Monday, March 11, 2013

modernist author project

Here is the assignment the way I shared it on paper back in 07-08.  HACK IT.


Part I: Individual Research

  1. BIOGRAPHY/IDENTITY of the author
    1. “I Am…” statements for your author (minimum 5)
    2. Paragraph explaining how “I Am…” statements influence author’s worldview
    3. Brief descriptions of 5-7 events in the author’s life that YOU (not some website from which you cut/paste) believed influenced his/her sense of self and writing style
    4. 3 quotes from the author’s work that show how the author’s identity is evident in his/her writing

    1. Use one quote from the author that you believe clearly states his/her philosophy on life or “words to live by” (If you can’t find one, write one for him/her and write a paragraph to explain why you wrote it the way you did.)
    2. Paragraph explaining the quote
    3. 3 quotes from the author’s work that support the credo

    1. In a brief essay (no more than two typewritten pages), describe the genre with which your author is associated and why
    2. Select five (5) quotes from your author’s work that illustrate the elements of the genre.  For each one, include a brief explanation (2-3 sentences) of how the example illustrates the genre.

  1. YOUR PRESSING QUESTION and the fifteen (15) answers/examples to which it led you in at least three (3) different works by your author. (see PRESSING QUESTION handout for more on this.)

    1. Brief (1-3 paragraphs) descriptions/summaries of each work you read by your author (remember that you need to read at least 3 works).

  1. ARTWORK. Pictures or drawings that convey what you believe your author would look like today.

Page 2

  1. ESSAY. A brief paper (2-4 pp.) which explicates the answer to your pressing question.

  1. BIBLIOGRAPHY/WORK CITED SECTION.  Properly cite any work by your author or others that you quote or indirectly reference your essay.  We will discuss format in class.

  1. RESEARCH LOG.  This is your record of the times and places you spent working on this project.  You must spend at least one hour in the RHS Library, a city library, a used bookstore, or a college/university library.


What IS a pressing question, and how do we know what to ask?

As you begin to explore the work and life of the author you’ve chosen, you are bound to become curious about something.  For example, when I first read Mark Twain’s writing I stopped at some point and wondered: “How did this guy manage to make fun of everything that people took seriously, and not only get away with it but leave his readers begging for more?”

Now that you have done some “author shopping” and you have identified an author about whom you’d like to learn, it’s time to think about what you know and how you can use it to learn more.

When I write a pressing question, I first ask myself some questions to determine what I know.  Here are some examples:
  1. When did the author live and write?
  2. For what audience did the author write?  
  3. In what form (poetry, short story, novel) did the author write?  Why?
  4. Is the author identified with a particular genre?  Which one?  Why?
  5. What was the author’s purpose for writing?  To inform?  Amuse?  Persuade?  Get something off of his/her chest?
  6. What effect does reading the author’s work have on me?  When I read this author’s words, how do I feel?  What does it cause me to think about?

In answering these types of questions I find myself feeling more like a detective than an English teacher.  I have to search for evidence in the author’s writing, the author’s biography, and the general history of the author’s time.  I also have to use my own logic and imagination, because not every answer is spelled out on a page somewhere. 

Once I have answered some of my questions and I write down what I know, I think about what I’d like to discover.  For example, once I knew that Mark Twain was an iconoclast who used his sense of humor to question serious things, I wanted to know more about how he could do that without insulting his audience.  Another example is a very different author we’ve read, Edgar Allen Poe.  After I learned the tragic details of his personal life, I was motivated to search for examples of how he expressed his pain in his writing.

Now it’s your turn.  Use the following steps to write your own pressing question and begin your search into the life and writing of the author you’ve chosen.

  1. Ask yourself what you know about the author (you can use the sample questions above as a starting point) and write it all down.

  1. Ask yourself what the author’s goal in writing was (Note: I promise it was NOT to make money or entertain, so really put yourself in your author’s shoes and ask the question from his/her point of view.).  Write that down too.

  1. Ask yourself how the writer achieved his/her goal, and—you guessed it!—write that down too, in BIG, BOLD letters.

  1. Search for 20 examples in your author’s work that support your answer to the pressing question

Due Dates

Tuesday, November 13
§  Author “taste test” paragraphs and all-star selection

Monday, November 19
§  [1] Biography/Identity
§  [3] Description/Analysis of Genre

Monday, November 26
§  [2] Author Credo
§  [4] Pressing Question with answer/examples
§  [5] Synopses

Monday, December 3


  1. Replies
    1. Oh yeah. I'm quoting from the instructions at the top of the post (caps in original): "HACK IT." I'll provide some additional suggestions/inspiration in tomorrow's post, but don't hesitate to be an original-- that's why I posted this four days before asking you formally to do anything... :)

    2. Okay, but, whats throwing me off are the due dates...? :o

    3. Like the post says, this is the way I assigned it in 07-08. Hack the dates too; how long should this take?

    4. Well, its a lot of work, but it depends how dedicated and what exactly we do. so i say a month or 2? But then again we have all our resources to do video's, a mind map, or a prezi.. and those don't take long... (:

    5. How much work it is depends on how you research and share what you learn. I wish we had two months more to spend; thinking more like two weeks... See tomorrow's post for more.

  2. I would love to use the mind map for this and the quotes is a great idea!

    1. I agree Uri, I think that if people in class have the same Modernist they should work together. I just can't find anyone who has Joseph Conrad! :o