Eng-4: Critical Thinking/Writing Literature

Develops critical thinking, reading, and writing skills as they apply to the analysis of fiction, poetry, and drama; literary criticism; and related non-fiction from diverse cultural sources and perspectives. Emphasis on the techniques and principles of effective written argument as they apply to literature.

Instructor

Jim Willis
Mr. Willis’ original website for the course was located at GeoCities. In 2009, GeoCities was shut down. Fortunately, the website was archived on Oocities.org!
Mr. Willis’ Family Website
Mr. Willis’ Teaching Website, for Las Positas College Students

Study Guides

  • Les Miserables Study Guide– This is the Les Miserables study guide formated to fit on one page. You can fold the guide in three, insert it into your book, and save a few trees. Click the link above, you may need to right click, to download.
  • Final Cheat Sheet– This is the content from Mr. Willis’s online cheat sheet for the final formated and condensed into a one page pdf. Maybe we will save some energy and trees. Click the link above to download the pdf. The content of the pdf was copied from Mr. Willis’s website.

Final Practice Quiz

Hey class, let me know if you find any errors in the quiz. You can post issues or comments in the reply section located below.

(Test is currently not available.)

The Doorway

My honors project for this course was the production of a movie inspired by Mr. Willis’ presentation of his brother’s parable, The Doorway.

Below is a flyer from the presentation.

