Okay Ben, I hate to treat this blog post like a venting space but I for real have no idea what we learned this week. At least in terms of like a new topic I can put into words I’m really at a loss. This week was mostly spent working in already ongoing projects. To start the week I was rudely awoken to the fact that I actually had to finish a poem of the week essay, which I have never successfully done, AND IT’S DUE FOR A GRADE. So, I’ve been spending a lot of time mulling over that and revisiting the revision and rewriting stages of my past attempts. Which is challenging because I’ve never actually gotten past a full body paragraph for most of my essays.
The rest of the focus this week was placed on the continuation of the tragedy unit. For this unit, as a class we have been looking at works relating to tragedy, whether they are actual tragedies, or some form of text looking at the characteristics of tragedy. For each of the texts we have looked at we have had to write a blog post talking about our views on tragedy and how the text relates to tragedy as a whole. At first I thought this was a really strange and unhelpful way to study these works but the more I write about them the more I realize that I’ve actually had to spend time thinking about the pieces, more so than I would have otherwise.
This week was spent almost completely working on our “Elements of Fiction” project, which consists of two essay written in a group. Our two elements of fiction were Characterization and Point of view. We split up the work between the four people in our group. Josephine and Alexis wrote the characterization essay around the character Sonny from “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin. Austin and I were tasked with writing an essay comparing and contrasting the use of point of view and how it effected the story in “The Boarding House” by James Joyce and “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been” by Joyce Carol Oates. I enjoyed this assignment for two reasons. First, I enjoy both of the stories we used for this project. I have read multiple works by both James Joyce and Joyce Carol Oates before this project and reading more of their work as well as looking at it past it’s entertainment value was a useful experience. Second, I had never really thought about what point of view brings to a story before this project. Both of the stories that we looked at were both in a form of third person point of view. However, When looking at the difference between limited and omniscient it changes how one can look at the story. In “Where are you going, the point of view is third person limited, which creates a much more isolated mood and ups the creep factor in Oates's writing. In “The Boarding House” The Omniscient point of view creates a much more open story full of different information creating a larger less isolated picture.
This week I feel that most of the focus in class was based on some form of writing. To begin the week we met with and listened to author James Jackson. One of the biggest takeaways from Jackson’s visit for me was that not everyone is going to enjoy your writing, and that maybe only ten percent of people may actually enjoy the genre that you might be writing in. Personally I didn’t enjoy what I read of the book he shared with us, but someone might, and he writes for that ten percent. Another thing he mentioned that stood out to me was creating a time and space to write. Personally I do not write stories or have any particular topic I like to work on at any time, but I think writing is important to organize thoughts. By setting up a set time to write and having a physical space to do it in the likelihood that I will actually write an even improve on it is more likely. Taking this into consideration I also worked on my creative writing piece this week to be shared with Ben and Mr.Schoenborn. I choose the one that I had started the first week of school because it reminded me of when I was still in a pleasant mindspace. While writing this week I worked on revisions such as further developing ideas and reorganizing the structure of the piece.
This week we spent time starting two new projects, both involving writing. First off we started our creative writing project. Since the beginning of the year various prompts have been thrown out and have been given class time twice a week to write whatever we wanted about these prompts. Starting tuesday I began the revision process of my very first creative writing piece from this class. I choose to write about my summer because it was what was most fresh in my mind. I love working on and writing this piece because it brings me back to a place I was content. I began my editing by splitting up my paragraph of flow of consciousness word vomit into different emotions, and developing them further from there.
This week we also started our “what is literature” project. For this project the class split themselves into groups and choose stories to use in a series of essays to describe an element of fiction. Our group choose the elements Characterization and Point of View, in all honesty because all of the others were already taken. To describe Characterization our group chose to read “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin using the character of Sonny. For Point of View our group choose the stories “The Boarding House” , by James Joyce, and “Where are you going, where have you been”, By Joyce Carol Oates, who I am very interest in right now. All of the projects we are doing around writing right now are really getting me to look at how I write and how I can improve my process, which makes me look forward to the rest of the year.
