Sunday, November 3, 2013

Blog #11 (EC)

Stacey Lenes

Dr. Donna Campbell

English 372, Paper 2

October 10th, 2013


The Perception of Madness

                The true definition of madness has always been in flux, for it changes culture to culture, person to person, and time to time. As of the 21st century, the accepted definition of insanity is as follows: “[a] mental illness of such severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior” (Howes Paragraph 3). Even that definition, however, is subject to personal interpretation – without proper mental diagnosis, the perception of insanity/madness is a personal opinion (or an expert personal opinion). The constant debate of insanity, how it is caused, and how it can be diagnosed is a psychological conundrum that has stumped citizens and scientists alike, while intriguing writers to no end {#1}. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, The Scrivener” both contain ideas of insanity, but in two surprisingly-diverse ways. Though both works contain a plethora of characters plagued with insanity, specific focus will be given to Victor Frankenstein and his Monster (Shelley) and to the scrivener Bartleby (Melville). The former reveals an external madness that takes physical form, while the latter is more internal and flighty (a pure matter of opinion). The novel and short story work together in order to prove a singular point: the perception of madness is a personal perspective based on societal and human expectations (or lack thereof).

                As a story, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one that is well-known around the world; as a parody or director-interpretation, it’s even more infamous {#5}. The original novel varies from traditional representations in a variety of aspects, though one in particular stands out – the monster’s seemingly-human characteristics and nature, especially in regards to his dialogue. In Shelley’s work, the Monster’s humanity is shot down and destroyed by society’s inability to accept his differences from “normalcy” – and it is that which serves as his reasoning for later killing Frankenstein’s brother, friend, and a variety of others. The madness of the creature, then, was created by a lack of companionship (isolation): “I was like a wild beast that had broken the toils; destroying the objects that obstructed me, and ranging through the wood with a stag-like swiftness” (Shelley 111). At this point, all sanity in the monster is gone – denied by society, isolated by even the kindest of folks, he turns to vengeance against his creator: an insane passion. It can be concluded then that passion creates madness, for Victor’s own madness came not only from his individually-forced isolation from society, but his passion for science and the creation of life – “sorrow only increased with knowledge” (Shelley 96). If Frankenstein’s passion (and isolation) was the mental representation of his madness, then his monster is the physical – it manifests and grows with isolation and time, in the same way that it began. There was an extreme difference between him (Victor) and them (society) that caused a ripple effect toward madness {#2}. That insanity was obvious: external (physical form) and easy-to-spot.

                Madness is not, however, always so easy to identify (though Frankenstein’s is debatable): as seen in Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener” {#7}. The POV (point of view) of the short story itself is skewed – being a personal narrative through a past tense, first-person perspective. Therefore, what he, she, or it (narrator) describes must be taken as fact {#2}. The initial reaction to Bartleby is generally positive – “At first, Bartleby did an extraordinary quantity of writing… I should have been quite delighted with his application, had he been cheerfully industrious” (Melville 24). Right off the bat, there’s something amiss – the man does his work mechanically, and seemingly does not sleep nor eat. After breaking past norms, Bartleby provokes suspicion from his boss {#9}. The narrator finally concludes that Bartleby’s previous job “killed” Bartleby, leaving a man half-dead, wandering about like a ghost in his office. Consistently surrounded by death, Bartleby’s seeming-madness makes sense – but is he truly mad, or simply broken? Forced into the reality of the situation, of society, and of his peers, he collapses upon himself in a fit of temporal madness, an unawareness of the world around him; true insanity {#4}. Melville’s short story plays at the idea of the Gothic ideal of life and death being one in the same. Bartleby contains a few elements of importance: firstly, the reality of the mortality of life; secondly, the frugalness of society; and finally; the repetition of day-to-day monotony which drives Bartleby into a partial state of madness {#6}.

