How to get Crafty — the Beginning – Morgner and Tawada

Try the following 3 sets of exercises in class today or at home (hand in electronically to me today, Thursday, May 23rd, or next Tuesday, May 28th).  MOOCER’s If you’re just following along, give these strategies a try with any short story that you admire.

here we go!

1.  Take a look at the first 3 sections of Morgner’s “Love Legend.” With 1-2 partners  (but not more) or on your own, consider and write down answers to the following questions:

  1. what mystery (ies)  does the author establish in the first section?
  2. is the author doing a narrative description or are we in a specific scene?
  3. what phrases of description jump out at you? Come up with 4
  4. in parts 1, 2, and 3 what pieces of information emerge to describe the “stranger.”  Name at least 3. How are they spaced/arranged in the narrative?
  5. What physical gestures does the author use to show sexual tension/competition?

Now take a look at the opening paragraph of both “Canned Foreign” and “The Talisman.”

1. Are we in scene in these first sentences? What author (that we have read in this class) is this approach imitating?

2. In “Canned Foreign” how many times does the author narrate a fact using “oftentimes” or use some other indication that what she’s talking about is habitual or repeated?

3. Is “The Talisman” or an essay? What would you argue, and what evidence would you use to argue this point?

The turns of the middle: Morgner and Tawada

Take a look at sections 4, 5, and 6 of Morgner’s story. John Updike once said “I love the middle — it’s where everything happens.” Think about that as you consider and write down answers to the following…

1. What kind of narrative do we get right after “Your place or mine? Mine.”? What are we expecting? Why don’t we get it?

2. React to this first sexual encounter.  What words in particular surprise you?

5. what tension gets created in section 5? What’s the problem?  are we in scene or in narrative description? Explain how this is working.

6. what physical responses does Morgner choose in sections 5 and 6 to show how the protagonist’s emotions are changing? Name at least 2.

Now look at the Tawada stories:  

1. In “Canned Foreign” there’s a sort of almost scene on p.3. what’s the “turn”? What does the protagonist “realize”?

2. Where are the “turns” in “The Talisman”? (hint — they happen about halfway through the story). Name 2.

twisting towards the end: Morgner and Tawada

Take a look at how these authors move towards the end…

Consider and answer the following:

Morgner: what surreal/unreal plot twist does the author insert in the last 1/3 of the story? Take a look at sections 7, 8, 9 and 10. How has the tempo of the story shifted? Why?

Tawada: the focus shifts towards language in “Canned Foreign.” What specific objects does the author introduce and use in the rest of the story? Where in the time frame of the story do those objects exist?

There’s a yet another “turn” = an anti-turn where there’s resistance to the first turns in ‘The Talisman.” What does the author make happen?

Opening freewrite — jot down some ideas to write about later on penzu or in your electronic journal

1. What was it like to keep people from entering the classroom (if you are a guard)


What was it like to experience being shut out of the classroom?

GIve 3 emotional reactions.

2. What was it like to have to produce an i.d. in order to enter class?  write a sentence.

3. You then received a card with a civil entitlement written on it. Please write a paragraph (10 sentences) about what how valuable this entitlement might be, and specifically what entitlements you would be willing to give up in order to get the entitlement on your card. What entitlements WOULD be valuable to you?

Artifact Perusal

Take a stroll along the table, and look at the different artifacts. Feel free to pick up any of the objects. Choose 1 to write about, but be sure to put it back and leave it on the table.

Go back to you seat, and write a 10 sentence paragraph where you speculate about the sort of society that produced the object you chose.  How do the people live? What is important to them?

Resisting the hegemony — _Lives of Others_ quick brain storm

Hegemony = the social, cultural, ideological, or economic influence exerted by a dominant group.  Merriam-Webste Online Dictionary

A hegemonic portrayal of history is one that is “dominant” and serves whoever (or whatever) is “in charge.”

After looking at THE LIVES OF OTHERS, think about what current events, social injustices, political issues, and real-world problems are being “hegemonically” narrated by the media. As you can see from the film, these narratives are persuasive and powerful.

Now think about now and here — about your life and your neighborhood and the people you know.

What injustices, social/political issues, and problems do you care about personally that are being under- or even non-reported? 

Jot down a list of these concerns, if you have several. If you have 1, start brainstorming about a possible story, series of poems, screenplay, telescript, or play about your concern.

if you do not have a real concern of this type, then make one up!

Please turn this in to me via email or penzu by 4:50.

If handing in a hard copy, please hand in by 4:50 sharp. Thank you so much!  

GDR/BRD – East/West Germany — a divided history with divided interpretations and how I blundered into the middle of the divide

After World War 2, “Germany” was divided into 2 different countries — the German Democratic Republic (die Deutsche Demokratische Republik) and the Federal Republic of Germany (Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland). The former was dubbed “East Germany” and the latter “West Germany.” The GDR was an officially communist country under the close scrutiny of and in close proximity to the Soviet Union. The Federal Republic was a democratic nation, and a close ally of the US. The history of these two nations and the history of the dissolution of the Soviet Union are stories that are being fiercely debated right now. The fall of the Berlin Wall directly precedes the birth of most of the people in our class, and so most students never knew this two-state Germany, and know only the triumphalist narrative that celebrates the destruction of communism and the triumph of democracy in the region.

