Friday, March 30, 2007

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

TIME Magazine's 100 Best English-Language Novels from 1923 to Present

I came across this Top 100 All-Time Novels list when updating my bookmarks. The novels were picked by TIME critics Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo in 2005.

"The Great Gatsby" is there, too. Interestingly enough, "The Great Gatsby" made it to the Reader's Choice Top 5 Novels list.,24459,ratethis,00.html

Students, if you were to put together a list of your Top 5 novels, would you include "The Great Gatsby"? How would your list look like?

Friday, March 23, 2007

LibraryThing, or on New Friends and Ideas

Hi class,

I just wanted to share some thoughts on how we can expand our view and enrich our projects by getting feedback from like-minded people. I joined the Explode only a week ago (you can see my friends on the sidebar) and I have already struck a few professional contacts. My new friends are teachers who have been using blogs for educational purposes for quite a long time. They are providing me with advice, support, and inspiration.

Today, my new friend Teacher Dude left the following comment about the tools to publish photos: I would also recommend and PhotoStory 3 which can downloaded, free of charge from Microsoft. Both allow you to do amazing things with photos. Also have your students used the Great Gatsby audio book (unabridged) which can be downloaded from TorrentSpy? Thanks, Craig!

Yesterday, when I was browsing the blog of my new friend Claudia, who teaches English in Argentina, I came across an interesting post: THE FCE BLOG by Claudia Ceraso: What shall I read?#links

That is just what we need! The LibraryThing is an easy, library-quality catalog. But most importantly, LibraryThing also connects you with people who read the same things. So, I decided to explore how it works and I got registered. I added to my account the books that you are doing research on. This is how it looks:

Once you become a registered user, you can read different comments on books, get in touch with people who have the same book (see icons on the right), invite them to your blog and start a meaningful conversation. Go for it! I am excited to hear about your success.
Below is a cover view of the books from my catalog which we have been discussing within the framework of our course.

Creative Assignment for March 30


Please remember that your creative writing drafts are due next Thursday (03/30/07). Be sure to submit them in an electronic form.

You can choose any topic below and compose:

a) a letter that Gatsby might have sent to Daisy while he was fighting in World War I;
b) a letter that Daisy might have written to Gatsby on her wedding day;
c) Gatsby's ruminations while he was floating on the mattress shortly before he was shot.
I look forward to reading your compositions! Enjoy creating them!

I have already received essays from Svetlana,Olga K., Anna, Lilya, Elya, Katya, Lena.

Lena has published her essay(#1) on her personal blog

Oksana's Essay (#2)
Dear James!It's the last time I'm writing to you.I'm sure you will come to hate me after reading this later. But nevertheless I must tell you about my feelings, I can't restrain myself any longer.We'll never meet again and this thought drives me crazy.I'm broken! James, dear, I love you....I really love you...more than ever... I can't imagine my life without you.But it's too late to do anything...too late.I'm getting married today, James! I know it's a mistake, but I can't change anything now.Good Lord, only now I'm aware of what I have done! How could I accept his proposal, I don't love him at all and will never love.My careless action have spoiled all my life!I'm to blame for everything! In two hours Mike will come and we'll go arm in arm to the church.You know, I'm afraid of telling him "no" beside the alter,because my heart belongs to you. But no... I mustn't...if I utter this word I 'll dishonour my family.It can't be allowed.It can kill my Mum..You see, I'm in charge of my family. James, I beg you, forgive me,for God's sake, forgive me!I know I don't deserve it,but try to understand me.Do your best to forget me. I wish you would be happy, I don't doubt you will, you are a man of great will. I will remember you until my death, I will keep im memory every moment of being with you. You were so romantic, so tender....I'll never forget our time together.I remember our first dance, you were so shy...and our kiss, remember?your smile and eyes ...they were so innocent, so sincere...Good Heavens,I remember everything as it were yesterday!I will always love you, James. But I have to think about my future. Mike is not bad, I hope he'll take care of me. I can't let him down,I promised. Besides he wants to have children and only God knows how I dream of them! Certainly, at first I thought that everything would be easy but now I understand that I have mistaken. I should have think about you in advance, but now I have no choice. I'll suffer all my life, God will punish me for it. But I'm sure you will be happy I wish you to find your love with all my heart. I didn't want to hurt you , it was better to tell you the truth.
Always yours

