Monday, January 28. 2008
I think it's safe to say that this is not a good week to be sick. I don't know what's going on; I don't know if I will be back tomorrow. Shannon took the day off of work to make sure I didn't waste away on my own, which has been nice; I just wish I felt good enough to enjoy it! (Then again, if I felt good enough, I wouldn't have missed work.) At any rate, I will do my best to be back soon.
Here's the review we covered in class, as well as the review from the Acts I and III "Exam" handouts. I don't know if the substitute passed out copies of your last study guide today; if the office wasn't able to make copies, you can find a Word file of the guide here.
Unfortunately for me, I failed to back up my school-computer files on my laptop, which means I can't remember every category in the 1) through 9) list. I'd like to make a PowerPoint detailing all of the stuff that I wanted to cover in case I can't make it back tomorrow, but I'd need to know what the title of each number and section were (for example, 5) Action/Reaction; a. Macbeth, b. Malcolm, c. Macduff). If you have that information in your notes, and feel like posting it here, I'd be very grateful.
Thanks for understanding,
Wednesday, January 23. 2008
Wanted: Single F, under 33
Must enjoy the sun
Must enjoy the sea
Sought by Single M: Mrs. Destiny
Send photo to address
Is it you and me?
Reply to Single M:
My name is Caroline
Cell phone number here,
Call if you have the time
I'm 28 and bored,
And grieving over loss;
Sorry to be heavy,
But heavy is the cost...oh, heavy is the cost
Reply to Caroline:
Thanks so much for response;
These things can be scary,
Not always what you want
How about a drink
At this ancient club at noon?
I'll phone you first, I guess;
I hope I see you soon
I never got your name,
I assume you're 33
Your voice it sounded kind
I hope that you like me
When you see my face
I hope that you don't laugh
I'm not a film-star beauty
I'll send a photograph
I hope that you don't laugh
Note to Single M:
Why didn't you show up?
I waited for an hour,
I finally gave up
I thought once that I saw you,
I thought that you saw me
I guess we'll never meet now
It wasn't meant to be
It wasn't mean to be
I was sure you saw me
But it wasn't meant to be
Wanted: Single F, under 33
Must enjoy the sun
Must enjoy the sea
Sought by Single M: Nothing too heavy
Send photo to address
Is it you or me?
- Stars, "Personal"
"We stood in your room and laughed out loud.
Suddenly the laughter died,
And we were caught in an eye to eye...
Too scared to say a thing,
I left your house and kicked myself.
I put those feelings on a shelf to die.
I guess I'm not a gambling type,
But think of what the two of us had lost.
I needed some time to think it out.
7-Eleven parking lot:
A toothless woman turned and stopped.
I gave her a dime and a Chesterfield.
She leaned down and kissed my cheek.
I was scared but it felt sweet, felt so sweet.
I took my car and drove it down the hill by your house.
I drove so fast, but the wind couldn't cool me down,
So I turned it around and came back up.
You were waiting on your step,
Steam showing off your breath and water in your eyes.
We pulled each other into one,
Parkas clinging on the lawn
And kissed right there...
Held your hand and watched TV
And traced the little lines along your palm.
- Jawbreaker, "Chesterfield King"
I don’t know if it will be difficult for you to respond to this post; while all of the entries this semester have yielded unique and interesting responses, I think this one will earn a lot of diverse comments. (Questions about love usually do.)
However, this has been a difficult post to write. Part of the difficulty lies in the fact that I’ve known for a while that this will be the last post of the semester, and I wanted to go out with a memorable entry. Now I’m sitting here, staring at a blank screen, trying and failing to come up with a way to top myself.
I guess I’ll start with the boxes.
I like to collect things, which is something I’ve inherited from my father; my mother is incredibly neat and organized, but my father and I are pack-rats. This also means I usually have a tough time letting go of anything. (It drives my mother crazy.)
During times of stress or change, I shift into hyper-organizational mode. I’m ordinarily deeply sentimental, but all sentiment gets buried during these “purges,” and I usually end up getting rid of things indiscriminately until I’m “done.” (Toss the stuffed animals in the Goodwill box!)
