An Introduction to Marxist Criticism

Like to shop? According to Marxist Critical Theory your impulse is not an act of your own free will, but rather a reaction to the ideologies and economic hierarchies of your era that compel you to want to spend money.

Want to get married? In Marx's day marriage was not a decision based on love, but rather an economic-based institution that perpetuated the oppression of women.

Do you find yourself admiring beautiful people? Marxists would say you are engaging in an ideology that rewards certain attributes of some at the expense of others in order to create competition, a necessary ingredient in a capitalist-based system. Steady competition feeds a cyclical system that is set up by those in power to provide immense wealth for those in power—the wealthy.

Karl Marx was a social psychologist whose later work shifted toward the economic systems that control human behavior. Marx believed that if a critical theory did not take into consideration the economic realities of the era under consideration, then the theory was fatally flawed. He believed economic systems are the foundation of all human behavior. He also believed that those with wealth and power are controlling the system in such a way that insures they stay on top and that there are always plenty at the bottom.

In her book Critical Theory Today, Lois Tyson writes, “In Marxist terminology, economic conditions are referred to as material circumstances, and the social/political/ideological atmosphere generated by material conditions is called the historical situation” (54). Tyson explains that each historical situation produces it own unique set of constraints and circumstances that need to be taken into consideration when one is studying any aspect of human nature, and especially when taking a Marxist perspective on literature.

Tyson points out that authors may select particular societal ideologies to focus on in their work and indeed this may be a purposeful act, an attempt to make others aware of situations in society, but other ideologies are so inherent to the particular era that the author may not even be aware of them. He or she may be inadvertently perpetuating an ideology without any awareness of doing so. Think about how your awareness of some tradition or ritual or aspect of your life or life in general has evolved over time. When you looked on this tradition as a child, wasn’t it different than how you view it now? It isn’t until well after publication that some authors may become aware of how their work was affected by the historical situation—some will be long dead by the time this particular ideology becomes recognizable.
Sociological theorists, like Reader Response critics, recognize that they themselves may be affected by their own ideologies because they themselves are embedded in a system that is constantly in flux, but it is the job of the sociological critic to think critically about social systems and to point out the historical situations and economic-based "situations" that control, or at least shape, human behavior. Often, even the most mundane actions—like shopping—are examples that a Marxist would point out as representations of how our actions are controlled by economic-based power structures. Marriage is another social custom that sociologists love to explore.

The main concept of Marxism that you need to keep in mind for purposes of this introductory course is: historical situations produce concrete conditions wherein powerful economic systems control human behavior. Read more about this dialectic here.

It is also important to note that Marx developed a particular dislike for capitalist systems because of their ability to keep the wealthy, wealthy and the poor, poor. He dreamed of equality-based systems where people worked, powered by their own free will, and the spoils that this collective of individuals produced would be equally divided among the members.

There has never been a true Marxist society although researchers have recently pointed to a few tribal populations who have come very close to this ideal.

Creative Commons
Below, I have listed a few questions that are designed to deepen your analysis of the text from the sociological perspective, although it is important to note that sociology is an enormous field, both historically and in the scope and position of theoretical arguments. For our purposes in this introductory literature course, I have distilled only a portion of some fundamental questions for you to ponder.

Questions a Sociological Theorist might ask:
1. How is the need and/or desire for money and economic stability motivating the actions of the characters? How do oppressive socio-economic forces (including repressive ideologies like racism) affect the characters?

If you are choosing to write about the The Flowers Click here for a link to an article on the structural racism that occurred in S. Central LA leading up to the Watt's Riots and think about how racism worked to support those in power.

2. What is the historical situation in this novel and how are these characters influenced and/or participating in this invisible yet powerful system? How does the literary work reflect (intentionally or not) the social conditions of the historical situation and what do those conditions reveal about the history of class struggle?

3. What does this narrative say about family? How are the families connected and/or disconnected by the historical situation? How do culture and ethnicity shape the characters' behaviors?


Here is some great fodder for a Marxist Critic from today's New York Times on the topic of extending Bush's tax break to the rich that is about expire:

"[Republican] Conservatives say that to do anything other than extending tax cuts to everyone would amount to “class warfare.”

The best response to that notion comes from Warren E. Buffett: “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, two academic economists, provide data to back up Mr. Buffett’s view. They show that the proportion of income earned by the top 1 percent of American families was about 10 percent of the national total from 1945 to 1979. Since 1980, that share has doubled, reaching about 20 percent in 2008 — or more, if capital gains are included.

The growth rate has been even faster for the ultrarich [my emphasis added]— those in the top one-hundredth of 1 percent in income."

The Rich Are Getting MUCH Richer Now

According to the New York Times article above, research by economists Saez and Picketty reveal that "From 2000 to 2007, incomes for the bottom 90 percent of earners rose only about 4 percent, once adjusted for inflation. For the top 0.1 percent, incomes climbed about 94 percent."

The tax rates for the ultra rich fell dramatically during this time

The New York Times
April 13, 2012    

Bill Marsh/The New York Time

Sources: Emmanuel Saez, University of California, Berkeley, and Thomas Piketty, Paris School of Economics;

 Census Bureau (median income change from 1960 to 2004)

Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company

What is Plutocracy?

Who are the 1%
You can read Bedford St. Martin's definition of Marxist Literary theory here.

If you are interested in learning more about Karl Marx's theories, Check Out this link to Hal Draper's 1970's research on Marx and Engel's views on marriage, love and family. Keep in mind that, while this research was authored by Draper at the height of the feminist movement in the 1970s, the article analyzes sociological writings penned by Marx and Friedrich Engel during the 19th century. Draper, who died in 1990, also wrote Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution, which is still considered a seminal work on Marxist theory. Here is an excerpt of Marx's The Communist Manifesto.


A Marxist Perspective...

In News from Nowhere, William Morris, 19th century poet and artist, warned  "that individual men cannot shuffle off the business of life on to the shoulders of an abstraction called the State, but must deal with it in conscious association with each other..."


John Steinbeck 

John Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle received mostly praise and rose to the best-sellers list when it was published in 1936, but this mostly positive reaction was in stark contrast to the controversy garnered by his epic novel, The Grapes of Wrath, which was published three years later. The Grapes of Wrath was the center of much controversy perhaps because his point of view in the second novel shifted from In Dubious Battle's mostly objective account, that painted both sides of the "battle" in dark tones, to a clear condemnation of the powerful over the weak in California's farming industry. In Kern County (Bakersfield) the book was banned from the public library and copies were burned in the public square. This protest stirred national attention during a time when labor rights movements were very much a part of the daily news. In fact, Steinbeck started writing In Dubious Battle only months after one of the west coast's most violent strikes, Bloody Thursday,  which he references several times in the novel.

For both novels, Steinbeck, who had worked as a reporter, gathered first had accounts from migrant workers and strikers and spent extensive time living and traveling to regions in Central California where the growing industrial agricultural industry was the primary employer. Although strikers, organizers and migrant workers are the main characters in In Dubious Battle, Steinbeck himself claimed that this novel was not simply a historical recounting of  Big Business v. Worker. His protagonist, Jim Nolan, was the primary interest for Steinbeck as was his exploration of human behavior and how this behavior was affected by group behavior and/or group or societal norms.