thedoorway_banner

Class Journal

  • Eugene O’Neill & Honors Project: 08.23.07
    • Today was the first day of class. It was nice to see Mr. Willis again, my English 1a teacher from the 2006 summer. I also recognized some faces from that 2006 summer class. Today, Mr. Willis made an intriguing presentation on Eugene O’Neill. We are reading his book Long Day’s Journey Into Night. At the end of class I introduced the idea for a short movie based on Mr. Willis’s brothers essay, The Doorway. I will write up a proposal for the project over the next week. This class entails a lot of reading and 4 essays.
  • Reading & Honors Project: 08.29.07
    • The first Act of Long Day’s Journey into Night was very intense (1 hour of reading). It started out with a lite and flirtatious feel and gradually hinted towards a potential array of events to come. I also wrapped up the Honors Project proposal for the Doorway, and I am may create a separate page for it soon. Tomorrow I will run the proposal by Dr. Klaschus and Mr. Willis.
  • Reading Long Day’s Journey: 08.30.07
    • We started reading Long Day’s Journey into Night in class. Mr. Willis played Tyron while the students played the other parts. Some of the reading is very dry and distracting, but Mr. Willis preforms incredibly. Also, Mr. Willis’s explanations through out the reading are invaluable. One particular explanation, breaking down the word “plutocrat,” stood out to me. Mr. Willis linked plutocrat to Roman history, Pluto, then to Greek, Hades. At the end of class I proposed the honors project to Mr. Willis, and he suggested some fine tuning on the grammar. I will finish Long Day’s Journey into Night over the weekend, and I will also began Lord of the Fly’s and re-read “The A & P.”
  • Long Day’s Journey Continued: 09.07.07
    • Last night we finished reading Long Days Journey into Night, and I volunteered to read for Edmund’s part. I felt a bit rusty, but all in all, I did OK. It was nice to receive a compliment from Mr. Willis at the end of class. ¶ I forgot to print out the The Doorway Honors Project contract, so I will print it out to be signed next week. ¶ Our homework is to write an essay on Long Day’s Journey into Night. I will work on this today, and I should have something to be proofread by the middle of next week.
  • Sophocles Plays: 09.20.07
    • This week we read Antigones, and last we read Oedipus. I really enjoyed both plays, and I found my place reading the parts in the plays. ¶ I will read Lord of the Flies this weekend, preferably Friday, for the essay is due next Thurs. This time I will do my best to be brief and to the point.
  • Lord of the Flies Discussion: 09.28.07 Edit
    • We had an amazing discussion on Lord of the Flies. Mr. Willis confirmed that Golding was a Christian, and this answers a lot of questions on the direction of the book. During the discussion, I noticed a key point I missed about Simon’s death, i.e., the halo of fire flies. In my essay I quoted Mr. Olander, my former high school English teacher, saying the ocean foam created a halo around Simon’s head. My memory lacked the details of Mr. Olander’s lecture, and I noticed I wasn’t particularly looking for the religious symbolism in my second reading, for I had a natural inclination towards the humanistic implications… although, I did catch the Lucifer association. Maybe I wasn’t as interested in the Christ association, and this brings me to a second note. ¶ It was suggested that Simon was symbolic of a Christ figure, and there are certainly similar characteristics. But Simon lacked a key component of Christ. I think Christ was a leader, and this was a quality that Simon didn’t have. Although, one could say he was the leader of the children, but there wasn’t much teaching or leadership exemplified. I had a fleeting thought of the holly trinity, represented by Piggy, Simon, and Ralph, but this idea is nullified, for the Father, Son, and Spirit fall short in direct character association. Ultimately, I am most interested in the interdependent relationship of the trio, how Simon, Ralph, and Piggy all needed each other, and this is associated back to my sociological fascination with the trio. Anyhow, the discussion was awesome, and I enjoyed it very much!
  • A New Genesis of Les Miserables: 10.03.07
    • Yesterday, I fine tuned the Les Miserables Study Guide and posted it in the Study Guides for this class. I hope this will help my colleagues be more efficient in there studies. ¶ Today, I began Les Miserables, the most influential book in my life. ¶ I originally received Les Miserables from my brother, Shane, on my birthday, either my 22nd or 23rd. Shane will also be a prominent character in my short movie, The Doorway, based on Mr. Willis’s brother’s parable. ¶ I read twenty pages of the book today, and I can already feel the influence of previous emotions. This is a relief, for I have felt void of sincerity in the midst current work. In reading, I felt an association to the past, my direction guided towards an artistic sacrifice. I love this book, and look forward to sharing more thoughts.
  • A Street Car Named Desire: 10.05.07 Edit
    • We began reading Street Car in class yesterday. Mr. Willis is playing Stanley very well. I am looking forward to the class next week where Mr. Willis shares his perspective on relationships.
  • Finishing Street Car: 10.19.07
    • Yesterday, we finished Street Car, and Mr. Willis continued an excellent perfomance of Stanley. Also, note, I didn’t log on the Mr. Willis’s relationship lecture last week, but it was excellent. I did take written notes, so if time permits, I will make an edit. ¶ This week, I have moved ahead on Les Misérables. I could get ahead on the short stories, but I think I may pace myself and work on some other projects, e.g., making a practice quiz, or flash cards for authors.
  • Finishing Death of a Salesman: 11.09.07 Edit
