Online HS English

Deadlines for the research paper:

  • No later than Sunday, April 4: Share your notes, sources, and outline via Google Docs
  • No later than Friday, April 16: Share your rough draft (your best work without my help, including the Works Cited page)
  • No later than Monday, April 26: Submit your final research paper for a grade.

Wednesday, April 28

I’ve been out of town the last few days, but I see that most everyone has submitted his/her final research paper. I’ll spend the next few days grading them and emailing semester grades to students and parents.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. If you don’t hear from me by Monday, May 3, please be in touch.

Have a great summer, everyone!

Monday, April 19

A few of you still haven’t sent me a rough draft of your research paper. Please do so immediately.

Some of you sent a rough draft that was in excellent shape and you only have a few edits to make to earn an A.

However, some of you did not take advantage of all the time since spring break to do research, to craft a solid idea, and churn that into a good first draft. Your final paper is due next Monday, April 26. That means if you need help getting your research paper in good shape, this is the last week I can help you.

Your Work This Week:

You have three final short stories to read: “Lamb to the Slaughter“, “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place“, and “Harrison Bergeron“. When you’ve finished reading, take the quiz. Be sure to take the quiz by Sunday night.

To turn in your final research paper, RESHARE the document with me. I’m not going to assume you’re ready for a grade and check the document I already have access to. You need to resend the link and tell me you’re finished.

However, if you need help with sources, structure, MLA format, or anything related to the paper, please reach out sooner than later. I will be going out of town this weekend and won’t have access to my computer as usual. You need to get ahold of me during the week, preferably Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday.

Once you’ve taking the reading quiz for this week and submitted your research paper for a grade by MONDAY, APRIL 26, you are finished with English for the semester. 🙂

Monday, April 12

No lecture again this week. (Aren’t you so glad?) Some of you have been reaching out with questions about your paper, which is fantastic. I’m always happy to help. The rest of you have been awfully quiet, so I hope that means you’re trucking right along with your writing and not running into road blocks.

Your paper is due NO LATER THAN THIS FRIDAY, April 16, though I’d love to get it sooner if it’s ready.

Your Work This Week:

Instead of grief, death, and stalking ex-boyfriends, this week’s short stories fall under the category of humor. That doesn’t necessarily mean laugh-out-loud funny, but it does mean you’ll read a few stories that are witty, clever, and have a touch of irony. You may have read one or two of them before, but that just means you’ll do well on the reading quiz.

Read “The Ransom of Red Chief“, “The Dinner Party“, and “What Stumped the Bluejays“. Then take the reading quiz by Sunday evening.

Email the rough draft of your research paper by Friday, April 16. It must reflect your best work, meaning there shouldn’t be misspellings, incoherent sentences, fewer than five sources, fewer than six pages of both original writing AND cited material, etc. Please double-check your format before sending it to me.

Be in touch if you need help!

Monday, April 5

No lecture to listen to today – but I did review your outlines and made notes for those of you who met the deadline. Five of you missed the deadline, and for each day that passes you’ll lose another point. I understand it was Easter weekend, but you’ve known about this work for several weeks now. Please keep up. I understand that it’s hard to stay focused in April… but don’t give up now!

Your Work This Week:

This week you’re reading two stories about grief – one old, one new. The first is “The Boarded Window” from Ambrose Bierce (1891), and the second is “Down to a Sunless Sea” by Neil Gaiman (2013). Then take the reading quiz.

For those of you who’ve completed your outlines and have received feedback from me, it’s time to start writing your paper. Your rough draft is due no later than Friday, April 16. If you finish it before then, please send it my way. Remember, your rough draft should be YOUR BEST EFFORT – correct format, no misspellings, no obvious or glaring mistakes. Please include the Works Cited page.

If I haven’t seen an outline or source list from you, get to it. You have already missed the window for full credit, so don’t drag your feet! Reach out if you need help.

Monday, March 29

Good morning, everyone! Some of y’all need to read those short stories a little more slowly!

This week you’re reading two stories by women – “Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin and “Cross Country” by Cate Kennedy. Both explore two women’s approach to heartbreak, freedom, and grief.


First, print out the Example of an Outline and Works Cited Page for your research paper. If you can’t print it out, at least bring it up in another window because I go over it in the lecture.

Then, listen to the lecture.

Read “Story of an Hour” and “Cross Country”. Then take the reading quiz (QUIZ IS NOW CLOSED.)

Finally, continue your research and start drafting your outline and Works Cited list. Do not be vague. This is a graded part of your research paper, so if your outline is vague, you won’t get full credit. If you didn’t start your research last week, then you have a lot to do this week.

Share your outline and Works Cited list, along with your notes, no later than Sunday, April 4.

Monday, March 22

We are entering the home stretch of this academic year, which is no small feat. For the remainder of the semester, you’ll read a couple of short stories each week and take a reading quiz (no response questions), then work on your research paper. Take note of the deadlines at the top of the page.

DETAILS: Your research paper should be a minimum of six pages (2,000-2,200 words) with a separate Works Cited page at the end. You must use a minimum of five sources and cite information from those sources in the body paragraphs of your paper. Keep to the third person point of view, and write in active language. Your thesis statement should show up at the end of your introduction and serve as a road map for your entire work. The topic should be connected to something we covered this year.

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture. I introduce the short stories and talk more about what to expect with the research paper.

Read “The Tower of Babylon” by Ted Chiang (here is an alternate link) and “By the Waters of Babylon” by Stephen Vincent Benet. When you are finished, take the reading quiz. You may only take the quiz once, so be sure you’re ready to answer the questions once you get started.

Finally, get started on your research paper. If you haven’t emailed me your topic choice, please do so today.

Monday, March 8

I just emailed most of you the second part of the English midterm. A few of you still owe me essay question answers, which were due Friday. If you haven’t submitted your work, please do so today.

For the rest of you, follow the directions on the email. Read them carefully. The second half of the midterm is due THIS WEDNESDAY, March 10. Do not use the internet to find answers. You are on your honor to use your personal notes along with what you remember in your brain. Once you submit the second half of the midterm, you’re on spring break from English.

Don’t forget to email me by Sunday, March 21 with your ideas for a research paper. Be as specific as possible with your ideas. An email that reads, “I’ll be researching William Shakespeare” is not enough.

Monday, March 1

We are on our way to spring break, folks. Now that you’ve finished A Long Way Home, it’s time to take the essay portion of your midterm, which is entirely on the memoir. (The second half of the test is on Shakespeare and Agatha Christie, and it will be emailed to you next Monday.)

There is no lecture to listen to since recapping the book is likely unnecessary. Rather, take what you learned from the book and use that knowledge to answer the following essay questions. Complete this portion of the midterm by THIS FRIDAY, March 5.

