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English 323 Summer Quarter ’06
Assignments and Updates

(Read Carefully-Assignments are posted beginning with the most current)

Make-up exercise for the Second Midterm.

You got your papers back last night--and though the grades over all were pretty good, a few of you still haven't gotten the trick of formulating a strong argument about a scene's function, and of learning how to show How Do You Know your argument makes sense. In other words, you still don't see either how to recognize specific choices Shakespeare has made to creating his scene, or to explore possible explanations for those choices, all in the context of a theory of the scene/passage's over-all purpose.

So here's a deal for you! If you got a grade with which you are not happy, you can complete the following exercise, and either send me an email with it embedded by 4pm on Thursday, or bring it to class.

The Exercise: I gave you a "sample" project statement last night for MAAD 4.1, lines 1-111. Here it is:

The work of Act 4, scene , ll. 1-111 of Much Ado About Nothing is to show Claudio in an offensively defensive moment. Enacting the sort of male ego we see early in the play, fearful of women and their power to make men cuckolds, Claudio here seems happy to have found a seemingly virtuous way to regain control of his romance-weakened self. He revels in his power, taking control of the ceremony and revealing himself as cruel and egocentric, but strangely happy, too, even exultant, at the same time. He seems bent on ensuring that he will never again lose control, and that he will never have to love again.

Using that thesis, or one of your own if you want to supply it, focus on lines 99 to 111. Claudo is speaking, of course, and in his speech the words he chooses reveal a good deal about his real motives in all of this drama he has created. For those lines, write an essay that explains what they do for the scene and the play. Size limit: two typed, double-spaced pages.

Successful completion of this exercise can raise your grade as high as 85. Partial success will earn partial credit.

Assignments for August 15 and 17.

For August 15: The writing assignment for tonight (and your last response paper of the quarter) is to re-read AYLI, especially acts 3-5, looking for passages of from 25 to 40 lines that you would like to write on for the final. Either xerox or type out (or download from the internet) the passage, and then write an explanation of why this passage would make a good selection for the final. In your writing you will be writing, in effect, a first draft of an answer. (The better you do on this, the more chance you will have of having your passage selected--those two or three whose passages are selected will thus get a measure of reward for their good work.)

We will discuss your passages in class on Tuesday, and we will as a class select a set of finalists. I will then adjust that set (reserving the right to add one passage of my own to the final, should I feel we haven't come up with the best ways to showcase your reading skills by that point). In looking for an appropriate passage, think about what you would need to do to write about it. You may find it useful to refer to the "project statement" I offered in class last night (I have posted it to the Blackboard).

The syllabus says that the course portfolio is also due Tuesday--but depending on your own work demands, you may hand that in on Thursday instead if you like. A full description of the assignment is in Reading and Writing Shakespeare. NOTE: please gather your work and the Table of Contents and the Self-reflective Essay and submit it in an appropriately sized mailing envelope. You don't need to put it in a fancy folder. If you choose to turn it in on Tuesday, I'll return it on Thursday. If you wait until Thursday, then be sure to put a return address on your envelope, along with postage sufficient to mail the whole thing back to you!

For August 17: This is the last night of class, and we will use the classtime for the final exam. It will be on As You Like It. The format of the exam will closely mirror that of the in-class midterm, with the main difference being that you will have played a role in selecting the passages to be written on. You will again be writing on a single passage, and you will again be asked to explain as fully as you can what you see that passage doing in the play. (Look down below at the head paragraph for the paper assignment to jog your memory if you need a reminder.)


Assignment for August 8 and 10.

For August 8: Finish As You Like It. No writing assignment for Tuesday, since you'll be working on the paper due Thursday.

For August 10: Second midterm (take home) due.

1200-1800 words (4-6 pages)
Due: Thursday, Aug 10th.
Bring TWO copies. (You will have a re-write option--to be handed in with the final portfolio if you so choose. The draft due today, however, should be treated as a final draft, even if you plan to rewrite).

