Monday, April 17, 2017

Reading for Tuesday

For Tuesday, please read "Margaret Atwood on What ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Means in the Age of Trump." In your journal, write/answer the questions listed on the syllabus.



A couple of vocabulary words you might find useful: parturition–the act of giving birth; sumptuary–limiting private expenditure on food and personal items.

Also, if you're curious what Atwood is alluding to when she says "If I was to create an imaginary garden I wanted the toads in it to be real," you can read this poem by Marianne Moore.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Reading and prompt for Friday

For Friday, please read Which Dystopian Novel Got It Right: Orwell’s 1984 or Huxley’s Brave New World? by Charles McGrath and Siddhartha Deb. In your journal, write a three-paragraph response discussing which perspective (McGrath's or Deb's) you find post persuasive. Refer to specific details from the essays, as well as specific elements of the novels.

(For those few fourth period students who didn't read Brave New World third quarter, I'm hoping you have enough familiarity with the novel from earlier readings and/or our discussions of it in class to be able to make an informed choice. But if your relative lack of familiarity with Brave New World affects which short essay you choose as most persuasive, you can discuss that in your response.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Reading and prompt for Thursday

Here is a PDF of "Politics and the English Language." Please be sure to read the whole essay, since the sections that are most potentially relevant to 1984 are toward the end of the essay.

In your journal, please answer three of the following four questions with at least one fairly substantial paragraph per answer. Number the questions you choose to answer.
  1. This essay was written shortly before Orwell began work on 1984. Do you see a connection between his concerns and complaints about language and the way language is manipulated and/or abused in Oceania?
  2. Do Orwell's complaints about language make sense to you, especially given the examples he provides?
  3. Do you feel that "our" language is equally debased and lacking vitality as the language Orwell criticizes, or less so, or more so? (It's not easy to generalize, since examples of "our language" are vast and multifarious, but think especially about mainstream news, recent nonfiction writing you read for school or for personal information, and prose you commonly come across in more "professional" or "official" corners of the internet.)
  4. To what extent does vague, tired, or insincere language contribute to current problems or crises in our own political landscape? Give examples if you can.

Extra journal credit: Find one example of vital and excellent language that you've happened across recently, and one example of muddy, troublesome language that reminds you of the problems Orwell diagnoses. You can either copy them into your journal, or print, cut out, and attach them to its pages.




Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Group work for Wednesday

In your small group, discuss the question What is the party’s stated ultimate aim? What one thing do they want above all else? Everyone should go around and give a one- to five-word answer to this question, then discuss the different answers (or the unanimous answer) and how you arrived at it. Then discuss the question Does this aim/goal make sense to you? as a group.

Then, if you have time, discuss these questions:


  1. Does the party's stated goal (according to O'Brien) and the way O'Brien describes the party's methods of achieving that goal seem possible, likely, or unlikely to you? Think about history, our current global reality, and the ways O'Brien talks about the future.
  2. What part of or details of section three, chapter III is/are most frightening to you?

Monday, March 27, 2017

Journal notecard assignment for Tuesday

On one side of your notecard, list all the details from book two, chapter eight of 1984 that strike you as particularly important, and briefly explain why they seem so. These may include details of O'Brien's apartment, aspects of his discourse with Winston and Julia, elements of the environment in which they speak, or anything else that appears/occurs in chapter eight. Try to fill the whole card if you can.

On the back of the card, sketch out O'Brien's apartment as it's described in chapter eight. Focus on the details that seem the most important to you. Your sketch can be from a bird's eye view or from a stage perspective, and it's fine if it's artistically rudimentary.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Journal assignment for Wednesday, March 8

Read "Why Is Finland Able to Fend Off Putin’s Information War?" and consider how this article and the perspective it shares relates to the discussions we've had about education in Finland. How does this seem potentially relevant to aspects of 1984 that you've noticed? Discuss any ways that the kind of "fake news" and misinformation campaigns that are ongoing in our current political climate (both in the US and globally) might be related to things we see in 1984, and ways that these connections may or may not be relevant to issues of education. Respond in your journal in two or three substantial paragraphs. Don't worry about nailing your ideas down; it's okay to explore, make connections, and raise further questions without coming to conclusions.

(I've also created a shorter version of the article linked above, in case you're pressed for time.)

You also have the option of completing the original journal assignment for today: Write three paragraphs or so comparing elements of Brave New World and 1984 (all the chapters we’ve read so far) that seem to connect or contrast in striking ways. Consider any elements and aspects of section one, chapters I–V, and be sure to consider the way that romantic love and sexual relationships are manipulated by the two different governments of each book (particularly as depicted in chapter VI of 1984). Also: Hannah Arendt! Also: 
https://www.buzzfeed.com/noahb4ac134b4d/buzzfeed-utopian-personality-quiz-2urba?utm_term=.xrRP8gjA1#.rmvMnXb7V