Reading Assignments


“The Play’s The Thing”

In this Playwriting Unit, you are each required to write a short play. You can write about whatever you want. My advice is to do what professional playwrights do, and use something that is going on directly in your own life, or an issue that’s affecting the larger community, to create this story. I am interested in seeing you produce the following dramatic elements:

1) Desire Interrupted

2) Dramatic Irony

3) Verbal Irony

4) Exposition

5) Euphemism

Once you have each written your play, you will present it to your group. Members of the group will decide which play to take through to performance. This will require your group members to evaluate which play is most creative and interesting. At this point, you are required to make one group change to the script. It can be a small or a large change, but the original author must leave room for an alteration the group believes is necessary. The change should make the play even stronger.

Once you have your final script, start figuring out what the character will do to show what they want. The positive reception of your performance depends on your ability to convince us that what is happening before our eyes is live. Reading lines at a standstill doesn’t cut it. What will your players be doing while they say their lines?

Basic Schedule:

Monday, 2.11.13 – An individual Rough Draft is due

Tuesday, 2.12.13 – Revision of Selected Draft

Wednesday, 2.13.13 – Begin Blocking

Friday, 2.15.13 – Practicing Performances

Friday, 2.22.13 – Practicing Performances

Monday, 2.25.13 – Dress Rehearsal

Tuesday 2.26.13 – Performances Begin

|||||| Individual Play Script

Be precise: Accurately represents solutions, ideas, and language.
Errors in grammatical and formatting conventions are minimal and do not hinder reader’s comprehension
Flawless use of grammatical and formatting conventions
Communicate: Make ideas and information understood, mindful of audience, purpose, and setting.
Uses Dramatic Elements: Dramatic Irony, Verbal Irony, Exposition, Euphemism
Uses Dramatic Elements: Dramatic Irony, Verbal Irony, Exposition, Euphemism to communicate effectively characterization, conflict, and theme
Create: Produce or develop a product for expression.
Produces art that combines or synthesizes existing ideas, images, or expertise in original ways
Produces art that is new, imaginative, and characterized by a high degree of innovation, divergent thinking, and risk taking
Plan: Make deliberate plans, reflect, and persevere in order to achieve goals.
Closely adheres to writing process schedule
Meets deadlines in the writing process

|||||| Performances

Collaborate: Work effectively with others to achieve common goals.
  • Participates positively
  • Does Not Hinder Production in any way
  • Leads the Group w/o being the boss
  • Members consistently look to you for direction

Create: Produce or develop a product for expression.
Produces art that combines or synthesizes existing ideas, images, or expertise in original ways

  • A transition could’ve been tighter
  • The Costumes just make you look funny
  • A momentary lapse of character
  • Lines Hidden Effectively
  • A bit more practice would’ve made the performance tighter
Produces art that is new, imaginative, and characterized by a high degree of innovation, divergent thinking, and risk taking

  • Flawless transitions
  • Costumes/Props
  • Total commitment
  • Line “memorization”
  • Practiced to Perfection

Oleanna Exceeding Standards Assignment





Be Precise



Who’s side is David Mamet on? Does he agree with Allan Bloom or Lawrence W. Levine? Use your own research, Oleanna, The Closing of the American Mind, and The Opening of the American Mind to defend your answer.


1-page essay

Evidence from all sources

Your own Research findings are printed out and handed in with the paper

MLA bibliography

Due by Thursday, Feb. 7

Here are the questions for Oleanna by David Mamet:

Oleanna - ACT I

1. In Act I, what evidence can you find that language is limited because it, by definition, must be interpreted? In other words, where do they misunderstand each other? What is the effect of these misunderstandings?

2. In Act I, where does John cross the line from teacher to something else? Do you think he intends to help her learn? Why/Why not?

3. In Act I, what evidence can you find that suggests Carol is already forming some sort of plan to overpower John?

4. What is Carol’s view of learning? How does she understand her own performance as a student?

5. In Act I, besides issues of sexism, what makes Carol mad?

6. What does John mean when he says, “…I saw an exploitation in the education process,” (17) and how does this view shape his interactions with Carol?

