Creative Writing Class – Assignment for Wednesday’s Class

Reflecting in preparation for Wednesday’s conversation:

The example of creative reading we’ve discussed leads from a question about an essay to an image not included in or referenced in the original essay.

I would like you to find a reproduction online of Diane Arbus’s photograph of Susan Sontag and her son.  What light do you think Arbus’s photograph of Sontag and her son sheds on Sontag’s assessment of Arbus’s work in “America, Seen through Photographs, Darkly”? Spend at least 20 minutes figuring out a thoughtful, compelling answer to this question.  For the purposes of this exercise, work on with what you have been provided. Don’t seek out the rest of Sontag’s essays or more information about Arbus. What does the photograph alone tell you?

Be prepared to discuss your thoughts on Wednesday.

New Book Group for High School

A new high school book group is starting this week.  We will be reading “Slapstick” by Kurt Vonnegut.  I am told it is a quick and easy read.  Please acquire it and be ready to begin reading by Dec. 12th.

In the meantime, please read the Susan Sontag essay on photography and be ready to discuss it on Wednesday if you are in advanced English.

Seeing the World

“In an hour and a half, the artist’s eyes had seen enough of beauty to keep ten men busy for fifty years while in over fifty years the eyes of the other man had seen nothing.” — The writer, John Speed, on walking through the woods with the painter, William Merritt Chase.

HS English – Creative Writing Class

This week we are going to discuss “creative reading” as opposed to writing.

Once you learn to read and that process has been routinized and internalized, why is it that different people reading the same material reach different conclusions? Or to put this another way, why is there ambiguity (uncertainty or inexactness of meaning in language)? Why is there a misunderstanding? What happens in the movement from decoding the characters on the page or screen to creating an interpretation of what those characters, considered in context, might mean that causes one reader’s mind to go in one direction and another reader’s mind to go in different directions?

For many students, the mystery of how teachers-and experts, in general–read is never solved. For these students, the experience of higher-order literacy, where reading and writing become ways to create new ideas remains out of reach.  I don’t want this to happen to you!  

The first step in this assignment is this (the next step will come at the end of the week):

  1. Research Diane Arbus in a way that is comfortable to you.  You will find many resources about her on-line (as well as movies, documentaries, ect..).  On Friday be ready to discuss your research about Arbus and give your opinion of her work.  Your research should run pretty deep – I would at least look at five sources.  You should keep notes to help you remember your main points (copying and pasting from different places into one doc. is fine).  I would also suggest you jot down questions you have while researching Arbus.  Keep those questions, they will help the group discussion on Friday.

Slaughterhouse-Five Wrap-Up

On Monday we will have our final discussion about Slaughterhouse-Five. Ideas to consider:

  • the effect of war on society;
  • the value of time;
  • in what ways are our lives “pre-programmed”;
  • how do people cope with traumatic events;
  • in what ways is life fair/unfair;
  • how can a person change his/her fate

What are your ideas on these topics?  What do you believe Billy Pilgrim’s ideas would be?

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