Category Archives: Penn’s Diary
While studying the ideas of Student Centered teaching versus the age old Transmission manner of teaching, I came across several articles that all call for teachers to get their students involved in the teaching process. This type of teaching will help students understand where they are going in the classroom. Setting up road maps and sign posts for your students will keep them steadily plowing toward the end result that you intended all along.
I had no trouble finding sources concerning these topics. Voices in the Middle and English Journal both provided me with ample articles. NCTE was also a wealth of knowledge. I will post my finished paper here once it is completed.
For those of you who may not know, my name is Len Weatherly and I am working toward my English (licensure) degree at the University of Southern Mississippi. I am required to do a research paper for my Intro into Literacy class. Since I am already studying theories for teaching, I decided to use these theories as a catalyst for my research paper.
I have been doing some reading on creating road maps for your students to follow in the classroom. If students understand where we, as teachers, are wanting them to go then they stand a far greater chance of actually reaching these destinations. Using at least four sources, I intend to show the benefits of student choice, classroom presentation, and remixing and tinkering. Teaching students how to talk about themes and ideas will vastly improve their ability to understand the text. By allowing the students to defend their own thoughts as opposed to forcing them into correct answers, we allow them the ability to read the text with their own ideas in mind
All Quiet on the Wasteland
All Quiet on the Western Front drops the reader right into the Great War. Here we follow a young German soldier, Paul Baumer, as he takes up a journey of self-discovery. Remarque, through Baumer, allows the reader a glimpse into the young and impressionable minds of the soldiers during the battles of World War I. The text describes not only the atrocities of war but also the hopelessness these men felt. The soldiers struggled to understand the reasoning behind the war, and they also tried to carve for themselves some hope beyond the war. Throughout the novel, Baumer shows his detachment from humanity. Sometimes he likens himself and his fellow soldiers to animals, and other times he understands that being a soldier is something completely different than being a human. Through it all, Baumer realizes his disillusionment and that he will never be the same, no matter how the war ends. Remarque takes a modernist approach in All Quiet on the Western Front which followed the terrors brought out during the war. This approach allows a nice parallel to T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland”.
What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow Out of this stony rubbish? – T.S. Eliot
Initially, Baumer is critical of the male elders. These men called Baumer and his peers the Iron Youth. In response he states, “Iron Youth. Youth! We are none of us more than twenty years old. But young? Youth? That is long ago. We are old folk.” (Remarque 10). The recruiters and teachers took something from these boys that they themselves never had to sacrifice. Baumer felt that “they ought to have been mediators and guides to the world of maturity” (7). “The idea of authority, which they represented, was associated in our minds with a greater insight and a more humane wisdom. But the first death we saw shattered this belief” (7). The older men, the ones who convinced these boys to give their all for Social Darwinism ideals, had real lives before the war and were therefore more likely to fall back into that rhythm of being. “We had as yet taken no root. The war swept us away. For the others, the older men, it is but an interruption” (11). Baumer and his friends try to determine the reasoning for the war in Chapter Nine, but in the end they come to the conclusion that “the wrong people do the fighting” (22). They had been deceived by the very people they trusted the most, “And that is why they let us down so badly” (7).
I will show you fear in a handful of dust. – T.S. Eliot
In the terrors of the war, Baumer detached himself from his humanity and instead gave himself and his fellow soldiers animalistic qualities. “By the animal instinct that is awakened in us we are led and protected. It is not conscious; it is far quicker, much more sure, less fallible, than consciousness” (27). To view the war through an unfiltered lens could drive the men insane, and they protected themselves using whatever mentality it required to survive. “Just as we turn into animals when we go up to the line, because that is the only thing which brings us through safely” (65). The way in which these troops were treated lends itself to feeling little more than an animal, an unthinking and reactionary creature used up for the cause of man in his Great War. “They flock together like sheep instead of scattering, and even the wounded are shot down like hares by the airmen” (61). Baumer, himself, recalls, “I feel like a pig” (125). A man can kill an animal without much regret or loathing for his actions, however to kill a man for no reason other than the commands and decrees of unseen leaders is something else entirely.
