Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ancient Greek and Homeric Singing

Like the Old English spot (or poet), reciting the tale of the great Geat hero Beowulf in song, accompanied by a harp, the bards of Ancient Greece, such as Demodokus the blind, would sing the epic poems for the entertainment of their audiences.
What Demodokus might have sounded like as he sang the story of Ares and Aphrodite to Odysseus and the Phaeacians.

A reading of the opening lines of The Odyssey on YouTube. See if you can read along using the text in Ancient Greek and the pronunciation key I gave you.

Check out this website for a range of classical Greek and Roman texts in the original language. It's pretty sweet: you can actually click on individual words to learn what part of speech they are; what gender they are (masculine, feminine, or neuter), what their grammatical function is, how to pronounce them according to latinic script (our letters), as well as what they mean. Check it out:
The Perseus Project

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beowulf and the Oral Tradition

Hi folks,
In the reading due yesterday, we read that after Beowulf defeats Grendel and the Danes and the Geats begin to celebrate, a poet in Hrothgar's court starts to put Beowulf's heroics to verse. He begins by reciting the exploits of another hero, Sigimund, and his battle with a dragon ("wyrm" in Old English). This is an example of oral storytelling and could perhaps be the story-within-a-story hinting to how the epic of Beowulf got its start. In the times of Old English, a poet, called a "scop", would tell long, elaborate tales, entirely from memory and often with the aid of a harp. Imagine sitting around a fire, drinking mead with your friends, as local scop tells the harrowing tale of Grendel. Remember, this was a time when there was no other media by which to lose yourself, so storytelling was a very intimate and communal form of entertainment as well as education. You can imagine how popular the tale was that after a time someone skilled in writing putting down in letters and captured it forever. Had Beowulf not been written down, we might not have been able to enjoy this story.
Here's Benjamin Bagby performing the epic of Beowulf the way it would have been over a thousand years ago:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Maps for Beowulf and Old English audio

Audio Files of Beowulf read in the original Old English

Map showing the migration of the Germanic tribes--Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians to England. Their arrival sparked the development of Old English from which Modern English, which we speak today, developed. The story of Beowulf involves two other Germanic tribes--the Danes and the Geats. The tale was likely transmitted orally until it reached England where it was eventually written down in Old English.

Map of the Tribes in Beowulf. This is modern day Denmark and Sweden.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Melvyn Bragg's The Adventure of English

A History Channel special based on Bragg's popular book. The second video has a great segment with Seamus Heaney, the author of your translation of Beowulf. We'll check out a lot of wonderful multimedia files in our discussion of the development of the English language through Beowulf, Chaucer, and Shakespeare.





Monday, March 22, 2010

Audio versions of Short Stories Online

There are some great audio versions of classic short stories online. Check them out at Chicago Public Radio online.
You will need Real Player to listen to them.
There's even one for Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery". Just follow the link.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Film Trailer: The Wind that Shakes the Barley

The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a film about the Irish War for Independence and the subsequent civil war, directed by Ken Loach. Check out the trailer below.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Historical Setting of O'Flaherty's "The Sniper": The Irish Civil War, 1922-1923.

Footage of fighting in Dublin during the Irish Civil War, June 1922 to May 1923. It followed the War for Independence against England, 1919-1921. The author of "The Sniper," Liam O'Flaherty was a member of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the Civil War. The bombardment and eventual destruction of the Four Courts building in Dublin, in which the IRA had holed up, sealed the defeat of the IRA by the Free Staters, those in favor of a compromise with England. The Free Staters won, and Ireland did not gain full independence until 1949, over 20 years later. After you read the story, meditate on what you believe is the central message of "The Sniper".

Monday, February 22, 2010

Did John Steinbeck inspire Norman Rockwell's painting, "The Problem We All Live With"?

Hey there,
Do you think that John Steinbeck's description of the first black child to attend a desegregated school in the South inspired this famous painting by Norman Rockwell? Think about how Steinbeck described the scene, especially the way the child appeared. Did you know that Rockwell painted such powerful images as this? Check out the videos below to learn about who that African-American child is?

Travels with Charley: Ruby Bridges in New Orleans

When Steinbeck arrives in New Orleans in late 1960, he decides to witness the scenes of protest surrounding the first black child attending a white school under the school desegregation act. The six-year-old child he witnessed being harassed by the white protesters in New Orleans was Ruby Bridges. Here are two YouTube videos about this difficult time in US history:

Ruby Bridges's story: Through My Eyes

A short course on school desegregation in the late 1950s and early 1960s

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An Interpretive Video of "Let America Be America Again"

Need a little inspiration? Here's a reading of Langston Hughes's poem:

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What happened in 1961, the year that Travels with Charley was written?

US-Cuban Exiles and the CIA mount an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro, the leader of the Cuban Revolution and then president of Cuba. This debacle became known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Let America Be America Again by Langston Hughes; read by Nikki Giovanni

 Hey guys,
On the theme of the meaning of "America", here's the African-American poet, Nikki Giovanni, reading Langston Hughes's poem, "Let America Be America Again". I read this poem last night, and it gave me chills. Let's read it tomorrow in class!
Till then.

LA3 Blog: John with Charley

Hey guys,
So we've got a blog! And you're all welcome to join me as authors of the content. So, if in your browsing of the internet you find stuff that relates to the work of our class, then please-please-please share it with the world through our blog!! Okay...I'll kick it off. Here's a picture of John Steinbeck and his French poodle, Charley.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Course Description

In Travel Narratives: Away From Home we will explore the key features, themes, motifs, literary devices, and style techniques of quality travel literature, both nonfiction and fiction. Because travel is so often about exploration, adventure, and chance encounters, some of the reading of this course will be student choice. You will be free to select and read travel literature that appeals to your own experiences, interests, desires, and goals, and you will have opportunities to respond to, reflect upon, and share with the class the literature you have chosen.* Through the process of reading and discussing travel literature, you will also explore and present your own unique experiences, ideas, and creativity through two drafted and polished travel narratives and one interpretive essay in which you analyze some aspect(s) of the travel literature you read during the semester.

For the three major assignments, we will follow the steps of the writing process—prewriting, drafting, revision, and editing—culminating in a final portfolio and presentation at the end of the semester. In addition to the major assignments, there will be frequent writing activities, designed to build your writing skills leading up to the drafting of the larger pieces, and frequent reading responses in which you will reflect upon the travel literature you will be reading. Throughout the semester, we will also sharpen your command of grammar, usage, and mechanics and expand your literary and everyday vocabulary.

* To establish some continuity between the work you did last semester and what we have planned for this semester, I will look for ways, as often as possible, to foster connections to the texts, concepts, and themes you have already studied. Please do not hesitate to call attention to those connections yourselves during our classes or in your work for this semester.