I have been going through my older posts. One of my favorite classroom activities in the past was to hand out little excerpts or passages from classic literature and have my participants guess what they were. I chose stories that I knew or at least suspected everyone to ‘somehow’ know.
(Further down you will find a spoiler alert as in this post you find the answers to the excerpts. Do not continue reading on from there if you still want to go through the six classics you find in separate posts under the category ‘Guess the Classic’).
Last week the topic of the ‘seven sins’ came up again (see post from 25. June 2013). We had been reading about a general decline in the sales of soft drinks. In this connection, the topic of the attempted ban of XXL drinks in New York City came up. The question arose why anyone would buy such large drinks in the first place, instead of maybe buying a second if you still wanted more after the first (smaller) one. The ‘History of Supersizing‘ provides an answer: we seem so have a tendency not to take seconds so as to not appear piggish. Thus, if marketers want people to buy more of their drink, they have to increase the size of one. (revised December 2021)
The time around the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century is known as the era of industrial development and numerous inventions. In France, it was also a time of great literary and artistic activity. From one of the writers living in these times is the following extract:
In this next passage, we leave Europe and go to the other side of the Atlantic. This author is considered a very special one in many respects. The so-called New World has now been settled for some time, but American literature, what we consider ‘genuine’ American, is still fairly new. James Fenimoore Cooper has generally been acknowledged with being the first to have written novels exclusively set in an American landscape, depicting the early settlement experience of mostly European settlers, taking a critical view on their often disrespectful and brutal treatment of nature and the original inhabitants of the continent.
The following, though, is not from one of Cooper’s novels.
This well-known American author was one of the earliest American writers of short stories, and one of the first in the US who tried to make a living through writing. He is largely considered the inventor of the detective story, but is probably better known for his gothic fantasies.
Then came the night of the first falling star. It was seen early in the morning, rushing over Winchester eastward, a line of flame high in the atmosphere. Hundreds must have seen it, and taken it for an ordinary falling star. Albin described it as leaving a greenish streak behind it that glowed for some seconds. Denning, our greatest authority on meteorites, stated that the height of its first appearance was about ninety or one hundred miles. It seemed to him that it fell to earth about one hundred miles east of him. Continue reading
Did you recognize Classic (2)? Most readers remember the whitewash scene. There have been quite a few film adaptations and I must admit that one of my favorites actually is the German TV series made in the 70ies.
The next one is a little more recent than the first two; a novel from the first half of the 20th century of which there are two film adaptations as far as I know.
The Ministry of Truth — Minitrue, in Newspeak* — was startlingly different from any other object in sight. It was an enormous pyramidal structure of glittering white concrete, soaring up, terrace after terrace, 300 metres into the air. From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party: Continue reading
The Marshall McLuhan Test
Marshall McLuhan, (July 21, 1911 – December 31, 1980) was a Canadian philosopher of communication theory. His work is viewed as one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory, as well as having practical applications in the advertising and television industries. McLuhan is known for coining the expressions the medium is the message and the global village, and for predicting the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented. (from wikipedia).
I came across the so-called Marshall McLuhan test while reading and browsing through the Guardian web page. Charlotte Stretch mentions it in her post on the Guardian’s books blog. She refers to John Sutherland, who asks in his book How to Read a Novel: A User’s Guide how we choose which books to read since there are so many novels, new ones being published every day? Our time is limited. Even if we spent all of it reading… I once calculated how many books I could manage to read in the rest of my remaining days if I, say, for example, read two 300 pagers a week. Continue reading
This one always turned out to be the easiest, or the second easiest.
Now the next: Continue reading
Research has shown that the vast majority of words are learned in and from context. So the more you expose yourself to the language, the more your vocabulary will grow. Besides listening, reading is one of the keys to vocabulary growth. So read, read, read – especially things that interest you, that you enjoy, or that are in any way meaningful to you.
I personally enjoy fiction. Though I know not everybody does, I do like to integrate fictional literature into my classes every once in a while. One of my favorite ‘exercises’ is ‘Guess the novel’: I copy pages from well-known classics and have the group read and guess what novels or stories the pages are from. Interestingly, even if they haven’t read the book, in most cases they are able to come up with the correct answer as those I pick seem to have their place in something like a collective consciousness.
Below is one such excerpt. One word in the text proved to be a total give-away, so I shortened it to two initial letters. Continue reading