Tuesday, July 01, 2008

On Language Arts Jargon and Rotten Definitions

So I'm looking through my supplemental materials for the McDougal Littell anthology we use. Oh look! Literary analysis transparencies... which might, perhaps, be useful if I had an overhead projector (I don't). I am SORELY going to miss my computer-projector, which was paid for with department money. They damn well better get me a new one, AND SOON. *glower*

Anyway. So the first one is on plot, includes the "mountain" diagram, and definitions for plot, conflict, exposition, rising action, climax, and falling action. Resolution is shown on the mountain diagram but is not given a definition.

Climax is defined as the 'turning point of the action, when the reader's interest reaches its highest point.' First of all, no decent story (with the possible exception of flash fiction) has only one turning point. Second, I'd thought that a turning point was called a crisis, from the Greek krisis, decision, a form of krinein, to decide. Tangent: 'Crisis' is left off the transparency entirely. WTF? Anyway. Finally, the definition makes identifying the climax highly subjective, because different readers will likely have differing points of interest. Case in point - just where the hell is the climax in Romeo and Juliet? You can make good arguments for several events. How in the world am I supposed to teach this concept to students when it is SO poorly defined?!

The definition for falling action is 'the section in which the conflict is often resolved and loose ends are tied up.' Well if all of that is done in the falling action, what's the resolution? Oo - wait - I've got the teacher's edition for the anthology. The literary terms glossary says... OMG get this!! 'See Falling Action.' Yet they are very clearly shown as different sections of the chart on the transparency! WTF?!!

Shoot me now, please, before I get up on my soapbox about theme and how the 'main idea' of the story is not that two of the Little Pigs build houses that are destroyed by the Wolf, but the third house doesn't fall down because it's built of brick the end.

Hm. OTOH, maybe this just means that I don't have to worry about trying to borrow an overhead projector...


The Science Goddess said...

Ummm...if I remember things correctly, Romeo and Juliet don't have a climax. Ahem.

Dana Huff said...

I hate that plot chart. It needs to die.

Science Goddess, I'd be amazed if Juliet did, but it's safe to assume Romeo did. Couldn't resist. Sorry.

The Science Goddess said...

You're probably right.

Now, I'll be thinking all day how Shakespeare might have written about such a thing. LOL

Melissa B. said...

WTF is right! I HATE "educator" jargon! Sounds like you need to chill; For another look at the lighter side of summer, please tune in to my blog Sunday for another edition of the Silly Sweepstakes! :) You're the Captain of the funny caption!

HappyChyck said...

You know, this reminds me that I should not allow my students to so simply define each of the elements. It just confuses all of us anyway.

Good luck trying to find stories in your anthology that fit that mountain structure...The best ones don't fit at all!

Unknown said...

I almost never use materials from the anthologies -- some of it isn't bad, but I like stuff I generate better. As a department, we're also backing away from them and going to just novels. Those anthologies are way too expensive and the kids hate carrying them around.

I don't know what kind of critical theory you want to teach, but I use a book called Critical Theory Today with my AP seniors (I pick just a few chapters every year). I also love the Bedford Critical Editions of novels since they include Lit Crit.

Science Goddess: Shakespeare writes about the "beast with two backs" all the time. He's really pretty risque -- we get away with teaching it because the kids have such a hard time getting through the Elizabethan English; I love to offer extra credit for finding the naughty bits.

Clix said...

oh come ON - it was their wedding night!!

Melissa B. said...

And please don't forget, BTW, that today's Silly Sunday. Sharpen up that sense o' humor, and drop in to see me!

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