There are many ways to go about exploring the ideas Shakespeare’s dramas put in play; here I've stressed one: thinking of the play—and each of its subparts—as something with work to do. We begin a line, a speech, a scene, with one set of ideas in mind, and then as characters speak, what they say changes what we began with. The changes we see occur at different levels. One is that of plot—things change in the action of the play, new characters are introduced, settings are described, background information is dispensed. But the more interesting changes are more abstract. These can include drama (what do these lines do to make the dramatic effect of the play clearer or stronger) or character (as the character speaks we see new and different sides of the way they think, the motives they hold, the desires they have). They can also include theme (as the characters speak we are offered new or developing ways of thinking about one or more topics the play has raised for conversation or reflection). In every case, when we think in this way we effectively ask: “What are the dramatic and thematic functions of these lines? What do they DO, as drama and as art?”

So. For your take-home midterm begin by choosing one of the three passages listed below. Then write a paper in which you explain the functions of those lines. Type out (or xerox) the lines on an accompanying page, underlining (as on the midterm) choices Shakespeare has made in writing the lines as he has, and staple that on top of the paper itself.

That should sound a lot like the mid-term instruction. The only difference is that I want you to write up your analysis in the form of a paper which makes a function-based argument about the passage, and then makes its case by careful sequential reading within the passage, instead of in the more random sort of thing you may have done under the time pressure of a mid-term. For each of your points remember to use specifics and exploration of those specifics in order to show How Do You Know your claim is reasonable.

CAUTIONS: Beware of Paraphrase, of Helicoptering, and the Formulaic English Paper

Paraphrase, or the simple summary of plot or dialogue, isn't a bad thing to be able to do—it is just a preliminary thing, and is something to do before you write, not when you write. You don't in general need to paraphrase in an English paper (including midterms). Instead, you need to be commenting on how your lines (or chapter, or sentences) work. To be sure, you may have to paraphrase just a bit in order to clarify your explication, but the paraphrase itself has no value as explanation.

As for helicoptering: One reason I've asked you to use a single set of lines as the center for your paper is to encourage you to explore your passage, see its nuances, what it is, and what it isn't. That doesn't mean you can't connect it to other places. Indeed, each of these passages will necessarily have connections to other parts of the play, other ideas in it, and that will be part of your explanation of what the passage does. But think of your task as that of dwelling within the lines you choose, not just using them as a taking off point for a tour of the play—what I call “helicoptering.” (When you helicopter you file a flight plan early on, and then take off, stopping as you fly over a scene just long enough to pluck an example from a page here and a page there. Your specifics thus are selected only as things to point at, rather than being themselves the subject of your explanation.)

Finally, beware of the formulaic English paper. Some of you may have learned that you can write an English paper by developing an opinion about a passage, explaining that opinion, and giving a few quotes in an effort to “prove” it. That may sound similar, but it’s not what I want. Rather, I’m asking you to read Shakespeare carefully and closely—giving the most imaginative and exact explanation and demonstration you can to the questions: “What do these lines DO in the play, and How do they do it?”

Before you write, re-read the criteria page (again!) and the presentation guidelines. If you haven't read the Thumb-plunging pages yet, you should now. And do look at the Stylewatch pages that deal with spelling, quotation marks, and the like that may be problems in your writing. Unlike the midterm, presentation here counts for part of your grade.

Passages from which you may choose to write:

1. From Much Ado: 4.1.1-111.
2. From Richard III: 4.2.1-121.
3. From 1 Henry 4: 3.1.1-142.


Assignment for August 3:

As You Like It is a play rich in what you could call an allegory of family dynamics. You have two brothers, two fathers (who are also brothers), two cousins, who are much like sisters. You have parents against children, children against parents, and all set in a world of briars, on one hand, and sheepfolds and forests on the other.