As a baby-boomer who was the child of Republicans, I grew up thinking “East Germany” was a scary place — a kind of German-speaking Soviet Union, where everyone hated Americans. But I was interested in German language and literature.  My college boyfriend convinced me to study German, because that’s what real intellectuals did. So I started. My boyfriend went to Hamburg for a junior year abroad and I visited him there. We went to Berlin in the January of 1974. We visited East Berlin during that trip, because my boyfriend had become a Marxist and was very excited to show me the GDR.

I have written about that first experience, which was extremely negative. Years went by. I married a different man. But my interest in German remained, and as it happened, the GDR offered summer school courses for teachers of German for very low prices, and a senior colleague suggested I go to one to improve my German. For a grand total of $250 I was able to attend a seminar for 3 weeks.  That sum of money covered room and board as well as classes and excursions in Weimar, where my favorite German authors once lived. I was very nervous about going. I stocked up on pharmaceuticals, and tampons, took a train over the border, and held my breath. This was the summer of 1985. My teacher was also my roommate in a house owned by an architect and his wife. Everyone was incredibly nice — except for the Yugoslavian poet who wanted to know why the stores were open 24 hours a day in the US, and why everyone insisted on eating steak. I had a tough time explaining President Reagan to my Polish friends who were attending the seminar. “But isn’t he just a really bad actor?” one of them asked.  “And wasn’t he in a space movie with a monkey?” someone else said. It was a strange experience trying to represent American politics in a foreign language, and the interactions that I had with my Polish friends, my teacher, and the many artists I met during my stay in Weimar got me wondering if East Germany was really as “bad” as I’d been hearing.

Perhaps my most startling memory was when I left Weimar by train and arrived in Frankfurt, which was in “West” Germany. Frankfurt was and is a big commercial metropolis. I walked into the train station and encountered an absolute barrage of ads, people trying to sell me things, and stores selling rolex watches, expensive suitcases, and diamonds. I think I realized for the first time, how much we live in a society that is all about buying and selling things. I have never forgotten that shock — that feeling of being absolutely buried in commodities. I think that was my first awareness of living under capitalism.

The second time I went to the German Democratic Republic, I went to Berlin. There though a chance research connection, I met and spent significant amounts of time with a man who was an SF/Fantasy editor. He introduced me to a number of amazing writers. I got to experience that once again the place for political discussion and critique was happening in the world of that kind of writing. It was great. These writers were using sf and fantasy tropes to imagine utopian worlds as well as nightmarish scenarios. As usual, SF/Fantasy had an active fan community who met frequently and communicated via magazines and comics and newsletters.


Then the Wall came down, and all the publishing houses that published those wonderful writers closed down because the government that subsidized them no longer existed, and none of those writers could get published.

My last visit to Berlin was right after the Wall fell, and there was a McDonalds’ going up on every corner. 165844_10150895207024720_2023285528_n

I worry that the more complex history of the GDR is being buried under a kind of rhetoric that does not do justice to the people who lived there, who actually believed in socialist ideals (like my teacher did), and who hoped for something better after the Wall fell. “They” had propaganda but “we” have propaganda too.

As a writer, I feel that it is important to share what I saw of the GDR from my own small perspective.

The unwillingness of many Berliners to part with the remaining sections of the Berlin Wall testifies, in my humble opinion, not only to a wish to celebrate freedom, but also a concern with preserving the complicatedness of the past. The nostalgia for the Wall and for the GDR (sometimes called Ostalgie) is a symptom of a deeper awareness that the truth of the past is somehow eluding these overly simplistic accounts.


Berlin Wall timeline

A pretty objective timeline:

8 May 1945 Second world war ends and the Red Army captures Berlin. The city is divided in half; the Soviet Union in the east, and the British, Americans and French in the west.

24 June 1948 The Soviets begin the Berlin blockade.

25 June 1948 The United States begin the Berlin air lift delivering food and fuel supplies to the city.

12 May 1949 The Federal Republic of Germany, West Germany is founded.

24 May 1949 The German Democratic Republic, East Germany is founded.

30 September 1949 Berlin airlift ends.

17 June 1953 The Red Army steps in to suppress riots by East Berlin workers over work conditions.

13 August 1961 The border between East and West Berlin is closed. Soldiers start to build the wall, at first with barbed wire and light fencing which in the coming years develops into a heavily complex series of wall, fortified fences, gun positions and watchtowers that are heavily guarded. The wall ended up being 96 miles long and the average height of the concrete divide was 11.8ft.

14 August 1961 Brandenburg Gate is closed.

26 June 1963 US President John F Kennedy visits the wall vowing to protect East Berlin, famously declaring “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner).

May 1973 East and West Germany establish formal diplomatic ties.

12 June 1987 President Ronald Reagan visits Berlin calling for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to tear down the wall.

10 September 1989 Hungary opens its border with Austria. More than 13,000 refugees flee into Austria.

4 November 1989 More than a million people attend a pro-democracy rally in East Berlin’s central square. The East German government resigns within days.

9 November 1989 The wall is pulled down as thousands of East Germans celebrate entering West Berlin.

Source:  The Guardian UK: