The end is nigh…

The end is nigh….for ENGL 205 (I’m pretty sure it is not the apocalypse yet, although the folks on Doomsday Preppers would probably disagree with me).  

In the final days before the exam, I want to remind all of you how important it is to be practicing self-care. For many of you, this will be the last exam before the summer; that unequivocally means that you are sleep-deprived, worn down, and are possibly questioning why you are in university in the first place. Its hard to pay attention to your emotional and physical wellness when academics feels like the bigger priority. I  am guilty of this as a grad student (and I was definitely guilty of it as a undergrad).

If you are stressed in the lead up to the exam, it is more important than ever to make sure you are checking in with yourself to see how you are really doing. Taking care of yourself first and foremost is a priority, and it is just as important as studying to ensure that you own that final. Garrett recommended taking breaks as an important part of studying—and he’s right; taking that mental break will allow you to come back to studying with fresh eyes (I’m sure there’s some psychological study out there about taking breaks—I don’t have time to find it for you, but let’s pretend I quote some statistics to back myself up).

As well as taking breaks, make sure you are doing all the other things you need to do to make sure you walk into ST135 on Monday ready to nail the ENGL205 final. This means eating right (eat all the brainfood), exercising (channeling my inner bro: “f**k stress, bench press”), and treating yourself to a few of Oprah’s favourite things (bubble baths and chai tea?).

SLEEP. Do not pull an all-nighter the night before the exam. Getting enough sleep is going to be critical—it will allow you to mentally recover from all the studying you have been doing, but also to process what you have learned (again, insert psychological study about sleep).

I’ve never been a great test taker; timed exams give me anxiety. I used to always have the “end is nigh” mindset walking into an exam. What helped me get over test-taking anxiety was putting things into perspective. The end is NOT nigh. Even if I fail the exam, it is not the end of the world. You are not any less of a wonderful, thoughtful, dedicated, and intelligent student just because you didn’t do well in the exam. The grades that you receive are not a reflection of who you are, so don’t let a bad grade stall your confidence. 

Having said that, remember that we’ve given you the tools to unpack a text and we’ve given you the tools to write a strong essay. This isn’t a course where we’re testing you on the right or wrong answer. ENGL 205 has been about developing critical thinking and being able to effectively argue your interpretation of the text. You are absolutely capable of doing this. 

All of us are cheering you on—from all the ideas that have been floating around in tutorial and on the blog and all the insightful discussions that we had in the review session, I am confident that all of you are going to slay this final. 


TA Top-Tip For Surviving Finals

Hey guys,

So, here is what I have to say about finals weeks. I still have no clue how to go through them efficiently and with out at least one freak out. For most/all of my academic life, I have suffered from procrastination. I need to feel the fire’s flames licking my feet in order to sit down and start tapping on the keyboard. Even as a grad student this habit has not been fully broken. Perhaps it never will be. Yet, it has gotten better. The excuses have gotten more clever, but in all reality, I think I’ve just gotten better at not letting that part of my brain take over. I mean, doing a 20 page paper the night before, means not doing a 20 page paper. Doing a 1250 word paper the night before, although do-able, is not advised.

I think the issue is holding yourself accountable and not letting you’re motivation slide into the backseat as new, more seemingly grandiose problems take the wheel. As, Jackie noted in her post, a study buddy is a great idea. For me, I use a friend to hold my self accountable. You can make a word pact of say 1500 words in three hours, and then meet up for lunch. That way, you can see the shame in each others faces when you admit that the Taylor Swift videos in your recently closed browsers was not part of your research (just something I heard that happened to a friend of mine…).  What ever it is that holds you accountable, find it. You’ll need it because honestly, it is getting harder and harder to justify why you are sitting down writing  essays, or studying for that Chem exam, when the world is waiting for you outside. Maybe not all finals weeks fall into such a existential crisis, but when they do, and you start cruising the internet for alternative routes to your life, just ask: “Is this because I don’t want to put in the work right now?” In my experience, I have to answer yes.

I realize this is not exactly a take-away-able nugget of study aid, but instead, a real life experience that is becoming all too common in students’ lives. Just ask why that is. What is it about procrastination that is so ubiquitous in university,  or have I completely lost touch with reality?

