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Discussion 3.1

First, read the instructions for the Argument essay that concludes this unit.  This assignment and the others in this unit will all lead up to that essay.

As described in those instructions, you will need to choose a topic from the New York Times “Room for Debate” pages.  Once you have chosen a topic you will notice that there are several “debaters,” each of whom have written an article in response to the topic.  In your initial discussion board post, summarize all of the different articles/viewpoints from the room for debate page.  This is an important exercise in preparing any argument because you need to be familiar with different opinions surrounding issue. After your short summaries, write a paragraph explaining where you stand on the issue.  Finish your post by creating a working thesis statement.  Your thesis statement should clearly present an opinion and it should make a specific claim about the topic.

As you reply to your peers (2 replies, 150 words each), evaluate their thesis statements.  Are they clear, narrow and debatable?  Next,  provide at least two opposing viewpoints.  In other words, if you were to argue the opposite side of the issue, what reasons would you give to support your position. (It doesn’t matter whether or not you really disagree, you simply are helping your peers explore the debate.)

The purpose of this exercise is to begin a working thesis to help guide your final essay while also getting some input about opposing viewpoints.

Discussion 4.1

Use the following questions to help you formulate your response to “The Science of Sarcasm” by Richard Chin.  You do not need to answer each question individually; they are here to help guide you.  Remember, all discussion boards require one initial post of at least 300 words, two replies of at least 150 words each.

1. What are the differences between sarcasm, irony and satire?

2. Sarcasm involves saying one thing and meaning the opposite. How do people detect sarcasm?

3. Why are we more likely to use sarcasm with our friends than our enemies?

4. Do you find sarcasm funny or just rude?

Discussion 4.2

Read the material in Unit 4 about music and figurative language then listen to the music files located in the Music folder.  Choose one that interests, engages or confuses you the most.

For this discussion, describe the music incorporating figurative language wherever possible.  Use vivid imagery, metaphors, similes, alliteration, onomatopoeia, personification, and hyperbole to help your reader understand your reaction to the music.  The highest grades will be given to students who can use an extended metaphor in their description.

Respond to your classmates’ posts (2 replies) by adding your own opinions and reactions to the music they chose to write about.


rainbow flag


Charles Mingus “Duet and solo Dancers”


A Hawk and a Hacksaw “For Slavoj”


“Floe” by Philip Glass


“Sleeping (on trains)” by Carpet Musics

Music and Figurative Language

They say music is a universal language.  If so, why is it so hard to describe?

The terms that musicians and composers use to discuss music can difficult for the layman to understand:  timbre, meter, tone, harmony, etc.   Therefore, when discussing music, many people rely on tired expressions like, “it has a good beat” or a “catchy melody”—terms that are vague and entirely a matter of personal taste.

To really convey the sounds and effects of music, we have to work a little harder.  Fortunately, language gives us a means to describe things that are inherently difficult to describe: figurative language.

For centuries writers have used figurative language to describe things like love, hate, fear, jealously and compassion.   Shakespeare wrote, “Love is a smoke raised with the fume of sighs.”   In describing anger, he also wrote,

Tears virginal
Shall be to me even as the dew to fire,
And beauty that the tyrant oft reclaims
Shall to my flaming wrath be oil and flax.
Henceforth I will not have to do with pity:
Meet I an infant of the house of York,
Into as many gobbets will I cut it
As wild Medea young Absyrtus did:
In cruelty will I seek out my fame.

Could love or anger be any better conveyed using everyday, literal language?  I think not.

Music, too, benefits from being described using figurative language.  In one of your readings from this section, music critic Roger Scruton describes a musical performance thusly: “They began with a yet more grotesque rendering of the national anthem, which sounded in their electric instrumentation like an amplified whisper from the grave.”

Figurative language, encompassing similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, hyperboles and other devices, can aid us in describing things that straightforward, literal language cannot quite capture.  For your next assignment I will ask you to use figurative language to describe a piece of music.

Discussion 5.1

Initial post of  at least 300 words / two replies of at least 100 words each.

Analyze and respond to Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.”   Refer to the “Writing about Literature” links to help guide your response.  The prompts below can be used for brainstorming purposes.  No need to answer them all and, of course, you can devise your own prompt if you like.  Either way, be sure that your response is in short essay format (not just a string of short answers) with a clear thesis statement and supporting quotations.

1. If we consider the story to be an example of satire, then what idea, issue or situation is the target of the satire?

2 Why are the townspeople more interested in the Spider Woman than the angel?  What does this say about human nature?

3. The story is full of fantastic imagery.  Identify some of your favorites and explain how those images support a major theme of the story.

After writing your response, make 2 replies (100 words or more) to posts by your classmates. Your replies should focus on the content of the posts, not the form–in other words, don’t bother pointing out errors in punctuation and grammar.  Instead, focus on areas of agreement or disagreement in the analysis of the story.

Discussion 5.2

Initial post of 300 words / two replies of 100 words each.

Respond to Albert Camus’ “The Guest.” You may use the following prompts to help you get started, or you may explore and interpretation of your own choosing.  Remember to use textual evidence to support your claims and interpretations.

1. Albert Camus, along with Jean-Paul Sartre, was a central figure in the existentialist movement.  What is existentialism and how might “The Guest” be an example of an existential crisis?

2. Was Daru’s decision to let The Arab choose his own destiny a heroic or cowardly decision? What is the ultimate result of this decision? What lesson or theme do you think Camus is trying to communicate through this encounter?