I’ve noticed this odd tendency, and take pains to make sure I don’t repeat the mistake I made as a teenager. In the aftermath of a breakup that didn’t exactly go well, I purged my room of everything I’d kept from an earlier relationship (notes and all); the only things I kept were a couple of post-breakup letters that are still probably the most honest/hostile pieces of writing I’ve ever received.
Because I often reflect on the past, I’ve had a lot of time to regret doing that – heartlessly disposing of all the things someone gave to me, and gave to me out of love (especially considering the fact that I’d kept the decidedly post-love letters). It was a stupid thing to do, and it seems even colder in retrospect.
Since then, I’ve made sure to spare my collections of relationship mementos from the purges. I keep these things – these photos, letters, concert tickets, knick-knacks, mementos, and things that remind me of jokes only the two of us would understand – in boxes. (One relationship has been immortalized inside a Nike box; my current box once held a Gap sweater.)
So why the bit about the boxes? And why the pair of distinctly different song lyrics at the top of the page? And what the heck does this have to do with Macbeth?
When I first began planning the curriculum for this class, I wanted to structure the schedule in a way that would allow me to seamlessly move from one thematic concern to another. I wanted to be able to cover little things (ambition, loyalty, etc.) here and there, but I also wanted to build some sort of framework – like an umbrella – that could connect everything that we read. That’s how I came up with the star; those five points were my way of connecting the works with one another.
I don’t know if any of you have found a “favorite” point on the star, but I’ve always had one, and I probably haven’t disguised it well. I am fascinated - fascinated - by the way love pops up in everything we’ve read. More importantly, love appears in a different guise in each story, and seems to have different effects whenever it appears. Love is the key to enlightenment and transcendence in Siddhartha; love keeps Neo going in the face of nearly impossible odds; love – or lack thereof – fills Beowulf with a terrible, powerful emptiness, as he dies childless after a life of earning the respect and love of others; love and family intersect with destructive results in Oedipus the King; and, finally, love appears in Macbeth as both twisted and pure, inspiring some to commit atrocities while giving others purpose.
In short, love affects people in different ways. It's undoubtedly one of humanity's greatest attributes, but it's unpredictable, almost indefinable. It drove me to keep reminders of Shannon in a Gap box. It drove Macbeth to kill a king.
What’s the reason for the difference?
Love is ever-changing, multi-purpose, and simultaneously useful and destructive. We crave love, yet sometimes cannot handle its demands; we seek love, yet sometimes lose our happiness. Love can make us do crazy things. (See: Macbeth.) Yet love, like faith, can often inspire us to do great things. In fact, there isn’t a lot that separates deep love from deep faith; after all, love requires deep, unwavering faith in another person!
Basically, love is versatile, and affects different people in different ways. But why? Why do we have our own unique, deeply personal perspectives on love? Why do we value love differently from one another?
It’s an interesting question to ponder. You can’t hold or measure “love” – it’s an abstract concept. Everyone knows what love is, and (at the same time) no one does. And this confusing, ever-changing thing helps shape the course of our art, societies, and lives.
When we talked about friendship and family, many of you mentioned the need for companionship in terms of survival. Yet there seems to be something more than companionship at work when it comes to relationships, and it seems to transcend a simple urge to make sure the human race doesn’t die out.
There’s something about love – especially romantic love – that moves people. Friendship is all well and good, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to sustain us, at least not indefinitely. Otherwise, why would people ever enter into lasting relationships? They’re messy, and complicated, and difficult to sustain; for that matter, they also leave us vulnerable to deep, devastating pain, and the wounds a bad relationship leaves don’t scar easily.
Despite these inherent dangers – dangers we’re all aware of – we enter into relationships, and we fall in love. For that matter, we enter into long, committed friendships, which many of you know can hurt almost as badly when they crumble.
We know love can hurt us. We know friendship can hurt us. We know family can hurt us. We know this because all of the above have hurt us before, and will hurt us before. Yet we seek these connections out, and we usually feel that these connections enhance our existence somehow. We feel completed in the company of a loved one, although we are formed as individuals.
