Thursday, January 30, 2014

Paintings that Inspired Writers: Ekphrasis

Here are a few examples... and I will tweet more to the right - scroll down...

Consider this blending images and words for a visual presentation on the blog.

Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Excerpt from Chapter 19: The Cleopatra

One day, at a quiet early hour, I found myself nearly alone in a certain gallery, wherein one particular' picture of portentous size, set up in the best light, having a cordon of protection stretched before it, and a cushioned bench duly set in front for the accommodation of worshipping connoisseurs. who, having gazed themselves off their feet, might be fain to complete the business sitting: this picture, I say, seemed to consider itself the queen of the collection. 
It represented a woman, considerably larger, I thought, than the life. I calculated that this lady, put into a scale of magnitude suitable for the reception of a commodity of bulk, would infallibly turn from fourteen to sixteen stone. She was, indeed, extremely well fed: very much butcher's meat - to say nothing of bread, vegetables, and liquids - must she have consumed to attain that breadth and height, that wealth of muscle, that affluence of flesh. She lay half-reclined on a couch: why, it would be difficult to say; broad daylight blazed round her; she appeared in hearty health, strong enough to do the work of two plain cooks; she could not plead a weak spine; she ought to have been standing, or at least sitting bolt upright. She had no business to lounge away the noon on a sofa. She ought likewise to have worn decent garments; a gown covering her properly, which was not the case: out of abundance of material - seven-and-twenty yards, I should say, of drapery - she managed to make inefficient raiment. Then, for the wretched untidiness surrounding her, there could be no excuse. Pots and pans - perhaps I ought to say vases and goblets - were rolled here and there on the foreground; a perfect rubbish of flowers was mixed amongst them, and an absurd and disorderly mass of curtain upholstery smothered the couch and cumbered the floor. On referring to the catalogue, I found that this notable production bore the name 'Cleopatra.' 
Well, I was sitting wondering at it (as the bench was there, I thought I might as well take advantage of its accommodation), and thinking that while some of the details - as roses, gold cups, jewels, etc., were very prettily painted, it was on the whole an enormous piece of claptrap; the room, almost vacant when I entered, began to fill. Scarcely noticing this circumstance (as, indeed, it did not matter to me) I retained my seat; rather to rest myself than with a view to studying this huge, dark-complexioned gipsy-queen; of whom, indeed, I soon tired, and betook myself for refreshment to the contemplation of some exquisite little pictures of still life: wild flowers, wild-fruit, mossy wood-nests, casketing eggs that looked like pearls seen through clear green sea-water; all hung modestly beneath that coarse and preposterous canvass.
Click for more from Art in Fiction

Landscape With The Fall of Icarus

  by William Carlos Williams
According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry

of the year was
awake tingling

the edge of the sea
with itself

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax

off the coast
there was

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning
- See more at:

Giacomo Balla
Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash, 1912
Oil on Canvas

A Futurist Looks at a Dog

Tim Liardet

I do not see godmother’s adoring pet
as you do, nor know him by name; neither can
I keep the present he keeps:
his six little steps to match godmother’s one.

I see instead every stride the dog has made
in the last twenty metres at once,
the sum of strides per second jumbled up
on top of one another - its tail

a cactus of wags, its rapid legs
a sort of tailback of centipedes,
a strobile of stunted steps, a carwash brush,
two bleary propellers rotating.

Above it, the leash in flight is many leashes
whipping and overlapping,
a flung silver net, a soundwave,
each stride a new species of leash;

the dachshund once set in motion
embarks upon another existence,
and godmother’s pet as you know him
vanished twenty, no, thirty strides back.

From - Read the full essay at Poetry Magazine

As a technique, as a tactic and a strategy, as a process, all that I have described above has been put to the test in my new book The Blood Choir, to be published this summer. I taught for most of the year 2001 in the second largest Young Offenders’ prison in Europe. Trying to write about this was fraught with sensibilities, pitfalls, political correctness. I wrote more poems in the course of that year than during any previous twelve month period and struggled to find the most appropriate approach. After much prolonged agonising and soul-searching, I put my trust in the innate powers of description, implicitly leaving the rest to the ellipsis of the whole volume, the unspoken ‘elsewheres’ which, it is to be hoped, are drawn into earshot and imagination via ekphrastic description.

