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Meeting Zora Neale Hurston


Hurston 1

“Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to ‘jump at de sun.’ We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground.”
From Dust Tracks on a Road


Although Zora Neale Hurston was born in Notasulga, Alabama on January 7, 1891, she moved to Eatonville, Florida when she was a toddler and claimed that as her hometown. Eatonville, the first black-incorporated town in the United States, served as the backdrop for her most famous work, Their Eyes Were Watching God, in addition to providing a rich vein of African-American folklore that resounds throughout her writing. Trained as a cultural anthropologist, Hurston sought to incorporate the black culture and dialect that she knew best into her writing. Her positive outlook on black culture as it was created friction between Hurston and other luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance movement. After a few decades of literary success, Hurston fell into obscurity. Her works went out of print. It wasn’t until novelist Alice Walker, who had read Their Eyes Were Watching God and who became a passionate advocate of her work, published the essay “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston” in a 1975 issue of Ms. Magazine that scholars renewed their focus on the Hurston, her amazing life story, and her contribution to American literature. Their Eyes Were Watching God is now one of the most widely-taught and best-known of African-American novels. Hurston died in Ft. Pierce, FL on January 28, 1960.

Hurston’s Perspective

What strikes the contemporary reader is that Hurston was deeply passionate about the people whose dreams and desires, whose traumas and foibles she describes with such élan, and that she loved the fictional language in which she cloaks their tales; hers is not the urgency of the essayist or the columnist, intent upon reducing human complexity to a sociological or political point. Above all else, Hurston is concerned to register a distinct sense of space—an African-American cultural space. The Hurston voice of these stories is never in a hurry or a rush, pausing over—indeed, luxuriating in—the nuances of speech or the timbre of voice that give a storyteller her or his distinctiveness.

—Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sieglinde Lemke,
Introduction to Zora Neale Hurston: The Complete Stories

In the twenties, thirties, and forties, there were tremendous pressures on black writers. Militant organizations, like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, expected them to be “race” people, defending black people, protesting against racism and oppression; while the advocates of the genteel school of literature wanted black writers to create respectable characters that would be “a credit to the race.” Many black writers chafed under these restrictions, including Hurston, who chose to write about the positive side of black experience and to ignore the brutal side. She saw black lives as psychologically integral—not humiliated half-lives, stunted by the effects of racism and poverty. She simply could not depict blacks as defeated, humiliated, degraded, or victimized, because she did not experience black people or herself that way.

Mary Helen Washington, “Zora Neale Hurston: A Woman Half in Shadow”

 Hurston 2“I tried … not to pander to the folks who expect a clown and a villain in every Negro,” Hurston said of Their Eyes Were Watching God. “Neither did I want to pander to those ‘race’ people among us who see nothing but perfection in all of us.”                               

Hurston’s Language

Reading Their Eyes Were Watching God for perhaps the eleventh time, I am still amazed that Hurston wrote it in seven weeks; that it speaks to me as no novel, past or present, has ever done; and that the language of the characters, that “comical nigger ‘dialect’” that has been laughed at, denied, ignored, or “improved” so that white folks and educated black folks can understand it, is simply beautiful. There is enough self-love in that one book—love of community, culture, traditions—to restore a world. Or create a new one.

Alice Walker, “On Refusing to be Humbled By Second Place in a Contest You Did Not Design: A Tradition by Now”


Hurston Resources

The PBS program Do You Speak American? includes an excellent essay on African-American women writers including Hurston, Alice Walker, and Nobel prizewinner Toni Morrison. Hurston’s use of dialect is discussed in detail. The essay also includes links to sounds clips and other info:


The idea that there are proscribed ways for people of varied races to speak still exists these days. In her podcast “Sounding Black,” produced for Studio 360, performer Sarah Jones discusses “blaccents” and their impact on communication and the 2008 presidential election.


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Thug Notes: Lord of the Flies

Life in this hood is savage, yo! Salty language and adult themes ahead. Proceed with caution.

