Jacki Kellum

Juxtapositions: Read My Mind

Category: MOOCs

Learning about Plot – Plot Is Not the Same As Story – Using Flashbacks & Flash-forwards in Writing

Stories are part of our everyday life, but a story may be nothing more than a chronological record of events, i.e. This morning, I got out of bed, walked the dog, watered my plants, and ate breakfast. A plot is something more than a story. It is a more skillful organization of events, and it focuses on how one event impacts and causes another. E. M. Forster distinguishes between a plot and a story as follows:

Image result for the king died and queen

“The king died and then the queen died is a story.
The king died, and then queen died of grief is a plot.” – E. M. Forster

A well-crafted plot may not follow a logical progression of time. For elements of drama and suspense, an author may skip about a timeline.

On another post, I provide quotes from the book Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf Here

In the free MOOC How to Read a Novel, the instructor uses the novel Mrs. Dalloway to illustrate the use of flashbacks in novels:

“When it comes to novels, flashbacks usually allow us to gain some information about a character’s past that will provide an insight into their motive, to reveal why he or she might be acting in a certain way at the current time. To take a famous example, Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway, which takes place over a single day in London in June 1923, opens onto a flashback, as the title character’s memory is jolted by the thought of some squeaking doors – there is work going on in the house – which reminds her of a similar sound from her youth.

:This leads to a cascade of memories from over 30 years ago, when she was aged 18 years old on her father’s estate, and had the feeling that something awful might be about to happen. The middle-aged, present time Clarissa Dalloway has some errands to run on this particular morning. She is hosting an important party that evening. But memories from her past continue to interrupt her thoughts as she goes about her business. These flashbacks have a specific purpose because, although the action of the novel takes place over one day in June, they enable the reader to learn more about Clarissa’s girlhood and youth.

“What events have led her up to this point, made her into the type of woman she now is – a member of high society, married to a politician, thoroughly respectable? Because she wasn’t always like this. In another flashback, just a few pages later, she recalls a quarrel years back with her former lover, Peter Walsh, when he had made her cry at the future he predicted for her. “For they might be parted for hundreds of years, she and Peter; she never wrote a letter and his were dry sticks; but suddenly it would come over her, If he were with me now what would he say?

“- some days, some sights bringing him back to her calmly, without the old bitterness; which perhaps was the reward of having cared for people; they came back in the middle of St. James’s Park on a fine morning – indeed they did. But Peter – however beautiful the day might be, and the trees and the grass, and the little girl in pink – Peter never saw a thing of all that. He would put on his spectacles, if she told him to; he would look. It was the state of the world that interested him; Wagner, Pope’s poetry, people’s characters eternally, and the defects of her own soul. How he scolded her! How they argued!

. . .

“But in the context of a novel, we as readers are learning something out of sequence, being given too much information for that stage of the plot.”

You can register for the free course How to Read A Novel Here

In the same course, the instructor points out that the Charles Dickens book A Christmas Carol is based on flashbacks, as well as flashforwards:

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When Scrooge saw Marley’s face in the doorknob, a flashback begins.

“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”  [The Christmas Carol, p. 5]

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“It was a very low fire indeed; nothing on such a bitter night. He was obliged to sit close to it, and brood over it, before he could extract the least sensation of warmth from such a handful of fuel. The fireplace was an old one, built by some Dutch merchant long ago, and paved all round with quaint Dutch tiles, designed to illustrate the Scriptures. There were Cains and Abels, Pharaoh’s daughters; Queens of Sheba, Angelic messengers descending through the air on clouds like feather-beds, Abrahams, Belshazzars, Apostles putting off to sea in butter-boats, hundreds of figures to attract his thoughts; and yet that face of Marley, seven years dead, came like the ancient Prophet’s rod, and swallowed up the whole.” [A Christmas Carol, p. 11].

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“The bells ceased as they had begun, together. They were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine-merchant’s cellar. Scrooge then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains.

“The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door.

“ ‘It’s humbug still!’ said Scrooge. ‘I won’t believe it.’

“His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, ‘I know him; Marley’s Ghost!’ and fell again.” [p. 11].

Description of Marley’s Ghost

“The same face: the very same. Marley in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, tights and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pigtail, and his coat-skirts, and the hair upon his head. The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. His body was transparent; so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see [p.12] the two buttons on his coat behind.

“Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now.

“No, nor did he believe it even now. Though he looked the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes; and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, which wrapper he had not observed before; he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses.” [p.13]

. . .

“…they passed through the wall, and stood upon an open country road, with fields on either hand. The city had entirely vanished. Not a vestige of it was to be seen. The darkness and the mist had vanished with it, for it was a clear, cold, winter day, with snow upon the ground.

‘Good Heaven!’ said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, as he looked about him. ‘I was bred in this place. I was a boy here!’

The Spirit gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch, though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still present to the old man’s sense of feeling. He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long, forgotten!

‘Your lip is trembling,” said the Ghost. “And what is that upon your cheek?’

. . .
“They walked along the road, Scrooge recognising every gate, and post, and tree; until a little market-town appeared in the distance, with its bridge, its church, and winding river. Some shaggy ponies now were seen trotting towards them with boys upon their backs, who called to other boys in country gigs and carts, driven by farmers. All these boys were in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the broad fields were so full of merry music, that the crisp air laughed to hear it!”
. . .

“The school is not quite deserted,” said the Ghost. “A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.” Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed. They left the high-road, by a well-remembered lane, and soon approached a mansion of dull red brick, with a little weathercock-surmounted cupola, on the roof, and a [p. 20] a bell hanging in it. It was a large house, but one of broken fortunes; for the spacious offices were little used, their walls were damp and mossy, their windows broken, and their gates decayed. Fowls clucked and strutted in the stables; and the coach-houses and sheds were over-run with grass. Nor was it more retentive of its ancient state, within; for entering the dreary hall, and glancing through the open doors of many rooms, they found them poorly furnished, cold, and vast. There was an earthy savour in the air, a chilly bareness in the place, which associated itself somehow with too much getting up by candle-light, and not too much to eat.

They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a door at the back of the house. It opened before them, and disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by lines of plain deal forms and desks. At one of these a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be.” [p. 21]

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Flash-forward in A Christmas Carol

Stave Four – The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

“The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

“It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

“He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

`I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.’ said Scrooge.

[Scrooge has died and then arrives at a beetling shop. In Victorian England, a beetling shop is where they pounded fibers together to create a linen-like fabric. In the book A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s linens were being processed, trying to turn them into a small profit.]

“Far in this den of infamous resort, there was a low-browed, beetling shop, below a pent-house roof, where iron, old rags, bottles, bones, and greasy offal, were bought. Upon the floor within, were piled up heaps of rusty keys, nails, chains, hinges, files, scales, weights, and refuse iron of all kinds. Secrets that few would like to scrutinise were bred and hidden in mountains of unseemly rags, masses of corrupted fat, and sepulchres of bones. Sitting in among the wares he dealt in, by a charcoal stove, made of old bricks, was a grey-haired rascal, nearly seventy years of age; who had screened himself from the cold air without, by a frousy curtaining of miscellaneous tatters, hung upon a line; and smoked his pipe in all the luxury of calm retirement.”

[Since Scrooge had no one to see after him, upon his death, several people had gathered Scrooge’s belongings to sell to Joe, at the beetling shop.]

“Joe went down on his knees for the greater convenience of opening it, and having unfastened a great many knots, dragged out a large and heavy roll of some dark stuff.

`What do you call this.’ said Joe. `Bed-curtains.’

`Ah.’ returned the woman, laughing and leaning forward on her crossed arms. `Bed-curtains.’

`You don’t mean to say you took them down, rings and all, with him lying there.’ said Joe.

`Yes I do,’ replied the woman. `Why not.’

. . .

`His blankets.’ asked Joe.

`Whose else’s do you think.’ replied the woman. `He isn’t likely to take cold without them, I dare say.’

`I hope he didn’t die of any thing catching. Eh.’ said old Joe, stopping in his work, and looking up.

`Don’t you be afraid of that,’ returned the woman. `I an’t so fond of his company that I’d loiter about him for such things, if he did. Ah. you may look through that shirt till your eyes ache; but you won’t find a hole in it, nor a threadbare place. It’s the best he had, and a fine one too. They’d have wasted it, if it hadn’t been for me.’

`What do you call wasting of it.’ asked old Joe.

`Putting it on him to be buried in, to be sure,’ replied the woman with a laugh. `Somebody was fool enough to do it, but I took it off again. If calico an’t good enough for such a purpose, it isn’t good enough for anything. It’s quite as becoming to the body. He can’t look uglier than he did in that one.’

Flashbacks and Flash-forwards are Ways that Stories Are Chronologically Rearranged to Improve the Tale Being Told.

Free MOOC Course from The University of Edinburgh – How to Read a Novel – Focus on Plot, Setting, Character, & Dialog

A MOOC or a Free University Class is a good way to keep your mind sharp and hone your skill in almost any field that might interest you. I have just begun the class How to Read a Novel, offered by The University of Edinburgh and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Because I teach a writing class and also monitor a book club, I am always looking for lists of great books and for tips to help improve my understanding in either field. I am excited that in the class How to Read a Novel, the class will be focusing on four books that have recently been published. Because I am from the South, I am extremely thrilled that the class will study The Sport of the Kings by C. E. Morgan.

The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan

A Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize

Winner of the Kirkus Prize for Fiction • From a Recipient of the Windham-Campbell Prize for Fiction • A Finalist for the James Tait Black Prize for Fiction • A Finalist for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction • A Finalist for the Rathbones Folio Prize • Longlisted for an Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence • A New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Named a Best Book of the Year by Entertainment Weekly • GQ  The New York Times (Selected by Dwight Garner)  NPR • The Wall Street Journal• San Francisco Chronicle • Refinery29  Booklist • Kirkus Reviews Commonweal Magazine

“In its poetic splendor and moral seriousness, The Sport of Kings bears the traces of Faulkner, Morrison, and McCarthy. . . . It is a contemporary masterpiece.”San Francisco Chronicle

“Hailed by The New Yorker for its “remarkable achievements,” The Sport of Kings is an American tale centered on a horse and two families: one white, a Southern dynasty whose forefathers were among the founders of Kentucky; the other African-American, the descendants of their slaves.

“It is a dauntless narrative that stretches from the fields of the Virginia piedmont to the abundant pastures of the Bluegrass, and across the dark waters of the Ohio River; from the final shots of the Revolutionary War to the resounding clang of the starting bell at Churchill Downs. As C. E. Morgan unspools a fabric of shared histories, past and present converge in a Thoroughbred named Hellsmouth, heir to Secretariat and a contender for the Triple Crown. Newly confronted with one another in the quest for victory, the two families must face the consequences of their ambitions, as each is driven—and haunted—by the same, enduring question: How far away from your father can you run?

“A sweeping narrative of wealth and poverty, racism and rage, The Sport of Kings is an unflinching portrait of lives cast in the shadow of slavery and a moral epic for our time.” Amazon

You can register for the free course How to Read A Novel Here

Other book choices for the Course How to Read a Novel:

A Country Road, A Tree by Jo Baker

“From the best-selling author of Longbourn, a remarkable imagining of Samuel Beckett’s wartime experiences. In 1939 Paris, the ground rumbles with the footfall of Nazi soldiers marching along the Champs-Élysées, and a young, unknown writer, recently arrived from Ireland to make his mark, smokes one last cigarette with his lover before the city they know is torn apart. Soon he will put them both in mortal danger by joining the Resistance.

“Through the years that follow, we are witness to the workings of a uniquely brilliant mind struggling to create a language to express a shattered world. A story of survival and determination, of spies and artists, passion and danger, A Country Road, A Tree is a portrait of the extremes of human experience alchemized into one man’s timeless art.” Amazon

What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell

Longlisted for the National Book Award in Fiction • A Finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction • A Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction • A Finalist for the James Taite Black Prize for Fiction • A Finalist the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize • A Finalist for the Green Carnation Prize • New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice • Los Angeles Times Bestseller

Named One of the Best Books of the Year by More Than Fifty Publications, Including: The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The New York Times (selected by Dwight Garner), GQ, The Washington Post,Esquire, NPR, Slate, Vulture, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (London), The Telegraph (London), The Evening Standard (London), The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Miami Herald, The Millions, BuzzFeed, The New Republic (Best Debuts of the Year), Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly (One of the Ten Best Books of the Year)

“Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You appeared in early 2016, and is a short first novel by a young writer; still, it was not easily surpassed by anything that appeared later in the year….It is not just first novelists who will be envious of Greenwell’s achievement.”―James Wood, The New Yorker

