Let’s Start Reading!

Hi and Welcome to Literary Cookies, a non-profit self-maintained website created for poetry and teaching skills, especially for Indian students. Literature is something, to quote from Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey”, that must be “felt in the blood and felt along the heart”. To use another quote from Keats, if it “does not come as naturally as trees on a leaf, then it better not come at all”. To see that such a discipline is vastly being misconceived and abused by all who learn it is heartbreaking indeed. Hence, this initiative to inspire both teachers and learners to get the most out of their subject.

Our advice to students – read, read, read till you drop. There is nothing entertaining like reading. Your souls will benefit. As will your language skills too. We have provided some summaries in the “Teaching Materials” menu to help you get started. These summaries were written to help those aspirants aiming to pass the CBSE-NET/SET/JRF too.  Read the unabridged versions after these summaries. Maintain a private journal to write down bits and pieces from whatever you have read. Happy reading!

Hope you find this website useful. Queries and suggestions, if any, can be addressed to the personnel in the “Contact” menu.

The site is under major revamping as part of the online teaching and learning project. Materials will be posted as and when they are typed and edited.

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For the love of Africa

Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God published in 1964 stands against the test of time indeed. Among the admirable native culture which the novel evaluates, Achebe throws light on folklore, spirits, ritual, progress and the lives of everyday people getting their lives together. It’s a quiet morning in Umuachala when progress enters…with devastating results.

The formidable Ezeulu looks up at the sky and announces the harvest season after sighting the moon. But the omens are ominous indeed. Ezeulu cannot choose between the duties of chief priest and a father, which is the most occupying problem of working parents today. The Igbo culture considers many trees (like the iroko) sacred because the trees are either homes of spirits or ancestors. This helps them preserve these trees. Yams, cocoyams, palm oil, cassava and pumpkins are food of the Igbo – fresh from the garden. Their lives are untainted by civilization. They go about their market days gossiping about other women. They celebrate their many festivals by showing off their wealth, songs and music. Masks are more important than any other thing – ancestral masks, spirit masks and funeral masks. Obika dies after running around the village as the night mask Ogbazulobodo.

Achebe highlights the duties of a father, of sons, of wives and of chief priests. Ezeulu fails as a father to his sons and fails as a priest to his people. His adamant ruling out of eating yams during off season puts the village in grave danger – one that kills their culture. It is not the White man Wintabota or Tony Clark who change the Igbo but Ezeulu himself. The people starve while their harvest rots underground. The lessons taught by Arrow of God are many as in all the novels of Achebe. Preservation of nature through culture, carving the identity of the people through folklore and following ritual to the word are some of the themes and lessons in this novel. This is more than a novel. It is a world of symbols and interpretations.

So what do you think? Let me know with #welovearrowofgod

The songs of the past echo today

A lot of home-time gave me a lot of insights into the classics. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are my favourites. They’re the reason I took up English Literature major at college. They’re books that keep you on edge and make you look up at the sky and wonder what it must’ve been like to live in those times. They make you sit up at night and think about who Achilles was, if such a person really existed, and how Odysseus must’ve felt so far away from home lost to the seas. No one writes such tales today.

If you look up at the themes of Iliad and Odyssey, they’re universal. Iliad is on the hero’s anger, destiny and powerlessness. Achilles had severe authority issues. There is nothing worse than having to obey a foolish commander when you could do so much better. But Achilles was emotional and sensitive though he acted all tough. He played the lyre and wept to his mother, Thetis. Heroes cry too. I like the way Homer brings out the physical, emotional and spiritual of a man in a particular situation. When Priam asked him for the body of his son, he was reminded of his father Peleus and wept once again. On the other hand, Homer reveals what the thirst for ambition and glory could lead you too. Achilles doesn’t listen to his mother, goes against his commander, prohibits others taking his glory and single-handedly depletes half of the Trojan army – all for his own interests. He wanted to be remembered. He wanted immortality. And well, his decision was right, if you ask me. If he had taken the other choice and remained home, I won’t be writing about him today.

Homer went for the theme of ‘nostos’ or homecoming in Odyssey. Imagine being separated from your family for 20 years. And that too, in war. While Odysseus is being tossed and churned by the ocean, his wife is being forced to remarry. The neighbouring princes all line up for the vast kingdom of Odysseus and his wife. They plan to ambush and kill his young son. Odysseus has lots of opportunities along the way. Calypso offers to make him immortal. The witch-goddess Circe falls desperately in love with him. He could have ruled over the Phaeacians and married princess Nausicaa. I’m sure Achilles would have grabbed up any of those. But not Odyssues. He is a man who loves home and the hearth. He gives up everything to return. The theme of vengeance is striking. Both Achilles and Odysseus are shown as taking vengeance – Homer believes it is right and a hero ought to do it. Showing the other cheek ain’t getting you paid. The moral principles of Homer are not exactly what you can follow today, but they are firm and I believe, they’re right. You have got to protect yours in any way possible.

