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January 14, 2006

Ways to use Quotations in your English Classes: Cather, et al.

Gulf Shores after Hurricane Ivan 2004
Photograph: 'Gulf Shores after Hurricane Ivan' © 2006 Lee Hobbs

"There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm." ~ Willa Silbert Cather

Caption: After the mighty winds of Hurricane Ivan, the once happy resort at Gulf State Park sits gutted and utterly defeated on the coastal shores of southern Alabama (2004) . . .

Sophocles: "A short saying often contains much wisdom."
Voltaire: "A witty saying proves nothing."

I started using quotations as part of my lesson plannng last year but I thought I'd try to hone and perfect the technique this semester. Either as conversational launchin points-of-discussion or as inside- (or outside- ) class writing prompts, quotations from easily recognizable personas can be a useful tool. Anyone who reads my blog and forum posts on a regular basis (or gets my e-mail) can see that I am hopelessly addicted to them. If I had thought of it first, I'd create a webpage devoted to quotations about quoatations! Too late, however, I see that someone's beat me to the punch HERE, which is where I found the two used above.

However, I digress. I first incorporated the Cather quotation above simply (and solely) as a caption for the photo in this blog. Before this particular entry morphed into a discourse about lesson plans, it was part of a series of travel photo entries that I hoped might elicit some comments. Where the photo failed, I turned to the writing.

I've had some great successes using quotations in my English classes so, after the data has come in, I'll share my results here.

In the meantime, how have you used this technique in your own classes? Any failures or successes that you'd be willing to share? If so, please scrool down and find the comment box below. I'd love to hear from you!

In peace,


*To see other entries with samples of Lee Hobbs's travel photography, please visit the compilation available HERE.


Note: In my photography projects, I presently use the following combinations of digital cameras: the FujiFilm FinePix S5000 3.1MP Digital Camera with 10x Optical Zoom, the LG VX9800 EV-DO Camera-Phone from Verizon Wireless, the Motorola Razr V3c from Verizon Wireless and - finally - the Intel Pocket PC Camera.

I also use Paint Shop Pro 8 from Jasc, Inc. on a Windows XP based-PC for digital re-touching and special effects.

Please leave comments for this photograph here.

Posted by lhobbs at January 14, 2006 06:45 PM

Readers' Comments:

After reading Cather’s quotation, I was taken back to the times in the past where I have learned an important lesson. I believe that some things may be learned at times in our lives when everything is going well, as this quotation states. We can learn how good it feels to be happy and have everything going your way. However, can we really ever appreciate or realize just how good we have it until things go downhill?

I think that the most important lessons we learn in our lives are the ones we learn during trying and difficult times. It’s easier to learn from our hard times because they seem to be the ones that stick in our memories longer.

We had people write responses to our reactions to the quotes and Adrianne read my response and felt that she had gotten from it the fact that “...in a rough situation, you will overcome and be stronger than ever. It made me feel good to know that you don’t have to learn your most valuable lessons when everything is going well, but also when times are bad.” My partner, Adrianne, also said that “...she really made a connection with the quote and made it personal. She took the time to really think about what the quote meant and how it made her feel.”

According Adrianne, I apparently responded more with my emotions than my thoughts. She states that “Kelsey’s response was more of an emotional response because she started off by explaining what she believed. She made her response personal and that showed the connection she had with the quote.”

After reading what my partner had written about my writing, I find that I agree with her. I am more of an emotional writer than an intellectual writer.

Posted by: Kelsey L. at February 4, 2006 02:18 AM

Willa Silbert Cather once said, “There are some things you learn best in calm, and some in storm.” I agree with the message of this quotation. In my experience, situation has always been a most excellent teacher; sometimes broadening scopes and views while at other times focusing one’s thoughts on what’s important. The father of invention is necessity, and perhaps the father of thought and learning is situation and circumstance.
Upon reading my response to Cather, Terrell found that it was equally as emotional and reflective as intellectual and analytical. He believes that Cather’s quote has had meaning in my life, saying, “He used the words ‘in my experience’, indicating that the quotation had applied to him at some point in time.” He continues to say that I was thoughtful and that he can relate to what I said.
Indeed, I can apply Cather’s quote to events in my life, and Terrell’s evaluation of my response is accurate. He emphasizes the idea of my reflection and experiences while I wrote, but also that I used much thought in composing my ideas. While I believe the realization of my response was much more simplistic, Terrell has managed to find some interesting points that I can appreciate.

Posted by: Sean at February 5, 2006 07:15 PM

My response to Willa Silbert Cather’s quote “ There are some things that you learn best in clam, and some in storm was that I liked this quote because of how it says that you can learn things from two different perspectives. The quote can also be taken in different ways such as learning during confrontations with others or talking about things rationally. Which is what Cather means, clam and storm.