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Lord of the Flies Analysis


“Like any orthodox moralist Golding insists that Man is
fallen creature, but he refuses to hypostatize Evil or
locate it in a dimension of its own.
On the contrary 
Beelzebub, Lord of the Flies,
is Roger and Jack and you and I,
ready to declare himself as soon as we permit him to.”
—from “The Fables of William Golding” by John Peter, 1957

piggy“Lord of the Flies is a very serious book which has to be introduced seriously. The danger of such an introduction is that it may suggest that the book is stodgy. It is not. It is written with taste and liveliness, the talk is natural, the descriptions of scenery enchanting. It is certainly not a comforting book. But it may help a few grownups to be less complacent and more compassionate, to support Ralph, to respect Piggy, control Jack, and lighten a little the darkness of man’s heart. At the present moment (if I may speak personally), it is respect for Piggythat seems needed most. I do not find it in our leaders.”

—E. M. Forster, introduction to Howard-McCann edition of
Lord of the Flies, 1962

lordflies“The South-Sea island setting suggests everyone’s fantasy of lotus-eating escape or refuge from troubles and care. But for Golding this is the sheerest fantasy: there is no escape from the agony of being human, no possibility of erecting utopian political systems where all will go well. Man’s inescapable depravity makes sure “it’s no-go” on Golding’s island just as it does on the various islands visited by Gulliver in Swift’s excoriating examination of the realities of the human condition.”

—from The Novels of William Golding by S. J. Boyd, 1988


Golding himself had this to say about Lord of the Flies in his essay collection A Moving Target (1985):

More than a quarter of a century ago I sat on one side of the fireplace and my wife on the other. We had just put the children to bed after reading to the elder some adventure story or another—Coral Island, Treasure Island, Pirate Island, Magic Island. God knows what island. Islands have always and for good reason bulked large in the British consciousness. But I was tired of these islands with their paper-cutout goodies and baddies and everything for the best in the best of all possible worlds. I said to my wife, “Wouldn’t it be a good idea if I wrote a story about boys on an island and let them behave the way they really would?” She replied at once, “That’s a first class idea. You write it.” So I sat down and wrote it.

golding2A story about boys, about people who behave as they really would! What sheer hubris! What an assumption of the divine right of authors! How people really behave—whole chapters in that row of books behind my chair do little in the last analysis but agree to or dissent from that first casual remark. How then did I choose a theme? Even then, did I know what I was about? It had taken me more than half a lifetime, two world wars and many years among children before I could make that casual remark because to me the job was so plainly possible.

Yet there is something more. In a way the book was to be and did become a distillation from that life. Before the Second World War my generation did on the whole have a liberal and naïve belief in the perfectibility of man. In the war we became if not physically hardened at least morally and inevitably coarsened. After it we saw, little by little, what man could do to man, what the Animal could to do his own species. The years of my life that went into the book were not years of thinking but years of feeling, years of wordless brooding that brought me not so much to an opinion as a stance. It was like lamenting the lost childhood of the world. The theme defeats structuralism for it is an emotion.

The theme of Lord of the Flies is
grief, sheer grief, grief, grief, grief.

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Sketchnotes: Process Your Thinking Visually

An option you have as you complete your Six Pack Sheets is to use sketchnotes, or visual notes, instead of the written details requested for pages 3 (important scenes) and 4 (character information) of each Six Pack Sheet. Your sketchnotes must include the same details outlined on the instructions for each page, but you may opt to present this information in visual instead of written form. Sketchnotes will be graded for content and presentation, but remember—their purpose is to help you recall important details about the text, not to fulfill requirements for an art class. “Stick dude”-level art skills are perfectly acceptable. If you’re an artist, feel free to knock yourself out.

Below are some introductory videos that explain how sketchnotes are created. I encourage you to search for sketchnote examples (both video and images) to decide if they will be a more helpful way for you to process the characters, themes, and ideas of the major works we will be studying this year.