Aristophanes once tried to provide an explanation for this feeling, and for the existence of love itself. He postulated that ancient human bodies had two heads, four arms, and four legs. According to Aristophanes (and retold in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”), our design was cut in two after we angered the old gods. As a result, human beings are born both complete and incomplete; we exist on our own, yet long for a re-connection with our “other half.” Love is supposed to be the expression of this re-connection; theoretically, by searching for love, we are searching for completion, for enlightenment, for purpose.
It sounds crazy on the surface, but what better explanation is there? Love is an incredibly powerful force, affecting all our lives, but it’s also incredibly difficult to understand. Some will search their whole lives and never find it; others will find it, but fail to understand it.
So in the interest of attempting to understand love – and in the interest of concluding this semester with a celebration of one of humanity’s greatest qualities – I will ask you a couple of questions.
What do you think about Aristophanes’s explanation? If his explanation is unsatisfactory, how do you describe love, and how do you explain its existence? Is it just a matter of chemical interactions, or is there something greater at work? Why do we feel more complete when (one could argue) our independence has been compromised by our commitment to another person?
Why can love inspire us? Why can it drag us down? Is love more helpful than harmful, or vice versa?
What is it about love that allows us to drop our guard? Why are we willing to risk being hurt in order to enjoy a relationship that transcends friendship?
Finally, why do we dare to love? What is it about love that isn’t satisfied by friendship, or by any other type of connection in the world? Why is love something that human beings long for – and why do we long for love in a way that’s entirely different from our other desires and ambitions?
If you can come up with other questions, or feel like turning this into a short piece reflecting on love and experience itself, feel free to do so.
This post is due at 11:59pm on Friday, January 25th.
A final word: I don’t remember what I was expecting when I posted before school started, but you’ve exceeded any expectations I could have had. I longed to have an opportunity to produce something like this blog during my student-teaching years, and I’m incredibly privileged to get to do this in my first semester at Arcadia. Thanks for all the times you made me laugh, or made my chest swell with pride; thanks for writing regularly, honestly, and well. I look forward to seeing those of you who are returning for another semester next month, and wish all of you who are moving on the very best.
Thanks for a wonderful semester. It’s been unforgettable.
Wednesday, January 16. 2008
(Note: The questions sprinkled throughout are rhetorical, and are merely meant to make you think more thoroughly about issues you may routinely ignore or take for granted. The “real” questions, as per the usual, are posted at the end.)
My indictment of Duncan in class today was somewhat tongue-in-cheek; after all, even Macbeth admits that Duncan is a good king, which leaves my attack on his qualifications – not to mention his right to live – ringing a bit hollow. In any case, I think it’s fun to debate the sort of issues that we covered in class; I really appreciated the engaging level of the discussions today, and hope you enjoyed them as well. It’s always nice to think to oneself, at the end of the day, that today has been both fun and productive – and I think that the characters seem a bit clearer to you now than before.
For what it’s worth, I rather like Duncan, at least as much as I can like a character who’s barely alive for more than twenty minutes of the play. I do think that his blindness to the threat Macbeth poses is a fatal flaw, but that’s kind of the point – Duncan’s goodness and eagerness to trust those close to him blinds him to the (somewhat conflicted/ambiguous) evil Macbeth represents.
However, today is not the day to discuss love, trust, and betrayal; that’s coming up in the blog’s swan song next week. (Yes, all good things must end – for after next week, there won’t be time to write again before finals. For some of you, your next post will be the last piece you write for this site. I hope the prompt will strike you as appropriately momentous and memorable.)
Today, it is time to talk about the nature of human goodness – your goodness.
We’ve been talking about fate and choice an awful lot this semester – mainly because I think that choice lies at the heart of our sense of independence and identity, but also because I think it’s a fascinating topic. Think about our conflicting views on free will, for example – something that is supposedly so wonderful is also supposedly responsible for all of the evil in the world!
Wouldn’t it just be easier if none of us had the right to make a bad decision? Who needs choice, anyway? (This is also tongue-in-cheek.)
I don’t think humans would rush to abandon their free will if given the opportunity to do so, even if we knew we would benefit immensely from giving up the freedom to make our own independent choices. Think about it: If you were told you could enjoy a life of happiness if you surrendered your right to make choices, would you surrender it? If you would, do you feel guilty, even though you know you’ll be living a life of simple happiness?
If someone offered you happiness in exchange for your independence, would you take it?
