Lesson: Textual Analysis

Goal for Lesson Series:  
Moving towards analytical thinking and ultimately ending in an essay centered on textual analysis.

Secondary Skills:
Considering context, interpreting and paraphrasing a text, writing with the idea of an audience in mind.

Prior Homework Assignment:
Read Mark Doty’s poem “A Display of Mackerel” (p95) and write a few sentences on what you think the poem is about. Now read Doty’s essay “Souls on Ice” (p92-95) and read the poem again. Write a paragraph (or more) describing how and why your thoughts on the poem may have changed.

Class time breakdown:
10 minutes: Discuss the poem. Ask the class how the readings of the poem may have changed; get examples from student volunteers. Ask what triggered these changes and why. Lead into essay discussion.

20-30 minutes – Sentence Analysis: (This will be a regular class exercise for every essay we discuss)
Ask students what sentence they think contains a ‘controlling idea’ for the essay and write them on the board. This will broaden into a discussion of the essay as a whole.

Discuss “Our Metaphors go on ahead of us, they know before we do”
1. What is this sentence about?
2. What is a metaphor? Get definitions from class. Doty’s definition: “something to serve as a container for emotion and idea, a vessel that can hold what’s too slippery or charged or difficult to touch.” Give examples of metaphors:
3. What is a metaphor?
a. A metaphor expresses the unfamiliar or abstract (the tenor) in terms of the familiar and concrete (the vehicle)>

Fish: There are plenty of other fish in the sea.’¨She’s quite a catch?’¨The one that got away.
Reel (in): The con artist managed to reel in another victim.
Net: The police finally netted a bank robber after an intense search.
Bait: He was trying to bait her into debate.
Hook: The teen spent two months in rehab, after having gotten hooked.
Lure: The sale managed to lure in several new customers from off the street.
Snag: The project hit a snag and was put on hold.

Other examples: Bailout, rockstar, trainwreck, pitbull

  • Similes: metaphors using ‘like’ or ‘as’: “He looked about as inconspicuous as a tarantula on a slice of angel food.” (Raymond Chandler)
  • Conceit: Extended Metaphor, see Maus.
  • Metonymy: A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated (such as “crown” for “royalty”). “Detroit is still hard at work on an SUV that runs on rain forest trees and panda blood.” (Conan O’Brien)
  • A figure of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole (for example, ABCs for alphabet) or the whole for a part (“England won the World Cup in 1966”). “All hands on deck!”

Using Doty’s definition, transition to these questions –
1. What does the sentence mean? What do they know before we do? Subject and meaning. Some topics are more easily dealt with, or can only be dealt with, in abstractions. Give examples: panels from Maus.
2. Why is it important? Metaphors allow most any subject to be understood by any audience regardless of the sophistication or sensitivity of the subject or audience.

10-15 minutes: Activity on metaphor and meaning.
Bring in to class a number of objects (neck tie, shaving razor, etc….) Give the class a few minutes to jot down four or five words to describe the object (examples for tie: tight, constraining, formal, professional). Now give the students a few minutes to consider their descriptive words and in a few sentences write what the object means, not what it’s used for or what it does but what it says about an owner or situation, etc. (example for tie: job interview, court date) If time allows, share results in class.



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