Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mid-Term Essay

An essay of fifteen hundred words that applies one of either Aristotle's or Dr. Johnson's principles of drama to either Prometheus Bound or Henry V is due in lecture on October 14th .

Choose any one principle of drama that was detailed in lecture of either Aristotle or Dr. Johnson, and write an essay analysing how your chosen principle applies to either Prometheus Bound or Henry V.

For example, you might choose to show how one or more of Shakespeare's characters in Henry V is, as Dr. Johnson states, not an individual but a species.

Your paper will follow proper grammer and the orthodox structural form of the academic essay.

Your essay will have three general parts.
  • The first part, one quarter of the essay, approximately three hundred and seventy-five words, will name your chosen concept and demonstrate that you correctly understand it.
  • The second part, one half of the essay, approximately seven hundred and fifty words, will consist of your analysis of how your concept applies to either of the two plays.
  • The third part, one quarter of the essay, approximately three hundred and seventy-five words, will give your own personal evaluation of the explanatory validity or value of your chosen concept.
So, for example, if you choose to analyse to thaumaston in Henry V, you would write approximately three hundred and seventy-five words that explain what to thaumaston is; then write approximately seven hundred and fifty words that locate and analyse to thaumaston in the play; and conclude with approximately three hundred and seventy-five words that tell your reader your personal and individual estimation of the worth and value of Aristotle's idea of to thaumaston to understanding Henry V: did it help you to understand the play? Or was it unhelpful or even distracting to your understanding?

Note. Although the mid-term essay has three general parts, the essay is one smooth and unbroken argument: do not fracture your essay into three sections separated by a headers "1, 2, 3." English 103W is a writing-intensive course and working toward correct essay formation is an essential part of all WI course requirements.

Aristotle's "Golden Mean" & "Three Unities"

The ideas of the Golden Mean and the Three Unities are not found named in the Poetics, nor in any of Aristotle's works; they are, however, terms that effectively describe important elements of his thought (argument over one of the three unities notwithstanding.)

Keep both in mind in your reading & reflections on our course texts and assignments. The "rule of not too much" is part of our civilisation's DNA and the "three unities" haunt Western drama even where they are violated: never, by any substantial playwright, ignored.

Lecture Slides

Here are the lecture slides from week three that listed terms.

Likewise for the Dr. Johnson quotations.

And the first Shakespeare set of slides.

And the second.

Then the Bernard Shaw slides. Now the second part.

Followed by the slides on Mishima.

Next, the first slides on film and drama.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Western Canon

From the indispensable Arts & Letters Daily, an article in praise of studying 'canonical' dead white writers like Aristotle & Aeschylus.
In 2007 a home affairs select committee produced a report about young black boys in the criminal justice system, calling for the department for education and schools to consult with black community groups to make the curriculum more relevant—and to find “content which interests and empowers young black people.” We can safely assume they were not talking about Ovid, Chaucer or Shakespeare.
(Tip: usually, a blog post's title takes you to the linked article.)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Question about Plato on Drama

A useful question from classfellow D.L. on Plato's demands of drama:
Plato, recall, does not say that drama can't be a part of a perfect society: rather he demands that drama (along with all other human occupations) justify itself before it can be welcomed in.
I was just reviewing my lecture notes and came up with a question. We have concluded on the question of whether or not drama can be included in a society because of its imitating properties, correct? But, within a perfect society isn't there the need to keep people happy? And it is clear that drama makes people laugh thus making them happy. How come drama can't be a part of a perfect society even though it brings joy to people?
Now, for it making people happy, this is effectively Plato's very problem with drama: that people become happy from watching something that at best is merely an imitation of reality. At worst, as Plato points out, people become happy watching something that is evil--mocks the Good, for instance, or promotes wicked behavior, or belittles noble leaders and praises ignoble pretenders.

Plato's position is that only happiness that promotes Goodness and virtue is happiness that can be accepted into the perfect society.

[PS: good to see that D.L., like all of you, is reviewing his lecture notes as our resource post advises....]

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Course Texts Shipment Completed

Good news for us: the BookStore has finalised our coure text orders:. The Poetics & Shakespeare in Love are now complete & on the shelves.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

On John Dryden

The wonderful encapsulatory definition of drama from John Dryden at opening lecture is worth posting:
… a just & lively image of human nature, reproducing the passions & humours, & the changes of fortune to which it is subject, for the delight & instruction of mankind.
As is a brief estimation of his art and worth, on-line here. (Image with gratitude to the New World Encyclopedia.)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

"Preface to Shakespeare" On-Line

[UPDATE] Our course text by Dr. Samuel Johnson, "Preface to Shakespeare", is available on-line here, with my lecture highlighted passages. The link is perpetually available under the "Pertinent & Impertinent" list to the right.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Plato's Allegory of the Cave: Video

Here is a youtube video dramatising Plato's Cave Allegory (they show use real objects walking in front of the fire instead of pupeteers, but the point is the same.)

