English 12 is a course which seeks to prepare students for continued work in university. That is not, of course, its only, or even primary, goal. English 12 is most concerned with fostering literate humans. Literate English teachers and professors is no accomplishment. Society needs literate doctors, and truckers, and house-husbands, and chemists, and golfers, and farmers. Eudora Welty, the great Southern U.S. writer, says that the purpose of an education is to develop taste. Taste implies discrimination, and it is the purpose of this English course, as it should be of any English course, to develop taste and encourage the making of fine distinctions.
Both taste and its mother, discrimination, require knowledge. This course is largely unable to provide you with the knowledge required to produce the educated person. Nevertheless, it can provide road maps. How far you wish to travel is-how could it be otherwise-your own business. In as much as English 12 is part of the graduation requirements of ARHS, I will require you to jump through certain hoops. Many of you will do well at this, others not so well. These hoops (tests, essays, recitations, responses etc.) are merely the necessary outward signs of progress which any education system must require. Success or failure in them does not necessarily mean progress in English, but since we cannot measure inward progress, the crucial progress, they will be used to see that you are building the shell of an educated mind. If you are serious about education (not to be confused with training, goodness, character, attitude) you will need to doMUCH more than this course, difficult as it may seem, can offer.
Education is a life-long quest. It has no end, offers no final wisdom, ends in failure, makes life more difficult. It is, however, an effort against ignorance. Marlow notes that the fool and the saint are beyond its pull, but if we are neither, we may wish to opt for the path of education. School seeks to kick-start your engine, and to provide a map, but the highways you must travel yourself. In this course I won't seek poems, stories, essays which encourage you to learn what you already know. As a result, what I have chosen will seem difficult. If we went to school to learn what we already know… well, you get the point. To paraphrase Robert Frost: school is the place that when you go there, they make you read the books you'd never read yourself. The two novels I can squeeze in for one semester must be seen as sacrificial demonstration pieces. You should be reading, at your age when the mind is still supple, at least a dozen books a year. You should be reading from the important magazines and journals several times a week. Seventeen years is old. Your childhood ended five years ago. We must now "labour to make life beautiful." Life is a gift. Life in Canada is a gift beyond the wildest imagining of history. To fail to use that gift is a sin.
Course Outline (minus inscape and instress)
Personal Essays: 4 essays (for in-class examination)
Annie Dillard: On Seeing
Barry Lopez: Who are These Animals we Kill?
Jonathan Swift: A Modest Proposal
W. S. Merwin: Unchopping a Tree
4 essays chosen, read, and responded by you.
2 essays written by you and marked by me.
Elements of Grammar
A comprehensive "review" of how sentences make meaning. (See the notes and exercises below.)
One major test.
30 pages of poetry from Beowulf to Larkin.
Tests and assignments.
Either Macbeth or Othello
Tests and assignments
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
MLA style essay on this novel will produce 15% of course mark.
The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx or
1984 by George Orwell.
Six responses from my web page as explained below
I have tried to include only those entries to this website which I feel have real value. I have made my biases fairly clear ("worn them on my sleeve for daws to peck at") and if you feel your approach to literary criticism is closer to the now increasingly dated "postmodern" family of critical approaches, or if you would just like to know more about what these approaches are, you could look at this entry on the types of critical theory: Theory page.
Here the bias is the other way, but the definitions of the critical methods should give a general sense of direction.
By January 06, midnight, I would like every student to have READ AND RESPONDED TO ONE entry from Five of the following six pages:
· Personal Essay
· Literary Criticism
· Grammar and Language
In addition you must read and respond to ONE entry from: Arts and Letters Daily
In total, then, you must have submitted 6 responses
by June 01. (of these, you must have 3 completed by April 1)
You must e-mail me your response at firstname.lastname@example.org (hitting the reply button is the easiest way).
Address your responses this way: in the
"subject" space put:
"Jane Doe-Grammar" or "John Doe-Books" etc.
Your RESPONSE to the article which you choose to read should be around 250 words. You should give an honest reaction to what you have read, but also an intelligent one which shows how closely you have read the piece. This might require that you read the piece more than once. If you have something "beyond your years", keep looking - there is much which is accessible. Please remember that I will ask you to do a response over if it is inadequate. Hint: I have chosen the pieces because they are thoughtful, knowledgeable, and well written. Please look again if you are unable to see these qualities. The better responses are always those which deal in specifics.