Archive for October, 2016


Posted: October 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

beowulf_vs_grendel_by_thefool432So to understand John Gardner’s Grendel, you first have to know the story of Beowulfbeowulf-translation-by-seamus-heaney . . . .and the Audiobook is here . . . . and a little taste of the Old English can be found here.  The Beowulf synopsis PowerPoint is here

John Garner’s Grendel can be found here: grendel-chapters-1-6 and grendel-chapters-7-12 if you don’t have a physical copy of the text.

What’s all this existentialism nonsense he dislikes so much?  Well, here’s my stab at it: existentialism.  And why does he hate it so much?  Well, for starters Gardner accidentally ran over and killed his brother with a tractor, so a philosophy based on the idea that there are no accidents and we choose every aspect of our destiny and identity wouldn’t exactly be his fave, ya know?  But, just like his use of astrology, Gardner points out that we would pave paths through Hell with our “lunatic” and “crackpot theories.”  Sometimes we have to test our crackpot theories against real world observation and applicability.  Concluding, thanks to Descartes, that “I alone exist” (22) doesn’t really help stop the pain when someone’s bashing your head into a wall.  Maybe we all need to have an accident so we can wake up and realize this — “‘Poor Grendel’s had an accident,’ I whisper ‘so may you all‘” (174).  Secondly, if you take existentialism to its conclusion, you end up at nihilism and who really wants to be a dragon with no purpose but to “seek out gold and sit on it” (74)?

Once upon time (before John Gardner died in a motorcycle accident) some students wrote a letter to him and here’s his response: letter-to-miss-wests-class which really sheds some light on the text.  a-critical-look-at-john-gardners-grendel-11102016154606 is also a good read and confirms a lot of what we said in class.

yodaFirst, read a book #SWRP #WhirliesRead of appropriate academic merit and length (you must show me the book first and I must approve it) and annotate or complete a double entry journal analyzing 20 important quotations from the book.  You will then have to come before or after school to complete a book talk on it.  I will read random quotes and ask you to put them into context, and we will discuss and analyze the book.  There’s no partial credit here: “Do.  Or do not.  There is no try” (Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back).  If you do it, you will get a 100 test grade.  This does not mean that previous zeros or poor grades will be erased, it means instead of having, for example, three test grades, you’ll have four, one of which is a 100.

TEWWG11th graders, our next book, Their Eyes Were Watching God , takes place about 30 years before Fences.  Written in 1937 and taking place in the 20s and 30s, Their Eyes Were Watching God is set in an all black town in Florida.  After emancipation, many slaves found themselves still poor and living in racist or hostile areas.  Many felt community was the key to prosperity.  One result of this was the formation of all black towns such as Eatonville, Fl, where  Zora Neale Hurston grew up.  Hurston observed men defining their newfound ability to strive for the American dream in tangible terms — owning a house or a business, perhaps (“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.” (Hurston, 1)) — but for Hurston, the American dream was something bigger: love, happiness, independence, power, and voice.  We’ll be tracing these themes throughout our reading of the novel.  Click below to get the handouts from class, an audiobook, and a video of the movie version with Halle Berry. (more…)