Essay Questions for Spring Midterm

These questions account for half of your midterm grade, so please answer them substantively AND using excerpts and examples from the book to support your answers. (If you omit this step, you will not pass the essay portion of the midterm.) Each answer should be between 250-400 words. Please use proper spelling and grammar, and include page numbers (per MLA format) with your excerpts.

1. Eventually Saroo’s search for his birth family consumed him. How did his search change from an on-again-off-again project? Why would he have been considered to be obsessed with his search after a while? Use excerpts and examples from the book to support your answer.

2. Part of the reason why Saroo’s journey happened in the first place was on account of a language barrier. Revisit the several ways in which language – misinterpretation, misinformation – either created a roadblock or made his return home a challenge. Use excerpts and examples from the book to support your answer.

3. Mood is an element that authors use to evoke feelings in readers through the use of descriptive language. What is the general feeling that readers have when they read the story? How does the mood change in various sections of the book? What is the overall mood in the book? Use excerpts and examples from the book to support your answer.

4. Compare and contrast Saroo’s childhood memories and impression of his home country with his perceptions of it when he returns as an adult. Explain how what we see through a child’s lens can differ from what we see through an adult’s. Use excerpts and examples from the book to support your answer.

5. Choose one theme – family, identity, poverty, survival, or technology – and give ample explanation with examples as to why it’s a primary theme in A Long Way Home. Use excerpts and examples from the book to support your answer.

Share your answers in a new Google Doc no later than Friday, March 5.

Monday, February 22

Good morning! Today I talk more about the themes of A Long Way Home – family, identity, poverty, and survival – to help you better connect with the story. I hope you’re enjoying the memoir.

One of the things I mention in the lecture is the huge uptick in adopting girls from China on account of its one-child police established in 1980, and I said I’d provide a link to more information about that: Click here to read more. This tangent is connected to Sue and John Brierley’s deeply personal conviction to adopt a child internationally.

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture. Finish reading A Long Way Home, and if you’re able, try to watch the film based on Saroo’s memoir. I’ve link the preview below, which has an option to rent the movie from YouTube. It’s rated PG-13, so it’s suitable for your age group. But, some of the subject matter may require your parents’ permission.

I’m also linking the 60 Minutes Australia segment which documents Saroo’s adoptive mother and birth mother meeting for the first time. The video has an annoying amount of ads, but it’s still a good video to watch.

Finally, answer the following questions substantively in your Google Document by Sunday night:

1 – Saroo talks about being “westernized” as he recaps his teen years. What does this word mean to you? Give me examples of what Saroo’s life was like as a teenger in Australia, and consider, perhaps, what his teen years would’ve been like had he not been adopted internationally. Don’t answer this question too quickly or carelessly. And do read this article about Calcutta going back to Kolkata

2 – What are your thoughts on Saroo’s adoptive parents’ reaction to him wanting to find his birth family? Summarize how both his mom and dad reacted first, then share your thoughts.

3 – Once Saroo’s plans to return to India were underway, he had reservations about it. Explain why his emotions were all over the place. Connect your ideas to the themes of the book. 

4 – There is a Hindu saying that reads, “Everything is written,” a belief that destiny prevails. Consider everything Saroo has gone through in his life and explain why he believes destiny was in his favor.

5 – What did you think about A Long Way Home – not just Saroo’s individual story but also the other themes and topics discussed in the book? If you watched the film, tell me your thoughts on that too.

Monday, February 15

Today I recap the second half of And Then There Were None and introduce our next book, a memoir by Saroo Brierley. Below you’ll find the documentary on Agatha Christie linked for you, as well as the 1945 film version of the murder mystery. If you end up writing your research paper on Agatha Christie, this documentary makes for a good source!

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture.

Watch the documentary on Agatha Christie:

Then watch the end of the 1945 film adaptation of And Then There Were None. You can watch the whole thing if you want to, but if you’re not interested, skip ahead to 1:27 or so – when Lombard and Vera are walking out to the beach. Remember, in the film version, Lombard and Vera have been turned into love interests.

Finally, read the prologue plus Ch. 1-6 in A Long Way Home. In a new Google Document, answer the following questions substantively by Sunday night.

1. From the documentary: What do you think happened to Agatha Christie during the ten days she went missing? 

2. From the alternate film ending: What’s your opinion of the alternate ending? Does it make the story better or worse? Why do you think screenwriters changed the ending?

From A Long Way Home

3. What are your thoughts on international adoption? This isn’t meant to be a loaded question, and I welcome everyone’s point of view. (Some consider international adoption a crucial arm of extending help to those in need, particularly from a humanitarian perspective, while others believe that taking a child away from his or her natural-born culture harms the child’s future identity. This is just one debatable aspect of international adoption.) 

4. One of the first things we learn about Saroo is how he struggles to remember his early life in India. Explain how early childhood shapes a person. 

5. Saroo arrives in Australia in 1987 at age six. To help comfort him, his adoptive mom puts a map of India on his wall. He ends up staring at that map off and on for years. If he had been adopted in 2021, consider the technological avenues he would have to explore his birth country. Compare and contrast this technological disparity. 

6. Compare and contrast Saroo’s and Mantosh’s initial adoption experiences.

Monday, February 8

I hope you’re all enjoying Agatha Christie. You’ll finish the book this week, so you’ll get to learn who the “raving lunatic” is on Soldier Island.

I mention a lot of terms in this lecture, so get your pen and paper ready. Also, I’m linking two videos related to Alfred Hitchcock here. You can pause the lecture to watch them when I mention them, or you can just save them for afterward. The first one is just for a frame of reference about who Hitchcock is. The second video attempts to explain a Macguffin.

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture and take notes. Finish reading And Then There Were None. Then, answer the following questions substantively in your Google Doc by Sunday night.

1. Put yourself on Soldier Island. What would you do if you were among a group of supposed killers and you couldn’t leave? What survival skills do you have? 

2. In Ch. 9, part III begins: The five people sitting round the table seemed to find conversation difficult. Outside, sudden gusts of wind came up and died away. Vera shivered a little and said: “There is a storm coming.” Unpact all the literary stuff going on here. 

3. Dreams are a recurring theme in the novel, which Agatha Christie is using as a literary device to create suspense. Do you think dreams are meaningful in any way? Are they connected to something deeper in our psyche, or are they random firings of brain sparks? Provide a personal experience if you can to support your answer. (Answer substantively.) 

4. Compare and contrast Vera Claythorne and Emily Brent. 

5. Agatha works a little supernatural suspense into Ch. 14 – the sounds of something on the other side of the door, a noise, a feeling… Does this type of suspense bother you? Does it spook you? Give me an example from a book you’ve read or a film you’ve watched when the tension of something unknown gave you pause. 

