Monday, November 5, 2007

McKibben's "Worried? Us?"

Here is the space to respond to McKibben's article. Just chose a question from the book and respond.

Here is a link to an online version of the article: link.

Some other questions you may want to consider: What are your feelings about Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth? Do you think the U.S. should join the Kyoto Treaty? What kind of life do you imagine for people 20, 50, or 100 years from now?

Feel free to respond to these questions in lieu of the questions in the book.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Are you "Against School"?

Gatto's "Against School" sure is a diatribe against what he sees as the deadening effects of our current educational system. One of his chief complaints is that schools do not teach students to grow up. To what extent has that been true in your own experience? What other aspects of his essay had meaning or raised questions for you? Discuss.

Here's a link to an online version of the article.

Consider, for example, how news stories like this one indicate that the system is not really educating students.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

"Through Other Eyes"

Here is some background information on the cartoonist, Joe Sacco:

Joe Sacco was born in Malta and raised in Australia. He later emigrated to the United States. The subject matter of this excerpt derives from his efforts to document the lives of Palestinians.

For this blog, I'd like you to respond to TWO questions. Everyone should respond to #3, which asks you to compare and contrast with "The Socks." Then choose one of the other questions. Please be sure to answer all parts of the question fully.

Friday, September 28, 2007

"The Socks"

Place comments to Marjane Satrapi's "The Socks" here.

Monday, September 24, 2007

James Agee's "America, Look at Your Shame!"


Did anyone think that the picture of the two men with the bloodied African-American man seemed a bit weird? When I first saw this picture -- before I read the essay, mind you -- I thought that the two white men appeared to be gloating over having just beat up the man. One of the men looks like he's smiling. Then, I read the essay and thought, "Am I the only one who thought this looks strange?" Just something to think about, since we'll be examining visual rhetoric in this up-coming project.

Many of you have commented on the "rambling" you perceive in Agee's essay. Hm. I'm not sure I see what you're seeing, but I'll look it over again. Please try to identify where you find this to be the case and bring it up in class.

So, my vision for this blog is to get folks into conversations through the comments. Feel free to comment on the comments of others and check back later to read other responses. As the course moves along, we will develop ideas about how to use the blog more.

Pulbish your comments to the Agee reading here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blog Question for "A Clack of Tiny Sparks"

Why does Cooper attend the "make out party"? What does he hope will happen? Why do you t hink he ends his description of the party wit the observation of the "clack of tiny sparks"? Why do you think he used that image for his title?

Friday, July 20, 2007


Here's the Project Example for the first project, "Relationships." This will also be scanned into the course webpage.
Patricia Roy
Final Version


“Ba, ba, ti bébé á Papa . . ..” Pepere used to chant these words to me, as we rocked on that obligatory rocking chair in the kitchen. He’d pat my back; I’d tell him what was wrong. Even though I resisted it like I resist all correction, I was always lulled by the soothing sound of his raspy voice, the smell of the kitchen, and those French words I never could understand.

Now that my Pepere has passed, I’m reminded of these words, perhaps because I’m looking for comfort again, something to pull me into a sense-making embrace. I have this gnawing guilty feeling, a vague sense of regret. I should have learned French. I should have been more sympathetic. I should have read my eulogy to him at the funeral. Do the other members of my family have these feelings? Probably, but somehow knowing that doesn’t help. I wish I could say this is between Pepere and me, but it really isn’t. It’s about everybody else.

First, there’s Mom. As a non-French Canadian, she was always the outsider in the family: she couldn’t speak French; she was from that “rich” town, North Andover. Even if Pepere liked her, he was intimidated by her, with her snappy sarcasm and English-only wit. I’m just like her – witty, irreverent, English-only. I look like her, laugh like her, sound like her. To my pepere, I think I was her, only smaller. Pepere called me his “fille intelligente,” and he would say it with awe. I never really knew how to take it. All I knew was that I was different, and it had something to do with Mom. My mom and I would sit there while my father translated conversation for us, and I knew that it would always be like this – my mother and I in a sea of French.

I might have been the smart girl, but I wasn’t the favorite. That place of privilege belonged to my cousin, Jen. She remembers the rocking chair, too. She also never spoke French – spoke even less than I did, in fact. But when I talk to her about Pepere, she tells me about how they found weird little ways to communicate with each other through gestures, grunts and bits of “franglais.” Her stories always make me laugh because I can just see him standing there arguing with her and having no idea what she’s saying and the both of them just giving up and laughing.

Pepere and I tended to exchange a few clumsy, hesitant phrases and smile and nod at each other. Oh, there was the time he taught me to cheat at 45’s with him, making rather obvious hand signals for “hearts,” “clubs” and so on. But in no way could I say we shared the same closeness that he shared with Jen. It hurts me. I feel as though I was “one of the many”.

This feeling was actually reinforced by the funeral. Jen was asked to write a poem or eulogy to be read at the funeral. It would be the only part read in English. Jen made a big deal out of it, claiming that she just couldn’t think of anything to say. She certainly did not want to get up and read anything in the church. As an English teacher, I was the logical choice, it seems. I encouraged her to write something and promised her that I would read it. With that decision, it seems we assumed the roles we had been in all along: I might have been saying the words, but Jen got to have the conversation. I was simply the mouthpiece of her grief.

Additionally, I chickened out of reading a piece I had written the day before. In it I had expressed my sense of loss but also my relief that Pepere was free from suffering. This is a very important concept for me; bound up in suffering is the fear of it, and I’m so glad that Pepere – a lifelong smoker, drinker and unhealthy eater – had managed to live a full life and escape a protracted illness. His cancer took him quickly, quietly and almost painlessly. Is it wrong to feel glad it wasn’t worse?

I had intended upon reading the piece after Jen’s sentimental prose. However, after speaking her words, I had no breath for my own. I felt the sadness in that church and could not, dared not, read my words. They seemed disrespectful. How awful it would have been if I had offended anyone. Standing there, I had a palpable fear of sounding like a cold philosopher, and I just shut down. I was my mother again, the intelligent girl, praised, but on the outside of emotion.

Somehow amid all this, what I truly believe Pepere would have wanted became lost. I should have read that piece, despite some crazy fear of correction/rejection. Oddly enough, it was my mother the outsider who helped me see this. When I told her about my piece and the content it contained, she said, ‘Oh, you should have read it. It sounds as though it would have fit with Jen’s so nicely.” Well, that just about killed me. The realization that I had let my pepere down sunk in, and it was a terrible shame to me. I had had a chance to talk to him and have my voice acknowledged by the family, and instead I let my own pettiness interfere.

So, here I am, longing for a rocking chair. As I think about that rocking chair chant, after writing and crying over this all over again, I realize Pepere and I have in so many ways gone back to the beginning. It’s not all about anybody else, and it never was. I stand corrected, but I miss the comfort that once accompanied that correction. I miss my Pepere.

Please respond to the following questions in your comments:

What are the different languages, both national and familial, discussed in this essay? Is language an impediment or an assistant to personal expression in this piece? Explain your answer.