   Take the title poem, for example. This is a sequence of five sections which evokes the terrifying speed with which a classroom of bored and restless prisoners are drawn up into what can only be described as a mob or, as the poem puts it later, an ‘organism’, glued together by shared assumptions, shared deprivation, shared hunger. Of course, the visual antecedent of this is Francisco Goya, whose paintingPilgrimage of St Isidore, painted 1821-3, captures the moment that individuals seem to be drawn up into one being, bound together by the common experience of what might be awe, fear or potential violence. This sort of ‘event’ recurs in many of his paintings, but is perhaps most effectively achieved in this one. This is the poem’s opening section of five:

The Blood Choir
After Goya

Consider how a young man sheds his name
and number, his boot blister and tattoo,

his lisp, his wrist-scar and dental history;
how he sheds, in short, all that could not

be anyone’s but his, the ancient encryption
of his fingerprint, the mole on the ball of his foot.

It is a terrible thing to witness the speed with which
he and twenty other inmates are drawn up,

stumbling backwards, into one another; how they grow
eerily identical webbed feet, webbed fingers,

webbed ears, and melt their bone-marrow down
to the kind of red glue that welds them together

at the pelvis, the abdomen and the chest
as if, well, some slow-moving animal penned

by a single rope, tugging at each wrist; some rhythm
of oars rowed, without a drum; some engine

which drives a sort of spirit replica straight through
the savage razors of the wire without a scratch.

Medusa Leonardo da Vinci*

On the Medusa of Leonardo Da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery

  by Percy Bysshe Shelley
It lieth, gazing on the midnight sky, 
  Upon the cloudy mountain peak supine;  
Below, far lands are seen tremblingly; 
  Its horror and its beauty are divine. 
Upon its lips and eyelids seems to lie 
  Loveliness like a shadow, from which shrine,  
Fiery and lurid, struggling underneath,  
The agonies of anguish and of death. 
Yet it is less the horror than the grace  
  Which turns the gazer's spirit into stone;
Whereon the lineaments of that dead face  
  Are graven, till the characters be grown  
Into itself, and thought no more can trace; 
  'Tis the melodious hue of beauty thrown  
Athwart the darkness and the glare of pain,
Which humanize and harmonize the strain. 
And from its head as from one body grow, 
  As [   ] grass out of a watery rock, 
Hairs which are vipers, and they curl and flow  
  And their long tangles in each other lock,
And with unending involutions shew  
  Their mailed radiance, as it were to mock  
The torture and the death within, and saw  
The solid air with many a ragged jaw. 
And from a stone beside, a poisonous eft
  Peeps idly into those Gorgonian eyes; 
Whilst in the air a ghastly bat, bereft  
  Of sense, has flitted with a mad surprise  
Out of the cave this hideous light had cleft, 
  And he comes hastening like a moth that hies
After a taper; and the midnight sky  
Flares, a light more dread than obscurity. 
'Tis the tempestuous loveliness of terror;  
  For from the serpents gleams a brazen glare  
Kindled by that inextricable error, 35 
  Which makes a thrilling vapour of the air  
Become a [ ] and ever-shifting mirror  
  Of all the beauty and the terror there— 
A woman's countenance, with serpent locks, 
Gazing in death on heaven from those wet rocks. 

- See more at: 

The Idiot by Dostoyevsky Prince Myshkin is stunned by a painting of the dead Christ in Rogozhin's house. Hippolite describes the painting in detail, also haunted by the image of "a poor mangled body". Based on a real painting that horrified Dostoyevsky – The Body of the Dead Christ by Hans Holbein – it is Christ without divinity, "depicted as though still suffering; as though the body, only just dead, was still almost quivering with agony".

They passed through the same rooms which the prince had traversed on his arrival. In the largest there were pictures on the walls, portraits and landscapes of little interest. Over the door, however, there was one of strange and rather striking shape; it was six or seven feet in length, and not more than a foot in height. It represented the Saviour just taken from the cross. 
The prince glanced at it, but took no further notice. He moved on hastily, as though anxious to get out of the house. But Rogojin suddenly stopped underneath the picture. 
"My father picked up all these pictures very cheap at auctions, and so on," he said; "they are all rubbish, except the one over the door, and that is valuable. A man offered five hundred roubles for it last week."
"Yes--that's a copy of a Holbein," said the prince, looking at it again, "and a good copy, too, so far as I am able to judge. I saw the picture abroad, and could not forget it--what's the matter?" 
Rogojin had dropped the subject of the picture and walked on. Of course his strange frame of mind was sufficient to account for his conduct; but, still, it seemed queer to the prince that he should so abruptly drop a conversation commenced by himself. Rogojin did not take any notice of his question. 
"Lef Nicolaievitch," said Rogojin, after a pause, during which the two walked along a little further, "I have long wished to ask you, do you believe in God?" 
"How strangely you speak, and how odd you look!" said the other, involuntarily. 
"I like looking at that picture," muttered Rogojin, not noticing, apparently, that the prince had not answered his question. 
"That picture! That picture!" cried Muishkin, struck by a sudden idea. "Why, a man's faith might be ruined by looking at that picture!"