I had not thought death had undone so many. –T.S. Eliot
To Baumer being a soldier was something far different than being a man, and in some ways one could never be both. His troop, his outfit, and the war began to define him. “I am no longer a shuddering speck of existence, alone in the darkness;–I belong to them and they to me; we all share the same fear and the same life” (106). Baumer speaks about his uniform and the manner in which it transforms him from a skinny and malnourished boy into something far more intimidating, a German soldier. As the troops press forward into battle, Baumer recalls that they more closely resembled “A column–not men at all”. When he returns home while on leave, he laments, “I used to live in this room before I was a soldier”. Here we can see that he believed it was impossible for him to be the person he once was. The war had stolen his identity and left only the husk of soldier. “But now I see that I have been crushed without knowing it. I find I do not belong here any more, it is a foreign world”. In the end, Baumer felt more comfortable on the battlefield than he did in his own hometown. The transformation was complete.
Baumer is detached from his humanity during his time serving in the war. He understands that the war has left nothing for him. He speaks of his mother “Who else is there that has any claim on me but you.” However, Baumer allowed the recruiters and teachers to steal that claim. He is stuck somewhere between youth and manhood. In Chapter One he speaks of not being a youth anymore, yet in Chapter Seven he laments, “I would like to weep and be comforted too, indeed I am little more than a child.” Although Baumer is convinced that the war has rendered him something less than human, his actions while on leave back home suggest something quite different. He denies his mother’s claims that the war is bad with the gas and everything. He swears to Kemmerich’s mother that he died quickly and without pain. All of these things suggest that Baumer has not lost his humanity during the war. In fact, it could be argued that being on the front lines and experiencing death in such an intimate fashion has rendered him more in tune with the realities of what it means to be human. Society focuses on truth, yet truth has no place in the words spoken to parents dealing with the loss of their children. The truth is something cold and calculated, and serves not the individual. In some ways, Baumer’s truth is the war, and he “would swear to anything” to keep those back home from that truth. “We know only that in some strange and melancholy way we have become a waste land.”
Dichotomy of Naturalism
A new concept, naturalism, began to develop during the late 1800s and lasted into the early 1900s. Grounded in the ideas of great minds like Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud, writers began to integrate naturalism into their stories. Jack London and Kate Chopin are two artists that showcase the shift toward the darker side of nature. Although both of these writers were experimenting with the same naturalistic ideas, the finished stories take two completely different approaches to those ideas. The sordid and pessimistic subject matter of humanity as it exists in the natural world forced itself into our literature in a way that both enthralled and terrified its readers. Jack London, in To Build a Fire, appeared to have been influenced by the writings of Darwin while Kate Chopin, in The Storm, seemed to encapsulate Freudian ideals. London portrays man’s desire to dominate the living world, and Chopin delves into the animalistic sexuality of humanity and the primal need to procreate.
First, it is important to understand exactly what naturalism stands for in literary aspects. At its core, naturalism is an attempt to determine and identify the forces that drive the actions of those living in the world. It seeks to quantify the physical state and strives to measure, with exactness, the natural state of things. In naturalism, there is great emphasis on the impact of heredity on the actions of humanity. Combining heredity with environmental surroundings culminates in the harsh realities of the naturalistic writer’s realm. This type of writing may come across as harsh or crass to some readers and violent or miserable to others. However, the reality of these situations cannot be discarded. There is a certain appeal to the truth within both of these works. The readers can understand the lust-tinged fear that is brewing during the storm and can almost feel the cold bearing down on them as the life-bringing fire is snuffed out.
In London’s To Build a Fire, the man is at the mercy of the natural as he travels through the cold and unyielding forest of the Yukon. Throughout the entirety of the story, the temperature is mentioned. This constant focus on the measurement of temperature falls in line with naturalism and the need to quantify and measure the world. The man acknowledges the cold, yet “it did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man’s frailty in general” (629). At one point in the novel, the man has built for himself a “roaring fire” and “for the moment the cold of space was outwitted” (632). Throughout the entirety of the man’s trek in the forest, he is accompanied by a dog. In true Darwin form, the dog survives where the man could not. It was the adaptability of the dog throughout its ancestry which had equipped it with the tools required to survive in the frigid conditions. “This man did not know cold” (632). “But the dog knew; all of its ancestry knew, and it had inherited the knowledge” (633).
