Last week of class (5/12 and 5/14))

We limp into the last week of the semester – – or at least, I’m limping.  No need to rehash the challenges.  I want to thank all of you for staying the course.

To be honest, compared to seeing and mixing with you in class – – this doesn’t really felt like the kind of education I cherish.  I sympathize in new ways now with all those sci-fi movies about astronauts stranded on space stations, trapped on defunct rocket ships, and doomed to endless interstellar voyages.

This voyage will however come to an end, and I urge you to stay on-board all the way to the finale.  Even if bits and bytes can’t ever substitute for the classroom, please keep on plugging away.  This interregnum will conclude, and you’re all going to play important roles in our post-COVID world.

Your final assignment: read Allen Ginsberg’s magnificent protest poem – – “Howl” – – and make three annotations on its first section.  Make these by Friday, May 15, at noon.  That way I can tote up all your contributions to the class and arrive at your final grades.  I’ll post these to iLearn on Tuesday, May 19.  Look for an email alert from me.

Back in the dark days of the late 70s, when it seemed that a different crisis was bringing down all that gave me joy and hope, I listened to “Alternative Ulster” (above) a lot.  It’s a song written from within the barbed-wire desolation of Northern Ireland.  It lashes out at wasted lives but also somehow manages to discover energy and hope.  Even though it’s not American literature or song, if I had an anthem for the present moment, I might go with “Alternative Ulster.”

Stay anti-social, don your masks, and wash your mitts.  (I know from personal experience that COVID-19 is no fun.)  Take care of your friends, family, and tender comrades.  Be of good cheer and have faith – – we’ll meet again.


For Tuesday (May 12)

Let’s read some great poetry.  Take a look at three poets from the New Negro Movement: Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Bennett, and Claude McKay.  As you read these three poets, you’ll notice some pretty direct similarities – – especially in terms of history/heritage, identity, and setting.  Make three annotations for each poet.  As you annotate, try to compare and contrast the three different formal choices, perspectives, and questions that each pursues.

For Thursday (4/30) and Tuesday (May 5)

Time is slipping away, so we’ll have to modify our schedule a bit.  We’re going to take a briefer look at the New Negro Movement and try to get a look at Ginsberg before the semester ends.

The video above of Duke Ellington and his band playing one of their most famous songs – – “Take the A Train” – – illustrates for me one central dynamic of the New Negro Movement: a radical embrace of and remaking of modernity.  We’ve seen trains (or subway trains) as an emblem for the speed, anonymity, and spaces of modernity in Pound.  Here, the record (a major technological shift in music) dissolves into the train wheel – – firmly placing us in modernity even before we see Duke and his band.  Think about how jazz and jazz musicians are represented in the short video – – jazz is upbeat and dynamic and depends on the joyful but coordinated relations among sound, bodies, and emotions.  The jazz musicians in their matching formalwear look sharp and professional.  This is a music that aims for the future.

For Tuesday, read Langston Hughes’ “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” and Alain Locke’s “The New Negro.”  Both are important manifestoes of the New Negro Movement and should give you a preliminary sense of the issues and debates that frame this explosion of Black creativity in the decades between 1920 and 1950 (or so).  Make three annotations on each text.  As you annotate, try to highlight and explicate the problems that both Hughes and Locke are trying to address – – especially as these problems are informed by the tension between tradition and modernity, folk and modern ways of thinking, popular and “refined” experience.



For Tuesday (4/14) and Thursday (4/16)

I hope you are all well and social-distancing and maintaining.

Below, you’ll find a little writing event.  You’ll need a password [Hanley] to access it.  Think about the questions and then write a paragraph or two in response to each.  You should try to complete this by Friday, April 17. (If you have any trouble, email me.)

In the meantime, finish reading the rest of In Our Time –  – from “A Very Short Story” onward.  Check back here on Thursday, when I’ll post a mini-reflection.  And, on Tuesday (April 21), I’ll post another writing event.  The main thing in all of this is to keep reading and thinking about what you read.

Don’t forget about our forum, where you can pose questions or topics or ideas as you read In Our Time.


For Tuesday (4/7) and Thursday (4/9)

Let’s start reading Hemingway’s In Our Time.  Between today and next Tuesday (4/14), read through the whole collection.

Here’s a little introduction to the collection:

You may have questions or reflections as you read through the collection.  Post these in our new Hemingway forum. (Trouble posting? Let me know.)  I’ll check in on the forum every other day or so and try to answer/respond to you.

Check the motherblog over the weekend, as I’ll post the next phase of our Hemingway reading.

Hope you all are well and staying Covid-free.