(Image courtesy of

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Mid-Term Essay Criteria

The mid term paper, fifteen hundred words in length, is due June 29th in lecture. This assignment requires you to apply the views of any one of our three writers on Drama -- Plato, Aristotle, or Dr. Johnson -- to any of our three dramas assigned for reading to date: Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, Shakespeare's Henry V, George Bernard Shaw's St. Joan. Put another way, you are to analyse any one of these three plays according to principles, values and ideas of your choice of the three great theorists. Your analysis must include direct reference to three specific insights from course lecture: you will identify these three insights using authorised footnote or endnote format.

Your esssay must conform to the English Department Style Guide (permanently linked under the "Permanent & Impermanent" here on the blog.) Your paper will be graded according to the strength & originality of its analysis, the structure, arrangement & rational cohesion of its argument, and the correctness of its English grammar.

In lecture Tuesday June 12th, I will go over these criteria & demonstrate effective essay-writing mechanics. You are encouraged to visit your tutorial leader during Office Hours to discuss the conception of your essay, and, subsequently, to go over a draught of your thesis paragraph; again, during Office Hours.

Course Outline

"Theatre is Life; Film is Art; Television is Furniture
If the notable saying in our course title is true, millions of us would rather furnish than live. But then, for as long as there have been plays, there has been someone else to write about what plays mean. In this course we join in the fun. We find out for ourselves whether or not theatre is indeed superior to film and television. We will read, study and enjoy four very famous (and still influential) plays – one ancient, one middle-aged, one modern, one foreign – alongside four equally famous critical commentaries, one from each period. We then study the screenplay of a popular recent film in comparison with what we will have learned in class. And while this is going on, you and a group of your class fellows will be watching your choice of a weekly television series, writing down your personal opinions (abusive or laudatory), and preparing for a dramatic presentation in seminar that acts your Group’s conclusion on TV’s relative worth. At that, we can say that we will have been properly introduced to Drama.

Aristotle  The Poetics  Penguin
Æschylus  Prometheus Bound  Oxford
Johnson, Samuel  Preface to Shakespeare  On-Line
Shakespeare, William  Henry V  Oxford
Shaw, Bernard  Saint Joan  Penguin
Mishima, Yukio  Madame de Sade  Courseware
Christie, Agatha The Mousetrap 

10%   Productive participation
20%   Mid-Term Essay
15%   Mid-Term Essay Revision
20%   Group Television Project
35%   Final Examination

To receive credit for this course, students must complete all requirements.


Writing Criteria

The explicit writing criteria for the course are detailed in The Little, Brown Handbook, ranking Canada alongside England with its Oxford English Dictionary, Fowler's Modern English Usage, and Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases.

The Little, Brown Handbook is set on Course Reserve and is available at the SFU Bookstore, on the tradebooks floor. It is an indispensable work for anyone who will ever write non-fictionally.

Part I of the Handbook gives the specific criteria used in grading writing in 105W. They can be summarised under the following simple headings.

  • Precise fidelity to the Rules of Grammar.
  • Correct spelling.
  • Use of Plain English.
  • Opening paragraph is a statement of thesis.
  • Subsequent paragraphs develop the thesis logically (ideally, by dialectic.)
  • Concise paragraph structure, including:
    • three to five sentences;
    • one clearly-identifiable topic sentence;
    • two or three sentences that develop the topic;
    • one transitional sentence to conclude.

Note Taking for University

"Learn how to listen and you will prosper even from those who talk badly.” Plutarch (AD 46-120) Greek Biographer & Philosopher.
The Student Learning Commons at the W.A.C. Bennett Library has an exceptionally helpful on-line guide to effective note-taking at university lecture. (It is a trifle disconcerting reading for the Lecturers themselves, because it implies--indeed, all-but declares--that many of us are dull, confused, inarticulate, habituated and otherwise deficient in our craft.)

The guide is available online in .pdf format at this hotlink.

The Student Learning Commons additionally has an entire page of links to on-line resources to improve the student's "Listening & Note-Taking" at this hotlink.

Note-taking in lecture is one of the skills that one learns at university with broad applicability in life. Arguably, learning how to take written notes from oral delivery is one of the most practically valuable benefits of a university education.

These resources linked here are very valuable: especially as it is increasingly common for undergraduates to confuse note-taking with copying down PowerPoint slides. It is rule worth learning that PowerPoint is not the Lecture: lectures are what happen when you are distracted by copying down PowerPoint slides....