What happens in “On the vanishing of my sister, aged 3, 1965”? Summarize the plot. Summarize what you learn about the characters in the poem: the mother, the father, the sister. Explain what you learn about Burnside–his feelings and thoughts.

Try to write 200 words or so. Write freely, informallybut avoid profanity, slang, writing as if u r texting. Read over each entry and edit it for clarity and correctness.

Note how this response uses quotation and summary of parts of the poem to help explain a larger sort of summary of what the poem might be expressing overallabout the poets feelings, about marriage, about differences and conflict between men and women. I will be asking you all term to summarize and quote from the reading assignments in order to explain what the authors / speakers are expressing and to offer your own thoughts about it.

 

There is a fine line between summary and explanation. When you summarize a passage in a text or even the entire text, you simply rephrase more briefly in your own words what the author has written.

The word thesis comes from hypothesisa theory that needs to be tested in order to be proven. Scientists test their hypotheses out with elaborate experiments to confirm or, depending on the results, revise their theories. Academic writers in general are expected to develop ideas and theories about whatever subject they are studying and write papers that explain and / or argue the conclusions they come to as a result of the research they do to gather information about the subject. Their thesis is a precise statement of what they think about the subject they study and why and how they have come to such a conclusion.

 

If you summarize an authors thesis, you rephrase the overall purpose that the author has in writing, in effect explaining what the entire text is about. But as we see in John Burnsides poem, we are unlikely to find a thesis statement in a literary text: we may need to puzzle out what we think the author is expressing overall, what we think his theme or message might be. Our explanation moves a step farther away from summary and closer to what we call interpretation. We may interpret a literary element, such as the image of the family garden in the Burnside poem, or a brief passage as wellin order to explain how it contributes to our understanding of the authors overall purpose or point. If you write about what Burnside describes, where his family lived or what they were like, you are summarizing the poem; that can help you explain what the poem might meanbut it is not in itself an explanation or interpretation.

 

Notice how the response includes quotations as well as some information the student researched in order to suggest that his home is likely in the Scottish countryside outside Edinburgh. There is a summary in the students own words of Burnsides description of the family garden: he only mentions stones and trees, no crops of any sort. The notebook writer also offers an explanation of what might have tempted the little girl to wander away from home.

 

You will want to summarize, quote, and explicate / explain passages in the texts you read as you write about these texts in your Notebook

 

Write notebook entries in response to the following questions
What happens in “On the vanishing of my sister, aged 3, 1965”? Summarize the plot. Summarize what you learn about the characters in the poem: the mother, the father, the sister. Explain what you learn about Burnside–his feelings and thoughts.
In “You are in the dark, in the car . . .,” Rankine narrates a series of vignettes, brief incidents or scenes: driving with a white man who has hired her, “a person of color” (ll. 2-3), to teach in an English Department; witnessing a racist incident in Starbucks and then another on a subway platform; being insulted by a therapist with whom she has an appointment for “trauma counseling” (l. 47). Do these vignettes connect to tell a larger story? How would you summarize the plot of the entire poem?

What does the speaker in Rankine’s poem seem to express about her life? How would you describe her tone: Angry? Hurt? Bitter? What about the subway scene–does the incident lift her spirits? What does her theme, her overall meaning or message, seem to be?
In the video “Indifference to Racism,” Rankine questions what she calls the “ground level indifference” with which people in our society respond to prejudice against and suffering of others. How indifferent, how lacking in empathy, are Americans, in your experience? Cite examples from your observations of others in your own life and / or in the news or other media that illustrate the indifference OR the empathy of Americans.

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