                Madness {#10}. Based on considerations from both novels – from the internal versus the external, the obvious versus the hidden – madness is a matter of personal perspective. Though others consider Frankenstein, the Monster, and Bartleby mad, arguments can be made against such accusations. Frankenstein can be considered a mad genius (play god, a role humans should not, supposedly, take), but he did create artificial life, a scientific miracle. Some would think him wise to abandon his monster (the sane thing to do), while others would think the exact opposite. Bartleby’s situation is even hazier – throughout most of the story, he is merely an odd man who politely denies every request to get him to do anything. Because he breaks away from what is expected, however, “insanity” is a term dropped upon him by others; but is he truly insane {#8}? He simply stepped away from social norms, and the narrator immediately concluded that he must be insane for taking a job and expecting to do nothing. Despite the varying definitions of madness, norms, and perspectives regarding sanity versus insanity, one theme is clear: the notion of death and the notion of life both caused (and can cause) madness.

                A lack of sanity, then, is merely a matter of perspective. Human society has created strict social norms and, whenever anyone breaks away from what is perceived as “normal”, they are out casted and dubbed insane (see every philosopher, religion-starter, and scientist to date). For example, the monster in Frankenstein is dubbed gross (physically) and isolated from society because his looks are not on par with what humans perceive as “beautiful” – isolation created madness. Isolation, nature, society, and double realities: all can cause perceived madness, because humans live within a fairy-tale world where everything must play by their rules. Disobey, and expect consequences. In conclusion: madness/insanity is a social and personal term that applies to those who do not live within the agreed-upon “norms”; personally and societally.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Blog #9 - Shakespearean Essay

Dear Miss Agnes Ramsbottom,
The 4th most widely-performed play of Shakespeare’s in the world, A Midsummer Night’s Dream remains a popular production for film and play directors alike. As with every piece of work, interpretation of how certain scenes or characters are portrayed can vary immensely (dramatic openings), and this is especially true when it comes to film adaptations. Nonetheless, there are elucidations of the play that simply branch so far away from the original that meaning and purpose are missing. Especially with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the idea of the original unlocalized stage (traditional for Shakespeare’s productions) is often lost; other aspects taking precedence over accuracy. I find that the unlocalized stage needs to remain as a prominent device, both for accuracy’s sake and to preserve Shakespeare’s original intentions – the thin veil between the world of reality and of fiction [DASH TO EMPHASIZE THE LAST ELEMENT OF A SENTECE]. For further proof, two film versions were analyzed - taking into account the directorial interpretations and the portrayal of characters - in direct relation to the original script.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1981)
Elijah Moshinsky’s 1981 version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (starring Nigel Davenport and Cherith Mellor) followed the play’s traditional language; however, it’s usage of the unlocalized stage was clearly null – each scene fragmented with a fade-out, fade-in effect, destroying the overall flow of the play [USE OF HOWEVER]. Traditionally, the Shakespearean stage would observe no change in scenery or location; instead set up as a singular location, allowing for easy movement between scenes, locations, character maneuverability, and actions. Moshinsky chose the easy way out [LONG SENTENCE (30+) FOLLOWED BY A SHORT SENTENCE].
It was clear, alternatively, that Moshinsky thoughtfully constructed his script; unfortunately, a few important lines (considered the most famous) were either left out entirely or placed in the background. In his haste to get as much of the Shakespearean play into his film adaptation, was the original meaning lost [USE OF A REAL QUESTION]? One of the play’s most famous lines, because of that technique, was tossed aside and barely heard and essentially lost [SIMPLE SENTENCE WITH COMPOUND VERBS]: [Demetrius] “I love thee not; therefore pursue me not” (II.I, 88). Oberon’s speech overlapped Demetrius’ entrance scene and, with the camera still focused on the fairy king, the line is distant and difficult to hear. In addition, Oberon’s speeches were butchered throughout (there are far too many to list), as were Puck’s, Theseus’, and the lovers’.
The 1981 film version had one outstanding feature: the end scene. If a play is to be true to its origins (which I believe it should be and would bet many would agree), the final scene portrays the idea of the unlocalized stage wonderfully. As the lovers, Theseus, and Hippolyta part for bed, the fairies appear in the room the group had been in prior, flitting about for the final moments. Theseus line, “The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve” (V.I.358) causes the lights to abruptly turn off, introducing the fairies as the group departs. As the play came to a close, Puck sat atop Theseus’ chair, speaking directly to the audience (camera) to excuse any offenses the play may have caused – an utterly perfect rendition. The remainder of that version, however, causes more confusion than understanding – with sharp transitions, a localized stage, unconvincing casting, and unnecessary line cuts [USE OF THAN].