Either way, get some accountability, be it a friend, your family, or your own future. Figure out a way to prioritize that thing that seems most easily put off by everything else. Yes, it’s only Shakespeare; yes, it’s only ENGL 205; yes, you have more years to come; yes, you’ll forget most of what you’ve learned. There’s so many reasons and excuses for slacking and pushing it aside, diminishing, and procrastinating, but those are the easy things. What is the reason that makes effort, hard work, trying, doing something, possibly because you care about, it rather than what it can do for you, worth it?

Think about it… while you’re staring at that bank screen.


Letters from the Hospital: My Story Does Not End Here

Hello everyone!

Congratulations to those who were finished with the badge requirement. I know that it is past April 9th of 2015, but I am posting this because of my pure interest. Because of my sicknesses, I opened up this project as my way of communicating with you all. I opened this project to advocate for those who are struggling in University of Calgary, and also to connect my illnesses to Shakespearan literature.

After suffering from various episodes and attacks, I found myself in the hospital again on Thursday of the last week. I was, again, wheeled into the EMS vehicle with the IV in the right arm, lying down in the hospital bed.

In all honesty, I surely thought I was going to perish. I thought death was imminent. And at the thought of leaving everything behind that I love, I emailed my professors and my friends to make sure that they will not grieve my death, and at the hospital, lying beside my boyfriend who came to see me, I said my parting words.

But my story does not end here.

I continue to live on, and back again at school, full-time, I began to experience what it is like to live again. I made it through a crucial time and began to know that life is so precious.

When you are struggling with your life, it is sometimes hard to find the beauty in life. When I started experiencing fatal symptoms of my illness, I was so afraid of losing everything I love, but I was so tired. I understand that many students in University of Calgary go through the same illnesses as me, and I just want to let them know that your story does not end here.

I know that life is difficult, and I surely know the pain of suffering. I know the pain of life, and the struggle that one might go through in their life. But, your life is so precious and if you perish, you are leaving your friends behind, your loved ones, your professor, and everyone that you love. Your life cannot be replaced- it’s unique like a pink diamond, crucial to our society, and beautiful like a flower. You are valued and we love you so, so much. Did I also mention that you are amazing? Because I think you are amazing, and your story matters to us.

If anyone needs to talk to me, please don’t hesitate to message me. My name is Michelle Joo and you will be able to find me easily on Facebook, and on tumblr as poeticfeelings. Help is here if you need it. I will be glad to greet and help you with the best of my knowledge.

Our story does not ends here.
It surely won’t.
Please stay.




Why your English 205 study buddy is your new best friend…

Hi all,

TA #2 here with some more advice for surviving the end of term unscathed. Us seasoned (again, read: old) TAs have been through the end of term grind more times than any of us would care to admit, and we’re still kickin’ around, so that must be saying something…

This blogpost is going to take a bit of a different approach to surviving the end of term, and more specifically, finishing English 205 successfully and to the absolute best of your abilities. If I can offer you only one piece of advice, it is this:

Get. A. Study. Buddy.

I know that come exam time you’ll be feeling the burn out; all your major assignments are coming due and you still have to muster the energy to study for finals. But you don’t have to go at this alone, especially in this course!

The bulk of what we have learned over the course of this term was through group work and class discussions. Our learning was collaborative. Studying can be too. Why wouldn’t you want to compare ideas with a classmate, grab the notes from that key tutorial (let’s be real, they were all key!) that you missed, and bounce your ideas and readings off of another student? Some of my most successful written exams while doing my undergrad were the product of a few hours spent having a concentrated discussion with a classmate about the course material. It will refresh your memory, and the active conversation will help you to retain important themes and key ideas when you reach the final exam.

Take advantage of D2L’s communications function and send some e-mails, set up a study session, compare notes and discuss key themes and important passages. Help each other!

Please take Garrett’s advice as well! I know that the workload feels insurmountable, and all you want to do is sleep, and binge watch Netflix, and do anything but finish your coursework, but resist the temptation! Or, as Garrett said, become like Pavlov’s dog and use positive reinforcement as a reward for a study/writing-job well done. I prefer chocolate over comic books. …Whatever floats your boat.

Good luck, everyone! We’re all rooting for you!


PS. Don’t forget about the extra tutorial session your TAs have graciously put together for you, this Tuesday, April 14th, 11:00am – 12:15pm in SS 1153. 

Just a few quick photos of a project I’ve been working on down at MRU with my dad and a group of kids from the Young Shakespeare Company: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars!



Pew pew!



Title crawl.




I especially like hearing real humans trying to speak in weird tongues from Tatooine.


