I expect your reaction papers to be 2-3 pages in length (typed, double-spaced) and for you to pick a topic that you find thought provoking and that you can say something about.

While a reaction paper does not need to be as formal as a multi-draft essay, it should have a point / make an argument / have a thesis / show evidence of thought and evaluation and that point / argument / thesis / thought should be supported with evidence from the book (in the form of quotations) and that evidence should be properly formatted, punctuated, and cited (MLA format).

Your reaction paper is due via Google docs on Monday, April 14.

Here are some possible topics, but feel free to write on others:

  1. Imagine a conversation with the Commander about the structure of society, and how it views and esteems women. What do you imagine their rhetoric to be? Do you hear parallels with contemporary discussions on valuing or protecting women?
  1. Language functions as a tool for control in Offred’s society, as women are not allowed read or write, and the Bible is interpreted in a way that promotes the Republic of Gilead’s agenda. How does control of language contribute to the ideology of this society? Or, how does Offred use language to regain some sense of self?
  1. What effect does the inclusion of the Historical Notes have on the narrative, or on Offred’s attempts at storytelling? Think about the shift in style, and how the Notes provide an additional perspective on Offred’s story and her society.
  1. Choose one of the scholarly articles we read in class as your starting point. Identify their argument and decide if you agree or disagree with the argument they are making. Write a reaction paper that analyzes the novel in light of the argument made in the scholarly article. Choose an article that you can complicate or use to expand your understanding of the novel, do not simply write an essay that says you agree with the article.
  1. Compare Handmaid’s Tale to 1984 or Herland. In this short of a paper, you will need to choose one aspect of the novel (control of language, revision of history, gender segregation, treatment of sexuality) to examine in both texts and use your comparison to draw a conclusion about the treatment of that aspect in both texts. Your essay should illuminate something about the comparison of the two texts that you would not have understood simply looking at one text alone.

Mid-Semester Revision

Due: April 8

Choose either you Herland reaction essay or your Young Adult essay to revise.

Revisit your submitted draft and reread twice, once without my comments (to view your document without comments, start from My Drive and toggle the checkbox next to the file, then click the eyeball on the tool bar, this will show you your document in preview mode) and once with my comments. Answer the following questions in a reflective paragraph:

First reading: What strikes you about the draft, having had some space from it, and what might you want to address in your revision? Where do you think you want to go with this essay?

Second reading: Turn the comments back on and review my feedback. Based on my feedback, what do you want to address in your revision?

Spend at least one hour (in class or outside of class) working on revising the essay you choose and then write me a cover letter that lets me know where you are with the essay.

Questions to address in your cover letter:

  • Are you done with the revision, if so, what did you identify as wanting to address in your revision and how did you do?
  • If you aren’t done, what have you accomplished and what do you still want to do? What are you struggling with? Do you know where you want to go, but haven’t had the time to do the work or are you stuck? If you are stuck, what do you think you are stuck on?
  • Whether you are done with the revision or not, where do you feel like you’ve been successful (where does your argument / essay work) and what are you still uncertain about?

Please create a new googledoc that you share with me that contains your pre-revision paragraph reflection and your post-revision cover letter. This should be completed by 8PM on April 8.







1984 Final Projects

bb_smAs we wrap up our discussion of 1984, you will complete a final project that captures themes and concepts we have covered in our study of this dystopian novel. You will have an opportunity to present your project as either a creative representation of the novel, or in a more traditional written format (options 1, 2, and 4). Throughout the novel, we have discussed themes including privacy, censorship, freedom of expression, humanity and basic human rights. Additionally, we have analyzed government control, specifically in the fields of history and language, and how this regulation affects the thoughts and actions of those living under this control. This project asks you to engage with these ideas and present an analysis that addresses issues both in Orwell’s novel and our society.

Your final project will be due on Thursday, March 20.


