The World is a Text

Reading Literature


Objectives: 5 bullet points outlining the chapter


In this chapter you will


·                     Examine how meaning is constructed by the author and the reader in a text

·                     Look at poetic language and gain an understanding of how it represents an emotional or cultural reality

·                     Examine the role of irony, parody, and trickster figures to understand how literature maps the human condition

·                     Analyze the use of concrete language in building depth and multiplicities of meaning

·                     Focus on literature and its depiction of social and economic class in America.



Jean Toomer "Blood Burning Moon" Cane (Public Domain, 1923).


Jean Toomer was born Nathan Eugene Pinchback Tomer in Washington, D.C. on December 26, 1894.  Of racially mixed descent, Jean Toomer considered himself a “member of the human race” rather than of any specific race.  Deeply concerned with the legacy of slavery, and the race riots that were spreading through the country after World War I, Toomer traveled in the South.  Working as a school principal in Sparta, Georgia, he studied and wrote Cane.  In the 1920s, Toomer became acquainted with the ideas of the Russian mystic, Georges Gurdjieff, and focused on spirituality and the notion of world peace through the obliteration of racial difference.  Toomer’s attempt to correct what he considered to be a destructive focus on race caused many critics to accuse him of denying his origins.  Toomer died in 1967.

Multiple Choice Questions

1.        What color is Louisa’s skin?  a) skeleton stone white; b) like moonbeams; c) red like Georgia clay; d) color of oak leaves on young trees in fall; e) polished mahogany.

2.        What color is Tom Burwell’s skin?  a) brown; b) white; c) yellow brown; d) ashy gray; e) red clay.

3.        What color is Bob Stone’s skin?  a) brown; b) white; c) yellow olive; d) gray blue; e) red clay.

4.        Why are the contrasting colors of Bob’s and Tom’s skins important?  a) They color coordinate with the black and tan hounds; b) Tom is a member of the Ku Klux Klan; c) They balance each other, which Louisa needs since she is not absolutely of one race or another; d) Louisa is writing a novel about the South.

5.        What was Jean Toomer’s background?  a) Cuban, arrived as a refugee from the Spanish American War in 1898; b) He considered himself to be of all races and of not just one; c) He was Arcadian (Cajun) French; d) His mother was from the Philippines.

6.        How are Jean Toomer and Louisa similar?  a) They have deep affection for all people, regardless of race or ethnicity; b) They are caught in the middle of other people’s conflicts and jealousies; c) They seek to understand the relation of the human to nature, and they see human drama reflected in the landscape around them; d) They realize that certain groups will view them as though they had a right to own them, and thus strip them of their core humanity; e) all of the above; f) none of the above.

7.        How did Bob begin a relationship with Louisa?  a) He bought her a dozen roses and a goat; b) He “took” her like a master as she leaned over the hearth; c) He invited her to a barbecue; d) He asked her father for permission to court her.

8.        What is Bob’s attitude toward Louisa?  a) love and respect; b) admiration for her talents and abilities; c) lust and a need to possess her because it makes him feel powerful; d) tenderness and generosity.

9.        How does the full moon function?  a) as a mirror of the injustices and terrible events occurring on the face of the earth; b) as a symbol of evil; c) as a light that reveals the terrible truths usually kept hidden; d) as a reflection of fire and blood; e) all of the above.

10.     How does the story end?  a) Tom Burwell gets a new job as the supervisor of the cotton factory; b) The mob watches Tom burn at the stake, thus burning him alive; c) Bob proposes to Louisa; d) Louisa learns she is pregnant.

Before You Read

Have race riots or racial tensions occurred in your town?  Contemplate the history of your town or your state and describe what you have heard about the reasons for racial or ethnic conflict, and the eventual outcome.  Did it start because a member of one group misinterpreted the actions or behaviors of another group? What were they?  Was there racial profiling?

After You Read

How did this story make you feel?  How do you think it made readers in 1923 feel?  Why?  What are the most disturbing aspects of the story?  Could this happen today?  Why?

James Tate "Goodtime Jesus" Riven Doggeries (Ecco Press, 1979).


James Tate was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1943. He is the author of numerous books of poetry, including Memoir of the Hawk (Ecco Press, 2001); Shroud of the Gnome (1997); Worshipful Company of Fletchers (1994), which won the National Book Award; Selected Poems (1991), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award; Distance from Loved Ones (1990); Reckoner (1986); Constant Defender (1983); Riven Doggeries (1979); Viper Jazz (1976); Absences (1972); Hints to Pilgrims (1971); The Oblivion Ha-Ha (1970); and The Lost Pilot (1967), which was selected by Dudley Fitts for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. He has also published a novel, Lucky Darryl (1977), and a collection of short stories, Hottentot Ossuary (1974), and edited The Best American Poetry 1997. His honors include a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Poetry, the Wallace Stevens Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and is currently a chancellor of The Academy of American Poets.

Author information from The Academy of American Poets.


Multiple Choice Questions

1.        Who is the protagonist in “Goodtime Jesus”?  a) the historical Jesus; b) a Chicano worker named Jesus;  c) a donkey; d) Judas Iscariot; e) a Roman soldier?

2.        “Dreaming so deep” is an example of a) end-rhyme; b) alliteration; c) assonance; d) personification; e) iambic pentameter.

3.        The diction in “Goodtime Jesus” is a) formal; b) informal; c) polylingual; d) Elizabethan.

4.        Resurrection is suggested by the following concepts in the poem: a) the line “got up one day;” b)  waking up after “dreaming so deep;” c) “dead bodies walking around him” instead of lying still in their burial places; d) dead bodies juxtaposed with morning, a “beautiful day” and drinking coffee; e) all of the above.

5.        James Tate is well known for a) highly formal poems; b) Renaissance drama; c) informal, down-to-earth characters and concerns; d) science and technology-themed work.

6.        James Tate received the following award:  a) Pulitzer Prize; b) Academy Award for Best Screenplay; c) Neustadt Prize; d) Nobel Prize; e)  Rockefeller Award for Innovative Writing.

7.        What kind of animal does Jesus mention in “Goodtime Jesus”?  a) dog; b) barracuda; c) lamb; d) donkey, e) dove.

8.        Which of the following poems is not a poem by James Tate?  a) “The Days of Pie and Coffee”, b) “Restless Leg Syndrome”; c) “The Definition of Weeding”, d) “Dream On.”

9.        Which is a book by James Tate: a) The Lost Pilot, b) The Big Ha-Ha, c) Arrivals; d) The Days of Toast and Coffee; e) Dreaming On and On.

10.     Which is not a line from “Success Comes to Cow Creek”? a)  “he’s the fire hydrant / of the underdog; b) “I suggest suicide; / he prefers murder”; c) “we, two / doomed pennies on the track”; d) “the chill air would flatten  / us, if we let it”; e) “I swim toward shore as / fast as my boots allow.”

Before You Read

Can you think of times when the sacred, the powerful, or the untouchable become profane, and it makes you laugh?  Where?  Describe episodes of Monty Python, Saturday Night Live, M.A.D., or other parody / satires and explain why you laugh. 

After You Read

What was your initial response to “Goodtime Jesus”?  Did it make you laugh?  When?  Did it make you wonder what it might be like to wake up one day and find yourself, an ordinary mortal,  converted into Jesus?  What would it be like to wake up one day and find that you had traded places with a) Queen Elizabeth; b) the Buddha; c) the president of the United States; d) Fidel Castro?

Web Links

Poetry Exhibits. The Academy of American Poets.

Dana Gioia.  “James Tate and American Surrealism”.

Mike McGee, “Interview with James Tate” in Cross-X-Connect:

Michael Brooks Cryer, “Michael Brooks Cryer Reviews Memoir of the Hawk by James Tate  The Cortland Review.

Biography and Poems by James Tate.  American Poems.


Pablo Neruda, "Ode to My Socks."  Neruda and Vallejo: Selected Poems. Ed.
Robert Bly.
(Beacon Press, 1993).