Iliad and Odyssey were actually ‘songs’, meant to be sung with a harp or lyre for entertainment in the past. Can you imagine singing a song that has more than 24 books and 15,000 lines of verse? No way…but that makes it so cool! The lines of Homer are so powerful even in translation and grasp the imagination of the reader straight away. Trust me, I have been reading for my entire life, and no book has come close to Iliad and Odyssey. No writer alive today has that capacity to communicate with the reader. It’s as though Homer’s right there in front of you telling the tale. And the way the epics are written…you can see the heroes fight and feel their agony. It’s a pity there’s such less info on who Homer really was and that all the other works by him were destroyed. Let me give some examples of Homer’s sentences: “Hateful to me as the gates of Hades is that man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another”… “Any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed.” – both these lines are from Iliad. “Of all the creatures that breathe and move upon earth, nothing is bred that is weaker than man.” … “A man who has been through bitter experiences and travelled far enjoys even his sufferings after a time.” – these are from Odyssey. Have you ever read lines like these in any contemporary text?

While we are all at home, it’s a good time to read these beautiful works. ebooks are available for free. Click here for Iliad and Odyssey full books in translation. You can also go through my slides for Iliad here.

These books will be around 500 pages but you won’t notice you’re reading once you get the hang of it. Your souls will benefit. If you do decide to read them, just read them. Don’t go for summaries and notes. That just spoils the beauty of it. It’s so much better even if you understand few pages. Homer’s style is so amazing that we can get to the meaning after we read a few pages. He also indirectly explains who Athena or Calypso is without using a glossary or footnotes. That’s another amazing style of Homer. The plot goes straight to your heart. Speaking of which, what better way to nourish the seat of all passions than by reading the greatest classics of the world?

 

FutureLearning with Online Tools

Just look at these samples for instance,

English Revolution Infographic

This is an infographic I created on canva.com for teaching English Revolution from “Social History of England”. This is so much attractive and visually appealing than a six-page essay. Look at the next one;

prisoner-of-chillon-highres

“The Prisoner of Chillon” by Byron is far more easy to learn because of this storyboard that I created on StoryboardThat.com.

Watch this simple video on Commonwealth Literature I created with pdfs

The point is: It’s better to simplify things with technology

Threat factor: Will teachers be replaced by software? High probability if we don’t learn to adapt, so that’s a yes. No one cares about motivation or “human” factor anymore. Digital residents get all the motivation from gaming and social media “friends”. So we are obsolete, almost. Not if we up the wow factor a little bit with these wonderful tools. All these are free. You just have to sign up to use them.

  1. Canva – this online platform offers thousands of templates for creating everything from infographics, slideshows, business cards, class schedules, lesson plans, banners, posters to YouTube thumbnails. Want to look cool in that graphic tee? Canva offers designs you can print on clothes too. Having a tough time with the designer for your invites? Create your own and save the trouble. Decorate your home, office or classroom with creative artefacts that you have designed. And it’s free too! A word of advice: This works completely online. So download your creation as soon as you have finished.
  2. Padlet – a great tool for online brainstorming or group discussion. So you want multiple responses for a new project or different ideas from students. Then you could put up a padlet. Simple send the link to whoever you want. You can create three padlets for free. So think and use them wisely. Also, you can comment on what you taught yourself during the lockdown on my padlet At Home Tales.
  3. Edmodo – the greatest online source for distance learning and teaching. It has proved its worth during this lockdown. You can create multiple classes and send assignments, quizzes and materials to students. Grading is super easy and Edmodo does everything, including downloading all the grades for a class in a csv file.
  4. Google Classroom – another valuable tool where you can teach and learn online.
  5. Google Slides – the great advantage here is that you can work with your friends and create slides on real time.
  6. Google Forms – not just quizzes, this is the best for collecting feedback and reflecting on lessons learnt and taught
  7. Google Meet – the ultimate video conferencing tool that collaborates with GMail and Google Calendar to invite people and remind you when your session is nearing. You choose to allow people who enter your meeting. You can mute them or send them out if you wish. And you can conduct classes for more than an hour!And yes, it’s free too.
  8. Screencast O’Matic – a free screen recording tool that allows you to create videos from pdfs/slides or anything on your screen. You can then edit, add music and upload to YouTube with the free video editor.
  9. OpenShot Video Editor – this is a free software that you have to download. It requires some technical expertise since the platform is similar to Adobe Premiere. But you can make amazing videos, cut away scenes you don’t want, add music, add other videos in a layer, add titles and save them in multiple formats.
  10. FutureLearn and Open Learn – these are two online learning platforms that offer many free courses with shareable (and downloadable) certificates. What’s this doing here? You can assign your students a free course to help them discover self-learning.
  11. PicLit – a picture speaks a thousand words indeed! Create beautiful stories with pictures. Or if would like to present a quotation with a suitable picture, then you can use this too.
  12. Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive – for storing those notes and tomes. 15 GB free storage is available. This is where you can store teaching materials and personal photos, videos, documents…no need to carry books around. Just open them from any device anywhere.
  13. Google Keep – notes and reminders connected to Google Calendar. This lovely app lets you see your reminders and notes in one page.