Despite winning the Pulitzer and the Nobel Prize, scholars have pointed out that Steinbeck was very much a product of his historical situation. His portraits of women, for example, exemplify the traditional patriarchal mindset of the 1930s. Feminist critics have pointed out that even though Steinbeck met Caroline Decker, A Communist Party Organizer, during is travels to the Central Valley and knew that she was working actively to help organize strikes, he chose to leave out these contributions and, instead, portray Lisa as little more than a powerless, objectified victim in a male dominated world. His decision to focus on only "okie" migrant workers, during a time when immigrants already had a long history and made up the majority of workers on California farms, reflects an era before 'diversity, 'pluralism' and 'muticulturalism' had taken hold of the American socio-political system.

Link to Farmworker's Rights and Labor Rights

National Steinbeck Center in Salinas California

Setting: The Great Depression
Steinbeck chronology

Information gathered on the website for the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University provides an interesting perspective on Steinbeck's life and interests.

According to the Center for Steinbeck Studies, "In response to both the positive and negative criticism of the novel's realism, Steinbeck admitted he was more interested in the philosophical underpinnings of the work than the action and did not intend for In Dubious Battle to be a propagandist piece for Communists."  In a letter to friend George Albee Steinbeck explains:

I don't know how much I have got over, but I have used a small strike in an orchard valley as the symbol of man's eternal, bitter warfare with himself.  I'm not interested in strike as a means of raising men's wages, and I'm not interested in ranting about justice or oppression, mere outcroppings which indicate the condition.  But man hates something in himself. [. . .] And this self-hate which goes so closely with self-love is what I wrote about.  (qtd. in Benson 304)
David Brooks and Morality of Youth

David Brooks and Morality and Groups

Many scholars consider In Dubious Battle to be one of Steinbeck's best novels, though it has been overshadowed by The Grapes of Wrath.  Although In Dubious Battle tackles similar themes and situations as The Grapes of Wrath, it received notably less critical acclaimeven though they both center on the plight of migrant workers.

Steinbeck Glog

Key Terms in Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle

You Tube on Pixley/Latino Farmworkers

Overview of Communism

Occupy Oakland

Occupy Wall Street


Poet-Bashing Police/Published in Sunday's New York Times 11/19/11

Berkeley, Calif.
Robert Hass, a Pulitzer Prize winner and UC Berkeley professor.
"LIFE, I found myself thinking as a line of Alameda County deputy sheriffs in Darth Vader riot gear formed a cordon in front of me on a recent night on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, is full of strange contingencies.  The deputy sheriffs, all white men, except for one young woman, perhaps Filipino, who was trying to look severe but looked terrified, had black truncheons in their gloved hands that reporters later called batons and that were known, in the movies of my childhood, as billy clubs.

The first contingency that came to mind was the quick spread of the Occupy movement. The idea of occupying public space was so appealing that people in almost every large city in the country had begun to stake them out, including students at Berkeley, who, on that November night, occupied the public space in front of Sproul Hall, a gray granite Beaux-Arts edifice that houses the registrar’s offices and, in the basement, the campus police department.

It is also the place where students almost 50 years ago touched off the Free Speech Movement, which transformed the life of American universities by guaranteeing students freedom of speech and self-governance. The steps are named for Mario Savio, the eloquent undergraduate student who was the symbolic face of the movement. There is even a Free Speech Movement Cafe on campus where some of Mr. Savio’s words are prominently displayed: “There is a time ... when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part.”

Earlier that day a colleague had written to say that the campus police had moved in to take down the Occupy tents and that students had been “beaten viciously.” I didn’t believe it. In broad daylight? And without provocation? So when we heard that the police had returned, my wife, Brenda Hillman, and I hurried to the campus. I wanted to see what was going to happen and how the police behaved, and how the students behaved. If there was trouble, we wanted to be there to do what we could to protect the students.

Once the cordon formed, the deputy sheriffs pointed their truncheons toward the crowd. It looked like the oldest of military maneuvers, a phalanx out of the Trojan War, but with billy clubs instead of spears. The students were wearing scarves for the first time that year, their cheeks rosy with the first bite of real cold after the long Californian Indian summer. The billy clubs were about the size of a boy’s Little League baseball bat. My wife was speaking to the young deputies about the importance of nonviolence and explaining why they should be at home reading to their children, when one of the deputies reached out, shoved my wife in the chest and knocked her down.

Another of the contingencies that came to my mind was a moment 30 years ago when Ronald Reagan’s administration made it a priority to see to it that people like themselves, the talented, hardworking people who ran the country, got to keep the money they earned. Roosevelt’s New Deal had to be undealt once and for all. A few years earlier, California voters had passed an amendment freezing the property taxes that finance public education and installing a rule that required a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature to raise tax revenues. My father-in-law said to me at the time, “It’s going to take them 50 years to really see the damage they’ve done.” But it took far fewer than 50 years.

My wife bounced nimbly to her feet. I tripped and almost fell over her trying to help her up, and at that moment the deputies in the cordon surged forward and, using their clubs as battering rams, began to hammer at the bodies of the line of students. It was stunning to see. They swung hard into their chests and bellies. Particularly shocking to me — it must be a generational reaction — was that they assaulted both the young men and the young women with the same indiscriminate force. If the students turned away, they pounded their ribs. If they turned further away to escape, they hit them on their spines.

NONE of the police officers invited us to disperse or gave any warning. We couldn’t have dispersed if we’d wanted to because the crowd behind us was pushing forward to see what was going on. The descriptor for what I tried to do is “remonstrate.” I screamed at the deputy who had knocked down my wife, “You just knocked down my wife, for Christ’s sake!” A couple of students had pushed forward in the excitement and the deputies grabbed them, pulled them to the ground and cudgeled them, raising the clubs above their heads and swinging. The line surged. I got whacked hard in the ribs twice and once across the forearm. Some of the deputies used their truncheons as bars and seemed to be trying to use minimum force to get people to move. And then, suddenly, they stopped, on some signal, and reformed their line. Apparently a group of deputies had beaten their way to the Occupy tents and taken them down. They stood, again immobile, clubs held across their chests, eyes carefully meeting no one’s eyes, faces impassive. I imagined that their adrenaline was surging as much as mine.

My ribs didn’t hurt very badly until the next day and then it hurt to laugh, so I skipped the gym for a couple of mornings, and I was a little disappointed that the bruises weren’t slightly more dramatic. It argued either for a kind of restraint or a kind of low cunning in the training of the police. They had hit me hard enough so that I was sore for days, but not hard enough to leave much of a mark. I wasn’t so badly off. One of my colleagues, also a poet, Geoffrey O’Brien, had a broken rib. Another colleague, Celeste Langan, a Wordsworth scholar, got dragged across the grass by her hair when she presented herself for arrest.

I won’t recite the statistics, but the entire university system in California is under great stress and the State Legislature is paralyzed by a minority of legislators whose only idea is that they don’t want to pay one more cent in taxes. Meanwhile, students at Berkeley are graduating with an average indebtedness of something like $16,000. It is no wonder that the real estate industry started inventing loans for people who couldn’t pay them back.

“Whose university?” the students had chanted. Well, it is theirs, and it ought to be everyone else’s in California. It also belongs to the future, and to the dead who paid taxes to build one of the greatest systems of public education in the world.