Olga S.'s Essay (#2)
Dear Jay,
Or I’d better say Mr. Gatsby now… How are things with you? I have been waiting for you to return for a long time, and still you are very far away, somewhere in Europe. I hope that you are fine, there.
And I think I would never be as happy as I used to be with you, because I cannot become yours now even if you crossed the Atlantic in a few hours, putting away everything – your career, you duty. I am getting married today, so in a few hours there will be no “your sweet Daisy” any more. There will be Mrs. Buchanan – “here is to the bride and groom!” – those drunkards at the party will say.
Do not ask me why I am doing it – you understand it perfectly well, you have always been the man that could look into the inner corners of my soul. I cannot stay a maiden any longer, and Tom is at least well-known and well-to-do. He would provide for me and for my children if we ever have any. He is not a very loyal husband, but neither am I a loyal wife, with you always in my mind. How I wish it would be you standing beside me in front of the altar! This dream can never become true.
Now my whole life will become a dream – a boring dream that is going to last till I’m dead. There will probably be parties and constant moving (my husband hates staying in one place for a long time), but they will be empty since you’ll not be beside me. I have been thinking of you for long years, I’m doing it even at the day of my wedding. Everybody thinks me to be a happy and lucky bride – a bitter satire, if only they knew! So will you never forget me, Jay, will you? Not even if you marry? This is the only thing I want – just to know that you still remember me, Daisy.
Now I have to finish – it’s time for me to get dressed. Do not write me – this will only increase your and my pain.

Already not yours,

Sveta's Essay (#3)
No, that can’t be. I’ve been waiting for her to accept my feelings towards her for five years. And no word, no even a sign of her affection. No, she loves me, she told me that… I’ll never doubt her words. But why didn’t she say she loves me when I needed it most of all? I know. Her husband threatens her. Oh my God, he beats
my little Daisy to rage!!! She doesn’t even dare to reject his nonsense ‘love’!! And if so, what am I doing here, on a mattress? They may be swearing right at the moment, he may do her harm! No, that’s crazy. I’m
going mad. How on Earth can he abandon his wife if she looks so young, fresh, happy and satisfied? But if she’s content with her life and all the stuff, why has she assured me that she has been waiting for me for all these horrible five years? When I couldn’t touch her although she was near. When I wasn’t able to articulate a sound when I was asked about her. I don’t believe she’s careless or ‘rotten’ as Nick claimed her to be. She’s divine. It’s just a matter of duty that she can’t break up with her husband. They have a daughter, after all. It’s that girl that’s of prime importance to Daisy, not me. I should have got the clue much earlier. And what about me? I need Daisy’s care too. Why wasn’t she worried about her girl when we were spending days and nights together? She didn’t even mention her. She didn’t even care whether she feels good or not, whether she has had breakfast or not. What has happened to her over these years? She used to be so caring, nice and passionate. And now, when I’m ready to give her everything, she’s so indecisive! Christ, how am I to make her sure she’ll feel safe beside me? Can’t she see that her husband doesn’t match her? He’s vulgar, impolite, impulsive. She needs someone passionate, caring treating her like a Goddess. I’m ready to do all that for her. But It seems she no longer needs my sympathy and affection. If so, I think I have nothing to do with her life. And I have nothing to live for. I wish I died right here, in this place.

Olga' s Essay (#2):

My dear Gatsby,I haven't ever thought that I would write such a letter for you...But I have to do it now! Please, forget me before!I must admit that things between us had a great and beautiful start.I still remember all the good things that surrounded us: the way you used to touch me, the tender words we dedicated to each other, the way you used to look at me (always with a mix of love and desire), the warmth of your body. Yet, a few months later, it seems that none of the promises that we planted in those fields we created has flourished.Unfortunately, it just didn t happen nothing remains of what looked like a growing love, besides some memories, everything else lost its enchantment fast, and just a bitter taste was left of what tasted like such a sweet candy.It was a shame, it still is a shame, because no one expects a relationship to fail. May be a distance was one of the reasons for it!I want you to know that I don 't feel good about myself or happy with what I just said. To be honest, I 'd much rather be writing about you and how wonderful and fulfilling things have been between us ever since the day we met. But, much to my dislike, there are times in life when you have to be honest, thus avoiding a small misunderstanding that could grow it something more harmful for those involved.You know, despite this decision to break up with you, I' m keeping my fingers crossed that we may touch our lives with more joy, keeping in our hearts and souls the affection and respect we 've always felt for each other. I understand, how bad you are now. Maybe it was very cruel, may be you'll hate me, but I had to say it to you! I'm sure, it'll be better for us. We haven't any futute, and you understand it even better than I!
Good bye, my Gatsby! I really loved you!

