anglo-Saxon words as you can with Latinate/Greek derived words. Again, what if any effect does this have?
Anonymous, from Faculty Career Planning
Tuesday, November 15:
Reading: Passages below, and start thinking about a writing sample from an author you think is an interesting writer. We will be setting up work-groups this coming week whose project will be to identify, analyse, and present as a group over the last two days of class, and write about as your all-but-final assignment (the actual "Final" assignment will be The Final!).
Writing: We have now looked relatively closely at half a dozen different pieces of prose: Jefferson in The Declaration of Independence, Salinger in Catcher in the Rye; Dickens in David Copperfield; the opening to Ecclesiastes; Hemingway's opening to "Big Two-Hearted River," and, of course, Lincoln in "The Gettysburg Address." We developed for each its own list of adjectives to describe its style, which is a way of saying that while we can talk about a "formal" style vs an "informal" style, or a Latinate diction as opposed to an Anglo-Saxon based diction, there are many more ways to describe a style and to see purpose in the choices of that style than just "formal" or "informal," "slang" or "jargon-filled," "colloquial" or "slangy."
Thus we can label both Dickens and Ecclesiastes a "formal" style—though what makes them "formal" is very different. And we can say that Lincoln's style is a sort of informal formal style, or what some have called a "middle style" (now thinking of style in relation to "high" vs. "low"—where Jefferson's is a "high" style" and Salinger's is "low"-ish).
We'll think more about these various categories as we get further along in our analyses of how sentences create stylistic impressions, of course. For Tuesday, however, I'd like you to look at some new passages, given below. Read them both, and then select one to write on. Again I want you to tell me as much as you can about its "style," but this time I want you to use one of the passages we have already looked at for comparison and contrast.
[Again, refer to the Syllabus for description of what I'm asking of you as a writer in this class. (2-page limit)]
Here are two passages—you only need to write on one of them, but (just to repeat myself) you need also to place the passage you choose in comparison/contrast with one of the texts we have already read.
From Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez, by Richard Rodriguez
["pass notice" here means "not stand out as different"]
[Note: Caliban, mentioned in the first line, is the half-monster/half-man inhabitant of the island of Shakespeare's play The Tempest. Son of the witch Sycorax, Caliban is sometimes read as the dark opposite to the play's European-born romantic hero Ferdinand.]
Geoffrey Scott, from The Architecture of Humanism
Thursday, November 10:
No Assignment: recover from the late night on Election Day
Tuesday, November 8:
Reading: Only the paragraph below.
Writing: Using Lincoln's Gettysburg Address for contrast, write about the style of the paragraph below. It is by Peter Elbow, one of the most influential writing teachers of the late 20th century. Go back to The Speaker in the Text (TST) and remind yourself of the sorts of things you should by now be able to pay attention to. (The Style Checklist gives a list; other parts of TST describe those dimensions of style more explanation.) How, as exactly as you can describe it, does this style differ from that of Lincoln? They really are about as different as two styles can be, so how well can you locate how?
Peter Elbow, from Writing Without Teachers
Note: I haven't been collecting homework because we are correcting it in class; I will begin to collect more of what you are writing, so make sure you reread the Syllabus' sections on what I expect from your writing!
Thursday, November 3 :
Reading: On the Blackboard there are a pair of essays on Metaphor. First read these essays (the first is on metaphor generally, particularly in its figurative uses; the second is on conceptual metaphor), and then go on to the Writing Assignment below.
Writing: Then, having read the metaphor essay, print out and read "Cat in the Rain"—a two-page short, short story by Ernest Hemingway—and then, first underline each reference to any cat, and second, write about how you think "cat" functions as a metaphor in the story. What features does Hemingway invite you to transfer, and what features does he NOT invite you to transfer? (Hint: what is a relevant early on in the story is not 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.
Tuesday, November 1
Mid-Term #1: This will look much like the mini-exam you took on Thursday, except it will be longer and a little more challenging.
