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ZIP Proposal: Tackling ‘The Hardest Read in the English Language’

Question: To what extent does James Joyce’s Ulysses deserve the critique of being the most challenging text in the English language?

Big Ideas: Questioning what we hear, read, and view contributes to our ability to be educated and engaged citizens.

Curricular Competencies:

  1. Apply appropriate strategies to comprehend written, oral, visual, and multimodal texts.
  2. Recognize and appreciate how different forms, formats, structures, and features of texts enhance and shape meaning and impact.
  3. Think critically, creatively, and reflectively to explore ideas within, between, and beyond texts.

Tasks:

  1. Read 190 pages of Ulysses (Episode 1-7).
  2. Read four different reviews of Ulysses.
    1. Three academic, one informal.
  3. Write a research essay answering my inquiry question.
  4. Decide whether I want to read the rest of the book.

 

Questions:

  1. What would you like to learn to do/what question would you like to pursue in your inquiry? Why did you choose this skill/question? What motivates or excites you in pursuing this line inquiry?

I would like to investigate James Joyce’s Ulysses by reading a section of the book, and then reading and analyzing multiple reviews of the book and deciding whether they are fair assessments of Ulysses. My question is the following:

To what extent does James Joyce’s Ulysses deserve the critique of being the most challenging text in the English language?

I chose this question because Ulysses is a very formidable part of the English literature. I haven’t read many early-20th century novels, and am interested in the stream-of-consciousness narrative style that James Joyce is renowned (and scorned) for. I am excited to take on the challenge of reading it, and being able to determine for myself what makes it so controversial.

  1. What do you currently know about this topic/skill, and what skills do you currently have that will help you succeed in your work?

I currently know very little about James Joyce and his writing style, or Ulysses. Most of the prior knowledge I know about the book is from this Guardian article. However, I am a fairly avid reader, and can read at a pace of 473 words per minute (according to a Staples.com comprehension test).

  1. What is a specific list of skills that you hope to have expanded on / learned by the end of this assignment?
    1. Learning how to read quickly (this project is only three weeks long), but also with comprehension.
    2. The ability to interpret a text and translate it into something that makes sense for me.
    3. The ability to critique reviews (ex. finding places of personal bias).
    4. The ability to properly identify characteristics that make a book difficult to read.
  2. Who can you approach for support during your work / research?

Mr. Morris, first and foremost. Ms. Walstrom (she has studied the book before). If necessary, other teachers in the English department?

  1. What are some other resources that might be useful in helping you complete your inquiry?
    1. The library copy of Ulysses I am using for the project has a whole section of notes that help explain the meaning of the prose.
    2. This website, which has a complete page-by-page analysis of Ulysses.
    3. A dictionary, to look up vocabulary I do not understand.
  2. How might you demonstrate your learning at the end of your inquiry?

I will write a research paper (around 5-6 pages) detailing my own reading of Ulysses and comparisons with other reviews of the book. For an in-class lesson, I could give groups different passages from the book and ask them to try and interpret its meaning, and write their own condensed version of the passage.

  1. What is your schedule for learning?

December 5th – Finish proposal.

December 5th – Begin reading, annotating, creating a list of words I don’t know, and summaries of chapters.

December 15th – Finish reading, write a review.

December 18th – Read four other reviews of Ulysses and make an essay outline.

  • Approve outline with Mr. Morris.

December 22nd – Begin writing essay.

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