I have to admit, I had the slightest clue about what I was in for the minute I stepped into period five English with Mr. Gallagher. I was suddenly immersed in the worlds of Camus, Berrigan, Shakespeare, Explications, and other authors, artists, and poets. I didn’t even know the word explication existed before taking English twelve honors. At first, I had a hard time with many assignments and elements of certain works of literature. However, as time passed, I slowly was making progress in my work. Soon writing became natural, and I began to fully understand topics such as author’s purpose. By experiencing the works of literature in class, one can learn important lessons that will remain throughout life.
Several works of literature read this year have given me a new perspective on certain ideas and have taught me important techniques needed for the future. One specific instance was when our class spent a good portion of second quarter reading A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. The novel focused on the protagonist, Stephen Dedalus, who is in a constant battle with the Catholic Church and his inner demons. After reading Joyce’s novel, I felt I could understand many more elements of literature and use this knowledge in future assignments. For example, Joyce uses illusions throughout A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man that reveal Stephen’s motives or an underlying message. After reading and writing about Joyce’s novel, I used newly learned techniques to pinpoint messages in literature such as illusions. I was surprised when reading and writing about Hamlet how many illusions and hidden motives I could pick out. My improvement throughout the year didn’t just start with “Portrait”. From reading an assortment of writers this year, one can learn what writers have to teach and their own meanings. For example, Albert Camus’ The Stranger ends with the message that all efforts and accomplishments one makes in life is futile since eventually death comes. Although this was the case for the protagonist of The Stranger, a further analysis of Camus may reveal that parts of the novel are a reflection of his own ideas and even experiences. Another work of literature, Ted Berrigan’s “Red Shift” was an interesting piece that raised question to whether the speaker of the poem was Berrigan himself. In class we learned that he actually created the poem by taking an article and crossing out random words, then filling them in with his own. What I learned from Berrigan was that one can create art with meaning out of anything. However, the truly inspirational poet that my class learned about was Charles Olson and watching Polis is This, a film by Henry Ferrini. I learned a great from Olson’s life, such as the impact of change in a place, a way of life, and the beauty of a familiar place. I feel I can walk away from high school with a new knowledge of the world around me. Reading Novels such as Camus’, poems like Berrigan’s, and Olson’s life opens up an array of questions. I
’d be lying if I said I didn’t dread the expected explication paper after reading a novel such as “Portrait” or The Stranger. Out of all the areas in English, this was the one I found most difficult. I could never seem to pinpoint the main idea of an explication, and my thesis statements never quite fell through. However, I improved my skills and proved a further understanding with the Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man explication. It wasn’t perfect, but it showed my progress as a student. I incorporated author’s purpose into my paper and kept on track with my thesis. I was nothing short of shocked when I received my grade. It wasn’t the greatest, but it showed that I understood the concept of explications. Another paper my class had to complete was Tom Phillip’s Humument analysis piece. This assignment was not exactly an explication, but quoting from Mr. Gallagher, it was “one of my best thesis work”. The assignment was to analyze a page from Phillip’s Humument and create a thesis theorizes meaning behind the artist’s work. I suppose having art as one of my fortes gave me a slight advantage in this assignment. I first analyzed the piece, noted the colors, shapes, textures, and text used. I then connected these elements as symbols, analyzing each possible meaning they could have. The result was a solid paper, one of the few I’m proud of because it truly shows my growth as a student.
When I leave English twelve honors one last time, I’ll remember all that I learned from several authors, artists, and poets I was exposed to. Most of all, I will take with me Mr. Gallagher’s teachings and lessons about writing and reading about the characters, places, faces, colors, music, lights, sounds, and abstraction from the many people who created them. There was never a dull moment in period 5 English honors with Mr. Gallagher.