6. What/who did you perceive as the red herrings in And Then There Were None

7. Did you like the novel? Why or why not?  

Monday, February 1

Good snowy morning! I hope you have snow falling outside your window as I do. 🙂

We are starting Agatha Christie this week and will be reading And Then There Were None. Do your very best not to read ahead. It might be tempting for some of you, but try to resist.

I am still missing a few Shakespeare one-pagers, but I’ll be moving forward with compiling the book without them. If your name isn’t on the one you submitted, I’ll likely add your name to it (if it’s easy enough through Photoshop).

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture and take notes. (All of my high schoolers are reading this book right now, so the lecture is geared towards three classes.)

Then, create a new Google Document and answer the following questions substantively:

1. Define suspense as you perceive it. (Don’t look it up in the dictionary. I’m asking for a personal definition.) Give me an example of a book, film, or TV show that you found suspenseful, along with the reasons why you found it suspenseful.

2. Give three examples from Ch. 1-7 to show how Christie builds suspense.

3. Examine and describe the atmosphere in Ch. 4, leading up to the first murder. What scenes/dialogue lets the reader know that tension is rising? 

4. Some characters feel more guilty than others about their past behaviors/decisions. Why is guilt a good motive in a crime novel?

5. There are two main types of crimes going on among the visitors to Soldier Island: Crimes of Commission (the person chooses to act offensively to cause a problem) and Crimes of Omission (the person may not do anything overtly but withholds help or intervention to prevent a crime). Choose three characters, explain their crime, and explain whether it’s a Crime of Commission or Omission.

Share your document with me by Sunday evening.

Monday, January 25

You have another short lecture – less than 10 minutes – just to make sure you understand how the play ends. I wish we could’ve been together in person to act it out and be ridiculous. That’s how Shakespeare should be enjoyed!

Your Work This Week:

It’s an easy week (you’re welcome!). Listen to the lecture first. Then get working on your one-pager. Please email it to me as a PDF by THIS FRIDAY, January 29. If you are unable to scan it in as a PDF and email it, please contact me and I’ll give you my mailing address. You can send it the old fashioned way.

Let me know if you have questions!

Monday, January 18

Good Monday morning, everyone. Today you have a super-short audio clip to listen to followed by a string of videos. As I mention in the recording, I presume that if you needed help understanding the play so far, you have taken the opportunity to read summaries posted online. I’m always okay with students Googling summaries AS LONG AS they’ve read the actual original text first. 🙂

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture first. Then, watch the videos below.

These scenes are from a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Globe Theatre. Of course, they are reciting the original text, not the translation, but it’s good for you to hear and see these scenes performed!

Act II, Scene II with Queen Titania and her fairies:

This is a compilation of scenes with Puck and King Oberon, starting with Act II, Scene I, and ending with Act III, Scene II:

This is a funny part of Act III, Scene II with Hermia, Helena, Lysander, and Demetrius (which you’ll read this week):

Here is a character map to keep your brain organized:

When you’re finished reading the play, answer the following questions substantively in your Google Doc by Sunday night:

1. Oberon is delighted to learn that his wife has fallen in love with – excuse me – an ass. What is the irony here? Be specific – dramatic, situational, or verbal. (Do some Googling if you don’t know the difference between the three.)

2. Helena and Hermia used to be friends, but the love square has poisoned their relationship. Explain how Lysander’s remark that “the course of true love never did run smooth” still applies to this aspect of love (philia or “brotherly” love).

3. With the love square untangled, a triple marriage is performed: Theseus and Hippolyta, Lysander and Hermia, and Demetrius and Helena. Love is a central theme in this play, but we’ve learned that the “course of true love never did run smooth.” Explain three ways love can be messy and give examples from the play (not just Acts IV and V).

4. The last character we hear from is Puck/Robin. What purpose did the mischievous sprite serve in this play? Why do you think he was granted the last word?

5. What are your thoughts on the play and Shakespeare as a whole? What did you enjoy and not enjoy?

Keep working on your one-pager! 🙂

Monday, January 11

Welcome back to English! (Note the updated syllabus above.) I hope you all had a restful holiday break. I wish we were able to meet in person, particularly this month as we study William Shakespeare, but we’ll just have to make the best of it.

I visited Shakespeare’s hometown, Stratford-Upon-Avon, in 2019 and wanted to share these few photos with you. The first is the Tudor-style home where Shakespeare was born. The other two are of a monument in Bancroft Gardens along the River Avon, right behind the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Some of you may already be familiar with William Shakespeare, which is a benefit you have (I know BHEA has an incredible Shakespearean scholar on staff!). I am not a Shakespearean scholar, but I have respect for him and his work. My goal here is to help you recognize his importance in English literature and his impact on our language.

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture. I talk about expectations for the semester and then go into a bit of English history. At the end I talk about the Book Project we’re all working on together, myself included.

Read Acts I and II in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (No Fear Shakespeare). I highly recommend you seek out a visual component to the play so you aren’t falling asleep on the pages. Shakespeare is meant to be SEEN and HEARD, so while I DO want you to read the text, you’ll have a better experience with the story if you’re also able to watch it.

This is an excellent version to watch, but you’re welcome to find something else that better suites your taste.

Then, answer the following questions in a new Google Document and share it with me by Sunday night.

1. In Act I, Scene 1, Lysander says to Hermia, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” Explain how this now-popular quote works as both foreshadowing and a proverb.

2. Act I, Scene II involves a group of goofy characters preparing to put on a play for the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta in Athens. Two important characters in this scene are Nick Bottom and Peter Quince. Compare and contrast them.

3. At the beginning of Act II, we are introduced to the king and queen of the fairies. They are not a happy couple! In fact, Oberon and Titania accuse one another of adultery, among other things. Summarize, in your own words, the impact of their discord, as described by Titania in lines 81-117.

4. Why do you think Helena is infatuated with Demetrius, even after he rejected her many times?

5. One of the play’s more famous lines are from Oberon’s instructions to Puck:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania some time of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell’d skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.

What begins with beautiful imagery of a forest ends with Oberon describing his drugged fairy wife wrapped in a shed snakeskin. Explain the juxtaposition of enchantment and entrapment as it pertains to Oberon’s intentions.

6. At the end of Scene II, Hermia wakes up suddenly from a nightmare where a snake was eating/stealing her heart. (Another snake reference!) What literary device is being used here? (There’s more than one.)

Finally, start brainstorming what you want to do with your one-pager. Whatever you create, it needs to fit on an 8.5×11 piece of paper and is due at the end of January. 🙂

Monday, December 14

Here is a quick lecture on the second half of The Great Divorce.

