Heart of Darkness & Apocalypse Now: text vs. film

Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now are two very separate entities, but in my view, Coppola played with the ideas from the original text in some meaningful ways. Please choose one aspect (a character, motif, scene, theme, etc.) of the text, and comment on how Coppola adapted it in the film. Include your evaluation of the success of this adaptation as well as a description and analysis of the ways in which the text and movie interact.

Please post your response before class on Friday 15 May. The assignment has a weight of 3 (standard 3 / standard 5 / standard 6). Please respond directly to this post (choose “leave a reply”). There is no specific minimum or maximum length, but try to aim for 250 – 500 words. You may wish to read the posts by last year’s eleventh graders and continue the discussion begun by one of them, but feel free to ignore these if you prefer.


Posted in IB English Lit (Y1) | 20 Comments

English 9 poetry: selections for memorization and commentary

By 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, please post below your first and second choices for poems to do oral commentary on next week. Simply copy, paste and post both poems as a reply to this blog post, indicating which you prefer. I want to approve all of your poems as soon as possible so that you can begin your analysis before Monday’s class. You’ll be submitting oral commentaries on these songs for next Wednesday. By posting on the blog, other students can take a look at appropriate selections, and can also look over your second-choice poems and possibly choose them.

I would like all students to choose new, modern poems between 15 and 25 lines in length, because I want to avoid poems with extensive analysis available online. (I am willing to make some exceptions for students who truly prefer older poems, but if your poem is analyzed on SparkNotes, Shmoop or GradeSaver, it is not eligible.) The poem you choose must be by a published, professional poet (i.e., amateur online poetry is not appropriate for this assignment).

This is an excellent site for reviewing possible choices, and this site is also usefulIf you set the browse or search options to poets born in the 20th century, you will avoid many overanalyzed options.

Poe art: The Raven

Posted in English 9 | Tagged | 60 Comments

English 9 poetry: Carol Ann Duffy

This post is due by the time your class meets on Thursday, 23 April.

In class, we’ll read the first poem below (“Litany”), and discuss its main ideas. For homework, you should also read the second poem (“In Mrs. Tilscher’s Class”). After reading both poems, respond to the questions below in three short paragraphs:

  1. Choose one image from each poem that you believe create similar effects. Analyze the role of each image in its poem: why does Duffy choose these particular sights / sounds / smells / sensations / tastes to describe? How do they help to convey the major ideas of the poems?
  2. Do you have any childhood recollections you can compare to those the speakers in these two poems describe? If so, explain them, and how they affected you. If not, how did your childhood experiences, in general, contrast with those of these speakers?
  3. Which poem do you find more effective and/or interesting? Why?

The soundtrack then was a litany – candlewick
bedspread three piece suite display cabinet –
and stiff-haired wives balanced their red smiles,
passing the catalogue.  Pyrex.  A tiny ladder
ran up Mrs Barr’s American Tan leg, sly
like a rumour.  Language embarrassed them.

The terrible marriages crackled, cellophane
round polyester shirts, and then The Lounge
would seem to bristle with eyes, hard
as the bright stones in engagement rings,
and sharp hands poised over biscuits as a word
was spelled out.  An embarrassing word, broken

to bits, which tensed the air like an accident.
This was the code I learnt at my mother’s knee, pretending
to read, where no one had cancer, or sex, or debts,
and certainly not leukaemia, which no one could spell.
The year a mass grave of wasps bobbed in a jam-jar;
a butterfly stammered itself in my curious hands.

A boy in the playground, I said, told me
to fuck off; and a thrilled, malicious pause
salted my tongue like an imminent storm.  Then
uproar.  I’m sorry, Mrs Barr, Mrs Hunt, Mrs Emery,
sorry, Mrs Raine.   Yes, I can summon their names.
My mother’s mute shame.  The taste of soap.


In Mrs. Tilscher’s Class
You could travel up the Blue Nile
with your finger, tracing the route
while Mrs. Tilscher chanted the scenery.
Tana. Ethiopia. Khartoum. Aswân.
That for an hour, then a skittle of milk
and the chalky Pyramids rubbed into dust.
A window opened with a long pole.
The laugh of a bell swung by a running child.