Poet, diplomat, and Marxist, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto (Pablo Neruda) was born in Parral, a small town in central Chile. His father, don José del Carmen Reyes Morales, was a poor railway worker and mother, Rosa Basoalto de Reyes, was a schoolteacher, who died of tuberculosis when Neruda was an infant. Don José Carmen moved with his sons in 1906 to Temuco, and married Trinidad Candia Marvedre. Neruda started to write poetry when he was ten years old. Neruda's first literary work, an article, appeared in 1917 in the magazine La Manana. It was followed by a poem, 'Mis ojos', which appeared in 1918 in Corre-Vuela. In 1920 he published poems in the magazine Selva Austral, using the pen name Pablo Neruda to avoid conflict with his family, who disapproved his literary ambitions. From 1921 he studied at the Instituto Pedagógico in Santiago, where he studied French language. In 1924 Neruda gained international fame as an writer with Veinte poemas de amore y una cancion, which is his most widely read work. He adopted the name Pablo Neruda legally in 1946 after using it over 20 years as a writer.  Neruda is the most widely read of the Spanish American poets. From the 1940s his works reflected the political struggle of the left and socio-historical developments in South America, but he also wrote love poems. Neruda's Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924) have sold over a million copies since it first appeared. 

Multiple Choice Questions

1.        Pablo Neruda was born in a) Cuba; b) the Dominican Republic; c) Borneo; d) Chile; e) Los Angeles.

2.        Pablo Neruda is best known for his a) television sitcoms; b) theater of rebellion; c) writings in support of monarchy; d) poetry; e) novels.

3.        The socks that the narrator receives from Maru Mori are as soft as a) kittens; b) rabbits; c) roses; d) my tears upon waking; e) a beagle.

4.        They are knitted with threads of a) twilight and goatskin; b) the petals of dawn; c) candelight and longing; d) fog and sharks-teeth.

5.        The narrator’s attitude toward the socks is one of a) appreciation; b) warrior-like energy; c) sadness and defeat; d) hunger and self-denial.

6.        The translation of the poem features a) end-rhyme; b) iambic feet; c) pentameter; d) extended alliteration; e) terza rima; f) none of the above.

7.        The follow animals are mentioned in the poem:  a) sharks; b) birds; c) green deer; d) fireflies; e) all of the above.

8.        Pablo Neruda was awarded the following prize:  a) Academy Award for Best Director; b) Nobel Prize for Literature; c) Neustadt Award; d) Palm D’Or; e) Medal of Highest Honor from the Dominican Republic.

9.        In 1924, Pablo Neruda wrote Twenty Love Poems and a Song  which were examples of a) Provencal love ballads; b) ghazals; c) lyric poems; d) Petrarchan sonnets; e) blank verse.

10.     Pablo Neruda died in a) 1823; b) 1991; c) 1976; d) 1973; e) 1968.

Before You Read

Name five poems that you can recall without having to look in a book.  What do you like about them?  Why?

After You Read

If someone asked you to write an ode to an everyday item in your life, what would you write about and why?  Would you write about your favorite breakfast item?  To the place you work out?  To the book you had when you were growing up that you read over and over again?  To your favorite t--shirt?  How would you work in the history of the item, the people associated with it, your life and current events at the time?


Why do you like or dislike this poem?  List ten things you like or dislike and explain why. 

Web Links

“Pablo Neruda: Biography and Nobel Lecture”.  Nobel e--Museum.

“Pablo Neruda: Biography, Poems, Bibliography” in Poetry Exhibits. The Academy of American Poets.

“Pablo Neruda (1904-1973): Original Name Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto”. Books and Writers.

“Pablo Neruda.”  The Nobel Prize Internet Archive.

Monique Filsnoel.  “Pablo Neruda’s Isla Negra: A French Admirer of Pablo Neruda Visits His Isla Negra in Chile”. The Literary Traveler. 


Carolyn Forché, "The Colonel." The Country Between Us. HarperCollins. 1987.


Carolyn Forché's first poetry collection, Gathering The Tribes (Yale University Press, 1976), won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award from the Yale University Press. Forché has held three fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1992 she received a Lannan Foundation Literary Award "as a writer of excellence, whose work promotes a truer understanding of contemporary life." That same year, she received, with Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott, the Charity Randall Citation from the International Poetry Forum. Her anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness, a collection of poetry in English and in translation by poets who endured conditions of social, historical and political extremity during the 20th century was published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 1993.  In March, 1994, her third book of poetry, The Angel of History (HarperCollins, Publishers), received The Los Angeles Times Book Award. Recently, she was chosen to receive The Edita and Ira Morris Hiroshima Foundation for Peace and Culture Award for 1998, which was presented to her in Stockholm in January, 1998, in recognition of her work on behalf of human rights and the preservation of memory and culture.

Multiple Choice Questions:

1.        Where does the poem take place?  a) a prison; b) the colonel’s office; c) at a restaurant; d) at the colonel’s house; e) around a swimming pool.

2.        Why is this piece considered a poem and not simply prose?  a) the way that each element is used so that it takes on more than one meaning; b) the description of the ears that simultaneously dehumanizes (“The were like dried peach halves.”) and revivifies them, connecting them back to a living owner (“Some of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice.”); c) the way that violence and power are depicted in concrete ways (“Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to scoop the kneecaps from a man’s legs”) which shows rather than tells; d) descriptions that ask the reader to reperceive a familiar object (“The moon swung bare on its black cord over the house.”); e) all of the above; f) none of the above.

3.        The wife is depicted as a) a powerful “queen” figure; b) a woman who serves the colonel; c) a dark, small woman with a simian face; d) dead.

4.        What was the former use of the sack used to carry ears?  a) a purple velvet pouch carrying a bottle of Chivas Regal scotch; b) a plastic bag once used in suffocating cats; c) used to bring groceries home; d) used to carry a change of clothes “in case things get messy.”

5.        The narrator of the poem a) is in love with the colonel; b) believes she must report upon what she saw and affirm that what people have heard is true; c) is the daughter of the colonel; d) approves of what she sees, and described why the “mano dura” (strong-arm government) is necessary in South America.

6.        The colonel has a bag of ears.  They are ears a) from pigs; b) from stray dogs; c) from people; d) from gerbils; e) from plastic masks used by the secret police when they make raids.

7.        Carolyn Forché’s book of poems published in 1994 is entitled a) The Angel of History; b) Los Desaparecidos; c) Eva Peron’s Book of Dreams; d) Love and My Dictator.

8.        Forché’s anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness contains works by authors who are a) born-again Christians; b) survivors of conditions of extremity; c) members of the religious group, Jehovah’s Witness, d) part of the government Witness Protection Program.

9.        Carolyn Forché worked a) as a correspondent in Beirut, Lebanon for National Public Radio's "All Things Considered"; b) as a nurse in a veterans’ hospital; c) as an investment banker; d) as the coordinator of a children’s shelter in Papua New Guinea.

10.     Forché teaches a) rug-weaving; b) jewelry making with native grasses; c) poetry and writing workshops; d) day-trading courses; e) financial accounting and CPA review courses.

Before You Read

When you think of South or Central American dictators, who comes to mind?  What have you heard about them?  How do they keep the opposition from gaining power?  Describe the methods.  Do you think that it is justified?  Ever?

After You Read

Did you find this poem disturbing?  Why or why not?  What are the specific elements in this poem that make you aware that this is a highly crafted work of art? 

Web Links

Carolyn Forché.  “Carolyn Forché Welcomes You to Her Home Page”.ém/

“Carolyn Forché: Life and Career;  On a Poetry of Witness; On Images of Violence, etc.”  Modern American Poetryé/Forché.htm

Steven Ratiner. “Carolyn Forché:  The Poetry of Witness”s  The Blue Ear: The Face and Place of Poetry.  April 20, 1994.é.html

David Wright.  “Assembling Community:  An Interview with Carolyn Forché”. Nimble Spirit: The Literary Spirituality Review. Feb 20, 2000.é_interview.htm

“Carolyn Forché. New York State Writers Institute.é.html



Bernard Malamud, "The Magic Barrel". The Magic Barrel. (FS&G, 1999).