The Basics of Visual Notetaking

The Power of Sketchnotes

Basic Sketchnote Tips

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Short Story Bootcamp: Writing Assignment

Now that you and your cohort have had an opportunity to read and discuss your selected short story, it is time to move to the final skill of the bootcamp: writing a literary analysis paper. Using a retired AP prompt as a guide, you will will select and analyze specific textual evidence from your story in order to support a coherent thesis.
  1. Choose a character and write an essay in which you (a) briefly describe the standards of the fictional society in which the character exists and (b) show how the character is affected by and responds to those standards.
  2. Identify a specific inanimate object (e.g., a seashell, a handkerchief, a painting) that is important in your story, and write an essay in which you show how two or three of the purposes the object serves are related to one another.
  3. The significance of a title such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is so easy to discover. However, in other works (for example, Measure for Measure) the full significance of the title becomes apparent to the reader only gradually. Show how the significance of the title of your story is developed through the author’s use of devices such as contrast, repetition, allusion, and point of view.
  4. An effective literary work does not merely stop or cease; it concludes. In the view of some critics, a work that does not provide the pleasure of significant closure has terminated with an artistic fault. A satisfactory ending is not, however, always conclusive in every sense; significant closure may require the reader to abide with or adjust to ambiguity and uncertainty. In an essay, explain precisely how and why the ending of your story appropriately or inappropriately concludes the work.
  5. Choose an implausible or strikingly unrealistic incident or character in your story. Write an essay that explains how the incident or character is related to the more realistic or plausible elements in the rest of the work.
  6. Select a moment or scene in your story that you find especially memorable. Write an essay in which you identify the line or the passage, explain its relationship to the work, and analyze the reasons for its effectiveness.
While you can analyze the nonfiction pieces in AP Language and Composition using the rhetorical triangle (Purpose/Audience/Speaker), literary works require a different approach. A literary work rarely has a stated or implied purpose the way an essay or editorial will; instead, a literary work will more likely explore a universal theme or idea of some kind, like coming of age, sacrifice, epiphany, etc. Your essay should focus on what the author is employing (point of view, setting, specific diction, etc.), how that tool is being used (look for patterns of words/phrases, how the story structure reveals information, where in the narrative or dialogue the technique is being employed, etc.), and why (what point about love/honor/growth or what have you is the author intending to make).
Here’s an example of the what—>how—>why relationship applied to Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”:


Vonnegut’s fantastic imagery (what) reaches its climax when Harrison and his chosen empress abandon “Not only…the laws of the land…, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well” and “leap like deer on the moon.” (how – examples from text) These improbable actions underscore the absurdity of their situation and the lengths people are willing to go to overcome it. (why)

Because your paper should be limited to two pages, choose your evidence carefully. Remember, you are not expected to comment on every aspect of your selected story. Focus on selecting multiple examples from the text that support your thesis. Avoid the “drive-by” reference (Hey, look! A symbol! On to the next paragraph…). Your goal should be to create a persuasive case for your answer to the prompt, revealed through your reading/interpretation of the story and its construction.


  1. Your cohort is encouraged to mark your story text and comment using a Google Doc through Collaborations in Canvas. 
  2. Cohort members should assist each other in the writing process by providing feedback, answering questions, and suggesting evidence to support an individual writer’s chosen prompt.
  3. Final papers must follow standard rules for formal paper submission. The first page of the document should list your name, name of course and instructor, and the date. Your last name and page number go in the document header. The whole paper should be in 12 pt., left-justified, and double-spaced. You don’t have to use TNR, but you do need to choose a professional-looking, readable typeface–this is a paper, not a party invitation. If you do not know how to format documents properly, ASK. A title is not required, but an appropriate and thoughtful one is welcome. Name your file Bootcamp QuestionNumber LastName: Bootcamp Q3 Smith, for example.
  4. Papers will be scored using the AP 6-point scale.
  5. Papers are due Wednesday, September 16 to Canvas by 11:59 pm. At midnight, your grade turns into a pumpkin.

As always, if you have questions, see me. Happy writing!

