Tag Archives: research

Book of Answers: The Narrative of Gordon Pym

“Is Poe’s The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838) based upon actual events? Yes, the adventures of J.N. Reynolds, a stowaway who survived a mutiny, cannibalism, and other adventures.”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.


“Situationism: The Situationist International was founded in 1957 with the merging of three European avant-garde literary and artistic groups. With roots in Dada’s assault on bourgeois sensibilities, the situationist movement emerged in Western Europe primarily in the 1960s. The situationists were highly politicized and theoretical, seeking, in their writings and art, to bring back meaningful social interactions to members of a depoliticized consumer society. Some artworks, such as paintings larger than buildings, blurred the boundaries between art forms. Others were altered reproductions of famous works, prefacing the reappropriated works of the 1980s and 1990s. The movement’s influence provided a theoretical base for students involved in the French general strike of 1968.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.

Historical Term: Rastafarianism

Rastafarianism: Movement originating in the West Indies which takes its name from Ras (a term of respect in Africa) Tafari Makonnen (1892-1975) crowned Emperor of Ethiopia with the title Haile Selassie in 1930. Haile Selassie has a mystical role in the cult as has Ethiopia itself: as the one part of African that was never colonized, it is seen as the spiritual home of the black man. Life in the West Indies or in Britain is seen as time in Babylon by analogy with the sufferings of the Israelites as slaves in exile.”

Excerpted from: Cook, Chris. Dictionary of Historical Terms. New York: Gramercy, 1998.

Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness: A tale or short novel by Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), published in 1902. The story is told by Marlow, who captains a river boat in the Congo and slowly sails upriver into the ‘heart of darkness,’ which is both Africa, the ‘dark continent,’ and the heart of evil. Marlow’s mission is to reach Kurtz, the most successful of the company’s agents. He finds that the charismatic Kurtz, once a man of culture and civilization, has turned himself into an omnipotent ruler by the use of unimaginable cruelty, hinted at by the row of heads impaled beside his compound. Kurtz’s dying words are ‘The horror! The horror!’ The story ends:

The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky—seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.

When he was a child in Poland, Conrad had jabbed his finger at the centre of a map of Africa and declared that one day he would go there. In 1890 he did, when he took command of a river boat in the Congo Free State. The Congo was then the private fiefdom of the Belgian king, Leopold II, and was exploited with the utmost barbarity. Eventually, in 1908, international outrage led the Belgian government to take over the colony.

Heart of Darkness inspired Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now, and the words ‘Mistah Kurtz—he dead’ follow the title of T.S. Eliot’sThe Hollow Men.’”

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

The Weekly Text, January 17, 2020

Mark’s Text Terminal is undergoing a cleaning of its digital storage locker. A couple of weeks ago I posted a trove of materials for teaching Chinua Achebe’s masterpiece Things Fall Apart; two weeks hence, I’ll post another cache of documents for teaching William Golding’s Hobbesian nightmare, Lord of the Flies.

This week’s Text is an assortment of documents I wrote between ten and twelve years ago for teaching Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust memoir, Night. I’ve not used these materials in ten years, so I am moving them off my hard drive and onto Mark’s Text Terminal for storage–and to offer them to others for their use.

I’ll start by uploading this reading on Night (from the Intellectual Devotional series) and its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. I’ve definitely posted these documents elsewhere on this website; since they are in this unit’s folder, I’ll include them here because it makes sense to do so.

As I write this post, I realize that when I walked into a new job at the High School of Economics & Finance in Lower Manhattan in the fall of 2008 (exciting times at that moment in the Financial District, as the world economy was about to fall off a cliff on account of worthless mortgage securities peddled fraudulently–and you who did this know who you are), I came into a situation in which my co-teacher, whom I’d not met, was out, and I needed to get some materials together right away to keep busy those young people whose education I was charged with delivering. For that reason, my first move was to write this prelude for group work to furnish kids with some context for understanding the Holocaust, and therefore for understanding Night.

Somewhere in this process I wrote this unit plan, which looks incomplete to me. I also wrote these eight lesson plans, only the first three of which, I regret, are complete. Still, the other five are solid templates, and wouldn’t be hard to finish.

Here are eight context clues worksheets, one for each chapter of Night, along with their eight sets of definitions for your class linguist.

Finally, here are the eight comprehension worksheets I used to guide the reading of the book.

Every document attached to this post is in Microsoft Word, so they are at the disposal of you and your students.

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.

Rotten Rejections: A Confederacy of Dunces

“A southern writer named John Kennedy Toole wrote a comic novel about life in New Orleans called A Confederacy of Dunces. It was so relentlessly rejected by publishers that he killed himself. That was in 1969. His mother refused to give up on the book. She sent it out and got it back, rejected, over and over again. At last she won the patronage of Walker Percy, who got it accepted by the Louisiana State University Press, and in 1980 it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.”

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

7 Seas

“North Atlantic * South Atlantic * Arctic * Antarctic * Indian Ocean * North Pacific * South Pacific

These vast oceans are the seven seas that we now list—however, the concept of the seven seas is ancient and also very variable. We know the Sumerians had a list (from a reference in the hymn of the Enheduanna) but not what was on it. By the time of the Phoenicians, there was a canonical list for the seven seas within the Mediterranean, upon which their black ships traded. Working west from their homeland, there was the Aegean, Ionian, and Adriatic, whilst west of Sicily stretched the Tyrrhenian, Ligurian, Balearic, and sea of Alboran (the straits of Gibraltar).

For a Muslim Arab trader the seven seas referred to that vital sinew of trade that took them east to the coast of China, beginning with the Persian Gulf, then the Gulf of Khambhat (Sind and Gujarat), Harkand (the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal), Kalah (the Malacca straits), Salahit (the straits of Singapore), Kardani (the waters of Siam) and Sanji (the South China sea). Medieval Christian traders, such as the Venetians and Genoese, made lists of seven that included the Adriatic, Black Sea, Caspian Sea, Red Sea, Mediterranean, Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean.”

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.