The next night the students put the tents back up. Students filled the plaza again with a festive atmosphere. And lots of signs. (The one from the English Department contingent read “Beat Poets, not beat poets.”) A week later, at 3:30 a.m., the police officers returned in force, a hundred of them, and told the campers to leave or they would be arrested. All but two moved. The two who stayed were arrested, and the tents were removed. On Thursday afternoon when I returned toward sundown to the steps to see how the students had responded, the air was full of balloons, helium balloons to which tents had been attached, and attached to the tents was kite string. And they hovered over the plaza, large and awkward, almost lyrical, occupying the air.

Robert Hass is a professor of poetry and poetics at the University of California, Berkeley, and former poet laureate of the United States.


Mike Rose's The Mind At Work documents the cognitive and social complexities of American workers.

Journal Prompt #1:
In chapter one, Rose writes about his mother and how "her story serves as a reminder that work is both grounded on and shapes personal history, and thus reveals motives, desires, values and one's sense of who one is" (Intro xxxi) In a well-developed essay, reflect on your own family history and how the careers of your parents or other elders have influenced who you are today. What do you value about the work those who raised you?

In his book "The Mind at Work," Mike Rose examines the working lives of a variety of American workers. In the first chapter he interviews his mother about her work as a waitress and explains the cognitive demands and social complexities of that job. I have also worked as a waitress and I could relate to the description of the challenges of waitressing depicted in this chapter. Like Rose's family, my family also placed a high value on hard work.

My father was a high school teacher and my mother worked hard in our home. Both of my parents took pride in their occupations. Whenever we ran into one of my father's former students, they greeted him warmly and I could tell he was a good teacher based on these frequent exchanges. My mother worked tirelessly in the home. She ironed sheets, hand towels and my dresses with such rigid perfection that an observer might have wondered what important guest was coming to dinner. My mother was also a nutrition major, so meals were designed around the four food groups. Strange vegetables would often appear on my plate and I was given no choice but to finish everything. I did hide the remains of a mysterious casserole in the plant on my way to the bathroom one time, but usually I was obedient and ate what I was given without complaint. There was already a strong understanding between food and work that gained clarity at the dinner table. Throwing away food would have been looked on as a major offense given the very real connection I had between the food on the table and my dad's hard work. Work was nothing to scoff at and certainly not anything I would consider disrespecting.

As a child, I was allowed to read, dream, and imagine all day while my parents worked on various tasks both at home and away. My dad often tended to grading on the weekends and evenings and my mother never stopped cleaning the kitchen until the counter and stove gleamed. When he went to work, my mother would go to the grocery store, the drug store, occasionally, the department stores. Everything she purchased was carefully considered, reconsidered, examined, re-examined and some times, even after all of this deliberation, she would more likely than not return the item to the shelf and walk away. The process exhausted me even though I was merely the happy traveler in the cart.

Occasionally all of this work would cease and we would take a trip somewhere and go for a hike or a picnic, but those days seemed so brief in comparison to their working days. My family didn't have much money, especially after they made some poor real estate decisions. I only remember going out to eat a couple of times as a child. I received new toys and books, but only on Christmas and birthdays. They made comfortable use of their earnings, however, and I saw the benefit of labor at an early age. I saw how happy my mother was when she shopped. I observed my father's pleasure when a large meal was spread before him. I felt the sense of security that work brought to our family in a very tangible way.

This is probably why I wanted to work as a teenager. I had already learned the direct connection between work and "having things" and this attraction to things is what made me don a scratchy polyester suit on my first day at Jack-in-the Box at the age of 14. At first, I was assigned to the fryer, which proved to be an incredibly difficult job. In fact, I failed so miserably at this position, the manager soon moved me to drive thru. Although I no longer smelled like french fries and came home with clothes saturated with foul smelling grease, I soon discovered that working the busy drive-thru window wasn't much easier. Operating the cash register, making shakes and filling bags with the right food order while conversing with indecisive customers through the headset proved to be a mind boggling experience. Then there was the humiliation when the voice of a boy I had a crush on came across my headset. I suddenly became aware of the ill-fitting polyester suit and lopsided hat and wanted to leave the seven orders lined up on the counter and flee to the bathroom rather than to face him at the window.

After Jack-in-the-Box, I worked as a waitress in a burger joint. In college, I worked at a night club, then a series of five star restaurants. And that's when the true value of work really kicked in. At first the work to value ratio was great. When I went to school, I came home with a stack of marked up papers. When I came home from work, I came home with thick stack of dollar bills. Those dollar bills quickly become more important than papers. Homework and studying became drudgery compared to socializing and shopping at the local mall. It took about six years of waitressing before I realized how very wrong these conclusions had been. Waitressing was hard work—a tiring, thankless, dirty, mentally and physically exhausting job. At one restaurant I polished all of the brass handrails after working an eight hour shift. Sometimes I moved furniture, cleaned shelves, floors, bathrooms, windows, seats and table legs after my waitressing shift. One job required me to carry a 30 pound tray out to the end of a 50-foot long pier for eight hours straight. Another required me to dance in heels, hold a tray full of pints and long stemmed drinks, and complete complicated mathematical equations while enduring the loud blare and thump of music for, often, up to 10 hours straight. While living at home as a high school student, shopping consumed all of my earnings. However,  when I moved out of my parents' house at 18, I quickly realized that, despite working hard five days a week, it was the cost of my rent, food, insurance and gas, not shopping, that exceeded my monthly earnings. My bank account and my credit card soon developed a startlingly off balance relationship.

In this way, the value that I attached to work changed. As a young person, I saw it as a simple cause and effect relationship. My parents taught me that if you worked, you earned, and that was a good thing. What I learned as a young adult struggling to make ends meet was that how you worked, where you worked and what you were capable of doing in the workforce mattered. Work was such an important value in my family that I struggled for many years to release myself from the intrinsic ethic of the physically hard work of waitressing; to allow myself less work in order to go back to school, set up an uncomfortable dichotomy for me. I had to reconsider my education as hard work, as labor, as profit. Essentially, I had to mentally switch gears and re-acquaint myself with value of mentally hard work over the tangible and immediate rewards of physically challenging work. I had to rethink of school as work, as a source of value, as a first step toward a more fulfilling life.
Journal Prompt #2
Please summarize a passage from any chapter in Mike Rose's The Mind at Work and explain why you found this passage interesting. Please also utilize paraphrase and incorporate quotations in your response.

In "Rethinking Hand and Brain," Mike Rose explores how the world of a surgeon blends the demands of physical, or manual labor, as demonstrated by the actual surgery, with the knowledge based, or cognitive skill of understanding anatomy, disease and textbook discourse required by the medical field. His interviews reveal that doctors learn not only through research and textbooks, but equally important is learning through "immersion." As one resident explains, surgeons "'develop an eye for what looks good and what doesn't...You get to the point where you feel comfortable looking at something and evaluating it'"(151). In this chapter, Rose further breaks down the binary of physical and mental labor by exploring a discipline that clearly walks the line between both. The practiced hand of the surgeon certainly claims the title of 'craftsman' while at the same time it is the mental acuity that stems from both knowledge and experience that enables the surgeon to perform. "The surgeon's judgement is simultaneously technical and deliberative," Rose argues, "and that mix is the source of its power" (157). Although Rose acknowledges the distinction between surgeons and hair stylists, his larger argument centers on the complexity inherent in all modern labor. "Reimagining the mental life of the laborer," Rose writes, "...helps us to complicate generalizations, both historical and contemporary, about categories of work, the people who do the work and what the work requires" (157). In these challenging economic years, this type of argument becomes urgently important as the forces of capital and labor confront each other and our economic future hangs in the balance of this battle. 


