Sunday, February 20, 2011

Suggestions for Your “Reports”

In a couple of weeks, I’d like you to submit your Midterm Reports. So, a few times this week, I will post suggestions for how to approach this, adding to what I’ve suggested on the Syllabus:

First, what I don’t really want: a high-school or (really) middle-school sort of report that lacks insight, effort, or personal connection. This doesn’t need to be more than a couple of pages, but it should be a tool you use to dig deeper into the possibilities of writing and the culture of writers. Use it to connect yourself more to those things in some way, and such that it will be of value to the rest of us.

I have posted here to “Lectures & Notes” during a previous semester a list of movies that in some way relate to poets; you can watch any of these, or any film about a writer in general (that’s a list I’ll start compiling one of these days), and this version of the “Poetry and Poets on Film” is a bit out of date as well – several films have come out that I will add in later. But you might start here, and watch one or two – two allows you to compare strategies or effects. From one, do more than merely summarize the plot.  Some suggestions:

Research the poet in some quick & easy way – Wikipedia is fine for this sort of quick, hit-and-run research (read a biography if you have time, though). How well does the film present a true sense of the poet’s life and personality?

What role does poetry or the poet’s life seem to play in the film? Is it of significance to the plot, is it clichéd or innovative, is it related to death, seduction, self-discovery, a mystery, or some other theme or device of the narrative?

How is poetry read or performed in the film?

Find reviews of the film; to what extent do they discuss the use of poetry in the film?

Here is the list:


If you are more interested in fiction, one way to connect film to novels, obviously, is to read a novel and then watch the film version. Which is better, or are they not comparable? Does the film add to your sense of the novel? What do they leave out from the book – or add in? How does it fit your imagined sense of character, scene, and situation? If there is more than one film version of a novel, which is better, in your view?


If you do a report on a writer’s life, although the report is brief, take time to compare two or three different biographical accounts. For more established writers, you can easily find memoirs, autobiography, biographies, and biographical notes in critical works. USE PRINT – don’t just sit and Google! Walk, ride, drive to a library or bookstore; dig around. In the different versions, are there discrepancies? What matters are highlighted or minimized? What matters in the writer’s life story seem most relevant to our understanding of his or her work?


Do a brief survey of criticism of a writer; for this, you can, if you want, stick to library databases and open-Internet searches. Find reviews of books that appeared at the time the book was published; compare, perhaps, to critical reviews published further along in the writer’s career.


A useful research project: dig deep into the web and find writers’ blog sites that seem interesting. Give us a blogroll: a list of the best you found. Annotate, perhaps: tell what seems good about each one. Or: what “memes” do you discover? That is, what issues do literary bloggers seem to discuss with frequency?

Or, look at writers’ web pages (could be blogs, but also simply static pages): what materials do they tend to post there?


Another useful report: what are the best resources for writers on the web? Other than what I’ve been listing, that is: rhyming dictionaries, writer’s software, reference sites, craft sites, discussion forums, or anything you think many writers would be able to use.


or – the same “Writer’s toolkit” idea – but of print resources.

More ideas later this week…

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