Still shocking viewers today: Read this Guardian review 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

FYI: Growth vs. Fixed Mindset

When it comes to reading (long, dense texts such as Jane Eyre) or Shakespeare - or anything for that matter, students embrace the challenge or avoid challenges...

Which mindset do you have?

Click to read a great article:

Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives

How to fine-tune the internal monologue that scores every aspect of our lives, from leadership to love. 
It concludes:

In the fixed mindset, that process is scored by an internal monologue of constant judging and evaluation, using every piece of information as evidence either for or against such assessments as whether you’re a good person, whether your partner is selfish, or whether you are better than the person next to you. In a growth mindset, on the other hand, the internal monologue is not one of judgment but one of voracious appetite for learning, constantly seeking out the kind of input that you can metabolize into learning and constructive action.

For Thursday...Reading schedule modified...Read!

"She has been unkind to you, no doubt; because you see, she dislikes your cast of character, as Miss Scatcherd does mine; but how minutely you remember all she has done and said to you! What a singularly deep impression her injustice seems to have made on your heart! No ill-usage so brands its record on my feelings. Would you not be happier if you tried to forget her severity, together with the passionate emotions it excited? Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs. We are, and must be, one and all, burdened with faults in this world: but the time will soon come when, I trust, we shall put them off in putting off our corruptible bodies; when debasement and sin will fall from us with this cumbrous frame of flesh, and only the spark of the spirit will remain,--the impalpable principle of light and thought, pure as when it left the Creator to inspire the creature: whence it came it will return; perhaps again to be communicated to some being higher than man--perhaps to pass through gradations of glory, from the pale human soul to brighten to the seraph! Surely it will never, on the contrary, be suffered to degenerate from man to fiend? No; I cannot believe that: I hold another creed: which no one ever taught me, and which I seldom mention; but in which I delight, and to which I cling: for it extends hope to all: it makes Eternity a rest--a mighty home, not a terror and an abyss. Besides, with this creed, I can so clearly distinguish between the criminal and his crime; I can so sincerely forgive the first while I abhor the last: with this creed revenge never worries my heart, degradation never too deeply disgusts me, injustice never crushes me too low: I live in calm, looking to the end." (49-50)

We have to amend the reading schedule homework for juniors tonight; thus...

Modified reading schedule:

For Wednesday: Read Chapter 5&6 (33-50)

For Thursday: Read ahead - or catch up on reading! 
Study Vocab & work on Ekphrasis Assignment (See previous posts). 

For Friday: Chapters 7-9 (50-70)

For Tuesday: Read Chapters 10-12 (70-92)


On Monday, Writing assignment DUE & READ AHEAD or (REREAD) 
Prep for Chapter 1-12 TEST on WEDNESDAY.

In class Thursday, we will review Vocab, the assignment for Monday, and the Test WEDNESDAY (chapters 1-12).

On Friday, we will have a reading quiz Friday on Chapters 1-9.


Pelisse - a woman's long, fitted coat with set-in sleeves (below is more decorative than the pelisses that students a Lowood would have).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

For Wednesday: Read Chapter 5&6

And Study Vocabulary:


We will have a Vocab and Reading TEST next Tuesday (you have a week to study these words)

Your writing assignment has been pushed to MONDAY (from Friday - you're welcome)

Reading schedule:

For Wednesday: Read Chapter 5&6 (33-50)

For Thursday: Read Chapters 7-9 (50-70)

For Friday: Read Chapters 10-12 (70-92)


Writing assignment & READ AHEAD or (REREAD) Prep for Chapter 1-12 TEST on Tuesday.

How much I wished to reply fully to this question! How difficult it was to frame any answer! Children can feel, but they cannot analyse their feelings; and if the analysis is partially effected in thought, they know not how to express the result of the process in words. Fearful, however, of losing this first and only opportunity of relieving my grief by imparting it, I, after a disturbed pause, contrived to frame a meagre, though, as far as it went, true response. (19-20)

"How dare I, Mrs. Reed? How dare I? Because it is the TRUTH. You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have no pity. I shall remember how you thrust me back--roughly and violently thrust me back--into the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day; though I was in agony; though I cried out, while suffocating with distress, 'Have mercy! Have mercy, Aunt Reed!' And that punishment you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me--knocked me down for nothing. I will tell anybody who asks me questions, this exact tale. People think you a good woman, but you are bad, hard- hearted. YOU are deceitful!"
Ere I had finished this reply, my soul began to expand, to exult, with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt. It seemed as if an invisible bond had burst, and that I had struggled out into unhoped-for liberty. Not without cause was this sentiment: Mrs. Reed looked frightened; her work had slipped from her knee; she was lifting up her hands, rocking herself to and fro, and even twisting her face as if she would cry. (30-31)

Monday, January 27, 2014

HWK for Tuesday!

