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Friday, December 30, 2016

Newspapers: Online test available


Hello from the beautiful city of Vladimir. In case you missed the Newspapers test (which we gave earlier than expected for two groups), please contact me for a link to the online version for your group. Write to me through Vkontakte or Facebook, or send me an e-mail.

Holiday blessings! See you in 2017.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Newspapers: Possible answers to our questions

Last week's homework assignment.
Last week, for your homework, we presented an essay on the suitability of Bob Dylan's work for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Here are some possible answers to the questions we asked concerning that essay.

These are certainly NOT the only correct answers, but, as you prepare for the end-of-semester test, we hope these sample answers help you understand what our questions are aiming at.

How is the article structured? This article is an essay, a structured argument, presented in the form of a blog post.

Given the structure as you’ve described it, list the segments of the article. 
  • Part 1 explains why Bob Dylan is significant, and what he accomplished in American culture.
  • Part 2 explains how he did this: by demonstrating that popular songs can express huge ideas.
  • Part 3 contrasts Bob Dylan's lyrics with what the author considers truly good poetry. 
  • Part 4 claims that literature is self-contained, in contrast to Dylan's lyrics, which are inseparable from music.
  • Part 5, the conclusion, is a sort of lament: we literati have few occasions to celebrate the uniqueness of literature; if you take the Nobel away, we'll have one fewer.
Is there a ‘take-away’? (One point that the author wants you to remember?) Yes: Giving a folk singer the literature prize is like going to a hardware store for oranges -- it is a category error.

Is there another thing you will remember, in addition or instead, a week or so from now? Literature is a silent activity.

What are three good discussion points that the article brings up? Anything that made you think or question?
  • Point 1: Literature in this specific sense of a self-contained, silent art, is little older than the printing press. (Do we agree?)
  • Point 2: Reading is a lonely activity in which you listen to a voice generated by your mind's interaction with another mind's words. (Do we agree?)
  • Point 3: Is it true that song lyrics are nothing without the music? Could we pick a better example than the song quoted by the author?
Did you notice anything illogical in the article's arguments? Do you have information that tends to contradict or supplement the info or perspective in the article? Yes. Metcalf's comparison might be unfair. Also, can a text be part of more than one category? (Folk music and literature, for example.)

Describe the voice and register. The register is literary/conversational ... note words such as "contingent" and "perspicuous" but also the use of the second person to address the reader. The author is speaking in his own personal voice to an audience that is probably already following him, either through his entries on Slate's culture blog, or in his podcasts.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Newspapers: What is literature?

Source.  
Full article.

More questions: What is "mass media"? Do blogs qualify? Are blogs a newer version of the old "op-ed"?

This blog, "Browbeat," is hosted by the media site slate.com. The specific article we're looking at now represents an almost immediate response by blogger and cultural commentator Stephen Metcalf to the news, back in October, that Bob Dylan had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Metcalf is also the host of a weekly Slate podcast, the Culture Gabfest. Shortly after his blog post on Dylan was published, he discussed the post with his fellow Gabfest participants, and after a gentle debate he may have reversed the position he took on his blog. Judge for yourself -- the discussion begins at the 16-minute point.

The award ceremony for this prize took place in Stockholm, Sweden, last Saturday (December 10). Coverage of the ceremony, speeches, and concert included these articles:

Bob Dylan Nobel Prize Speech
A Transcendent Patti Smith Accepts Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize
(Official Nobel site) Horace Engdahl's presentation speech
(Official Nobel site) Bob Dylan's speech, delivered by the U.S. ambassador to Sweden.

To help you prepare for our discussion of Stephen Metcalf's article...