Using Quotations, Paraphrasing and Summary

Link to Free Online MLA formatting Guide

Limits to the Freedom of Expression
Class Rules and Plagiarism Project:
Let's say I'm surfing the internet and I come across this very cool explanation of freedom of expression and the limitations of this freedom that I want to incorporate into my blog, so I cut and paste the information onto my blog. If I don't attribute this source correctly, I have just plagiarized. For a writer, plagiarism is the equivalent of stealing. For a student, plagiarism is cheating. In the Academic world, plagiarism is considered to be: stealing, cheating and lying. No matter how you want to look at it: plagiarism is bad. Is that a clear enough definition? If not, please see me.

Question: Okay, so what do I do if I come across a cool passage that I want to incorporate into my blog? 
Answer: Attribute the source!

Question: What does attribute, or attribution, mean?
Answer:  Tell your audience where you got the information.

 This 20th Century Kresge College Mission Statement written in 1988 by the Kresge College Students at the University of California Santa Cruz  points out the complexities of free speech:
"Kresge College, acknowledging that difference is integral to our community of students, staff and faculty, upholds the ideals of cultural, ethnic, sexual, political and religious diversity. Kresge realizes that freedom to decide and to express one's opinion and beliefs is of the utmost importance. However, attitudes of disrespect or intolerance of the beliefs, ideas, lifestyles or personhood of another are not conducive to the academic and social environment Kresge strives to create. Freedom of expression does not mean freedom to violate others' rights or cause harm to any individual or group of individuals. Acts of oppression, such as, but not limited to racism, sexism, and homophobia, violate mutual respect and undermine community trust. We, the Kresge community, along with the University, will not accept or tolerate such acts and will, with due process, hold accountable those whose actions are not in accordance with our expressed ideals. In choosing to be affiliated with Kresge, we affirm these ideals and make a personal commitment to practice them in our daily lives."

The grey link to the source of this passage is an example of attribution that is ONLY appropriate when linking readers to an outside source in an electronic publication. A passage any longer than this one that is cut and pasted onto an electronic source, even with proper attribution, violates federal copyright laws. In order to reprint previously published material legally, one must research who owns the copyright on the material and ask for permission to reprint the material. The exception to this rule is authors who chose to apply a Creative Commons license to their material.

Please note that the link to the source is provided (in gray), however, the college has since updated their Mission to correspond with the University Mission Statement, so the reader will only be connected with the former location of this quote. Dead and changing links are a problem modern writers must contend with, which is why we have other, more reliable, modes of attribution outside of the blogosphere.

One of the main problems with including a big block of text like this in an academic paper is space. After all, your audience is not reading your paper to only read about other writer's ideas on the topic. An academic audience is equally interested in your ideas on a topic. So, if you are writing a five page paper, then you cannot justify taking up so much space in your paper, with someone else's writing. Academics caught onto this trick of filling word counts with block quotations long ago. Hence you will need to learn how to cut quotations down to better 'fit' important ideas from research in support of your own points.

In most cases, a shorter version of quoted text will have a greater impact because your reader is counting on you to digest the information and convey what is important about the passage and explain how the quotation supports the purpose (controlling idea) of your paper.

Question: How do I tell my audience where I got the information when I'm writing a college paper?
Answer: You have several choices:

1. Explain where you got the information by incorporating a simple sentence before the excerpt.
Example: Here is the what the 1988 Mission Statement from the Kresge College website at University of California, Santa Cruz, said about the freedom of expression:

2. Use a short signal phrase and quote an important section of the material
Example: According the 1988 Kresge College Mission statement, "insert quotation."

3. Use a signal phrase with a brief explanation as to the reason you are using the quoted material.
Example: According to the Kresge College Mission statement, freedom of expression has its limitations: "insert quotation."

4. Use MLA style citations and a Works Cited page. For all of your Formal Papers this will be required.

Example: Expression that includes racism, sexism and homophobia, crosses the line of acceptability because these behaviors have the potential to oppress others and undermine "community trust" (Kresge Students).

Works Cited
Kresge Students. "Kresge Mission Statement." UCSC. University of California, Santa Cruz.
       Web. Jan. 2011.

5. Paraphrase the material using a signal phrase/attribution (paraphrase means to restate in your own words).

Example: The Kresge Mission statement acknowledges the value of our first amendment rights as pertains to the freedom of speech, but the students also acknowledge that freedom of expression, in their college, does not extend to those statements that violate the personal freedoms (and choices) of others (Kresge Students).

6. Summarize the key points, attribute and incorporate specific language from the excerpt

Example: The Kresge Mission statement acknowledges the value of student "differences" and the "freedom to decide and to express one's opinion and beliefs," while at the same time the Mission makes clear the distinction between "the freedom of expression" and "acts of oppression" (Kresge Students).


Click here for a Tutorial on MLA citations.
For more information visit the Owl at Purdue. (Free online MLA style guide)

The following covers the basic rules for using and punctuating quotation marks.

1. Dialogue
 Note: Use a comma to introduce a quotation after a standard dialogue tag, a brief introductory phrase, or a dependent clause.

The detective said, "I am sure who performed the murder."

As D.H. Nachas explains, "The gestures used for greeting others differ greatly from one culture to another."

When introducing or responding to a text, incorporate the author's first and last name on first reference and only the last name on every reference thereafter. Notice the title is capitalized and the quotations indicate that this is a short work. The title of a full length book is indicated by capitalization and italics.

2. In his poem "Mending Wall," Robert Frost questions the building of barriers and walls.

X states, "____________."

According to X, "___________."

In her book, ____________, X maintains that "___________."

Writing in the journal X, X points out that "___________."

X disagrees when he writes, "___________."

If you haven't had a lot of practice introducing texts, then use these templates in your papers until the sentence construction feels comfortable to you. Like everything, this aspect of writing takes practice.

3. Quotation Marks with Titles

Use quotations marks for:

* Titles of short or minor works
* Songs
* Short Stories
* Essays
* Short Poems
* One Act Plays
* Other literary works shorter than a three act play or complete book
* Titles of sections from longer works
* Chapters in books
* Articles in newspapers, magazines, or journals
* Episodes of television and radio series

Remember: Underlining or italics are used for the titles of long pieces or works that contain smaller sections.

4. A few more important reminders: 

Direct quotations involve incorporating another person's exact words into your own writing.

Quotation marks always come in pairs! Do not open a quotation and fail to close it at the end of the quoted material.

Capitalize the first letter of a direct quote when the quoted material is a complete sentence.

Mr. Johnson, who was working in his field that morning, said, "The alien spaceship appeared right
before my own two eyes."

Remember, you want to use your quotations sparingly. Always check to make sure you don't have redundancy and work to incorporate only the portion of the quote that fits your needs.

5. Indirect Quotations/Paraphrasing

Indirect quotations are not exact wordings but rather re-phrasings or summaries of another person's words. In this case, it is not necessary to use quotation marks. However, indirect quotations still require proper citations, and you will be committing plagiarism if you fail to do so.