This was better than home. Enthralling books.
The classroom glowed like a sweet shop.
Sugar paper. Coloured shapes. Brady and Hindley
faded, like the faint, uneasy smudge of a mistake.
Mrs. Tilscher loved you. Some mornings, you found
she’d left a good gold star by your name.
The scent of a pencil, slowly, carefully, shaved.
A xylophone nonsense heard from another form.

Over the Easter term, the inky tadpoles changed
from commas into exclamation marks. Three frogs
hopped in the playground, freed by a dunce,
followed by a line of kids, jumping and croaking
away from the lunch queue. A rough boy
told you how you were born. You kicked him, but stared
at your parents, appalled, when you got back home.

That feverish July, the air tasted of electricity.
A tangible alarm made you always untidy, hot,
fractious under the heavy, sexy sky. You asked her
how you were born and Mrs. Tilscher smiled,
then turned away. Reports were handed out.
You ran through the gates, impatient to be grown,
as the sky split open into a thunderstorm.

Posted in English 9 | 23 Comments

English 9 poetry: Sonnets

This post is due by the time your class meets on Tuesday, 21 April. Thank you to the students who posted earlier.

One of the most enduring poetic forms, the sonnet—a fourteen-line lyric poem about a single topic, with strict rules for meter and rhyme—was popularized by an Italian named Petrarch in the 1300’s. Later, English poets modified its rules a bit, and the English or Shakespearean sonnet was born. Both versions remain popular today in a variety of languages, although the strict rules that defined sonnets when they first became popular are often modified or wholly abandoned by modern poets.

Read the four sonnets below, and then complete the following items as a reply to this post. Note: though not required, any analytic comments you make about the sonnets’ meter, based on our work from Wednesday in class, will be much appreciated.

  1. Comment on the differences between the modern and traditional sonnets. Which style do you find more effective or compelling?
  2. Consider the two Shakespearean sonnets: what is their central difference? Which do you prefer? Why?
  3. Of the four sonnets, which did you find most effective? Why? Give at least two examples directly from the sonnet. (This may be the same sonnet you chose for #2 if you like, but your comments should be different or, at least, more developed.)
  4. Finally, choose a third sonnet that you like from one of the sources below, and comment on its effectiveness, using at least two specific examples. Please paste your sonnet into your response, or as a comment on your response.

all of Shakespeare’s sonnets / famous sonnets / more varied and modern selection (note that some of those on this last link can only be considered sonnets by very liberal standards—for your selection, try to stick with those that have only 14 lines, or close to 14 lines with a rhyming couplet at the end)

(scored with a weight-of-2 grade in standards 5 & 6)

Shakespeare: Sonnet 18 
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
   So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
   So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.


Shakespeare: Sonnet 130
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
   And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
   As any she belied with false compare.


e.e. cummings: being to timelessness as it’s to time

being to timelessness as it’s to time,
love did no more begin than love will end;
where nothing is to breathe to stroll to swim
love is the air the ocean and the land

(do lovers suffer? all divinities
proudly descending put on deathful flesh:
are lovers glad? only their smallest joy’s
a universe emerging from a wish)

love is the voice under all silences,
the hope which has no opposite in fear;
the strength so strong mere force is feebleness:
the truth more first than sun more last than star

—do lovers love? why then to heaven with hell.
Whatever sages say and fools, all’s well

Claude McKay: America
Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

Posted in English 9 | 34 Comments

English 9 poetry: “Annabel Lee”

Read “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allen Poe below, and then, in a reply to this post, do the following in approximately 4 – 8 sentences.

  1. Comment on the poem’s rhythm and rhyme. What patterns do you notice? How does this differ from Mary Oliver’s poetry? Which style do you prefer?
  2. Give your initial impressions of the poem. It’s a narrative poem: what kind of a story does it tell? What emotions does this story evoke in you? What kind of a mood does Poe create, and how?

(scored with a weight-of-2 grade in standards 5 & 6)

Annabel Lee (1849)
It was many and many a year ago,
   In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
   By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
   Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
But we loved with a love that was more than love—
   I and my Annabel Lee—
With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven
   Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
   In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
   My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen came
   And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
   In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
   Went envying her and me—
Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,
   In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
   Of those who were older than we—
   Of many far wiser than we—
And neither the angels in Heaven above
   Nor the demons down under the sea
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,
   In her sepulchre there by the sea—
   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Posted in English 9 | 35 Comments