It’s a serious question, and one that needs to be asked whenever we try to analyze Lady Macbeth. At first, we can’t understand her naked, seemingly unquenchable thirst for power. After all, what’s so bad about her life? She’s married to someone successful, seems to enjoy good health, and has been blessed with intelligence to spare.
Yet she is not free, at least not as a fully independent agent. We often forget this because we usually see her only when Macbeth is around, and she strikes a powerful contrast to her easily influenced husband. But that’s the extent of her power; she can manipulate Macbeth, and little else.
Consider her perspective. If you had been denied independence for your entire life, wouldn’t you thirst for influence just as strongly? As young adults, don’t you look forward to the days of controlling your own destinies with anticipation?
Lady Macbeth is twisted, hateful, and greedy. Shakespeare’s portrayal of her, groundbreaking as it was, smacks of misogyny (he toughens her by emphasizing her masculinity), and it is unlikely he wanted anyone in his audience to feel sorry for her.
Yet when you consider her circumstances, when you study her in the context of the times, when you realize she is a brilliant individual who is a prisoner to her society’s marginalization of her gender – and whose potential, and life, have therefore been squandered – her most hateful qualities seem a bit more understandable. In fact, she may even emerge as a slightly (or oddly) sympathetic figure.
Reminds you a bit of Grendma, doesn’t it? After all, the best villains are the ones who make us shiver – not because we fear them, but because we fear we can understand them.
You already discussed whether Macbeth or Lady Macbeth is “more evil.” I would say that both are capable of great evil; I would also say that I’m not sure that the capability of evil action indicates that a person is, in fact, evil. After all, aren’t all human beings capable of evil? Shouldn’t we evaluate the “evilness” of a person on the basis of their actions?
If we do so, I’d like to point out that the individual most of you felt was more evil – Lady Macbeth – never harms a single living being over the course of the play. Meanwhile, Macbeth racks up a fairly impressive body count, and he seems to be a more effective killer of friends and innocents than of enemy warriors.
Yet I don’t believe that many of you would change your minds if I asked you the same question tomorrow – “who is more evil?” After evaluating both candidates, you’d still probably choose her over him – the enabler over the enabled – the planner over the killer.
Perhaps some of you can see where I’m going with this. (Others may have no idea what I’m doing, which is also OK).
The entire post has been an attempt to get you to evaluate, closely, how you define good and evil. Clearly, neither Macbeth nor his wife are “good” people, although you can easily argue that Macbeth has many good qualities.
I also mentioned fate and choice a few times throughout the week, and even mentioned it at the beginning of this piece. I wanted it to kick around in the back of your head – not to confuse you, but to force you to carefully evaluate your responses to the questions I want to ask you.
So…here are the questions:
What makes a person “good” or “evil”? Where is the “tipping point” – the line separating “good but flawed” from “better avoid him/her, because that’s an evil person”? How can you tell the difference – in other words, how can you tell that some people are good?
Do our choices determine our “nature,” or is something nebulous inside of us (a conscience, a soul, etc.) more responsible? Is it possible for a person’s “nature” to change – for a good person to become evil, or for an evil person to become good?
Can you conclusively say that you are a “good” person? Are you somewhere between “good” and “bad,” leaning in a certain direction? What sort of criteria are you basing your response on – your actions, your thoughts, or both? Do you believe you will become a better person as you age, as you gain experience and knowledge, as you live, love, and learn – or will you decline?
Finally, do you believe that other people can influence your “goodness,” for better or for worse? If so, how?
Before you post, I’d like to make a request. Jot down answers to all of the questions, even if they’re just a couple of words, on a separate sheet of paper, or in a separate Word window. Take a look at them. Are your views consistent? (If they aren’t, it’s fine – I just like it when you can take the time to reflect over the course of a day!)
Your response is due by 11:59pm on Thursday, January 17th.
As per the usual, you can respond to any or all of the questions. Responses should be a minimum of two healthy-length paragraphs (minimum seven sentences per paragraph). No tagging today – we don’t have time to go over these in class – but I suggest reading a few of your classmates’ posts. You may be surprised by what you find. (I usually am.)
Remember that punctuation, grammar, and mechanics are important. Compose your replies carefully!
