Create a Compelling Argument

This is just to let you know that the technology department in the Crowsnest likes to connect literature to modern movies; enjoy this trailer from the interesting and entertaining teen movie, Easy A. Though by no means a rendition of Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, you will find that the screenplay writers made a modern homage and modernized some issues from Hawthorne’s novel to present day culture:  individual reputations within an intense, hypocritical community, double standards, and the social dynamics when cultural forces treat women as objects. Have you seen this movie? It was released a while ago, but maybe you caught it on Netflix recently. Or that other medium, Television. You can enjoy the movie in your free time, though it will not directly help you with the nuances of the novel’s plot and Hawthorne’s prose. It is just a fun and thought provoking  homage. In the meantime, click on the link below of past AP Essay prompts. Download and review carefully this PDF Document, which lists the essay questions on the past AP Exams. Please reflect on the whole list well and then select what you think is the best prompt to apply to The Scarlet Letter. Argue in 5-7 sentences in Standard English, which prompt would help you create the optimal essay for The Scarlet Letter. You can refer to your prompt simply by the year. Again, compose your 5-7 sentence argument in a Word document so that you can conduct spellcheck and grammar check easily. Then paste your 5-7 sentence argument in the comment thread below this post. In other words, you will make comments on this post just as you did for the comments on the community text. AP_Eng_Lit.Open_Responses

Posted in 21st Century Learning, American Literary Studies, Becoming an American Literary Critic, Best Practices for Blogging, Growth Mindset, Homework, Honors English III, Twitter, YouTube | Tagged | 5 Comments

Why Do You Think Solitude is Important in Today’s Culture?

The goal of this blog post is to begin a conversation during the first night of study hall tonight among students in all four of my classes about individuals’ reaction to this year’s community theme. This year’s theme of solitude was launched by the interesting book, Silence: In the Age of Noise, by Erling Kagge. Here’s a fascinating NY Times article where the author tries to find places of silence in New York City. Our school web page published the summer reading list in June and celebrates how “Kagge explores the silence around us, the silence within us, and the silence we must create. By recounting his own experiences and discussing the observations of poets, artists, and explorers, Kagge shows us why silence is essential to sanity and happiness—and how it can open doors to wonder and gratitude.” Above is the TED Talk that he gave at the University of St. Andrews, which he mentions in the book. That TED Talk was one of the things that spurred him on to compose the book.

This year the school is using this definition of solitude to sustain interesting conversations in and outside of class. “Solitude is the state of being alone, especially when this is peaceful and pleasant. It is a time for thinking and rest, an opportunity for contemplation, growth in personal spirituality, and development of self. Solitude is empowering as it reconnects us with ourselves.”

So what’s your take-away regarding importance of solitude?

Directions: Reflect on a moment over the community text and find a passage that resonated with you and our community theme of solitude. How did that passage suggest important values about solitude? Likewise, you can reflect on other books you read this summer or books from previous English classes and respond to this prompt. Once you have articulated your connection between the community theme of solitude and a moment in a specific text, then supply one sentence or phrase from the text that supports your takeaway (your idea, insight, or claim), and compose a 5-7 sentences in Standard English explaining how your quotation explains and supports your takeaway about solitude. Please follow MLA guidelines for citing your page number so that we can look up your passage easily. I suggest that you compose your comment in a Word document first, and then read it out loud to see how you can improve the flow of your ideas. Here’s a great model for help: Also recall to italicize titles.

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Reflect and Locate Chinua Achebe’s Post Colonial Novel, Things Fall Apart

Let’s enjoy this informative interview with Nigerian author Chinua Achebe that was recorded fifty years after the publication of his novel, Things Fall Apart. View this interview and take notes on a few items. First note what was Achebe’s first motive to write this novel. “What needed to be done,” according to Achebe? Also reflect on the universal themes that Achebe discusses.

We’ll then discuss during another day in class Chinua Achebe’s influence on Novelist Chimamanda Adichie. What motives do they share? Do you realize that they are writing in different eras? While we only have a short period of time to discuss the summer reading, we will focus on how Achebe uses elements of modernism (remember your spring term in English III?) to create a post colonial story. We’ll also be mindful that he influences other African authors today. Do you know of other authors besides Chimamanda Adichie who pay tribute to Achebe’s influence? 