Instructions for taking the final test:

  • AS LONG AS you have finished the response questions for Ch. 9-14 in The Great Divorce, you are welcome to take the final test.
  • Email me telling me you’re ready for the test. I will reply to you with an attached PDF of the questions.
  • Open a new Google Document. Type your name at the top of the page and answer the questions substantively. You may use your typed/handwritten notes, but do not use the internet or your books. Cheating will result in a zero.
  • Share your test document with me by Wednesday, Dec. 16.
  • Today is the last day I will accept your Frankenstein in Pop Culture paper.

The spring semester will begin on Monday, January 11. Have a wonderful holiday!

Monday, December 7

I hope you’re enjoying The Great Divorce. As an allegory, if gives readers a lot of food for thought. It’s one of those books that invites readers to step into the story to see what resonates.

Here’s the sign I mention in the lecture:

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture. Take notes on the ghosts, if you haven’t already. Then finish reading The Great Divorce and answer the following response questions in your Google Doc.

  1. George MacDonald was a famous Scottish writer whom C.S. Lewis admired. Why do you think Lewis chose to include a real person into a work of fiction and use him as the Narrator’s guide? (Ch. 9)
  2. Ch. 9 is full of instruction, as the Narrator and George tease out questions and answers. What are your main takeaways from this heavy chapter? 
  3. What’s your understanding of what happened to the female ghost in Ch. 10?
  4. Ch. 11 is a heartbreaking picture of a grieving mother named Pam. All she wants is to be reunited with her deceased son, Michael. What are your thoughts on the exchange between Pam and Reginald? What do you think Lewis is trying to say here? 
  5. It is also in Ch. 11 when we see the man with the lizard on his shoulder. This is one of the more powerful passages in the book because it so clearly captures the human tendency to hang on to things that aren’t good for us. What are your thoughts on this scene?
  6. The chessboard is the ultimate symbol of the entire book. Do your best to describe what Lewis is trying to teach us. (Ch. 14)
  7. What are your final thoughts about The Great Divorce?

If I haven’t received your rough draft of the Frankenstein paper, please send it as soon as possible. If you’ve sent it and I haven’t edited it, LET ME KNOW. If you’ve made corrections and are ready for a final grade, ALSO LET ME KNOW. I’m swimming in papers over here. You’re gonna have to wave a flag in my face to let me know what’s going on.

Have everything turned in by Sunday night.

Monday, November 30

Welcome back! We are nearly to the finish line for the fall semester, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

We’ll spend this week and next with The Great Divorce, and then you have the final test. I’ll be working through your Frankenstein rough drafts today and tomorrow (I explain in the lecture why I’m running late with those). If you don’t hear back from me by tomorrow regarding your rough drafts, please be in touch.

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture. It’s short! Then, read Chapters 1-8 in The Great Divorce.

Then, start a new Google Document and answer the following response questions substantively:

  1. The concept of hell always brings to mind images of fire, torture, and physical pain, but Lewis chose instead to craft The Grey Town as desolate, full of grouchy, aggravated people who are either fighting with one another or stowed way in isolation. Do you think this is effective? Why or why not?
  2. What is the Poet’s main flaw? Share a passage from the text that best describes him. (Ch.1-2)
  3. The narrator’s interaction with the Intelligent Man provides more information about The Grey Town. What is your understanding of how the town works logistically and economically? What is the Intelligent Man’s plan and subsequent flaw? (Ch. 2)
  4. Why do you think there is confusion and frustration among the passengers when they settle by the river? The Driver explains they are under no obligation to return to The Grey Town – essentially telling them they have free will – but this isn’t a comfort. It’s another aggravation. Why? (Ch. 3)
  5. What is your interpretation of who the Spirits are? What is their purpose? (Ch. 3)
  6. Compare and contrast Len and the Big Man/ Big Ghost. (Ch. 4)
  7. In Ch. 5, Lewis spotlights the debate of heaven and hell as two separate places or states of being, as opposed to William Blake’s argument in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell that they are “two sides of the same coin.”  We learn that the fat man/ghost used to be a bishop (clergy), and yet he wound up in The Grey Town. What’s your understanding of the conversation between Dick and the fat man/ghost?
  8. Summarize your interpretation of this quote from the Narrator as he watched Ikey (the Intelligent Man): “When I remembered what the leaf had felt like when I tried to lift it, I could hardly help admiring this unhappy creature when I saw him rise staggering to his feet actually holding the smallest of the apples in his hands. He was lame from his hurts, and the weight bent him double. Yet even so, inch by inch, still availing himself of every scrap of cover, he set out on his via dolorosa to the bus, carrying his torture.” (Via Dolorosa describes the path Jesus took carrying the cross to his crucifixion.) (Ch.6)
  9. Describe the Hard-Bitten Ghost in your own words. Then share a quote or passage you think defends your claim. (Ch. 7)
  10. What effect did the Hard-Bitten Ghost have on the Narrator? (Ch. 8)

In the lecture, I mentioned that I’ll post photos from my visit to The Eagle and Child pub in Oxford where The Inklings met, so here you go:

Monday, November 16

The lecture is short today because you have a slew of videos to watch below.

Today is an overview of how Frankenstein has been depicted in visual media (the stage, film, television, etc), and how these images have infected what pop culture tells us about the monster. It all began with the 1823 stage adaptation called Presumption!, which Mary Shelley was able to attend. This had to have been an amazing feat for her – a young woman seeing her work come to life on the London stage.

Listen to the lecture first, then watch the YouTube clips.

The clips I’m showing you start with the 1910 silent film made by Edison Studios:

The breakout film came out in 1931. We finally had sound, and the actor who played Frankenstein’s monster, Boris Karloff, had the look copyrighted to him. It’s not a bad version of the monster. We end up feeling some sympathy for him. You should note that this is where we get the “It’s alive!” line from since it’s definitely not in Mary Shelley’s novel:

As I explain in the lecture, Universal went on to make a slew of monster movies, including The Bride of Frankenstein in 1935. Here is a clip from the end of that film:

In 1948, the comedy duo Abbott and Costello goofed around with the Universal monsters in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein:

By 1957, we had color in film, and that opened the door for a whole new world of monster movies. Britain’s Hammer Studios went on to make seven Frankenstein movies, which were definitely more horror than comedy or suspense. Here’s the trailer for The Curse of Frankenstein:

One of the more clever adaptations of the story is Young Frankenstein in 1974 (deliberately in black and white) by Mel Brooks. It’s a little mature in some parts, but’s it’s a riot:

I had my first introduction to Frankenstein’s monster in The Monster Squad, a 1987 film that depicted him as childlike and lovable. If I’m honest, this is probably why I grew up to be sympathetic towards the monster:

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein came out in 1994 with an all-star cast. I wish I liked the film more than I do. It’s not bad, but there’s just something missing from it that I can’t put my finger on. Here’s the trailer:

In 1999, we had Alvin and The Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein, and surprisingly, they get a few things right:

Finally, you might be familiar with this 2012 re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s story. Frankenweenie is endearing:

There have been plenty of adaptations for the stage, but one in particular is worth mentioning. If you choose to watch anything, I recommend the 2011 stage production from the Royal National Theatre in London. It starred Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller sharing both roles of Victor Frankenstein and the monster. The first clip explains that reasoning behind that decision, and the second clip is the trailer for the play.

