19 Oct. Lit Analysis W/S

Part I. Workshop, Lit Analysis Essay

Open up your draft posts on your computers, moving from computer to computer, answer the following questions about your peers’ drafts in the comment section beneath the blog.
  • 1. What arguable claim does your peer’s essay draft make about The History of King Lear and Nature?
  • 2. How does your peer’s essay draft integrate the secondary source?
  • 3. What are the key terms in your peer’s essay and how does s/he define them?
  • 4. How does the close reading in the draft support/develop the claim? Does the close reading develop the argument through an attention to specific linguistic/rhetorical elements of the text?
  • 5. How does your peer plan to develop the workshop draft into the final draft?

Part II. Discussion, KL Scenes 20-24

Pick one of the four questions below and be prepared to point the chunk of text that best answers it:
  • 1.How and why does Edgar “trifle” (20.31) with his father’s “despair” (20.31) in Scene 20?
  • 2. How do Lear and Gloucester comfort one another?
  • 3.How does Lear die?
  • 4.Who gets the last word in The History of King Lear, and what is it

For Next Tuesday, Oct 24

We will cover the following next Tuesday, so be sure to watch Ep. 1 of the Walking Dead. Walking Dead is streaming on Netflix and you can buy the first season, streaming, not HD for $7.99 on Amazon. Remember, Walking Dead is gory and violent, so if you want to read the comics instead, email me and I will set you up with an alternative assignment.
  • 1. Provide an overview of the final unit Walking Dead/Podcast
  • 2. Assign teams
  • 3. Discuss Walking Dead Ep.1 and practice the first “group write”

Hist KL, Scenes 20-24


Keep the following questions in mind as you read The History of King Lear Scenes 20-24. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

Scene 20

What does Edgar say he sees when he looks down the cliffside (20.11-24), what he calls the “extreme verge”(20.25)?

How and why does Edgar “trifle” (20.31) with his father’s “despair” (20.31) in this scene?

Does Edgar “cure” his father (20.34)?

Describe Gloucester’s “fall.” How does Edgar “figure” his father’s fall? What’s your assessment of Edgar’s trick?

How does Edgar describe “Poor Tom” (20.69-73)?

Why do you think the characters are so transformed? Are they all “unnacomodated” now? Or are they all monsters or “ruined piece(s) of nature” (20.129)? Why does Shakespeare ask us to watch these transformations?

When Lear enters at 20.80 we haven’t seen him since Scene 13. How has he changed? How has he stayed the same?

How do the two old friends comfort one another?

Why don’t the women go outside?

Why does Edgar lie to his father again at 20.213-15?

How does Oswald die?

Scene 21

Why doesn’t Kent change out of his clothes when Cordelia asks him to, “Be better suited” (21.6)?

What treatments has Cordelia administered to her father?

How do Lear and Cordelia react to one another on their first meeting since Scene 1?

Scene 22

How does Edmund plan to solve his two girlfriend problem?

Scene 24

Review Lear’s speech at 24.8-19. What’s his plan for life in prison? How does he plan to bring the outdoors, in?

How does Edgar describe his final hours with his father? How does his description square with your reading of the play? What finally kills old Gloucester?

How do Gonoril and Regan die?

What good deed does Edmund plan to do before he dies?

How does Lear react to Cordelia’s death?

Who gets the last word in The History of King Lear?



RQ: Hist KL, Scenes 14-19


Keep the following questions in mind as you read King Lear Scenes 14-19. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

Scene 14

Why do Regan and Cornwall blind Gloucester?

Are Regan and Cornwall’s “revenges” (14.5) against Gloucester justified, why or why not?

How does Regan and Cornwall’s interrogation of Gloucester compare with the ‘mock trial’ scene that precedes it? What happens to the rest of the play if the mock trial scene is left out?

Scene 15

Why can’t Gloucester recognize his own son?

Contemporary environmental discourse is often carried on by people who don’t live and work with animals or complex ecosystems. Is Edgar part of this tradition? OR, what might an actual wandering, wildman have to contribute to conversations about environmental justice?

Scene 16

How does Albany react to the news that French forces have landed in France, according to Oswald?

What does gift does Gonoril joke she’ll give her husband (16.17-18); what gift does she give Edmund?

What accounts for Albany’s change of attitude toward his wife? Describe some of the criticisms he levels at her. How does Gonoril respond? Which character is most persuasive and why?

What makes humans into monsters according to Albany, or, perhaps, according to the play?