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Short Story Bootcamp: Writing Prep

bootsWe’re in the home stretch of our short story boot camp, and now it’s time for you to put your knowledge to work. You will work with a cohort to discuss and analyze a story from an assigned group. The ultimate objective is to write a paper about the story which uses specific examples from the selected text to answer an AP-style prompt.

Your cohort will complete the following tasks:

  • Read and discuss your story – you may mark your electronic copy either with notes/highlighting in Google Docs or through a PDF markup tool like Acrobat or Kami
  • Select an AP prompt from a provided list
  • Collaborate to plan and write a formal paper – all members of the cohort should assist each other in gathering evidence and refining the paper draft

You and your cohort should confer to select ONE story from your assigned group. You may access/download a copy of your story from the following links:


Gina Berriault, “The Stone Boy

Ha Jin, “Saboteur

Tillie Olson, “I Stand Here Ironing

Alice Walker, “Everyday Use


Sherman Alexie, “This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona

William Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily

Frank O’Connor, “First Confession

Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, “The Medicine Bag


Arthur C. Clarke, “The Nine Billion Names of God

Nadine Gordimer, “Once Upon a Time

Ursula K. LeGuin, “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas

Gabriel García Márquez, “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World


In your cohort, you will first discuss and expand your knowledge and understanding of your selected story. Use the Literary Elements diagram to guide your analysis and discussion. Consider which of the tools are being employed in a way that reveals the author’s overall meaning in the story. For example, John Updike’s “A&P” is successful because of his choice of the first person point of view, which helps to create the indelible character of Sammy the checkout clerk. You can discuss strong characterization, the success of the use of dialogue, diction and syntax choices that reveal tone, how symbols in the story convey meaning—your choices are open. You could also refer to the Exploring and Identifying Theme handout to begin crafting a MOWAW for your story. Remember, a statement of meaning cannot be a single word; it must be expressed in a phrase.

Your discussion and analysis will be used to select a prompt for your final 500-word paper, which will be due next week. Prompts will be made available tomorrow.

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Their Eyes Were Watching God Foldable


Hurston’s novel embodies the philosophy of visual thinking as the narrator says: “There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.”

As old Nanny sits rocking Janie in the second chapter, “Mind pictures brought feelings, and feelings dragged out dramas from the hollows of her heart.”  Using construction paper, printed images, colored pencils, or whatever other art supplies you choose, you will visually organize the plot, the literary techniques, and the character changes Janie undergoes. By developing this foldable, we can trace the changes in Janie through the four phases of her life.


Begin with a sheet of 11×17 paper. Fold the paper in half, then fold each edge into the center. Crease along the center to form a booklet. While the paper is still folded into a booklet, print the title, and author’s name, and your name on the outside to make a cover. You may decorate this how you choose.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is a frame story, with the beginning and end chapters consisting of Janie’s return to Eatonville and her conversation with Pheoby which frame the flashback segments making up the middle part of the book. Opening the booklet will reveal the opening and closing parts of the frame.

LEFT FLAP: Write about the opening chapter where Janie walks down the street, ignoring the porch sitters as she returns to Eatonville and begins to tell her story to Pheoby. What is your initial impression of Janie? Use illustrations or quotations to explain your perception.

RIGHT FLAP: On the right flap, write about the closing chapter. Janie finishes her conversation with Pheoby, who is amazed by Janie’s transformation. Using illustrations and quotations from Chapter 20, show us how Janie—and your perception of her—has changed.

CENTER SECTIONS: Folding back the flaps will reveal the center, which is creased into four sections. In this novel, Janie journeys through four stages of life in her quest for respect, independence, and wholeness. Each of the four sections of the foldable represents one of those stages. Her life is controlled by others in the first three stages, first her grandmother (Nanny), then Logan Killicks, and Joe (Jody) Starks. After Jody’s death, she is able to make her own decisions leading to her relationship to Tea Cake, and she begins to celebrate her own worth and independence. You will illustrate and explain the stages of her journey, helping you draw conclusions about her character development.