Bernard Malamud was born in New York City in 1914, died in 1986.  He received a Bachelor of Arts from College of the City of New York in 1936, and later a Master of Arts from Columbia Univ. in 1942. His works reflect a concern with Jewish tradition and the nobility of the humble man. The Fixer (1966; Pulitzer Prize), set in czarist Russia, reveals the courage of a handyman falsely accused by the government of ritual murder. The Tenants (1971) describes the confrontation of two writers—one Jewish, one African-American—and probes the nature of the art of writing. Among his other works are the novels The Natural (1952), A New Life (1961), Dubin's Lives (1979), and God's Grace (1982); the short-story collections The Magic Barrel (1958), Idiots First (1963), and Rembrandt's Hat (1973), gathered together in The Collected Stories (1997).

Multiple Choice.

1.        The story deals with a person who is a professional a) matchmaker; b) bookie; c) gigolo; d) owner of a pawn shop; e) college professor.

2.        “The Magic Barrel” was written in a) 1958; b) originally in fourteenth-century Russia, handed down via oral tradition in the Jewish community; b) 1970; c)  1965; d) Warsaw, Poland, by a man who was hiding in a grotto, carving the letters into wax tablets.

3.        Leo Finkle is a) a butcher; b) a rabbinical student; c) an actor; d) the owner of a chain of pawn shops; e) really a woman.

4.        Salzman “accidentally” mixes in the photo of a) his wife; b) the next-door-neighbor, a florist; c) his daughter, Stella; d) his niece, Ruth.

5.        “The Magic Barrel” is an example of a) realism; b) postmodernism; c) surrealism; d) protest poetry; e) autobiography.

6.        How does Salzman mislead Lilly about Leo Finkle? a) He tells her the rabbinical student is extremely mystical; b) He gives Leo the wrong time so that he shows up late and offends Lilly; c) He tells her Leo is engaged to someone else; d) He gives Lilly the expectation that Leo is already in love with her.

7.        What does Leo begin to think of Salzman?  a) He is an excellent marriage-broker; b) He is a trickster; c) He is down on his luck; d) He is worried about his daughter; e) all of the above.

8.        Bernard Malamud’s The Magic Barrel received a) extremely bad reviews; b) hate mail from marriage brokers; c) The National Book Award; d) an advance of $1 million for a screenplay, which became West Side Story.

9.        Which book is not by Bernard Malamud:  a) The Fixer; b) The Crying of Lot 49; c) The Tenants; d) Rembrandt’s Hat; e) all of the above.

10.     Bernard Malamud worked a) as a butcher; b) as a clerk in the Bureau of Census in Washington, DC, c) as a salmon skinner; d) as a journalist in Dallas, Texas.

Before You Read

Have you ever known anyone who has met someone through an intermediary?  Was it through personal ads in a newspaper or a website?  Was it via a chat room or bulletin board?  What happened?  Was there any deception or misrepresentation involved?  Did the intermediary, or the medium itself, predispose you to have false expectations?

After You Read

Find five different instances in the text in which Salzman was guilty of deception or trickery.  Explain precisely how he misled the individuals?  Do you think that Salzman was profoundly wise, and uniquely able to understand the core values of his clients so that he could help them find the sort of match that would make them happy, or do you think he was a “schlemiel” (a hapless bungler)?

Web Links

Mervyn Rothstein.  “Bernard Malamud, Author, Dies at Age 71” The New York Times on the Web. March 20, 1986. 

Walter Goodman. “Return of the Schlmiel  New York Times on the Web. September 28, 1997.

Philip Roth.  “Pictures of Malamud.” New York Times on the Web. (April 20, 1986).

“Bernard Malamud”.  Study Guide for The First Seven Years.

“Bernard Malamud”.



Nathaniel Hawthorne. "Young Goodman Brown." Public Domain


Novelist and short-story writer, Hawthorne was a central figure in the American Renaissance. Hawthorne's best-known works include The Scarlet Letter  (1850) and The House of the Seven Gables (1851). Writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, and Hawthorne looked not only to the Puritan origins of American history, but also to Puritan styles of rhetoric to create a distinctive American literary voice. Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts. His father was a sea captain and descendent of John Hawthorne, one of the judges in the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692. He died when the young Nathaniel was four year old. Hawthorne grew up in seclusion with his widowed mother.  He leaned on her for emotional solace and vice versa.  This influence Hawthorne carried with him into adulthood. Later he wrote, "I have locked myself in a dungeon and I can't find the key to get out." Hawthorne was educated at the Bowdoin College in Maine. Among his friends were Longfellow and Franklin Pierce, who became the fourteenth president of the United States.

Multiple Choice.

1.        Where does the story take place?  a) Decatur, Georgia; b) New York City; c) Salem, Massachusetts; d) Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts; e) none of the above.

2.        What causes Goodman Brown to think that his wife, Faith, has been unfaithful? a) the presence of pink ribbon in the wild woods; b) Credit card receipts indicating that she has been traveling to Ibiza instead of to New York on business; c) She confessed it to him; d) She saw him carousing in the trees with Puck and fairies from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

3.        Which names are ironized in the story, and make the reader start to think that the character with the name actually possesses the opposite qualities?  a) Goodman; b) Faith; c) Goody; d) Deacon; e) all of the above.

4.        Why were Massachusetts Puritans so deathly afraid of female sexuality?  a) All women are evil-doing witches, no matter how innocent and well-meaning they pretend to be; b) All women have the ability to conceal their true motives; c) Social convention and societal norms are largely ineffective at controlling human nature; d) Beauty is skin deep and a seductive trick to make you have contact with something that is ghastly and perhaps, in actuality, dead or close to it.

5.        Are characters such as Malamud’s Salzman and Hawthorne’s witches tricksters?  If so, is it because they a) cause a person to see the world in a new way, even when they do not want to? b) bring about shape-shifting, and allow people to see an underlying truth? c) is the underlying truth about oneself, and less about the observable, external, phenomenal world? d) all of the above.

6.        Why might this story be relevant today?  a) appearances deceive; b) deep-seated negative emotions and beliefs cause people to act, as in the case of “Blood-Burning Moon” in frighteningly violent ways; c) jealousy causes people to misread the signs, misread the text that is the world; d) all of the above.

7.        Nathaniel Hawthorne also wrote a) Circles; b) I Sing the Body Electric; c) The Scarlet Letter; d) Moby-Dick.

8.        Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote gothic tales set in a) Yorkshire, England; b) Nova Scotia; c) Vicksburg, Mississippi; d) New England; e) Antigua, Guatemala.

9.        How are women considered in Toomer and Hawthorne’s stories?  a) as temptresses who bring out the worst in men; b) as innocent victims; c) as trickster figures who cause men to be consumed by their own demons; d)  as misunderstood by men; e) all of the above.

10.     Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote “Young Goodman Brown” in a) 1655; b) 1950; c) 1835; d) 1900; e) 1776.

Before You Read

How many works of literature or film can you think of that contain depictions of American Puritans of Massachusetts?  What are they usually doing?  Why? 

After You Read

How would you convert “Young Goodman Brown” into a Hollywood horror film?  Would you adapt it so that it deals with sexuality in the same manner as Scream, or Friday, the 13th?  In those films, sexual transgression or the suspicion of it results in punishment.  Do other films deal with sexual jealousy?  Do they include the idea that women turn into evil witches or vampires?  Describe them, and compare their idea of sexuality to that depicted in “Young Goodman Brown.”

Web Links

Students of Florida Gulf Coast University. “Nathaniel Hawthorne: ‘Young Goodman Brown’” American Literature Research and Analysis Site  (July 28, 1998) .

“Site Exploring ‘Young Goodman Brown’ first published in 1835  includes “Allegorical Young Goodman Brown” and “A View of Young Goodman Brown” (student papers)

“Nathaniel Hawthorne.” Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed.  Columbia UP: 2001.