1. George Orwell and Aldus Huxley offer similar predictions of totalitarian rule, but differ significantly in their beliefs about how we might get there and what we, as engaged citizens, should be concerned about. In a letter to Orwell after reading 1984, Huxley said the future will discover that:

infant-conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient, as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience … the nightmare of Nineteen Eighty-Four is destined to modulate into the nightmare of a world having more resemblances to that which I imagined in Brave New World. The change will be brought about as a result of a felt need for increased efficiency.

Which author’s dire predictions do you find to be more compelling? Who do you think was right? Revisit the first few chapters of Brave New World and refamiliarize yourself with Huxley’s world. Formulate an argument that argues whose predictions were more accurate, given the current state of the world, and if we should still be concerned about the issues that the novels raise. In your essay, you will need to summarize the central argument of both novels and then construct your own argument that evaluates the two options and argues for which warning we should be more concerned about and why.

2. Find an example of art/media/pop-culture that explicitly or implicitly references 1984. Compose a written analysis of the messages and themes conveyed in your chosen piece.

Your analysis should address the following questions:

  • How is 1984 referenced? This should include direct quotes or references from both your chosen piece and the original text.
  • What is the general theme or message of your piece? This part will vary greatly based on what form your chosen piece is. A song, for example, might have a message that you can pinpoint. If you were to choose a piece of architecture             for your piece, the theme of the work would be interpretative in terms of the mood conveyed by the design and aesthetics of the structure.
  • Based on your interpretation of 1984, does the reference/allusion that you are analyzing interpret 1984 correctly? Does the piece oversimplify the ideas that it is referencing? Perhaps it misinterprets them? Or maybe it is an incredibly effective use of 1984? What do you think?

Please attach a sample of what you are analyzing. This could be in the form of a photocopy, URL, CD, sketch, etc. depending on your topic.

3. Compose an original work of art that utilizes 1984 in some way. It could reference it explicitly or it could incorporate one of the fundamental ideas from the text. If you choose this option, you still must have a written analysis that explains your intention for the piece, how it employs and interprets ideas from 1984, and how successful you feel you are with the final product. The written analysis can be written as an informal assessment of your intentions and final product.

4. Read Orwell’s 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language” and then find a recent news article, speech, political advertisement, or other source that comments on a current event and demonstrates what Orwell would call “political language,” or intentionally vague or euphemistic language. Compose a written analysis evaluating how the use of language affects the meaning of the report, noting how this source manipulates language or breaks any of Orwell’s rules, using “Politics and the English Language” as support. Your analysis should explain what you think Orwell’s argument is and how your source violates what he proposes in his essay, and also address the consequences of such language on public thought.
Please attach a sample of (or link to) what you are analyzing.
Project Timeline:

Thursday 3/6 In-class work time

Tuesday 3/11 In-class work time

Thursday 3/13 Rough draft due / in-class work time

Thursday 3/20 Project due

The Snowden Index


Ema and Ailin found this very cool interactive graphic of opinion about Edward Snowden. Check it out as you prepare for our discussion on Monday.

Before you turn in (and I start responding to) your YA essays, I wanted to let you know about something we will be trying this semester.

We will be handling revision differently in this course than past courses you’ve had with me. All Jr/Sr classes this semester are incorporating portfolio grading and for most of us (teachers) it is fairly new. I will be assigning grades to the essays you write 3rd quarter so I can report a grade on your report card. Essays written 4th quarter will receive written feedback and an indication if they meet (✓), exceed (✓+), or do not yet meet (✓-) my expectations of where the essay should be.

At the end of 4th quarter, you will choose from the writing you did both quarters:

1 reaction paper

1 longer paper or project

3 quick writes that you think have the potential to be developed into a longer essay

You will have the opportunity to revise and write reflectively about these writing samples and your 4th quarter grade will largely be determined by your grade on the portfolio.