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1999)
            Eighteen years after Moshinsky’s film, director Michael Hoffman tried his hand at the difficult Shakespearian comedy. Starring actors like Christian Bale and Kevin Kline, the rendition took an interesting twist – setting it in a time when bicycles were popular, a few technological advances were present, and castles were still around. Oddly enough, this rendition was more on-par with the traditional text than Moshinsky’s – because Hoffman took into account every textual meaning, giving a true life to the text and (because his actors followed suit) the characters themselves. Though still not on an unlocalized stage, Hoffman’s rendition had far smoother transitions – like the ones in modern-day movies where scenery, lighting, and travel are all taken into account. As opposed to the fade-out effect used by Moshinsky, Hoffman used a pan shot to zoom into the land of the fairies (II.I), syncing the music and lighting in a way that made the shift natural. The interpretation of the party for the fairies’ entrance scene was a brilliant idea that allowed for the original lines without being detrimental to meaning; the use of a drunken Puck and the adult fairies helped to elicit the ridiculous outlook on the play as a whole – after all, it’s a comedy.
            The interpretation of Titania’s character is unique, and is one I’m rather fond of. In this version, she is a powerful being, invoking fear from those who are not at her side – especially Oberon. Her opening lines, “What, jealous Oberon? Fairies, skip hence./I have forsworn his bed and his company” (II.I. 61-62) are given a darker tone because of nature’s rumble when she arrives. It is clearly seen with her inflection and facial expressions just how irritated she is at Oberon and his past follies - in fact, it can be safely said that as far as casting went for Hoffman, it was near perfect. Each of his actors was well-aware of the meaning of the words, and the facial expressions, body language, and vocal changes revealed that clearly. Helena’s spaniel scene, especially the line “I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius,/The more you beat me I will fawn on you” (II.I. 202-211) was far better acted than the previously-viewed version, with Demetrius clearly disturbed by her mad words and insatiable fascination.
            As impressive as the film was, the ending scene was a sore disappointment. Hoffman did, however, take an American-traditional fairy (little balls of lights) into account, but all of Oberon’s speech and Titania’s in the final scene were cut, leaving Puck alone to end the play. While his appearance as a street sweeper (who later turns around to reveal himself) is unique, his speech lost meaning without the king and queen of the fairies’. Despite the creative interpretation, this version had a far more appealing entertainment value, while simplifying the language so anyone could understand it. Is it more important for a movie to have a powerful entertainment value or a powerful moral value [RHETORICAL QUESTION]?

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2014)
            It is difficult to find a perfect rendition of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in film form. Certainly, Moshinsky’s and Hoffman’s both had impressive features within them, but both were littered with flaws that often ruined purpose or meaning. With Hollywood running out of ideas for new films (see 3-D Disney), my proposal is this: a new version that takes into account the unlocalized stage, while inserting talented actors (well-versed in Shakespeare), Hoffman’s scenes (minus the flips and deletions), and Moshinsky’s ending scene.
            As a final note, I’d like to discuss a rendition of the play I saw at Kentwood High School over the summer of 2013 (directed by Rebecca Lloyd). The stage was split in a way that incorporated the countryside (modified from the castle) and a forested area that flowed easily. Titania’s bed rested upon a large rock formation, placing her high up and out of sight from the actors below, who could perform their scenes accordingly. Each individual scene streamed between the countryside and forest, giving them the ability to continue the play straight through (with only one interruption: intermission) - an unlocalized stage that would be easy to recreate in a film modification. If lines must be cut, they must be carefully analyzed so that those that are erased (and there are lines that are unnecessary) are truly unneeded – an ideal that Moshinsky’s version did not take carefully into account. It is imperative, then, that the unlocalized stage remains a prominent feature in the adaptation, as well as well-versed actors, carefully-adapted scripts, and an awareness of what is truly being said. In that way, a true and historically-accurate rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream could be produced [USE OF THEN].
Thank you for your consideration of this piece for your journal - I hope it provided insights into the various film adaptations, as well as a proposal for a new one come 2014 [ONE-SENTENCE PARAGRAPH].