How does Cornwall die?

Scene 17

How does the [First] Gentleman describe Cordelia?

Who, or what, governs our fate according to Kent (17.33-36) How does his point of view on fate/nature square with his trajectory in the play?

Why does Lear refuse to meet with Cordelia according to Kent?

Scene 18

How does Cordelia describe Lear at the beginning of the scene?

What course of treatment does the Doctor prescribe for Lear?

Scene 19

What does Regan want Oswald to do and why won’t he do it?

RQ: Hist KL, Scene 7

Scene 7

What does Kent say that causes him to be put in the stocks? Does Kent accurately represent his encounter with Oswald(7.1-80) in his narration of events to Lear (7.204-23)?

How does Edgar “preserve” (7.172) himself after he flees his father’s house in Scene 6?

Assess the quality of Lear’s judgement when he says:

Fiery? The Duke?–tell the hot Duke that Lear–
No, but not yet. Maybe he is not well.
Infirmity doth still neglect all office
Where unto out health is bound. We are not ourselves
When nature, being oppressed, commands the mind
To suffer with the body. I’ll forebear,
And am fallen out with my more headier will,
To take the indisposed and sickly fit
For the sound man.–Death on my state,
Wherefore should he sit here? This act persuades me
That this remotion of the Duke and her
Is practice only. (7.265-75).

“Nature” and description of the nature world shows up throughout Scene 7. Do the different instances contradict one another? Can we say that all the references to nature and natural imagery add up to a theory of nature/natural world? Consider some of the following: 

Kent “Nature disclaims in thee; a tailor made thee” (7.51-2)

Edgar The country gives me proof and precedent
Of Bedlam beggars who with roaring voices
Strike in their numbed and mortified bare arms
Pins, wooden pricks, nails, sprigs of rosemary (7.179-81)

Lear Return to her, and fifty men dismissed?
No, rather I abjure all roofs, and choose
To be comrade with the wolf and owl,
To wage against the enmity of the air
Necessity’s sharp pinch. (7.364-68)

Lear’s speech at the end of the scene that begins, “O, reason not the need!…Or ere I’ll weep–O fool, I shall go mad!” (7.423-44)

28 Sept. Eclipses.

Part I: Review

  • Why does Lear divide the kingdom?

    Lear divides the kingdom b/c he is old and wants to “shake all cares and business off our state” (1.38); he has no male heir and is in a bind; maybe, he’s a really forward thinker, who proposes a radical solution to a complicated problem; OR he never really intended to divide the kingdom, but is only moved by the flattery Gonoril and Regan express.

  • Was the kingdom already divided before the scene began?

    YES:Lear’s judgement strains old fault lines (1.258-60) to the breaking point, so in a way the kingdoms are already divided. Kent and Gloucester gossip about how Lear plans to divide the kingdoms between his daughters’ husbands, Cornwall & Albany. The love game is a mere formality that takes an unexpected turn b/c of how Lear reacts to Cordelia.

    No: the shocking results of the game result in Lear’s decision to divide the kingdom, which also causes a variety of reversals: “The barbarous Sycthian,/Or he that makes his generation/Messes to gorge his appetite,/Shall be well neighbored, pitied, and relieved/As thou, my sometime daughter” (1.108-12); Lear curses where he should bless (1.100-112); plainness confused for pride; “Friendship is hence and banishment is here” (1.170); and ladies in charge of the kingdom; merit is rewarded over blood.

  • What key terms, plot points, images engage with eco/environmental ideas?

    1.The division of the kingdoms (ex:Of all these bounds even from this line to this,/With shady forests and wide-skirted meads” (1.57-8))Lear dividing his kingdom in his throne room is an image of ways humans assume mastery over nature. Here nature is stuff outside of the courtroom; sets up a potentially in or dangerous nature/culture opposition.

    2. Nature is a term with contrary definitions: source from which power is derives that enforces divisions. This shows up when Lear curses his daughters for showing any opposition to him by calling them unnatural: “avert your liking to a more worthier way/Than on a wretch whom nature is ashamed/Almost to acknowledge hers” (1.200-203). By speaking plainly and challenging the values of the all the people in the court, Lear reckons that Cordelia is acting in opposition to her essential identity and/or nature.

    3.Nature as the “tendentious postulates serving to underwrite a particular view of the political” (Clark 76) shows up in Lear’s curse: “By all the operation of the orbs,/From whom we do exist and cease to be” (1.103-104).

