Tag Archives: lit circles

Lit Circles: Novel Choices

In preparation for Literature Circles, please review the following information about the books. You will select a book of your choice and join in a circle with 3-5 members of your class. During class Friday, we will review lit circle procedures, deadlines, and assignments. You will receive a copy of your book at that time, so have your first and second choices in mind.

1984 by George Orwell

1984Published in 1949, Nineteen Eighty-Four offers political satirist George Orwell’s nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor stiff’s attempt to find individuality. The brilliance of the novel is Orwell’s prescience of modern life–the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language–and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Orwell’s vision of a future in which truth is fluid, privacy is gone, and even your thoughts can be enough to send you to prison ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written.


The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

handmaidOffred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…everything has changed.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

bnwThe 1931 debut of Brave New World reflected the fears European society held after the Great War and how the explosion of technology and industry would impact individual identity. Huxley’s darkly satiric vision of the future envisions a “utopian” world of tomorrow in which capitalist civilization has been reconstituted through the most efficient scientific and psychological engineering, where humans are genetically bred and pharmaceutically anesthetized to passively serve a ruling order–and what happens when a “savage” asking questions about humanity, society, and love shows up.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

cuckooBoisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering, Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has left an indelible mark on the literature of our time. Turning conventional notions of sanity and insanity on their heads, the novel tells the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her. We see the story through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-Indian patient who witnesses and understands McMurphy’s heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them all imprisoned.

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Thug Notes: Lit Circles Novels

Sparky Sweets, Ph. D., is a big fan of messed up dystopias, y’all! Salty language and adult themes ahead. Proceed with caution.

And because Dr. Sweets hasn’t gotten around to it yet, here’s the Shmoop review of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest:

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Lit Circles: Play Choices

In preparation for Literature Circles, please review the following information about the plays. You will select a play of your choice and join in a circle with 3-5 members of your class. During class Wednesday, November 30, we will review lit circle procedures, deadlines, and assignments. You will receive a copy of your play at that time, so have your first and second choices in mind.

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

Norwegian-born Henrik Ibsen’s classic play about the struggle between independence and security still resonates with readers and audience members today. Often hailed as an early feminist work, the story of Nora and Torvald rises above simple gender issues to ask the bigger question: To what extent have we sacrificed our selves for the sake of social customs and to protect what we think is love? Nora’s struggle and ultimate realizations about her life invite all of us to examine our own lives and find the many ways we have made ourselves dolls and playthings in the hands of forces we believe to be beyond our control.

Equus by Peter Shaffer

EquusAn explosive play that took critics and audiences by storm, Equus is Peter Shaffer’s exploration of the way modern society has destroyed our ability to feel passion. Alan Strang is a disturbed youth whose dangerous obsession with horses leads him to commit an unspeakable act of violence. As psychiatrist Martin Dysart struggles to understand the motivation for Alan’s brutality, he is increasingly drawn into Alan’s web and eventually forced to question his own sanity. Equus is a timeless classic and a cornerstone of contemporary drama that delves into the darkest recesses of human existence.

Fences by August Wilson

From August Wilson, author of the ten-part “Pittsburgh Cycle” of plays dramatizing the African-American experience in the twentieth century, comes this powerful, stunning work that won the 1987 Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize. The protagonist of Fences, Troy Maxson, is a strong man, a hard man. He has had to be to survive. Troy has gone through life in an America where to be proud and black is to face pressures that could crush a man, body and soul. But the 1950s are yielding to the new spirit of liberation in the 1960s, a spirit that is changing the world Troy has learned to deal with the only way he can, a spirit that is making him a stranger, angry and afraid, in a world he never knew and to a wife and son he understands less and less.

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

raisin2Set on Chicago’s South Side, the plot revolves around the divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger family: son Walter Lee, his wife Ruth, his sister Beneatha, his son Travis and matriarch Lena, called Mama. When her deceased husband’s insurance money comes through, Mama dreams of moving to a new home and a better neighborhood in Chicago. Walter Lee, a chauffeur, has other plans, however: buying a liquor store and being his own man. Beneatha dreams of medical school. The tensions and prejudice they face form this seminal American drama. Sacrifice, trust and love among the Younger family and their heroic struggle to retain dignity in a harsh and changing world is a searing and timeless document of hope and inspiration.

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Lit Circles: Blogging


The online discussion is a place where you will respond to your selected work by recording your thoughts, feelings, reactions, and questions. Two key questions to ask yourself when you are preparing each blog post are:

  • What was going on inside my head?
  • What was I visualizing?

Your blog posts should arise from your thoughtful reading. Here are four possible ways to structure your post during each reading section.


Consider what the author is doing and offer criticism or questions concerning the author’s style:

  1. Tell what you like about a particular phrase/part: include the reference.
  2. Discuss the writer’s style of writing, explain what you like or don’t like about it. Explain how it is effective in conveying a meaning. Why would the author choose to use it? Make sure to include a brief example of it.
  3. Write down striking words, images, phrases, or details. Speculate about them. Why did the author choose them? What do they add to the story? Why did you notice them?
  4. Identify any gaps or ambiguities in the text.
  5. Try arguing with the writer. On what points, or about what issues do you agree or disagree with them on?
  6. Point out effective examples of figurative language (or other literary devices) and explain why they are effective.
  7. Discuss an emotional response you felt towards a character or event in the novel (shock, surprise, fear, happiness, relief, etc.). Why do you think it affected you the way it did?


Look closely and critically about the characters, setting and events (plot):

  1. Give your opinion about how a character should have worked out a conflict.
  2. Tell what makes a particular character/setting appealing to you.
  3. Explain the importance of one of the secondary characters.
  4. Share how events of this novel have caused a change in your views.
  5. Discuss the qualities of a character you dislike and explain why.
  6. Analyze whether your knowledge of a character was gained mostly from what s/he does, what s/he says, or what is said about him/her by others.
  7. Discuss ways in which the character changed throughout your reading and what caused those changes.
  8. Examine the values/personality of a character you like and explain why.
  9. Examine the values/personality of a character you dislike and explain why.
  10. Discuss how the setting contributes to or affects the events/characters of the novel.


Explain the relationship between the text and self, text and other text, or text and world:

  1. Compare an event/belief in the story with a similar one in your own life.
  2. Compare a character’s emotional response with yours in a similar situation.
  3. Compare and/or contrast the society of this novel to the one you live in.
  4. Compare and/or contrast two characters/ideas/beliefs that appear in the same book, or in a different novel, movie, etc.
  5. Compare and/or contrast events/beliefs in the novel to events/beliefs in the real world.


Raise questions about the text:

  1. Question the author’s writing style, character’s actions, events that unfold, etc.

Ex. “Why would the author choose to omit details about Mason’s childhood when……”

  1. Offer a suggestion or prediction for your questions.
  2. What perplexes you about a particular passage?
  3. Try beginning with, “I wonder why…” or “I’m having trouble understanding how…”
  4. Think of your journal as a place where you can carry on a dialogue with the author or with text in which you actually speak with him or her. Ask questions and then have the writer or character respond.

Blog Responses/Replies

Since the online environment is a kind of conversation, you will also be expected to respond to others’ posts. To create a response:

  1. Read the original post carefully.
  2. Consider the type of response in the original post to help you tailor your response. You might extend on a COMMENT by adding additional information, deepen the ANALYSIS offered, CONNECT further or suggest a different relationship, or provide textual evidence as a potential answer for a QUESTION.
  3. Your response does not have to be as long as an original post, but it should be thoughtful and complete.

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