Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Dr. B's Reflections on AP English This Year

Pictured: Last day of AP English fun! We had a "Mad Hatter Tea Party" with all of the AP English students and some parents.  Thank you all for joining us!

Officially, today is the last day of AP English class this year (insert huge, sorrowful, sigh from your English teacher, Dr. B), and I still have a million things to teach you about Jane Austen, the Victorian novel, Lewis Carroll, and of course, tea.

If we had more time, here is what I would teach you:

  1. Never, under any circumstances, stop reading Victorian novels! They are filled with incredible characters and can teach you a lot about being human.  Twenty years from now, I expect you to have read many more novels than the ones from our class.  Read them, learn from them, and repeat. (Here's another blogger's list to get you started!)
  2. Fun facts like:
    1. Lewis Carroll - 
      1. Was an incredible mathematician.  I've mentioned this fact before, but we haven't discussed it at length.  (Did you notice how I didn't say, "factoid?" Did you know that factoid means, "an assumption or speculation that has been reported and repeated so many times that is now assumed to be fact?" That's something else I wanted to teach you!)
      2. If you want to know about chess, theology, and math in the book, Alice in Wonderland, read "Chess and Theology in the Alice Books" by A. L. Taylor.  It's printed on pgs. 323-80 in our Nortons.
    2. Jane Austen - 
      1. Is fascinating.  There is so much about her life and writing you might find interesting, but I suggest starting with the cult of "Austenites" and going from there.  What are Austenites? They're fans of Austen (self-titled, "Austenites"), who go to festivals, wear Regency-era clothing, and read all of the novels again and again.  
      2. Go to this link on IMDB and see all of the Austen adaptions, including weird, modern-day spoofs like Lost in Austen and Austenland with Keri Russell.
    3. Charles Dickens - 
      1. Completely captured the Victorian Age in our modern imagination! But, he also had an interesting personal life, kept two homes with two wives, and fathered tons of children.  I suggest watching the new movie, The Invisible Woman.  BUT: DO NOT BE PERSUADED BY THE UNFLATTERING PORTRAYAL OF DICKENS'S WIFE.  IT'S CRITICALLY INACCURATE AND VERY PROBLEMATIC.  (Trust your teacher on this.  She knows way too much about Catherine Hogarth Dickens!)
  3. How to play backgammon.
  4. How to do regency-style dancing (you never know when you'll need to waltz or quadrille).
  5. How to talk to your professors in college.
  6. How to write recipes.
  7. What makes recipe writing so important (it's literature, did you know that?!)
  8. How to make the perfect "cuppa" tea.
  9. Everything.

Since I can be long-winded, I will stop my list there.  But, for now, let's think of what we have learned this year:

Lesson #1: Learn from the Characters in Major Works
Jane Eyre taught us autonomy (independence, freedom of will) and how important it is to think and choose a life path for yourself.

Lizzie Bennett taught us that wit may very well be an "amiable" virtue in the right circumstances, but first impressions are trickier than we think. You should never judge a book, or a person, by its/his/her cover.

Charles Dickens taught us to be charitable and kind.  By thinking about others and helping where we can, we can look back at our lives with a sense of fulfillment because we did what we could for our fellow man.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern taught us to see stories in a different light.  While we are all, actors, and the world is, indeed, a stage, we are on multiple stages at the same time, acting as major characters in our own production and minor characters in someone else's production.

Lesson # 2: Learn to Read, Write, and Think Critically
Poetry explication taught us how to read language in its most compact form, unpack what it says, and search for deeper meanings.  Twelve lines of poetry can yield dozens of pages of analysis, as demonstrated by our close reading of "Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent's Narrow Room" by William Wordsworth (read original post here)

The beauty of language.  We always knew language was important, but did we know how pliable it is? How beautiful? This realization happened again and again this year! Why would someone say, "This is a fact" when he/she could say this?:

"If this be error and upon me proved, 
I never writ, nor no man ever loved."

—William Shakespeare ("Sonnet 116," lines 13-14)

Language is just...so gosh...darn...beautiful.

We learned to write for a wide audience.  Admittedly, we spent most of our time writing practice essays for Part 2 of the AP Literature and Composition test, but when we weren't practicing the writing portion, we were writing for the blog.  Your experience in writing for an academic audience and a digital one is great experience!

Lesson #3: Have Fun
Lastly, we learned to have fun.  Literature doesn't need to be stuffy or boring.  In fact, it's pleasurable and engaging and one of the reasons I chose to spend ten years studying literature and getting a PhD—I was having a great time.

So, go have a great time, and never stop reading!
-Dr. B

Friday, June 3, 2016

Stuart Tave's "Limitations and Definitions" (p. 315-19)

Image result for jane austen no limitsStuart Tave brilliantly analyzes Jane Austen's writing style by comparing it to her skill and adoration for dancing. Just as dancing drives "enjoyment and ability in moving with significant grace in good time in a restricted space," Austen's writing also behaves beautifully and gracefully for she writes with no restrictions. Austen tends to not worry about what others thought of her work, because when she was writing, she was limited to what resources were available. Her writing was accused for having no dimension for she did had her limits; however, the illustrious author certainly has reached her goal of expressing originality and her own meaning to many topics, such as human relations.  Each character Austen had introduced to us has been assigned their own part to live, just as dancers have their own choreography to perform. Characters acted in the way they were expected to during that time period. Within their "boundaries" the characters would "feel what should be felt, think what should be thought, do what should be done, neither too quickly nor too slowly for the occasion. There is no choice of standing still. One cannot 'dwell'" (p.317). Tave believes that Pride and Prejudice is slightly narrow for its worth for her story is about “messy lives, and most people are leading them, even when the surface of life seems proper; but custom is not the first fact of life.” (p. 318). Austen opens the blind eye by raising awareness of the social aspect of life in her own refreshing style. 

2. How else did Jane Austen "move with meaning?" 

1. Which significant character that Jane Austen created do you believe has the most spirit and "movement" in her novel? Explain.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Guest Post by Sarah James - Tara Ghoshal Wallace

Getting The Whole Truth in Pride and Prejudice

Wallace starts her review with explaining that Pride and Prejudice has a “serene” conclusion.  Wallace points out that we never seem to know the “whole truth”(376) of the tale.  The few points that Wallace discuss changed the way I thought about the novel.  The first example that she discusses is how Mrs. Bennett’s thinks she won over Darcy and the Gardiner’s departure from home during holidays; these not well known parts of the story show that the ready of Austin’s time understood what she meant when she was talking about the “untrustworthy talkers” (376).  Another example of not showing the whole truth in the novel is by silence: Austin seems to want us to make out own conclusion up about each character (377).  I agree with Wallace that there is a lot that is hiding throughout this novel. 

1. Do you think if you knew more about the characters, you would understand the book more?

2. Would you rather know more about the characters? Why or why not?

The Men of Austen's Life

Jane Austen

Prospects of Marriage 
by William Austen-Leigh, Richard Arthur Austen-Leigh and Deirdre Le Faye

Through Jane Austen's life she had a men express interest in her hand and another who highly regarded her. The name of her prospects were Harris Bigg-Wither and Henry Eldridge. Jane had said yes to Bigg-Wither's proposal on the second of December 1802, but took it back the next morning. Henry Eldridge never proposed, but very much liked her until they had to part ways. 

1. Why do you think Jane Austen took back her proposal?

2. What Character in Pride and Prejudice does Jane most remind you of in regards to marriage and why?