All these are basic and very very user-friendly. I have mentioned only few from various similar websites and apps because these are easy to use and the best. All these are great for learning and teaching online.

Bored at home?Here’s what you can do

Being home for a month! So bored you start counting your own fingers. Here are some amazing things you can do during the “stay home stay safe” phase:

  1. Take up an online course – Portals like Edx and Coursera are offering plenty of interesting short-term courses that you can complete in two or three weeks. Just click the links to get there: Edx Coursera and Udemy Don’t forget to choose the audit mode. Coursera has offered more than 100 courses completely for free, including certification, till May 31, 2020. Click here to get a list of courses. Enroll today!Google Garage is offering free 1-hour sessions on workplace efficiency, digital literacy and so on (no certificate). Automation Anywhere has a whole list of 40-minute courses you can learn and build your own software bots.
  2. Read/listen to some amazing books – there is no pleasure for the soul like reading. Just go to Google books app on your phone, choose your favourite genre and start reading for free. Or you could go to PlanetEBooks.com to get all the literary classics in their original versions. Better yet, you can listen to great stories on Audible. This Amazon-powered company is offering its services for free during the Corona outbreak. Enjoy!
  3. Quizzes – Just go to FunTrivia.com and enjoy quizzes in your favourite subject
  4. Hobbies – It may be anything from archery to collecting vintage car scrap. But just read this website and find your favourite hobby.
  5. Workout – seriously, it boosts immunity and your confidence. Plus, it helps you steer clear of extra weight from staying at home. There are a number of fitness apps like SamsungHealth that offer programmes for free. Choose your own paced workout and start burning those calories.
  6. Blogging – instead of emptying your energy over social media share your knowledge and resources through blogging. Start up your own hobby group/foodie group or game group.
  7. Household chores – help your mom with the dishes. Yes, that’s how we do it. Clean up your shelf or dust cobwebs. Learn new skills.

Research paper, anyone?

I get it. It’s pretty tough (or you have been made to think so) to write a research paper. It’s an even harder task to get it published now with all the requirements like UGC CARE listed, Scopus indexed, blah blah blah that keep changing every month. So this month, it’s like 5 papers to my credit. But next month, I’m back to ground zero. Then again, we have to publish quality research to prove our mettle and to contribute to the discipline we have chosen. This article is for my students who have been asking me lately about all the nuances of a paper. There are basically five details that you should carefully consider like

  1. Title or name and affiliation – It’s good to begin with your name and designation on the top left as that’s the original MLA design. But certain journals request authors to begin with their titles and then type their names below with a superscribed number explaining the designation below. Follow the MLA pattern, unless the publisher advises to you to make changes.
  2. Font size and the trifles – the font is Times New Roman sized 12, unless specified by the journal publisher. The title should not be bold marked nor completely capitalized. The standard MLA spacing is double. All paragraphs should be indented (just press tab once at the beginning of each paragraph). Do not use subtitles, bullets and numbering in the paper. Don’t bother with page numbers as many journal publishers do this themselves.
  3. Titles of books – all titles of books (novels, plays and anthologies) should be italicized. Poems or articles chosen from a collection should be typed within quotation marks. eg. Lupercal (collection of poems published as a book) – “Hawk Roosting” (a poem chosen from Lupercal)
  4. Dates – it is 8 March 2020, not 8th or 8/3/2020.
  5. Citations (quotations) – if you have typed a quotation, mention the following details within brackets next to the quotation (Second name of the writer page no; volume no; chapter no) for novels and prose works, (Second name of the poet page no) for poems, (second name of the dramatist page no; act no; scene no) and (“title of the article” full URL) for web articles. Don’t fret if page no or volume no is missing. Provide whatever you have. Place the full stop after the ” mark and then give the citation.

The outline of a paper must be

  1. Introduction of title theme
  2. Current research trends in the theme and research gaps
  3. Hypothesis – what does your paper prove?
  4. Introduction of the title genre chosen (eg. what is historical fiction?)
  5. The chosen author’s common themes and contributions
  6. Some other works of the author with similar themes
  7. Explain the topic problem/statement
  8. Prove with valid citations (from books, journals, websites…)
  9. Comparison of other books with similar themes
  10. Scope for further research
  11. Summation
  12. Works Cited – the most important part of the paper. The format is as follows: Second name of the author, first name. Title of the book. Publisher, year of publishing. eg – Follett, Ken. The Pillars of the Earth. Pan Macmillan, 1989. For articles chosen from journals and magazines: Second name of the author, first name. “Title of the article”. Title of the book. Publisher, vol. no, issue no, month and year of publishing. For web articles – Second name of the author, first name. “Title of the article”. Title of the Website, date of access. eg. – Solly, Meilan. “This Ancient 10-Year-Old Received a ‘Vampire Burial’ to Prevent Return from the Dead”. Smithsonian Magazine, www.smithsonian.com, 15 October 2018.

Remember, don’t fret. Writing a paper is just like any skill – it comes with practice. And another point, be original. It’s okay to make mistakes. But let them be your own mistakes. Now take that pen and scratch away!