The Death Star trench run, all very complicated.



genres + modes badge: cheese

In Troilus and Cressida  (2.3.205) Achilles mentions cheese.

simple and quick cheese:

1)  2L of 3.25% butter milk.

2) Place in a pot, in low heat

3) In 15-18 minutes the white colored cheese will separate from the liquid, you can use a slotted spoon to scoop out the cheese. great for salads.

4) Refrigerate for later use.



Shakespeare Quarterly – Sonnets

(Arguments badge – article thesis)

Turning Sonnets into Poems: Textual Affect and John Benson’s Metaphysical Shakespeare.

In Turning Sonnets, Megan Heffernan questions the arrangements and classification of sonnets through the analysis of textual features including genres, thematics and form. It proves to be a deeply interesting read, highlighting the history of cataloguing sources and modes, to effectively name (or in Shakespeare’s case) number sonnets.

another sonnet

I’m so weak for sonnets. Here’s my other one (probably the better of the two.)

if you must know, I’m worried about lots:
I can’t tell if these words are helping me.
I’ve been in some pretty laughable spots
and I’ve never been freed by poetry.
people ask me “can I read what you’ve writ?”
and before I can correct their grammar
they’ve noticed that it’s all just angsty shit
“it’s, um, ‘written,’ not ‘writ,'” I stammer.
but you took no for an answer, my friend,
you didn’t press on – and for this, for you
I have a certain prize, a certain end
to show you my appreciation true:
next time I’m angry and writing a piece,
if it’s about you, I’ll desist and cease.

Historical (or Mythical) Accuracy

I’m a huge mythology buff.  I’ve been obsessed with mythology, especially Greek mythology, ever since I was small.  In a nostalgic coincidence, I had the privilege of being able to take this Shakespeare course alongside a Greek and Roman mythology course.  This blessing in scheduling made me extremely happy, as I love Shakespeare and mythology.  An unexpected plus came when I realized that both classes would be covering the Trojan War.  However, (please don’t hate me for this) the Shakespearian coverage of this major mythological event disappointed me.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading Troilus and Cressida— as its own separate story.  However, as a proclaimed Iliad fan fiction, it fell dramatically short of my expectations.  Not only did it focus on a love plot that didn’t really interest me and subdued an epic war story for its sake, but they completely changed one of my favourite characters in classical literature.

In the Iliad, Achilles was a tortured, driven, powerful hero, and Shakespeare turned him into a snivelling, shallow coward.  People talked in tutorial and in the lecture about how spoiled and arrogant Achilles was.  Though I don’t deny that Achilles was arrogant and proud in the original stroy, I wanted to clear his reputation as a coward by jumping back to the actual myth.  Shakespeare’s Achilles was portrayed as a lazy, lackluster warrior.  Homer’s Achilles was a hero standing on the very edge of humanity itself, walking a line between heroism and monstrosity.  Let me explain why Shakespeare’s interpretation ticks me off so much.


“Rage – Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles,
murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses,
hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls,
great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion,
feasts for the dogs and birds…”  

So begins Homer’s epic The Iliad, a grand tale of horror and heroism in Bronze Age Greece.  This initial quote paints Achilles as a deadly hero, balanced on the edge of humanity.  Compare this carrion pile imagery with the one kill we see Achilles make in Troilus, when he lets his men attack Hector in cold blood.  Herein lies the problem with Shakespeare’s interpretation: Achilles isn’t written as the hero I know him to be.  He’s deemed spoiled and insolent by other characters in the play, and neglecting his backstory and true motives for staying out of the fight takes away his depth of character.  In Troilus, Achilles stays out of the fight because his lady love pleads with him in a letter to.  In the Illiad, his boycott of the war is a matter of honour and the heroic code.  Agamemnon had taken away his war prize, a girl called Briseïs.  Achilles refused to fight after this because he considers Agamemnon to be a greedy, corrupted hero, and can not fight alongside a man with no regard for the justice of the heroic code.  This is a more logical explanation, and a much more interesting one.