Wood Cuttings for Jane Eyre

HWK for E Block: Read through Chapter 4! 

HWK for D Block: Read through Chapter 4!

Possible pop quiz.

Please get the recommended Norton Critical Edition.

In a pinch, you can read the text online - or download it to your Kindle or iPad.

For this Friday, Ekphrasis Project: "A picture paints a thousand words"

1. Select a favorite landscape image.

2. Describe that image in prose or poetry - 500 to 1000 words.

3. Post the image and your words to the blog.

See previous post for more info!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Why Read Jane Eyre?


Put yourself in a poor orphaned girl's shoes who transcends her station in life through education...

but ultimately finds love...

that is above her class.

HWK for E Block: Read through Chapter 4! 

HWK for D Block: See last post!

For Next Friday, Ekphrasis Project: "A picture paints a thousand words"

1. Select a favorite landscape image.

2. Describe that image in prose or poetry - 500 to 1000 words.

3. Post the image and your words to the blog.

Notes on Ekphrasis

  by Alfred Corn
Ekphrasis (also spelled "ecphrasis") is a direct transcription from the Greek ek, "out of," and phrasis, "speech" or "expression." It's often been translated simply as "description," and seems originally to have been used as a rhetorical term designating a passage in prose or poetry that describes something. More narrowly, it could designate a passage providing a short speech attributed to a mute work of visual art. In recent decades, the use of the term has been limited, first, to visual description and then even more specifically to the description of a real or imagined work of visual art.

- See more at: 

More on Ekphrasis

A few things that I've found interesting and relevant to share in conjunction to this text and today:

Young Jane Eyre is bullied and physically abused by a fourteen year old Master John Reed.

In the BBC 1983 Jane Eyre series, interesting line insertion at minute 3... "Boys will be boys."
What's wrong with that statement?

Plus today's Chapel talk on Diversity reminded me of this TED TALK by Jackson Katz:

Now, among the many great things that Martin Luther King said in his short life was, "In the end, what will hurt the most is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends."In the end, what will hurt the most is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends. There's been an awful lot of silence in male culture about this ongoing tragedy of men's violence against women and children, hasn't there? There's been an awful lot of silence. And all I'm saying is that we need to break that silence, and we need more men to do that.

Further excerpt:

Now, I know it's a bit pompous, my response, but it's an important distinction, because I don't believe that what we need is sensitivity training. We need leadership training, because, for example, when a professional coach or a manager of a baseball team or a football team -- and I work extensively in that realm as well -- makes a sexist comment, makes a homophobic statement, makes a racist comment, there will be discussions on the sports blogs and in sports talk radio. And some people will say, "Well, he needs sensitivity training." And other people will say, "Well get off it. You know, that's political correctness run amok, and he made a stupid statement. Move on." My argument is, he doesn't need sensitivity training. He needs leadership training, because he's being a bad leader, because in a society with gender diversity and sexual diversity -- (Applause) — and racial and ethnic diversity, you make those kind of comments, you're failing at your leadership. If we can make this point that I'm making to powerful men and women in our society at all levels of institutional authority and power, it's going to change, it's going to change the paradigm of people's thinking.

Brené Brown: The power of vulnerability

Courage, the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language --it's from the Latin word cor, meaning heart -- and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart. And so these folks had, very simply, the courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others,because, as it turns out, we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly. And the last was they had connection, and -- this was the hard part -- as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were, which you have to absolutely do that for connection.


Berwick's History of British Birds

Goldsmith's History of Rome

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Welcome Back!

Second Semester Senior Year has arrived!

Let's read and learn - and enjoy your last semester.

And yes, you will enjoy the course and the end of the year more if you do the work.

We will watch occasional clips from the movies, yet we will be close reading the text in class.

Here's a few versions - talk about remakes!

FYI: Top 100 Movies Based on Books

Homework read: Chapters 1 & 2 in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Be prepared for a Quiz!

Please get the recommended Norton Critical Edition.

In a pinch, you can read the text online - or download it to your Kindle or iPad

BTW - My J Term Take Two Remakes blog if you want to watch more of the films and trailers.