West Chester University

Spring 2006 and Fall 2005

West Chester University

Fall 2004and
Spring 2005

Spring 2003

Fall 2002

Spring 2002

Fall 2001






Course Syllabi and Announcements
  LIT 165 Syllabus
  LIT 165 Announcements and Assignments
  WRT 120 Syllabus
  WRT 120 Announcements and Assignments

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Imaginary Worlds (Spring 2008)
  A Reading of THE TEMPEST

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Rites of Passage (Spring 2006)
  Goals of the Course
  Fundamental Questions about Literature
  Valuing Literature
  Critical Thinking and Reading Literature
  Critical Approaches to Literature
  Literature as ART
  Approaching the Art of Fiction
  Defining the Short Story
  Evaluating Short Fiction
  Craft of Fiction: PLOT
  Craft of Fiction: CHARACTER
  Small Group Exercise
  ARABY by James Joyce
  A note about GIRL
  POE and the art of STORY OF A HOUR
  Notes on Innovative Fiction
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #1
  Fiction and Ambiguity - Your Questions
  Writing Workshop - Short Fiction
  Poetry Journal Project Assignment Sheet
  Defining Poetry
  Reading Poetry
  The Craft of Poetry
  Drama and Tragedy
  Study Questions: DEATH OF A SALESMAN

Notebook for Effective Writing I (Spring 2006)
  Paper #4 Assignment Sheet
  Critical Thinking and Commentary
  Casebook: Evaluating Sources Worksheet
  Selecting Information
  Evaluating Arguments
  CASEBOOK PROJECT Assignment Sheet
  Approaching Persuasive Writing
  Topic Development - Profile Essay
  Generating Ideas for the Profile Essay
  Paper #2 Assignment Sheet
  Profile Exercise
  Objective Writing: Selected Readings
  Writing Workshop: Paper #1
  Expressive Writing in the NYTimes
  Writing Effective Introductions and Conclusions
  Paper #1: IDENTITY
  Expressive Writing
  Open Letter Exercise and Examples
  EMERSON on Individuality vs. Conformity
  Literature related to IDENTITY
  Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'

Go Exploring
  Weblog for WRT 120
  Writing Assistance on the Web
  Blackboard at WCU
  WCU Homepage
  WCU's Francis Harvey Green Library

Notebook for Topics in Literature: Imaginary Worlds (Fall 2005)
  One Last Look at Imaginary Worlds
  Franz Kafka's BEFORE THE LAW
  Paper #3: Assignment Sheet
  Paper #4: Independent Project
  The Problem of Stability in BRAVE NEW WORLD
  Analyzing Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD
  Defining Utopia
  Embarking on Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD
  A Reading of Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST
  From today's news (11/3/05)
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #2
  Goodbye to Dante's Imaginary World
  Stepping Through Dante's Inferno: Cantos 10-34
  Stepping Through Dante's Inferno: Cantos 1-10
  INFERNO: Questions/Analysis: Cantos 32-34
  INFERNO: Questions/Analysis: Cantos 18-31
  INFERNO: Questions for Analysis: Cantos 12-17
  INFERNO: Structure
  INFERNO: Questions for Analysis: Cantos 1-5
  INFERNO: Analyzing Canto 1
  Relating to Dante's Inferno
  Approaching Dante's DIVINE COMEDY
  A Little Help with Dante's INFERNO
  Assignment Sheet for Paper #1
  Responses to LEAF BY NIGGLE
  ON FAIRY STORIES: An Essay by Tolkien
  Notes on Axolotl
  Reading Ovid's Tales
  From Myth to Literature: Approaching Ovid's Tales
  Functions of the Genesis Tales
  Analyzing Mythic Tales
  Defining Mythology
  Filtering the Introduction to FANTASTIC WORLDS
  Commentary on LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI by Keats
  Commentary on DARKNESS by Byron
  Handout: Imagination Poems Set
  What is Imagination?
  Our Course Theme: Imaginary Worlds
  LIT 165 Assignments: Fall 2005
  LIT 165 Announcements: Fall 2005
  Imaginary Worlds: Course Syllabus

Notebook for Effective Writing I (Fall 2005)
  Paper #4: Independent Thinking/Reading/Writing
  Casebook Preparation Checklist
  Casebook Assignment Schedule
  Evaluating Sources for the Casebook
  Casebook Project Assignment Sheet
  Notes on Rational Argument
  Assignment Sheet: Objective Writing
  Reviewing Elements of the Profile Essay
  Writing the Profile Essay
  Readings: Objective Writing
  Assignment Sheet: Expressive Writing
  Rubric for Evaluation of Writing
  Emerson on Individuality vs. Conformity
  Mind-map: Identity
  Understanding the 'Rhetorical Situation'
  Assignments Page
  Announcements Page
  WRT 120 Course Syllabus for Fall 2005

ENG Q20: Basic Writing

Go Exploring
  Weblog for WRT 120
  Writing Assistance on the Web
  Blackboard at WCU
  WCU Homepage
  WCU's Francis Harvey Green Library


~~ Responses to "Leaf By Niggle" ~~

Tolkien's fans can be very eloquent when it comes to discussing their favorite author, and one of their favorite stories:

From the folks at

"[The] haunting short story, "Leaf by Niggle"...recounts the story of the artist, Niggle, who has 'a long journey' to make and allegory of Tolkien 's life. Written in the same period when The Lord of the Rings was beginning to take shape, these two works show Tolkien 's mastery and understanding of the the art of sub-creation, the power to give fantasy 'the inner consistency of reality.'