  • Give each section a title that expresses what that section is about.
  • In each section sketch one visual image (a symbol or icon that you think most expresses an important part of that section; it can be an object, a visual image of an event or place essential to this part of the story) that stands out to you, and use colors that remind you of the mood, setting, or characters. Explain the importance of that symbol or image. EXAMPLE: an axe could symbolize that Logan at first chops wood for Janie, but later they fight over his demands that she chop wood and work in the fields.
  • Write about the events in that section, especially the ones that lead to a change in Janie, using quotes from the text. Information in each panel can include where Janie lived, the person who most influenced her life, events of that part of the story, and how Janie changed to meet the challenges of these events and influences. DON’T JUST SUMMARIZE THE STORY. You must use quotes in each section that show stages of Janie’s journey and character development and explain their meaning.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is rich in symbols, imagery, metaphor, and other literary devices. I strongly suggest you complete each section of the project as you finish reading the appropriate chapters. That way, you won’t have to go back and hunt for specifics as you complete each section.

Your project will be graded on its completeness, attention to detail, evidence of thoughtful interpretation, and presentation. This isn’t an art class, so the quality of your art (i.e. hand-drawn vs. pasted images) isn’t the issue, but everyone is expected to submit a neat and professional-looking project.

Untitled painting of Eatonville life, painted c. 1930-40 by Jules Andre Smith, founder of the Research Studio, now known as the Maitland Art Center.

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Judging LOTF by the Cover

Although we’re often warned not to judge books by their covers, that’s exactly what we do. The cover art for a book is the first signal to the reader about the contents within, and a good cover can have a huge influence on whether a prospective reader will not only pick it up, but delve inside. Many readers will judge whether they might like a book solely on how the book appears. Hence, publishers pay close attention to how a book is presented.

Image result for past covers lord of the fliesChristopher King, the art director for the American publishing house Melville House, explored some of the design choices for Lord of the Flies in this post. One of the featured covers is for the 1980 Perigee edition found on the book you’re using, featuring artwork by California artist Barron Storey. Consider the differences between that cover and the current cover of the 2006 update by artist Ben Gibson.Image result for past covers lord of the flies 



In late 2011, the British publisher Faber and Faber, in association with the national newspaper Guardian, launched a cover competition for the centenary edition of Lord of the Flies. Since this edition was intended for the education market, only young artists aged 13-16 were invited to compete.

The official site for the competition included a gallery of past covers of Lord of the Flies in addition to the finalist entries from the contest. Review some of the historical covers in the Melville House post and compare them to one of the galleries from the competition below to see how cover design has changed since 1953. How does each cover reveal a different aspect or perception of the novel?

Gallery of competition entries from The Guardian

Gallery of competition entries from HuffPost UK


In the end, the judges unanimously selected the mixed media work of 15-year-old Sarah Baxter as the contest winner. An interview with Sarah was published in The Guardian. Her artwork was published in September, 2012 when Faber and Faber released the UK education edition of Lord of the Flies.

Explore the artwork further. What has Ms. Baxter included in her artwork that speaks to the plot, characters, and themes of the novel? Do you find this to be a successful cover? Is it intriguing? Would you have selected a different work as the winner? Which cover works better for the novel, the new US cover above, or the British cover? Considering these details can lead you to greater insight into the novel within.

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Poetry Journal Instructions


As part of our continuing study of poetry, you will be keeping a journal of annotated poems and your commentary. Completing the journal tasks will help you with your facility and understanding of poetry as a genre and should aid in your reading and writing about poetry in preparation for both class assignments and the AP exam.

Each chapter of Sound and Sense is structured in the same way. The opening part of the chapter contains an explanation of the aspect of poetry being studied, with a small number of poems to illustrate the aspect (usually 2-4). A number of poems are included after the explanation for additional study. These are delineated in the table of contents by a line separating the parts of the chapter.

You will be preparing three journal entries for each chapter. Each entry should be assembled in the journal the same way. On a right-hand page, tape or glue a copy of the poem. I suggest you search for the poem and print a copy rather than hand-copying, especially if the poem is lengthy. Be sure to leave some space around the poem for annotation.