Part II: Reading Nature

Keep the following in mind as we watch the Lawrence Olivier (1983) version of King Lear:
Do humans control nature or does nature control humans? Be prepared to support your response with evidence from Scene 2.

Part III: Discussion, Scenes 3-6 & Woven

  • 1. What’s your estimation of how Gonoril treats Lear? At the close of Scene 1, Cordelia warns her sisters, “Time shall unfold what pleated cunning hides” (270). Has time revealed Gonoril’s scheme or is her treatment of her father justified?
  • 2. Compare the scheme that Edmund runs on his brother and father to the scheme that Kent runs on Lear and his court. Do the means shape the ends? Does Kent serve Lear as honestly as before he “razed [his] likeness” (4.4)?
  • 3. What idea of “nature” does Lear invoke at the end of Scene 4 when he curses Gonoril (264-280)?
  • 4. What sorts of imagery does the Fool draw from the natural world to tease Lear?
  • 5. What evidence does Edmund offer Gloucester to support his claim that Edgar attempted to “Persuade me to the murder of your lordship” (6.44)?
  • 6. According to WOVENText, what’s the purpose of an argument and how do you craft a successful one?

Part IV: Elements of Argumentation

Drawing on the Freewrite from Tuesday and the short response you wrote to Scene 2 for today, along with what we’ve read so far, complete the following:
  • 1. Make an arguable claim about the relationship between King Lear and Nature.
  • 2. List one chunk of text you might use to develop that claim.
  • 3. Be prepared to share your claim and point to your evidence.

26 Sept. Division.

Featured Image: The Main Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

Piktochart Sharing

If you created your Visual Rendering in Piktochart, make sure you did the following. If you did not do the following, do it now:
1. Click “Share” in the upper right hand corner

2. Choose “Public” if you haven’t already

3. Cut and paste the public URL

4. DO NOT just copy and paste the URL from page on which you made the VR. If you do I can’t read it.


Write in response to the following prompt for five minutes without stopping. Keep your response on hand, because we will return to it at the end of class.
Given what you know about The History of King Lear so far, why are we reading this play in a class about the places and ideas (i.e. anthropocene, ecological thought, etc.) that come after “Nature”?

Part I. Background

Part II. Discussion

  • 1. Are the kingdoms already divided? If yes, so what? If no, so what?
  • 2. Why does Lear divide his kingdom? How does he decide which sister gets which portion of land?
  • 3. How much does Gonoril love her father? Does Regan improve Gonoril’s speech? Is it possible to love someone as much as they say they love their father? How much does Cordelia love her father?
  • 4. Does Cordellia take the contest for the biggest portion of the kingdom too seriously? Do you think she should have won the contest? Why doesn’t she?
  • 5. What are some consequences of Lear’s curse (1.100-12)?
  • 6. What does Kent mean when he says, “Think’st thou that duty shall have dread to speak/When power to flattery bows?” (1.136-7). Is Kent out of line? Does he misread and/or misspeak in court? Or, are his criticism warranted?
  • 7. Does Lear do Cordelia a favor by disowning her?
  • 8. What’s the gist of the sisters’ discussion at the close of the scene and after Lear has exited the stage? Does their conversation challenge or support your initial reaction to them? Why do you think Shakespeare bookends Scene 1 with two, informal, conversations adjacent to the throne room?

Part III. Review

Review your initial freewrite and then respond to the following:
By what right does Lear divide and dispense land? In other words, XX.

RQ: Morton, “Critical Thinking,” 1-14


Keep the following questions in mind as you read Timothy Morton’s “1-14. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

  • 1. What’s ecology according to Morton?
  • 2. What does Morton mean by the “Ecological Thought”? What are some ways he defines the term? Are you ever satisfied with definition?
  • 3. Describe the organizational strategy of this chapter? How does it differ from the way Nixon and Clark set up their chapters?
  • 4. How/why does what Morton calls the ecological though disrupt time? What does he mean when he says things such as, “In some strong sense, the ecological thought rigorously comes afterward–it is always to come, somewhere in the future. In its fullest scope, it will have been thought at some undefined point” (3)?
  • 5. Why do we have to let go of “Nature” to have ecology?
  • 6. What does the term “Nature” describe according to Morton? Why is “Nature” a problem in his estimation?  
  • 7. What happens to the concept of personhood (or even species) when it expands under the ecological though? OR, what does Morton mean when he says that “The ecological though fans out into questions concerning cyborgs, artificial intelligence, and the irreducible uncertainty over what counts as a person” (8)?
  • 8. Why do “all artworks…have an irreducibly ecological form” (11)?
  • 9. What sort of interaction between the sciences and the humanities does Morton propose and why?
  • 10. Why doesn’t Morton talk abut “theory” more explicitly? Or, what choices do think he has made in this chapter to be more accessible to non-specialists?

