Pavneet Pahwa: Notes Reflection

Shakespeare is seen as a challenge by most English students all over the world. His language is flowery and pleasant to hear, but also rather daunting to try and understand. Archaic vocabulary, historical context, bizarre sentence structure, and an abundance of literary devices further contribute to a much denser layer of complexity in his work. Exposure to this madness over the years, however, has resulted in the development of my own method of comprehension which I will be discussing in this blog post.

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My journey of a play-text begins with a list of roles which I translate into a character tree. Details are added as more of the play’s context is revealed through online research, footnotes, as well as the advancement of the plot. Keeping this tree chart available as a guide throughout, I read an online summary of each act just prior to engaging with the text. I follow along the play using an unbiased, non-dramatized LibriVox-Audiobook recording to stay on track while keeping the words open to interpretation. Already having a gist of the plot enables me to focus on Shakespeare’s interpretive choices as I highlight all the textual features that make a strong first impression, taking notes in the margins. A dictionary is kept accessible at all times.

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Monologues and exchanges that seem most important to plot and character development are marked with sticky-notes, to be analyzed more closely once the whole play has been read. Then, the chosen lines are read aloud and more slowly to attend to details. I divide the text into sections, if possible, based on apparent shifts in form, language and/or semantics, as recommended by Dr. Ullyot. The use of literary techniques is further categorized using a table that I created based on Dr. Ullyot’s expectations for close reading, to ensure that no significant aspect is overlooked. Keeping patterns in mind, I utilize the table to jot down the effects of the literary features used, in addition to categorizing them. This highlights the importance of their employment while also actualizing the awareness that one is being manipulated by Shakespeare (accidentally and/or deliberately) in the subtlest of ways.

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In contrast, influence over the audience is much more deliberate, pronounced, and yet easily discounted by the untrained eye when it comes to cinema. Having freely interpreted the words of the author from my own perspective, I then allow directors to sweep me into their narrower adaptation of the same. Impactful scenes are paused, rewound and replayed several times with a table of key elements, a pen, and a notebook at my disposal, in order to implement disciplined focus, given the much faster pace of films. The first thing I note down is a brief description of the setting being portrayed in the film, how similar or different it is from what Shakespeare or I may have imagined, and how it enhances the story as a whole. I usually have the book in front of me to get a sense of the proportion of text that has been shown, as opposed to being told.

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Direction and camera are arguably the most crucial components of the visual aspect of cinema. I take note of the general type, pattern, and point of view of the film shots. The strategy behind editing and splicing the same is noted along with the genre, pace and rhythm of the music being employed. Similarly, I look for iconic moments created by actors based on their individual interpretations of the characters, intertwined with those of the director. The chemistry between, and the (gradual or sudden) shifts in these cinematic elements (Crowl, 2007) is an important aspect of my film analyses. I follow up with reading the recommended critiques, learning about the director’s signature style, and watching interviews, further unveiling the thought processes behind some of the creative decisions witnessed on screen.

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After having collected, categorized and described the evidence from both literature and film in a segregated manner, I begin to seek patterns across my notes for strong, recurring themes and well-supported arguments. The success of my inductive analyses is determined by the abundance of quality evidence alluding to each claim or concept. Having clusters of data (though subjective in interpretation), as opposed to outliers, reduces the likelihood of arriving at far-fetched conclusions, paving the way for an effective piece of argumentative writing.

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Works Cited

Crowl, Samuel. Shakespeare and Film: A Norton Guide. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007. Print.

Mirabelle Harris-Eze: Notes Reflection

“We all do ‘do, re, mi,’ but you have got to find the other notes yourself.”

~ Louis Armstrong

Introduction

While most notes include summaries and interpretation of data, the way these occur on the page differ from person to person. My marketing textbook describes analysis as the conversion of data into insight, and this analysis is always made easier for me through taking notes. Today, I want to look at textual data and visual data, especially in regards to play-texts and films. My annotation practices when reading and observing both art forms differ and converge in methodology.

Annotation Practices – Play-Texts

An aversion to manipulating physical copies of a text, due to the majority of the texts that I have ever read being library loans, means that my copies of Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing are void of  highlighting, underlines and scribbles. I hope to grow out of this aversion, as I have to come to understand—over taking two English classes this semester and talking to classmates—that margin notes taken in the physical copy of a text have numerous benefits such as ease of reference and direct linking of ideas without having to write them all out. Currently, with my aversion still present, I write detailed notes about play-texts in a separate notebook.

As Play-Texts are a form of Literature, I am very conscious of literary devices when taking notes. I note:

  1. Literary Devices (Symbolism, Simile, etc.)
  2. Quotes or words I enjoy/I don’t understand
  3. Context I might need to look into further

I also try to go beyond simply addressing the existence of the above but: in the case of literary terms, discussing the effects of the devices used; with words I can’t decipher, looking them up; and context I am clueless about, researching more. All of this additional information is jotted down.

