Throughout the English 9 course, humor has been a recurring motif: first, in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian; next in various political cartoons and speeches that we studied. In this final unit of the course, students engaged in a culminating study of how language can be used to create a humorous effect on the reader/audience. We studied selected texts from two key bodies of work: Confusions, a collection of five interconnected one-act plays by British playwright Alan Ayckbourn (first performed in 1974), and an anthology of humorous poetry written by authors from various times and places.
As we as students prepare for the transition to English 10, teachers had deliberately designed this part of the course to help us develop greater independence and responsibility as a learner. We had to choose which texts we would focus on and we would be in control of the pace at which you learn. In addition to being assessed on our knowledge and understanding of the texts and on our analytical writing skills, we also would have to reflect on and self-assess ourselves against the “Responsibility” and “Attitude” criteria on the Student as a Learner rubric.
My SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goal for this unit was to try and write more concisely, if I am only allowed 200 words, make them worth it. During the few weeks that were given to us, I tried to split up my time evenly between all projects so that I did not have to start something like the poetry CER on the day it was due. This strategy helped me keep my writing concise, as I could reread what I had written for the day and make sure it was the best it could be, which is why I feel that I achieved my SMART goal for this unit.
Towards the end of this year, we learned how writers used language to create a humorous effect. The first assignment was the dialectical journal on a play as mentioned above. In addition to stage directions and expressions, there were rhetorical techniques that were used. In my case, I chose Drinking Companion by Alan Ayckbourn. For instance, throughout the dialectical journal, I touched on literary techniques such as informal tone, repetition, and symbolism. These techniques helped the author create a humorous effect on the reader. An example of symbolism identified in Confusions was this quote-
“Now, looking at Bernice—I immediately think of blue. Am I right?
Bernice: “I never wear blue. I hate it.”
(p 40). The color blue is a symbol of Bernice’s cold personality in contrast to Harry’s bright, outgoing personality. As said before, Bernice does not even give any attention to Harry when first meeting him, and as soon as Harry mentions blue, she shuts him down with negative adverbs like “hate” and “never”, which further exaggerates her cold personality. This immediate negative response is also rather humorous as it is so abrupt and unexpected, it makes Harry look stupid as he was proudly stating he was good at his job and could easily pick out a color for a woman.
Later on, during the poetry stage, I learned the literary techniques that authors used in poetry. I elaborated on the tone, metaphors, lexical repetition, and anaphora that Vachel Lindsay used in her poem “The Horrid Voice of Science”. For instance, In this poem, Lindsay also starts almost every sentence with the word ‘There’s’. The use of anaphora in the word ‘There’s’ is especially useful with the poem’s structure, as it is a list. By using the same word at the start of each point, it gives the poem a sense of rhythm and structure, which strengthens the overall theme of the poem. Stating each point as a statement makes the poem humor scientists. Because there is no machinery in a butterfly, and there is no such thing as hydraulics in a daisy, Lindsay is just making fun of the rational way scientists deconstruct the world.
My annotations for “The Horrid Voice of Science”
Some specific things I would like to learn more about would be the different types of irony. Irony is one of the most used techniques in humor- both in poetry and stage plays. By knowing the differences between verbal, situational, and dramatic irony, it would greatly help me in English 10 and further analyzing literary texts. Something that was particularly challenging in this unit was the time difference, as I could never participate and ask questions in English 9 Zoom calls. I found this challenging because the Zoom calls taught other students more about humor and its techniques.
When asked where I would stand in terms of Responsibility and Attitude on the Student as a Learner Rubric, I would say that I would be an exemplary student. I feel that the exemplary categories for Responsibility and Attitude definitely apply to me. For example, I always complete my assignments, meet deadlines, and plan ahead, for example, I set deadlines for this final unit and submitted all assignments on time. Similarly, I also accept and relish challenges given to me, give my best effort, and take risks in order to further my learning. These are just some examples of why I feel I am an exemplary student in terms of Responsibility and Attitude. I might still need to grow in these categories though, for example working on asking for more teacher and peer feedback to perfect my work.
All in all, English 9 was an interesting and enriching experience. I have learned a lot ranging from propaganda to literary techniques, and I feel prepared for English 10. I hope to take what I learned from English 9 and extend it to English 10, yet I think I want to improve making in-depth explanations and my interpretations of the effect of literary techniques on the audience even more concise, as I know that sometimes I can “blabber on” about a topic without revising properly.