Free Choice Activities

Dr. Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI

These are a few suggestions for Activity 10. I'll be adding more as time goes by, especially ones based on questions made up by students. Feel free to select one, or to make up your own question based on a reading of your choice. However, if you make up your own question, you need to send it to me for approval before writing about it. NOTE: if you choose a reading we have not studied, it must be from the time period covered by World Literature 2. Make a copy of the question to begin your Activity. Post your response to the Blackboard Activity 10: Free Choice Forum. I will comment on your Activity on the Forum, and send your grade to you privately, by email. If you select a double credit option, be sure to note that at the top of your Activity along with your Activity number.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Magical Realism: Explore the Macondo site on Magical Realism and read a story by Marquez (there's one in your textbook, or many in print elsewhere. My own favorite is his novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude--see the link to the Annenberg Video on One Hundred Years of Solitude on the Course Home Page). Examine the Marquez text you select closely to explain what, exactly, makes it fit the definition of Magical Realism. Do you think this method of story telling is especially suited to Latin America, or do you think it makes for great stories anywhere? Support your ideas with plenty of specific examples from the text you have chosen to read. If you choose a short story, this is worth up to 50 points. If you choose One Hundred Years of Solitude, this can be worth double credit if thoroughly done.
Read Kafka's, "Metamorphosis," a story about a man who wakes up one morning to find he has become an insect. Note the details of his interactions with his family, and how the family situation degenerates during his insect life and improves after his death. Can you find any ideas about how real families function in this truly weird story? Give specific examples to support your ideas.
Dovstoevsky's  "Notes from the Underground" is narrated by a neurotic, angry, unfulfilled man who announces among other things that, "I could not even become an insect. I tell you solemnly, that I have many times tried to become an insect. But I was not equal even to that." If you want an interesting challenge, compare this narrator to Gregor, in Kafka's, "Metamorphosis," who does "succeed," as it were, in becoming an insect. What parallels can you see between these two men and/or the societies they lived in? Use plenty of specific details from both stories to support your ideas. Can be worth double credit if very thoroughly done.
An Internet Option: Select ten WWW sites that would be excellent resources for this course. For each one, include the name of the site, its URL, what it is about, and why and how you think it would add to the course content. Be sure none of the sites you select is already listed on the optional www links which are linked to the Course Home Page. Do not select more than one section from a single site and do not select pages from Wikipedia.
Read The Tortilla Curtain by J.C. Boyle and write an essay about the conflict between two cultures--the illegal Hispanic immigrants who camp in the depths of Topanga Canyon and seek day labor and the well-meaning (if it does not cost them comfort) Anglo folks who use that labor but live graciously in a gated community in the high hills of Topanga Canyon. There are currently (2011) some sharp exchanges about day laborer sites, illegal immigrants, and the value of helping or expelling these folk, so I think you will find this book extremely timely.
Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man tells the story of a black American who is invisible, because people do not see him as a human being. In our increasingly urban mass culture, many of us may, at times, feel equally invisible and helpless, whatever our color may be. If this topic interests you, read the novel, and then address the issue of being invisible, both in the novel and in life as you live and know it. Be sure to use plenty of specific examples from both the book and your experience to support your ideas.
Look through Monkey, a gorgeous Chinese "comic" strip about the monkey king, and then select an American comic strip that you find on the WWW. Compare/contrast the two comic strips in terms of style, characters, story content, meaning or message, if any, artist's intent, etc.
Watch the Annenberg Video Journey to the West (which is another name for Monkey) and then read either the selections from Monkey in the textbook or find a copy online or in a library or through a bookseller. Get the Whaley translation, which is the one volume version. Monkey is amazingly popular in China and elsewhere, both as a serious story about the quest for spiritual enlightenment, AND as a glorious romp by various supernatural creatures. What can you, as a modern reader, learn from this book about how to live and what is important in life? Be sure to support your argument with plenty of specific examples from Monkey.
Read through some of the articles on NomadNet, a depressing, yet fascinating, source of news from war-torn, post-colonial Africa. Compare this modern African world with the idyllic, although certainly not perfect, world of the Igbo before the British arrived, as presented in Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Can you see any connections? If so, what are they? Explain, using plenty of specific examples from both the news articles and from the novel. [If you cannot see any connections, this is probably not a good choice of an activity.]
Both Achebe's Things Fall Apart and Yeats' poem, "The Second Coming," deal with the inevitable breakdown of the way things have been, without any clear knowledge of what is going to happen next. Yeats was involved in the revival of native Irish culture (versus English imperialism), and of course, Achebe was also involved in the issues of English imperialism versus the native life of his community. Read "The Second Coming" (in your textbook) and compare/contrast its attitude toward history and the end of things to that in Achebe's novel. 
Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness was one of the British colonial novels that led Chinua Achebe to write about a very different view of Africa in Things Fall Apart. If you are curious to contrast the two, read Conrad's novel and then compare/contrast Achebe's portrayal of the humane, civilized Igbo culture and Conrad's images of "darkest" Africa. Can be worth double credit if you do a thorough job.
If you have read Freud's "Dora," you might want to read this intriguing, elegant murder mystery that starts with Dora's murder and investigates her family in the context of early 20th century Vienna. The book is The Fig Eater, by Jody Shields (pub. 2000). It is in a Back Bay paperback (pub. 2001) and I enjoyed it immensely. If you choose to read it, you can analyze how it uses the information in "Dora," and the differences between Freud's interpretation of Dora and Shields' modern feminist twists. Interestingly, although post-modern, it cleverly uses modernist devices such as the subjective nature of truth. Can be worth double credit if you do a thorough job. 
Watch the Annenberg Video on The God of Small Things (see the link information on the Course Home Page) and then read the book, which is rather short and beautifully written. There is also a useful study guide for this book by Paul Brians which is linked to on the Optional www sites for Unit 4. Do you think the children in the story are beliveable? Do they think and speak like "real" children? Or do you think they are made up by the author to prove her point? Explain your ideas in depth, referring to specific incidents in the book to support your ideas. Can be worth double credit if you do a thorough job.


(c) Diane Thompson: 8/1/1998; updated: 07/06/2011