Satire of YA Dystopias

Check out this fantastic satire of dystopias for young adults. A taste:

It’s a bunch of years after the war. It has been exactly seventy-seven years since the war. It’s been two generations now, since the war. It’s like a mabrillion years after The War. Ohhh my Godddd, it’s so many years after the war.

Ever since the war, things have been different. After the War, everything changed. Nothing was the same after the war. The war changed everything.

Now, society’s bad. There was only one way for society to survive. Society’s real bad. Our society was bad after the War because of bad things. Remember all the things about your society right now? Just make ‘em worse, that’s our society. Nothing’s trees but everything’s brown leggings and government.

I’m pretty sure this will be a good source for someone’s YA essay.

Miller, Laura. “Fresh Hell: What’s behind the boom in dystopian fiction for young readers.” New Yorker. 14 June 2010. Print.

Hintz, Carrie and Ostry, Elaine. “Introduction.” Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults. Ed. Carrie Hintz and Elaine Ostry. New York: Routledge, 2003. 1-20. Print. Download PDF.

Choose a dystopian YA novel or utopian children’s book to read and analyze in light of the arguments made in the Miller and Hintz & Ostry readings. The library has generously pulled from their stock and you may also consult the annotated bibliography from Utopian and Dystopian Writing for Children and Young Adults. Choosing a book you have already read is acceptable, but I would like you to reread it for the purposes of this assignment.

Both of the readings I’ve given you make an argument about childhood/adolescence and the popularity of a type of literature. Break apart the argument and decide if you agree with it or not. In your essay, you should craft your own argument re: the nature of childhood / adolescence, utopias or dystopias, and the novel that you read.

I would also like you to find 2 additional sources that add to your argument. Depending on what direction you think you might go, the sources could:

  • comment on the trend of dystopian YA literature,
  • define the Romantic notion of childhood,
  • raise a new issue about utopian children’s literature that Hintz & Ostry don’t address in the reading,
  • provide critical reaction to the book you read,
  • provide a provocative review of the book you read

Some questions to consider as you are crafting your argument:

  • Does the novel you read conform to the arguments in these essays? Does it challenge them?
  • Does your experience conform to or challenge the argument in these essays?
  • Are the authors being reductive about childhood or adolescence? If so, in what way?
  • How do YA dystopias differ from “grown-up” dystopias you’ve read (or watched)? Are they more hopeful? Less hopeful? Less political? How do you account for those differences?
  • Are these books and novels serving a development purpose for their readers?


Tue 1/28        Miller and Hintz & Ostry articles assigned in class

Wed & Thu   1/29-30     Work time in library to choose your additional reading, search for additional source material, read your book

Mon-Fri 2/3-7       Work time in library & class to search for additional source material, brainstorm, begin writing

Wed 2/12      Peer review of essays in class, writing center available

Fri 2/14       Essays due


___Begin with an introductory paragraph that mentions the title (underlined or italicized) the text you plan to discuss, begins with a strong opening sentence, and establishes your basic approach to your topic in a way that’s clear and concise.

___Offer a clearly stated and debatable thesis statement somewhere in the first paragraph or two. Remember, the thesis should clearly and specifically state your argument. Active verbs that might be helpful in composing your thesis statement: extend, corroborate, complicate, contradict, correct, debate.

___ Build a well developed argument, organized in a coherent manner, with meaningful transitions to connect your ideas and aid in the development of the argument as a whole.

___Cite specific evidence and numerous examples from your novel, Miller or Hintz & Ostry article, and your additional source (including quotations) to support each point throughout the essay. You may include long quotations (in the form of block quotes) but remember that plenty of short quotations throughout your essay are crucial for building your authority as a careful reader of the texts you’re discussing.

___ End with a concluding paragraph that restates the thesis with a bit more complexity and/or sophistication and (ideally) ends the essay in an interesting, engaging way, rather than with a cliché or a further reiteration of ideas you’ve already repeated.

___Invent a unique title that suggests something about the comparison you’re making

___Include MLA in-text citations

___Append an MLA works cited page


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