Annotation Practices – Film

When watching film, there are numerous aspects to keep in mind as I write my notes in a notebook. Unlike with textual works, I have less academic experience with writing notes when watching films. This class has been a large factor in my better understanding of interpreting film. When writing notes during the various films we’ve seen throughout ENGL 311, there are specific things I look for:

  1. Film Techniques (such as type of shots, editing cuts, etc.)
  2. Actors (A-List, relationship to director/producer, etc.)
  3. Lines or words I enjoy/don’t understand
  4. Context I might need to look into further

After numerous English classes that taught how to read literature, the process of annotation and interpretation of texts flows quickly and lengthily. The same cannot be said for film. These notes tend to be more sparse, especially because when watching scenes from a film in a classroom or theater-like setting, it is not possible/too time-consuming to pause to write down lengthy observations.

General Note Taking and Inquiry and Determining Success

Notes-1

An example of my note-taking.

I like to see how several small ideas connect over large chunks of text or video. Thus, when I write notes, my handwriting tends to be very minute and cramped. The more text I can cram on a page, the more ideas I can relate and compare. I also utilize arrows, models, and different text colors to relate ideas, differentiate headings or highlight important words and concepts. For taking notes for texts and films, I try to develop a character map listing out the cast of characters, along with their characteristics, and how they relate to each other.

There are two different things I look at when trying to tell if I’ve had a successful note-taking session:

  1. I understand the material better and this understanding resonates across all additional analysis.
  2. When I look back at my notes, I can understand them in nearly the same capacity as when I wrote them down.

Conclusion

My note taking is often intensely meticulous, cramped, colorful and done in a specific notebook with lined paper. My approach when taking notes when reading play-texts and when watching film differ and converge. Notes on play-texts tend to be lengthier and more in-depth. Both require brief summaries, analysis of textual and visual devices, and, later on, external research.

 


mira-shadowMirabelle Harris-Eze is an 18 year-old student based in Calgary, Alberta. Sometime in the near future, she wishes to publish a book written entirely in the language of her ancestors, Igbo. One day she hopes to fill this bio with writing credentials, and accolades. For now, this will have to do.

Jordin Cummings: Notes Reflection

In order to properly evaluate my annotation practices when reading a play text, I decided to do what I did for my close reading paper but with Act IV Scene I of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

In comparison to the start of the semester my note taking skills have greatly evolved. I am no longer afraid to write little notes anywhere in the book. On the other-hand, larger notes still belong on sticky pads! I have greatly expanded my knowledge of various poetic terms and elements and that has made it easier to really breakdown the text. In only 128 lines of play text I was able to identify the blank verse and iambic pentameter rhythm along with multiple structural, linguistic and semantic terms.

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Annotating Play Text 

My note taking process is very methodical and almost always follows the same routine in regards to an assignment.

  • Step One: Write out the basics. What is the assignment? What are the texts? What is the question?
  • Step Two: Have you read the text? No? Read it.
  • Step Three: What are your general thoughts on the text?
  • Step Four: Close read the text in relation to the question. Annotated. Highlight things to be defined.
  • Step Five: Expand your annotated notes; what are your thoughts now? Write out definitions.

After all of that my notes are very comprehensive. I know they are successful because when I go to complete an assignment everything is clearly laid out for me. If I effectively teach the material back to someone or try to explain my discovered concept I also know I have absorbed what I took down. In comparison to my practices for a play text, my annotation skills when I watch a film are not as formulated.

To properly evaluate my annotation practices for a film I chose the 2013 Carlei Romeo & Juliet as I have never seen it before. I chose to focus on a specific section, what would be Act IV Scene I in the play text. I chose this portion of the movie because the first thing I would do when annotating a film on Shakespeare would be to read the text first so I can get a sense of where I am at in the real story. This was especially helpful as this version of Romeo and Juliet cuts the whole interaction with Paris. After reading the text I would watch the movie. Just watch; no annotating. I want to be able to just watch without searching in the same way I would read a text to get a feel for it first.

After reading the text and watching the film I would make notes on the basics of the film. What did I watch? How is it different from the text? Then I can try watching it again with more attention to detail. The unfortunate thing with annotating a film is that the film moves at a continuous pace whereas annotating does not. I find myself pausing an going back just so I can catch something and write it down. Annotating a film definitely takes a lot longer!

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Annotating Film

In almost 5 minutes of film and one scene I was able to closely review and really get a feel for the directors take on this play. I found the best way to identify key elements Carlei used in his film was to pause when I saw something of interest, take note of the time, and then make a simple note to clue me into what I had found. I know this way of annotating a film works for me because if I needed to explain the film to someone I would have seen it many times in close detail. I also know this way works because if I needed to further expand my notes or write a paper on the film I would have detailed annotations with timestamps for quick reference. It would be very easy to apply terms such as Samuel Crowl’s in Shakespeare and Film to the ideas I’d found.

Although my practices of annotation have greatly evolved in regards to both film and play text, I have realized through this reflection that I definitely prefer to annotate a text!

 

Works Cited

Crowl, Samuel. Shakespeare and Film. Norton, 2007.

Romeo & Juliet. Directed by Carlo Carlei, performances by Hailee Steinfield and Paul Giamatti, D Films, 2013, 1:15:20-1:19:52.

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Folger Digital Texts, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, pp. 92-96, http://www.folgerdigitaltexts.org/download/pdf/Rom.pdf, Accessed 14 Nov. 2016.