As you can see, we have plenty to work with when it comes to SEEING Frankenstein and his monster in pop culture. If this is the route you choose for your paper – visual media – then you can use these clips as a starting point. You can also choose to go the book route – researching ways the novel has been re-imagined for other audiences (similar to what we discussed last week with Frankenstein in Baghdad and Destroyer).

Your Work This Week:

Write the rough draft of your Frankenstein in Pop Culture paper. Here are some details:

  • Minimum 750 words (though it will likely be more)
  • MLA format required (Times New Roman, 12 pt., double-spaced, proper heading and margins, cited sources IN the paper PLUS a Works Cited page)
  • Minimum four sources (the novel plus three more). Remember, Wikipedia is not an academic source, but you can use Wikipedia as a starting point to find academic sources. The links at the bottom of a Wiki page are usually credible.
  • Written in the third person (no reference to yourself or your opinions)

If you’ve never written a research paper before, please reach out to me. You’ll be writing a bigger research paper in the spring, so consider this the paper with training wheels.

Email your rough draft – which is YOUR BEST EFFORT without my help – by Monday, November 23. Be sure the editing options are turned on so I can leave comments and suggestions for you on the document.

Have y’all tried Frankenberry cereal before?

We’ll regroup on Monday, November 30, to start reading The Great Divorce, so be sure you grab a copy of the book by then. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 9

Today I wrap up Frankenstein and offer you three main reasons why the novel is still relevant today. Be sure you understand those reasons. This is an opportunity for you to take notes.

I also tell you about the next essay you’ll be writing – Frankenstein in Pop Culture. You can go two ways with this essay: You can research and write about how Frankenstein and his monster have been depicted and changed through visual media (film, stage, TV), OR you can research and write about how Frankenstein has been reimagined and rewritten in our current time. Two works I reference today in the lecture is Frankenstein in Baghdad and Destroyer.

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture. Take notes!

Then listen to two podcasts: “In Our Time: Frankenstein” and “Frankenstein: Our Dark Mirror”. Answer the following questions in a Google Doc and share with me by Sunday night:

  1. Tell me something you learned about the novel or Mary Shelley from “In Our Time: Frankenstein”.
  2. There are five “chapters” within the “Our Dark Mirror” podcast. Share something that stuck with you from at least three of them. (Chapter One– Standing On the Shoulders of Giants, Chapter Two– I Bid My Hideous Progeny Go Forth and Prosper, Chapter Three– Monsters Always Come Back, Chapter Four– confronting our monsters, Chapter Five– Frankenstein In the 21st century) 
  3. Do you think monsters are born, or are they made? Defend your answer with content from the podcasts or Frankenstein.

Finally, start researching for your essay. You will need at least three additional sources outside of the novel.

Monday, November 2

Today I talk about Volume II of Frankenstein – not just major plot points but also bits of Romanticism and the major themes covered in this book. Make sure you’re paying attention to all the big ideas Mary Shelley is making us wrestle with – themes of Loneliness and Isolation, Parentage, Medical Ethics and Scientific Responsibilities, Abandonment, Empathy… It’s a heavy book, and it prompts us to ask a lot of questions that don’t have clear answers.

One of the bigger questions Volume II prompts us to ask is, “What is the creator’s responsibility to the created?” Chew on this question as you finish Frankenstein this week.

Stay tuned in to the end of the lecture because I quickly overview the remainder of the semester and give you a little insight into the next paper you’re writing.

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture. Finish reading Frankenstein (Volume III), then answer the following Response Questions substantively in your same Google Document by Sunday night:

1. Victor agrees to make a companion for the monster and retreats to isolation and secret-keeping to accomplish it. Why do you think Victor failed to see the signs that it wouldn’t go smoothly?

2. Stricken with grief and despair, Victor vows revenge on the monster and tracks him northward to the Arctic. Do you think Mary Shelley selected this setting on purpose for this part of the story? Why or why not? 

3. In both your own words and poignant passages/scenes from the final chapter, compare and contrast Victor (as a character) from the beginning of the book and the end.

4. Did you enjoy Frankenstein? Why or why not? Is it what you expected? Don’t be vague. Tell me what you learned.

Monday, October 26

As of right now, 10:15 a.m. on Monday morning, five of you haven’t turned in this week’s homework. One of you contacted me and said it would be late, which is fine, but turning in late work without warning (and a solid reason why) will result in lost points. Please endeavor to do your work and turn it in on time.

Frankenstein is more than just a work of science fiction or gothic literature. It encompasses a multitude of themes and ideas that we can bring right into our current time. Notice how Victor’s frame story is a cautionary tale to Robert Walton on the dangers of blind ambition. See how the Quest for Knowledge can start out with pure intentions but lead to utter disaster. Take note on the important role of parentage and not abandoning what you are charged to take care of! I digress… There’s a lot to unpack in this book.

At the end of the lecture, I briefly talk about the next paper you’re writing and suggest you start doing some independent research. Take my advice. It’s the week of Halloween, so now is the perfect time to start looking around at how Victor and his monster have been portrayed in pop culture.

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture. Then read Volume II in Frankenstein, which might be chapters 9-17 in your version of the book. (Reach out if you’re unsure.) Then, answer the following questions substantively in the same Google Doc you started last week by Sunday night:

1. Victor feels led to seek revenge on the monster for the deaths of William and Justine and tries to appease his troubled mind by retreating to nature, a classic example of romanticism. When Victor sees and interacts with the Monster in the French Alps (Chamonix), a parallel is drawn between the creator and the created. What responsibility does Victor have to the monster when paralleled with God’s responsibilities to Adam? (Chapter II/10)

2. Chapter III/11 begins the creature’s tale in his own words. Based on his experiences and maturation, as well as his interactions with the De Lacey family, has your view on the monster changed? How?

3. Road-map the path the monster took from an innocent “child” to a vengeful murderer? Summarize his character’s progression as you understand it. (Don’t be vague.)

4. Chapter VIII/16 ends with the monster making a final request of Victor. What does he want, and why do you think he wants it?

Monday, October 19

Welcome back! I’m brewing with excitement about Frankenstein, one of my most favorite books. I do not expect all of you to love the story as much as I do, but I hope you’ll learn to appreciate the work when we’re finished.