Anna's Essay (#2)
My dear, dear Jay!
My heart is about to drop while I’m writing these lines… I hope you won’t hate me after you have read this letter and found out how mean I am. Oh, Jay, you cannot imagine how difficult and heartbreaking it is to write a letter like this… I hate to say it, but we have to break up. I’m getting married, to Tom Buchanan. You’ve heard about him, haven’t you? He seems to be a nice man. He has good prospects for the future and I think I like him. But it is not him that is important now. I’m so thankful to you for all the beautiful moments we had together, your tenderness and kindness to me. I hope you will keep some warm feelings even after this cruel decision of mine. We can remain friends afterwards, oh, Jay, cannot we? I might sound official and cold, but my heart is so down that I can hardly find the words to express my thoughts.
Maybe it’s the time we didn’t see each other that made your image fade away in my heart... but I do still feel the traces of our love in the lace of memories. Yes, it was love, perhaps it is still with us, but, Jay, admit it, it’s no longer as alive as it used to be. Now, Jay, I have to finish the letter before it has become too wet from my tears or I would have to write it all over again, which I wouldn’t be able to come over.
Yours sincerely,

Lilya's Essay (#3)
She loved me too… too! Why? Why did she say it? She didn’t love him! She couldn’t… Of course she was waiting for me for too long and she thought that I was dead. .. She married him because she was desperate. Certainly! Jordan told me that Daisy got drunk on the day of wedding and she was crying all day long, because she didn’t want to do it, she thought about me, she remembered me…And this afternoon…she was very excited this afternoon, that’s why she was saying these terrible, hurtful words. And he told her all these awful things about me, bootlegging and Walter Chase… Of course she was confused, moreover, she was frightened. She didn’t know what she was saying. Yes, she might have loved him just for the first moment, when they just got married, but no longer… He was cheating on her. And she knew it…She doesn’t deserve it. He is too rude, churlish for her, because she is so delicate, tender and loving, she needs care…And he couldn’t and can’t give it to her! She thinks she loved him, but she just persuades herself of that, because she loved me more even when they have just married.
Besides…they have a daughter and she couldn’t leave him because of her. And probably she thinks I won’t accept her with his child. But it’s not true! I’m ready to bring up, educate and love her daughter as my own, because for me it is first of all her, but not his child.
How is she there now? Nick told me that everything is ok. But he could come into her room and now he is saying all these unpleasantness…Or even worse…Oh, I must go there! But no…she said she would turn the light down and on again if something unpleasant happened. But she just turned light out…nothing happened. And probably won’t happen anymore. Maybe I should go away, as Nick suggested…Not because of the accident, as many can say… (of course I’m ready to say that I was driving the car), but not to see her anymore. I was living near her thinking of her, dreaming of her, loving her…I hoped, I believed, I tried… But it’s too hard for me. I won’t stand it anymore. I’ll wait for a couple of days, maybe something will change, she will change…her mind. If not, I’ll just die… die for her. But now I’m waiting…I hope. I still hope.
Elya's Essay (#3)
Is it the dead end? I don’t want to believe. I’m afraid of even thinking about it. It can’t be that she no longer loves me. It mustn’t be that. For so many years I’ve been living only for the hope that I could bring her back, that we would be again together as we were in our youth. And now I’ve found her and it seemed to me that my dreams come true. She said she loved me, my little girl...Yea, she said, but now...How could she hesitate to say she has never loved her husband? Why was she so doubtful and embarrassed? Did Daisy lie me? No, she couldn’t, my angel can’t tell lies. Maybe it is me myself who is lying, lying that everything can be back? Oh, God...I don’t know what I should think. I feel I’m loosing her, the dearest person in my life. And I can’t do nothing. I did everything I could. I’ve become rich and successful. Nearly everybody in West and East Egg has heard about me and my well-being. And I was doing my best to achieve all this prosperity and such a reputation. And all this only for her, my Daisy. And now, if she didn’t love me, for what on earth do I need it all? But still whatever happens, I will always support her. And now she needs my help. No question I’ll say that I was driving the car. Oh, Daisy my sweetest Daisy, I’ll do anything to protect you...Who is that man coming here?