To start a conversation for class on the blog, comment below and reflect on the value of Chimamanda Adichie’s lesson of moving beyond one story. What is the most important part of her TED talk that informs your opinion. Compose this comment in 4-6 sentences in Standard English in a word document so that when you paste your comment below, you have proofed your prose and performed a spell check.

Here’s a great way to locate what we mean in an English classroom when we discuss issues of post colonialism:

Again, what other African novelists besides Chimamanda Adichie have taken up Achebe’s role and have tried  to tell  the story of their generation? Please research and post a thoughtful comment in Standard English below this post.

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Shakespeare Infographic Project

4 reading infographicWhat is the best infographic that you have used before? How did it help? How was it a beautiful display of information? Why is it an effective medium? This infographic came from Neil Patel’s blog post, “Ten Infographics,” and we can post other great curations in the comment box below.

Shakespeare Infographic Project: the class will produce an infographic that will explain the complexities of a Shakespearean sonnet and will include such topics of poetry skills, themes, Elizabethan culture, climate, and history as well as the legacy and modern iterations of Shakespearean sonnets today. For instance, have you ever heard this #hiphop version before? Short version: Longer TED Talk:

Working in groups, students will compose an essay together on Sonnet 18. That experience will help them become better designers of an infographic. This sonnet project will help you learn how to write your own sonnet essay this trimester and will serve as a review sheet for the trimester exam. When each group has a product that we will establish a rubric together for an engagement grade, we will then have the class decide which infographic we will publish to our Shakespeare Twitter account:





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Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Langston Hughes and the Racial Mountain

Aspects of Negro Life: Song of the Towers by Aaron Douglas

Langston Hughes was one of the most influential and paradoxical poets of his time. He is both so deeply invested in the foundations of our Modern American culture and grossly underrepresented in the scholarly literature of said culture. Langston Hughes was among the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, a political, artistic, and cultural movement in Harlem around the 1920’s and 1930’s. Similar to the European Renaissance, the Harlem Renaissance was about vocalizing and celebrating the African-American experience, announcing this simultaneously new and ancient experience to America and to the world, and creating great art. Before Langston Hughes became a Harlem Renaissance heavy hitter, he grew up in Kansas, briefly attended Columbia University on track to become a mining engineer. Eventually he dropped out of Columbia and dropped into the world of Art and Poetry, Harlem. One of his most culturally impactful pieces was an early essay / manifesto called “The Negro Artist and the Racial Artist”. In this he articulates the difficulties facing “The Negro Artist” in 1920’s America, of which there were many. He speaks about the dangers of the phrase “I want to be a poet — not a Negro poet”, saying, “meaning, I believe, ‘I want to write like a white poet’; meaning subconsciously, ‘I would like to be a white poet’; meaning behind that, ‘I would like to be white'”.  Hughes goes on to say that “no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself. And I doubted then that, with his desire to run away spiritually from his race, this boy would ever be a great poet.” This essay is essentially a battle against “this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible.” Hughes postulates that the deeply culturally and systematically racist society that America supported for so long ingrained a subconscious idea of white superiority, specifically in art and literature, in the minds of all. This backwards hegemony is horribly detrimental to aspiring artists because, according to Hughes, artists must know and love themselves before they can be a “great poet”. Hughes in this essay is encouraging “The Negro Artist” to produce art that is wholly themselves, to try not to be anything thing that they are not, to cling to their own all encompassing identity so resolutely as to not be shaken from it by the battering that “truly racial” art receives. Hughes uses Jean Toomer’s Cane as an example, saying, ” The colored people did not praise it. The white people did not buy it. Most of the colored people who did read Cane hate it. They are afraid of it. Although the critics gave it good reviews the public remained indifferent.” Hughes closes the essay with this line, “If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves,” which is a great summation of the larger theme of the work. As an artist and as a human being, you will not find external success among internal strife. You must come to terms with your many multitudes and learn to love them.



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The two constants in Mary Oliver’s Life: Nature and Dogs

Mary Oliver came from an unhappy home life complete with a sexually abusive father and a neglectful mother. From a very young age, she began wondering the woods, with Walden in her backpack, exploring and trying to escape her home life. To this day, she claims she doesn’t care for the enclosure of buildings. With this in mind, her choice of writing almost universally writing her poetry about nature should be no surprise.