“On an unseasonably warm autumn day, an American teacher enters a public bathroom beneath Sofia’s National Palace of Culture. There he meets Mitko, a charismatic young hustler, and pays him for sex. He returns to Mitko again and again over the next few months, drawn by hunger and loneliness and risk, and finds himself ensnared in a relationship in which lust leads to mutual predation, and tenderness can transform into violence. As he struggles to reconcile his longing with the anguish it creates, he’s forced to grapple with his own fraught history, the world of his southern childhood where to be queer was to be a pariah. There are unnerving similarities between his past and the foreign country he finds himself in, a country whose geography and griefs he discovers as he learns more of Mitko’s own narrative, his private history of illness, exploitation, and want.

“What Belongs to You is a stunning debut novel of desire and its consequences. With lyric intensity and startling eroticism, Garth Greenwell has created an indelible story about the ways in which our pasts and cultures, our scars and shames can shape who we are and determine how we love.” Amazon

The Lesser Bohemians by Elmear McBride

Winner of the James Tait Black Prize for Fiction
Shortlisted for the 2016 Goldsmiths Prize
Shortlisted for the 2016 Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Awards Eason Novel of the Year

The breathtaking new novel from Eimear McBride, about an extraordinary, all-consuming love affair

“Eimear McBride’s debut novel A GIRL IS A HALF-FORMED THING was published in 2013 to an avalanche of praise: nominated for a host of literary awards, winner of the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction and the inaugural Goldsmith’s Prize, declared by Vanity Fair to be “One of the most groundbreaking pieces of literature to come from Ireland, or anywhere, in recent years,” McBride’s bold, wholly original prose immediately established her as a literary force. Now, she brings her singular voice to an unlikely love story.

“One night an eighteen-year-old Irish girl, recently arrived in London to attend drama school, meets an older man – a well-regarded actor in his own right. While she is naive and thrilled by life in the big city, he is haunted by more than a few demons, and the clamorous relationship that ensues risks undoing them both.

“A captivating story of passion and innocence, joy and discovery set against the vibrant atmosphere of 1990s London over the course of a single year, THE LESSER BOHEMIANS glows with the eddies and anxieties of growing up, and the transformative intensity of a powerful new love.” Amazon

 

Free Course to Learn about the History of Britain’s Castles & the Foods Prepared in Them Since the Time of Henry VIII

It is no secret that I love British movies and television like Downton Abbey, Masterpiece Theater, and just about any British crime show.  British period dramas like the Borgias, The White Queen, Victoria, The Crown, Elizabeth, and The Tudors are the epitome of costuming and cinematography. The Brits seem to have mastered the art of fine dramatic programming, and because of its palaces and its history of royalty, England has managed to preserve much of its fairy-tale like aura and magnetism. I should not be surprised that my favorite cooking programs come from England, too, but the best of the British cooking programs is not actually on television. It is part of the University of Reading’s free programming, and it can be accessed on YouTube or better still, through a free MOOC offered by FutureLearn Here.

A History of Royal Food and Feasting Is More Than A Cooking Program. Because It Involves Footage from the Castles of five British Monarchs, It Is A Flavorful Way to Step Back Into England’s Royal Past.

“From the Tudors to the 20th century you’ll join expert historians, curators and food scientists from the University of Reading and Historic Royal Palaces, and indulge in the changing tastes of successive generations of royalty and experience the splendour of their palaces. We’ll take an intimate look behind the scenes at some of the most incredible palaces in England:”

  • Henry VIII at Hampton Court
  • Elizabeth I at the Tower of London
  • George I at Hampton Court Palace
  • George III at Kew Palace
  • Victoria at Kensington Palace

Hampton Court Palace of Henry VIII

Interior Hampton Court Palace

Chapel at Hampton Court Palace

In all honesty, I don’t normally watch cooking programs. I simply do not normally like them, but I am fascinated by history, and I loved the way that A History of Royal Food and Feasting brings British history to life. The free class is designed to be enjoyed over five weeks, but I completed the entire course in a weekend. Here is a sample of what the course offers and a bit of what I learned about Henry VIII, his palace at Hampton Court, and food during his lifetime.