Annotation methods vary from student to student, but the goal of any method should be increased depth of thinking about the poem. The TPCASTT and Color Marking methods you have pasted into the inside front cover of the journal can guide your thinking. Instructions on both may also be found here.

On the corresponding left-hand page, you will be completing a task. This task will differ depending on which section of the chapter you are working with.



Please complete your entries in the following order:

ENTRY 1: Practice Poem
Read the entire explanatory section of the chapter, including all of the poems used in the explanation. Select one poem of at least ten lines in the section for your journal entry. Complete your annotation. On the left-hand page, answer the questions provided in the chapter for your selected poem.

ENTRY 2: Analysis Poem
Select one poem of at least ten lines from the section for additional study. Annotate the poem carefully. On the left-hand side, complete the Gimme Three Steps method pasted into the inside back cover of your journal. List any appropriate notes you need, drawing conclusions about overall patterns rather than listing all details, and create a two-step thesis as directed.

ENTRY 3: Reaction Poem
Select a second poem of at least ten lines from the section for additional study. Annotate the poem carefully. On the left-hand side, write a thoughtful reaction to the poem. What do you notice about it? What makes it interesting? Pleasing? Challenging? What overall impression do you have about what this poem is trying to communicate? Refer to specific quotations in the poem where appropriate.

Your careful journal work will help you with poetry analysis and writing questions in both the multiple choice and free response sections of the AP exam. Try to vary the types and styles of poems you select; think about period, form, style, etc. as you choose. We will be focusing on a chapter in Sound and Sense about every two weeks. Please label all pages of your journal entry with the chapter number for reference. You should bring your copy of Sound and Sense and your prepared journal to class that day for checkoff.

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Poetry Review, Tumblr Style

Perhaps you’ve seen this image floating about on the Interwebs:


Of course it’s hilarious if you’ve ever read The Lord of the Rings, but it’s also fairly instructive at reinforcing some simple poetry analysis. Let’s take a look:

STRUCTURE: Divisions within a poem, like stanzas, present ideas in smaller chunks to consider. The clearest division in this poem obviously occurs between the first two lines and the four that follow. The division is signaled not only by the line break, but also by the switch to all caps.

DICTION, IMAGERY, and PERSONIFICATION: Note the difference between the verbs “stop,” “go,” and “wait” in the first two lines and “kneel” and “stares” in the final four, which add to the sense of foreboding. In a like manner, the personification of the normal and friendly red, green, and “twinkling” yellow lights shifts to the “demon light” of the final four lines, its “eye of coal” a dark and unsettling presence in the driver’s world. Not only does it exist, but the “demon light” “knows your license plate,” suggesting that perhaps you might slow down a bit and stop throwing trash out the window when you think no one’s looking.

METER: The repetitive pattern of the first two lines stresses the initial verbs to give them emphasis, followed by an almost sing-song rhythm of explanation ending in the throwaway rhyme and thin “ee” vowel sound of “green” and “between.” After the shift, the metrical pattern changes. Although “kneel” receives the same initial emphasis, the following line contains a different pattern, with stress falling on the “de” in “demon,” “eye,” and “coal.” The lighter rhythm of the first two lines is supplanted by harsher words and harder accents. The new pattern’s stresses lean harder on the words “coal” and “soul,” adding to the negative tone of the second part of the poem.

ALLUSION: Anyone who’s read The Lord of the Rings or seen the films is familiar with Sauron, who forged the One Ring of Power during the Second Age to rule the rings he created for the kings of men, elves, and dwarves. Sauron’s blazing eye is the key disembodied antagonist threatening Frodo and the Fellowship and their mission to destroy the One Ring in Mount Doom and free Middle Earth. Alluding to Sauron reinforces the idea that the “demon light” not only knows your license plate, but ideas about yourself and the secrets you’re hiding.

Quite a lot for such a little poem, but there’s always more to think about in a poem if you’re willing to look closely.

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