Monday, January 14. 2008
Wednesday, January 9. 2008
Saturday, January 5. 2008
I have no idea what sort of storm action is hitting Arcadia, but my area's been lashed pretty badly. My father and I were supposed to go see a Golden State Warriors game last night, but couldn't get out to Oakland because Highway 101, Interstate 580, and every bridge out of the Bay Area was either flooded or closed due to dangerous conditions. As it so happens, I need to take 101 to 580 - which includes one of those bridges - to get home tomorrow; here's hoping that something will be open within the next seven hours, which is when I'll be heading home.
As I write this, the entire town is powerless except for the first stretch of highway inside city limits, the fire station (which has been running on a back-up generator), and the small section that I live in (lucky us!). We're pretty used to this by now; so many of our power lines are built next to trees, and some of them are bound to fall over each winter when the windstorms/rainstorms hit. My town has cut down a huge number of its trees and foliage during the past five years - something that makes me more than a little bitter, as it's stripped the place of some of my favorite sights from my childhood memories - but this still happens each year. Usually we lose power for good, along with the rest of the town, but ours has flickered and stayed on (which is nice - I didn't want to pack by candlelight/flashlight).
I'm deeply sorry for the lack of responsiveness I've shown this break; I haven't been home much, and I haven't been computerizing when I have. It's been a good break - a wonderful break - but I've been very difficult to reach, and I'm sorry about that.
The college rec letters went out without a hitch; I still have a couple of questions for two of you, and I will pull you both aside at some point during class on Monday or Tuesday.
I am now the owner of a brand-new PowerPoint remote/laser pointer - the ultimate in teacher gifts! I look forward to prowling the whole classroom while nonchalantly flipping through the slides, pausing every so often to fire a crimson beam at the screen. It will revolutionize MacBeth.
Speaking of MacBeth, and the long-term assignment, the reason I haven't posted it is that I haven't finished the prompt. Mrs. Heinrich-Josties and I haven't been in contact over break, and I wanted to go over some things with her before I assigned you my variation of the assignment she's given out already. I've outlined some of my own ideas, but I'd like for the end of our class to dovetail a bit with the end of the other SFHP classes - especially since there will be three of us teaching the course next semester! At this point, however, the long-term assignment is going to differ from my original design, for a few reasons; I've narrowed the literary choices to Rex and MacBeth, and have focused more on social/historical issues surrounding the two plays. It would have been fun to work Beowulf in, but it isn't a play, and I feel that we've covered it pretty well already.
As for a couple of other things that people have asked me about, but I haven't responded to yet:
+ If your grade is in trouble, and you are committed to making up some lost ground, I will be holding extra writing sessions in the morning from 7:00-7:52am. Print out the entries you'd like to edit, and we'll go over some of the most pressing mechanical issues by hand. You can turn certain edited versions in for an improved score.
+ If your grade is really in trouble, we have another month to go before semester's end; write out some ideas for ways to make up some ground and meet with me before/after class to discuss them. Different students need to address different factors before semester's end, so I'll try to tailor this a bit individualistically for you. I obviously can't promise anything, since it's fairly late in the semester, but it's worth the effort. I may also be contacting you to schedule a meeting with your counselor and myself over the next week.
I'm going to tackle MacBeth more slowly than I took Oedipus. We're in the home stretch of the semester, and it's time to catch our breath as we move into it a bit.
Finally - Stephanie, Yang, Satomi, and all those who await my response to the questions they were brave enough to ask: There isn't anything that you absolutely need to have done by Monday. No assignments are due. The two-week break provides a nice opportunity for those who want to get ahead to do so by reading the first 1-2 acts. I wanted to provide guidance over break for those who chose to do so, but I haven't (for the reasons I mentioned above). Shakespeare can be tricky, but he didn't write plays that required his audience to be smarter than rocket scientists; there's a lot to unpack, and the language is obviously difficult, but it can - and will - be understood.
For those of you who have read it - or tried reading it: Is the language the most difficult aspect of the play? Are you confused by the setting? The plot? The characters? What do you want me to focus on first when we come back on Monday (besides, of course, the curse)?
Friday, December 28. 2007
Where to begin...it's been so long!
