1. Choose a novel and examine how one of the characters develops. How does the character change? What might be his emotional development? What things might he/she have learned about himself and/or life? How did he / she either triumph or fail, or both?

2. Choose a novel and conduct an analysis of one or more of the characters. What is the character like? How do other characters help to define the character you choose? What problems does the character face and how does the character deal with / cope / resolve or not resolve the problems? How might you “psychoanalyze” the character(s)?

3. Choose a novel and interpret its structure. There are many ways you can do this: how does the plot relate to / resemble a myth or a plot that we recognize in other places (life, other stories, movies,etc.)? Is the plot a comedy or a tragedy? Why? How does the ending affect the whole story? How does the beginning of the story align with the ending? Is there a plot twist, and how does the plot twist create a sense of meaning, or define it as a comedy or a tragedy? Does the author do anything that “defamiliaizes” the plot, such as time shifts, fragementing the story, shifting the point of view?

4. Choose a novel and explore its voice–its point-of-view (first person, third-person limited to one character; third person from more than one character; omniscient. From whose perspective do we see the events and experiences of the story? How does this perspective effect how we see and interpret events and experiences in the narrative? How does the point-of-view affect and create an interpretation of the story? Why do you think an author chooses one type of point-of-view over another? What are the benefits of certain points-of-view?

5. Choose a “theme” that you can explore in a story: Facing up to vs. denying death; coping with trauma; trying to escape from the past; the negative effects of “pride”; the struggle of religious belief; belief vs. atheism; the struggle to develop an autonmous identity; what it means to be British or American; the struggle to gain a voice and a sense of empowerment as a woman; the struggle of individuality in the context of family, society, history, politics, race; coping with post-war trauma . . . there are, of course, many more.

6. Write a paper in which you interpret the nature of a novel’s ending, the way in which the novel closes. What does the ending do to the narrative as a whole? What important funciton does it serve? Does it surprise? Does it frustrate expectations? Does it supply the novel with mraing or does it make us ask further questions?

7. Choose a novel and explore how the author plays games with time. Consider the passage of time: flashback, flashforward, repetition, condensing time, parallel time, time shifts, delay / suspense. Perhaps you can reflect creatively on the issue of time in narrative: what a novelist can do with time; the unusual nature of time; the similarities and differences between the time of a novel and time as we live it in life.

8. View the movie version of either Mrs. Dalloway or Slaughterhouse Five. Compare and contrast the ways in which the author and the filmmaker represent the story. What elements in the film version are effective, perhaps even more so, than the novel? Likewise, what elements in the film are less effective? How does the filmmaker depicts the games with time that either author creates?

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Before the topics, here is a link to the very moving “backwards war movie” that inspired Vonnegut’s important moment in Slaughterhouse Five when Billy Pilgrim watches the backwards air-attack just before he is abducted by the Tralfamaforians.

1. Choose a novel and examine how one of the characters develops. How does the character change? What might be his emotional development? What things might he/she have learned about himself and/or life? How did he / she either triumph or fail, or both?

2. Choose a novel and conduct an analysis of one or more of the characters. What is the character like? How do other characters help to define the character you choose? What problems does the character face and how does the character deal with / cope / resolve or not resolve the problems? How might you “psychoanalyze” the character(s)?

3. Choose a novel and interpret its structure. There are many ways you can do this: how does the plot relate to / resemble a myth or a plot that we recognize in other places (life, other stories, movies,etc.)? Is the plot a comedy or a tragedy? Why? How does the ending affect the whole story? How does the beginning of the story align with the ending? Is there a plot twist, and how does the plot twist create a sense of meaning, or define it as a comedy or a tragedy? Does the author do anything that “defamiliaizes” the plot, such as time shifts, fragementing the story, shifting the point of view?

4. Choose a novel and explore its voice–its point-of-view (first person, third-person limited to one character; third person from more than one character; omniscient. From whose perspective do we see the events and experiences of the story? How does this perspective effect how we see and interpret events and experiences in the narrative? How does the point-of-view affect and create an interpretation of the story? Why do you think an author chooses one type of point-of-view over another? What are the benefits of certain points-of-view?

5. Choose a “theme” that you can explore in a story: Facing up to vs. denying death; coping with trauma; trying to escape from the past; the negative effects of “pride”; the struggle of religious belief; belief vs. atheism; the struggle to develop an autonmous identity; what it means to be British or American; the struggle to gain a voice and a sense of empowerment as a woman; the struggle of individuality in the context of family, society, history, politics, race; coping with post-war trauma . . . there are, of course, many more.

6. Write a paper in which you interpret the nature of a novel’s ending, the way in which the novel closes. What does the ending do to the narrative as a whole? What important funciton does it serve? Does it surprise? Does it frustrate expectations? Does it supply the novel with mraing or does it make us ask further questions?