For Tuesday (3/31) and Thursday (4/2)

So, here we are.  I  hope you are all healthy, securely housed, and making the best of a very bad situation.  We have to  carry on.

For this week, let’s do a motif hunt in Eliot’s “The Waste Land.”   What is a motif hunt?  I explain the basics in the first annotation on our new “Waste Land” page.  Below, you’ll find a recap:

First, listen to this recording – – better if you listen to it on the “Waste Land” page so that you can see the epigraph that I’m talking about:

In the little recording, I use the epigraph to point to a bunch of motifs in “The Waste Land.” These include:

* voices
* text as plagiarism/remix
* zombies (neither this nor that; both this and that;mixing)
* un/natural time
* desire frustrated
* exile
* fragments
* dry/wet (not in the epigraph but related to fragments and the un/natural)
* women and men

Your mission, should you accept it:

  • choose an excerpt (five to ten lines) from at least two of the four remaining sections of the poem (“A Game of Chess,” “The Fire Sermon,” “Death by Water,” “What the Thunder Said”), i.e. you can choose which of the four sections you want to work with, but you must choose an excerpt from two different sections of the poem;
  • use hypothesis to digitally annotate each of your two selected sections and use your digital annotations to show me how many of the motifs from the list above you can find in each of your two excerpts (super bonus points for those who can find the most motifs in any particular excerpt);
  • in each of your annotations – – explain how the motif appears, how it differs from one excerpt to the next,  and speculate on the significance of the motif

The final version of your motif hunt will be due on Thursday, April 2, at 5 p.m.

Questions?  Email me.


For Thursday (3/19)

There is nothing due for Thursday.  I will be holding virtual office hours tomorrow from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. – – check your inbox for a zoom link in the morning.  Spring recess begins on Monday, March 23.

As you’ve heard by now, “remote” instruction has been extended until the end of spring semester.  This requires that I once again try to figure out how best to keep our class on the “Fury Road.”  Complicating matters further – – many of you are in transition, worrying about job loss, and just generally perhaps stressing about the future.  Under these circumstances, setting up a fruitful educational experience will take some deep consideration.

For now, continue reading Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” I will provide you with a class update sometime during spring recess – – probably around the end of next week.

Hopefully, you are sheltering in place in relative tranquility and ease.  If not, do contact me and let me know what’s happening.  The storm will pass – – as will the floods that may follow it – – and we will once again enjoy each others’ actual company.  In the meantime, check your email and lave those paws!

For Tuesday (March 17)

Day two of our virtual class!

For today, read the first section (“Burial of the Dead”) of Eliot’s “The Waste Land.” Make three digital annotations.  Don’t use the annotations to define or clarify context.  Instead, use your annotations to point to confusing moments in “Burial of the Dead” and to briefly explain what makes these moments confusing.

After you’ve read and annotated, look at the three questions in the writing experience below.  (Use the same password – – “Hanley” – – without quotation marks to access the form.)  In most cases, you should use  a couple of paragraphs to answer each question.  Hit the “submit” button by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17.

Try to stay healthy.  Your stress/anxiety levels may be mounting – – mine sure are.  For our class, do the best you can with you’ve got.  Otherwise, focus on essentials.

For Thursday (3/12)

So, here we are: SF State has suspended face-to-face instruction, and we must adjust.

Check the motherblog frequently to stay up-do-date with our English 528 class.  You will keep on annotating, and  there will be notifications, assignments, etc., yet to come.  If you find things confusing or overwhelming, let me know.

For each of our regularly scheduled classes (Tuesday and Thursday at 11:00 a.m.) – – you will do a writing experience (see below).  But, you query: what does this mean, Professor Hanley?  It means:

  • instead of going to our classroom in HSS every Tuesday and Thursday at 11 a.m., check in to the motherblog
  • here, you’ll find a set of questions about the text under consideration.
  • use the password – – “Hanley” (without quotes) – – to access the writing experience.
  • The form for you to use will be embedded within the post on the motherblog.  You do not need to log in or access the SF State Qualtrics site – – simply enter the password (Hanley) in the field provided. If you don’t see the form embedded in the blog post (as below) try switching browsers.  If you continue to have issues, let me know pronto!
  • enter your name and answer the questions.  When you’re done, simply click the double arrows at the bottom of the page.  This will send your responses to me.
  • your writing experience is due every Tuesday and Thursday at 5 p.m.  So, for  instance the writing experience on William Carlos Williams below is due by 5 p.m., Thursday, March 12.
  • questions?  Let me know.

Don’t forget: your “mystery text” assignment is due tomorrow – – Thursday, March 12.  Email it to me ( by 5 p.m.  Thanks.