Kitchen at Hampton Court Palace – 36,000 square feet

Henry VIII’s Kitchen may have contained as many as 55 separate rooms. There were boiling rooms and even rooms for preparing the laundry in the kitchen area, which filled 36,000 square feet.

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While studying about each of the monarchs and their kitchens, participants in the class are provided with numerous videos and recipes and recipe cards.

Ryschewys close and fryez

Recipe for Ryschewys close and fryez: A Small, Fried Fruit Pie

Ingredients: to make 12

For the filling:

  • 3 dried figs
  • 3 chopped dates
  • A table spoon of currants
  • Half a teaspoon of mace
  • Half a teaspoon of black pepper
  • Half a teaspoon of canelle

For the paste:

  • 100g (3.5 ounces) flour
  • A dessert spoon of sugar
  • A pinch of saffron dissolved in half a teacup of water

Instructions:

  • Pound the figs in a mortar
  • Add the dates and currants and pound some more
  • Finely chop, grind and mix the spices – should be balanced, so if you can smell one stronger than the others, add more of them to compensate
  • Add the spices to the dried fruit and mix thoroughly
  • Make a paste from the flour, sugar and saffron water
  • Roll out the paste as thin as paper – a little goes a long way in this recipe
  • Cut out small circles – about a teacup size
  • Add a small amount of the fruit mix – about half a tablespoon
  • Damp the edges of the paste with water and close forming a pea-pod shape
  • Shallow fry in oil (or in a deep fat fryer) for a couple of minutes or until golden brown
  • Serve warm, sprinkled in sugar

Tart Out of Lent

tarte-lent1

Ingredients: to make 6-8 portions

For the filling

  • 100g (3 ½ ounces) Cheshire cheese
  • 150ml (¼ pint) cream
  • 1 medium sized egg
  • 30g (1 ounce) butter
  • Salt and pepper

For the pastry case

  • Any high butter pastry, such as shortcrust, will do
  • Egg yolks for glazing

Instructions:

  • Chop the cheese and then pound in a mortar
  • Add cream, egg and butter and mix together to make a thick cream (about the consistency of Cottage Cheese – add more cream if too dry, more cheese if too wet)
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Make a pastry tart case, about 25cm (10inches) diameter – you can use a tart tin if easier – and thin pastry lid
  • Fill with cheese, cream, egg and butter mixture
  • Put on pastry lid – seal and glaze with egg yolks
  • Bake at 220°C/gas mark 6 for 40 minutes or until golden
  • Allow to cool a little and serve

Recipe for Tart Photo Credits Future Learn Here:

tarte-lent2

Misconceptions about Foods Served at Henry VIII’s Court

  1. Henry VIII’s kitchen staff did not use spices to hide the taste of fouled meat. Serving 600 -1200 people twice each day, food rarely had time to sour, and if that happened, it would not have been used. Henry VIII’s kitchen only served the finest of foods, and spices were used as an expensive garnish.
  2. Beer was not drunk because fresh water was not available at Hampton Court, where fresh water was piped from the springs at Coombe Hill, which was three miles away.
  3. Henry VIII was a dainty eater and the only one who had a fork at meal time. Eating at Henry VIII’s court was not a crude and rowdy affair.

Code of Manners for Meal Time at Henry VIII’s Hampton Court

Sit not down until you have washed.

Undo your belt a little if it will make you more comfortable; because doing this during the meal is bad manners.

When you wipe your hands clean, put good thoughts forward in your mind, for it doesn’t do to come to dinner sad, and thus make others sad.

Once you sit place your hands neatly on the table; not on your trencher, and not around your belly.

Don’t shift your buttocks left and right as if to let off some blast. Sit neatly and still.

Any gobbit that cannot be taken easily with the hand, take it on your trencher.

Don’t wipe your fingers on your clothes; use the napkin or the ‘board cloth’.

If someone is ill mannered by ignorance, let it pass rather than point it out. 

– recorded by the Dutch Writer, Desiderius Erasmus, who published his De Civitate in 1534-

This is a mere sampling of what I took away from the free MOOC A History or Royal Food and Feasting. The next class starts November 8–just in time to begin thinking about what you will prepare for your holiday meals. Although I have participated in numerous free MOOC learning experiences, this was my favorite. It should appeal to almost everyone. Register at FutureLearn Here.

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