During this unit, I learned that language can create a humorous effect using two approaches: the incongruity method where language creates a phrased that exceeds the mental expectation of the audience, and the superiority method where language is used to make audiences feel superior. In the poem “Father” by Edgar Albert Guest, the first six lines of a stanza are written with an admiring tone, for instance: “my Father knows the proper way a nation should be run” (1). The reader then expects this to continue, the son listing out all the great abilities of his Father. However, the last two lines of the stanza read “but if the furnace needs repair, we have to hire a man” (7-8). These last lines violate the expectation that the admiration of Father will continue, therefore making it humorous for the reader as the father is suddenly exposed. This is the incongruity approach and is used again in “Confusion”. When Doreen begins her dialogue, she says this: “Between you and me, I have heard most of the policewomen are as well. Men dressed up you know, Special Duties.” These lines are incongruous because the two characters introduced before are in distressing situations (abusive relationship and on the verge of bankruptcy), so the reader is in a serious mood when Doreen suddenly says something so silly, thus being unexpected. Additionally, the reader initially expects Doreen to be kidding, but Doreen is not joking, even including the phrase “you know” to emphasize that it should be a common belief. Therefore, another violating of mental expectations. These examples show how language can take the incongruity approach to create a humorous effect. Next, the superiority approach, most prevalent throughout “Father.” The whole concept of “Father” is a man being ridiculous by claiming he can do great things when he cannot fix small problems. The poetry reads that father can “in matter of finance, can tell congress what to do” (22) though he cannot “meet his bills as they fall due” (26). The irony, combined with the feeling that oneself is better than this Father, makes these lines humorous.
Aside from everything I’ve learned, I would love to dive deeper into how poetry is written and how to appreciate good poetry. Analyzing poetry is fun, but like what “introduction to poetry” by Billy Collins advises, I would like to learn more about how writers use language to create images and emotions instead of the “meaning” behind a poem. Transitioning to my thoughts about this unit, the writing tasks were challenging, particularly the dialectal journal; I’ve never analyzed drama before. I remember repicking my quotes 3 times because I was simply unsure what I was looking for. Initially, I read the play looking for literary techniques like metaphors or even foreshadowing. Only when I repeatedly found none did I realize I was looking for something different. Additionally, I am not very familiar with the topic of humor and found it difficult to describe why a line of dialogue made me laugh. Some ideas I just couldn’t put into words, but a blend of research regarding the theories of humorous and repeating the lines made the ideas eventually solidify. Moving on, I was able to succeed in this unit in terms of time management and independent learning because it was done in a similar structure as research projects in FA. I’ve been in FA for two years, so I have some experience planning and taking initiative of my learning.
My smart goal for this unit was to find a balance between the content of the analysis and the language of it. As mentioned in the DX post before this unit, I find myself often disappointed by how “unbeautiful” my writing is, and for this unit, I wanted to find a way to balance content and language. This was, I admit, an incredibly ambitious goal. My official measure of success for this goal was the feedback and grading for my writing, since I haven’t received that I can only explain whether or not I think I achieved this goal. The short answer is no, I don’t believe I have found a balance in my writing; my CER could have been written better and my dialectal journal lacked extensive analysis. The long answer is that even though I haven’t found my “balance,” my writing has still improved with revisions of this goal in mind—just not the drastic improvement I envisioned in my goal. When I outlined all the content I wanted to include and then revised with the intention of making it flow, I became more aware of my writing. So, in short, I didn’t achieve my goal. However, I wouldn’t be giving myself enough credit if I said I completely failed it.
Next, the student as a learner aspect of this unit. For student as a learner responsibility strand, I am mostly exemplary. Typing that makes me feel dubious as giving oneself “exemplary” is generally perceived as unhumble and should be avoided. However, I will try to justify myself. Looking at the time management strand, it states “independently completes assignments and meets deadlines.” I was able to meet all my large deadlines and even meet small deadlines written by myself on a planner. For example, the whole poetry CER is due on May 23nd, and on May 20th I wrote in my planner “one dialectal quote done and CER done up to second technique.” I was able to check both of those off. Therefore, I was able to meet the exemplary standard for time management. Looking at the preparation strand, it states “independently brings appropriate sources, share additional material, is punctual, and fully prepared to learn.” Although I did not share “additional material,” I was able to independently read other poetry analysis online and attend every zoom meeting on time (hence punctual and use appropriate sources). I also take notes in the zoom meetings, potentially translating into being “fully prepared to learn.” Generally, I meet the exemplary standard. Lastly, for the willingness to accept feedback, I believe that even though I don’t “proactively seek” feedback, I do more than just “use teacher and peer feedback” since I did email about my thesis. Reflecting back, I should strive to proactively seek feedback in my future English classes. Overall, I am mostly exemplary in the responsibility strand. For student as a learner attitude, I am satisfactory. The details of this will be spared but generally, I am on task and have a good attitude for learning. The reason why I did not give myself exemplary is that even though I sometimes speak up in the Zoom classes, I do not do it incredibly frequently. This is due to the fact that having all of Ms. Wong’s English 9 classes hear my voice and ideas make me hesitant to share. Though normally I am much more talkative in physical English class since it has a smaller audience. I will strive to become my confident in my ideas in future English classes regarding the SALs.
Looking forward to English 10, I don’t have any particular goals in mind. Though I want to become a sociologist when I grow up, so I wish to drastically improve my essay writing abilities. This extends beyond English 10 but my goal for the future is being able to write concise, beautiful, and meaningful essays. I feel prepared for English 10 because as my readings accumulate, the writing improves as well. This year got off to a rough start, the word “literary analysis essay” still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. However, as grade 9 ends, I believe my writing abilities have grown. Comparing my first literary analysis essay to my last, I can’t help but feel a slight sense of pride. There are many more essays to come and I do not know whether they will fail or succeed. But I have long abolished the conviction that my writing will always receive praise. I expect English 10 to be challenging and I expect that not all my work will receive a good score. Nevertheless, I feel prepared, because just like English 9, I will improve.
Questions for Ms. Wong:
- Do you have any book recommendations? I’ve recently finished the Plague by Albert Camus and LOVED it.
- Would you recommend me to take IB English HL?
- Do you have any essay, poetry, or short story recommendations? I really liked Susan Sontag’s essay Against Interpretation. Also, The Fly by Katherine Mansfield was really interesting.