Achilles motives are also greatly influenced by the death of his friend (and possible lover) Patroclus.  This is made into a big deal in the Iliad, but its importance is glossed over in Troilus.  In Act 5, Agamemnon makes a sort of role call for the dead, saying “Polyxenes is slain,/Amphimachus and Thoas deadly hurt, Patroclus ta’en or slain…” (5.5.11-13).  In the Iliad, Patroclus was not just another man down; he was a martyr for the cause.  Concerned for the losing Greek forces, he asks Achilles for his armour, hoping to frighten the Trojans by impersonating the terrible hero.  Achilles agrees, but warned him to leave ‘man-killing’ Hector alone.  Despite this warning, Patroclus runs into Hector and is killed in the combat.   This is the turning point for the Greeks, as Achilles returns to battle with a vengeance.  In Troilus, Ulysses rejoices at this event: “O, courage, courage, princes!  Great Achilles/Is arming, weeping, cursing, vowing vengeance./Patroclus’ wound’s have roused his drowsy blood” (5.5.30-31).  Patroclus’ death does spur Achilles to rejoin the battle; however, “rous[ing] his drowsy blood” is the understatement of the century.  Achilles is consumed by a murderous rage and goes on a killing spree, to the point that the Scamader river becomes congested with corpses.  Overcome by a heroic need for justice and revenge, he becomes a vessel of retribution, completely abandoning his humanity.  The Iliad tells us that he stops eating and sleeping completely, ascending to a demonic plane of existence.  While fighting, he adopts the mentality of “all must die” that terrifies those who oppose him.  If you meet Achilles, you’re carrion; it was as simple as that.

Because of this, Hector would be in the worst danger imaginable if he ran into Achilles.  In Troilus, however, Hector and Achilles meet several times before Hector actually dies.  Achilles actually lets Hector go in Act 5, claiming,  “I do disdain thy courtesy, proud Trojan./Be happy that my arms are out of use” (5.6.16-17).  In the context of the Iliad, this is completely inaccurate.  Achilles, if you recall, is essentially a demon at the point.  He doesn’t get tired.  He doesn’t need to take a break.  He’s utterly bent on killing Hector and anyone else who gets in his way.  This little scene completely undermines his character, as well as his commitment to revenge for Patroclus.

One of my favourite parts in The Iliad is the final confrontation between Hector and Achilles.  Achilles’ return to battle has the Trojan warriors running in terror.  Hector, however, refuses to retreat.  In true heroic fashion, the Trojan prince runs around the city walls three times before facing the Greek hero in a fight to the death.  When Hector and Achilles finally meet in mortal combat, Hector attempts to make a pact that allows the defeated man’s body to be handled with honour.  He wants the body to be treated with respect, and to be returned to their people for a proper burial.  Achilles refuses.  As he explains to Hector, “There are no binding oaths between lions and men– wolves and lambs can enjoy no meeting of the minds– they are all bent on hating each other to the death.  So it is with you and me” (22.310-313).  He’s no longer part of the human species, and this scene makes it perfectly clear.  Eventually, Hector is defeated in the duel, and his corpse is lashed to the back of Achilles chariot.  This contrast of the heroic and the moral horrifying is one of the more interesting aspects of the piece.  Achilles has morphed into an inhuman demon with no regard for human virtue, but one that holds on to the core beliefs of a hero.

To my utter devastation, Shakespeare completely destroyed this aspect of the legend.  In Act 5, scene 9 of Troilus, Achilles faces Hector for the final time.  However, instead of facing him in a honourable, heroic duel, Achilles finds Hector in a vulnerable position and attacks him with a crowd of men helping out.  Achilles calls his Myrmidons to action, yelling, “Strike, fellows, strike!  This is the man I seek” (5.9.10).  One of the main themes in heroic legend is the idea of heroes facing their most feared enemies alone.  By arming him with a group of highly trained goons, Shakespeare completely abandons any heroism Achilles had.  Achilles does tie Hector’s body to his chariot as he did in the Iliad, but this seems to be merely out of spite and mean spirit.  Shakespeare’s Achilles has no character arc, moving from lazy, shallow warrior to a treacherous coward with no regard for heroism at all.  The depth that Achilles had in the Iliad is desperately absent from Troilus.  His motivations seem petty and shallow, and the action he takes is disappointingly dishonourable.  Some may argue that Shakespeare was trying to make him a fallen hero, but I would argue that he wasn’t written as much of a hero to begin with.

I appreciate Troilus and Cressida, I really do.  What I hate is the warping of a complicated, flawed hero into a petty, cowardly brat.  I wish Shakespeare would have stuck to the source; it would have created a richer, more compelling story.


Shakespeare, William, and David M. Bevington. Troilus and Cressida, 1609. New York: Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 2013. Print.

Powell, Barry B. Classical Myth. 8th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education, 2012. Print.

Naftali, Bryan. “The Trojan War.” GRST 209. University of Calgary, ST 140, Calgary. 1 Mar. 2015. Lecture.