Thanks to everyone (from both Shannon and myself) for the presents and cards; I may be able to dine at Starbucks for the rest of the year! I also built up a healthy arsenal of ties, which means that I'll have some actual variety in my 2008 wardrobe! (I can't imagine it either.)
College rec letters (for the four students who were able to convince me to do theirs) and forms will be done within the hour. I will be hitting up the post office around noon, and every letter should be in the proper place by the proper date.
Shannon arrives in town tonight, which means I will not hit my self-imposed grading deadline. If you absolutely need to know your grade - you can't wait until the 7th! - please send me an e-mail, and I will reply when your grade is complete.
I will post the long-term prompt on the blog, rather than e-mail it to everyone who asked, because demand has been higher than expected!
I will also post the PowerPoints for MacBeth when they have been completed.
I hope everyone has enjoyed their first week of break! I can't wait to see everyone again...
Wednesday, December 19. 2007
I'll be here from 6:45 to 8:30 tonight.
I'll occasionally post study questions on the front page.
EDIT: The clock has struck 8:30! The group is closing up shop for the night. I hope it was useful!
I sent out the progress reports at 6:01 (here's hoping they took), mainly because some groups in second and third period thought it would be a great idea to NOT write their names on their posters. I had to mix and match, guess and grade...sigh.
Anyway, I'm exhausted, and I'm heading home. Please allow me half an hour to get home and get settled...we'll start at 6:45pm.
Apologies for the delay.
Sunday, December 16. 2007
A few words for those of you who are smarting from a rejection letter:
I sympathize. I was rejected from my first choice as well. I still remember the awful feeling that tore through me when I received the little envelope from Pomona, a weird mixture of disappointment, frustration, fear, anger, and, at the core, doubt. For a split second, I saw myself in a new light - not as a good student, a good person, a good sibling or friend, but as a reject. I felt, as Janhvi put it, inadequate.
Then I brushed it off, and looked for another school.
Pomona's rejection turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. I can say with a great deal of confidence that you never would have met me if I had attended that college; I wouldn't be living in Southern California, and I probably wouldn't have tried to become a teacher. Occidental gave me opportunities to grow that Pomona couldn't offer, and I'm better off for it.
A rejection letter isn't the end of the world; it doesn't even mean you're flawed.
Here's another anecdote: My big sister - who I respect more than almost anyone else in the world, and remains just about the most intelligent person I ever met - was rejected by Harvard when she applied during her senior year. She took a year off, applied again, and was rejected again. She's now completing her doctorate at UCSF - an elite medical school.
Harvard clearly had its reasons for rejecting her, just as Pomona College had its reasons for rejecting me. But I think we're both doing okay for ourselves.
Again, it isn't the end of the world; it doesn't even mean you're flawed.
And if you're my student, I still think the world of you.
So keep your head and spirits up; after all, the future's still waiting.
Friday, December 14. 2007
DUE DATE CHANGE: MONDAY, DECEMBER 17th, 11:59PM
A bit of back-story:
I decided to try to change the blog’s internal clock after sixth period ended yesterday. When I opened up the settings, they gave me the option of revising the clock by hour-long increments – 0, 1, 2, and so forth. I figured that I could set it back by 15 minutes - .25 hours – and everything would be fine. I type. “.25” in the field, hit “Save,” and went back to make the post.
Somehow, this simple attempt to change the clock a) overwrote the blog’s underlying configuration software, b) crippled the blog to the point that no one could even look at the comments, let alone post one, and c) overwrote every other blog on the Arcadia network with a damaged copy of this one.
Greg Gazanian was able to undo whatever it was I did (he has no idea how it happened), and the blog is de-crippled…as is every other blog on the network.
So, my apologies for yet another technical difficulty. It seems I’ve had a lot of trouble with these posts – perhaps there is a curse upon the land?
As for the post itself…the title says it all. One of the most interesting aspects of power is the ambition required to hold it – and the desire for recognition that comes with holding it!
We’ve studied power from Siddhartha’s (mental), Neo’s (control), and Hrothgar’s (corruption) perspectives. Now let’s take a look at it from Creon’s perspective – namely, why would anyone want power – and all the recognition that comes with it?
