Submit to Brainstorm, Expo’s Student Writing Journal!


I encourage you all to submit your work to our magazine, Brainstorm! 

Brainstorm is the Expository Writing Program’s journal of student writing.  Sample issues are available on the Brainstorm web page.

All Expo students are invited to submit an essay from their Expostory Writing class for possible inclusion in Brainstorm. At the end of each term, a selection committee will choose 3-5 of these submissions and invite the authors to revise their essays for publicaton.

The deadline to submit essays from Sping 2017 classes is  Wednesday, May 17th, by 12 PM (noon).

To submit an essay (the process takes 5 minutes at most):

  1.  Go to the Expo site:
  2. Click the “Submit an essay” button at left under the Brainstorm cover image
  3. Fill out the online form and upload an essay


Tupac: Introduction & “Resurrection”

The image featured on this page comes from a product released roughly a decade after Tupac’s death:  questions about artistic “afterlife”, which for Byron and Wilde perhaps seemed a relatively vague part of cultural history, are more prominent with respect to 2Pac’s career.  

Consider the above a way of leading into my initial questions: are we in the “present” now? Or does Tupac feel like another historical figure? Tupac Shakur died September 13, 1996; if that was your birthday, you’d be 20 years old today.  Once upon a time, professors taught 2Pac so that young people could “relate.” Does that still apply? Or has 2Pac come to feel “historical” or “classic”? (Defining those terms, of course, should seem like a good idea….)  These questions help us think about motive, which we’ll all be thinking more about as we think about research paper topics:  what makes a contemporary artist matter?


Now, to the documentary, one of our two introductory texts.

The documentary Tupac: Resurrection was authorized by 2Pac’s mother; the Wikipedia biographical entry, “Tupac Shakur” is authored by some 3,000 individual writers. Two very different texts, then, with very different purposes. By juxtaposing these texts, I mean to suggest that the “real” Tupac is not going to be an easy figure to find–and maybe that shouldn’t even be our goal. Tupac will let us begin to think about revisions of the “classic” poet-rockstar concept (exemplified by Byron and Wilde); he exists in a world where the mass media are inseparable from the process of star production and where the starring role is no longer necessarily occupied by a white man of European descent.

Let’s start with a comparative question: questions of “reliability” seem both crucial and complicated with respect to these two texts. Wikipedia has its own particular standards for “objectivity”; a biography authorized by Tupac Shakur’s estate will potentially have very different standards.

Where does the biopic’s lack of “objectivity” hurt it; where does it work in the film’s favor?  Be as specific as possible in your references.

If you want to comment on more general “poet-rockstar” moments, where the film’s depiction of Tupac resonates with our image of the poet-rockstar, you can do that as well!



Oscar Wilde and the Mass Media

In January 1882, Oscar Wilde arrived in New York to begin his American lecture tour. To the custom officer’s usual question, he is said to have answered: “I have nothing to declare except my genius.” This often repeated comment may be more legend than truth,  but it fit the narrative of the time of Wilde as a brilliant literary celebrity from across the Atlantic come to grandly edify the American public—and it continues to fit our own era’s narrative of Wilde as a self-fashioned creature and master of publicity. Accordingly, soon after disembarking, he arranged to have his portrait taken by Napoleon Sarony, then the city’s preeminent portrait photographer. Sarony claimed to have photographed “200,000 people, 30,000 of whom were famous.” (from Laurence DuMortier’s “Oscar Wilde’s Multitudes: Against Limiting His Photographic Iconography”)

“Nothing to declare but my genius”: this witty statement defines “genius” in a traditional, Romantic fashion.  [Our linked resource on “Oscar Wilde in America” offers a detailed discussion of this mythical quotation’s provenance.]  Only months later, Wilde was involved in a lawsuit that set the stage for our contemporary understanding of intellectual property. From the world of fame to the world of celebrity: Oscar Wilde’s life spanned the transition….

Below is a commercial image, the source of the first (but not the last!) famous legal case involving the image of Oscar Wilde.

This photograph is the central exhibit in the case of “Burrow-Giles v Sarony.” The former were a lithographic company who produced the advertising image attached here; the latter was the portrait photographer Napoleon Sarony, who had taken that photograph of Wilde, originally known as “Oscar Wilde No. 18,” along with about 50 others.