It’s a comedy, of course, but like all of Shakespeare’s comedies, it gets lots of its power from cutting near the bone of death nevertheless. And it’s also got a kind of biblical cast as well. Its very first line, for example, runs: “As I remember Adam it was upon this fashion…”

"Adam" gets remembered a lot in this play, both as the faithful servant who follows his destitute and desperate master into exile, and as the “father” of all fathers—Eve’s partner in earth's first paradise.

As you read Act 1 look for 6-8 lines that work to invite an audience to think about issues of family or of archetypal Judeo-Christian themes. You’ll get more of them as you make your way into the forest in Act 2, but for this exercise limit yourself to looking at the three scenes of Act 1. Type out the lines, and describe what you have noticed. What choices has Shakespeare made and why might he have made them?

Assignment for August 1: Midterm.

As explained last night in class, we've had a small change in plan. The Midterm was to have been take-home, but that plan has been simplified. The Midterm (green-book required--will be available in class on Tuesday) will be in-class. I distributed a hard copy set of 9 passages from 1 Henry 4 from which the midterm will be drawn. (For those of you who missed class last night, those passages are posted to the Blackboard page on this site).

On Tuesday I will give you two of those nine passages, from which you will pick one to write about for the exam.

To prepare for this exam you should do three things:

  • First, you should read the passages, along with the instructions that precede them, and you should outline for each what you might write in response.
  • Second, you should re-read (or read, if you've not been keeping up) the essay "Truth and Language in 1 Henry 4." That sets the conversational context for the discussions we've been having about this play, and as such is essential for writing well on the exam.
  • And third, you should re-read (or read, if you've not been keeping up) pages 3-6, 11-14, 19-31, and 51-2 in Reading and Writing Shakespeare. Those pages explain quite fully exactly what I mean when I ask for a "functional analysis" of something, and they both ennumerate and explain my grading criteria.

Assignments for July 25 and 27

For Tuesday the 25th, read the rest of 1 Henry IV and focus in particular on 2.4. That is one of the most famous scenes in all of Shakespeare--both because it is beautifully designed (it is a sort of short play within the big play), and because it gives ironic and thematic resonance to many other spots in the play. For your response paper, look for some place in 2.4 of something close to ten lines that echoes or pre-figures a moment in the larger play. One example: the subject of the early part of the scene is Jack Falstaff's theft of a bag of gold coins, and his subsequently being robbed himself of that same bag of gold. We know that the prince has done this as a joke--as a way to get Falstaff to tell lies, which they will subsequently expose and mock. But it also parallels a major them in the high plot--the way Henry has (from one point of view) "stolen" the kingship from the rightful king--King Richard II--and the way Henry thinks Northumberland is plotting to steal his crown in turn. The low plot thus parodies the high plot, and reminds us in the audience of how thin the line is between being a real king and being a usurper, or thief.

(You probably will find something along this line here--if you don't, don't worry. Just pick ten lines from 2.4 and write about what you see in them, and why they are in the play. What work do you see them doing in this scene?)

For Thursday the 27th: Here I want you to look at the play as a whole again, and to use the point of maximum disorder search as a way to focus your attention. This time, though, I want you to select not one but TWO candidates for that title, and explain in your paper the strengths you see of each in claiming the title of maximum disorder. I add this second one here because I really do think there are several reasonable candidates for the award--and I want to know what you finally found yourself choosing between.

Assignments for July 13, 18, and 20: (Posted July 12 and E-mailed to class.)

Great to see so many of you last night at the play--and great to talk to some of you for a while afterwards. I really look forward to talking with you this coming Tuesday about what we saw, what choices they made in developing the production, and why they made the choices they did.

The main purpose of this message, however, is to clarify your assignment for July 13, and to explain both what I mean by an “electronic” paper, and how you will submit it.

First, as I've explained earlier, there is no physical class tomorrow, Thursday, July 13, because I myself am not in Seattle on Thursday—I’m at a conference in (of all places) Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Because I was going to be away, I had planned to use Thursday as the midterm day—you could simply submit your midterm essay by email.

