Thursday, May 3, 2012

May 3

JOURNAL TOPIC: [Note: I won't be in class today, so the journal topic serves both as a mini "response-to-text" essay and a start to your group conversations about AP prep-- I will be grading your response and today's entry on your personal blog accordingly.  Note2: Period 2, you're not off the hook-- make sure this is in your journal when you turn it in tomorrow.]

Read the following excerpt from David Foster Wallace's Everything & More.  Analyze the text in terms of the basics--theme, tone, diction, and syntax--and see if you can apply any other technical elements you're covering in the lit terms.  Go down the list term by term and see what applies.  (You may cooperate in the process, but your writing should be all you.)

Abstraction has all kinds of problems and headaches built in, as we all know.  Part of the hazard is how we use nouns.  We think of nouns' meanings in terms of denotations.  Nouns stand for things-- man, desk, pen, David, head, aspirin.  A special kind of comedy results when there's confusion about what's a real noun, as in 'Who's on first?' or those Alice in Wonderland routines-- 'What can you see on the road?' 'Nothing.'  'What great eyesight!  What does nothing look like?'  The comedy tends to vanish, though, when the nouns denote abstractions, meaning general concepts divorced from particular instances.  Many of these abstraction-nouns come from root verbs.  'Motion' is a noun, and 'existence'; we use words like this all the time.  The confusion comes when we try to consider what exactly they mean.  It's like Boyer's point about integers.  What exactly do 'motion' and 'existence' denote?  We know that concrete particular things exist, and that sometimes they move.  Does motion per se exist?  In what way?  In what way do abstractions exist?

Of course, that last question is itself very abstract.  Now you can probably feel the headache starting.  There's a special sort of unease or impatience with stuff like this.  Like 'What exactly is existence?'  or 'What exactly do we mean when we talk about motion?'  the unease is very distinctive and sets in only at a certain level in the abstraction process-- because abstraction proceeds in levels, rather like exponents or dimensions.  Let's say 'man' meaning some particular man is Level One.  'Man' meaning the species is Level Two.  Something like 'humanity' or 'humanness' is Level Three; now we're talking about the abstract criteria for something qualifying as human.  And so forth.  Thinking this way can be dangerous, weird.  Thinking abstractly enough about anything... surely we've all had the experience of thinking about a word-- 'pen,' say-- and sort of saying the word over and over to ourselves until it ceases to denote; the very strangeness of calling something a pen begins to obtrude on the consciousness in a creepy way, like an epileptic aura.

1. Journal (done well, the analysis should take most of the period)
2. Continue AP exam prep

2. Study for tomorrow's lit terms quiz.  EVERY SINGLE TERM IS ELIGIBLE.
3. Share your peace of mind that you're ready for next week SO THAT I CAN STOP WRITING IN ALL CAPS.

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