Oleanna - ACT 2

1. In Act 2, track John’s evolving sense of his own vulnerability. How vulnerable does he feel at the beginning of Act 2 and how do you know? Does it change before the end of Act 2? Based on your answers, why would Mamet set up his play this way?

2. In Act 2, what evidence can you find that Carol thinks John uses language to reinforce his superiority over her?

3. In Act 2, Carol accuses John of loving “… the Power. To deviate. To invent, to transgress…to transgress whatever norms have been established for us” (33). Do you believe John loves his power? Use evidence from the text to prove your point.

4. In Act 2, what evidence can you find that Carol uses language that she doesn’t fully understand? In other words, where does Carol show she’s not thinking entirely independently? How is this significant?

5. Research Question: How does “The White Man’s Burden” have anything to do with the conflict between John and Carol? (see pg. 23)

6. Research Question: Why is the title of the play Oleanna? For this question you must research the question and then tie the answer to some evidence from the play.

Oleanna - ACT 3

1. In Act 3, Carol says, “…and you say you believe in free intellectual discourse. YOU BELIEVE IN NOTHING. YOU BELIEVE IN NOTHING AT ALL.” How does the idea of “free intellectual discourse” relate to the idea of nihilism?

2. On page 18, Carol says, “I don’t understand.” And on page 42, John says, “I don’t understand.” Mamet does this very much on purpose. Why? What effect does Mamet create when he has two different individuals repeat the same line?

3. What is the significance of the first and last line in the play?

4. What evidence can you find that suggests the specific conflict between Carol and John is a power struggle between men and women more generally?

5. What evidence is there in the final Act that suggests political correctness will eventually limit free expression? Why does John say, “…and it’s my job…to say no to you. That’s my job” (46).

6. What evidence can you find to suggest Carol really enjoys her power over John?


Here are the questions for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee:

The following questions will determine your ability to discern: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

1. On page 8, there is an example of verbal irony. Define the term and explain why this is an example. Provide a second example for ES.

2. On page 30, George uses the term “euphemism.” Define the term and explain why he uses it.

Provide a second example for ES.

3. On page 158, there is an example of dramatic irony. Define the term and explain why this is an example. Provide a second example for ES.

4. What does exposition mean in the context of playwriting? Give an example from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

5. Why is the play called Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

6. Explain why each Act is titled the way it is.


Resources you may need:
Email me if you need another copy of the TFA Reading Guide:

Here is the Proverb, Myth, Fable, Legend Project Description:

Things Fall Apart: Proverbs, Fables, Myths, and Legends – The means of Oral Storytelling

Directions: Find an example of each of the following devices listed below. Write your example on a separate sheet of paper (include the page number) and answer the following questions for each. Remember to always write in complete sentences.

  1. What is the meaning of the proverb, fable, legend, or myth?
  2. In what context is it used in the story?
  3. What connection does it have to the tragedy of the Ibo culture?

1. Proverbs – a short popular saying expressing an obvious truth
2. Fables – a fictitious story, usually about animals, meant to teach a moral lesson
3. Legend – a story handed down for generations and popularly believed to have a historical basis
4. Myths – traditional story serving to explain some phenomenon, custom, etc.


  1. Eneke the bird says that since men have learned to shoot without missing, he has learned to fly without perching. (22)

    1. This proverb means that as conditions or situations change, one must adapt to survive those changes.
    2. Okonkwo is asking for seed yams from Nwakibie. Nwakibie is expressing how he has become more careful with loaning seed yams since young men have become soft.
    3. This proverb applies to the tragedy of the Ibo culture because it was incapable of adapting to change, which contributes to its downfall.


Unit 2 – Stories of Africa

Essential Question: How do cultural movements of the past influence the way we behave today?


Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

“An Image of Africa” by Chinua Achebe (lecture)

Excerpts from: “‘A Bloody Racist’ About Achebe’s View of Conrad” by Cedric Watts

“Chinua Achebe Speaks” by Timand Bates (Interview)

Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola (film)

Important Due Dates:
Nov. 19 – Quiz on TFA (ch. 14-19) / Discussion Day 3

Nov. 21 – Quiz on TFA (ch. 20-25) / Discussion Day 4

TBD - Final Essay / Peer Editing

Discussion Day 1 –

Nov. 7
Discussion Day 2 –

Nov. 13
Discussion Day 3 –

Nov. 19
Discussion Day 4 –

Nov. 21
Sally G.
Jennifer Z.


Discussion Day 1 – Nov. 7
Discussion Day 2 – Nov. 13
Discussion Day 3 –

Nov. 19
Discussion Day 4 –

Nov. 21
Jennifer C.
Melissa C.
Daniela Z.
Nataly Sanchez
Kayla Sanchez
Daniela M.


Discussion Day 1 –

Nov. 7
Discussion Day 2 –

Nov. 9
Discussion Day 3 –

Nov. 13
Discussion Day 4 –

Nov. 19
Sarah Aly
“Boss” Katav

Reading Quizzes

Reading quizzes are intended to capture your ability to discern what you are reading. If you read actively, ask and answer questions about the text, you will perform well on quiz days. You can expect to answer basic plot development questions, explain or interpret quotes, and/or write some commentary on the spot.

Discussion Days:

Discussion Days are focused moments of conversation wherein you will use each other to better understand a text or an idea. Often our thoughts are limited and cannot grow without the collaboration of other individuals. So, based on this premise we will work together to enhance our understanding.

You will each be assigned to lead a discussion day. On this day you are required to produce the following:

2-3 questions to drive discussion

These questions should seek to establish, prove, or query an interpretation. Therefore, they should be focused on characterization, setting, theme, and/or author’s language based on a quoted piece of text. You should have your own idea of how to answer this question, but should first allow others to voice their opinion. You should have page numbers ready for use during the discussion.

You will do this assignment collaboratively, using our class wiki. Before the class begins, you will post your questions, quotes, and page numbers so that each member can post something unique and the class can prepare for the discussion. You will be assessed as both a leader of discussions as well as in your capacity as a participant.

Final Project:

Your Final Essay should answer the question: Is Heart of Darkness Racist?

Through a close reading of the texts, you will argue whether or not you believe Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is racist. Another way to look at the assignment is to decide whether you agree with Achebe that, “Heart of Darkness projects an image of Africa as ‘the other world’”.

Questions to consider:

1) Does Conrad get a “free pass” because he was writing in 1890?

2) What is the darkness in Heart of Darkness? Is it Africa/Africans? Is it that we all have the capacity for evil?

3) Does Achebe’s Things Fall Apart offer a truer picture of the colonization of Africa?


HW - Write one paragraph, using both sources: "An Image of Africa in The West" & "Chinua Achebe Speaks". Answer the question: How does Achebe show Africa's Image in the West?

I will collect this paragraph and your Achebe Evidence Chart on Friday.


Achebe's An Image of Africa

10.10.12 - 10.19.12

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

145 - "This is the reason why I affirm that Kurtz was a remarkable man. He had something to say. He said it. Since I had peeped over the edge myself, I understand better the meaning of his stare, that could not see the flame of the candle, but was wide enough to embrace the whole universe, piercing enough to penetrate all the hearts that beat in the darkness. He had summed up--he had judged. 'The horror!' He was a remarkable man."

144 - "He cried out in a whisper at some image, at some vision--he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath: 'The horror! The horror!'"

140 - "I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself."

132 - "She was savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent; there was something ominous and stately in her deliberate progress."

128 - "I have no opinion on that point, but I want you clearly to understand that there was nothing exactly profitable in these heads being there. They only showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts,.."

125 - " 'Kurtz got the tribe to follow him, did he? I suggested. He fidgeted a little. 'They adored him,' he said."

116 - "Of course you may be too much of a fool to go wrong--too dull even to know you are being assaulted by the powers of darkness."

115 - "The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own."

113 - "The point was in his being a gifted creature, and that of all his gifts the one that stood out preeminently, was his ability to talk, his words--the gift of expression, the bewildering, the illuminating, the most exalted and the most contemptible, the pulsating stream of light, or the deceitful flow from the heart of an impenetrable darkness."