Stacey Lenes

P.S. If you would like a copy of the notes taken during the watching of these films (5 pages for the first, 6 for the second), don’t hesitate to ask!

Final Word Count: 1,301

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Blog #7

Look, but Don’t Touch
                Romanticism is and was a common theme between the 19th and 21st centuries; its power remains universal {COMPOUND SENTENCE USING A SEMICOLON, A LONG SENTENCE CONNECTED TO A VERY SHORT ONE}. However, its prominence in poetry has fluctuated over the years. In the latter half of the 19th century, poetry began to take an obvious turn away from the serenity of nature toward the harshness of reality – a step that some may say was accurate and expected. The shift from nature as a tranquil, kind force to one of sorrow and solemnness is clearly seen between two prominent poets of the time – Ralph Waldo Emerson and Matthew Arnold. A closer analysis of the two chosen poems reveals not only a change in ideals, but in voice, syntax, and morality. What nature does not only for itself, but humans, is often the determining factor in the poem as a whole as the ideals of romanticism fade into those of realism.
                In Emerson’s Each and All, the concept of nature being not only a tranquil source, but one of inner peace and beauty, is clear throughout: “The rolling river, the morning bird; --/Beauty through my senses stole;/I yielded the myself to the perfect whole” (Emerson, 49-51). Nature provides a beauty best not touched by human beings, an idea seen in a few poems alongside Emerson’s. The narrator in this particular poem attempts to take home portions of the wild, natural world, only to find that when they are removed from their environment, they lose their luster. In nature’s purest form, there is a splendor and mystery that entices even the most civilized of beings – at least, that’s what romanticists believed. Because the romanticized poem pushes at uniformity and collaboration – whether it is between humans and humans, or humans and nature, a clear theme can be seen throughout {START A SENTENCE WITH ‘BECAUSE’}: “All are needed by each one;/ Nothing is fair or good alone” (Emerson, 11-12). However, nature lives above all else – it was here before us, and will be here long after we (as the human race) are extinct. The world's beauty is there regardless of whether it is viewed or not. Nor are humans the center of the universe, according to the romanticism era {START A SENTENCE WITH NOR}. The writing style is evidence of that (for most of it is in a passive, observant voice), but the content itself alludes to that ideal as well. The shells found on the ocean’s shore were enchanting when surrounded by the sand and ocean, but washed and brought home, they were but trinkets with no magic left in them. Emerson essentially arches toward the idea that the narrator is not the center of the universe, because they are merely a part of the whole {END A SENTENCE WITH ‘BECAUSE’}. Acceptance of this reality (perceived to be the reality of the time) brings serenity and tranquility. As a free bird, the creature was one of beauty; as a caged pet, it lost its luster and never sang as sweetly as it did in nature - beauty is truth, but is often an illusion {COMPOUND SENTENCE USING A SEMICOLON, THE TWO SENTENCES MIRRORING EACH OTHER}.
It was perhaps that idea that spawned the shift to realism during the latter part of the 19th century. In 1867, Matthew Arnold had his poem (Dover Beach) published in the collection titled New Poems, and it quickly became an epitome of realism poetry during the upcoming turn of the century. In comparison to Emerson’s beautiful syntax, filled with intricately-chosen adjectives and the beauty of nature, Arnold’s poem was almost bland – using words such as ‘calm’, ‘full’, and ‘fair’. That being said, this poem was at the dawn of the age of realism, and therefore some terms – like tranquil nature (seen in line 5) - continue within it, though the subject matter is quite different {USE ‘THOUGH’ AS AN INTERRUPTER}. Instead of nature bringing joy, serenity, and inner peace (as it did in Emerson’s poem), it brings an “eternal note of sadness…” (Arnold, 14) – not to mention that, as opposed to speaking of Mother Nature and serenity, the narrator mentions Sophocles (a well-renowned play writer) and the Aegean sea, which “brought into his mind the turbid ebb and flow of human misery” (Arnold, 16-17). Though the syntax in this piece is considerably more mellow than in Emerson’s, it has a life of its own – one that pushes more on the reality of life and death, of society and truth in the darkest of senses. Unlike the romanticized poems that focused entirely on nature, on its tranquility and creatures, realism edges toward the mention of war, of death, and certainly of alarm and panic. For the first time in a long while, manmade instruments are introduced in the poems alongside nature – perhaps, at some point, the former will entirely dominate the latter.
As the 19th century approached its middle-aged years, it began to shift its ideals from romanticized outlooks on nature to a realistic point of view. War and the beginnings of many countries’ independence may have had a hand in the change, but it must also be noted that the romanticized styles did not come to an end – they continued to flourish in many fields for the rest of the century, as well as beyond it (Late Romantic, Neoromantic or Postromantic, and Victorian). For example, Poland’s age of romanticism fell apart after the January Uprising of 1863 against the Russians – war destroyed the naturalistic beauty that humans perceived as a world beyond their own, quickly shifting the times to the world at war, “… where ignorant armies clash[ed] by night” (Arnold, 37). In conclusion, the romanticism period pushed at a few ideas; firstly, create tranquility; secondly, force the realization that we are merely a part of the whole; and third, that nature is best left alone {COMPOUND SENTENCE WITH A SEMICOLON AS A SUPER COMMA}.


