Journal 17: Fear, Moral Courage, and Cowardice

"It was a.... moral split. I couldn't make up my mind. I feared the war, yes, but I also feared exile" (44).

"What it came down to, stupidly, was a sense of shame. Hot, stupid shame. I did not want people to think badly of me.... I was ashamed of my conscience, ashamed to be doing the right thing" (52).

"I couldn't make myself be brave. It had nothing to do with morality. Embarrassment, that's all it was. And right then I submitted. I would go to the war--I would kill and maybe die--becaused I was embarrassed not to" (59).

Write about a time when you experienced "a moral split" and felt pulled in two directions about what was the morally right thing to do. Discuss the decision that you ended up making, as well as what motivated you to make that decision. Did you make the decision based on your conscience and your sense of what was truly the "morally right" thing to do, or did you base your decision on avoiding shame, embarrasment, and the disapproval of others? Moreover, how do you feel about your decision now, in retrospect?


Journal 16: The Things You Carry

1. What are the things that you carry? Using Tim O'Brien's listing technique from the title story, try to capture all the important things that you carry, both physical things and metaphysical things. (Be as creative as you wish in how you write about this topic.)

2. Among these many "things" that you carry, which ones are the "heaviest" or the most difficult to carry? Why?


Journal 15: Poetry

Poetry is perhaps the oldest literary form in the world. The most ancient tales were epic poems that were transmitted orally--often to the accompaniment of music (such as the ancient stringed instrument known as the lyre--which is where we get the term lyric). Please answer all three prompts below:

1. Why do you think the art form of poetry developed among human beings? In other words,why does poetry exist? What purposes does poetry serve for us? Is there a "use" for poetry, or is it a more or less "useless" creation of humanity?


2. The ancient Greeks believed that poetry was inspired by the Muses. Much later, during the English Romantic period, William Wordsworth announced a revolutionary conception of poetry by defining it as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” Far more recently, contemporary American poet Gary Snyder wrote this poem, entitled "How Poetry Comes to Me":

It comes blundering over the

Boulders at night, it stays

Frightened outside the

Range of my campfire

I go to meet it at the

Edge of the light

Where do you think poetry comes from? Have you written any poetry of your own? If so, from your own experiences writing poetry, what have you learned, regarding where poetry comes from or how it is best created? Explain.


3) Bold Pronouncement by His Royal Humbleness: Not everybody appreciates or understands poetry.

Do you agree or disagree with the above statement? Explain why you agree or disagree, and if you agree, why exactly it is that many people seem unable to appreciate or understand this art form. In your opinion, what do such people lack that hinders their appreciation and understanding of poetry, or what change in perceptions or conceptions would enable these people to better appreciate and understand this art form?


Journal 14: Focus on Achieving Your Future Goals OR Focus on the Present Moment?

Listed below are two apparently antithetical ways of approaching life or prioritizing what is important.

Is either one of these approaches or priorities more important, more valuable, and more wise, or not? Why?

A. Deciding on your personal, long-term goals and ambitions, and then focusing your attention and time on doing what is necessary to achieve these goals and ambitions.


B. Focusing on the present moment (regardless of how routine, ordinary, or "boring" it might seem) and giving your full attention to the people who are there and the details of the world where you find yourself


Journal 13: Connecting Prufrock to Today and to Hemingway

Here are three quotations excerpted from Robert Sward's "A Personal Analysis of 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'":

A. "...while one might argue that Prufrock 'wakes' at the end of the poem, he is for the most part a ghostly inhabitant of a world that is, for him, a sort of hell."

B. "Despairing and sick of heart, Prufrock is a prisoner. Trapped in himself and trapped in society, he attends another and another in an endless series of effete, decorous teas."

C. "Eliot's irregularly-rhymed, 131-line interior monologue has become part of a monologue all of us carry on in our heads. We are all of us, whether we know it or not, love-hungry, sex-crazed soldiers and sailors, brave, bored, and lonely. At some level in our hearts, we are all J. Alfred Prufrock, every one of us, and we are all sailing into a war zone from which, as the last line of the poem implies, we may never return."

1) To what degree do you agree with Sward's assertion "At some level in our hearts, we are all J. Alfred Prufrock, every one of us"? In your opinion, how well do the three quotations above apply to the lives of most people in contemporary American society? Why?

2) How well do you think Sward's comments about the poem apply to the characters portrayed in The Sun Rises? Do these observations apply well to Jake's life? To anyone else's life in the novel?


Journal 12: Your Philosophy on Life

In Ch.XIV of The Sun Also Rises, Jake narrates the workings of his mind when he goes to bed one night. As he thinks about his relationship with Brett, Jake begins considering a new philosophy about life: "You paid some way for everything that was any good.... Enjoying living was learning to get your money's worth and knowing when you had it.... It seemed like a fine philosophy. In five years, I thought, it will seem just as silly as all the other fine philosophies I've had." Jake then goes on to tell us, "Perhaps that wasn't true, though. perhaps as you went along you did learn something. I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live in it. Maybe if you found out how to live in it you learned from that what it was all about" (152).

1. Do you currently have a philosophy regarding what life is all about, or a set of beliefs or values that guides how you live your life? If so, explain, including how you arrived at this philsophy or set of values. If not, explain why.

2. Moreover, how have your philosophy about life and your beliefs and values evolved or changed over the course of your life?