Katya's Essay (#2)
You know, I loved you more than I even could imagine, so don’t be so cruel and heartless to me, for God’s sake, please, don’t! I’ve asked you not to write to me any more, and you know I had a reason to do this, indeed. I’ve still got plenty of them. All I seek now is oblivion, and this is all that is left for you too. You can’t, you oughtn’t be so unconscious as to ignore the fact that it is all over now, and neither you nor I can change anything. I’m engaged to Tom, I am to marry him, and this is something that has gone too far to be stopped now. There is no earthly reason why I should cancel the wedding, and my mind tells me there is no way to perform it as well.
We both, you and I, have experienced that rare type of deep, honest love that can be, that was our incredible happiness and is going to be our lifelong curse, for it won’t give peace since we are away from each other. But.. you... Don’t you think that it was your fault that all went wrong, so inevitably wrong about our romance? As I received your letter yesterday I couldn’t stop crying, remembering how perfectly happy we had been just some time ago, recollecting all the days we had spent together, ravishing, entrancing hours of love, the sense of proof you had given to me by your mere presence, the dreams of future, our future. And then it vanished, leaving nothing of its former tempting beauty, and it was you who made it disappear, after all. You left, promising to return, you let me believe that you would be able to care about me but time went and there were only words, sweet lines that I received from you, but you wouldn’t return and even now I fail to understand why. You made me feel mad, furious and desperate, and I could just bear it no longer. That instability killed me. You knew, I could not live with some vague prospects ahead forever, so don’t you dare judge me now. And do not write to me any more, please, let us leave behind our past however hard it might be, we can’t preserve it forever.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

March 30: Awakening from the American Dream in "The Great Gatsby"

Hi everyone,

I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed class today, especially your collaborative coroner's inquests and your group discussions on the themes of the novel.

Next Thursday, we'll be talking about motifs (i.e. recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text's major themes).
So, please think in terms of geography and weather.

Jazz Icarus (1913) by Henri Matisse
Image Source:

1. What aspects of the 1920s American society do places and settings epitomize (East Egg, West Egg, the valley of ashes, New York City, the East vs. the West)?
2. How does the weather match the emotional and narrative tone of the story (Gatsby and Daisy's reunion, their love reawakening, Gatsby's confrontation with Tom, the day of Gatsby's death)?
3. Think about the symbols in the novel (the green light, the valley of ashes, the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg). What concepts do they represent?

Also, "The Great Gatsby" being a sobering and even ominous commentary on the dark side of the American dream, we'll be tackling Gatsby's vision of the 1920's American Dream.
1.What do we understand by the American dream?
2.The houses in the novel serve as indices of social success and taste. How does the description of Gatsby's monstrously ornate house characterize his owner?
3.What led to Gatsby's downfall? How did his pure dream become corrupted?
4. Why do we sympathize with him?

Please listen to the mp3 lecture "Lecture 57 - Fitzgerald's Triumph_ Writing the American Dream" by Dr.Arnold Weinstein (Brown University) from his series "Classics of American Literature" . It's 30 min long.

Helpful Links:
1. What is an American Dream? (a part of The Library of Congress "American Memory" project) 2.
3. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire:Changing Conceptions of the American Dream

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"Casting" for the Role of Gatsby

This post was prompted by Elena. As a follow-up to our discussion, she suggested Cary Grant as a candidate for the role. In fact, according to "The Great Gatsby" has been filmed four times (1926, 1949, 1974, 2000) starring Warner Baxter,Alan Ladd, Robert Redford, and Toby Stephens.