Practice Sentences: to be done in advance of the Midterm
We will have a review session on Monday at 3:30pm at my office. Here are sentences to work on to prepare for that review, if you want to attend, and for the midterm generally. Some of these may be a little more challenging than the sentences we have done to this point--though they do not add new grammatical complexity, they may have multiple elements to account for. I'll send a key out by email on Monday.
1. You can return your ballot without your using a postage stamp.
2. The CEO announced that reductions would be made in everyone's salary.
3. Many people who worry about their country's future have been frightened by the current election.
4. The book the professor had written contained a study that showed that books had been read successfully by intelligent apes.
5. Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
This last is not a sentence I want you to diagram, but I do want you to "parse" it. Which means: I want you to see how far you can get in identifying the main subject and the main predicate, and then the adverbials. Try, too, to identify the parallel structure(s). Finally, think about the order in which Lincoln puts his phrases. Then rewrite the sentence, using his words, but moving one part to a different place in the sentence (and adjusting as necessary so it will make readable sense). Does changing the order make a difference? Be ready to describe what is gained or lost.
The object of this last exercise is to begin the process of extending what you now actually know about how English sentences are constructed to larger sentences (like this one) which we will not be diagramming, but which we will still be working to understand in terms of how its internal grammatical structure affects its readers.
And if the sentences seem clear to you, go ahead and start your reading of the Metaphor essays and the Hemingway story (see assignment above for November 3).
Thursday, October 27
Reading and Writing: Review for the first part of the First Mid-term. The main part of the exam will focus on the syntax we have been exploring and diagramming; I will also give you one of the pieces of prose we have looked at and ask you to describe its style as best you can.
Tuesday, October 25
Reading: Finish The Speaker in the Text, including the sample paper on "The Gettysburg Address."
Writing: Two things--an exercise with "The Gettysburg Address," and some sentences to analyse and diagram.
1. For the "Gettysburg Address," what one observation made in the student paper I include would you change/modify, and what one observation about the style of the address might you add to that paper on the Address? (This is a good essay; I'm asking you to make an observation that could make a good paper even better).
2. 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 be healthy is our goal.
2. My car was totaled by a terrible driver today.
3. I knew that the TV had been stolen.
4. The TV's being stolen surprised the guard.
5. The elephant he released into the wild trumpted ecstatically.
Thursday, October 20 (This got messed up--so it didn't really even happen!!)
Tuesday, October 18
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, 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, 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 syntax over the first two weeks of the quarter, and on Thursday we added a string to our bow by looking at diction. 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 describe first their syntax as best you can, and then their diction. Underline and annotate the texts on your paper.
Then compare the two and try to 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? What is it in the passage that leads you to that hypothesis?
(Don't worry too much about being right or wrong at this point. We are just beginning our work! We'll do a little more syntax on Tuesday and Thursday, too, but it's time we got started on actualy prose as well....)
Thursday, October 13
Reading: How We Make Sentences: The Basics of Constituent Structure (Now go on to read the final section on Relative Clauses)
Writing: For the four sentences below, supply a diagram for each, along with a list of whatever changes/transformations need to be made in the deep, logical structure to derive the final surface realization.
1. The family that plays together stays together. ["together" is an adverbial here]
(Note: we pointed out in class that "who" [and "whom," too] are relative pronouns. English also uses "that" as a relative pronoun--one more reason to think that "that" is one of the most complicated words in the entire language! It can be either a complementizer [He thought that she was tall], a relative pronoun [He played a game that caused trouble], a demonstrative adjective [I want that piece of cake], or a demonstrative pronoun [Give me that!].)
2. I hope the man who came to dinner wanted a new job.
3. My knowing his name pleased the man who had just entered the room.
4. Flying airplanes can be dangerous.
(This last one has a trick: it actually has two different diagrams because it is ambiguous in its meaning. See if you can solve the puzzle and provide diagrams to demonstrate how they mean differently....)