Works Cited

Emerson, Walph Waldo. “Each and All”. 1839. Course Packet. 13-14.
Arnold, Matthew. “Dover Beach”. 1867. Course Packet. 16-17.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Blog #6 - Amnesia vs. Frankenstein, an Analysis (with POVs)

There is nothing left, everything is gone.
-          Amnesia: The Dark Descent

                Just over a week ago now, Frictional Games and Valve released their sequel to their horror survival game, Amnesia: The Dark Descent. In preparation for the anxiously-awaited Monday evening, I replayed the first game (much to my roommate’s chagrin) and, thoroughly ensuring no one slept that night, I finished it within a few hours {COMPOUND SENTENCE WITH A COMMA}. However, as I was playing it, I began to realize just how similar the game was to the readings for this class, especially Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

“… nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose.”
-          Frankenstein

                The first realization came with the character similarities. In Amnesia, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa is a prominent part of the story line, especially toward the middle of the game when Daniel (the character you play) must carry around his decapitated head in order to kill Alexander of Brennenburg. Agrippa is no common name; the mention of him as Victor Frankenstein’s idol in natural philosophy was what tipped me off in the first place {COMPOUND SENTENCE WITH A SEMICOLON}. To add to the character philosophy, the game mentions a woman named Justine, whom you do not learn about until her story line is revealed at the end of the game. She was accused of murders she did not commit (multiple in this case) and sentenced to Alexander’s experiments – much like the Justine in Frankenstein, who was accused of the horrendous murder of William. Other character name similarities were: Felix, Victor, and Wilhelm (William).