110 - "I had to lean right out to swing the heavy shutter, and I saw a face amongst the leaves on the level with my own, looking at me fierce and steady; and then suddenly, as though a veil had been removed from my eyes, I made out, deep in the tangled gloom, naked breasts, arms, legs, glaring eyes--the bush was swarming with human limbs in movement, glistening, of bronze colour."

108 - "The action was very far from being agressive--it was not even defensive, in the usual sense: it was undertaken under the stress of desperation, and in its essence was purely protective."

105-106 - "I looked at them as you would on any human being, with a curiosity of their impulses, motives, capacities, weaknesses, when brought to the test of an inexorable physical necessity. Restraint! What possible restraint? Was it superstition, disgust, patience, fear--or some kind of primitive honour?"

103 - "I don't know how it struck others: to me it seemed as though the mist itself had screamed, so suddenly, and apparently from all sides at once, did this tumultuous and mournful uproar arise."

101- "I observed with assumed innocence that no man was safe from trouble in this world."

98 - "No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it--this suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity--like yours--the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly."

97 - "The prehistoric man was cursing us, praying to us, welcoming us--who could tell? We were cut off from the comprehension of our surroundings; we glided past like phantoms, wondering and secretly appalled, as sane men would be before an enthusiastic outbreak in a madhouse."

97 - "We were wanderers on a prehistoric earth, on an earth that wore the aspect of an unknown planet."

97 - "We penetrated deeper and deeper into the heart of darkness. It was very quiet there. At night sometimes the roll of drums...Whether it meant war, peace, or prayer we could not tell."

94 - "Going up that river was like traveling back to the earliest beginnings of the world..."

93 - "Each station should be like a beacon on the road towards better things, a centre for trade of course, but also for humanizing, improving, instructing. Conceive you--that ass! And he wants to be manager!"

91 - About Kurtz: "I was curious to see whether this man, who had come out equipped with moral ideas of some sort, would climb to the top after all and how he would set about his work when there."

90 - "To tear treasure out of the bowels of the land was their desire, with no more moral purpose at the back of it than there is in burglars breaking into a safe."

89 - "The great wall of vegetation, an exuberant and entangled mass of trunks, branches, leaves, boughs, festoons, motionless in the moonlight, was like a rioting invasion of soundless life, a rolling wave of plants, piled up, crested, ready to topple over the creek, to sweep up every little man of us out of his little existence."

86 - "No, it is impossible; it is impossible to convey the life-sensation of any given epoch of one's existence--that which makes its truth, its meaning, its subtle penetrating essence. It is impossible. We live, as we dream--alone..."

85 - I wondered whether the stillness on the face of the immensity looking at us two were meant as an appeal or as a menace. What were we who had stayed in here? Could we handle that dumb thing, or would it handle us?...What was in there? I could see a little ivory coming out from there, and I had heard Mr. Kurtz was in there."

83 - Describing Kurtz: "He is am emissary of pity and science and progress, and devil knows what else."

76 - At the bottom of p.76 Marlow mentions remembering a doctor saying: "It would be interesting for science to watch the mental changes of individuals, on the spot." Then, Marlow goes on to say, "I felt I was becoming scientifically interesting." Why does he says this? Why does he feel he is becoming "scientifically interesting"? What is the "mental change" that Marlow is undergoing?
Use evidence from the text to prove your point. (20 minutes)

73-75 - How does Marlow describe the Company’s Chief Accountant? What else seems important on these pages?

70-71 – What is the darkness?

66-68 – How does Marlow connect the land of Africa to the Africans themselves?

58-59 – How does Marlow view the white Europeans who are already in Africa? What was once a mystery to Marlow has now become “darkness.” What does Marlow mean?

56-57 – What is the darkness?

Pg. 54-55 – look at how the river is described and make sense out of what Marlow says at the end of page 55.

What is Satire?

A Modest Proposal:

Use this question to guide you in your commentary writing:

How does satire help Swift to convince his audience that the Irish deserve independence from England?