The ignorance of man and his inability to understand the intricacies of natural world will ultimately end in the death of man. The dog understands the danger of venturing out into the cold night away from the warmth and comfort of the fire. There is an interesting facet to this part of the story which sheds light on man’s desire to dominate the living creatures surrounding him. The man was the master of the dog and “there was no keen intimacy between the dog and the man” (633). London writes, “the only caresses it (the dog) had ever received were the caresses of the whip-lash” (633). If a bond had been cultivated between the man and animal, then perhaps the dog would have attempted to lure the man to remain in protection of the warmth. However, the man did not seek companionship but continued to establish his dominance. It is no surprise, then, that “the dog made no effort to communicate its apprehension to the man. It was not concerned in the welfare of the man; it was for its own sake that it yearned back toward the fire” (633). Throughout the story, London beseeches the reader to understand the value of instinct; he begs that we recognize the faults of humanity and learn to rely on the wisdom which nature so readily supplies.
In Kate Chopin’s The Storm, the characters are at the mercy of the natural as they find themselves amid a duality of terrible storms, one meteorological and the other physical. The idea proposed in the story is that Alcee and Calixta were at the mercy of something that was bigger than both of them, something that simply would not be denied. Every indication is that neither did anything to serve as a catalyst for the passionate affair. Alcee “expressed an intention to remain outside, but it was soon apparent that he might as well have been out in the open” (434). The force of the storm, perhaps both storms, drove him into the house. If the rain was responsible for placing Alcee in the house, then it was the lightning which could be credited with placing Calixta in his arms. The “lightning was incessant” and “the crash seemed to invade the very boards they stood upon” (435). Their very foundation had been rattled.
At this point, the primal libido of both Alcee and Calixta cannot hope to be repressed. In true Freudian form, the erotic attachments of the id are sated. The meteorological storm posited the two characters in the same physical space, but it was the sexual storm which had been brewing since Assumption that took over. For Alcee, this storm “had aroused all the old-time infatuation and desire for her flesh” (435). Calixta “had given place to drowsy gleam that unconsciously betrayed a sensuous desire” (436). There is no mention of love between the two of them, only the purely physical attraction which could not be denied. In truth, it seems that both couples benefit from the unplanned rendezvous. Calixta “seemed to express nothing but satisfaction at their (Bobinot and Bibi) safe return” (437). Alcee “was getting on nicely” (437). “Bobinot and Bibi began to relax and enjoy themselves, and when the three seated themselves at table they laughed” (437). “As for Clarisse… she and the babies were doing well” (437). Both of the storms had run their course. “So the storm passed and every one was happy” (437).
Both Jack London and Kate Chopin embraced the ideas of naturalism; however their works celebrated different aspects of the same notion. London used his platform to position humans in a place where survival is an achievement and not simply a right granted by humanity. He showcases the slow decline of man when he is knocked from the comfort of his niche. Chopin strives to open the ideas of women and their sexuality. She justifies her characters actions by shedding light on the natural desires of man and woman alike. Naturalism displays all of man’s faults, but it is through that portrayal that we can find our place in the world.
“Mady’s Storm” Kickstarter Project (This Link Will Take You There)
This project has actually gone pretty good
At the moment, we have $270 of the $500 Needed
A week’s not that long to drum up the remaining $230, but I’ll see what I can do
I’m still awaiting a reply from the Photographer of the Cover
We had agreed on a price to use the photo last year
And I’m just waiting for her to verify the amount
If the project is a success, and she agreees
I’ll be sending her, her payment
And then the hard part…
Finding an Editor that can Edit the book in around 20 Hours
The Budget will be about $200, so $10 an hour
Which isn’t much
But I have to work with what I got, if I get it that is
$200 of the $500…
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I just wanted to announce my “Mady’s Storm” Kickstarter Project that I just launched
“Mady’s Storm” is my Sequel Novella to “I Died Once“, which is Available on Amazon
“I Died Once” was also launched on Kickstarter, and was funded
These funds are to Hire an Editor, as well as supply awards to the backers of the project
Here’s the Link
Be sure to check out all the Awards associated to backers support
Many of which include Copies of the book
Thanks for your Support
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