There are a few things I want you to capture from the lecture today:

  • Be sure you understand the environment in which Mary Shelley was born into and raised. 18th Century England was all about Romanticism and individuality. Her writing and lifestyle reflects that. Her family situation was full of drama, but that really prompted her to write about themes of parentage and responsibility (among other things).
  • Be sure you understand how the Enlightenment Era led to Romanticism. I talk about this in the latter part of the lecture, but if all of that stuff is foreign to you, do the extra legwork to understand it. There was a huge shift in thinking between the 1700s and 1800s, and Mary Shelley was a product of that shift.
  • Mary Shelley’s writing style is quintessential Romanticism – flowery and poetic and expressive. It is the opposite of what you just read in Fahrenheit 451. Some of you will not enjoy it, so I highly recommend listening to Frankenstein alongside reading it if you struggle to engage with the text. I personally love Dan Steven’s narration. (He played Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey.)
  • Write down what a frame story is, as well as what an epistolary feature is in literature.

Your Work This Week:

First, listen to the lecture and take notes as you can. Then read Volume I in Frankenstein, which includes four letters and eight chapters.

Then, answer the following response questions in a new Google Document and share it with me by Sunday evening (or sooner).

1. Explain why this passage is quintessential romanticism: “The world was to me a secret which I desired to divine. Curiosity, earnest research to learn the hidden laws of nature, gladness akin to rapture, as they were unfolded to me, are among the earliest sensations I can remember.”(Chapter 2, end of the first paragraph) 

2. In Chapter 3, Victor decides to study at Ingolstadt, and while there he takes chemistry class from M. Waldman, who inspires Victor to explore the “deepest mysteries of creation.” What do you consider to be the difference between determination and blind ambition? Are the two connected or mutually exclusive?

3. Victor spends a lot of time alone studying and working on his creation. What happens in extreme isolation? Good things, bad things, both? Give examples from the text and/or your own experiences to support your ideas.

4. A prominent element of gothic fiction is decay, which is why cemeteries are a common setting in the genre. Victor uses unearthed body parts to piece together his creation, so when the body comes to life, it becomes its own paradox. Compare and contrast Victor’s state of mind while developing his creation and his subsequent reaction with the creation comes to life. Give examples to support your ideas.

5. Victor’s brother, William, is murdered, and a family friend, Justine, is accused of the crime. Victor knows who committed the murder but has made an inner vow to keep the monster a secret. How does Victor’s secret-keeping fit into the book’s gothic elements?

Monday, October 5

I was glad to see so many of you were able to meet on Zoom today. I don’t prefer that platform, but I’ll take what I can get since we can’t be in a real classroom together.

When we finished, I emailed all of you the mid-term. Please have your test answers to me (via Google Doc) by Friday, October 9. If you can finish it sooner, that would be great.

I will read through your rough drafts over the next few days and leave notes for you on the document. The final essay is due by Sunday, October 18.

Although this essay is written in the first person, please still follow MLA format. You should have a proper introduction and thesis statement with body paragraphs that support your main ideas. Resist the urge to write a full summary of the book! A little bit of context around your quote is enough.

Be in touch if you have questions! Look for the next class update on Monday, October 19.

Monday, September 28

We wrap up Part Three of Fahrenheit 451, which presents us with the analogy of the phoenix and a beautiful picture of people as walking libraries. I always love a good metaphor.

Now that we’ve finished the book, it’s time to write your second paper of the semester. A Response Essay is an opportunity to communicate a personal point of view related to specific questions, themes, and topics. A Response Essay is not a book summary or a list of reasons why you enjoyed it. Rather, it is an introspective reflection of personal beliefs and values.

First, be sure you understand Bradbury’s point of view regarding the quote you choose. Misunderstanding his point could derail your whole paper. This means you need to show that you understand the meaning of what was written and then respond to that meaning. Reflect on your own experiences, knowledge, and opinions as they relate to the story. Consider the things that unnerved you, upset you, and gave you pause.

If you need to do extra research, then go ahead. BUT – resist the urge to lift someone else’s ideas. Be like Montag and think a new thought. Challenge yourself to consider your own opinions. Be sure to cite all of your sources so I don’t accuse you of plagiarizing.

I am not requiring an outline for this paper, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t draft one. Some of you would benefit from outlining your thoughts first before starting on the rough draft.

Your Work This Week:

First, listen to the lecture.

Then, take a few minutes to observe and think about the illustrations I’ve posted below. Consider how we have embraced technology in this current era. Consider how it’s embraced us.

Then, click on this quick story about Samsung’s latest Television Technology, The Wall. If you can afford it, you can have a near life-size TV in your house. Mildred would love it!

Finally, choose one of the following quotes and write a Response Essay that reflects your thoughts and opinions. Do not write a full summary of the book. Instead, offer a few sentences (no more than a paragraph) of context to explain where the quote comes from, but then spend the rest of your essay arguing your point of view.

Aim for 750 words written in Times New Roman, 12 pt., double-spaced. Give your essay a title and cite scenes throughout. This means you should also have a Works Cited page at the end.

  • Captain Beatty, pg. 55: “We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against.”
  • Guy Montag, pg. 78: “We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy. Something’s missing. I looked around. The only thing I positively knew was gone was the books I’d burned in ten or twelve years. So I thought books might help.”
  • Faber, pg. 79: “Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches in the universe together into one garment for us.” 
  • Faber, pg. 99: “They are so confident that they will run on forever. But they won’t run on. They don’t know that this is all one huge big blazing meteor that makes a pretty fire in space, but that someday it’ll have to hit.”
  • Granger, pg. 157: “We’re going to build a mirror factory first and put out nothing but mirrors for the next year and take a long look in them.”

Submit your rough draft via Google Docs by Sunday night, Oct. 4.

We will meet on Zoom at 1 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 5, to discuss the books, your rough drafts, and my plans for the rest of the semester. After the Zoom meeting, I will email you the mid-semester test, which will be due by Friday, Oct. 9.

Monday, September 21

In today’s lecture, I go over Part Two of Fahrenheit 451 and talk about about the highlights I want you to catch. Be sure you understand literary elements such as conflict and the definition of protagonist and antagonist.

I also talk about how I’m scheduling a Zoom meeting for us on Monday, October 5, at 1 p.m. Please make plans to be available that day. We’ll only meet for about 30 minutes, but I want to briefly discuss the two books we’ve read and go over what we’re doing the rest of the semester. After our Zoom meeting, I’ll post the link to the mid-semester test for you to take, and then we’ll be on fall break (so no new content on Monday, October 12). We’ll resume the semester on Monday, October 19.

This week, however, you’ll finish Fahrenheit 451 and answer response questions. Also be thinking about how this book makes you feel. Yes, on the test, you’ll be asked factual questions that have definitive answers, but the response paper you’re writing will reflect your own feelings and thoughts on whatever line you choose to write about. It will be helpful to read Part Three with this in mind.

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture (click here).