Analyzing Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Step 1 – Read through the story to familiarize yourself with the plot, characters, setting, and any literary elements you notice (think: symbolism).

Step 2 – Choose a prompt from below, so you know what you’re looking for…

Step 3 – Read it again, annotating the text to help you answer your prompt.

Prompts for your 1-page commentary:

Consider the following interpretations. Choose one and write a page to support this idea, using specific textual evidence.

  • Young Goodman Brown is an inward psychological journey where Goodman Brown discovers evil in himself but refuses to acknowledge it.

  • Young Goodman Brown is a coming of age story about a young man who desires to abandon his faith to have one last “fling,” to “taste the forbidden fruit,” before settling into a strict Puritan life.

  • Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote Young Goodman Brown to expose and denounce Puritan attitudes and hypocrisy.

Presentation on Plato's Allegory on 9.20.12:

Be prepared to answer these questions in writing on Friday in-class:

1. What exactly does it mean to Crack-Up, according to Fitzgerald?

2. How does Fitzgerald use the philosophy of contradiction or “opposites” to frame his self-exploration?

3. How does Fitzgerald show that his emotional well-being affects his physical self (body & mind)?

4. A persistent theme in “The Crack-Up” is Fitzgerald losing what he believes in, almost as if he had no power to affect this phenomenon. How does Fitzgerald suggest that his philosophy of life is changing on its own? What is causing this to happen?

9.12.12 Lesson on how writing can be used as a way to understand difficult text:
Ask yourself: What are the Key Points here? What parts of this passage seems important to his message? What seems interesting? What confuses you?

Fitzgerald seems to have a depressing view of what life is: even in his first phrase, “all of life is a process of breaking down,” we can see how defeated he is in general. Do we agree with this notion? He goes on to make a distinction between two kinds of blows: the kind that come from “outside” and the kind that come “from within”. He believes that the internal kind of “blow” is permanent: “…until you realize that in some regard you will never be as good a man again.” So, he frames his argument around the “breaking down” that happens as a result of something internal.

He writes that he had, in his youth, a philosophy based on opposing forces, and that this was “the test of a first-rate intelligence”. He says, “one should…be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise,” which resonates with me personally. There does seem to be entropy in this world, but I also know that giving in to this feeling of degeneration, or breakdown, only makes you function less effectively, and makes lasting unhappiness a real possibility.

He seems to focus on how he felt in his youth on this first page. He calls attention to his two juvenile regrets: not playing football in college and not fighting during the war (WWI). He explains that he faced problems in his early days, but that “the problems of life seemed to solve themselves, and if the business of fixing them was difficult, it made one too tired to think of more general problems.” In other words, he was solely focused on his own regrets and he had enough of those worries so the “more general problems” were not on his mind at this time. Ah, youth.

The last paragraph continues to explain his mindset as a twenty-something. He returns to this idea of opposing forces:

“I must hold in balance the sense of futility of effort and the sense of the necessity to struggle; the conviction of the inevitability of failure and still the determination to ‘succeed’ – and, more than these, the contradiction between the dead hand of the past and the high intentions of the future.”

He believes he must persist through these contradictions in all areas of life: “domestic, professional, and personal,” and I wonder if by the end of this essay he will present his crack-up in these same three areas. Interestingly, he ends with a reference to the ego, which will be brought down to earth only by gravity, a force that we cannot ignore, but yet, one we tend to forget about. He is struggling, I think, with the realization that he came from nothing and will return to nothing, even though he struggles to reconcile the contradictions of this world during his time in it.

Approach the assignment using the following steps:

Step 1 – Reread your section and annotate: important, interesting, confusing
Step 2 – Isolate the quotations you will use in your explanation
Step 3 – Create your observations in paragraph form
Step 4 – Share and gently criticize, or question
Step 5 -- Practice your explanation, using your writing as a tool for your thinking, not simply reading what you wrote

False Memoir of Holocaust is Canceled

You can listen to David Sedaris read "A Plague of Tics" here: Sedaris-A Plague of Tics

Are Good Writers Born or Made?