For Thursday (December 8)

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Don’t forget: you want to write up a one page summary of the work you did on your Wikipedia article.  Typed.  This will help me as I navigate the article’s “history” page and try to sort out who did what where etc.  Grati!

Extra Credit.  Since we’ve just finished on a musical note, let’s get social.

To earn extra credit points (comparable to submitting another essay, for instance), you will “curate” a playlist of songs related to labor, the working class, or any of the texts that we’ve discussed this semester.  (E.g. what would Martin Eden’s iPod favorites look like?  What set of songs best communicates working-class experience today? etc.)  You can include Springsteen songs from Darkness on the Edge of Town – – but no fair putting this album up as a playlist.

How to do this?  First, you’ll need to create an account on one of the more popular music sharing sites – – say SpotifyGrooveshark or Assemble your playlist of 10 songs by following the instructions on the site.

As you assemble the playlist, or after you’ve assembled the list, you’ll need to explain why the song is in your playlist.   E.g. how does this song relate to your topic/focus?  What does it add to our understanding of the topic/focus? These comments are where your critical work belongs.  (I.e. comments like “It rocks!” or “Scorpions forever!” won’t suffice as commentary on the significance or meaning or value of the song in relation to your focus/topic.)  Title your playlist (“Lullaby for the Working Class,” “Rock on the Forge,” etc.).   Once you’ve completed the playlist, share it.  In both Grooveshark and Blip, you can share via email or tweet the playlist – –  make sure to add the hashtag #english630.  Then, send your commentary/liner notes on your playlist to me at

When you share your playlist, make sure I know it’s from you.  E.g. create a user name that includes your last name, or add some kind of identifying information when you tweet or email me your playlist.

Questions? Problems? Let me know.

Due: Thursday, December 15, 2011.

And . . . a video treat from my iTunes rotation.

No class (Tuesday, November 29)

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To reward your steadfast dedication to the literature of labor, I’m giving you the day off on Tuesday, November 29.

And – – we’ll start talking about Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town on Thursday, December 1.  That means  – – if you don’t already own it – – you’ll want to download or otherwise acquire the album.  Put it on your smart device/ipod and listen to it several times.

(Sadly, we’re just not going to have enough time in the semester to tackle Player Piano – – but it’s a great novel and a good vacation read.)

Levine essay

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Now that we’ve finished What Work Is, it’s time for you to show me what you know about Levine’s poetry.  Here’s how:

In class, you worked in groups on one section of “Burned” from Levine’s volume.  Your goal in this assignment is to connect this section of “Burned” to the rest of the poems in the book.  In other words, how does what you learned from looking intensively at one section of “Burned” help you to read the rest of the collection?

You don’t have to discuss every poem in What Work Is.   However, you do need to show me how your section of “Burned” connects – -via theme, language, image, prosody, etc. – – with other poems in the book.

You only have two pages of your writing to work with, so you will need to focus on some specific feature of the “Burned” section and use that to guide me (the reader) through your understanding of the rest of What Work Is.

Your essay should be no more than two double-spaced pages.  Use quotation to illustrate your ideas.  Don’t worry about a “Works Cited” page – – as we’re all using the same text.  But, do include page number references.  Remember the two strike rule and be sure to proofread.

Due: Tuesday, November 29, 2011

For Tuesday (Nov. 15)

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You should try to finish Barbara Neely’s Blanche on the Lam by Tuesday.

Also, don’t forget, the deadline for nominating your Wikipedia project for “Good Article” nomination is fast approaching.


For Tuesday (November 8)

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We’ll talk about the third section of What Work Is – – “Burned.”

And, don’t forget.  You want to write at least a couple of paragraphs answering the following: in “Fear and Fame,” the speaker says that he returns from the acid bath with “a message/from the kingdom of fire.”  What is the “kingdom of fire”?  And what kind of message/s from this “kingdom” do Levine’s poems typically communicate?

Finally, check out the Wikipedia project page.  You want to review another group’s article, post your review to the article’s talk page, and report back to your article talk page about helpful things other folks are doing with their articles.


For Tuesday (November 1)

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We’ll finish up Magic of Blood.  Make sure to take a look at the following stories: “Winners on the Pass Line,” “Franklin Delano Roosevelt Was a Democrat,” “Ballad,” and “Hollywood!”.