  1. How is the article structured? Examples:
    • as a personal story or stories,
    • narrative of an event,
    • essay (series of arguments advocating an idea or point of view),
    • analysis with bullet points,
    • etc.
  2. Given the structure as you’ve described it, list the segments of the article
  3. Summarize or paraphrase each segment of the article
  4. Is there a ‘take-away’? (One point that the author wants you to remember?)  If yes, please describe.
  5. Is there another thing you will remember, in addition or instead, a week or so from now?
  6. What are three good discussion points that the article brings up? Anything that made you think or question?
  7. Did you notice anything illogical in the article's arguments? Do you have information that tends to contradict or supplement the info or perspective in the article? (For example: see Metcalf's comparison of Wilbur's poem and Dylan's song "Up to Me" ... and then look at the Dylan song Patti Smith sang at the Nobel concert in Stockholm.)
  8. Describe the voice and register (formal, informal, personal, or others -- see list here).
  9. What audience does the author have in mind? How do you know? 

Useful or unusual words and phrases:

middlebrow
mainstream
auteur
po-faced
parochial
apropos of nothing
house of cards
butterfly effect (as a verb!)
painterly
inert
obscurantism
contingent
perspicuous
literati

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mumford & Sons, "Hold On to What You Believe"

This video of "Hold On to What You Believe" is not great quality--let me know if you have found a better one!



Audio only:
Listen or download Hold On To What You Believe for free on Prostopleer

Amazon.com purchase link.

Hold On To What You Believe, Mumford & Sons

I can’t promise you that I won’t let you down
And I
I can’t promise you that I will be the only one around
When your hope falls down
But we’re young
Open flowers in the windy fields of this war-torn world
And love
This city breathes the plague of loving things more than their creator

I ran away
I could not take the burden of both me and you
It was too fast
Casting love on me as if it were a spell I could not break
When it was a promise I could not make
But what if I was wrong? What if I was wrong?
Oh what if I was wrong?

But hold on to what you believe in the light
When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight
Oh hold on to what you believe in the light
When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight

And now this land
Means less and less to me without you breathing through its trees
At every turn
The water runs away from me and the halo disappears
I’m not whole when you’re not near
So what if I was wrong? What if I was wrong?
Oh what if I was wrong?

But hold on to what you believe in the light
When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight
And oh hold on to what you believed in the light
When the darkness has robbed you of all your sight....

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Newspapers: How falling in love can help you learn a language

Source.  
Find the article on this page at the BBC site.

Some questions to consider in preparation for our discussion in class:

  1. How is the article structured? Examples:
    • as a personal story or stories,
    • narrative of an event,
    • essay (series of arguments advocating an idea or point of view),
    • analysis with bullet points,
    • etc.
  2. Given the structure as you’ve described it, list the segments of the article
  3. Summarize or paraphrase each segment of the article
  4. Is there a ‘take-away’? (One point that the author wants you to remember?)  If yes, please describe.
  5. Is there another thing you will remember, in addition or instead, a week or so from now?
  6. What are three good discussion points that the article brings up? Anything that made you think or question?
  7. Did you notice anything illogical in the article's arguments? Do you have information that tends to contradict or supplement the info or perspective in the article?
  8. Describe the voice and register (formal, informal, personal, or others -- see list here). 

Some of the more interesting, helpful, or obscure phrases in this text:

sparky
catch the eye
mutual attraction
stand in the way
fledgling romance
transgressed, transgression
forge a relationship
feature (verb), featured
in equal parts
shorthand
all manner of
tricky
painstaking, painstakingly, take pains
crystallise
spur on, spurred on
with gusto
pitfalls
dog paddle, dog-paddling
standing water
tongue twister
get one's tongue around
in tandem with
dogged
balancing act
come to the fore
trigger (verb)
push his (her) buttons
reticence
epiphany 
of sorts
catalyst
innate
pared-back
Kummerspeck
hygge
non-linear
determinist
a recipe for happiness

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Evening conversation group

Announcing a new "tea and conversation with Johan and Judy" group -- especially for evening students and graduates.

We will meet for a maximum of 90 minutes, but if you can't stay for the full time, don't worry! You can come and go as you wish.

Update: Starting on December 6, we plan to meet on Tuesdays at 6:30 p.m.