passport workshopping

Today we decided to split into passport-workshopping groups based on who could be ready when, and to do it all digitally. Julie, Samuel, (and Hillel?) and I are planning to get comments to one another by Saturday morning; Andrew, Amanda, and Conor (and any others?) are planning to be ready a bit later. When you send out your draft, remember to include a few questions in areas in which you want help to guide your readers’ constructive criticism. When you critique drafts, remember to compare them to the examples online so we know what we should all be aiming for. Next week (August 16, the day before Andrew’s birthday!) at 4 p.m. in the thesis room, bring two questions of your own devising–one regular, one a wild card–that you can shoot around the table for group practice along with a bare-bones outline (short–just texts and the relevant scenes and how they connect) for each of your two questions.

James’s “Beast in the Jungle” and Sedgwick’s “Beast in the Closet”

I’m including two pieces in our reading for July 5th. One is Henry James’s classic novella The Beast in the Jungle. It’s characteristic of his later style and showing off much more modernist experimentation with image and syntax than you may have seen in his earlier work. It was published in 1903, just before his novels The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904). I’ll refer you to the wikipedia page on James for a more detailed breakdown of how James’s career and style progressed (I’m not a James expert, honestly, and he had a LONG career).

I’ve pared it with Eve Sedgwick’s (also classic) essay “The Beast in the Closet: James and the Writing of Homosexual Panic,” which was published in Sedgwick’s The Epistemology of the Closet (1990). The book as a whole is essential reading for a crash course in queer literary criticism, and this essay offers a particularly useful and portable way into queering up James (already pretty damn queer.

Posted by Andrew in the persona of Liz

Hemingway stories

Ernest Hemingway’s (1899-1961) The First Forty-Nine Stories were originally anthologized in 1938 with his critically declaimed play, The Fifth Column. The First Forty-Nine surpass, in my opinion, any of his longer fiction, with the possible exception of The Sun Also Rises (1926), his second novel. Hemingway’s memoiresque A Moveable Feast (1964) as something not quite fictional if perhaps not quite a memoir either [and, furthermore, MF is composed of vignettes]). The First Forty-Nine consists of the shorter collections In Our Time (1925), Men Without Women (1927), and Winner Take Nothing (1933), plus four additional stories.

An ambulance driver in World War I, the Chicago-born Hemingway returned to Europe as an expatriot journalist in Paris during the 1920s. There he frequented the salons of his friends Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. MF details much of his biography while he was still writing stories and recalls his friendship and interactions with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ford Maddox Ford, Sherwood Anderson, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso, and other modernist scenesters. Sylvia Beach of the bookstore/publisher Shakespeare and Company often lent Hemingway books; he was a great fan of Constance Garnett’s Russian translations. Other influences include Paul Cezanne, whose Impressionist brushstrokes Hemingway tried to emulate in words, and John Donne, from whose poetry Hemingway often borrowed lines as titles.

For our purposes in comps studying, I’m choosing a story for each of The First Forty-Nine‘s component volumes: “Indian Camp” (first published in 1924 in Ford’s transatlantic review) from In Our Time, “Che Ti Dice La Patria?” from Men Without Women, and “Fathers and Sons” from Winner Take Nothing. Many of Hemingway’s stories refer to a somewhat autobiographical protagonist, Nick Adams; these three stories can all be considered among the Nick Adams stories. Though only the first and third designate their protagonist as Nick, the second does not outrule this possibility (unlike the others, “Che Ti” is written in the first-person, so there is less opportunity for the writer to refer to his protagonist by name).

Poetry Section: Practice test I-B

Here is the practice poetry exam. We’ve tried to give the same kind of smattering covered in the example we’ve been using, but to swap out a few things. Either way, it should be a useful exercise, we hope. So, here’s the process we discussed:

1. Set yourself 90 minutes and look at the poems only when you’re actually about to start. Since we’ll be typing at computers at the exam, you should probably type your practice exam.

2. When you finish your practice exam before we meet Tuesday July 5th at 4:30pm, post it to the blog in the text of a post. Remember to set your post to “Private” by clicking “edit” on the top right where it says “visibility.” I know that’s unclear. Search and you’ll find it.

Don’t worry about reading other people’s essays before the meeting. The idea is that we will run a small workshop during our meeting time, and we’ll have each other’s essays available to read AFTER the meeting as we choose. Enjoy the test!

Poetry test

Levertov and Cummings

For our practice analyses of open verse on Tuesday, I’d like for us to look at E. E. Cummings‘s “since feeling is first” (1926) and Denise Levertov‘s “The Third Dimension” (1957).

Since Feeling Is First

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

The Harvard-educated Cummings (American, 1894–1962), considered a modernist, included this poem in E. E. Cummings IS 5 (1926). He was influenced by Gertrude Stein and enlisted in the Norton-Harjes Ambulance Corps with friend John dos Posos in 1917 (wikipedia). Though he was quite experimental with syntax and diction and pushed traditional poetic tropes, Cummings’s popularity was near that of Robert Frost’s at his death.

The Third Dimension

Who’d believe me if
I said, ‘They took and

split me open from
scalp to crotch, and

still I’m alive, and
walk around pleased with

the sun and all
the world’s bounty.’ Honesty

isn’t so simple:
a simple honesty is

nothing but a lie.
Don’t the trees

hide the wind between
their leaves and

speak in whispers?
The third dimension

hides itself.
If the roadmen

crack stones, the
stones are stones:

but love
cracked me open

and I’m
alive to

tell the tale — but not

the words
change it. Let it be —

here in the sweet sun
— a fiction, while I

breathe and
change pace.

Levertov (born in Britain but spent most of her adult life in the U.S., 1923-1997), considered a postmodernist, was grouped with the Black Mountain Poets, “a group of progressive poets who, in the 1940s and 1950s, [who] were associated with the experimental Black Mountain College in North Carolina. These poets, including Charles OlsonRobert Creeley, and Robert Duncan, promoted a nontraditional poetics described by Olson in 1950 as ‘projective verse.’ Olson advocated an improvisational, open-form approach to poetic composition, driven by the natural patterns of breath and utterance” ( Many of these poets’ works, including Levertov’s “The Third Dimension,” were compiled in editor Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry 1945-1960.

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