March 30, 2009

Wendy Crewson’s note


* * *

Wendy Crewson sent the following note after her visit last week, and asked me to pass it along. You made quite the impression on her:

“I had a truly wonderful time… and was so impressed and inspired by your students. Thank them please for making me feel so welcome. I’m looking forward to great things from them”


February 26, 2009

Marking Abbreviations

Category: administrative notes,beckett tips — theprof @ 1:58 pm

Paul just sent along a sheet defining the abbreviations that he has used on your essays. You can find a link to the handout at the top of the Assignments page.

February 24, 2009

Welcome Back

Category: administrative notes,beckett tips,lecture related — theprof @ 9:56 pm

… from Reading Week! I hope you enjoyed Hiroshima Mon Amour. I will be returning your essays in class tomorrow. Also, several of you have asked me about the exam — I will address that in class tomorrow as well. In the meantime, the outline for this week’s lecture is available on the Outlines page. See you soon!

February 5, 2009

Third Q & A

Category: administrative notes,beckett tips — theprof @ 12:48 pm

Q: I have a couple of questions about the late policy…

A: The late policy is at the bottom of the Assignments page. I’ll clarify two things in that paragraph:

1) 2% per weekday means that if you hand it in by Monday February 9 at 3:45pm, it is 2% off. Tuesday by 3:45pm is 4% off, etc. Emailing an essay to me does not change the date that you submit it – the date you submit it is based on when you physically give it to someone at the drama department (i.e don’t email it to me!). The office is open 9am-3:45pm.

2) “last-minute panic” = a day or two before the essay is due :)

February 3, 2009

Second Q & A

Category: administrative notes,beckett tips — theprof @ 4:50 pm

Q: Will I be penalized if I go over the word limit?

A: We do not apply any numerical penalties, but if you go too much over the limit, the TA will just stop reading, and your essay will be left without part of its argument, evidence, and conclusion! As an instructor, I do have a rationale for applying word limits on essays; the limit is not arbitrary, but is related to my teaching goals in this course. Here are some of the reasons:

1) The limit tells the student about the size of the assignment. I’m sure there is some scholar out there who could write a whole book on Beckett’s Catastrophe, and likewise, a reviewer of the film might only write 500 words in a newspaper column. Stating a word limit is one way of communicating how much we expect from you.

2) The limit is one way of trying to achieve equity between students: if I were to tell one student that she has only 1,000 words to address the topic, and another student that she has 5,000 words, it would clearly not be fair to assess these essays under the same criteria.

3) The limit encourages students to find economical ways to articulate their arguments. If you are working for a newspaper and being paid by the word, then maybe more words = better. But in general, it is useful to find economical ways of making your point. One of the course goals is to help you improve your writing skills; making your point clearly and economically will be a real selling feature in many post-university careers.

To sum up, we are not going to be all stern and ignore that one paragraph that goes over the limit. But if you find yourself going more than a page over the limit, consider the fact that you are adding 20-25% to the expected length of the paper!

PS: And if you are thinking of shrinking your font or enlarging your margins, just consider the fact that the TA is looking at a stack of 60 papers; your doctored layout becomes pretty obvious!

February 2, 2009

Essay Q & A

Category: beckett tips — theprof @ 5:36 pm

I am starting to get lots of questions about the essay, so this tells me that students are really starting to work on it. Good! Periodically, I will post some Questions & Answers based on real student questions. I will post things that seem generally relevant to the assignment and could benefit everyone, but will not post questions that reveal anyone’s original argument about the essay. So check back here every day or so…

First Q & A:

Q: I’m a bit confused as to what would constitute a sequence in this short film. The directions say to closely analyze at least 2 sequences to support our argument; would a sequence constitute a shot? or a beat? or a section of the play (eg. before the Assistant is on stage)?

A: You are quite right, mystery student, to wonder about the definition of sequence, especially in a film that is so short. By definition, a sequence is a series of shots that communicate a moment or event. I also think that this definition in one online dictionary is accurate: “a succession of related shots that develop a given subject” ( In your question above, I think that a section of the play, or even part of a section of the play, is the best approximation. My main intention in stating that you must analyse at least 2 sequences was to encourage students to really closely analyse the film, right down to noting the relationship created from one shot to the next. So don’t worry too much about the definition of sequence, but do force yourself to get as specific as possible when referring to the film.

Works Cited for the Beckett Essay

Category: beckett tips — theprof @ 2:03 pm

If you only refer to the items I posted on the website in your essay (the online script of Catastrophe that I noted, and the film (on YouTube or on the disc I provided), then you do NOT need to incude a Works Cited page, as I will assume that your only sources are the two I provided. If you have referred to any other sources while conducting your research, and the ideas in those sources make any kind of appearance in your essay, then you must of course cite those sources following regular guidelines — see the link to the MLA page on this website, for example. As I said in class, I do not recommend consulting outside sources, because the focus of this essay is on your analysis, and not on research.

January 28, 2009

Look at Assignments page

Category: beckett tips — theprof @ 8:15 pm

I have posted a handy reference sheet on the Assignments page – it is called “Useful Terms for Formal Analysis”, and you can find it right below the link to the Becket assignment PDF. This sheet is meant to provide you with a quick reference of terms mentioned in the article by Robert Kolker in your reader. That article will be quite helpful in providing you with vocabulary for your essays, so if you haven’t read it yet, now is the time to do so.  Have a great week!

January 21, 2009

Essay 1 now online

Category: beckett tips — theprof @ 2:45 pm

The detailed assignment sheet is now available on the Assignments page. I will talk about it in class today.

January 20, 2009

Outline in advance!

Category: administrative notes,beckett tips,lecture related — theprof @ 3:32 pm

Hi all – the outline for tomorrow’s lecture has been posted on the Outline page – 24hrs in advance!! Yay!  I’ll talk about the assignment in tomorrow’s lecture, and may even post it in advance as well!