W.H. Auden, “Shakespeare”

Category : Classroom, Students, Writing

Auden gave the following mimeographed final examination in his Saturday afternoon class for the students taking the course for credit in the fall term. Part B of the examination, which Ansen wrote in by hand with the comment “unexpected,” was dictated by Auden in class.

Lecture and Exam, The New School (1946)

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James Baldwin, “The Creative Process”

Category : Arts, Students, Writing

Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid; the state of being alone. That all men are, when the chips are down, alone, is a banality—a banality because it is very frequently stated, but very rarely, on the evidence, believed. Most of us are not compelled to linger with the knowledge of our aloneness, for it is a knowledge that can paralyze all action in this world. There are, forever, swamps to be drained, cities to be created, mines to be exploited, children to be fed. None of these things can be done alone. But the conquest of the physical world is not man’s only duty. He is also enjoined to conquer the great wilderness of himself. The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.

Source: Creative America, Ridge Press, 1962.

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James Baldwin, “If Black English Isn’t a Language, Then Tell Me, What Is?”

Category : Race, Students, Writing

St. Paul de Vence, France – The argument concerning the use, or the status, or the reality, of black english is rooted in American history and has absolutely nothing to do with the question the argument supposes itself to be posing. The argument has nothing to do with language itself but with the role of language. Language, incontestably, reveals the speaker. Language, also, far more dubiously, is meant to define the other – and, in this case, the other is refusing to be defined by a language that has never been able to recognize him.

Source: The New York Times (29 July 1979)

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James Baldwin, “Notes of a native son”

Category : Race, Students, Writing

On the 19th of July, in 1943, my father died. On the same day, a few hours later, his last child was born. Over a month before this, while all our energies were concentrated in waiting for those events, there had been, in Detroit, on of the bloodiest race riots of the century. A few hours after my father’s funeral, while lay in state in the undertaker’s chapel, a race riot broke out in Harlem. On the morning of the 3rd of August, we drove my father to the graveyard through a wilderness of smashed plate glass.

Source: Beacon Press, 1955.

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James Baldwin, “Price of a Ticket”

Category : Race, Students, Writing

My soul looks back and wonders how i got over – indeed: but I find it unexpectedly difficult to remember in detail, how I got started. I will never, for example, forget Saul Levitas, the editor of The New Leader, who gave me my first book review assignment sometime in 1946, nor Mary Greene, a wonderful woman, who was his man Friday: but I do not remember exactly how I met them.

Source: Collected Essays  (1985)

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Colette Brooks, ‘The Play’s the Thing’: A Polemic”

Category : Arts, Theater, Writing

Though other literary forms wax and wane, the novel, short story, diary, epic and such forever suffering favor or oblivion at the hands of the reading public, plays, it seems, are always out of fashion; unread by all but the very few, those generally drama students, sui generis, indefatigable by definition. It is possible to account for this lack of readerly interest by holding, as many have, that plays are not primarily literary objects at all and thus cannot exert the kind of imaginative claims that inhere naturally in real literature; but this argument simply cedes the point to those who would discredit dramatic literature in any case. It is perhaps more promising to grant the legitimacy of plays as literature, by fiat, and turn the inquiry to our reading practices themselves; to determine whether there is something inherent in the way in which we read, think about, talk about and teach drama that causes our powers and imagination to falter at the point at which we approach the individual play. If this is so, the layman’s lack of affinity for the form should come as no surprise.

Source: Performing Arts Journal 9.2/3 (1985): 160-162

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Anatole Broyard, Kafka was the Rage: A Greenwich Village Memoir

Category : Classroom, Students, Writing

My life, or career, in Greenwich Village began when Sheri Donatti invited me to move in with her. Invited is not the right word, but I don’t know how else to describe it. I had just come out of the army and I was looking for a place I could afford when I met Sheri at a party. She had two apartments, she said, and if I understood her way of talking, she was suggesting that I might come and look at one of them.