This week started off rough for me. After spending two days at home suffering due to a pretty gnar sinus infection I returned to class right in the middle of a group project.This week was all about looking at what makes literature literature, and how we can find the story in things other than literature, in things like paintings and other forms of art. One activity I enjoyed doing as a part of this lesson this week was finding the story in a famous painting. My group chose look at Guernica by Picasso. While also enlightening it was very entertaining to pick out little pieces of the painting and try to say what they might represent and what that adds to the message of the whole piece.
This week we also received a new poem. “Elegy in X Parts” by Matt Rasmussen shows the broken and reeling thoughts of someone who’s had someone close to them commit suicide. In our table groups we spent time breaking apart each little piece of the poem in order to put together what is going through the writer's head. As usual with a weekly poem we took the time to write a timed essay. This week I found it incredibly challenging as timed writings often give me a severe sense of anxiety. The work I produced was not good quality at all and I hope to improve on this difficulty as the year goes on.
This week in class we discussed the summer reading homework and talked about what kind of metaphors we can find in literature. To explore this topic we broke up into groups and reflected on our chosen books and the one required book, and had to create a visual metaphor to show our ideas.Well I personally only read How to Read Literature Like a Professor and had not read my summer reading picks, I did read a plethora of other literature books for my own entertainment this summer. My partner, on the other hand, had not read the required piece, so we spent time explaining the other books to one another and sharing our thoughts about certain pieces and how they might interact with the other books. Matt and I were both very connected to the statement that “ all stories come from other stories, and all these stories are apart of just one big story” from How to Read Literature Like a Professor. To illustrate this we used a clump of vines growing from a tree. Well this week was entertaining, I feel like I did not learn so much as I revisited things that have been apart of my english education since later elementary. Looking at stories beyond surface level to find what the author is really trying to say is an integral part of the class, but I feel like the activity was a bit shallow, but I suppose that’s really up to us as the students to see it as more than just words and coloring.
This week I learned two new things about myself. First, I actually very much enjoy creative writing. I haven’t been forced (I guess politely asked and compelled by responsibility is a better way to say it) to sit and write about whatever in a very long time. Timed writing has always been a very common thing for me to do in english class but there has always been some sort of prompt. There was something freeing about the experience of just being told to write, about whatever I want, keep writing, keep my hands moving, keep information flowing because you are not done till you need to stop. Beforehand I decided I wanted to write about what was the most fresh in my mind: a long, transformative summer. Being able to reflect on all those things in anyway I wanted was nearly cathartic, it made me more at peace and ready for school. I used as much flowery language and morbid sarcasm as i wanted.
On the other hand I also found that I and many others in my class have a very closed mind when exposed to poetry. This week we read “The Eagle” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and were asked to reflect and analyze the poem. Often, nearly in every mention of the poem we’d say “Dude, it’s 30 words about an eagle, I don’t know what you want me to do with this.”, But by the end of the week, through tpcast and group discussion I had realized that even if it sounds stupid or tired any thoughts about what something might stand for that changes the meaning of the poem is worth looking at.
This week started the beginning of my senior year of highschool, which is supposed to be a special year in itself, but this year I made a promise to myself. This year I want to get over my performance anxiety. However, this goes for more than my performing arts involvements. This year I’m going to get over my fears of academic judgment, especially in terms of my academic writing.
During this week we set up classroom blogs and talked about the year ahead. While setting up my classroom website I came to the realization that I would be doing a lot of writing in this class. I mean, I knew the class was going to contain a lot of writing when I signed up for it, but the amount of writing seemed abstract and unimportant at that time. Now, however, it seems abundantly clear that I will be quite comfortable with expressing my thoughts by the end of the year. I thought this would bother me or even scare me, but after thinking about my goals for the year I am actually quite excited at the idea of writing often. During the week Mr.Schoenborn made a point that has stuck with me and will continue to motivate me to maintain my goal, and that is that no matter what I do in life I will have to write, I will have to be comfortable expressing my ideas, and I will have to be able to do it in a somewhat timely manner.