It was my greatest triumph...and I never looked back. You think I was afraid fleeing Brennenburg? Quite the contrary. I knew it was my purgatory - hellfire made to wash away my sins. There's no denying the things I've done. But I have paid my tribute. I gave them that awful man...I did the right thing.
-          Amnesia: The Dark Descent

                The similarities do not stop there. Though the amnesiac medicine that Daniel takes helps him deal with emotional trauma, the monstrosities he created continue to haunt him throughout the game as your “enemies” – the castle of his mind. It can be said, perhaps, that Amnesia is a Gothic rendition of Shelley’s Frankenstein. Because it contains similar themes with a darker outtake, it is safe to conclude that Amnesia is merely a futuristic, gothic edition of Frankenstein {SENTENCE OR FRAGMENT THAT BEGINS WITH A FANBOYS}. Most of the game has Daniel running about, becoming steadily aware of what he’s done – it essentially becomes a frame narrative, as with Victor telling Robert his story.

“… slaying anyone who threatens to abuse their power.”
-          Amnesia: The Dark Descent

                Both stories focus on the idea of how far humans can take their advancements. In that way, Frankenstein and Amnesia are nearly one in the same. While Daniel learns of his past, he begins to realize that his destruction of something ancient and holy essentially comes to strike back – much like Frankenstein’s monster returning to kill his creator.
                A final thought – while Amnesia does not follow the Frankenstein storyline perfectly, it contains similar themes. Nature should not be tampered with. That includes life, the creation of it, death, light, and dark. Frankenstein and Daniel (potentially Alexander) learn that quickly enough.

“When falsehood can look so like the truth, who can assure themselves of certain happiness?”
-          Frankenstein

Below are a few links that may help further understanding – I’m limited on my blog posting, but the similarities between the game and book are downright uncanny.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Frankenstein or Parodies
Other-Wordly Antagonist (Alexander)
Rocky Horror Picture Show (Dr. Frankenfurter)
Victor Fournier
Victor Frankenstein
Monsters (modified humans)
The Monster (modified human)
Wilhelm (killed by monsters)
William Frankenstein (killed by monster)
Justine Florbelle (accused of murder)
Justine Moritz (accused of murder)
Moral: Do not tamper with the ancient nature.
Moral: Do not tamper with nature.
Revenge: Daniel against Alexander
Revenge: Frankenstein against Monster
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (inspiration for Daniel to kill Alexander)
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (inspiration for Victor to create the Monster)
Perspective: Player through Daniel’s POV (frame)
Perspective: Narrator through Victor’s POV (frame)
Daniel consistently flees from monsters (which he ironically helped create)
Victor consistently flees from his Monster
Heading toward London
Heading toward England
Scenery: Castle surrounded by snow
Scenery: Ship surrounded by snow
Daniel uses laudanum to restore his health, but inevitably makes himself mad because of it (opium)
Victor uses laudanum to aid his ailments, leading to his insanity later (opium)
Water monster, invisible (as if a spirit) that haunts Daniel throughout much of the game
Victor dumps the remains of the female monster into a water source
Monsters: seek revenge on those who created them, especially Daniel, Agrippa, and Alexander
Monster: seeks revenge on the one who created him
Monsters: eventually kill Daniel, indirectly through the portal
Monster: eventually kills Victor, though indirectly

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Blog #5 - "Dora Learns to Write" Part 2


What Older Writers Do
                As children’s education careers advance, errors become more and more complicated – especially when it comes to punctuation. Errors are often indicators of their hypotheses regarding the ‘rule’, and when those rules are contradicted, confusion ensues. Giving simple rules, without any indication of the exceptions or variations (which is essentially how punctuation was taught for quite some time), is not the way to teach. Rules/guidelines are good starting points, but with punctuation being such a flexible piece of the writing process, it’s difficult to know exactly how to teach its usage not only correctly, but effectively.