Source: NY: Random House, 1993: chs. 1-4

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Anatole Broyard, “A Portrait of the Hipster”

Category : Race, Students, Writing

As he was the illegitimate son of the Lost Generation, the hipster was really nowhere. And, just as amputees often seem to localize their strongest sensations in the missing limb, so the hipster longed, from the very beginning, to be somewhere. He was like a beetle on its back; his life was a struggle to get straight. But the law of human gravity kept him overthrown, because he was always of the minority—opposed in race or feeling to those who owned the machinery of recognition.

The hipster began his inevitable quest for self-definition by sulking in a kind of inchoate delinquency. But this delinquency was merely a negative expression of his needs, and, since it led only into the waiting arms of the ubiquitous law, he was finally forced to formalize his resentment and express it symbolically. This was the birth of a philosophy—a philosophy of somewhereness called jive, from jibe: to agree or harmonize. By discharging his would-be aggressions symbolically, the hipster harmonized or reconciled himself with society.

Source: Partisan Review (June 1948).

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Stanley Diamond, “How to Die in America”

Category : Anthropology, Writing

Slip away
go to the end of the line and keep going
make sure you’re alone
and unknown
go by bus, train or plane
just keep going
don’t let them know

First, take a train to Trenton
then rent a car to Philadelphia, the airport
abandon it
take a plane to Santa Fe or Seattle
makes no difference
keep going till the money runs out
then use the credit card
you can only fly to a big city
the small towns aren’t on the schedule
soon they’ll all be suburbs of Chicago
As this country hardens into concrete,
Los Angeles, New York, and New Orleans
grow together at the center.
Center of what?
This state, without a nation.
Without memory
Only capital went west
until there was no place else to go.
Neither horizontal nor vertical
destination nowhere

After Seattle
doubleback
take a train
a sleeper
and ride it
all the way down to Fayetteville
extinct except as a junction
and otherwise unknown
and drive to Raleigh
Take a bus to Nashville

then to Dallas
Fly to Yucatan
Disappear beyond Uxmal
whittle yourself away
but keep moving
Back to Merida
Sign on to Polynesia
destination Singapore
sew your money into your shirt
throw away your wallet
your keys
the pocket watch your grandfatherg ave you
your wedding ring
the golden strand of your daughter’s hair
the hat that had become your friend
In that last year
then discard your fear
begin to empty out your brain
cut long thoughts
remember then dismember our humanity
and buy your way on a junk
to Penang
Walk dumbly through the city
keep the last object of identity
for the snappy pink police
speedingp ast the turbaned beggars
in their blue Hondas
crazed with disaffiliation
traditions become crimes

So walk like a white man
dissimulate importance
and on the edge of the city
put the last mask behind you
slouch quietly
on dirt roads
becoming trails
destroy the last paper
stop eating
stare carelessly into the sun
remove your shirt
fling the cash into the bush
collapse slowly for another hundred yards
then crawl as far as you can go
into the tall grass
and with your hair on fire
and your soul somewhere else
close your eyes
for the sake of those who will find you
neither hating nor loving
but beyond their grasp

Source: Cultural Anthropology 1.4 (Nov 1986): 447-448

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Jennifer Firestone, “How to Treat a Woman”

Category : Women, Writing

hips, thighs, hindquarters
grapefruits in grocery bags
skin cells
osteoporosis, presbyopia
estrogen
Snow won’t fall in that crystal ball
memory
hair,
fur, face, chin
spots
poundage
A peep is a sound
Bed, sciatic
muscle, sex
color, sweat.
The package tape ran out years ago
By six years
outlives every species
except birds
(flight syndrome)
She’ll need a slow hand a slow hand

Source: Feminist Studies 29.1 (2003): 199

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Robert Frost, A Boy’s Will: Excerpts

Category : Arts, Writing

Source:  NY: Henry Holt , 1915

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Robert Frost, New Hampshire: Excerpts

Category : Arts, Writing

It was long I lay
Awake that night
Wishing that night
Would name the hour
And tell me whether
To call it day
(Though not yet light)
And give up sleep.
The snow fell deep
With the hiss of spray;
Two winds would meet,
One down one street,
One down another,
And fight in a smother
Of dust and feather.
I could not say,
But feared the cold
Had checked the pace
Of the tower clock
By tying together
Its hands of gold
Before its face.

Source: NY: Henry Holt, 1923

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