Tag Archives: fiction and literature

The Canterbury Tales

“A poem of some 17,000 lines by Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343-1400). It was probably begun around 1387 and worked on into the 1390s, but apparently not completed. It was one of the first pieces of literature to be printed in England, in 1477 by William Caxton. The tales do not come from Canterbury but are, within the fictional framework of the work, told by various pilgrims en route to the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket at Canterbury—one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in the Middle Ages. There is some uncertainty as to what order Chaucer intended the stories to be in, but the following is how they appear in the authoritative Riverside edition, following the Ellesmere manuscript:

• General Prologue
• The Knight’s Tale
• The Miller’s Tale
• The Reeve’s Tale (a reeve was a manorial steward)
• The Cook’s Tale
• The Man of Law’s Tale
• The Wife of Bath’s Tale
• The Friar’s Tale
• The Summoner’s Tale (a summoner summoned delinquents to appear before an ecclesiastical courts
• The Clerk’s Tale (a clerk was an ecclesiastical student)
• The Merchant’s Tale
• The Squire’s Tale
• The Franklin’s Tale (a franklin was a landowner of free but not noble birth, probably ranking below the gentry.
• The Physician’s Tale
• The Pardoner’s Tale (pardoner’s sold papal indulgences, a much abused practice)
• The Shipman’s Tale (a shipman was a ship’s master)
• The Prioress’s Tale
• Chaucer’s Tale of Sir Thopas
• Chaucer’s Tale of Melibeus
• The Monk’s Tale
• The Nun’s Priest’s Tale
• The Second Nun’s Tale
• The Canon Yeoman’s Tale
• The Manciple’s Tale (a manciple was a servant who bought provision for a college or in of court)
• The Parson’s Tale
• Chaucer’s Retracion

It seems that Chaucer’s original idea was to have many more stories since in the General Prologue the host proposes that each of the 30 or so pilgrims tells four tales each.
A film version (1971) by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922-1975), focusing on the bawdier tales, was not well received.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

The Weekly Text, May 11, 2018

It’s Friday again, as the weeks and years spin by. Mark’s Text Terminal continues to observe Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by offering, as This week’s Text, a reading on novelist Amy Tan with this comprehension worksheet to accompany it. Also, her is an Everyday Edit exercise on Hiroshima (and if you like it, you can get a yearlong supply of them from the extremely generous proprietors of the Education World website.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Ishmael Reed (1938-)

American novelist and poet. Reed’s writing reflects his belief that the black American writer should function as a kind of conjurer of what Reed calls ‘neo-hoodoo,’ an attempt to pry the distinct qualities of Afro-American culture loose from Euro-American culture. In a language composed of black dialects, standard English, and hip jargon, he writes angry satires on an American society corrupted by racism and uncontrolled technology. Among his novels are The Free-Lance Pallbearers (1967), Mumbo Jumbo (1972), Flight to Canada (1976), The Terrible Twos (1982), and Japanese by Spring (1993). His verse collections include Conjure (1972) and Secretary to the Spirits (1975). Other works include Shrovetide in Old New Orleans (1978), occasional writings; Hell Hath No Fury (1980), a play; The Terrible Threes (1990), a collection of short stories; and Airing Dirty Laundry (1993), containing memoirs.

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

[Addendum: Ishmael Reed entered my cultural cosmology when I heard the the percussionist and producer Kip Hanrahan’s projects to set Mr. Reed’s poetry to music,  the first of which, Conjure (named for one of Mr. Reed’s books of verse) appeared in 1983. I continue to listen to that record regularly, now 35 years later. Two more records from Conjure have appeared, Cab Calloway Stands in for the Moon (1988) and a two-disc set, Bad Mouth, released in 2006.]

Rotten Reviews: The Fall by Albert Camus

“The style is unattractive if apt, being the oblique and stilted flow of a man working his way around to asking for a loan. There is a good deal of jaded Bohemian rot about the bourgeoisie being worse than professional criminals (are we not all guilty, etc.) and outbursts of cynical anguish about platitudes. e.g. ‘don’t believe your friends when they ask you to be sincere with them.’ One might define stupidity as the state of needing to be told this.”

Anthony Quinton, New Statesman

Excerpted from: Bernard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.

The Weekly Text, March 31, 2017

The last day of March is also the last day of Women’s History Month. This week’s Text is a reading on Murasaki Shikibu. Lady Shikibu wrote what is arguably history’s first novel, The Tale of Genji. Here is a comprehension worksheet to accompany the relatively short reading.

And that is the last Weekly Text for Women’s History Month. I hope they’ve been useful. Next week I’ll return to posting less theme oriented material; I think I have a grammar lesson queued up.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

The Weekly Text, February 17, 2017

For the third week of Black History Month, Mark’s Text Terminal showcases Langston Hughes and his poem “I, too, sing America.” This week’s text is a reading which includes the poem itself with this comprehension and exegesis worksheet to analyze the poem. While this worksheet asks questions just slightly above the comprehension level of understanding, the reading does a nice job of presenting its exegesis of the poem in that way. Struggling learners and readers therefore have a chance to perform genuine exegetical work on this key literary monument of the Harlem Renaissance. Finally, because I believe in using every lesson as an opportunity to build students’ vocabularies, here is a context clues worksheet on the noun exegesis, another on the noun exegete, and a third on the adjective exegetical.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

The Weekly Text, December 2, 2016

Several years ago, when I was still subscribing to the Teachers & Writers Collaborative (T & W), I stumbled across the work of a Jamila Lyiscott. She had published her poem Broken English in T & W’s magazine. “Broken English” impressed me as one of the best explanations of code switching that I’d seen–and that I’ve seen since. I understood right away that “Broken English” could and should be used in my classroom.

Because I believe in teaching writing skills, and assisting students in developing their own understanding of cogent expository prose, several years ago I began designing synthetic and experiential lessons and units on the parts of speech, focusing particularly on writing grammatically complete, meaningful sentences. I’ve really only worked in inner-city schools, where my students speak a colorful vernacular informed by the Hip-Hop music they so adore. I knew I had to find a way to justify my pedagogy to them, as well as my belief–influenced to no small extent by the work of Lisa Delpit–that it is important for students to understand how to speak in a variety of registers, including that known quaintly as “the King’s English”, which Ms. Delpit rightly calls a “language of power.”All of this brought me back around to Jamila Lysicott.

So I began work on what has ultimately become this lesson plan on code switching, which is based upon “Broken English.” I’ve been procrastinating posting this as a Weekly Text because the worksheet, at eight pages, strikes me a bit too long for kids with limited literacy and/or attention spans. I thought about breaking it down to something smaller. Ultimately, I’ve decided that I will post this as is with the proviso that this lesson is, practically speaking, probably more like two, three or perhaps even four lessons. Moreover, if you decide to use it as a vocabulary building lesson, I think you could pull more words out of the text and add them to that section of the worksheet. As with all Weekly Texts at Mark’s Text Terminal, these documents are in Microsoft Word, so you may alter them to suit your needs.

So, for this lesson, you will need these four do now worksheets on the words articulate as an adjective (and this might be a suitable opportunity to teach it as a verb as welldictionprose and verse. This Cultural Literacy worksheet on slang might also be useful as for this lesson. Here is the worksheet for this lesson, and the teachers’ exegesis for “Broken English”. Finally, this typescript of the poem “Broken English” itself might be helpful, especially if you want to break it up for discrete lessons.

And here is a link to a TED Talk in which Jamila Lyiscott reads “Broken English.”

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.