Read Part Three of F-451 and answer the following response questions substantively in your Google Doc by Sunday night:

  1. Bradbury uses television and radio to turn citizens into a mob as Guy becomes a fugitive. Though not present in the book, we know our current media (traditional and social) can have this effect. The world is literally capable of watching big events unfold – for good or for bad. What are your thoughts on all of this access? 
  2. Explain your understanding of Capt. Beatty’s role in the book and the meaning behind his eventual fall from power.
  3. Guy runs into men who are trying to preserve knowledge by memorizing works (as it was too dangerous to keep actual books). If you were responsible to preserve knowledge, what areas of information would you endeavor to keep? Why? Would you run the risk of hiding books if you had the ability to?
  4. Why is a phoenix an effective symbol in Fahrenheit 451?
  5. Did you like this book? Why or why not?

Monday, September 14

I’ve seen many of your assignments come through my email. Thanks to those of you who are working steadily! Some of you haven’t yet turned in your Character Analysis papers or response answers to Part One of Fahrenheit 451, so please get to those things soon. I understand if you need an extension, but to avoid losing points, you need to tell me something is going to be late BEFORE the deadline.

This week I go over key points in Part One of F-451. One of the bigger sections I don’t want you to miss is Capt. Beatty’s monologue, which is a sprawling ten pages toward the end of the section. He explains how they got to their dystopian reality – that the people wanted to have everything dumbed down for them. They didn’t want to think too hard or have their feelings hurt. The people wanted a world that entertains them, and the government complied.

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture. Take notes, particularly when I talk about conflict. Then, in the same document where you answered questions from Part One, answer the following questions for Part Two. Please answer substantively:

  1. Montag reached a breakthrough when he said, “We have everything we need to be happy, but we aren’t happy. Something’s missing. I looked around. The only thing I positively knew was gone was the books I’d burned in ten or twelve years. So I thought the books might help.” What are your thoughts on the differences between physical and spiritual needs? What has Montag begun to realize?
  2. What’s your interpretation of Faber’s words: “Those who don’t build must burn. It’s as old as history and juvenile delinquents.”
  3. Faber says that three things are missing from people’s lives: 1) quality information, 2) leisure time, and 3) the freedom to act on things they learn from the quality information and the time they have to consider those things. Even with these revelations, Faber is reluctant to act. Consider his hesitation. Put yourself in his position and weigh the risks. Argue both sides – to act or not to act.
  4. Part Two ends with the firemen responding to a call to Montag’s house. Capt. Beatty makes sure Montag is on that run. (“You’ll be fine. This is a special case. Come on, jump for it!”) Do you think Capt. Beatty set him up? Why or why not? 

Finish your work by next Sunday evening. If you haven’t sent me your final Character Analysis, please do so.

Monday, September 7

I know it’s Labor Day and some of you might not be doing schoolwork – that’s okay! Just in case you are, I wanted to have everything available to you.

This week you’ll have a shorter lecture as I introduce Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction, Ray Bradbury, and Fahrenheit 451. Be sure to take notes so you’ll have these things handy for the test in a few weeks.

One of the first things I reference on the lecture is a print by Ward Shelley called “The History of Science Fiction”. It’s a stunning illustration that I have hanging on my wall. Please try to zoom in on it and find the books and movies you recognize. Start in the top lefthand corner with “Fear and Wonder” and follow the works as they off-shoot to other titles and ideas.

If you haven’t emailed me your rough draft of the Character Analysis, please do so today. I’ll be reading them and offering feedback today and tomorrow.

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture and take notes as you go.

Read Part One in Fahrenheit 451. Then, start a new Google Document and answer the following response questions substantively:

  1. Writers of speculative fiction like to play with the question “What if?” as a way to propose a potential future. In Fahrenheit 451, censorship is a primary theme. Imagine a world where all books of any substance were banned. How would that make you feel? Do you see anything in our current culture that concerns you when it comes to censorship? 
  1. Clarisse is a girl unlike anyone Guy has encountered before. With her carefree attitude and keen eye for the little things, she helps shift Guy’s perspective on his life and the world around him. What do you think Clarisse’s presence represents in this story? What do you consider some of her more powerful quotes to Montag, the words that start to shift his brain? 
  1. Guy and the firemen try to arrest a woman who refuses to stop reading and surrender her books. In defiance, she martyrs herself, lighting herself and the house on fire. This is a jarring image, but it speaks to the lengths people will go for something they believe in. Consider what it means to be a martyr. What qualities and characteristics must one have to fully surrender to one’s beliefs, even if it results in death?
  2. What’s your interpretation of this quote from Captain Beatty? “We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon.”

Finally, edit your rough draft and resend a final version that includes a Works Cited page. Have everything to me by Sunday night. If you need an extension, please let me know ahead of time. Late work – without prior notice – gets a lower grade.

Monday, August 31

I will be making my way through your response answers and outlines today so I can give you feedback as soon as possible.

Now that we’ve finished our first book, it’s time to write the first paper. After reviewing the final chapters of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, I explain how the Character Analysis should go. I talk about how to make claims and provide evidence to support those claims, which is the basic recipe for the paper. If you’ve never written an academic paper before, listen carefully to that last bit of the lecture with a pencil in hand. Email me with your questions and I’ll try to help you.

Your Work This Week:

Listen to the lecture and take notes as you go. There are things I mention that could help you with your paper.

As promised, here is Freytag’s Pyramid in diagram form for those of you who are unfamiliar with it:

Then, get started on your rough draft. Resist the urge to wait until later in the week to start it. You may need more time than you realize, and while I try to be as accessible as possible, contacting me on the weekend won’t get as swift a reply as contacting me on a weekday. I can help you via email or phone, and I can even set up a Zoom chat with you. Whatever you need, be in touch and I’ll do my best.

Share your rough draft with me no later than Sunday, Sept. 6.

Monday, August 24

I hope you’re enjoying We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It’s a short read, but Shirley Jackson is incredibly intentional with every line. It’s the sort of book you cannot skim because you’ll miss something.

There are a few terms I want to catch this week, so take notes as you hear them: Genre, Gothic Mystery, Literary Realism, and Formal Realism.

Your Work This Week:

Listen to this week’s lecture on genre, chapters 1-5, and how to draft an outline. Click here to open the file in a separate window.

Then, finish reading Castle. Use the same document as last week to answer the following response questions substantively:

1. In Chapter 6 (Page 77 in my book), Charles finds Mr. Blackwood’s gold watch nailed to a tree. In your own words, describe each character’s reaction to this discovery.

2. Constance admits to Merricat that she “let Uncle Julian spend all his time living in the past and particularly re-living that one dreadful day. I have let you run wild; how long has it been since you brushed your hair?” (pg. 79 in my book) To which Merricat narrates: I could not allow myself to be angry, and particularly angry at Constance, but I wished Charles dead. Constance needed guarding more than ever before and if I became angry and looked aside she might very well be lost. What is your interpretation of this exchange? What does Merricat mean by “lost,” and why do you think Constance blames herself for Uncle Julian’s and Merricat’s behavior?

