Thursday, May 18, 2017


Please give me feedback on this class! Thank you.

Third period survey

Fourth period survey [complete––thank you!]

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Locating Dystopias

As we wrap up our study of utopias and dystopias this week, I'd like to consider some ways of comparing the pure dystopias we've read/seen and discussed––Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and The Handmaid's Tale––and considering whether there are dystopian elements of Station Eleven (or communities within the book) that seem relevant to that comparison. Here's an excerpt of Vikram's third quarter project that offers one system for comparing dystopias:

The axes of order and chaos can be best envisioned as a Cartesian plane. Let the x-axis be the level of order. This means that as you approach the negative end of the x-axis the world is completely chaotic, there are no rules. Likewise on the positive end of the x-axis you would have the epitome of order—to the point of totalitarianism. The two ends of the x-axis become the extreme versions of that kind of dystopia. Therefore, we can define the middle of the axis to be the balance required for a utopia. Continuing with the idea of a coordinate grid, the y-axis would represent the way in which the dystopia portrays chaos or totalitarian order. If it portrays totalitarianism by making the world impeccably clean (having the appearance of a utopia) or dirty (everything is controlled but the society is not “prosperous”). With those axes in mind imagine the Cartesian plane with the quadrants numbered one (upper right hand quadrant) two (upper left hand quadrant), three (lower left hand quadrant), and four (lower right hand quadrant). One would be “chaos and clean”, two would be “order and clean”, three would be “order and dirty”, four would be “chaos and dirty”.

In your small group, briefly discuss the "chaos vs order" and "dirty vs clean" spectra to in relation to Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and The Handmaid's Tale and locate each novel along the X and Y axes (in rough relation to each other). As we walk today, we'll discuss (among other things) whether these axes seem relevant to Station Eleven in any meaningful way.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The State of Nature

The State of Nature is a concept in political theory that describes the hypothetical condition of human beings before or without political association. Social-contract theorists like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke outlined this concept in order to examine motivations and justification for––and limits of––different forms of political authority. Hobbes took a more pessimistic view of the State of Nature (famously positing that human life within it was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short"), which for him justified the absolute authority of a sovereign. Locke took a more sanguine view of human communities in the absence of political association. He believed that people are naturally endowed with basic rights (such as the right to life, liberty, and property) and naturally inclined to recognize and respect those rights, but that its preferable to leave the State of Nature and form a commonwealth in order to improve human communities and decrease social chaos.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Work for Wednesday, May 3

I'm sorry to miss class again today, but I woke up with a terrible sore throat, and I am keeping my new nasty germs at home and trying to get well soon.

I had already planned to relieve you of your reading tomorrow. You can focus entirely on your projects for tomorrow, and then we will be reading chapters 15–18 of Station Eleven in class.

For today, please talk in small groups for the first half of class. You can work on your projects during the second half of class. You will not walk today, but hopefully your sub will come up with something quick to get your blood moving between group work and project work.

For group work: get into groups of three or four and talk about Station Eleven chapters 13 and 14. One group member should create a google doc and share with their group members and me (at my emajerus07 gmail account). Then the group members should take turns recording brief answers for the following questions:
  1. Does Arthur's (and Miranda's) island home town, Delano Island, seem import and/or significant in relation to the post-collapse world, especially in year 20 or so? How so?
  2. How might the Station Eleven world that Miranda creates in her comic connect to or be significant either to the year 20 world, Delano Island, or both?
  3. What do you think happens when Miranda goes back to her and Pablo's apartment to "get a few more things" (p. 90)? Tell the story briefly but in detail. Recall that we get some clues earlier in chapter 13.
If you have questions about your project, feel free to email me. Don't forget that the Writing Center is happening today during Uni Period in 106S. I encourage you to bring your draft there, if you're writing an essay, or to bring text from your project, if that makes sense. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Workshopping drafts/works-in-progress for the fourth quarter project

Get into pairs or groups of three. Students who are working on creative projects should try to work together, and students who are working on essays should try to work together. Essay writers should exchange essays or trade essays three ways, sharing either a hard copy or googledocs version of their essay. Students working on projects may need to describe their project and its process, in addition to sharing any text, materials, or artifacts they've brought along today. If need be, project groups can talk in the hall or the library to avoid distracting essay-reading groups.

Here are the questions for workshop for both essay groups and project groups. Students responding to projects should both speak with their partners and take brief notes on paper as they respond, so their partners have something to refer to as they continue to work on their projects. Students responding to essays should answer the questions in the doc comments or on the hard copy draft.

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.