English 270 A, Fall, 2017
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, first, read my short essay on the challenges of learning English at:
or our own OWRC's page:
As I have already explained, this will be an electronic final. At the beginning of the scheduled exam time, 4:30pm PST on Tuesday, December 12, 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 600-800 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 7:20pm PST to complete your essay.
After you have finished your answer, please copy and paste your essay into an email addressed to me: email@example.com. PLEASE DO NOT SEND THE EXAM AS AN ATTACHMENT!! Your answer must arrive NO LATER THAN 7:20 pm.
The Link to the Exam will be HERE.
Tuesday, December 5 and Thursday December 7 will be focused on the Paragraph Project: your finding and writing about a paragraph, and your presentation to the class on December 7.
Thursday, November 30
Reading: The two paragraphs below.
Writing: Compare and contrast the two passages below. They are both from very famous early Detective fiction. Mickey Spillane sold 225 million copies of his novels, of which the first was I, the Jury--from which I take the opening paragraphs. Spillane's novles are first-person narrations from the perspective of the the detective, who is named Mike Hammer.
Raymond Chandler was the author of some of the most famous detective novels of all time, every one of which has been made into noir films. The best known probably is The Big Sleep starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. He, too, uses a first-person narrating detective; his is named Philip Marlowe.
Both authors are known as writers of "hard-boiled" detective fiction, but that doesn't mean they are "hard-boiled" in anything like the same way. Below are the openings of Spillane's I, the Jury and Chandler's The Lady in the Lake. Each is introducing the detective who will be solving the case. Your assignment is to compare and contrast the voices in these two passages. Each writer has been a fantastic success, so we are not trying to find out what is wrong with them as stylists/writers (though I don't find myself easily identifying with Spillane's hero, and maybe you can guess why).
Mickey Spillane, from I, the Jury 1947
Tuesday, November 28
Reading: The paragraph below.
Writing: The passage I gave you on the midterm was the opening paragraph from Peter Elbow's book Writing without Teachers. You all did pretty well in describing the style; some of you even saw that the paragraph you were reading was a kind "actual example" of what free writing can create: it gives the sense of doing what it is telling its readers to do: Write quickly. Don't worry about fragments or even run-on sentences. Don't stop, just keep on going even if you say something two or three times. His passage is a form of academic prose (he's a teacher), but stylistically it's not like most of the academic prose you have ever read.
Below is the opening of a book by a different academic. It has similarities to Elbow's style as well as some significant differences. For tomorrow read through this paragraph and write (you can free write it if you want!) about what is similar and what is different from Elbow's academic style. Make sure you attend to the same things you were attending to on the midterm in order to analyze/understand how Geoffrey Scott's passage works stylistically.
Geoffrey Scott, from The Architecture of Humanism
Tuesday, November 21
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: After reading about how metaphors work, read "Cat in the Rain" —a two-page short, short story by Ernest Hemingway (I have sent it out as a pdf file--write me if you can't find it). 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.
Thursday, November 16
Tuesday, November 14
Reading: The passage below from "Living with Music."
Writing: 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 Ecclesiastes). For Tuesday 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" 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 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 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”
*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)
Thursday, November 9
Reading: Just one passage for today. It is the opening paragraph of Nobel prize-winning writer Alice Munro's short story "Boys and Girls."
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: You know the drill. Analyze this paragraph for the voice and style of the paragraph below. It is the voice not of Munro herself, but of the narrator in the story. That narrator is young woman who is telling the story of an important moment in her life. This paragraph is the first paragraph in the story.
Alice Munro: Boys and Girls
What is she doing with her language here? What effect does it have? Why might she want to have the effect you describe?
Tuesday, November 7:
Reading: Read the two passages below.
Writing: We have now looked relatively closely at several 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." (And we'll be highlighting what those different terms mean again on Tuesday as well!)
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 this Tuesday, however, I'd like you to look at the two new passages 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.
(Remember: ECI, and 2-page limit)]
Here are the two passages—you only need to write on one of them, but (just to repeat myself) you need also to describe the passage you choose to write about 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.]
Margaret Atwood, from Surfacing
Thursday, November 2
Reading: Print out the two style passages below—double spaced. Then look at the structure of the sentences, the kinds of words each uses. Annotate your print out. Pick a sentence that seems to stand out in some way.
Writing: Then, using the Checklist I gave you in class on Tuesday from the Speaker in the Text to guide your work, write a description of each of these speakers as you "hear" them, and then note 5 or more characteristics of the language in first one passage and then the other as you can. They are very different, even though Hemingway has often been said to have had a kind of "Biblical" style. What is different? What is the same?
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. Ernest Hemingway, from “Big Two-Hearted River”
Nick looked at the burned-over stretch of hillside, where he had expected to find the scattered houses of the town and then walked down the railroad track to the bridge over the river. The river was there. It swirled against the log piles of the bridge. Nick looked down into the clear, brown water, colored from the pebbly bottom, and watched the trout keeping themselves steady in the current with wavering fins. As he watched them they changed their positions by quick angles, only to hold steady in the fast water again. Nick watched them a long time.
Tuesday, October 31
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."
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:
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.
Thursday, October 26
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 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? What is it in the passage that leads you to that hypothesis?
Then go on to describe their syntax as best you can. Underline and annotate the texts on your paper. (You still don't know enough to do this well--but you can get started, and you'll know a whole lot more once we have finished next Thursday's class.)
(Don't worry too much about being right or wrong at this point. We are just beginning our work!)
Tuesday October 24 Midterm. You have already seen what the midterm will be like; we will have review sessions/office hours from 9:30am to noon on MONDAY.
My exams are designed to help you learn material, not simply to find out what you do or do not know. The exam itself will be planned to take 50 minutes; some of you will finish in 30 or 40 minutes, some will take longer. You will have the entire 110 minutes of class time to finish.
Here are some review sentences we can discuss during the Monday Morning review session.
Thursday, October 19
Review of material covered to this date; Mini-midterm in the second hour. Review session will be available on Monday.
Practice Sentences for Thursday:
Tuesday, October 17
Reading: Finish the reading on Phrase and Sentence structures by reading/re-reading the final section (Part IV) on Relative Clauses: How We Make Sentences: The Basics of Constituent Structure. This is the last big piece of syntax we'll look at. With these structures understood we will be equipped to talk with sophistication about simple, compound and complex sentences, as well as loose and periodic structures. (For some that will sound pretty complicated, but you will get used to it quickly enough.)
Writing: Here are five sentences to diagram for Tuesday. Give a Deep Structure diagram for each, along with a list of the rules required (if any) to get to its Surface Structure. Show where and how the rules apply on your DS diagram (as we've been doing in class).
Thursday, October 12
Writing 1: 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.
Writing 2: Then read the writing sample below carefully. Give some adjectives to characterize its voice, and then note what you can about the syntax and word choice that would make the second paragraph effective for many readers as a restaurant review.
Tuesday, October 10
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.
Then, for that sentence and for the following sentences, 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 5
Reading: First, read the Syllable Supplement at: http://faculty.washington.edu/cicero/Eng270GoalsMethods.htm
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:
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."
Tuesday, October 3
Read the following paragraphs carefully, and think about their writer-speaker's style. 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?
(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.)
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.