Mr. Johnson, a local farmer, reported last night that he saw an alien spaceship on his own property.

Many writers struggle with when to use direct quotations versus indirect quotations. Use the following tips to guide you in your choice.

Use direct quotations when the source material uses language that is particularly striking or notable. Do not rob such language of its power by altering it.

Example: Martin Luther King Jr. believed that the Emancipation Proclamation was important and provided hope to millions.

The above statement could be modified to introduce the following quote, but this indirect quote doesn't have the same impact as the direct language:

Example: Martin Luther King Jr. said of the Emancipation Proclamation, "This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice."

General Guidelines:
  • Use an indirect quotation (or paraphrase) when you merely need to summarize key incidents or details of the text.
  • Use direct quotations when the author you are quoting has coined a term unique to their research and relevant within your own paper.
  • When to use direct quotes versus indirect quotes is ultimately a choice you'll learn a feeling for with experience. However, always try to have a sense for why you've chosen your quote. In other words, never put quotes in your paper simply because your teacher says, "You must use quotes."
Grammatical Rules for Introducing Quotes:

1. On first reference, please use the first and last name of the author and the title of the work. On the second reference, please refer to the author by their last name.

In  "The Sanctuary," Linda Barry explains that for many students school not only provides an opportunity for education, but also provides a safe haven from difficulties they many children face in the outside world. Barry states, "We are told in a thousand ways that not only are public schools not important, but that the children who attend them, the children who need them most, are not important either."

In her essay, "The Sanctuary," Linda Barry emphasizes the importance of supporting public education. Barry believes that we need to pay more attention to the many important roles schools play in society.

"Shitty First Drafts," by Anne Lamott, gives us a clear idea on what it feels like to be a writer. Lamott reveals, "Very few writers really know what they are doing until they've done it."

2. When using an indirect quotation or paraphrase,  always reference the author whose ideas you are summing up. Never leave out the attribution when you are paraphrasing someone else's ideas.

Barry points out that we ask our children to place their hands over their hearts and say the Pledge of Allegiance to our country, and children across the country do so faithfully, but she wonders when the country will face its children and pledge their allegiance with the same dedication.

According to Barry,  art allowed her to imagine a better life, a brighter future.

One more common mistake:

In Bill Robinson's book, Text and Contexts, Robinson points out that prepositional phrases often confuse students when they are referencing a source indirectly.

For example, if a student starts off the sentence with "In this book" or "In the novel" they tend to omit the subject of the sentence because they mistakenly believe that "book" or "novel" is the subject.

This is wrong: In this Novel stated that Las Flores was spelled incorrectly.
Students try to correct this error by adding it:
This is wrong: In this novel it stated that Los Flores was spelled incorrectly.
To correct this error the writer needs to insert who stated the information.

This is correct: In the novel, Sonny stated that Los Flores was spelled incorrectly.

This is correct:

John Holt's "School Is Bad For Children" challenges the notion that education improves a child's capacity to learn. Holt claims that students arrive at school already having "solved the mystery of language" through their own interaction, exploration and experimentation which is a far greater accomplishment than any method taught in "any school-type formal instruction."

Selecting the correct reporting verb is one of the key tools for proper attribution. Writers should strive to not only select the appropriate reporting verb, but also use a variety of reporting verbs to better cue the reader as to the importance of the quotation.

Write this list in your notes, so you can broaden your use of proper reporting verbs in the signal phrase.

More reporting verbs used to present factual or neutral information from the reading:

point outs

Certain reporting verbs show the writer's (or character's) opinion or attitude about something:

For more information on Quotations, Paraphrasing and Summary click here

In The Flowers, Sonny often recalls what other characters have said. In other words, because this is a first person narrative, we depend on Sonny for all of the information and often the information is revealed in his reflection or memory of a situation and not in real time. Technically, if the quotation is not in real time in the novel (if Sonny is recalling a conversation), you would need to use the quote inside a quote method. Here is MLA style for a quotation within a quotation:

"'You'd love it' [Cloyd] said. 'Wait 'til you eat fresh venison, fresh duck. Nothing better'" (12).

Better yet, use a "bite-sized" quote:

Cloyd told Sonny there was "nothing better" than "fresh" game.

Remember you don't have to use the quotes, especially if you are just trying to explain a situation. Use the quotes to emphasize language and to provide evidence in support of your claim.


Formal Paper Assignment Descriptions

Final Research Paper Description
Write a 5-8 page literary analysis of In Dubious Battle, incorporating research from a minimum of three sources to enhance your ideas (the book itself can be one of your sources) and, for the purposes of this assignment, the Introduction can be considered a second source, but you will also need to incorporate one more academic source. Your research might focus on what literary critics have said about this author’s work, biographical or autobiographical material that might help readers better understand the text and/or contemporary articles and information about issues that relate to any aspect of the book, such as the current issues facing the agricultural labor rights movement. 

Rick Wartzman’s Obscene in the Extreme is a great source of information for this paper as it provides a vast amount of historical reference material from this period in history as well as information on Steinbeck himself and the process that went into writing this novel. There are four copies on reserve in the Cesar Chavez Library (second floor) and two additional copies are available for you in the Reading and Writing Center (first floor).  

Your paper Must identify which one of the critical theories that you are applying in your paper (see Critical Theories overview). You may identify your theoretical stance in either the introductory paragraph or in a subheading under your title.

Here is an example of a title with a subhead:

                                          The Wrath of Steinbeck
A Sociological Perspective on the Burning and Banning of the Grapes of Wrath

The focus of your essay must be an interpretation of the literature itself, using the research as enhancement but not as the main emphasis of your essay. For example, if your research focuses on biographical information, use it to help interpret a theme, character, or other aspect of the text. 

A strong essay will have a clear controlling idea supported by well-developed TEA paragraphs that work to logically analyze the text and provide smooth transitions between ideas. You should incorporate (either through paraphrase or quotations) plenty of examples from the novel as well as refer specifically to your research sources. Use MLA format for parenthetical citations and your works cited page. Please note: proper attribution (signal phrases),  in-text citations and a Works Cited page are a major focus of this class and this assignment. Proper attribution and use of citations are fundamental to any academic research project and it is your responsibility to use the references available to you to make sure that this aspect of your paper is done correctly. Please do not rush through this aspect of the research paper.
  1. Participation in Rough Draft Peer Review is Mandatory. See course schedule for dates. You will receive 15 points for peer-review and 15 points for bringing your rough draft to PEER REVIEW DAY. No late papers will be reviewed. Come to class and bring a hard copy or your Research Paper or your grade will be affected.
  2. All drafts will be read during class, but you also have the option of meeting with the instructor on to go over your Draft. There will be a sign up sheet distributed in class. You must have a beginning, middle and end completed before this meeting.
By now you know that sentence-level errors need to be kept to a minimum on the final draft. See me and/or a writing tutor at the Reading and Writing Center during revision if you know you need extra help.