To want power is one thing; after all, the pursuit of power is really simply the pursuit of independence, with the goal being that you have control over your own life – the ability to shape your circumstances, surroundings, and fate.
However, many people also want to be seen as powerful. It’s not enough to be an influential figure in the corporate office – you want to be President! Plenty of people want to grow up to be the President, or even simply to gain enough power that they can walk into a restaurant somewhere and be recognized (and, ideally, respected).
The first question is, of course, a “question of why” – the type I use all the time! Why do people want that recognition? Some people would rather stay in anonymity, while others crave the spotlight. What separates the two? Is it arrogance, or is it something greater? Is it better to do something well in front of others versus doing the same thing without recognition or praise? Is it worse? What’s the distinction between them?
For the second question, however, I point you to Creon’s speech on page 36. I’ve retyped it here for your benefit, and corrected a few things along the way:
”Consider, first, if you think anyone would choose to rule and fear rather than rule and sleep untroubled by fear if power were equal in both cases. I, at least, was not born with such a frantic yearning to be a king – but to do what kings do. And so it is with everyone who has learned wisdom and self-control.
As it stands now, the prizes are all mine – and without fear. But if I were the king myself, I must do much that went against the grain. How should despotic rule seem sweeter to me than painless power and an assured authority? I am not so besotted yet that I want other honors than those that come with profit. Now every man’s my pleasure; every man greets me; now those who are your suitors fawn on me – success for them depends upon my favor. Why should I let all this go to win that?”
I suppose the answer to Creon’s rhetorical question is, “If you’re ambitious enough to want it, you’re ambitious enough to take it.”
In this case, ambition is clearly negative – it would drive a person to essentially stab their kinsman in the back, all for the sake of gaining influence and control. Ambition is often frowned upon – for example, I’ve often heard people criticize politicians by claiming that he/she is too ambitious. (Well, yes – they’re running for president! That sort of thing requires abnormal ambition, no?)
Yet ambition is simultaneously encouraged; after all, parents usually want their children to want to do something. We applaud the young college student who demonstrates a cutthroat nature; we cheer for the over-competitive and the hyper-driven because they can often achieve greatness (see Michael Jordan for a contemporary example). In other scenarios, ambition, like faith, can drive people to do great things. In the right situation, ambition can even be the driving force behind positive, long-lasting change.
Your second set of questions, therefore, will concern ambition.
What are your ambitions? Do your ambitions shape your expectations for yourself? Do they shape your opinion of yourself?
What do you want to do, assuming that you’ll be controlling the direction of your life? You’ll be doing just that in short order – after all, you’re the one who chooses your career, because you’re the one who has to do it for the rest of your life! It’s not as though your parents can decide where you need to work when you’re twenty-three. At some point, you’ll accept personal responsibility for the direction of your life, choose a direction you wish to pursue, and take the necessary steps to pursue it.
Finally, are your ambitions healthy? Are they a source of strength? Are you over-ambitious – does your reach exceed your grasp? And if you could choose to change your level of ambition (either by raising or lowering it), would you do so?
As per the usual, your responses should be at least two paragraphs long, with 7-8 sentences per paragraph. You do not need to tag this post.
Thursday, December 13. 2007
(I'm sending out progress reports for students earning Cs, Ds, or Fs next week, so this is particularly important for them.)
I'm trying to knock out a lot of grading tonight. If you know you're missing something, please send it my way by midnight tomorrow night.
Wednesday, December 12. 2007
Tiresias is blind, and must be led around by a little boy. Oedipus (for now) is fully sighted, independent, and strong-willed.
Yet the meeting between these two men reveals an interesting dynamic. Oedipus asks Tiresias to reveal the identity of Laius’s killer; the prophet tries to dissuade him. Oedipus grows angry, verbally baiting and battering Tiresias until the elder man finally begins to tell him the truth – that he, Oedipus, is the killer.
Yet Oedipus immediately dismisses Tiresias’s words, going so far as to ascribe ulterior motives to the prophet (ones that don’t make a great deal of sense, considering Tiresias’s role in society and lack of ambition).
After all the work the king puts into dragging “the truth” into the light, he ignores it when it appears in a form that displeases him.