Also, review our Wikipedia Project page.  By Thursday, you want to start reviewing each others’ pages.  E.g. By Thursday, November 3, each of your members should look at an article being developed by others, review it on the articles’ talk page, and write a summary for your own group (on your own article’s talk page) saying whether anything that group has done is valuable for you.  Try to review different articles.  Remember, this is to provide helpful feedback to your comrades and perhaps to pick up a pointer or two for your own articles.

Important Wikipedia Update!

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Comrades – – our Literature of Labor project has been adopted by a group of Wikipedia editors!  This means that we now have a whole cadre of folks who will be watching our pages and helping us to cultivate them into “Featured Articles.”  This will be a tremendous boon to your efforts.

Please check out the SFSU Class Project page that our helpers have created on Wikipedia.  There, you will find several important and helpful things:

– a list of Wikipedia helpers whom you can contact for help in editing and formatting – – under “Editors willing to help.”

– a checklist for our articles.  Our new helpers will keep an eye on your pages as you create them and check them for Wikipedia format, conventions, and editing.  See the Checklist for items they will be helping with.

– a table of our articles.  This table is organized by users.  Find your space in the table and add the title of your article to this table box. (See the example of C’Nedra’s “Blanche on the Lam” article.)  Once you’ve entered the article you’re working on, the helpers will check off their progress in reviewing your article.  (Adding your name to the table is fairly simple: just “Edit” the Checklist section and, in your user box,  enter your exact article within the double brackets to replace  the “My first article” placeholder text.  We can go over this in class on Tuesday.


For Thursday (10/13)

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Don’t forget: if I put an asterisk (*)on your essay, you should come in to talk about the essay on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  My office is HUM 553.  Be sure to bring your essay!  If you didn’t get an asterisk, but still want to discuss your essay – – feel free to stop by.

For Tuesday, October 18, we’ll finish up our attempt to map out a folk vs. modernist aesthetic within Afro-American culture and, more particularly, within Blood on the Forge.  Come to class with the notes you’ve already made on jazz vs. blues and Douglas vs. Lawrence and bring about a page of handwritten reflections on how a study of these two forms (music and painting) might help us to see some new and interesting things about Attaway’s novel.

Also, don’t forget, the next phase of the wikipedia project is due to be completed.

For Tuesday (10/11)

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Let’s try to finish reading Attaway’s Blood on the Forge by Tuesday.

In class, we started talking about the differences between Duke Ellington’s “Tiger Rag” and Robert Johnson’s “Hellhound on My Trail.”

Some of the differences you pointed out: slow (blues) vs. fast (jazz) [temporality]; sad (blues) vs. happy (jazz) [affect] ; individual performer (blues) vs. collective performer (jazz) [social organization]; permutations on the performer – audience relations.

Let’s think some more about these differences between the two forms of African-American music.  Listen to the two songs again.  What kinds of differences can you note between the songs?  Start with particulars and details.  Keep track of these.

After you’ve collected differences between the two songs, think about the following question:  to what extent can we organize  these differences in terms of a “folk” versus “modern” aesthetic?  E.g. to what extent do these differences reflect differences between folk and modernist cultures (and the ways we think about this difference: rural vs. urban, traditional vs. new, oral vs. literate, etc.)?

Write this up.  E.g. on a couple of pages: jot down your list of differences; write up a paragraph or two speculating about how these aesthetic differences might reflect broader cultural differences (between “folk” and “modern” cultures).

Now, turn to our two painters, Aaron Douglas and Jacob Lawrence.  The question here is: how does a reading of Johnson vs. Ellington help us to make sense of the different aesthetics in Douglas’s work vs. Lawrence’s?  In other words, to what extent might Lawrence be painting through a “folk” aesthetic and Douglas through a “modernist” aesthetic?  How might we see these aesthetics as “translating” from one media to another – – e.g. from music to art?

Again, write up a couple of paragraphs about Douglas vs. Lawrence.

Thus, you should  come to class on Tuesday with some notes on paper.  These notes do not have to be typed.  Nor, do they have to be written in super correct English.  Instead, think of them as a record of your thinking and work  and as a starting point for a discussion about Blood on the Forge.

For Tuesday (10/4)

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We’ll continue our discussion of radical poetry and then turn to William Attaway’s novel – -Blood on the Forge.  Try to read the first 40 or 50 pages of the novel.  Don’t forget: tweet your discussion questions!