    • Yesterday, we finished Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller. Mr. Willis played Willy Loman, and I played Willy’s son, Biff. This play was extremely intriguing and fun to preform. Mr. Willis wrapped up the play by sharing his life changing experience, dropping out of his pursuit for priesthood. He also explained how the story represents an American tragedy. In addition, he hinted towards the association to social and moral corruption resulting from capitalism. ¶ A couple of weeks ago, I questioned capitalism’s place in society, far beyond the present. And I had this idea, we, the people of the US, depend on competition based on consuming, or consumption. This resulted from the question, “Competition for what?” The consumer immediately popped in my mind, and I united the words “Consumer Economics” and also “Consumer Capitalism.” I then searched on Google and found some aspects of my vision similar to Wikipedia’s definition, see Consumer Capitalism at Wikipedia. Most importantly, in this definition, I found a very similar perspective to my vision by Bernard Stiegler. “Stiegler argues that capitalism today is governed not by production but by consumption, and that the techniques used to create consumer behavior amount to the destruction of psychic and collective individuation. (Wikipedia.com)” I’m not exactly sure what is meant by individuation, so I will have to research this later. Unfortunately, very little of Stiegler’s critique on Consumer Capitalism is translated. Again, more research is desired. ¶ Now, I can either write on this subject or choose to do 5 poems based on the characters of our recent poems and stories. Soon, I will decide.
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof & Author Quiz: 11.16.07 Edit
    • Yesterday, I finished the Author Quiz and posted it on this page. Mr. Willis was very greatful for and responsive to the quiz. He sent a link to the quiz in an email to the rest of the students. Mr. Willis playfully noted that he scored 100% on the quiz. ¶ In addition, Mr. Willis read over my class logs and was very entertained by them. He noticed—in the September 7 entry—that I incorrectly titled Long Day’s Journey into Night, changing it to Hard Day’s Journey into Night. I reviewed my notes and realized as the play progressed I went from the correct name, Long Day’s, to the incorrect, Hard Day’s. I believe this was due to the content and subject matter in the play as it developed, and it actually effected me to the degree that I changed the title in my logs! So I corrected the title in that entry. ¶ In class, we read Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. It was a fast paced play, very comical in many ways. The casting for the reading was great too. In addition to Mr. Willis masterfully playing Big Daddy, students outstandingly read for Big Mama, Margaret, and Mae. I read for Brick and developed a Southern accent. At some times I was strong into character too. We had just enough time to finish the play, and I wish we had more time to either hear a lecture or to share thoughts on the piece. ¶ I’m looking forward to our next class which, unfortunately, is not for two weeks. We were assigned a wealthy amount of reading, and this reading isn’t due for two weeks.
  • Lest We Forget: 11.30.07
    • Last night, Mr. Willis read “Mr. Rose,” “The Doorway,” “The Berrington Bunny,” and “Lest We Forget,” and this was a very moving night. ¶ To start, I picked up new inspiration during the discussion on “The Doorway.” The timing is nearly perfect, for I have a presentation on the progress of the project, The Doorway Movie, next week. I will use this inspiration in my speech. ¶ This was the first time I heard Mr. Willis read “The Berrington Bunny.” It sounded familiar, and I found out why when Mr. Willis read “Lest We Forget.” ¶ “Lest We Forget” is a very intense, benevolent, and emotional account of a very unique and beautiful story, the life of Mr. Willis’s son, Colin. “The Berrington Bunny” is referenced in the story. ¶ I had many thoughts today. I was particularly influenced by the idea of learning to accept yourself and others for who and how you or they are. In addition, the concept of giving with “no strings attached” struck a vibrant chord. ¶ Our last essay, number four, is due next week. This is the reflective essay. I’m not sure exactly how to approach this one, but I had some ideas during class. ¶ Also, during class a former realization was reaffirmed and escalated. This realization is that I thoroughly enjoy the class. It is a similar sensation acquired from my first reading of Les Misérables, the unabridged version over five years ago. I developed such a strong relationship with the book that I didn’t want it to end, and I had the same feeling in class. Now, I tell myself, Les Misérables hasn’t ended. Jean Valjean’s character continues to influence me. This class will find a way to live on in myself, just as Jean Valjean, in Les Miserables, inspires my actions and Colin, in “Lest We Forget,” inspires our hearts.
  • Story’s and Poems: 12.10.07
    • I was so busy last week that I didn’t have time to write an article about class. Right after class I headed home to pack for LA, and the last several days were spent dealing with the trip. ¶ In class, we discussed more of the story’s and poems. Mr. Willis also let us know the plans for the coming weeks. ¶ Also, I almost forgot, at the beginning of class we turned in our last essay. I tried some different things with colons and semi-colons, so I took a bit of a chance. Though I will take Mr. Willis’s corrections, if needed, as a learning experience. My last essay was an evaluation on Mr. Willis’s teaching and a reflection on how it effected me. Maybe, I will post the essay in the coming weeks, before class ends. Anyhow, I have to get back to a special project for now.
  • Strange Snow: 12.15.07
    • Yesterday, Mr. Willis read “The Lover of Horses,” by Tess Gallagher. and we, as a class, read “Strange Snow,” by Steve Metcalfe. “The Lover of Horses” is a beautiful story about a woman’s father passing. This got me thinking about a movie idea I had, The Karaoke Singer. As far as “Strange Snow,” I was extremely tired, but I enjoyed reading the part of David. There was a particular moment that I fell into character. It was shortly after David returned home from fighting with some high school kids. ¶ Mr. Willis also gave an overview on the test. I think things will run pretty smooth on the test. The test includes a matching section for the authors, and this should be no problem; for I already memorized all of the authors. Another section will include naming characters by provided quotes; this should be no problem too, for Mr. Willis provides a cheat sheet with all of the stories and character lists. The last thing I need to do is study the short stories and poetry. I will go through and highlight the stories and poetry I’m unfamiliar with for further studying.

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