Journal 11: LOVE - What I Have Learned, and How I Have Learned It

Love plays a central role in many of the literary works we study in AP English Lit. However, love is a complex subject. Read the first half of this "These Are the 7 Types of Love" article from Psychology Today, covering these four types of love: Eros (sexual or romantic love), Philia (friendship), Storge (familial love), and Agape (universal love). Then discuss the following prompts:

(1) So far in your life, what exactly have you learned about love, and how have you learned these things? Discuss which specific people and relationships or experiences have taught you about love, AND what you have learned. Feel free to cover any types of love described above that apply.

(2) Do you see any relationship between the Storge (or parental, familial love) that someone experiences as a child and the type of romantic partner that same human being will pursue out of Eros (or sexual, passionate love)? When you consider both your own life experience and the patterns that we see in Great Expectations (whom Pip pursues, for example), how might a child's earliest experiences of love at home influence the type of person and romantic relationship the child pursues as a grown-up?


Journal 10: Being Loyal to Parents & Being True to Oneself

"Barn Burning" focuses on ten-year-old Sarty Snopes; his father, Abner Snopes; and Sarty's complex relationship with and conflicted sense of loyalty to his father. Today I'd like for you to reflect on your relationship with your parents.

  1. In general, do you and your parents tend to "see eye-to-eye" on most issues and share the same values and beliefs, or do you and your parents tend to see most issues differently and have different values and beliefs? Give one or more notable examples from your life to show what you mean.
  2. Moreover, how would you describe your own attitude towards your parents' wishes and expectations for you? Do you consider yourself a loyal son or daughter? An obedient son or daughter? A grateful son or daughter? A rebellious son or daughter? A not-good-enough son or daughter? A sneaky and subversive son or daughter? Find the best, most precise words to articulate how you view yourself in context of your parents' wishes and expectations.
  3. In your parents' household and in your interactions with your parents, do you mostly feel that you are able to "be yourself" and "be true to yourself"? Or do you ever feel the opposite in your parents' household and in your interactions with your parents--that you must be someone you're not or do things that go against who you are? Explain.


Journal 9: Being "Good" and Being "Right"

1) What does it mean to be a good person, and how can one judge whether someone is a "good" person or not?

Is human goodness more about being morally pure, or more about being kind? Explain your reasoning completely. 

2) What does it mean to be "right," and why is being "right" so important to human beings? 

3) What is the relationship between our desire to be "right" and our desire to be "good"? Is the need to be "right" related more closely to our desire to be morally pure, or our desire to be kind? Explain.


Journal 8: Lonely, Cut Off, and Separated

The unnamed narrator of “Cathedral” describes how, before he and his wife met, “one night she got to feeling lonely and cut off from people she kept losing in that moving-around life. She got to feeling she couldn’t go it another step.” One might say that the concept of human loneliness and separation from others (as well as its antithesis) is an important theme developed in the story.

1) What personal experience do you have with feeling “lonely and cut off from people”? Has this issue or experience been an important part of your life in any way?

2) In contrast, what experience do you have with the antithesis: experiencing a sense of connectedness to others, a sense of being seen and understood by others, or a positive sense of belonging to others? In what ways have you also experienced these aspects of life, and why have these experiences been important to you?


Journal 7: Childhood’s End & Maturity’s Beginning

“There's no coming to consciousness without pain.” —Carl Jung

 “Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” —Dalai Lama

Ch.1 of our Literature textbook identifies different types of stories, including the story of initiation (also called a coming-of-age story), which the Glossary defines as “a narrative in which the main character, usually a child or adolescent, undergoes a difficult experience or rite of passage—often a difficult or disillusioning one—that prepares him or her for adulthood” (G16).

In your own life, how have you faced a difficult, disillusioning, or even painful experience or rite of passage that contributed to the end of your childhood and the beginning of your maturity?

Discuss one specific experience you have had (involving some kind of difficulty, disappointment, fear, disillusionment, pain, loneliness, or even suffering) which has helped transform you from the “child” you used to be to the “more mature” person you are now. What exactly happened, and how has the experience affected you? Be sure to address both what made the experience difficult for you, as well as how the experience changed your consciousness. Were any of the changes positive or valuable? In contrast, have any of the changes been negative or caused you lingering pain or struggle


Journals 3-6: These FOUR ENTRIES should be chosen from this link: Awakening Journals 3-6 (2017-18).


Journal 2: Belonging to Oneself

1) In one of his essays, the French Renaissance writer Michel de Montaigne said: “The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself.” 

What do you think Montaigne means, and why do you think so? Morever, to what extent do you agree with Montaigne's words? Why?

2) When Edna tells her friend Mademoiselle Reisz that she has decided to move out of her husband’s house and into a small house of her own, the narrator explains: “Conditions would some way adjust themselves, she felt; but whatever came, she had resolved never again to belong to another than herself” (106). 

Do you think that Edna’s goal “never again to belong to another than herself” is an admirablewise, and even heroic trait or terriblefoolish, and selfish trait? Or do you see the issue as more complicated than choosing one alternative or the other? Why?


Journal 1: Story-Telling and Imaginative Literature

1) Story-telling can take many forms. Why do human beings tell stories? Moreover, among the multiple purposes or reasons why humans do this, which purposes or reasons for telling stories do you think are most importantmost interesting, or most relevant to this class?

2) In AP English Lit, we will study imaginative literature--a category that includes novels, short stories, plays, and poetry. Personally, in what ways does imaginative literature matter to you? Explain how you have found that novels, short stories, plays, and poetry are important in life and worth your time and attention. Provide at least one example of a specific novel, short story, play, or poem that matters to you or that has been important in your life or worth your time and attention.

Last modified: Friday, December 22, 2017, 8:07 AM