Brothers Heuss.  “About Nathaniel Hawthorne  Cyber Learning Studios.

“Nathaniel Hawthorne.”  Faculty Site: Gonazaga


Emily Dickinson. "My Life had stood a loaded Gun." Public Domain


Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1830. She attended Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley but severe homesickness led her to return home after one year. In the years that followed, she seldom left her house and visitors were scarce. The people with whom she did come in contact, however, had an intense impact on her thoughts and poetry. She was particularly stirred by the Reverend Charles Wadsworth, whom she met on a trip to Philadelphia. He left for the West Coast shortly after a visit to her home in 1860, and his departure gave rise to a heartsick flow of verse from Dickinson, who deeply admired him. By the 1860s, she lived in almost total physical isolation from the outside world, but actively maintained many correspondences and read widely. Dickinson was extremely prolific as a poet and regularly enclosed poems in letters to friends, but she was not publicly recognized during her lifetime. The first volume of her work was published posthumously in 1890 and the last in 1955. She died in Amherst in 1886.

Multiple Choice

1.        Where did Emily Dickinson live?  a) on a tea plantation near Bombay, India; b) on an indigo plantation in South Carolina; c) in Amherst, Massachusetts; d) in Bennington, Vermont; e) in Washington, D.C.

2.        What does the “loaded gun” refer to? a) the beginning of deer season; b) the pent-up rage, energy, and potential that is largely unrealized in one’s life; c) the Civil War; d) road rage.

3.       The idea of hunting a doe symbolizes a) an ironic use of Christian symbolism which suggests that one is hunting the deer, which  is the soul; b) a willingness to kill what is innocent and/or fruitful; c) indiscriminate violence; d) the power to hunt anything with impunity; e) all of the above.

4.        What do the references to a “loaded gun” and a “Vesuvian face” suggest, when considered together?  a) the explosiveness of the feelings; b) something that will discharge, with lethal consequences; c) Her life is sitting in the corner dormant until one day it erupts without warning; d) all of the above.

5.        Who is “the Owner”?  a) the Grim Reaper; b) Santa Claus; c) the self (divided); d) the person who holds the title.

6.        What happens at night?  a) She goes to the hills and kills does; b) She guards her master’s head, although she is his foe; c) She crochets flames and volcanoes into a throw; d) The Civil War ghosts beg for the ability to die as well as kill.

7.        Emily Dickinson lived a life typified by a) extensive travels through the Ottoman Empire; b) opium addiction; c) reclusiveness; d) cultivating prize orchids; e) teaching at a women’s seminary.

8.        Emily Dickinson was married a) five times; b) twice; c) four times; d) never; e) once.

9.        When were her poems published?  a) at the same time as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, with which they were bound as a boxed set; b) when she was only fifteen years old; c) long after her death; d) upon the birth of her seventh child.

10.    The poem illustrates a) contradictions within the human heart; b) how one is sometimes only able to understand oneself via extended metaphors comparing oneself or one’s life to an inanimate object; c) the power of minimalism; d) the way that confession is incorporated into poetry; e) all of the above.

Before You Read

Can you think of films or works of literature that deal with pent-up rage? 

After You Read

Read Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus” and compare it with Emily Dickinson’s poem.  One is minimalist and the other highly rhythmic and lyrical.  Nevertheless, do you see similarities in the sense that these both depict emotion-charged voices?  Explain how they make you explore the condition of pent-up feelings and fantasies of power.

Web Links

“Emily Dickinson.”  Academy of American Poets.

The Emily Dickinson International Society.

“Virtual Emily.”

“Emily Dickinson.” Columbia Encyclopedia.  Sixth edition. 2001.  Columbia. .

“Emily Dickinson: Biography and Works.” The Literary Network.


Wislawa Szymborska, "Slapstick" View With a Grain of Sand. (Harvest Books,


Wislawa Szymborska was born in Kornik in Western Poland on July 2, 1923. Since 1931 she has been living in Krakow. Between 1945 and 1948 she studied Polish Literature and Sociology.  Szymborska made her début in March 1945 with a poem "Szukam slowa" (“I am Looking for a Word”) in the daily Dziennik Polski. During 1953 and 1981 she worked as poetry editor and columnist in the Kraków literary weekly Zycie Literackie where the series of her essays "Lektury nadobowiazkowe" appeared.  The series has been renewed lately in the addition to Gazeta Wyborcza"-Gazeta o Ksiazkach. The collection Lektury nadobowiazkowe was published in the form of a book four times.  Szymborska has published 16 collections of poetry: Dlatego zyjemy (1952), Pytania zadawane sobie (1954), Wolanie do Yeti (1957), Sól (1962), Wiersze wybrane (1964), Poezje wybrane (1967), Sto pociech (1967), Poezje (1970), Wszelki wypadek (1972), Wybór wierszy (1973), Tarsjusz i inne wiersze (1976), Wielka liczba (1976), Poezje wybrane II (1983), Ludzie na moscie (1986), Koniec i poczatek (1993, 1996), Widok z ziarnkiem piasku. 102 wiersze (1999) . Wislawa Szymborska has also translated French poetry.

Multiple Choice

1.                    Wislawa Szymborska is from a) The Czech Republic; b) Slovenia; c) Poland; d) Estonia; e)  Magadan, Siberia.

2.                    She was awarded a) The People’s Choice Award on MTV; b) The New Yorker’s Outstanding Contribution to Humanity Award; c) Nobel Prize for Literature; d) Uncle Mookie’s Karioke Star Award; e) an honorary doctorate from The University of Oklahoma.

3.                    What does “slapstick” refer to?  a) a skateboard move involving stairs and another skateboard (the “stick” to “slap”); b) a lack of respect toward women; c) early comic routines involving large, theatrical, often campy gestures, evolved from vaudeville; d) a literary term for figurative language that snaps one into a new consciousness -- a kind of metaphor, similar to synecdoche.

4.                    To watch “a hundred comic somersaults / turned over a hundred abysses” suggests that a) Juxtapositions of the absurd and the tragicomic with the truly hopeless makes the human struggle all the more poignant; b) The actors will be dizzy; c) If they miss, they’ll die and won’t that be funny!; d) It’s a long movie, but people do like action, don’t they?

5.                    The lines “not even crying Save me, Save me / since all of this takes place in silence” a) Shows why people like sound in their movie; b) The Cirque du Soleil choreographers have read Szymborska; c) To be self-aware of the futility of one’s own struggles and “cris du coeur” is perhaps the most heartrending of all expressions in art; d) is like watching a Ronald McDonald commercial with the sound turned off.

6.                    Angels “clap their wings / and tears run from their eyes” a) because this tragicomic scene shows an essential truth about the human condition, and it moves one to tears; b) because the angels are sadists and, even though they could do something to help, they prefer to watch poor humankind self-destruct in awkward and embarrassing ways; c) because it’s funny to watch people suffer; d) because it means that these are less than divine angels, and they know it; they feel good when they can watch someone else act like an impotent goof, for a change.

7.                    Angels prefer slapstick because a) the “serious” works of art are too self-absorbed and do not really capture the essential nature of the human struggle; b) schadenfreude is the highest level of artistic emotion; c) angels consider “our novels concerning thwarted hopes” only appropriate material for entities who actually possess power; d) seeing a “startled mouse / run[ning] down a pantleg” is funny.

8.                    When we see images of angels, they are usually a) idealized to the point that they are symbols of specific churches and doctrines, such as Catholicism; b) asking the reader to make an interpretation that emphasizes gravity, seriousness, and respect; c) a symbol of hope, or of the idea that a guardian force exists; d) all of the above.

9.                    To make the usual symbols of power, reverence, and doctrine (and/or dogma) be seen in a different way is to a) subvert readers’ expectations; b) undermine the authority of the ideas and/or beliefs that stood behind the traditional symbols; c) ask the reader to question his or her interpretation of the symbol or “text,” d) all of the above.

10.                 The title of Szymborska’s selected poems is a) A Hundred Abysses; b) Miracle Fair; c) Dancing on the Head of a Pin; d) People on a Boat.