My reader Paul feels that my response to the quote had little emotion. He stated “ Her response was more thinking about the quote literally and explaining it.”

Paul also though that I did a good job at interpreting the poem. He stated “ Liz’s response to the poem is that she did a good job interpreting the poem and giving a meaning in her own words.”

Paul stated that my style of writing was more intellectual rather than an emotion style. He said “ I think from this response I can gather she likes to interpret things in her own way before expressing her feelings about it.”

I could not agree with Paul more. I do not like revealing my feelings about something while I write. I like to put things, especially quotes, into my own words and explain them. Which is what Paul had said. I most defiantly agree with Paul, I am an intellectual writer

Posted by: Liz L. at February 5, 2006 11:17 PM

As I read Cather's quote, "There are something’s you learn best in calm, and some in storm." I began to understand the meaning of it. I said that everyday you learn something. Doing just some of the simplest things, you can learn something. With this quote you can learn something in any situation. When you have a calm day or when you have calm emotions. You can also learn something on a bad day, or when you have bad emotions.

After reading my response to Cather's quote, Rachael felt that my response was more intellectually informative than emotionally. She wrote, "It was an assignment, she answered it probably to her best intent. I felt it was very clean cut, to the point and a little dry. She expressed what came to her mind."

Apparently my intellectual side of writing seems confusing to some, according to Rachael’s thoughts. “My intellectual side is meaner. The writer seemed confused at first and repeated the same idea a few times in her confusion. But I did the same thing so..."

It is apparent that with this assignment it ended up being an intellectual ending. Rachael agrees with this by saying, “Intellectual. She took the quote piece by piece and wrote her response on a more thinking view than emotional. She didn’t talk about past experiences or rely to herself at all.”

As a self-evaluation I feel that even though my response was an intellectual one, many responses many not and should not have emotion involved. Responses should be honest and that may or may not include emotions. With the comment presented I honestly really did not feel much emotion. I felt more of an intellectual theory.

Posted by: Kelly J at February 6, 2006 12:59 AM

The quote [ . . . ] reminds me of some things from the past and the present. It reminds me of what I have learned through fights both verbal and physical that I have had. After all the fighting is said and done, I realize that it was for nothing. I never really solved anything from it but I did learn everything. It helped me find ways to avoid problems and how to solve them. I learned so much about people and how much fighting doesn’t matter.
Kashiff said my response was “equal in emotion and intellect.” He said that I used my emotional side to tell how I experienced the fights and then showed intellect by what I gained from the fights. I believe everything that Kashiff wrote about my response is correct. I agree that I use my emotional and intellectual sides in all of my responses.
In my thinking response part, I explained how I experienced fights and gained knowledge from them. All the fights could have been resolved in a much easier manner than what they were. People have to understand where someone is coming from and what they have experienced before imposing their ideas. I am saying that people need to be more open and understanding than thinking that their always right. By staying calm in a situation and hearing what one another thinks is a better way to resolve things. The underlying meaning is to learn from mistakes and experiences.
In my emotional response part to the quote, Kashiff agreed and said that he “gained knowledge from experiences in fights.” There is always a way around a fight or storm. Either way though you will learn something about yourself and others.
In conclusion, Kashiff’s thoughts on my response were very detailed and clear. He has been in some of the same situations has gained the same that I have. We both agree that there are so many fights that could have been avoided. Cather’s quote has so much meaning behind it for everyone that has been through fights and learned something from it.

Posted by: Thoryn S. at February 6, 2006 01:09 AM

Cathor's quote puts an impression on you, that you have to agree with it. Every time I get to a point of "storm"(angry) I learn things about the sitution, like how it should be handled. I also learn something about myself too. Somethings at the same time you can't learn unless you have a "calm" state of mind to retain information.

Liz Larry's feelings on my response to Cathor's quote, is that I had more of an emotional response. She believes my emotions out weighed my intellectual thoughts in the response. She states, "Paul's response to the quote is that he related the quote with his state of mind"

Ms. Larry believes my mind set has made my response to this quote emotional. This is her reasoning for saying that it was an emotional one. She states, "Paul makes me think that he captured the "idea" of the quote. He took the idea and related it to what he thinks about some situations."

I clearly write with an emotional character as Ms Larry has made it seem. Her conclusion to my response is that, " Paul's response was more of an emotional response than intellectual. His writing style seems to be writing about how he feels."