3. How does Charles’ presence and behavior in the house shift the mood? Compare and contrast the atmosphere before he showed up and after. 

4. What does Merricat’s fantasy conversation at the end of Chapter 7 tell you about her as a character?

5. On Page 105/106 (in my book), Fire Chief Jim Donell helped put out the fire on the Blackwood’s second floor. He is also the first one who picked up a rock and threw it at the house. What is your understanding of this juxtaposed scenario? 

6. Merricat’s obsession with living on the moon comes full circle in Chapter 9. Why do you think she says to Constance, “We are on the moon at last.” What does she mean?

7. Why do you think Merricat sets rules for herself? Why do you think Constance allows her to? 

8. Did you enjoy this book? Why or why not? (You won’t hurt my feelings if you didn’t like it. I appreciate honesty!) 

Finally, draft an outline of your Character Analysis paper in a new document and email both parts of your homework (response answers and outline) by Sunday evening.

As I mention in the lecture, here is the example of an outline for you to look at prior to getting started. Your standard font for academic work is Times New Roman, 12 pt., double-spaced, with one-inch margins.

You can also review Types of Outlines on Purdue OWL to get more information about MLA format.

If you are lost and have no idea where to start, be in touch 🙂

Monday, August 17

Thanks to those who made it to the Zoom class at 1 p.m. If you missed it, no problem. Here’s a quick recap:

  • I went over the books we’re reading this semester, starting with We Have Always Lived in the Castle. You’ll have a reading assignment nearly every week, followed by answering response questions in a Google Document. You’ll need to share your Google Document with me by Sunday evenings.
  • You’ll also write a few essays this semester and one bigger research paper in the spring. Those papers need to be in MLA format. If you have no familiarity with MLA format, please let me know right away.
  • You will take four tests this semester, but they are open notes. That means you should take notes while listening to the weekly lecture. I’m not a professional podcaster, so I apologize if the sound quality isn’t spectacular. I’m doing by best!

Your Work This Week:

Click here to listen to the lecture where I talk about who Shirley Jackson was and a little bit about We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Be sure to listen for details on Shirley Jackson’s life, such where she lived during her writing career and other works she’s known for. Take notes so your tests will be easy. (If you haven’t read “The Lottery”, her most well-known short story, click here to read it.)

Read Ch. 1-5 in We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Start a new Google Document, title it “Castle Response”, and answer the following questions. Please number your answers accordingly :

1. In the first paragraphs of the book, we learn a lot – Merricat and her sister Constance live together and the rest of the family is dead. The Blackwood family has always lived in that home and in that town, so their history is long and sordid. There are clues in the text which give hints to Merricat’s state of mind. What is your initial impression of her? What passages flesh out her character for you? 

2. “She took the groceries carefully from the bags; food of any kind was precious to Constance, and she always touched foodstuffs with quiet respect. I was not allowed to help; I was not allowed to prepare food, nor was I allowed to gather mushrooms, although sometime I carried vegetables in from the garden, or apples from the old trees.” (Page 20 in my book) Why do you think Merricat wasn’t allowed to prepare food or be a meaningful part of kitchen work? 

3. When Mrs. Wright and Helen Clarke come for tea, Mrs. Wright talks to Uncle Julian about the day of the poisoning, and evidence against Constance is laid bare. (Pages 36-38 in my book) What do you think about Constance’s responses to the women and conversation as a whole? What does her role in the conversation say about her?

4. Food is a symbol of power in the book, particularly since it’s always been curated and prepared by the women in the family. One might argue the women have a “witchy” sense about them. Draw a few parallels between what goes on in the Blackwood’s kitchen and garden and what you know about folklore and witchcraft. (See the first few pages of Chapter 3 as a reference.)

5. Cousin Charles is introduced in Chapter 4, a surprise arrival. Explain Merricat’s reaction to him and explore potential reasons why she and Constance reacted differently to him. 

6. There is a great deal of suspicion around the origins of the poisoning, but Uncle Julian believes he knows what really happened. Describe Uncle Julian as a character and explain why or why not you think he knows the truth. 

Share your document with me no later than Sunday evening. You are welcome to send your work sooner, of course, but anything dated after Sunday evenings will be considered late work and you’ll lose points.

Also, remember to answer substantively. A thorough answer with examples from the book is always the goal. One sentence or two isn’t enough.

Be in touch if you have any questions. If you’re unfamiliar with how to share a Google Document, click here.

Introduction to Literature and Composition for High School Online (Grades 9-12) 

This class will expose students to different genres, writing styles, and themes. Rather than sticking to one time period or place of origin, we’ll explore a variety of works from diverse writers. From Romanticism and dystopian to short stories and Shakespeare, students will surely find something they enjoy reading in this potpourri of literature. 

Students will also write several essays in MLA format, answer weekly response questions via Google Docs, write a research paper in the spring, and take two end-of-the-semester tests. 

Schedule: The 16-week fall class will be in session from Monday, August 17, to Monday, December 14. (We’ll skip Monday, October 12, for fall break, and Monday, November 23, for Thanksgiving.) I will schedule a Zoom meeting on our first day of class so we can make proper introductions, but we’ll communicate primarily through email and Google Docs throughout the semester. I will post weekly lectures and links on this page. 

In the spring, we’ll start on Monday, January 4, and finish on Monday, April 26. (We’ll skip Monday, March 15, for spring break.)

Please get a copy of either the 7th or 8th Edition of the MLA Handbook or be familiar with the Purdue OWL (Online Writing Lab) for help with MLA format. Click here to read more information about MLA format.

Required reading:

Fall 2020
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818 version)
The Great Divorce by CS Lewis

Spring 2021
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare (No Fear Shakespeare)
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
A Long Way Home: A Memoir by Saroo Brierley
Short stories and poetry will be provided

To enroll: Space is limited to 15 online students. (This class is now full.)

First, send me your child’s full name, grade, and email address. Payment for the semester ($100) is due in full by Friday, August 14 via Paypal ( If you decide to drop the class, you may do so by Tuesday, September 1, to get a refund of $75. After September 1, the refund window closes. 

Participating in the fall semester does not commit you to the spring semester. The enrollment process simply starts over. Payment for spring ($100)  is due by Friday, January 1 in preparation for starting class on January 4. If you decide to drop the class, please do so by January 22 to receive a $75 refund. After that, the refund window closes.

I will communicate with both parents and students via email at the start of each semester so expectations are clear, but students and I will go on to communicate primarily through Google Docs. This means each student is required to have a Gmail account. Aside from novels, I provide everything students need here on the class page.