Before You Read

Describe the films you have watched which depict God, angels, or other deities as human.  Are they funny?  When?

After You Read

If you were to write a poem or a short story that show humans at their most absurd and tragicomic, where would you set the action, and what would you have people doing?  Imagine yourself to be a guardian angel or diety, looking down and observing individuals a) at a mall doing Christmas shopping two days before Christmas; b) on Valentine’s Day; c) on Halloween.  How would you describe what you see?

Web Links

Wyslawa Szymborska.” Nobel Prize Internet Archive.

Wyslavwa Szymborska: Biography, Nobel Lecture, Selected Poems.” Nobel e-Museum.

Wyslava Szymborska: Nobel Laureate.” October 3, 1996.

Wyslava SzymborskaBooks and Writers.

Wyslava Szymborska Pages” Poland in the Classroom: SUNY-Buffalo.


Kate Chopin, "The Story of an Hour." Public Domain.


Born Catherine O'Flaherty on July 12, 1850, in St. Louis, Missouri, Kate Chopin was the daughter of an immigrant Irishman, Thomas O'Flaherty and a French-American mother, Eliza Faris. One of three children born to this union (Thomas' second, his first having produced her brother George), Kate was their youngest child and by all accounts, a happy one. However, in 1855 Thomas O'Flaherty died suddenly, and so, at five years old, Kate was forced to reshape her concept of herself and her world, which at that time largely revolved around the father figure as the center of the household. After her father's death, Kate's family included her widowed mother, her widowed grandmother, and her widowed great-grandmother. In June, 1889, Kate wrote Wiser Than a God and by the end of 1889 had written three more short stories as well as begun At Fault, her first novel, which was published in 1890. By 1894 she published Bayou Folk, a collection of short stories written in the local-color tradition and containing all but four short stories that had been previously published in popular journals. This would earn her the highest critical praise she would receive in her lifetime. Most of the stories contained in Bayou Folk are somewhat superficial and sentimental. However, even in these one can find Chopin's characters struggling for a sense of self and purpose, with such themes as self-reliant women as protagonists, post Civil War racism, male/female relationships and what would eventually become known as male chauvinism. Also, in these early characters one sees the prototype for her most famous character to come, Edna Pontellier of The Awakening.

Multiple Choice.

1.        Where does this story take place?  a) at Mrs. Mallard’s home; b) at a train station; c) at the opera house; d) in the insurance agent’s office; e) in a rose garden.

2.        Mrs. Mallard is afflicted with a) pneumonia; b) leprosy; c) heart trouble; d) tuberculosis.

3.        Mrs. Mallard receives news that her husband has a) bought six new horses; b) adopted a child he fathered during an affair; c) will only speak French in the household; d) has died in an accident.

4.        After her initial dismay and grief when she learns the news, Mrs. Mallard a) begins to realize she will experience a level of freedom she has never had before; b) is angry because she has no place to keep the horses; c)  is angry because of his affair, although she loves the child at first sight; d) is sad because French reminds of her Tante Pauline.

5.        “She would live for herself” suggests that a) Her role as wife has required her to subjugate herself to the will of her husband; b) She can ride horses if she wants, sell them if she wishes; c) She is tired of taking care of other people’s children; d) She has been reading feminist theory.

6.        Her husband is a) a womanizing dog; b) a man who “never looked save with love upon her; c) an inventor; d) suffering from depression or Alzheimer’s.

7.        The “joy that kills” referred to at the end of the story is ironic because a) She has a heart attack because she is so overjoyed to see that he is actually alive that she dies; b) The “joy” that occurred was upon finding that she would be free, and she died when she realized she would lose her newly-gained freedoms; c) The six horses were so overjoyed to see her that they trampled her to death; d) Her husband’s affair made him feel joy, but it killed his marriage.

8.        Kate Chopin’s The Awakening was published in 1899, and it scandalized readers with its open sexuality.  It was not published again until the 1950s, when it a) became an inspiration for Wonder Woman, b) was widely reprinted and read in university literature courses; c) was made into a movie; d) was used as the basis for a series of commercials for No-Doze.

9.        Kate Chopin lived in Louisiana until her husband’s death, which compelled her to a) return to St. Louis; b) buy a steamship and operate a gambling ship on the Mississippi; c) live with her in-laws in Cloutierville, Louisiana; d) open a dry-goods store, where she developed a successful line of greeting cards celebrating women.

10.     Kate Chopin received her early education from a) her mother and her Tante Yvette; b) the Academy of the Sacred Heart; c) a Benedictine monastery in nearby Dixville, Louisiana; d) wolves; e) Mme. Boutheliard’s Ecole pour las Jeunes Filles.

Before You Read

Have you ever wondered what would happen to you if you were suddenly liberated from a life-situation that severely limits you, but which you had become resigned to?  What is this situation?  A job you dislike but need?  A dysfunctional relationship? How would you envision your response?

After You Read

Did you feel sympathy for the protagonist?  What other works of literature or film did this remind you of?  Why?  When?

Web Links

“Kate Chopin: A Re-Awakening.” PBS

Christina Ker. “Ahead of Her Time: Kate Chopin.”

Barbara C. Ewell.  “Kate Chopin” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries.

Barbara Ewell, ed.  “Kate Chopin: A Literary Journey” Loyala University.

Linda McGovern.  “Footprints in Cloutierville.” The Literary Traveler.


William Carlos Williams, "The Red Wheelbarrow." New Directions, 1963.

Author Bio – one paragraph

William Carlos Williams was born in Rutherford, New Jersey, in 1883. He began writing poetry while a student at Horace Mann High School, at which time he made the decision to become both a writer and a doctor. He received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Returning to Rutherford, where he sustained his medical practice throughout his life, Williams began publishing in small magazines and embarked on a prolific career as a poet, novelist, essayist, and playwright. Following Pound, he was one of the principal poets of the Imagist movement. Continuing to experiment with new techniques of meter and lineation, Williams sought to invent an entirely fresh—and singularly American—poetic, whose subject matter was centered on the everyday circumstances of life and the lives of common people. His influence as a poet spread slowly during the twenties and thirties, overshadowed, he felt, by the immense popularity of Eliot's "The Waste Land"; however, his work received increasing attention in the 1950s and 1960s as younger poets, including the Beats, were impressed by the accessibility of his language and his openness as a mentor. His major works include Kora in Hell (1920), Spring and All (1923), Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems (1962), the five-volume epic Paterson (1963, 1992), and Imaginations (1970). Williams's health began to decline after a heart attack in 1948 and a series of strokes, but he continued writing up until his death in New Jersey in 1963.

10- Multiple Choice Questions: Comprehension/Chapter/reading-specific

1.        “The Red Wheelbarrow” is an example of a) minimalism; b) gothic; c) iambic pentameter; d) terza rima; e) sonnet.

2.        William Carlos Williams was influenced by a) puppets from Bali; b) Renaissance oil painting; c) the excavation of Troy; d) modern photography and the Armory show.

3.        William Carlos Williams was a) a veterinarian; b) a marriage broker; c) a doctor; d) an insurance executive; e) a woman.

4.        Spring and All is a) a silent film; b) Marilyn Monroe’s first feature film; c) a book of poetry by William Carlos Williams; d) a popular song sold as sheet music in 1919.

5.        William Carlos Williams was influenced by a) philosophical writings in the early 20th century that focused on perception and how people make meaning; b) an idea that the job of art is to make you see things in a new way; c) “make it new” and “bestrangement” are the goals of the poet; d) minimalists; e) all of the above.

6.        Minimalism is effective because it a) takes away the excess and asks you to look at the basic structure of your mind as it makes meaning of the poem; b) asks you to look very closely at each word and the arrangement on the page; c) is similar to living in the world and life itself because it doesn’t come with an instruction manual (mode d’emploi); d) reminds you of the way you might read a logo, graffiti, or a sign; e) all of the above.

7.        William Carlos Williams wrote a) Paterson, b) Kora in Hell; c) Al Que Quiere; d) The Pisan Cantos; e) all except (d).