                                    In Dubious Battle Class Discussion Questions

    Writing Process suggestions:
    1.     Review your lectures notes and information posted on Instructor Knapp’s blog. In particular, review the Key Terms post, Critical Theories Overview, Combining Sentences, Constructing an Argument, Popular Student Errors, Using Quotations, and the Steinbeck information
    2.     Look back at your own blog posts to get ideas about a possible theme to explore or an approach to this essay. You should also read some of your peers blogs to expand your ideas on the text.
    3.     Brainstorm ideas for research and writing by doing a cluster, list, or freewrite.
    4.     Begin your research process by formulating questions about your chosen text. Your research may be more fertile if you direct the search by questioning aspects of the text that you are interested in learning more about.
    5.     Discuss your questions, ideas, and responses with a classmate, instructor or another person. (We will be completing peer interviews in class).
    6.     In your first draft, draw plenty of examples from the text. Include references to your research. Don’t be afraid to argue with the literary critics you’ve read. Let this draft be your chance to enter the literary conversation and don’t “censor” your ideas—it’s better to overwrite on your draft to allow for insights that you gain during the process of writing to emerge. Later you can edit, select, or throw out what doesn’t fit.
    7.     When revising, return to your introduction to ensure that you have a clear, strong (narrow) thesis. Remember to name the author and text in your introduction. The title of your essay should reflect the theme of the essay (do not use the title of the book as the title of your essay). The body of your essay should include plenty of support for your ideas, including examples and quotes from the book. Use specific references to your research to enhance your interpretation of the text. Generally, the most effective way to use quotes is to use them to support a point you’re making; then follow up the quote with interpretation (Remember the TEA paragraph and the Quote Sandwich). Review MLA format for citations if you need to.
    8.     Share your rough draft with your peer response group. Ask for specific feedback on the parts of the essay you’re unsure about. You may also contact me for help or submit your rough drafts to the campus Writing Center for help.
    9.     Make sure you proofread your completed draft mimimum of three times before turning in the essay.
    10.  Turn in your essay via Turnitin.com.

    Paper Topics (These are suggestions only):

    What would a Feminist have to say about the gender in this novel? Re-read sections that include Lisa and think about how Steinbeck’s characterization of male and female in the novel and discuss the implications of gender. How is Patriarchy impacting women and the economic system depicted in the novel?

    How would a New Historicist analyze In Dubious Battle? How does our contemporary view of The Great Depression, labor movements and strikes impact our understanding of this novel? How did Steinbeck’s 20th century values contribute to the characterizations in the novel? How was the novel received (by the public) in the 20th century? What were the reviewers’ reactions? What does this say about the audience at the time of publication? How does the current labor movement and "Occupy" movement compare and/or contrast to the social struggles of the 1930s?

    A Sociological and/or Marxist theorist would have much to say about the organized strike movement depicted in this novel. How is the economic system of agriculture maintaining power over the workers? What was the cause of the strike? Why was this problem so difficult to solve? What was the role of the townspeople and how did they contribute to either the strikers or the growers?  How do Mac and Jim stand apart from the rest of the characters in the novel? How does this story give us insight into current social and economic systems?

    A Formalist would be very interested in analyzing the language in this novel. Review the list of key terms used in the novel (on the Steinbeck page). How many times is the word “Red” used? Why is it used? What is the effect on the reader? How does the structure of the novel contribute to the novel’s tension and ambiguity? What symbols are used in this novel and how do they affect the meaning? If this strike was modeled on his research at the Pixley Cotton strike, then why did Steinbeck decide on using apple orchards as the setting instead of cotton? How is ambiguity employed to focus the novel on Jim's internal struggles? Can you identify the paradox facing these workers?

    A Reader Response critic would be very interested in how the themes in the novel impact his/her own ideas about the struggle between workers and business owners today. Are labor unions necessary? What is the basis of a “good” business philosophy? What character do you admire most and why? Which character (s) do you dislike and why? Can you relate to the traits or experiences of these characters?

    A Biographical critic would be very interested in how Steinbeck’s life shaped this novel. What characteristics of Steinbeck’s life informed the characters and events in the novel? What aspects of Steinbeck’s personality are revealed and how does the 20th Century historical situation influence how the author portrays the characters and events in this novel?

    Formal Paper Assignment 1:
    Directions: In our first two novels we will be discussing the connections between culture and identity. Please write a 3-8-page critical analysis of character in Persepolis. Specifically, you will be examining Marjane's identity as a rebel in this text. I encourage you to focus your paper by incorporating either a Reader Response, Marxist, Feminist or Formalist perspective in your analysis. A paper of this length will need to zero in on one-two key scenes and points rather than tackling an analysis of the whole novel.

    Here are a few examples of ways to incorporate a critical theory into your analysis:

    Reader Response: Marjane is a rebel and in the end her parents decide that Iran is no longer a safe place for her. Be sure to examine the specific reasons why her parents opted to send her away and weigh the cause and effect of these situations. What exactly was Marjane rebelling against? School? Religion? Government? Her parents? How can you relate to this rebellious nature? What do you rebel against and why? Make sure you connect your personal experience directly to the text. Compare and contrast may help you organize your ideas.

    Formalist: A Formalist is interested in "just the text." Nothing outside the text matters. No history. No personal opinion. No author intention. Just the text. They are also interested in identifying tension, ambiguity, irony and paradox. If a paradox is a statement that on the surface seems implausible, but underneath makes sense: what paradox would a formalist point out in this novel? You might want to discuss Marjane's declaration that she is religious and then, later, how she justifies fighting against religious law. You might also want to think about how her parent's religious views are left out. Why did the author decide on ambiguity when religion is a central theme? How about the paradox of the revolution itself? If the people were fighting against tyranny and for freedom, why did they allow a theocracy to take over? Remember, a formalist pays very close attention to evidence in the text. Notice how it isn't until after the war with Iraq begins (80) that the author begins including the veiled women in all of the drawings. What connections can you make from this evidence about the chaos and fear associated with war and the people's acceptance of mandatory veiling? Cause and effect may help you organize your ideas.

    Feminist: A feminist is interested in identifying patriarchy and pointing out power structures that undermine gender equality. What would a feminist have to say about the impact that the Islamic Revolution had on gender roles in Iran? How do the new laws position men and women in this society. You may chose to tackle the bigger issues (the veil) and the attack on Marjane's mother or the subtle issues. For example, Marjane's mother considers leaving (64), but her father's response shows that his decision carries the weight. Imagine how Marjane's life be different if she lived in a matriarchy.

    Essay Form
    Although this essay topic allows you to pick your own focus and write about what interests you, the standard form of an academic essay doesn't allow the freedom to write randomly about the topic. Your introduction should make the clear the purpose or point your paper is making by including a strong controlling idea (thesis). Each body (TEA) paragraphs should work to support this controlling idea from beginning to end. Along the way, the reader should be presented with ample textual evidence and analysis, balanced by your own critical voice, so that they are persuaded by your ideas and have a clear understanding of the point you are making. The conclusion should sum up these ideas in a meaningful way and leave the reader with something to more to consider on this topic. You are required to use MLA in-text citations and include a Works Cited page.

    •Focus your essay with a strong central idea (thesis/claim), 
    and use examples from the text to support your analysis. 
    •Use quotes or paraphrase 
    from the text or other sources where appropriate.
    •Use MLA format for your works cited page. 
    •To receive full credit, your essay must be a minimum of three-eight full pages (not including the works cited page).

    Picking a Theoretical Focus: Here are a few more examples of questions categorized by theory. Which theory feels most comfortable to you? Which theory is the best fit for your argument?