From Tolkien fans at Planet Tolkien:

KIM: It's what he was doing with middle earth. Part of him saw the impact that his collective work would have on people as a source of inspiration and healing. But another part of him saw it as putting off the 'inconveniences' of everyday life that everyone thought were so important at the time.

And now, now all we have is that one leaf. that phrase from a passage of what he really saw.. and while it seems like a great body of work, it's only what he was able to put into words.. a small corner of his mind.


BEREN: The allegory of "Leaf by Niggle" is life, death, purgatory and paradise. Niggle is not prepared for his unavoidable trip, as humans often are not prepared for death. His time in the institution and subsequent discovery of his Tree represent purgatory and heaven.

But "Leaf by Niggle" is also about Tolkien's profoundly religious philosophy of Creation and Sub-creation. True Creation is the exclusive province of God, and those who aspire to Creation can only make echoes (good) or mockeries (evil) of truth. The Sub-creation of works that echo the true creations of God is one way that mortals honor God.

This philosophy is evident in The Silmarillion -- one Vala, Morgoth, creates the orc race as a foul mockery of the elf. Another Vala, Aulë, creates the dwarf race as an act of Sub-creation that honored God, called Eru in Tolkien's invented mythology, and which God accepted and made real, just as Niggle's Tree was made real.

Niggle's yearnings after truth and beauty (God's creations) are echoed in his great painting; after death, Niggle is rewarded with the realization (the making-real) of his yearning. Or, if you prefer, Niggle's Tree always existed -- he simply echoed it in his art.

On a meta-level, then, Tolkien's Middle-earth is itself a Sub-creation designed to honor the true stories of the world-that-is. Thus, Middle-earth, despite its lack of overt religious elements, is a profoundly religious work.

So, on a final level of allegory, Tolkien himself is Niggle -- and, humorously, in mundane matters as well as spiritual ones. Tolkien was compulsive in his writing, his revision, his desire for perfection in form and in the "reality" of his invented world, its languages, its chronologies, its existence. Like Niggle, Tolkien came to abandon other projects or graft them onto his "Tree," Middle-earth. Like Niggle, Tolkien faced many chores and duties that kept him from the work he loved. And like Niggle, Tolkien was a horrible procrastinator -- late in life, he spent hours playing solitary card games instead of working on The Silmarillion.

Finally, Tolkien himself might have disagreed with an allegorical interpretation. He wrote, in Letter 131 of The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, "I dislike Allegory." And in specific reference to Niggle, he wrote in Letter 241, "It is not really or properly an 'allegory' so much as 'mythical'." On the other hand, in Letter 153 he said, "I tried to show allegorically how [sub-creation] might come to be taken up into Creation in some plane in my 'purgatorial' story Leaf by Niggle."


SHAYA PUMA: There is an experience I sometimes have with a work of art that I have described (badly) as having my heart filled with love. Closest to describing it is something I read in an Anglo-Saxon language class some years ago. It was a translation exercise, the parable of the prodigal son from the New Testament. When the father sees his wayward son returning he is filled with "mildeheortness" from the words that become "mild" and "heart." (I'm a little uncertain of the spelling.) It is translated as "compassion" but it stays a separate word for me and describes something near compassion and near love, something "too deep for tears."

Anyway, one of the times I have felt that way is reading "Leaf by Niggle" at the line "It's a gift!" It seems to me an almost painful confession by Tolkien about himself. It is someone with a great love of his own creations who is aware of the moral dangers of Pride; W.H. Auden writes somewhere that Pride is the only sin, that all sins are expressions of Pride.


From "The Perpetual Three-Dot Column," a Blog by Jesse Walker:

JESSE: By college, my favorite Tolkien tale was not The Lord of the Rings but "Leaf by Niggle," a short story he published first in 1947 and then, paired with the essay "On Fairy-Stories," as the slim volume Tree and Leaf in 1964. Both the story and the essay are defenses of fantasy, and it is the essay that includes Tolkien's famous response to those who deride fairy tales as escapist: "Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in a prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?"

As a self-contained argument, the essay is engaging but not really complete. As a companion-piece to the short story, it serves quite well. Faerie, it declares, "holds the seas, the sun, the moon, the sky; and the Earth, and all the things that are in it: tree and bird, water and stone, wine and bread, and ourselves, when we are enchanted." It is this realm that the title character creates in "Leaf by Niggle," devoting his spare hours to a vast picture he's painting in a tall shed in his garden. Like Faerie -- or, more broadly, Fantasy -- Niggle's art serves as an escape, a fantastic diversion from a bland and bureaucratized life. While the world around him seems obsessed with trite legalities and matters of state, Niggle passes his time in the act of creation, inventing a new reality that not only is preferable to the world of a "serviceable cog" (Tolkien's phrase), but at story's end is truer than that world as well.

"On Fairy-Stories" declares the chief purposes of fantasy to be recovery, escape, and consolation, and Niggle's painting serves as each. It is a recovery of a clear view, the work of an artist "who can paint leaves better than trees" in a country where the individual leaf is sacrificed to the higher collective order. It is an escape from the "nuisance" of one's "duties" to that order. And it is a consolation, not only for Niggle but, later, for all those who use the world he has created "for convalescence." A theme of the essay reverberates in the story: that the fantasist, at his best, creates something more real than can ever be fashioned by the world's jailers, and that long after all the jails have decayed, Faerie will remain.

In time, my personal art has narrowed down to being now almost exclusively pencil drawings of leaves. I'm not sure where that comes from. I have tried twice to draw a picture of the Mountain seen past the leaves of the Tree. They're pretty enough but eventually unsuccessful.






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