7. Choose a novel and explore how the author plays games with time. Consider the passage of time: flashback, flashforward, repetition, condensing time, parallel time, time shifts, delay / suspense. Perhaps you can reflect creatively on the issue of time in narrative: what a novelist can do with time; the unusual nature of time; the similarities and differences between the time of a novel and time as we live it in life.

8. View the movie version of either Mrs. Dalloway or Slaughterhouse Five. Compare and contrast the ways in which the author and the filmmaker represent the story. What elements in the film version are effective, perhaps even more so, than the novel? Likewise, what elements in the film are less effective? How does the filmmaker depicts the games with time that either author creates?

Decide which Writing Option you Want to Take.

As we discuss our readings, you may want to start thinking about the paper(s). First, you may wish to decide which writing option you want to choose. 1) Two five page papers. 2) One ten page paper. 3) A five page paper and an in-class presentation on your paper.  The option you choose may have an impact on what you wish to write about.

Start to Jot Down (brainstorming) Issues /Ideas we Discuss that Interest You, that You May Want to Write about.

As you do the readings and we discuss them in class and online, start to note to yourself things that interest you, confuse you, fascinate you, intrigue you–think of issues and / or literary ideas that draw you toward writing. My number one rule of thumb is that you should write an English paper on a piece of literature and an issue / topic that you are interested in. You should look forward to the paper you are writing as opposed to dreading it.

Brainstorm Things with which you Identify in the Pieces of Literature we Look at.

One way in which to choose something that interests you that could compel you to write is to think about something with which you identify in in a piece of literature. Is there something in a poem or a story that relates to you as a person and / or your life in some way?  Is there something that you can bring to bear upon a piece of literature?

Consider Which Approach Toward Writing that Interests You (The Type of Paper you Might Write)

Another way to start thinking about writing is to think about what type of paper you want to write. There are many approaches to writing a paper on literature.

1. A Formal Approach. If you want to write a paper that takes a formal approach, this means you are interested in the piece of literature as a structure unto-itself. You would be interested in objective issues, like theme, or the figurative devices an author uses (metaphor, imagery, symbolism, etc.), or narrative structure, or point of view, etc. This would be a paper in which you are interested in what makes a piece of literature tick, as opposed to its relationship to anything else.

2. A Cultural Approach. If you are interested in a cultural approach, you would be interested in how a piece of literature relates to some aspect of the contemporary world: an issue in our world the piece points to; a problem in the world with which we can identify. In this approach, you might find some universal problem or issue that the writer explores, something that transcends time.

3. An Historical Approach. If you wrote a paper with an historical approach, you would be interested in how certain aspects in history of the time the piece was written influences it. For instance, how war influences a particular poem; or how the economic conditions during a period affects a particular piece; or how the living conditions of a culture influences a work. An historical approach writes about how a piece of literature is situated and influeced by a the particular time or period it was written in, OR, how a piece of literature reflects / mirrors its historical period.

4. A Personal Approach (or Reader Response). You could write a paper in which you explore an individual or personal experience with a piece of literature. You could write about how you identify in some way with a piece. Or you could write about your experience interpreting a piece of literature. However you do it, this approach involved situating you as the reader in some way with what you are analyzing.

5. Inter-disciplinary Approach. With this approach, you can use the methods of another disicpline to interpret a piece of literature. For instance, using terms or methods of psychology to read a poem, or a particular philosophical movement to understand a piece of literature.

This week, start to brainstorm the type of paper(s) you would like to write. Brainstorm the various things that interest you in life, perhaps, that you might bring to an analysis of a piece of literature. Consider which approach above might be the most interesting for you.

As the course progresses, and I continue to pose questions for thinking and reading here, gather some of the questions as possibilities to respond to in a paper(s). 

Right now, don’t try to start writing a finished paper. Instead, do some messy, creative, “brain-storming” type writing. Jot down ideas, notes, interests, quotes on pieces of paper that you can refer to. Re-read some pieces, writing down thoughts, ideas and questions in the margins. Don’t worry about getting polished writing done yet.

This is an upcoming blog and site for my courses. This coming Spring 2009 semester, I will be teaching during the day program at Albertus Magnus College the Twentieth Century American and British Novel and Written Expression. In the evening program during Mod 3 (running from January to March), I will be teaching the Shakespeare Seminar and Masterworks of British Literature, Part 1. I will teach part 2 of Masterworks of British Literature in Mod 4 (March to May).

In this main page, I will be posting blogs for thoughts, interest, interpretation, information and entertainment concerning these particular courses for the Spring 2009 semester. I will also post anything else that I consider of interest concerning literature, education, writing and culture.

For particular information concerning a course, use the tool bar to the right.

For those of you not taking one or any of these particular courses, there will be certain material that can only be accessed for enrolled students. For those of you enrolled in any of the courses, there will be links that will require your password.

Whether you are taking a course or not, I hope that you will find this blog informative and entertaining.

Happy Reading!