Many different themes and subjects are touched upon in Mary Oliver’s poetry, however the underlying themes throughout her poetry is of nature and its deep connection to.

Mary Oliver’s love for nature and her constant need for dogs is clearly seen throughout her poetry.

She compares and contrasts the ideal state of nature to the messiness and imperfections of humans.  Her sporadic disconnect with humans, stems directly from her child hood and all the things she tried to escape as a child in the woods with Walden.


Her love for nature and her comfort with nature is also illuminated in her life through her constant requirement of having a dog. She has said, “Dogs are the perfect companion…They don’t speak!”.

Although, she only talks in a positive way about people when there is nature involved. She insists that a person is made better by nature and that when one is lost, nature will help them find not only their way again, but themselves. Dogs, in Mary Oliver’s eyes, are the perfect companion nature has provided for humans. This again, stems directly from her childhood upbringing. She found herself, when she was younger, in the woods, where she felt most comfortable. Her childhood continues to mold her adult hood, especially in her poetry.





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A New Perspective-Poet Laureate 2018-2019

Tracy K. Smith, an African American female poet originally from Massachusetts, was reappointed for Poet Laureate for the 2018-2019 year. Her amazing prose like, Duende, Wade in the Water, and My Life on Mars helped her earn the remarkable title originally. Each year, the Library Congress chooses to appoint one poet who has represented American poems as a whole and represented a greater appreciation for writing poetry.  Smith addresses social issues regarding race, gender, and sexual assault in many of her poems, attempting to shine a light on the frequent problematic controversies in today’s society. Smith has expresses her motive for writing this type of poetry as, “a way for her to ‘bring voice to the unsayable, the untranslatable.’”  Smith “strips down” her poetry to attain a raw and real meaning to the words she is expressing in her poetry. Her use of simple diction reflects an elegant tone that develops the structure to her topic.  Due to her title as Poet Laureate, Smith writes for the American people, not just a specific race or ethnicity; this is what makes her so unique. As a woman of African descent, having a different perspective for the voice of America’s poets creates a new approach to the position. Smith is very devoted to her fans and she often has poetry readings. Listening to the passion she portrays when reading her own poem aloud, takes the listeners and readers to another place. Her words become alive as they escape her mouth, the reader suddenly becomes the main character. As Smith takes the readers on the journey of her poem, the audience experiences the struggles Smith highlights. The impact the video makes is why Smith is Poet Laureate. Not only does she take a reader and make them into a minority American, allowing them to experience their struggles to try and grasp a different point of view.

Here Are the Poems I chose for my term paper that helped me experience Smith’s passion:


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T. S. Eliot and Dante

With his avid admiration for Dante, T. S. Eliot adapted the lines, themes, and the writing style of Dante in Divine Comedy in his own writing. Eliot is known for his use of allusions, especially to Dante’s Divine Comedy. He frequently alluded to Divine Comedy in The Waste Land; however, his allusion to Divine Comedy becomes obvious in Four Quartets. Eliot himself stated in his journal “What Dante Means to Me,” which was published in July 1950 by Italian News, “twenty years The Waste Land, I wrote in Little Gidding, a passage which is intended to be the nearest equivalent to a canto of the inferno of the Purgatorio” (Eliot). By alluding to Divine Comedy, Eliot thus attempted to connect his contemporary readers with Dante and religion and provide a parallel worldview between Purgatorio and inferno, which “which Dante visited and a hallucinated scene after an air-raid” (Eliot). He also directly employed Dante’s writing style- Eliot respected the direct expressions that Dante used throughout his work. Dante’s writing accurately delivered all the emotions -shock, surprise, and terror. Eliot wrote in the same journal, “certainly I have borrowed lines from him, in the attempt to reproduce, or rather to arouse in the reader’s mind the memory of some Dantesque scene, and thus establish a relationship between the medieval inferno and modern life” (Eliot). Eliot, therefore, aspired to create a similar unique moment for his readers through his poems. Moreover, in his book called Dante, Eliot wrote, “poetry of Dante is … extremely easy to read… genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.” (Eliot 8). Eliot focused on directly conveying the scenes and emotions through easy and simple writing style in his work. He also adapted the unique form called terza rima that Dante first utilized in Divine Comedy. Eliot’s respect for Dante is evident in his personal writings and published pieces – by alluding to Dante and adapting his straightforward writing style, Eliot wished to create a mesmerizing moment full of emotion for his readers.Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 10.47.04 PM.png(Figure 1 – Eliot’s quote on Dante and Shakespeare)

Eliot left a famous quotation on Dante and Shakespeare that “Dante and Shakespeare divide the world between them. There is no third.” His line expresses his passionate respect for Dante and Shakespeare.