Michael North has written about a related use of Sarony’s images, one by a cigar company.  (The image below, of a collectable cigar card from 1882 featuring Wilde, is drawn from his article.) North comments on the Burrow-Giles decision as follows (North, “”The Picture of Dorian Gray,”” 186):

In making its decision, the Court had to contend …with the challenge that photography poses to traditional definitions of artistic creativity. Burrow-Giles argued that a photograph cannot be protected by copyright because it is the result of a mechanical operation, an automatic process, and thus is not a truly authored work. By this argument, a photograph is merely a copy struck from reality … The Court held, however, that the taking of a photograph can, though it need not always, involve “novelty, invention, originality” …

Our short reading from the New York Times, an article which was published before the case was decided, asked in its headline the provocative question “Did Sarony Invent Wilde?”

I want us to think about Wilde as a figure who was aware of his own image from the very beginning; and to (re) introduce questions of originality and property: who owns (literally, metaphorically) the image of an author?  Does it seem right that Wilde (who was not, himself, interested in this American legal case…) had no ownership rights in these images?  Did Sarony invent Wilde?

Quotation, Citation, and the WWW (World Wilde Web)


Tupac Shakur

Oscar Wilde

“If I don’t write to empty my mind, I go mad. As to that regular, uninterrupted love of writing. I do not understand it. I feel it as a torture, which I must get rid of, but never as a pleasure. On the contrary, I think composition a great pain.”

click Lord Byron‘s name for the quotation’s source

Since this is a writing course, I thought I’d begin our second unit by discussing one of those “inspirational” sayings, available at the linked site in pre-packaged form ready for consumption all over the web!

I have two purposes in linking you to this quote.

First, just a reminder:  to let you know, in the aftermath of our initial essay process, that writing is supposed to be a struggle!  That is, writing is a struggle sometimes for every writer; and Byron’s word “composition” carries with it the sense that some kinds of writing can feel forced, artificial, unnatural (the word would soon be made into a technical term, the ancestor of today’s “freshman comp.”)  Yet the other side of that artificiality is the sense of being compelled to write–Byron here puts a negative spin on that feeling; the positive version of it gets described with words like “inspiration.”

My second purpose is to begin a conversation about how writing works on the wild, wild web–a space where citations circulate constantly, appearing and reappearing in new contexts.

We are beginning with a Byron passage simply because the phenomenon of literary quotation predates Wilde.  Early in the 19th century, passages of poems would be copied into “commonplace books” by hand, books which functioned as personal anthologies; published anthologies of poetry were themselves extremely selective, often “cutting and pasting” with little care for context. (Throsby gives a hint of that culture in her article.)  And the use of quotations on the 21st century WWW follows in this line of popular reading.

What do you think the purpose of is?  What do we learn by the way they handle that particular quotation; by the way they handle quotation in general?  Are they misusing Byron’s writings; are they getting it right?

†The correct word here would be “quotation.”  I use “quote” because that’s how people write informally in 2017.  I will let you use “quote” in discussion forums; I will suggest revision if you deploy it in formal essays.  I say all this in a footnote because I am incorrigibly nerdy!–& because I am trying to decide if footnotes even work in this format…

“Fare Thee Well!” (click for comments)

You will already know the story of the separation between Byron and his wife from several different sources: the biopic, the encyclopedia entry. Byron and Annabella had married on January 2, 1815. We are now going to zoom in on a particular episode. I’ll cite two brief summaries of the events of early 1816:

    1. W. Paul Elledge (1985)

Following the birth of Augusta Ada on 10 December 1815, relations between Byron and his wife continued the rapid deterioration notable from early November when normal anxiety over the approaching confinement was exacerbated by a bailiff’s occupation of the house. Byron appears to have vented a good deal of rage and frustration over financial pressures in occasional verbal abuse of his wife, some of it hinting at his amorous relations elsewhere and at plans for a foreign excursion without her. Bewildered and apprehensive,she cultivated a suspicion that he was mentally deranged (possibly a murderer) and delayed a scheduled visit to her parents’ home in the hope of securing medical verification of it. On 15 January 1816 she left Piccadilly Terrace for Kirkby,but wrote Byron admonishingly and yet with good will that evening, in route. By private messenger on Friday, 2 February, after the letter had been intercepted and returned by a well-meaning Augusta the previous Monday, Byron received notification from his father-in-law that separation arrangements were underway. After weeks of distressed appeals and stubborn resistance on his part, coolly determined letters but often distraught behavior on his wife’s, and feverish consultations among their associates-during which time Byron’s mood ranged from initial astonishment through an agitation and depression that led Augusta to fear his suicide, finally to an exhausted and nearly despairing exasperation rendering him particularly susceptible to the importunities of Claire Clairmont- the preliminary Separation Agreement was signed on 17 March. The next day Byron wrote “”Fare Thee Well”” but held it for forty-eight hours before posting it along with a brief note to his wife. Two days later, Hobhouse found him in good spirits, eager to embark for foreign shores. On Byron’s instructions,””Fare Thee Well”” was first printed for private circulation on 8 April, and then without authorization was reproduced with “”A Sketch”” on 14 April in the Champion newspaper. Amidst the scandalized public outcry, directed almost entirely against “”A Sketch,”” Byron fled to Dover on the 23rd, the day after signing the final separation agreement, and thence to the continent on the 25th.

2. Susan Wolfson (2010)

In a match that seemed absurd to all, Lord Byron and heiress Miss Milbank wed on 2 January 1815. Daughter Ada was born in December, and within a month, a little month, on 15 January 1816, Lady Byron packed her up and left for her parents’ home. Early in February Lady Byron’s father sent Byron a letter notifying him of her wish for a separation. Byron was stung; rumors and gossip bubbled and boiled, the press got involved in mid-April…”Fare thee well!” [began as] some lines of poetry that Byron sent to his “Dearest Bell” in late March or early April (BLJ5: 51-52), just after the draft Separation Agreement, before the finalization five weeks later. “I had a copy of Verses from his Lordship yesterday-very tender and so he talks of me to Every one,” Bell wrote to her mother (Elwin 448). Intimacy notwithstanding, copies were legion. Byron showed his friend Moore the lines (“the tears, as he said, falling fast over the paper as he wrote”), then sent either this paper, blotted, or a fresh copy off to Murray, who quickly shared it (Byron knew he would) with Gifford, Rogers, Canning, Frere, and many others, even Caroline Lamb. Byron then asked Murray to print it up, along with a nasty “Sketch” on Lady Byron’s Maid. Murray relished this last piece, cheering for the general male-clubbing. “It is tremendously exquisite,” he wrote to Byron on 1 April; “the most astringent dose that was ever presented to female Character” (L 159). Byron’s private label debuted a week later, on April 8, for distribution to fifty close friends. The network quickly went wide. Old nemesis Henry Brougham poached a copy, dashing it over to the Champion’s editor John Scott, who featured the two poems in the 14 April Sunday paper, elaborated with attacks on Byron’s character. A feeding frenzy ensued, piracies erupted, and within days everyone from Wordsworth to Stael had weighed in…The whole world interacted. Shops filled with cartoons and caricatures; pamphlets volleyed parodies, gossip, poems cast in the voice of Lady Byron (in a range of tones), spuriously attributed to her or the Lord, and so forth.

Talk about a poem with a detailed biographical context!  And yet, it names no names.

It existed for different audiences in turn:

1) Lady Byron;

2) a small group of Byron’s friends and associates;

3) the newspaper reading public (who knew Byron only by reputation)

4) the readers of Byron’s 1816 Poems, issued at year’s end by his authorized publisher John Murray, who prefaced that volume with the following notice:


As some of the Verses in this Collection were evidently not intended for general circulation, they would not have appeared in this authentic form, had they not been already dispersed through the medium of the public press, to an extent that must take away the regret which, under other circumstances, the reader might perhaps experience in finding them included amongst the acknowledged publications of the Noble Author.

5) Byron became a “classic”; this poem was collected in countless volumes after his death, arranged by editors, included in anthologies of English poetry….

Finally, a few questions to start discussion. What is the “best” way to read this poem? How much about Byron’s life do you need to know; how much do you want to know? What do you need to remember, or forget, to sympathize with this speaker; what do you need to remember or forget to find the speaker a villain?