ENGL 250 COURSE DESCRIPTION (Updated Feb 2013)
A survey of world folklore studying the more representative literary forms including traditional folk and fairytales, nomenclature, riddles, rhymes, legends, songs, ballads, enchantments, and superstitions. Selected tales, formats, and retellings will be examined to trace the development of worldview and identity. Emphasis is on the uniting qualities of folklore for various civilizations and as constructed by their cultural context. Three class hours weekly. Prerequisite: English 101.
Writing Intensive (WI appears on student transcript.)
J.R.R. Tolkien commented that the greatest value of studying folklore is that it motivates people to write their own culturally significant stories. Thus, the prompts and folk stories written in this course will be evaluated for their development of fluid ideas, character and lore that connect, exemplify, or are clearly inspired by the assigned readings. Special attention will be paid to clear language and well-crafted imagery.
The selected folklore will be distributed widely from across world cultures and countries, such as Germany, Russia, Scotland, Iceland, Peru, North America, Cuba, Africa, Italy, Syria, China, Korea, France, India, Ireland, Papua, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan. Topics include:
- Literary and Oral traditions; contemporary storytelling
- Tall Tales, Fooling the Devil, Rogues and Cheats
- Medicine and Death, Ghost stories, Weatherlore
- Place and Family Names
- Young, Old, and Unlikely Heroes; Fools
- Shape Shifters, Animal Fables, and the Not Quite Human
- True Loves and Enchanted Sweethearts
- Folktale and Fairytale differences
- Hobbits, Dragons, & Magic
Poets & Writers shared a Paul Auster video with classic advice for creative writers worth repeating.
Some press from CHE on the digital humanities in the classroom. For those studying English or writing, it’s worth reading.
Most usefully, the article includes a list of resources for further reading:
Resources for Teaching Digital Humanities
University of California at Los Angeles’s “Intro to Digital Humanities” online coursebook
City University of New York’s digital-humanities resource guide
Zotero collection of syllabi and curriculum-planning documents
Academic scholarship on DH can be found at Digital Humanities Quarterly.
A video posted by RSA explaining the differences between sympathy and empathy is making the rounds.
Often, I think of the importance of empathy for comprehending writing and writers, not just good classrooms. But the video reminds me what Ken Macrorie wrote in his epilogue to A Vulnerable Teacher:
The freedom to commit oneself, to create, is habitual in a person who has made himself vulnerable, open to his experience and that of others, in whatever form he may encounter it. The word vulnerable derives from vuln, Latin for wound. To become powerfully vulnerable is to expose oneself to possible wounds. One cannot create valuable things without risk. If he brings to the moment the best of his past experience, he comes on strong; and if he suffers then a wound, it will not disable him, because he is at his best, moving out of his full experience, healthy and strong. He is emotional as well as intellectual. He is growing out of himself and others.
People do their best to avoid contagions that can afflict someone emphatically open to others. Some days writers are not sure they have the strength to get their own work done. We generally don’t seek to become wounded. Yet if empathy fuels connection and we grow meaningfully from interactions between ourselves and others, we must be vulnerable to possible wounds. Writing is not merely for oneself but in connection (and often disconnection) with others. The vulnerable moment is not our full experience; a moment only possesses the possibility to become part of our fuller experience.
Use the moment to build health and strength, for vulnerability can be bravery.
The Center for Digital Storytelling sponsors several youtube playlists, including Place. Advanced and basic writers respond well to assignments on place. The cross disciplinary and potential research for the subject makes it compelling and flexible for many classrooms. If you’re looking for prompt inspiration, view some of the playlist, and use your own selected medium for your own project.
Students and I discussed this week the new internet-influenced use of “because.” CBS, Grammar Girl, and The Atlantic have reported the grammatical evolution where Because + Noun is happening online. Perhaps since this discussion followed a lesson on run-ons and pronoun clarity, students reacted quite negatively to this news.
In fact, I observed we’ve used “because” in different ways for a long time. For example, children typically ask parents “why” some rule exists the way it does, and the parents answer “Because” without any reason, phrase, or additional words. “Because” is a powerful indicator of reasoning in our speaking and writing, even if the reasoning is simply autocratic and assumed.
Students were glad to hear that “because internet” was not standard English (not something I would have predicted), but they also wanted to know when their non-standard expressions would be essay acceptable. Sorry to say, all of this is not standard (or what some call “proper”) English. The march toward efficient, quick language is what I think we should find intriguing, however. People forget that little more than a hundred years ago the passive sentence was championed as “proper,” yet few accept passive construction as the norm today. Because change.
A flash fiction story of mine published today.
Take a look. Tell me what you think.
Richard Matheson, who I’ve always credited as making the way for Stephen King, has died. Learn more about him, and then celebrate what he gave us by reading some of his work.
No doubt, his “I Am Legend” novella will now be returning to my Film & Literature class next year, although I can’t yet say what movie will be paired with it. Last spring, we viewed Cemetery Man with Rupert Everet.
Any other nominations?
Writing involves logic (as well as emotional appeals and establishing credibility). To help students’ logic, I assign “Finding the Good Argument OR Why Bother with Logic” from Writing Spaces in English 101. Brain Pickings posted the following concise explanations of logical principles. They’re designed for young teens but really useful for anyone else too.
Many literary magazines have moved online. And many of these are quality publications. Learning to write better fiction or poetry requires reading, and writers learn a lot by studying current literature for magazines they’d like to submit. Years ago, editors provided some role in helping writers improve. With publishing going DIY and open distribution, editors have the opportunity to return to providing some instruction.
For example, here’s Matt Potter from Pure Slush explaining how to make story openings more bold. His Australian accent and use of present.me for his illustrations are effective in ways editors in the past didn’t have the same means to pass on writing tips (or personal irritants that reject a work).