Thanks to my colleague and my mentor in American Literature Maria W., we'll be watching the 1974 version starring Robert Redford on April 12

But my question is of different nature. Why didn't Fitzgerald make his Jay Gatsby older by 15-20 years? For example, somebody like Cary Grant in this picture... Post your comments please.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

E-book "An Outline of American Literature" by Peter High

Dear Students:

Please download this coursebook from
We'll be using it as a substitute for "Highlights of American Literature". Make sure to get registered before you do it. I would recommend you to explore this site. You are sure to come across some gems.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Assignment for March 22

The Great Gatsby: Chapters 6-9

1. A Brief Life of Fitzgerald at

2. Characters in “The Great Gatsby”: speech portrayals, appearance, clothes, actions, names, thoughts.

3. Be sure to study the questions (SAL p.27-29 or on prof. S.V.Titova's homepage) and find characteristics in the text.

Toby Stephens slide show featuring stills from "The Great Gatsby" (2000)

Slideshow created by helenw43

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Assignment for March 15 (F.S.Fitzgerald)

Francis Scott Fitzgerald as a Chronicler of "the Jazz Age" Era

1. “The Great Gatsby” chapters 1 through 5
On-line copy at The Roaring Twenties", an article by Svetlana V. Titova, an MSU professor
3. SAL p.25-27.

Image Source:

The Jazz Age 1920's

Added to by Aaron1912

PS Dana's blog was a random stumble when searching for "teaching" on Lo and behold! I found a Great Gatsby Treasure Hunt. I guess I'll make use of it only next year.

A Few Thoughts about the Progress We Have Made So Far, or Policy Reconsidered


In view of the mass absence on March 1, I've decided to rant on the topic of discipline and class attendance.

If you read my first post carefully, you might remember that "regular attendance is the only way to keep up with the ongoing "conversation" of the course. It will also be a factor in the final grades. You should not expect to pass the course if any one of the four major areas of the course--quizes, attendance/participation, blog entries, and the participation in the final web project -- missing, incomplete, or unsatisfactory".

If you are absent, you need to understand that an absence (whether excused, or not) is NOT a get-out-of-jail-free card for whatever assignments were done in class or due. I really hate to lecture like this but please remind yourselves that you are all grown people attending the top University by choice. Please don't expect hand-holding. All students in this course will be held to the same standard.

I hope that's the last time I have to bring that up! Let's concentrate now on moving forward with the class now. 70% of you are simply doing a wonderful job in the course so far. This is indeed a very demanding course with all the experimental stuff around it and those of you who are perfecting every single assignment I give you are truly proving that it IS possible to meet the expectations of a challenge. Bravo!

It will only be fair to those who attend all the class and post on their blogs on a regular basis that from now on:

1) every week each student is supposed to leave an entry on the group blog about what she/he has done over the week as far as the group project goes. It might be only a few lines about how many pages you have read, but it's crucial that you log in on the web site and create a post.

2) If you miss a class, you will be given a special written assignment to post on your blog about the reading you've missed. If one single lesson is not covered in this way, you won't be given a go-ahead for the end-of-the-year examination in English.

I expect Roman, Sasha, Ilya, Lilya (who missed the 02/15 class devoted to Theodore Dreiser's "The Second Choice") to reinterpret this story by using the first person point of view perspective. (Boys, please retell this story from Barton's point of view; Lilya, please retell this story as if told by Shirley's parents.)

To those who missed the "Dry September" class (Ilya, Roman, Lilya, Elya, Sveta, Lena): you are expected to retell the story in Hawkson's point of view. The essay is to contain 250-300 symbols.

See you on March 15,

A FOLLOW-UP: I have received the "Dry September" summaries from Sveta M. and Lilya Kh. They retold "Dry September" by William Faulkner from the barber's perspective. Good job!