7 Sept. Nature, Post Nature

Featured Image: Thomas Cole (1801–1848), The Oxbow, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (1836), The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Part I: Key Terms

  • 1. What is a key term? How do readers recognize them? Why are key terms important for readers and writers?


Part II: Freewrite

Freewrite: Write a response to the following question for 7-10 minutes without stopping, and be prepared to share your answer with the class:

What does Nature mean to you?

Respond in your own words and from your own point of view. Feel free include anecdotal evidence or allude to texts that shape your personal understanding of the term/place.


Part III: Discussion of “Nature, Post-Nature”

Get out the Clark essay and be prepared to discuss the following:
  • 1. What does Clark mean when he says that the language we have inherited to describe the current environmental crisis is “fragile” (75)?
  • 2. What are the three basic meanings of ‘nature’ according to Clark (75-6)?
  • 3. According to Clark, how and/or why does the distinction between culture and Nature break down? Which of the examples he provides do you find most convincing?
  • 4. What is the Anthropocene? What are some characteristics of the Anthropocene that Clark finds ironic?
  • 5. What sorts of literary genres does Clark think work to best represent the Anthropocene?
  • 6. What “scenarios” does Clark propose would “avoid the disasters of the Anthropocene” (84) if implemented? What keeps these sorts of proposals from being implemented?
  • 7. Why/how do critics”evade the question of human nature” (85)? Why is this evasion a problem?


Part IV: Application

Watch the clip below and then be prepared to respond to the following:
  • 1. Describe key action sequences and/or visual images
  • 2. How do those sequences and/or images illustrate a key term or concept found in Clark’s essay?


RQ: Clark, “Nature, Post Nature,” (75-89)

Featured Image: Albert BierstadtAmong the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 1868, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.


Keep the following questions in mind as you read Timothy Clark’s “Nature, Post Nature,” 75-89. The questions are designed to guide your reading practices and our class discussions. You are not required to provide formal answers in class or online.

1.What does Clark mean when he says that the language we have inherited to describe the current environmental crisis is “fragile” (75)? How do the words “nature” and “natural” get “pulled in opposite directions at once” (75)?

2. What are the three basic meanings of ‘nature’ according to Clark (75-6)?

3. How does nature function as a condition “prior to politics” (76)? What examples does Clark provide of this assumption? How is the concept of nature, when imagined by governments or philosophers, as a condition prior to politics, ironically, a political concept itself?

4. What does Clark mean when he calls the “’state of nature’” (76) (on which Rousseau and Hobbes base their concept of the social) “tendentious postulates serving to underwrite a particular view of the political” (76)?

5. What’s the trouble with using a concept of nature to underwrite politics—even if the concept of nature is more “ecological” or modern?

6. Are some genres of writing or some sets of terms/metaphors better suited to representing nature than others, why or why not? How would Clark respond to this question? Why is this a problem?

7. What is the Anthropocene? What’s the irony of the Anthropocene?

8.Why is the nature/culture dichotomy “too crude a tool” for thinking the Anthropocene (80)?

9. OR…are the following problems cultural or natural: “eating Danish pork sausages in Dublin” (80)? “A new car in San Fransciso or Shanghi must also be considered, however minutely, as a threat to the snow line in Nepal or Spitsbergen” (80)?

10. How do these sorts of environmental issues mess with the basic distinctions between “science and politics, nature and culture, fact and value” (80)?

11. What does Clark mean by the term “holism” as applied to humans and the natural world?

12. Are we ready to give up the notion that “some forms of writing are more natural than others” (81)?

13. What does it mean to be suspicious of “any traditionally realist aesthetic” (81)? What sorts of literary genres does Clark think work to represent the Anthropocene?

14. What are some benefits to what Clark calls the “end of externality” (82)? How does the series of literary examples he works through portrait the “end of externality (81)?

15. What “scenarios” does Clark propose would “avoid the disasters of the Anthropocene” (84) if implemented? What keeps his proposals from being implemented?

16. Why/how do critics”evade the question of human nature” (85)? Why is this evasion a problem? How does Clark propose we redress this evasion?