The Writer as Editor
                The writing process is a complicated one – including not only ideas, a plot/direction, and appropriate vocabulary, but sentence structure, punctuation, and an awareness of the varying interpretations thanks to punctuation and prior backdrop information {COMPOUND SUBJECT}. Often, in early drafts, students entirely ignore punctuation and similar, flexible writing processes in order to formulate ideas first – only then, during their second draft, do they add the punctuation marks. The flaw in that organization, however, is that it is often difficult for he or she to remember just what the sentence was meant to be by the second draft {COMPOUNDED SUBJECT WITH 2+ PERSONAL PRONOUNS}. That being said, it is important for writing to be taught as a process, with editing as a part of the initial draft in order to avoid short-term memory problems. This style of teaching arches away from worksheets and repetition, while moving toward frequent writing exercises that encourage certain processes and punctuation usage.

What’s a Writer to Do?
                It’s clear through research that when a child makes a mistake, they often know why they’ve done it in that particular way. Pat Cordeiro urges teachers to see punctuation as a cognitive roadmap, for both writers and readers. In other words, she urges the teaching of punctuation and similarly-flexible processes of writing as guidelines instead of rules – making it clear that there are a variety of ways to use just about every punctuation mark, etc. Punctuation is a way to enable meaning to otherwise-meaningless writing and without it, a long essay would truly have no purpose.

What Punctuation Does
                Punctuation includes essentially every symbol that we, as humans, have given meaning to, aiding in the process of relaying information through reading and writing. Quirk and Greenbaum sectioned punctuation’s usage into two sections: segmenting and identifying. Periods, commas, and semicolons are examples of segmenting marks – those which tell the reader how to read the work properly – including pauses for emphasis (for intended meaning). Identifying punctuation marks are most commonly seen as apostrophes, which help distinguish pluralized nouns as well as possession, contractions, and other ambiguities in the language. Punctuation then becomes a creative tool for the writer to use in order to get certain points across to their readers.

Characteristics of Today’s Punctuation
                Punctuation is an ever-growing, ever-changing aspect of the writing process. Meyer (1983) categorized writing into three sections: informal, formal, and narrative. Each style of writing had a particular usage (either more or less) of certain punctuating symbols, such as the comma and period placement. Essentially, the purpose of punctuation within writing is this: to allow the reader to understand the text and create stylistic variation in their sentences, paragraphs, papers, etc {COMPOUNDED VERBS}. In later writing, punctuation is often a stylistic preference, changing the usage of certain symbols – particularly for fiction/creative writing. Meyer states that “syntactic, semantic, prosodic, stylistic, and pragmatic factors all affected the punctuation of adverbials” (Cordeiro, 120). To sum up, “punctuation is a shared symbol system which works to tie together the writer’s cognitive arrangement of schemas and ideas within the reader’s” (Cordeiro, 79).

Toward a Theory of Punctuation
                Passmore’s allotted categories of skills fell into two sections: open capacities and closed capacities. The latter of the two can be mastered in a final, routinized way. Examples of such skills would include typing, riding a bike, walking, and running. The former, open capacities, can always be improved upon – the most obvious of that grouping being writing. Cordeiro claims that punctuation is an open capacity skill, and that it can never truly be mastered – essentially summarizing as “effective punctuation, like effective writing, is the result of good judgment, not of one’s ability to follow so-called rules of good punctuation or writing” (Cordeiro, 80). This can be seen in the Dora half of the article, when she (the teacher) and them (the students) have an accepted understanding that punctuation is not set in stone, and is as fluid as their imaginations (most of the time) {COMPOUNDED OBJECT OF PREPOSITION WITH TWO OR MORE PERSONAL PRONOUNS}.The group discussion method created a union between her (Dora) and them (her fellow students), giving way for ideas to be bounced off one another  with ease to aid in teaching {COMPOUNDED DIREC OBJECT WITH TWO OR MORE PERSONAL PRONOUNS}.