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Ezra Pound: The Midwife of Modernism

As one of the founding fathers of the imagist style of poetry, Ezra Pound laid the groundwork for the careers of contemporary writers such as William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot, and James Joyce. Yet, Pound’s acceptance of fascism following the end of WWI strained his relationship with his fellow poets. This being said, despite his anti-American perspective, Pound’s modernistic style still made its way into the works of T.S. Elliot, especially the poem, “The Wasteland.” Pound  helped Elliot edit the poem, giving him advice about the order of the verse, and encouraging his glorification of disillusionment and despair. Some scholars believe Pound used Elliot’s newly diagnosed nervous disorder to sway him to incorporate modernistic elements of a lost and forgotten world. Pound added the phrase “dead land” (Eliot 2) to Eliot’s original draft, a demonstration of Pound’s intended tone for the rest of the poem. Pound also helped in the creation of the “forgetful snow” (6) that “warm[s]” (5) the Earth, a paradox inspired by the poets’ questions regarding reality and the prospects of humanity. Eliot’s statement that, “April is the cruelest month” (1) echoes Pound’s description of, “pale carnage beneath a bright mist” (Pound 5) in his poem “April.” In both cases April is a symbol for society, where a time filled with promises of growth and prosperity turns out to be a façade, a “bright mist” that obscures the hideous underbelly of post WWI society. Upon the completion of “The Wasteland,” Pound wrote Elliot a letter in which he compared himself to the midwife of the poem, and encouraged Elliot to use the same publisher whom he and James Joyce both employed. Together with Joyce’s Ulysses, and Pound’s The Cantos, “The Wasteland” embodied what Pound dubbed “our modern experiment:” mankind’s adaptation to a postwar world. By mentoring contemporary writers, Pound left his mark on early twentieth-century literature; a mark that is seen in works published long after his death.


ezra pounds wasteland

Pound’s comments on Eliot’s first draft of “The Wasteland”




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Robert Frost’s Duality

Robert Frost, known by his full name Robert Lee Frost has an incredible family and life story. His unique development began with his father, William Prescott Frost Jr., an ardent Democrat and advocate for States’ Rights. An admirer of the Confederacy, William tried to enlist fighting for the South during the Civil War, but was denied because of his youth. Dismayed, William later moved to San Francisco, showing no hesitation in making his racist beliefs publicly known. Writing shocking pieces for the San Francisco Bulletin, an assassin unsuccessfully tried to kill him by shooting through a window. Running for election multiple times, Robert’s father dressed him up in political attire, having him campaign for him as a toddler. Looking a Frost now, recognized for his progressive ideology characterized by incredibly deep thinking, it is ironic to know that his father wanted nothing more than for the South to win the Civil War.

Even Frost’s demeanor seen through his writing is contrary to how he acted during his maturing years. As The New Yorker writes, “in his poetry, Frost emphasized the part of himself that remained aloof and on the outside. He was like “a very keen-witted boy, who would rather know how to sharpen an axehead than sharpen it, who would rather know where spruce gum comes from than go and gather it.” In real life, however, Frost had a certain “strength and vividness” to him. Acting on impulse rather than careful inspection of cause and effect, Frost could be seen doing reckless things, like spending a week outside, during the winter, without a tent or change of clothes.

The ironic duality of Robert Frost’s life is easily traced back to his origins. While his family supported the Southern Confederacy, Frost grew up to be a progressive thinker. Still, Frost did once say “a liberal is a man too broadminded to take his side in a quarrel.” His own quote describes himself, where many consider him to be liberal because of his love of nature, but he would describe himself as conservative. In poetry, Frost shows his reserved side, but those who know him describe him as energetic. Many revered poets exhibit this ironic dual nature; perhaps it is a necessary ingredient in a unique mind


Sources: (including photo), The New Yorker


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