A Man Made Cold by the Universe

May 18th, 2011

by Sherry Simpson.

Probably the best essay written by a person who went to visit Bus 142 to try to figure out what is all meant. Read a cleaned up and illustrated copy here.


Into the Wild: Reading Guide

May 18th, 2011

Attached is a copy of the Reading Schedule we will follow for Into the Wild, along with the Reading Journal assignments. Creating your own high quality interpretive questions is really the key to understanding the book, and the key to a remembering stuff for a test!

ITW Reading Guide

Making Meaning with Walden

May 18th, 2011

Walden is a book that merits a close reading, but you don’t have to read it all in order. Thoreau drops 24 carat nuggets of wisdom along the way that are worth considering all by themselves.

Find 3 nuggets in “Economy,” up to page 65.

Illustrate, using the attached sheets as a model.

Walden Illustrated Quotations

The House Has You

After you have three good ones…

1) Export each as a pdf file. That way they can be seen on Buzzword.

2) Post them on Buzzword in the Walden folder so others can see your work.

Good links

May 18th, 2011

The best general source page for all things Chris McCandless, created and maintained by George Mason University.http://nmge.gmu.edu/textandcommunity/2006/resources.html

Heather Horton is obsessed with the bus. And she’s taken some good photographs.


Want to figure out about “The Slabs” mentioned in Into the Wild?

They have their own website! Visit


Warning: You’ll see the darker side of the “free” hipster lifestyle here.

For Walden, the electronic text is a great resource. Visit


More links later…Have some good links to offer? Add them in the comment box…I’ll post them.

Argument Essay: Considering the Statue

April 14th, 2011

Read the third page of the handout, and write a well reasoned analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments presented. Try to use terminology effectively: argument, assertion, premise, proof, deductive argument, inductive argument.

Pay particular attention to premises which you might question. Identify them, and quote them.

Remember, you’re only concerned with the essay prompt on page 3 for now…

Naked Statues in Public

Macbeth and the “Sandbank of Finitude”

March 15th, 2011

Sometimes I make up an assignment because I really don’t understand something, and I want you to explain it to me.

This is that sort of assignment. I know Hegel’s theory of tragedy applies to Shakespeare, but I have some trouble fitting it all together. So I hand this one off to you. Start with the following quote from the great German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel:

“Viewed externally, Hamlet’s death may be seen to have been brought about accidentally …but in Hamlet’s soul, we understand that death has lurked from the beginning: the sandbank of finitude cannot suffice his sorrow and tenderness, such grief and nausea at all conditions of life…we feel he is a man whom inner disgust has almost consumed well before death comes upon him from outside.”

Apply Hegel’s quote to Macbeth.

Is he a hero, in any sense?

Answer in 3-4 paragraphs, 500 words. You might want to learn a little bit more about Hegel’s thinking before you begin. Here’s a fairly understandable handout on the topic.

Hegel on Tragedy

You have to do some real lifting on this assignment. Not something you can slap together an hour before it’s due if you want it to make any sense. Wrestle with the whole metaphor and idea of “sandbank of finitude.” What was he talking about? Why a sandbank, not a boulder or a mountain? Hmmm…

Due, typed, at the beginning of class on Wednesday, March 16.

Race and Space: The Midterm Question

January 14th, 2011

Russell Banks, a contemporary novelist and critic, has observed that there are really only two great themes in American literature: Race and Space.

Is he right?

Read the attached essay question in pdf form, then start gathering material for an essay on the midterm.


Here are some handy online resources for the original words and pictures:

Huckleberry Finn: http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/Twa2Huc.html

The Great Gatsby:  http//:ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/fitzgerald/f_scott/gatsby/

The Country of the Pointed Firs: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/JewCoun.html

It’s a Wonderful Life:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_lR6HEdOb8&feature=related

Huckleberry: A Reading Guide

December 22nd, 2010

Keep a reading journal and be prepared to discuss Huckleberry Guide after vacation.

Check the attached pdf for details…

Country of the Pointed Firs: What’s it all About?

December 6th, 2010

A slideshow with all your quotes and a little music is available at


You can open high quality, medium, or cellphone quality versions.

Sarah Orne Jewett’s masterpiece is about the Maine coast and its people, but there is something deeper going on. What is it? What is Jewett trying to communicate to us as readers?

Take your time and come up with an explanation of the heart of the book. Don’t oversimplify or try to explain a single message. Ambiguity is not only to be tolerated; it is welcomed. What is her theme here?

After you make a clear statement of Jewett’s purpose and message, try a more straightforward question. Should Jewett have included “William’s Wedding” as the end of the novel?  Explain why, or why not.

Use at least 3 quotations from the story that you find helpful.

Looking for quotes? It’s useful to have a text version of the story, and you can find it in a few places on the Internet. Go to the site, then “Edit” and “Find,” and it will help you locate the quotations you may find helpful.

Here’s a link to a version I like from the University of Virginia:


Synthesis #2: Have College Freshmen Changed?

November 9th, 2010

Have college freshmen changed over the past several years, since your parents were 18?

Read the Room for Debate discussion in the New York Times and come up with your own answer.

Neil Montgomery’s research on helicopter parenting is summarized by Rachel Rettner at livescience.com. Links like this off the main page are fair game, but don’t go there first.

You can also look at the reader comments, but, again, don’t go there first. Try to digest the articles and start to formulate your own view first.

If you don’t already have a log in for the New York Times, get one! It’s an invaluable source, and the website is topnotch.

Use this reading guide to get started in your work.
Synthesis Reading Guide