8.        Paterson is different than the other works that preceded it because it relies more heavily on a) juxtaposion and collage; b) earthworks in collaboration with Robert Smithson; c) introductory essays by President Truman; d) photographs that accompany the poems.

9.        William Carlos Williams was affiliated with the American a) avant-garde; b) theater; c) silent film; d) neo-classical architecture and its corollaries in poetics.

10.     His goals were to model poetry after a) American speech patterns; b) American images and art; c) mythical history as represented in his work In the American Grain (1925), d) capture what could be the essence of American thought in experimental poetics; e) all of the above.

Before You Read essay question

If you take the text from an ad in a magazine, or from a billboard, and then you write it down on a blank sheet of paper, how do you read the words?  Do you tend to think of the words in a way that is different than when you read an article or read the words in conjunction with images?  Why?  How?

After You Read essay question

Try writing the same sort of minimalist poem about a) a green lawnmower; b) a black backpack; c) a solitary high-heeled woman’s shoe; d) a toothbrush.  What happens in the construction of such a text?  Do you find yourself relying on the image you have of it in order to reduce the words and make the depiction minimalist?  Which words do you focus on and why?

5 web links re: author and/or reading topic

“William Carlos Williams” LitKicks.

“William Carlos Williams  Modern American Poetry.

“William Carlos Williams” Academy of American Poets.

 “Archive” Brian A. Bremen, Ed. William Carlos Williams Review

Daniel Morris.  “William Carlos Williams: Publicity for the Self – Book publicity”


Langston Hughes, "Deferred" from Montage of a Dream Deferred. Knopf. 1952.

Author Bio – one paragraph

Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902. His parents were divorced when he was a small child and his father moved to Mexico. He was raised by his grandmother until he was twelve, when he moved to Lincoln, Illinois, to live with his mother and her husband. It was during his high school years that Hughes began writing poetry. Following graduation, he spent a year in Mexico and a year at Columbia University and travelled to Africa and Europe. He moved to Harlem, New York, in November 1924. Hughes first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1926. He finished his college education at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania three years later.  Hughes is particularly known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties. He wrote novels, short stories and plays, as well as poetry, and is also known for his engagement with the world of jazz and the influence it had on his writing, as in "Montage of a Dream Deferred." His life and work were enormously important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. He wanted to tell the stories of his people without personalizing them, so the reader could step in and draw his own conclusions. Langston Hughes died in 1967.

10- Multiple Choice Questions: Comprehension/Chapter/reading-specific

1.        Langston Hughes was a) Chicano; b) Philippine-American; c) African-American; d) from Amazonas, Brazil; e) Native American.

2.        Langston Hughes was born in a) Manila, Philippines; b) Sherman Flats, Mississippi; c) Joplin, Missouri; d) Tulsa, Oklahoma; e) Manaus, Brazil.

3.        In “Harlem,” rhyme and meter are used to a) make the poem appropriate for use in a greeting card; b) emphasize contrasts and concrete images; c) make the reader think of a Shakespearean sonnet; d) a poem is not a poem if it does not rhyme.

4.        A “dream deferred” does not a) dry up / like a raisin in the sun; b) explode; c) flower toward the sun / like a rare gardenia; d) stink like rotten meat.

5.        Langston Hughes is not a) bringing to the reader’s consciousness that not all Americans have equal access to the American dream; b) using art as a way to express social critique and protest; c) using poetry to express an emotional and existential state; d) writing ad copy for a national brand of dried fruit.

6.        Langston Hughes’ first book of poetry, published in 1926, is entitled a) The Weary Blues; b) A Raisin in the Sun; c) Brokedown Palace; d) Heart of Waiting.

7.        In the poems included in this selection, both Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes write a) about the animal rights; b) about frustration and a state of being that is on the edge of explosion; c) using dashes and short lines; d) their grandmothers’ gardens.

8.        Langston Hughes’ major influences were a) Walt Whitman; b) Carl Sandburg; c) Paul Lawrence Dunbar; d) all of the above.

9.        The line, “Raisin In the Sun” was used later as a) the title of a collection of poems used as lyrics by Billie Holiday; b) the title of a play by Lorraine Hansberry; c) the basis of jazz improvisations by Charlie “Bird” Parker; d) all of the above; e) none of the above.

10.     Langston Hughes’ work is influenced by a) his love of jazz and blues; b) rhythms of African-American musical forms; c) his travels in Africa and Europe; d) his desire to effect positive social change; e) all of the above.

Before You Read essay question

Can you think of musicians whose work includes a great deal of social protest?  Describe them.

After You Read essay question

Do you think that “A Dream Deferred” makes sense for today?  Is it relevant?  Why?  Where and when?

5 web links re: author and/or reading topic

“Langston Hughes,” Academy of American Poets.

“James Langston Hughes” Red Hot Jazz.

“Langston Hughes:  Teacher Resource File” Internet School Library Media Center.

“Langston Hughes  Modern American Poetry.

Jeff Trussell.  “Langston Hughes:  Poet Hero” Poet Heroes.


Chris Haven, "Assisted Living." ThreePenny Review. 2000.

Author Bio – one paragraph


10- Multiple Choice Questions: Comprehension/Chapter/reading-specific

1.        Jules is a) an investment banker; b) a recently laid-off programmer; c) a real estate agent; d) a pilot; e) a butcher.

2.        Jules met Otto a) in a grocery store; b) as Otto waited on a corner, looking lost; c) at an Intel training session for the next generation computer chip; d) at a mixer at the Dallas Hyatt Regency; e) delivering packages.

3.       “Assisted Living” makes a comment about relationships and suggests that a) buying bigger and better houses is a way that a husband tries to satisfy a wife who is “too pretty for him”; b) some relationships are negotiated rather than built on love; c) needs and desires built on fantasy are ultimately unattainable; d) all living is “assisted living” whether we realize it or not; e) all of the above.

4.        What does Otto do in the “dream home”?  a) refuses to enter it; b) talks about the dream home that he and his wife built in Katy, Texas; c) suggests they plant Japanese pear trees along the sidewalk; d) pees on the carpet; e) none of the above.

5.        Jules offers to take Otto out for lunch, so they go to a) a cafeteria; b) the restaurant near the front desk of the Hyatt; c) check out a sushi bar next to the I-Mac exhibit; d) Wendy’s drive-thru.

6.        Otto lives in a) an Airstream travel trailer; b) in a penthouse in the building next to the Hyatt; c) an A-frame house; d) an apartment.

7.        Otto used to be a) a car mechanic; b) a mainframe programmer; c) the owner of a fleet of delivery vans; d) a real estate broker; e) a butcher.

8.        Otto’s daughter talks of having Otto a) put more money in mutual funds; b) buy his own plane; c) write a book about the beginning of the computer age; d) going into assisted living; e) none of the above.

9.        Otto’s daughter’s name is a) Jewel; b) Marketta; c) Linda; d) Kenyatta; e) Kate.

10.     When Jules finds out the Tony will have managed to put Tammy in her dream home, he responds a) by buying a bottle of Tott’s champagne; b) looking out the window and thinking about the view from the 18th floor of the Hyatt Regency; c) saying to himself:  Poor bastard.” d) gives the pork chops he has just cut to the assisted living center down the street.

Before You Read essay question

Do you know anyone who has a relative who can no longer live alone?  What behaviors characterize that individual? 

After You Read essay question

Re-read “Slapstick.”  Does Otto remind you at all of the individuals depicted in the poem?  When?  What is he doing?  How does this make you re-consider the human condition? 

5 web links re: author and/or reading topic

“Chris Haven” ThreePenny Review online. Issue 82:  Summer 2000.

Glossary of Eldercare Terms.

Assisted Living for Alzheimers and Dementia.

Review of Doris Lessing’s The Summer Before Dark

Keaton Walks Away with Marvin’s Room.