We react with frustration after reading that scene, knowing that Tiresias is telling the truth. (“Oedipus! Come on! Open your eyes!...That’s not awkward foreshadowing!”) We want Oedipus to realize what is happening, to quit behaving immaturely; we want him to at least try to understand the world around him.
If only it were that easy…
Revelations (and our ability to process them) are at the heart of our search for enlightenment. These discoveries help us build a sense of who we are as people; one could even argue that the discoveries (pleasant or not) we make as we age help shape our sense of independence.
Yet it’s not easy for humans to hear difficult truths and accept them. For that matter, it’s not easy to be the bearer of bad news, the carrier of unpleasant truth. Anyone who has initiated a painful break-up knows this all too well: Sometimes, it’s worse to be the breaker than the broken.
A couple of questions for you to ponder:
Have you ever been faced with a similar dilemma as Oedipus – forced to receive information you don’t want to accept? Did you react the same way (angry denial), or did you react differently? Did the circumstances change your reactions? Have you ever had to fight to get someone to tell you the truth?
Perhaps more interestingly, have you ever been in the opposite position – have you ever been in Tiresias’s shoes? Have you caused pain by telling someone something they didn’t want to hear?
Have you ever tried to avoid telling the truth in that situation? Did you tell a little white lie? Did you tell gigantic, bold-faced lies? What was your justification – and did you reach that justification because you believed it, or because it was convenient?
Finally, is it worse to be the breaker or the broken? Which position is worse – the receiver of horrifying information, or the one responsible for giving it?
You don’t have to answer every question; if you have an idea for a question that doesn’t appear in this post, please e-mail it to me, and I will consider it!
This post is due by 11:59pm on Thursday, December 13th. Your entry should be at least two paragraphs long.
Tuesday, December 11. 2007
No, not Shaquille O'Neal...the Poetics link!
The full text, including parts VI and V (which were missing from everyone's packets for some reason), can be found here. The poster divided the text into three sections, so click around until you find the parts your group wants you to read.
Also - just to make sure you remember! - the reading assignment for Oedipus goes to page 54, line 1017.
Thursday, December 6. 2007
OK! Let's kick things off.
NOTE: I'm not going to be able to stay up all night tonight, so make sure you ask your questions here by 8:30pm! My computer won't even be on after 10 o'clock; I'm operating under the assumption that I've given you everything you need to ace this, because you have a) a book, b) your notes, c) the posters, d) the PowerPoints, e) time in class to ask me questions, and f) an online study session. I think it's reasonable for me to set a cut-off point at a certain time...and, admittedly, I'm hungry right now!
A few words of advice for studying students:
- Remember to study ALL of the PowerPoints. (If you don't have PowerPoint, Microsoft offers a free PowerPoint viewer online - I included it in a blog post just before we began the Beowulf unit.) This means you should know your poetic terms, as well as material from both "halves" of the poem.
- Don't freak out too much about the names! Believe it or not, you do know these people as well as you need to for the exam - you know Wealhtheow's a queen, Beowulf's a warrior, etc. If you were able to dominate the matching section on the Matrix exam (the one that featured friendly programs, hostile programs, giant mechanical gods, a hundred Biblical references, and more names, allegiances, and events than you can shake a stick at), you can handle character-related questions!
- WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU KNOW ABOUT EVERY CHARACTER ON THE GUIDE. I've told all of you this before; take my advice seriously!
- Another tip for remembering which characters are which: Figure out which characters relate to certain themes. For example, when studying examples for the "Power" theme, you can obviously find something Beowulf does over the course of the poem that fits. However, you can also study that speech Hrothgar makes that I love so dearly...or read the "digression" where the poem begins mentioning Heremod's ultimate fate...or even notice that the Geats are vulnerable to attack because their kings keep dying!
- There are worlds within worlds in Beowulf, but the fact that there are so many parallels (structural, thematic, characters) means that these questions can really work to your advantage. Don't be overwhelmed by this stuff; break down the poem into its separate chunks (the main story involving Beowulf/kings/monsters and all the other little plots) and examine how they relate!
Please click "Continue reading..." to see the Study Guide and Study Questions.
Continue reading "The First Annual (Inaugural) Beowulf UberMegaSuper Online Study Session!"
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