Engaging with a Writer

For each poet or short story author you study, make at least six page-long entries into your scrapbook, at least half of which (three pages) should be written text, about a page each, double-spaced, 11 or 12 point font, if typed,  single-spaced if handwritten. Any typeface you want to use is okay, as long as a reader can read it easily, and you may use any format (as opposed to the essays, which must be in MLA format). If you write your scrapbook by hand, use pages that are at least college composition book size. You can take digital pictures of your handwritten or hand-drawn work, and put them in your electronic scrapbook which you will send to me. The other half of the entries (also three pages) can be drawings or digital art you make, photos you take or find, and other flourishes perhaps. You can write or draw on paper if you like, and scan it or digitally photograph it for your electronic scrapbook. You can decorate your scrapbook any way that suits you. If you want to do four, five or all six pages in written text, that is fine too, or if you want to make more than six entries for each author–great! Also, you do not need six separate pages, just six pages worth of entries. Let’s say you do one page worth of vocabulary for an author. Rather than have one long page, you might write several vocabulary entries interspersed with drawings, for instance. Another thing–if you want to explore more of each author’s work than i have put in the class modules, go right ahead, and you can include those explorations in your scrapbooks and essays–but be sure to name any poem or short story you include, and which author wrote it. For these scrapbooks, you don’t have to worry about grammar, spelling, punctuation or format–you don’t even have to write in sentences. (The essays, though, you will indeed have to worry about those things. The scrapbooks are for you, and so will not be judged for quality, but rather, engagement. Do you seem truly involved in exploring the writers you are studying? If you  make a good faith effort, you will earn all the possible points for each scrapbook assignment. This is a different criteria of judging than will be used for your two major essays, which will be judged for quality. The scrapbook will be assigned twice this semester–the first, this assignment applies to the authors you find in the first half of the modules, the first weeks of class the second for authors in the last weeks starting in Week 8–but if you did not include Week 7 in your last Scrapbook, you can include it in the second one.. So, doing six pages for each author, and having one author per week (mostly), this first scrapbook should have about 36 pages when you are done, and at least half those pages should be written text, if typed, double spaced, and if handwritten, single spaced.                                                                      Here are some ideas for scrapbook entries you might have, and you do not have to do all of these, and you can repeat these ideas to study different writers, or combine ideas, or think of ideas for entries all your own. Here is a template: Vocabulary: Look up unfamiliar words from the poems and stories, and list them brief definitions that suits the meaning of the word in the poem or story you are studying, and words you can’t find in the dictionary, you might google the word and see what you find. Poetry or Prose Technique: How do the writers use the different poetic or prose techniques we are studying, and to what purpose and effect do the writers use those techniques? What are the central images of these literary works? And what do the authors convey by using them. What is the mood? What is the tone? Plot Tell exactly what happens in these literary works, in a paragraph. No opinion here, just the facts, just the story-line. Themes and Ideas: What are some of the themes these writers cover? What do they seem be trying to say to us, do you think? How do they comment on their times? How do they comment on people, and the place of people in society or even life itself? How do they seem to comment on the meaning of life? How do those themes and ideas compare and contrast with your own?   Biography: Write a biography of the writer, especially parts that add to your understanding of the writer’s work. You might drop in a photo or photos or other likenesses of the writer (different from the ones on the module pages). Timeline: Create a timeline, one event after the other, of the artists’ lives (and you could include more than one writer, if they lived in the same times, partly or completely, and if you live in the same times as these artists, you can even include important events in your own life in the timeline. Philosophy How well do these writers fit in with the major philosophic movements of history, such as classicism, romanticism, and deconstructionism? How do the writers reflect spiritual and religious philosophies and dogmas such as Judao-Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, animism, and paganism? How do they reflect scientific beliefs, functionalism, socialism, capitalism, anarchism and other political beliefs? What relationship to nature do these authors have? Compare and contrast these writers’ philosophies with your own, and those of people around you. Characters or Narrators Write character sketches of people (or other things of nature) in each work or a sketch of who seems to be writing the poem and if that character is different from the author of the work. Such sketches might include the age, sex, clothing, habits, vices, and personality traits of the characters. History: Write about events going on in the times in which the author lived that may have affected the author’s work and helps you understand that work. Location: Where did the artists live, either by choice or not at various times of their lives, and how did those places influence and even show up in their work? Culture of the Artists: Write about the culture from which the author comes, perhaps the one the writer was born in, grew up in, and spent young adulthood, middle age and old age in. The culture might include values, religious beliefs, traditions, folk tales, ways of dressing and acting, the arts, relations between races, ethnicity, economic classes, and relations between the sexes, what the politics are, and tell the accepted beliefs of that culture, and maybe how the artists go against the grain of any of those things in their writing. Your Own Culture: Relate the authors’ works to your own culture—compare and contrast. You might include song lyrics, movies, books, and so on, that have influenced you, and maybe even how that writer might have influenced some of your favorite works. Personal life: Relate the poems or stories to your own personal life, and freewrite about it. Drawing: Make a drawing or drawings of the artists or something in the poems or stories. You might also create a drawing inspired by the writers’ works. Genres: What different types of storytelling or image making do the artists use, and to what effect? Write a poem or story or do another creative work: Create your own poem or story inspired by the writers’ works, either in content, or in technique. Imitate an author’s writing style: You might even try imitating the writings of the authors (and in James Thurber’s case, perhaps draw cartoons imitating his style). Or do another kind of creative work based on poems or stories you are studying, and tell about that creative work in your scrapbook, or take a photo of it and put that in the scrapbook. This could include sculpture, carving, dance, fashion, preparing food, painting, photography, growing plants—what’s creative to you? Interview Pretend you are a reporter, maybe for a feature magazine, and you interview one of our author/poets. You can interview them at any age they have been, and if that writer is dead, pretend you are talking through a time barrier where you can see the writer, and they can see you. You might describe how they are dressed, in the clothes of their time. You write your name, which in my case is Thomas . . .  Thomas: (and whatever you want to first say, and then ask a question). Writer’s last name: (Answer to the question.) Thomas: (another question) Writer: (another answer) See if you can write the way that writer might actually talk, and remember what time they are in–You don’t ask Emily Dickinson who died over a hundred years ago what her favorite TV programs are.  So, it’s like a little play. Have fun with it. You might write at least a page for the interview. Then write a paragraph telling any insight you might have gotten by putting yourself “in the shoes” of the poet.   Your own ideas for engaging with, grappling with, immersing yourself in the writers you are studying.

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