Well, everything happened so quickly that I could hardly resist that gang of McLendon. I guess I was scared myself. Some client dropped by at the hairdresser’s and told the latest news about that notorious rape. I’ve known Will Mayes for good and I know he was morally incapable of committing such a dirty crime. Knowing Minnie Cooper, I would actually believe she has done something to herself. But McLendon
rushed in with his racist attitude prompting everyone to ‘punish the Negro’. I relied upon my clients’ and just acquaintances’ common sense but it looks like racism and hatred for the black took its own. They quickly decided upon the vehicle and the ‘mob law method’. I was forced to accompany them as I was fiendishly scared of that damn general. We dropped by at Mayes’ place and McLendon struck Will into the car. I couldn’t stand that bloody journey knowing that in some 30 minutes this black guy next to me would be slaughtered. On half way I got out of the car as I didn’t mean to stain my hands with the blood of the innocent guy. On my way home I saw the same car returning but, as you see, without Will there. Some days later I learned that Minnie was vulnerable to mental disorder. Her mental health was ruined
after that ‘Negro incident’. Anyway, why would she? What could have been the cause of her indisposition if she was only a victim?


It was the sixty third rainless day of bloody September, Saturday which I will never forget. In the evening I was on my working place, in the barber shop. Somebody told the rumor, story, or whatever it was, about Miss Minnie Cooper and the Negro. At that moment I was shaving a client and was really surprised and even shocked to hear this news, because I knew this guy. It was Will Mayes, a good nigger. And I knew Miss Minnie Cooper, too. Everybody knew. And I told about it to the people present. There and then they started to accuse me of nigger loving, but all I was trying to say was just the fact that he couldn’t do it and Miss Cooper was known for her weirdness. You know the women that get old without getting married… Besides, there was an incident about a year ago, when she said that a man on the kitchen roof was watching her undressed. But nobody wanted to listen to me and to hear me. The most furious were Butch and McLendon, who came in the barber shop in the heat of the dispute. He immediately became the leader of the 3 angry men and they all went out. The screen door crashed behind them reverberant in the dead air. I couldn’t let them….do it, so I went out, running. I went swiftly up the street, where the sparse lights, insect swirled glared in violent suspension air. When I overtook them, McLendon and three others were getting into a car parked in an alley. They thought I changed my mind and offered me to jump into their car. I did it, because there was no another chance to stop them. I asked them, if he was there, didn’t that prove that he never done it. But there was no answer. McLendon called Will. The vague noises began to grow out of the darkness ahead; then they got out and waited in the dark. Then I heard another sound: a blow, a hissing expulsion of breath. Somebody (probably, Butch) whispered: “Kill him, kill the black son!”. But McLendon told them to drag the Negro to the car. I had waited beside the car and could feel myself sweating, I knew I was going to be sick at the stomach. Will really didn’t know why they grabbed him, what did he and what they were going to do with him. It was awful. The Negro didn’t want to get in the gar, McLendon struck him, the others struck him with random blows and he whirled and cursed them, swept his hands across our faces and slashed me upon the mouth, and I stuck him, too…. Then he got in the car. I couldn’t be there anymore and asked John to let me out. McLendon drove swiftly and didn’t stop the car. The road led to an abandoned brick kiln…As he didn’t stop, I kicked the door open and jumped. The car went on without checking speed. I fell into the ditch and lay chocking and retching until the second car passed. Then rose and limped on until reached the highroad and turned toward town. Suddenly I heard the cars behind me, so I left the road and crouched again in the weeds until they passed away. The last was McLendon’s car. There were 4 people in this bloody car and Butch was not on the running board as before. Done. I don’t remember how I got to my house. And that dry September day I don’t want to recall but will never forget.

Friday, March 2, 2007

How to Create a Photo Slideshow


Just to inspire you to become webheads, I have put together a photo slideshow featuring American Nobel Prize Laureates in Literature. Please note that I've provided the links to the web sites from where I've downloaded the pictures. When you use an image created by somebody else, it's a must to cite the image source. We don't want any copyright infringement, do we?

This album is powered by BubbleShare - Add to my blog

Some Tools to Jazz Up Your Blog

I think our blogs need some "bells and whistles". It has taken me some time to figure out how to upload your PowerPoint presentations (they do deserve being shared!!!).
I have discovered two free web services that might enable you to post your slideshows and photos on the web. They are and

This is my first attempt at using I am uploading Olga Kravchenko's slideshow as an example. Feel free to upload your own presentation you made last semester on you blog. is for pictures only.

Also, I have found a blog that offers some really neat templates and widgets. If you are interested in changing the look of your blog, go to