Adrian Louis, "Dust World" Among the Dog Eaters. West End Press. 1992

Author Bio – one paragraph

Adrian C. Louis was born and raised in Nevada and is an enrolled member of the Lovelock Paiute Tribe. From 1984 to 1998, he taught at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota. Prior to this, Louis edited four Native newspapers, including a stint as managing editor of Indian Country Today.  Louis has written eight books of poems, including Fire Water World, winner of the 1989 Poetry Center Book Award from San Francisco State University, and he is the author of two works of fiction: Skins, a novel, and a collection of short stories, Wild Indians & Other Creatures. Louis has won various writing awards, among them a Pushcart Prize and fellowships from the Bush Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund. In 1999, he was elected to the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. He currently resides in Minnesota and teaches at Southwest State University.

10- Multiple Choice Questions: Comprehension/Chapter/reading-specific

1.        “Dust World” describes a) a bus station; b) Route 66 through Oklahoma; c) a reservation; d) Morocco; e) Bureau of Indian Affairs office.

2.        Landscapes in Louis’ poetry are a) pastoral, like a scene from Wordsworth; b) urban; c) bleak; d) subtropical paradise.

3.        The landscapes reflect a) the metaphysical and/or spiritual condition of the inhabitants; b) the result of poverty and disenfranchisement; c) a sense of futurelessness; d) the forces that drive an individual to despair and alcoholism; e) all of the above.

4.        The Pine Ridge Reservation is located in a) South Dakota; b) Tennessee; c) Oklahoma; d) Arizona.

5.        Adrian Louis is a) Kickapoo; b) Lakota Sioux; c) Lovelock Paiute; d) Citizens Band Pottawatomi from Little Axe, Oklahoma; e) none of the above.

6.        Adrian writes of contemporary Native American themes in order to a) call to attention the spiritual condition of a people defeated and disenfranchised; b) to make people aware of the true situation; c) to find beauty and dignity within dehumanizing poverty; d) to focus on values that transcend material appearances or a consumer culture; e) all of the above.

7.        “When America died, I was passed out and I never noticed” is from Adrian Louis’s a) poem “Snake Farmers,” b) essay, “Earth Bone Connected to the Spirit Bone,” c) short story; “Coyote Steals the Interstate,” d) essay, “Low-Rez Is How You See It.”

8.        Adrian Louis is a graduate of a) Brown University writing program; b) Columbia University writing program; c) University of Nevada – Reno; d) University of Montana; e) never went to college.

9.        Ceremonies of the Damned by Adrian Louis is a) a collection of short stories; b) a collection of poems; c) collection of essays; d) drawing and glyphs.

10.     Skins is a) a novel by Adrian C. Louis a) about a Lakota Souix tribal officer; b) has been made into a movie, release date June 2002; c) about  Native American Vietnam veterans; d) none of the above; e) all of the above.

Before You Read essay question

Describe what you think when you consider a reservation and reservation life?  Have you ever been on a reservation?  What was it like?

After You Read essay question

If you lived on a reservation, would you try to leave?  Why?  Do you believe that people who live on a reservation have the same idea of “The American Dream” as an immigrant?  Might they feel something in common with the narrator of “A Dream Deferred?”  Why?

5 web links re: author and/or reading topic

Joe Napora.  “About Adrian C. Louis’ Poetry  Modern American Poetry.

“Adrian C. Louis” Modern American Poetry.

Adrian C. Louis.  “Earth Bone Connected to the Spirit Bone.” Ploughshares online. Spring 1996.

“Adrian C. Louis: Works on Ploughshares online” Ploughshares online.

“Song of the Snake” (audio and text) The Cortland Review.  Issue Three: May 1998.


Flannery O'Connor, "Good Country People"  A Good Man is Hard to Find. HBJ.

Author Bio – one paragraph

Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia on March 25, 1925, and died of lupus in Milledgeville, Georgia on August 3, 1964. In these 39 years, she contributed a brief, powerful canon (2 novels, 32 short stories, plus reviews and commentaries) that is still studied, and O'Connor is considered one of the most important voices in American literature.  Flannery led a rather uneventful life that was focused almost exclusively on her vocation as a writer. She held no jobs, subsisting solely on grants, fellowships and royalties from her writing. She engaged in no known love affairs and spent life living quietly with friends or family. She was born into a middle class southern family of no special distinction. She started writing at six years old and recognized her calling immediately. She was shy, taciturn, possessed a dry wit and was not overly social. In high school she wrote satirical pieces for the school paper and submitted her writing to journals with no success. She aspired to become a satirical writer and when asked what she did with her time, she answered, 'collect rejection slips.' Her father died of lupus at age 15 leaving Flannery and her mother to fend for themselves. Flannery entered the Georgia State College for Woman in her home town where she studied sociology. She found herself alienated from the other students in her honors classes who cared more for playing the southern belle than seriously pursuing academics. Frustrated, she wrote small pieces in the school paper satirizing their antics and pleading with them to take their studies more seriously. Flannery then was admitted to the Iowa's writer workshop on the strength of stories that displayed an 'insight into human weakness' and were 'hard and compassionate.' She later disparaged these early works, saying that she would have quit if she knew how bad they were. Flannery engaged in very few outside interests, focusing all her attention on improving her writing. Her goal: "to write as well as I can, perhaps a little better." One of her thesis stories was published in a small journal which gave her confidence to have more stories published. After graduating she spent a year as a teaching assistant before accepting an invitation to Yadoo, an artist colony in upstate New York. By this time she had won a prize based on the first chapters of her novel and then underwent the painstaking process of finishing the book for the publisher who sponsored the contest. Her publisher was not pleased with her delays and thought her editing concealed the heart of the story, rather than revealed it. Flannery adamantly refused to alter her methods and soon found a new publisher and an understanding editor who happily published the result of five years labor. A year before the appearance of the novel, Flannery was diagnosed with lupus. She thought she would live only three more years, as her father did after his diagnosis. She moved from Connecticut where she had been staying with friends, to Georgia so her mother could care for her. They moved to a farm on the outskirts of their hometown where Flannery divided her time between raising peacocks and honing her craft. Though the disease drained her energy, Flannery managed to produce a steady stream of short stories which quickly found publication and garnered awards, including three O. Henrys. The three year mark came and went, so she began another novel which took over five years to complete. By this time Flannery had solidified her reputation both as a major southern writer and a writer with a unique ability to explore religious concerns through grotesque and absurd situations. Because of her failing health, she was not able to work on her third novel, though she did eke out several short stories during the last years of her life. She died August 3, 1964 at home in Milledgeville under the eye of her mother.

10- Multiple Choice Questions: Comprehension/Chapter/reading-specific

1.        Flannery O’Connor was born in a) Tupelo, Mississippi; b) Amistad, Jamaica; c) Savannah, Georgia; d) Bennington, Vermont; e) East Tortuga Islands, Dominica.

2.       Flannery O’Connor was preoccupied with themes of a) the doomed nature of humanity; b) the tragic and grotesque; c) dark side of human nature; d) Catholicism and Christianity; e) all of the above.

3.        She wrote a) short stories; b) novels; c) letters; d) essays; e) all of the above; f) none of the above.

4.        In “Good Country People,” the female protagonist changed her name to a) Dido; b) Artemis; c) Hulga; d) Joy; e) Maggie.

5.        In “Good Country People,” the female protagonist is educated and has a) a masters in theology; b) a nursing certificate; c) a Ph.D. in philosophy; d) a graduate degree in chemical engineering; e) master’s degree in education.

6.        In “Good Country People,” Manley Pointer is a) a traveling Bible salesman; b) a bootlegger; c) manufacturer’s sales rep for nylon stockings; d) a preacher; e) none of the above.

7.        In “Good Country People,” the female protagonist wants to a) buy new sheer stockings; b) conceal her alcoholism from her mother; c) seduce Manley Pointer; d) develop a new process for manufacturing phosphates.

8.        In “Good Country People,” Mrs. Hopewell a) is the female protagonist’s mother; b) “thought of the broad blank hull of a battleship” when she thinks of her daughter’s new name; c) is confused by her daughter; d) lives in the country; e) all of the above.