    For example, a Reader Response theorist might ask: How does my memory of growing up compare/contrast to the protagonist's experience? What influences does the protagonist have in his/her life and how are they different than the influences in mine? What political, economic and religious forces shape the identity of the main character and how have I been shaped by similar forces?

    A Formalist might ask: How does the language used in the novel contribute to the meaning of the novel? What effect do the narrative gaps have on our interpretation? How does the description of the setting shape our understanding of the characters and the world they occupy? What irony can I identify in the novel? How does ambiguity shape the interpretation of the novel? How is tension used to shape our understanding of certain characters? How does the first person narration influence our interpretation of the events in the novel? How does the description contribute to the interpretation of the novel's meaning?

    A critical analysis from the Feminist viewpoint would inspire a different set of questions.  How do ethnicity and class shape the women in the novel? Remember, a feminist pays close attention to the particular situation being considered rather than applying one 'standard' definition of feminism. How does patriarchy influence the male female relationships in the novel? A feminist would pay close attention to the description of both the male and female characters and try to determine the underlying power associated with  these descriptions.

    The Sociological perspective would focus on how the setting and the social constructs economically impact the individuals. According to Bedford's "Sociological approaches emphasize the nature and effect of the social forces that shape power relationships between groups or classes of people. Such readings treat literature as either a document reflecting social conditions or a product of those conditions. The former view brings into focus the social milieu; the latter emphasizes the work."

    Purpose: Every writer must determine his/her purpose for writing. Typically, this decision occurs during the planning and pre-writing stage. This paper asks you to analyze the forces shaping the "identity" of the characters in one or both of the novels (you could also draw conclusions linking both novels).

    Before writing your first draft, you should come to some conclusions about the theme of identity (brainstorm) and think about how these conclusions are linked directly to the text (collect/annotate evidence) during your pre-writing and planning stage. After making these initial connections (usually by reviewing your annotations and reviewing the text), most academic writers then begin the process of writing a working thesis. One could simply write, "The purpose of this paper is to argue that..." or "The purpose of this paper is to analyze the connection between..."

    Planning: The next step is to make a plan for writing. What do you plan to discuss first? How will you support this? What will come next? You may want to sketch out a brief outline, or freewrite how you will organize your paper.

    Revision: After the work of writing the working thesis, then comes the task of writing TEA paragraphs and assembling evidence and analysis in support of each topic. Always keep in mind when your argument shifts (or your purpose) and go back to your working thesis and revise it to better reflect these changes. Try to connect your ideas with transitional language and don't be afraid to re-order your TEAs. Always read through your draft making sure that you are thoroughly explaining your ideas and that one idea logically leads to the next.

    A Step-by Step Writing Process:
    1) Brainstorm: Try composing a cluster or freewrite on a response to the story. Don’t censor. Let your ideas and reactions flow.
    2) Review: After reviewing your cluster/freewrite, reread sections of the text pertinent to the topic you are interested in. Reflect on your journal entries and especially your Passage Entries where you located quotations from the text and remarked on the significance of these passages. Reread others’ comments on the story.
    3) Question: Compose three or more questions about the text that help you think critically and address the story’s complexities.
    4) Identify major themes that interest you and think about how you can connect your ideas to these themes.
    5) Make Connections: Connect this story to something you already know (another story, a text of any kind, a picture, an idea, a movie, a personal experience) and briefly reflect in writing on this connection (or reread an entry where you have already done so). What new understanding have you gained in reading this text?
    6) Personal integration and application: How do the values represented in this reading confirm or conflict with your own values? In what ways can the ideas and values in this text be applied to situations that you face?
    7) Formulate a controlling idea for your paper by writing a (hypo)thesis. This is the most critical part of your essay as it gives the whole paper focus, clarity, and unity. "Thesis" means main idea, an argument stated in sentence form. It should be narrow enough for you to prove it within the scope of the essay. See OWL for more about how to formulate a thesis in literature papers.
    9) Discuss: Share your questions, reactions, and ideas with a peer partner—if you need more feedback as you progress in the writing process connect outside of class with a friend, family member, teacher, or tutor in the campus Writing Center. Expressing your ideas through discussion will help you see the story from new angles and clarify your own response.
    10) Write a draft of your paper using as many textual connections as you can to formulate a complete draft.
    1) Revise: Reread your paper and revise your thesis, making sure that you have stated your ideas clearly and organized your support to connect directly to your thesis.
    2) Revise: Look over the sentences for clarity, flow/organization and transitions.
    3) Revise: After at least a day (preferably three days) reread your introduction and conclusion, and make sure your integration of quotes and examples is smooth and that you are using strong directing verbs and signal phrases. Post your rough draft to our class for comments.
    4) Review: Feedback and decide where you agree and disagree and why. Write a journal entry on this reflection. Remember, you are in charge of your writing project. Your peers are only providing you with their experience as readers of your text. While this insight is valuable, remind yourself that every reader brings their own schemata to the reading process, which greatly affects their interpretation. Make sure you pay close attention to places where your reader was confused, however, as your main goal is to communicate your ideas clearly and effectively.
    5) Rewrite as needed.
    2) Edit: Check your paper and correct any spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. Check the works cited page for proper MLA format. Ensure that your paper conforms to the required format (eg. name, date, margins & page numbers). See a good handbook or the Online Writing Lab (OWL) for additional information on drafting, revising, proofreading, and citing sources using MLA format.

    A brief overview of MLA Format Guidelines
    For: A Work in an Anthology, Reference, or Collection
    (such as a story, essay, or poem published in an anthology)
    The basic format for this sort of citation is as follows:
    Last name, First name. "Title of Essay or Story." Title of Collection. Ed. Editor's Name(s). Place of Publication: Publisher, Year. Page range of entry. Medium of Publication.
    Some examples:
    Harris, Muriel. "Talk to Me: Engaging Reluctant Writers." A Tutor's Guide: Helping Writers One to One. Ed. Ben Rafoth. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2000. 24-34. Print.
    Swanson, Gunnar. "Graphic Design Education as a Liberal Art: Design and Knowledge in the University and The 'Real World.'" The Education of a Graphic Designer. Ed. Steven Heller. New York: Allworth Press, 1998. 13-24. Print.
    Review the Purdue Online Writing Lab, “MLA Works Cited Page: Books”
    Check out the Online Writing Lab (OWL) for more tips on writing about fiction.
    READ: Anne Lamott's Shitty First Drafts to better acquaint yourself with the process of writing



    Three Poems by William Carlos Williams
    (Click Title)
    by William Carlos Williams
    by William Carlos Williams 

    Danse Russe  
    by William Carlos Williams
    Audio Link

    My Summary:
    1. Read the poem out loud
    2. Ask questions (in the margins or in a notebook)
    3. Don't assume that you should understand the poem on the first "read"
    4. Don't assume a poem is a "code," that each detail corresponds to one, and only one, thing
    5. Don't assume that a poem can mean anything you want it to mean
    6. Understand that the poet depends on the reader to "work" at gathering meaning from both form and content.
    7. "The best poetry has a magical quality—a sense of being more than the sum of its parts—and even when it's impossible to articulate this sense, this something more, the power of the poem is left undiminished."
    8. Form is content. A group of lines separated by space are called stanzas. Stanzas shape the poem literally and figuratively.
    9. Think of poems as close cousins to music. The sound of the words and stanzas as they are read out loud—including alliteration, punctuation (or lack of), rhyme, rhythm (syllabic), tone, and repetition— matter.
    10. Embrace ambiguity and difficulty

    Here’s a useful analogy [from Poetry.org]:
    A life partner, a husband, a wife—these are people with whom we hope to constantly renew our love. Despite the routine, the drone of familiarity, the daily preparation of meals and doing of dishes, the conversations we’ve had before, we hope to find a sense of discovery, of surprise. The same is true of poems. The most magical and wonderful poems are ever renewing themselves, which is to say they remain ever mysterious.


