Close reading exercise: Dylan Thomas

  1. Carefully read the poem “A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London” by Dylan Thomas.
  2. Describe how this text ‘works.’ Don’t take into account anything but the text itself (author biography, affective response, etc.): examine only evidence offered by the text itself.
    1. Look for patterns: repetitions, contradictions, similarities.
    2. Identify devices:
      • Images: symbols, metaphors
      • Formal elements: Rhyme/rhythm, meter
      • Point of view
      • Setting, characterization plot
      • Ambiguities
      • Paradoxes
      • Examples of irony 
      • Tensions: e.g. between denotation/connotation
  3. Based on these findings, describe the text’s structure and how it achieves its unity and meaning. Try to determine the text’s overall theme.

A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London
Dylan Thomas, 1914 – 1953

Never until the mankind making
Bird beast and flower
Fathering and all humbling darkness
Tells with silence the last light breaking
And the still hour
Is come of the sea tumbling in harness

And I must enter again the round
Zion of the water bead
And the synagogue of the ear of corn
Shall I let pray the shadow of a sound
Or sow my salt seed
In the least valley of sackcloth to mourn

The majesty and burning of the child’s death.
I shall not murder
The mankind of her going with a grave truth
Nor blaspheme down the stations of the breath
With any further
Elegy of innocence and youth.

Deep with the first dead lies London’s daughter,
Robed in the long friends,
The grains beyond age, the dark veins of her mother,
Secret by the unmourning water
Of the riding Thames.
After the first death, there is no other.

The Very Model of a Modern Major Asshole

Eunice Chan, August 16, 2019


In his seminal book, Mythologies, Roland Barthes explores the concept of modern myths— that is, socially constructed ideas that are taken as fact within a community. He wrote, “everything, in everyday life, is dependent on the representation which the bourgeoisie has and makes us have of the relations between man and the world” (139). He examines the second-order semiological systems of words, and how they contribute to myth-making.

Barthes revealed the many ways which communities create and reinforce myths. Focusing on these ideas, I will examine the subreddit r/AmItheAsshole. I will look at how the subreddit uses institution and words to fabricate and reinforce the myths of oppositions between concepts. In particular, I will look at the opposition between right and asshole, and the opposition between situational and personal. Continue reading “The Very Model of a Modern Major Asshole”

Nostalgia and Community: An Exploration of Neopets

Everything I needed to know in life, I learned from Neopets. A bold statement, which may not be strictly true, but let’s examine the facts. First, I learned to code on Neopets when I made my own webpage in HTML lauding my pets. Second, I learned how an economy works on Neopets, participating in trading and figuring out the importance of the“store of value” aspect of currency. Finally, I learned what meant to be in a community, supporting one another and enjoying each other’s company. These were all formative experiences for young, middle school me. Continue reading “Nostalgia and Community: An Exploration of Neopets”

Experience over Expertise? Truth-Finding/-Making in r/changemyview

Teresa Goertz, August 16, 2019

In our age of continuously growing amounts of online information and knowledge production, accompanied by increasing accessibility to online resources and (perceived) increased media literacy of the general public, traditional authorities and experts (e.g. scholars; teachers; doctors) on the validity of fact-based knowledge, sanctioned by society as having successfully demonstrated their expertise within well-established systems and institutions of knowledge production, tend to be rejected by the general public in favor of home-grown “research” and opinion-formation, which often happen online. While critical thinking, an act of analysis and evaluation of presented information or issues, is desirable in a democracy, which is based on its members’ ability to make informed decisions independently, it becomes problematic when those performing critical thinking are no longer aware of the difference between hard facts and opinions based on personal preferences or beliefs. Continue reading “Experience over Expertise? Truth-Finding/-Making in r/changemyview”

“Liberty, Guns, Beer and Titties”: The Intersection of Political Discourse and Constructed Masculinity

The internet is a world built using words and images in place of brick and mortar. As is often the case, the results of such tools depend on whose holding them. When it comes to online discourse concerning Donald Trump, the structure typically rests upon a foundation of conflict and hostility. The animosity which emerges between his supporters and opponents can be discovered in almost any context, even when the subject matter does not superficially appear to reference Trump’s political agenda. However, it is often within this peripheral discourse that new social and cultural ideals may be constructed through the use of multifaceted language. Such is the case with HottiesforTrump, a SubReddit page designed for posting and commenting on images of women identified as Trump supporters and happens to result in discourse regarding both the objectification of women and political idealization.

By Aubrey Ross Continue reading ““Liberty, Guns, Beer and Titties”: The Intersection of Political Discourse and Constructed Masculinity”

“Back Your Claim”: Deconstructing the Evidence/Feeling Binary on r/AskTrumpSupporters

In an age of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” do we need more facts, more evidence, and more truth, or can misinformation only be exposed by better interpretation? The Trump administration’s attacks on the trustworthiness of mainstream media, coupled with its unwillingness to acknowledge its own informational biases, renders this hermeneutic question important.

By Marc Vasquez  Continue reading ““Back Your Claim”: Deconstructing the Evidence/Feeling Binary on r/AskTrumpSupporters”