But as I subsequently explained in my email of the July 7th, I found myself having to change the original plan. For between the holiday class we missed on July 4 and the class we missed owing to the play on July 11, I didn't think it would be fair to ask you to take a midterm. Things have been just a little too sketchy.

So I modified the “e-midterm” to an “e-response paper,” to be submitted tomorrow by email. I will read these while I'm in Tennessee. And the paper I would like you to write is simply a reflection on your reading of Shakespeare to this point this quarter. I ask you to do this because it will help me a good deal as we come out of these hectic past two weeks to have a clearer idea of what you are making of your experience as Shakespeare readers to this point.

Now. A few of you are old hands at Shakespeare-reading, and in your essay you can write about what you are seeing in Shakespeare, or not seeing, as you read him now.

But for those of you who are still relative newcomers to college-level Shakespeare reading, I'd like you to write about the difficulties you have been finding, the resistances you feel, the needs you see yourself having as you negotiate his pages. We've read two big plays, and have done so at a faster pace than I generally like in a class like this. So tell me the story of your reading and thinking to this point. Tell me what is hard or not hard, what has surprised you, what has disappointed you.

Be honest, be full. I want to be able to read this set of papers, think about your experience, and begin the second side of the course better informed both about where you are as readers and where as a group we need to go. As with all response papers, the criterion is “Engaged Critical Intelligence.”

As for submitting the e-paper, simply embed it in an email, and send it to me at by midnight on the 13th. I say “embed” because I would much rather you embed them than attach them. (Attachments require downloading that can be difficult when I’m at a remote site, and believe me, Chattanooga is going to be remote.)

How to embed your paper? Simple. First write your paper as you normally would—ending up with a draft in your word-processing program. Then, with the file open, type the command for “select all” (In Word that is control + a). (That will highlight all of your text.) Then type the command for copy (control + c). Finally, put your cursor on your email page and type the command for paste (control + v). ) (If this doesn't work, send me an email explaining what seems not to be working!)

Assignments for the week of the 18th and 20th:

I’ll see you on Tuesday the 18th; that class will have two foci: we will both debrief about the performance of Richard III we saw on the 11th, and we’ll look ahead to our next play, the first part of Henry IV.

The writing assignment for Tuesday the 18th:

If you attended R3-either with the class or on your own, write about what you noticed about how the Intiman Theatre staged their production of the play. In Reading and Writing English 323 on p. 34 there is a checklist of things to look for in a production. Use that to prime the pump, as it were, and then list as many choices you noticed as you can in two pages. What did they do at particular moments with lights, or movement, or costumes or sets?

(As one example, I noticed that almost every time Richard gave a soliloquy, he came forward to the little platform in front of the stage, and the house lights came up a bit—as if to make a little community between us in the audience and Richard in the play. For me the effect was to heighten both the comedy--Richard looked right at us, sometimes mocked someone in the audience even!--and to add to that sense of complicity between Richard and audience which is so strong and so creepy in the play.)

And for those of you who didn't go to the production, your task is to read on ahead into Act 1 of the first part of Henry 4. Having read the act, think about what you notice in Hal's soliloquy at the end of scene 2. Compare it to Richard's speech opening Richard III. As reflected in their talk, how are these two characters like? How do they differ? Use the details you notice about Shakespeare's choices in writing these lines to explain what you've seen. What metaphors does Prince Hal use? Which are like Richard’s? Which seem most important to watch as the play develops from here? Why?

Last thing: Assignment for the 20th (I know some of you need to know this well in advance, so I'm going to include it here even though it may seem a long way off):

The class will have looked at Hal's speech from 1.2 on Tuesday, and the task for Thursday will be to extend the implications of that speech to the whole of the first act, and especially to scene 3. In your response papers I'll ask you to focus your reading through the idea of "truth" in that scene. Pick (again!) ten lines from 1.3 which seem to you particularly interesting as a way to thinking about "truth." What exactly about those lines interests you, and what do they do as a way of developing what turns out to be a play-long conversation about the "true"?

We'll then read the rest of the play for the following Tuesday.




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