Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Blog Discussion 1: Américo Paredes Folk Poetry
We're talking this week about Américo Paredes' poetry. In addition to being a poet, fiction-writer, and folklore scholar, Paredes was also a musician. The music in his own poetry comes across in its formal characteristics, in the sounds and rhythms of the language. As you'll hear on the podcast for Friday, September 4th, how poetry is recited affects its meanings just as much as how it looks on the page.

For this blog discussion, I would like you to select one of the poems we will discuss in class (either "The Mexico-Texan," "To Mexico," "Guadalupe La Chinaca," or "The Rio Grande") and choose a line that you think best encapsulates the meaning of the poem.
Explain (1) What you think "the" meaning of the poem is, (2) how that particular line comes to express or convey that meaning, and (3) why this line in particular comes to capture that meaning more than any other line.
As you write, you'll need to think about the following:
  • Where does a line begin or end? Is it demarcated by its visual layout, by punctuation, or by sonic/phonic markers?
  • What are the denotations and connotations of each word in the line? How do those words draw on those of other lines or on pervasive imagery/figures throughout the poem?
  • Is there an identified speaker in the line? How does the presence or absence of a speaking persona inflect the line's significance?
  • Does the line express an irony or tension that occurs throughout or tends to dominate the poem?
Remember to emphasize the depth of your response and feel free to take advantage of the possibilities the blogging medium affords.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Many of you may already be familiar with blogs, and you may have certain assumptions about their function. The objectives of this blog are threefold: first, it provides a space wherein I can pose questions about the reading to which you will thoughtfully respond; second, because it is a public space where all members of our class community can read your ideas, insights, and analyses, it fosters community and creates public accountability (in addition to the fact that I will be commenting on your posts, we will use them as the basis for discussion in class); third, it allows you to take advantage of a medium with possibilities far beyond those of traditional print media. The mode(s) of composition you use in your blog posts, therefore, more directly relate to how you see yourself as a composer. So, in response to the readings, will you use additional audio-visual media? Will you highlight words that are important to how you read? Will you include links to articles or websites that you're talking about in your post? The blog affords all of these possibilities.

Details of the "Blog Discussion" assignment:
There are a total of five formal posts required over the course of the semester. You will find the "due" dates on your syllabus, but each prompt is flexible enough so that you can write the post on any day leading up to the due date, but not past it. Posts are due by the beginning of class on the appointed day.
One aim of the assignment is to build on the tools we're developing in class (poetic analysis, close reading, historical and cultural analysis, etc.) so that you have strong foundation for your final paper. As such, I will be looking for deep analyses that address the questions I pose and demonstrate fluency with the techniques involved in literary analysis, techniques that we will have modeled in class discussions. The aim is to go for depth rather than breadth; as such, I expect each post to be no fewer than 250 and no more than 500 words.

Details of the OED exercises:
In an effort to familiarize you with some of the research tools and databases available through the University Library's website and to introduce you to the historicity and richness of language, you will use the Oxford English Dictionary Online to look up integral words throughout the semester. This is part of your participation grade in the course, and each OED Exercise will form part of the day's discussion. The blog is a space to post and/or comment on definitions you find and surprising, notable, or interesting aspects of those definitions.