Tag Archives: fiction and literature

The Manchurian Candidate

The Manchurian Candidate: A memorable film (1962) directed by John Frankenheimer, based on Richard Condon’s novel of the same name (1959). It tells the story of a Korean War ‘hero’ (played by Laurence Harvey) who returns to the USA as a brainwashed zombie triggered to kill a liberal politician, his ‘control’ being his ambitious mother (played by Angela Lansbury). She goes on to order him to kill the presidential nominee, so that her husband, the vice-presidential candidate, can take over. Manchuria is a region of communist China to the north of North Korea. The expression ‘Manchurian candidate’ has subsequently been used to denote a person who has been brainwashed by some organization or foreign power and programmed to carry out its orders automatically.”

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

The Catcher in the Rye

Alright, moving right along on this fine Vermont morning, here is a reading on The Catcher in the Rye along with its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. This is really more in the way of an introduction to the novel–and maybe a way of motivating reluctant or alienated learners to take a chance on the book.

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.

Aesop’s Fables: The Boy Bathing

On a ninety-degree day in Vermont, here, appropriately, is a lesson plan on the Aesop’s fable “The Boy Bathing.” You’ll need this reading and inquiry questions for students to conduct the lesson. You’ll notice, as you will in all of these lessons I’ve posted on Aesop’s fables, that there is plenty of room to expand the range and nature of the questions on the worksheet. That’s by design. Aesop’s fables are miniature lessons in philosophy, and the kinds of questions they arouse can be improvised based on student perception, interest, and need.

Incidentally, this is the last of these I have to post at the moment. I could write more relatively easily. Are you using them? If so, leave a comment, and I’ll put writing a few more on my to-do list.

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.

Geoffrey Chaucer

When I taught high school in Lower Manhattan, The Canterbury Tales was in the English Language Arts curricular cycle. I have always assumed that one of the big ideas in teaching this book was continuity and change, particularly where language is concerned. After all, this book is a significant moment in the evolution of English as a vernacular language.

I worked up this reading on Geoffrey Chaucer and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet to assist the kids in my classes to prepare to read and at least gain some understanding of the own of Chaucer. I only used it once, because, like most special educators I imagine, I was basically assigned to reinvent the wheel in another curricular area (I don’t remember what now, but at the time I was definitely in high dudgeon about it) of the common branch subjects.

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.

Aesop’s Fable: The Farmer and the Fortune

OK, here is a lesson plan Aesop’s fable “The Farmer and the Fortune.” Of course, you’ll need the reading and inquiry questions that constitute the work of this lesson.

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.

White Noise

White Noise: A comic novel (1985) by the US writer Don DeLillo (b. 1936), centering on an ‘airborne toxic event’ and the manufacture of an experimental drug to cure the fear of death. White noise is the term for either electronic signals or sound in which all frequencies are present at equal intensity, and thus have no meaning. It is also used to mean a background noise of which one is generally unaware until it changes or stops.”

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

Rotten Rejections: Theodore Dreiser

Rotten Rejections, Theodore Dreiser I: Sister Carrie

“…I cannot conceive of the book arousing the interest or inviting the attention…of the feminine readers who control the destinies of so many novels.”

“…immoral and badly written…the choice of our characters has been unfortunate….not the best kind of book for a young author to make his first book.”

Rotten Rejections, Theodore Dreiser II: The Titan

“If it is too strong for Harper then it would surely be too rich for us.”

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

A Reading Course in Romanticism in Art, Literature, and Music

If we’ve learned anything during the COVID19 pandemic, it is that far too many people are far too quick to forego reason, the weight of facts, and the methods of scientific inquiry for emotionalism, subjectivity, and simple ignorance when considering public policy and personal conduct in our current circumstances. I’ve always distrusted emotion, primarily because in my life I have seen it used to contrive, justify and buttress errant nonsense and the ghastly conduct that often accompanies errant nonsense–e.g. showing up heavily armed at a state capital building out of anger that you cannot get your hair done or drink in a tavern. It seems to me that when the leader of a nation-state suggests that a new, aggressive, and demonstrably fatal virus will disappear by “miracle,” romantic thinking is on the march.

In these circumstances, it is useful to remember the romantic movement in Europe rejected reason and objectivity in favor of ardor and subjectivity. I almost wrote my undergraduate honors thesis on the extent to which romanticism was implicated in twentieth-century totalitarian political movements. I don’t think one needs to watch much of a speech by either Benito Mussolini or Adolf Hitler, or review the propagandistic graphic art from Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union, to see that these dictators weren’t appealing to the capacity for reason in their audiences.

So, now seems like as good a time as any to publish a trio of readings and comprehension worksheets on romanticism. I just rendered the readings as typescripts and wrote the worksheets a couple of days ago, so this stuff is brand new. Between the three readings, there are repetitions of key ideas: as always on Mark’s Text Terminal, all of these documents are in Microsoft Word, so you can do with them as you wish.

First, here is a reading on romanticism in the plastic arts along with its vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

Second, here is a reading on the romantic movement in literature with the vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet that accompanies it.

Finally, here is a reading on romantic music (not make-out records by crooners, but those nineteenth-century composers like Schumann, Liszt, and Wagner) along with its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

And that’s it.

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.

Cultural Literacy: Two Worksheets on Rudyard Kipling

Let’s move along with a couple of Rudyard Kipling-related Cultural Literacy worksheets, the first a simple biography of the writer, the second a short but cogent analysis of his unfortunate poem “The White Man’s Burden.” If you teach global studies, or whatever your school district calls a broad survey of world history, the latter document might be useful in helping students develop their own understanding of the uses of culture to create, buttress, and therefore justify ideology, in this case the depredations of European colonialism.

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 Last of the Mohicans

“The Last of the Mohicans: A romantic historical novel (1826) by the US writer James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), one of The Leatherstocking Tales. This tale is set in the hills and forests of northeastern North America at the time of the French and Indian Wars of the mid-18th century, and follows the adventures of Alice and Cora Munro, the frontiersman Natty Bumppo (also called Hawkeye), the unpleasant Huron leader Magua, and Chingachgook and his son Uncas, the last of the Mohicans—the rest of their tribe have been killed off by the Hurons. At the end Uncas and Cora are forced to jump off a cliff to their deaths to escape their enemies.

Historically, Uncas was a 17th-century chief of the Mohegans, an Algonquian tribe of Connecticut. Cooper apparently confused the Mohegans with the Mahicans, an Algonquian confederacy along the Hudson River.

There have been a number of film versions, the finest being those from 1936, Randolph Scott as Hawkeye, and 1992, with Daniel Day-Lewis in the role.”

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