Tuesday, October 11
Reading: How We Make Sentences: The Basics of Constituent Structure (Now go on to read Part 2 and the section towards the end on Adverbials)
Writing: Write out constituent structure descriptions of the following sentence (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.
For the following sentences, do your best to make a diagram for each, and note what complementizer was used to embed the sentence.
2. For him to complain about the food annoyed the cook.
3. His playing the trumpet irritated ears greatly.
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 underline each of the embedded clauses you can find.
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 71 words long!!!!] I give you this exercise as a way of testing what you already know about complex constructions)
Thursday, October 6
Reading: How We Make Sentences: The Basics of Constituent Structure (Read just Part 1)
Writing: Write out constituent structure descriptions of the following sentences:
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."
S = NP VP
NP1 = det adj N
VP = V NP2
NP2 = N
Tuesday, October 4
Reading: Syllabus on line here. Prepare for syllabus quiz
Writing: My Stylistic Profile, Step 1.
My Stylistic Self-Profile, Step 1
You will be doing a profile of your own style as one of your term projects (it will be due in the final week of the quarter). Step 1 of that profile, however, will be due as a 2-3 page response paper on Tuesday of next week; Step 2 will be due as a paper at the end of the quarter.
The purpose of this first step is to give me an opening snapshot of you as a speaker/writer of English; as such it will be your first measure of what you already know about style and about yourself as a language user. The second step at the end of the quarter will ask you to revisit the essay you write for next Tuesday, but at that point you will be rewriting from the perspective that a term's worth of study will have provided. Step Two will thus give you a chance to demonstrate how much more sophisticated you will have become about your own stylistic language use by the end of this quarter, but also a good deal about how much you've learned about the study of language in general.
For Step 1 of the Stylistic Self-Profile write a 2-3 page description of yourself as a writer of English sentences. You won't yet know a lot about stylistics, but you are nevertheless already the best authority there is on your particular ways of using language. You are thus the insider here, and your job is to give me a verbal snapshot of your stylistic self as best you can.
So describe your spoken and written language use now—i.e., do you always speak English? or do you speak another language in your daily life? If you are a native English speaker what do you see as your strengths? or your challenges as a user of English? How would you describe your language use? What "accent" do you think you have? Do you have favorite words? When do you use them, and (if you know) why? If you are an English language learner, think about your strengths, and about what you want to do better. What problems crop up in your efforts to speak with or write to others? like classmates or professors? Can you tell a story that illustrates these issues?
Other questions you might address: What is the richest part of your vocabulary? What kind of writer would you say you are? What are your strengths? What are your challenges?
In Short: Think of yourself in your role as user of English, and describe and illustrate as best you can your own particular style or idiolect.
Ordinarily, a good essay in this class would be well-focused, equipped with well-selected detail/example, as complete as the assigned length would allow, and written in an engaging, colloquial English. Butsince you only have a couple days to do this, and most of you don't yet know a lot about how linguists describe the ways we use language, the criterion for this first effort is simply ECI: Engaged Critical Intelligence.
Prepare for writing by locating something you have written over the past few months (or longer if you really haven’t written much). It can be a paper you have written for a class or something you have written for your blog (if you have one), or even a letter/email to a friend or relative. It needs to be at least from 100 to 200 words long. That will be your stylistic sample, and I’ll want you to describe as best you can the “style” with which you wrote it. (To give you a sense of how long 100 words is, this very paragraph—including this sentence—is 107 words long.)
There is no right or wrong answer to this assignment. It’s a way to establish a baseline for assessing how much each of you knows at this point about what style is and how to talk about the English language as you use it. You will write a stylistic self-profile again at the end of the quarter, and you’ll be showing both me and yourself how much you will have learned during the quarter.
In all that you write, please believe that I’m really interested in what you actually do when you write English. I don’t care whether the differences you find between the way you write and the way others write are huge or small, but I do want you to sort through as best you can what you do as a speaker and writer of English and locate a set of identifying characteristics of YOUR stylistic idiolect.
2-3 pages, double-spaced, hard copy. Due at the opening of class.