“Sonny’s Blues” (James Baldwin) Sonny’s arrest: What is the narrator’s “ice”? Does it eventually melt? Why “copper”?How is the image of “two darknesses” relevant today? Why the details of the whistling boy and the barmaid? What is the narrator’s attitude toward Sonny’s friend, and what issues are raised for you? Is the narrator sympathetic? Prison and release: Describe Sonny’s and the narrator’s respective attitudes about religion. Is the desсrіption of the housing project still valid? Why is this followed by the three flashbacks? Flashback 1: When? Why is darkness described here? Where else do images of darkness occur? Why does the mother tell the story? How do the younger generations resemble the older? What does his mother make the narrator promise? Why? Flashback 2: When? What is the brothers’ specific musical disagreement, and how does it reflect their respective personalities? Flashback 3: When? Why Greenwich Village? Does Sonny’s discomfort in Isabel’s home mirror the narrator’s later discomfort in the nightclub? Revival: Why do we learn the details of Grace’s death only now? What is the meaning of her name? Why “Zion”? What are the brothers’ respective attitudes about the revival and about suffering? Why is the window like a “lodestone”? Nightclub: Is Creole a spiritual figure? How? What is the function of water imagery here? What does the word “blues” mean? Why “royal blood”? Why “Scotch and milk,” and what is its connection to the “cup of trembling”? What are the biblical references? Consider brothers, sons, the cup, baptism, and grace. Examine Baldwin’s use of the verb “to fall.” What is implied by the narrator’s broken promise? How do you interpret Baldwin’s use of these references: is the intention sacred, secular, or both? Why? Compare Baldwin’s 1950’s Harlem and Greenwich Village to today: consider the relationship of the enforcement of drug laws and “gentrification.” If it took place today, where? What music? Why? What would you do in the narrator’s situation? Compare and contrast Baldwin′s depictions of de jure segregation in the South and de facto segregation in the North. In your view, is de facto segregation “acceptable”? Why / why not? Persona: How does the narrator differ from Baldwin? Why is “Am I Blue” described as “sardonic”? Is any gender / sexual subtext implied? What is Baldwin’s message here regarding his male characters? Agree? Why / why not? How do feel about Baldwin’s depiction of the female (versus the male) characters? Is Baldwin sexist? Through the heroic figure of Sonny, does Baldwin glamorize substance abuse? Why / why not? Is Baldwin’s depiction of social and economic injustice still relevant today? Why / why not? Based on your reading, in your view: can there be social justice without economic justice? If not, what is required? Be specific. Assignment 4 Explain the relevance of each topic to “Sonny’s Blues”: Relevant period drug references in pop culture (“two darknesses”) “Mighty Long Way” (ex. Mahalia Jackson) Early blues / guitar blues (ex. Robert Johnson) African-American work songs (ex. Paul Robeson) Louis Armstrong / swing Charlie Parker / bebop G.I. Bill (history) US military integration (history) Post-war Greenwich Village Beat culture “Strange Fruit” (ex. Billie Holiday) “Some Cold Rainy Day” (song) “The Old Ship of Zion” (song) “If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again” (song) “God Be with You Till We Meet Again” (song) Thelonious Monk “Am I Blue” (ex. Ethel Waters) Baldwin’s use of Bible references Relevant past and present drug laws (history) Relevant segregation laws and redlining (history) Relevant anti-miscegenation laws (history) Optional: Sarah Vaughan (ex. “When Sunny Gets Blue”) Ella Fitzgerald (ex. “Wacky Dust”) Duke Ellington (ex. “Mood Indigo”) John Coltrane Charles Mingus Max Roach Assignment 5 Writing/Discussion Topics for “Oedipus the King” (Sophocles) The plague: Does the public health and well-being of a society depend on the private moral behavior of its leaders? Do you agree with the view presented in this drama, and is it relevant in today’s society? Why / why not? Oedipus and the Sphinx: What is the meaning of the riddle, and when does Oedipus truly understand it? How is this related to Oedipus′s hubris? Can one’s rational mind answer all questions? Has one monster replaced another? What is the god Apollo’s role? What does Apollo represent? What is Apollo′s connection to healing in this drama? Based on your reading of this drama, is God good, evil, indifferent, or non-existent? What is Sophocles asking us to consider? The Delphic oracle: What is the role of oracles in this drama? In this drama, is free will an illusion? What about in your view? Are the characters′ fates pre-determined? Why/why not? What is Sophocles forcing us to consider for ourselves? To what extent is Teiresias Oedipus’s opposite? His double? What is the meaning of blindness in this drama? What is the significance of Teiresias′s gender and social status in relation to Oedipus? What is implied? The crossroads: what is its significance and symbolism in this drama? Why was Laius travelling? What is implied? In this drama, does total self-knowledge equal self-destruction? Based on your reading, for yourself: Is ignorance bliss, or, as Socrates said, is the unexamined life not worth living? Conclusion: Is Oedipus damned or saved? What do you make of his fate? Contrast Oedipus′s hubris and hamartia with Jocasta′s: what do you make of her fate? In your view, are Oedipus and/or Jocasta universally valid psychological archetypes? Do you agree with Freud’s interpretation? Why/why not? The Chorus leader: What is the meaning of lines 1593-98? Agree/disagree? Why/why not? Describe the Chorus leader′s personality and viewpoints in this drama. What is your interpretation of this character? Catharsis: What, if anything, do we have to gain from the appreciation of tragedy? Does it differ from modern genres such as horror, etc.? If so, how? Do you agree with Aristotle′s idea of catharsis or, like Plato, disagree? Why/why not? How do the concepts of gnosis, arete, hubris, hamartia, nemesis, and eudaimonia apply (if relevant) to Oedipus, Jocasta, Creon, Teiresias, and Antigone, respectively? Assignment 6: give examples of each Keywords / ideas (in glossary except bold) Agon Anagnorisis Antagonist Antistrophe Apostrophe Archetype Arete Catastrophe Catharsis Chorus Climax Complication Conflict Cultural context Deus ex machina Dialogue Downstage Dramatic irony Elements of drama: plot, characterization, theme, diction, melody, spectacle Episode Eudaimonia Exposition Falling action Foreshadowing Gnosis Hamartia Hubris Litotes Nemesis Ode Orchestra Paradox Peripeteia Protagonist Resolution Rising action Stage left, stage right Stichomythia Strophe Tragedy Unities: time, place, action