    Ha Jin

    Cornelius Eady

    I'm a Fool to Love You

    "In a Station of the Metro"
    by Ezra Pound

    The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
    Petals on a wet, black bough.

    Mark Doty on Pound

    Source: Literature An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing

    Judith Ortiz Cofer (b. 1952)

    My dolls have been put away like dead
    children in a chest I will carry with me when I marry.
    I reach under my skirt to feel a satin slip bought for this day. It is soft
    as the inside of my thighs. My hair has been nailed back with my mother's
    black hairpins to my skull. Her hands stretched my eyes open as she twisted
    braids into a tight circle at the nape
    of my neck. I am to wash my own clothes
    and sheets from this day on, as if the fluids of my body were poison, as if
    the little trickle of blood I believe travels from my heart to the world were
    shameful. Is not the blood of saints and
    men in battle beautiful? Do Christ's hands
    not bleed into your eyes from His cross?
    At night I hear myself growing and wake
    to find my hands drifting of their own will to soothe skin stretched tight
    over my bones.
    I am wound like the guts of a clock,
    waiting for each hour to release me.

    Sherman Alexie
    The Powwow at the End of the World

    I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
    after an Indian woman puts her shoulder to the Grand Coulee Dam
    and topples it. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
    and so I shall after the floodwaters burst each successive dam
    downriver from the Grand Coulee. I am told by many of you
    that I must forgive and so I shall after the floodwaters find
    their way to the mouth of the Columbia River as it enters the Pacific
    and causes all of it to rise. I am told by many of you that I must forgive
    and so I shall after the first drop of floodwater is swallowed by that salmon
    waiting in the Pacific. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and
     so I shall.
    after that salmon swims upstream, through the mouth of the Columbia and then past the flooded cities, broken dams and and abandoned reactors of Hanford. I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
    after the salmon swims through the mouth of the Spokane River
    as it meets the Columbia, then upstream, until it arrives
    in the shallows of a secret bay on the reservation where I wait alone.
    I am told by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall after
    that salmon leaps into the night air above the water, throws
    a lightening bolt at the brush near my feet, and starts the fire       which will lead all of the lost Indians home. I am told                   
    by many of you that I must forgive and so I shall
    after we Indians have gathered around the fire with that salmon
    who has three stories it must tell before sunrise; one story will teach us
    how to pray; another story will make us laugh for hours;
    the third story will give us reason to dance. I am told by many
    of you that I must forgive and so I shall when I am dancing
    with my tribe during the powwow at the end of the world.

    Salmon on Fish Latter Photo Source


    By Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)
    I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
    Whatever I see I swallow immediately
    Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike
    I am not cruel, only truthful—
    The eye of a little god, four-cornered
    Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
    It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
    I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers. 
    Faces and darkness separate us over and over.

    Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
    Searching my reaches for what she really is.
    then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
    I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
    She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
    I am important to her. She comes and goes. Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
    In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman
    Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish. (1963)


    by Maya Angelou

    You may write me down in history
    With your bitter, twisted lies,
    You may trod me in the very dirt
    But still, like dust, I'll rise.

    Does my sassiness upset you?
    Why are you beset with gloom?
    'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
    Pumping in my living room.

    Just like moons and like suns,
    With the certainty of tides,
    Just like hopes springing high,
    Still I'll rise.

    Did you want to see me broken?
    Bowed head and lowered eyes?
    Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
    Weakened by my soulful cries?

    Does my haughtiness offend you?
    Don't you take it awful hard
    'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
    Diggin' in my own backyard.

    You may shoot me with your words,
    You may cut me with your eyes,
    You may kill me with your hatefulness,
    But still, like air, I'll rise.

    Does my sexiness upset you?
    Does it come as a surprise
    That I dance like I've got diamonds
    At the meeting of my thighs?

    Out of the huts of history's shame
    I rise
    Up from a past that's rooted in pain
    I rise
    I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
    Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

    Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
    I rise
    Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
    I rise
    Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
    I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
    I rise
    I rise
    I rise.


    by Robert Frost

    When I see birches bend to left and right
    Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
    I like to think some boy's been swinging them.
    But swinging doesn't bend them down to stay.
    Ice-storms do that. Often you must have seen them
    Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
    After a rain. They click upon themselves
    As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
    As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
    Soon the sun's warmth makes them shed crystal shells
    Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust--
    Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
    You'd think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
    They are dragged to the withered bracken by the load,
    And they seem not to break; though once they are bowed
    So low for long, they never right themselves:
    You may see their trunks arching in the woods
    Years afterwards, trailing their leaves on the ground
    Like girls on hands and knees that throw their hair
    Before them over their heads to dry in the sun.
    But I was going to say when Truth broke in
    With all her matter-of-fact about the ice-storm
    (Now am I free to be poetical?)
    I should prefer to have some boy bend them
    As he went out and in to fetch the cows--
    Some boy too far from town to learn baseball,
    Whose only play was what he found himself,
    Summer or winter, and could play alone.
    One by one he subdued his father's trees
    By riding them down over and over again
    Until he took the stiffness out of them,
    And not one but hung limp, not one was left
    For him to conquer. He learned all there was
    To learn about not launching out too soon
    And so not carrying the tree away
    Clear to the ground. He always kept his poise
    To the top branches, climbing carefully
    With the same pains you use to fill a cup
    Up to the brim, and even above the brim.
    Then he flung outward, feet first, with a swish,
    Kicking his way down through the air to the ground.
    So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
    And so I dream of going back to be.
    It's when I'm weary of considerations,
    And life is too much like a pathless wood
    Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
    Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
    From a twig's having lashed across it open.
    I'd like to get away from earth awhile
    And then come back to it and begin over.
    May no fate willfully misunderstand me
    And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
    Not to return. Earth's the right place for love:
    I don't know where it's likely to go better.
    I'd like to go by climbing a birch tree,
    And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk
    Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,
    But dipped its top and set me down again.
    That would be good both going and coming back.
    One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.

    Robert Frost Reading 


    Read Para Teresa
     Homework (Your Choice: 500 word minimum):

    1. Why is "Para Teresa" written in English and Spanish?
    2. According to the narrator this fight takes place when the narrator was a child and the poem is written when the narrator is an adult. What do you think triggers this reflection and why does the narrator now have a greater understanding of Teresa?
    3. Make a connection between the Introduction to Rereading America and what you learned about the influence of culture to any aspect of "Para Teresa." For example, think about how family influences the narrator's decisions in the poem. Be sure to briefly summarize the information about culture first. 
    4. Summarize the article that is assigned to your team
    5. Answer one of the questions at the end of the chapter on any of the assigned readings
    6. Summarize the article that you researched on Proposition 30
    7. Read and write a meaningful comment to five of your classmates' "I am..." post