Teaching about Punctuation
                Punctuation is a difficult skill to acquire, and most students find it to be a skill they struggle with during much (if not all) of their writing career. Dawkins proposes a few different essentials to constructing well-taught punctuation lessons: provide plenty of examples and sufficient writing time, spend time studying those samples of writing from good literature (including “raising and lowering” the punctuation). Raising and lowering is an activity where punctuation not formerly in the writing is inserted in order to show how it changes the meaning or flow of the writing as a whole. In addition to that, “as writers write and revise, they edit. As they edit, they make meaning. Emergent writers edit in their heads as they compose with the alphabet” (Cordeiro, 82).
                Dora’s teacher clearly understood the usage of examples. Dora, who was struggling, was shown numerous pieces of notable literature in order to push toward proper punctuation use {USE OF WHO}. Whomever the teacher showed Dora clearly had an effect on her – for she continuously compared her writing to the novels she’d been shown in order to judge whether they were correct or not {USE OF WHOMEVER}.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Blog #4 - "Dora Learns to Write" Part 1

“Dora Learns to Write” Part 1
What does the teacher do to help Dora learn how to correctly punctuate the end of sentences?
Though she does have the right idea, it was perhaps a little too early in the child’s education to expect them to teach themselves. Differentiated instruction is an important aspect of teaching (defined as: teaching that takes into account students’ abilities, prior knowledge, and challenges so that instruction matches not only the subject being taught by also students’ needs). Having the children essentially teach themselves in group settings wasn’t necessarily bad – but it needed to be coupled with instruction to ensure that ‘wrong’ habits were not encouraged by the peers. Though the teacher attempted to give instructions afterward (see page 61), by that point, it was too late to give them new hypotheses – the students had already formed theirs [POSSESSIVE THEIRS]. If I had to summarize what the teacher did right, it would be this: she manages to teach the students in the right way, just in the wrong order and often, too late.

What doesn’t the teacher do?
The one consistent trend I saw with this teacher was that she often encouraged the student (by letting Dora read in front of the class) when the student had used commas/periods/punctuation in general incorrectly. Though encouragement is important, I have no doubt that there was at least one student who had used the period correctly – and that was the student who should have been up front reading his/her work. This is especially evident on page 60, when she has Dora read her stories to class, claiming they were good – which essentially tells the remainder of the students that her way was the right way. Essentially, the teacher does not use differentiated instruction, causing her to ignore what the students already know, creating confusion.
When Dora began to use periods and dots as separate objects, it was clear that the teacher had not differentiated between the two of them. Before each lesson, she should have asked her class what they thought a certain punctuation mark or concept was – that way she could build off what they already knew. Not only that, but during the writing table sessions, the teacher should have been there evaluating the writing, encouraging those who did it right to show as an example to those who did it wrong.
Not only that, I noticed there was a strange order to what she taught when. The idea of a sentence should have been introduced before the idea of the period – that way the students knew just what the period was supposed to end. After that, commas and other punctuation marks could be introduced – and once the students got down short sentences, short stories, they could begin to write longer pieces.
I did have a couple of questions. What grade do they begin to teach nouns/verbs/adjectives? Should they be start teaching these at a younger age, when the idea of a sentence is introduced?

Why does it take so long for Dora to apply the concept of sentence-end-marking?
I think the main reason it took Dora so long to apply the concept of sentence-end-marking was because her teacher never explained exactly what a sentence was, nor did she ask her students what they thought it was. Because of that, telling Dora that a period ended a sentence was essentially a useless piece of information.
Whose [POSSESSIVE GROUP] idea was it to introduce the idea of the writing groups in younger age groups? The very idea is to bounce ideas off of one another based on previous knowledge – but at such a young age, there isn’t much to build off of. I honestly feel that it would be better to include group work (as in, the entirety of the classroom) in the lessons, that way students can see the answer when its [POSSESSIVE ITS] sentence is put up on the board by the teacher – who should be the ultimate authority in the classroom.

Granted, even in my emotional anger toward this piece, I know very little about first grade teachings and, with that in mind, perhaps her method works. That being said, as a child, I found worksheets and teacher-led instruction to be the best method – when a student who was wrong was encouraged, it only managed to confuse and irritate me.