9.        The female protagonist of “Good Country People” has a) a new diamond necklace she has concealed from her mother; b) an engagement ring she keeps hidden in the third drawer of her mahogany chiffoniere; c) an artificial leg; d) a glass eye.

10.     Flannery O’Connor suffered from a) diabetes; b) lupus; c) heart disease; d) tuberculosis; e) bipolar disorder.

Before You Read essay question

What is a con artist?  What does he or she do?  What are various types of “cons”?  Who do they most often delude?  Why?

After You Read essay question

How does the protagonist’s own arrogance and/or self-importance lead to her downfall?  Describe the specific examples that lead you to that conclusion.

5 web links re: author and/or reading topic

“Flannery O’Connor: Biography and Critical Overview  Books and Writers. 

“The Flannery O’Connor Collection” Georgia College and State University.

“Flannery O’Connor” Books and Writers.

Bill McGloughlin. “Mary Flannery O’Connor

“Comforts of Home:  A Site Dedicated to Flannery O’Connor”

“Flannery O’Connor” Little Blue Light. 2000.


Theodore Roethke, "My Papa's Waltz" The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke
& Company, Inc. Copyright © 1966.

Author Bio – one paragraph

Theodore Roethke was born in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1908. As a child, he spent much time in the greenhouse owned by his father and uncle. His impressions of the natural world contained there would later profoundly influence the subjects and imagery of his verse. Roethke attended the University of Michigan and took a few classes at Harvard, but was unhappy in school. His first book, Open House (1941), took ten years to write and was critically acclaimed upon its publication. He went on to publish sparingly but his reputation grew with each new collection, including The Waking which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1954. Stylistically his work ranged from witty poems in strict meter and regular stanzas to free verse poems full of mystical and surrealistic imagery. At all times, however, the natural world in all its mystery, beauty, fierceness, and sensuality, is close by, and the poems are possessed of an intense lyricism. He taught at various colleges and universities, including Lafayette, Pennsylvania State, and Bennington, and worked last at the University of Washington. Theodore Roethke died in 1963.

10- Multiple Choice Questions: Comprehension/Chapter/reading-specific

1.        “My Papa’s Waltz” exhibits a rhyme-scheme a) abcabc; b) abab; c) abba; d) unrhymed; e) all of the above.

2.       The rhyme scheme in “My Papa’s Waltz” emphasizes the a) interlacing of the father and son; b) the desire of the son to connect with the father; c) the father’s intoxication vis-a-vis the son’s need for real contact and communication; d) the rhythmic feel of dancing; e) all of the above.

3.       Roethke’s feelings about his father are marked by a) sadness and loss; b) a failure to communicate on a profound level; c) resignation; d) all of the above.

4.        Which characters are not represented in the poem? a) the father, b) the grandmother; c) the mother; d) the son.

5.        Theodore Roethke suffered from a) compulsive gambling addiction; b) cruise ships; c) depression; d) malaria; e) none of the above.

6.        Roethke influenced the “Confessional Poets,” whose ranks did not include a) Sylvia Plath; b) Anne Sexton; c) James Wright; d)  John Ashbery.

7.        Roethke’s first book of poems is entitled a) Dog Days; b) Loss of a Father; c) Open House; d) Solid Days and Permeable Nights; e) none of the above.

8.        Roethke built on a) modernist stream-of-consciousness narrative techniques; b) daily coffee and homemade donuts cooked over an open fire; c) ideas on human nature quoted from Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan; d) opium.

9.        Roethke won a Pulitzer Prize in 1954 for a) Fair Child Afar; b) The Waking; c) Indelible Tears; d) The Trouble with Sleeping; e) Four Skies and a Morning.

10.     “My Papa’s Waltz” ends with a) separation; b) joyous reunion; c) a fishing trip; d) a mother’s tears.

11.     We understand that the protagonist of “My Papa’s Waltz” is from the working class because of his a) tattered work pants; b) his broken knuckle and dirt-encrusted hand; c) he likes country-western music; d) they live in a Salvation Army camp.

Before You Read essay question

What works of literature and film deal with a child’s longing for closeness with a parental figure who is now absent due to death, divorce, or psychological issues?  Describe them.

After You Read essay question

How does “My Papa’s Waltz” relate to the works you described?

5 web links re: author and/or reading topic

“Theodore RoethkeAcademy of American Poets.

“Theodore RoethkeModern American Poetry.

“Theodore Huebner Roethke:  Biography and Works  august 2000.

“Theodore Roethke  Thomas Hampson: I Hear America Singing.  PBS.

“Theodore Roethke: Poems”

Mason West.  Roethke and the Convergence of Dualism

“Salvaged Poems of Theodore Roethke ArtsEditor.  January 2000.



3. Visual Analysis: This module is basically a picture writing exercise. We
will need one per chapter. You are to provide up to 5 links to a photo or
graphic of some sort and 1 to 2 essay questions per visual or link. The
links must be viable because if the link dies, then the exercise dies. I
suggest using public domain links. You can link to the home page of a
newspaper like the NY Times, but word your essay questions accordingly since
the visual will change daily. The questions would have to be a bit more
open-ended. The sites that we have live now that contain this exercise are (both books) and Feel free to
use the links that are on these sites if they apply to the material.

Describe the people in the photograph of a picket in Chicago.  Does it resonate with any of the readings in Chapter 1?  Why and how?  Who is picketing?  What is the group being represented by the picketers?   Do the placards tell you, or is it assumed that one is able to determine the group represented?  What does this say about how access, value judgments, economic opportunity are based on appearances?


Compare and contrast the two photographs below.  One is from a vaudeville show, the other depicts migrants from Oklahoma to California during the Great Depression.  How does each show the pathos of the human condition?  How is the image of the American automobile, or the car, ironized?  Does either of the images bring to mind any of the reading from Chapter 1?


The photograph below was taken in New Orleans.  Are any of the readings from Chapter 1 set in the South?  Which ones?  Describe the patterns of light and the architecture, and relate it to a state of mind or memory.  Then relate it to quotes from the readings in Chapter One that might connect to the photo.


The image below was taken in New York City in the early part of the 20th century.  Imagine that you are the person you see seated near the window.  Write a scene as though you were that person and you were describing your life, your ambitions, your living conditions, your family, your hopes and dreams.


Does the image below make you think of endless frontier and opportunity, or of promised broken, destitution, and barrenness?  Why?  How does the image relate to various ideas and myths about America, and where did those myths come from?  Who generated them and why?  Which do you prefer?

4. Read and Respond: This is another chapter-specific module. Again, you
will provide up to 3 links to online readings that pertain to a topic, but
may take different view points on that topic. Along with the links, provide
an essay question that challenges the student to critique what s/he reads.

Is it acceptable to write stories that show troubling images?  Do they reinforce hate speech or do they combat hate speech?  What is hate speech, anyway?  What are views on it?  What do you think?  Please read the links below:

“Hate Speech on Campus.”  American Civil Liberties Union Briefing Paper. American Civil Liberties Union.

Ursula Owen. Hate Speech:  The Speech that Kills.

Definition of Hate Crimes Threatens Free Speech. CWA Library.

5. Destinations: For this module, you will provide up to 7 to 10 links that
are chapter-specific. We have begun asking for so many destinations
because if a link dies, we can simply remove that link and still have a
viable module. This cuts down on the maintenance of the site dramatically.
This should be a fun module for you. Given the textbook's topic, you should
be able to find some interesting and creative web sites.


Paul P. Reuben.  PAL:  Perspectives in American Literature – a Research and Reference Guide.


Modern American Poetry.


Rain Taxi:  Review of current books


Slavery and Abolition. Library of Congress.  A Collection of Books online.


First-Person Narratives of the American South.  Library of Congress.


Stetson Kennedy. “A Florida Treasure Hunt  Florida Folklife.   Library of Congress.



Native American Authors.


Documenting the American South.


The American Jewish Experience in the Twentieth Century:  Anti-Semitism and Assimilation.