For Tuesday (9/12)

In keeping with your emerging theme of “haunting,” let’s read some poetry by Edgar Lee Masters and Edwin Arlington Robinson.  Make at least two annotations on Masters’ poems and two annotations on Robinson’s poems.

At first glance, the poems may seem a bit simple.  However, I actually think they’re pretty weird, a lot weirder than most people give either Masters or Robinson credit for.  Do you find anything in the poems odd or unsettling?

For Thursday (9/7)

For Thursday, let’s talk about Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, “The Yellow Wall Paper.”

Though the story seems very different – – in genre, form, and content – -from Adams and Du Boise, think about any similarities you might see among these texts.

Here’s one that I’m still trying to clarify:  Du Bois discusses the “unasked question” that informs and structures all conversations across the “color line” in America.  Could we say that this invisible reality “haunts” American speech and communication?  I.e. that in a racialized society and culture, the specter of race flits in and out of many, many interactions, conversations, and actions?  In fact, perhaps a la Du Bois, these conversations etc. are actual ghosts, veiling and deferring social reality.  Gilman’s short story appears to be about psychological (perhaps even supernatural) dysfunction.  However what if the story – – like Du Bois’s “unasked question” – – is really a way of talking about something by not talking about it?

For Tuesday (9/5)

For Tuesday, let’s read “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” the first chapter of W. E. B. Du Bois’s magisterial The Souls of Black Folk. (You can find a copy the complete book here.)  Be sure to make three annotations on the excerpt – – these should include at last one original annotation and up to two replies to annotations.

Here’s something to keep in mind as you read the Du Bois excerpt.  In “The Dynamo and the Virgin,” Adams repeatedly declares that “in America neither Venus nor Virgin ever had value as force–at most as sentiment.”  As we saw from the word cloud I passed out on Thursday, “force” is a very important term for Adams.  He contrasts “force” with sentiment, but this contrast also seems to appear under other guises.  For instance, he tells us that “[t]he true American knew something of the facts, but nothing of the feelings.”  And, elsewhere, commenting on St. Gaudens, Adams says that “the art remained, but the energy was lost even upon the artist.”  All of these contrasts seem to point some chronic gap or difference between appearance and reality, form and substance, artifact and experience.

On Tuesday, I offered one name for the problem or situation that Adams keeps returning to: irony, a condition where appearance and reality are out of joint.  Can you see any places in “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” where Du Bois seems to describe a similar disjuncture between appearance and reality?  Are there points in Du Bois’s text where he is equally aware of – – perhaps even troubled by – – the misfit between word and thing, sentiment and force, fact and feeling, art and energy, appearance and reality?

Bonus Easter egg: Du Bois too participated in the Great Exposition of 1900.  His contribution to the Exposition – – like so much of his intellectual work – – may even have anticipated our contemporary moment.

For Tuesday (8/29)

For Tuesday, August 29, you have one assignment: read and annotate Phil Levine’s poem, “They Feed They Lion.”  You can find Levine’s poem – – like the rest of our online texts – –  in the sidebar to the right – – or click on the links in this text.

How to annotate?

Before describing what makes a helpful annotation, here’s what you’ll need to do to start annotating.

First, go to the “They Feed They Lion” page.  On that page, you’ll notice a small but odd set of icons in the upper right-hand corner.  They look like this:


Click on the little “<” symbol and a drawer will slide out.  It will look like this:

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Since you don’t have an account on Hypothesis, our annotation tool, you’ll have to create one.  Click on the “Create an account” button and fill in your details:

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N.B. When you choose a username – – choose a name that I will recognize.  E.g. “LHanley” is going to make life a lot easier for me than “MadProfX,” etc.

Once you’ve created an account and logged into the Hypothesis sidebar (on the Levine page), you’re ready to start annotating.  Here are the basics for how to mark text and add comments. (Don’t worry about mention of the “extension”  – – that’s already been installed on the motherblog.)  Make at least two annotations, or at least two replies to existing annotations.  N.B.  Make sure your annotations are set to “public,” so that we can all read them.

Second, what is a good annotation?  A good annotation can do several things – – record a response, propose a connection, supply useful information, or pose a helpful question. Basically, annotating is a way of writing what you’re thinking while you read.  An unhelpful annotation simply paraphrases the word or line of text.  I kind of like Mr. Varnell’s tips over on

This first assignment may engage you in two new things: getting started on online annotation and the work of annotating itself.  Don’t worry at all about what the poem “means.”  For now, just focus on using the annotations to capture the questions or reflections that occur as you ready.  And, don’t stress if things seem clumsy or awkward at first.  The more you practice, the more natural – – and easier – –  annotation will become.  E.g. relax and just start commenting on Levine’s poem.

You’re all set now.  Go forth and annotate.  (Questions? Problems? Contact me:  Enjoy!


Welcome to our class motherblog!  Here you’ll find all kinds of important information – – class updates and announcements, assignments, texts, and assorted reflections and ruminations.  Take a look to the right for a link to our live, hot-linked syllabus.  And, below that you’ll notice all of the online texts for the course.  Check back often.  Enjoy!