Monday, December 12, 2016

Newspapers: What is literature?

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 Are blogs a newer version of the old "op-ed"?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 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:

apropos of nothing
house of cards
butterfly effect (as a verb!)

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