Cathor's quote was able once again to draw my emotions from me, so that Ms. Larry could observe. I was able reinforce the idea that I write with a lot of emotions. I believe this is so because I am one who speaks my mind. Often times the first thing that you think about is how you feel. Most don't write that, they take time out to think logically for something to write. My personality to write and say the first thing on my mind has made me an emotional writer.

Posted by: P. Beckles at February 6, 2006 11:15 AM

After reading the quote by Willa Silbert Cather, I was brought back to a time when I was a child growing up in a hectic household. I was able to be in both the world of calm and that of storm. When I went to school, I could shut out everything going on around me and even turn off my thoughts from home. I was able to learn everything I would have to know in a working and intellectual environment. Once I got home and entered the world of storm, I could learn about human interaction and how different it was from what I learned outside. I saw the state of mind of man and knew that even though it was different from what I observed from people in the ’calm’ world, it was also natural and true.

Linda Mai was able to read my response and concluded that I am more of an emotional writer. Her reason for finding this to be so true was indicated in this line of her response: “Emily’s Response was more of an emotional response because she used her own personal experience to explain how she felt about the quote.” She also pointed out that the response to the quote is, “… personal to her life and that it has shaped her into the person that she has become.” She went on to say that, she completely agreed with my response to the quote but that it applied to other people difference. Such that the outside world would be stormy and the world inside their home would be calm.

Having the chance to read over my partner’s response to my own, helped me recognize what my style truly was. Before this assignment, I did not place much thought into writing. It was never one of my favorite pastimes, however once I read something that moves me I try to relate it to something in my life and understand it as it applies to me. This is what I did with this quote. Not just because I am an emotional writer, but also because the quote sparked a connection in my head. In my opinion, it does not make much sense to recognize a quote as a definition of what the writer is feeling at the moment. That would never move you; it would just give you an understanding of the author’s turmoil. Writing is meant to touch people and help them understand a little more about themselves or about humanity as a whole.

Linda Mai was right when she stated, “I think that her style of approach is to respond how she knows best and that is with her own personal feelings.” I am not sure if this implies that I lack in the intellectual approach of writing. However, I do know that if she did in fact suggest something of that nature, I will be able to combine the styles and potentially become a better one. I believe that when she read my response she was about to see the two worlds of calm and storm, as I saw them and connect them to her life and how she was able to learn as a kid and still does learned.

Finding that I am an emotional writer and seeing how much my life’s experiences (whether they were bad or good) are serving their purpose helps me focus on how to see works of writing in a different light. This style of writing is not a bad one, but I know that there are times when an intellectual tone is needed rather than an emotional. It is somewhat ironic to think that my worlds of calm and storm might have had a great impact on who I am today not only as a person but as a writer.

Posted by: Emily S. at February 6, 2006 01:02 PM

After reading Cather’s quote, I was reminded of various aspects of my life, and how this quote describes those aspects. For example, my mother and I have not had a good relationship. We tend to fight a lot, but these arguments also tend to be a learning experience for me. This would be an example of “learning things in the storm."

Cather’s quote, to make it simple, basically says that there are things that you can learn while everything is going smoothly and calmly, but there are some things that, in order to learn, one must traverse a not-so-smooth path. This is why people say that “you learn from your mistakes.” Not everything can be learned the easy way. In fact, there are cases when it takes going down that rougher (or stormier) path in order to gain a valuable learning experience.

Sean read my response to Cather’s quotation, but as a result of my reaction being incomplete at the time, he was not able to accurately react upon my reaction to the quote. However, he did feel that my response, if completed, would have been intellectual than emotional. In fact, these were Sean’s exact words: “My guess is that this response would have been more thoughtful than emotional if it were complete.”

Sean also felt that my response, though incomplete, indicated some significant reflection on my part. He feels that a quotation of this nature is more geared toward lifestyle and state of mind, and that a natural response would reflect off of one’s personal experiences. To quote Sean’s words: “………it is only natural that a response would be reminiscent of one’s own choices and philosophy.”

In the end, I feel that Sean definitely seen the approach that I was taking in responding to this quotation. I tend to think more intellectually than emotionally, simply because I’m not that emotional of a person. I’ll admit that it is tough for me to look at a poem or a picture and get an emotional reaction off of it, because there aren’t too many things that can affect me in a major way. This even extends to my family. I love my mom, but I rarely tell her, or anybody else in my family for that matter. Emotion is just not a thing I’m comfortable with. Therefore, Sean was right in feeling that my reaction was more intellectual than emotional.

Posted by: Terrell W. at February 6, 2006 01:16 PM

After reading Cather’s quote I gathered that for the most part I agree to it. I can relate this to the culinary arts field. In this industry mostly everything is fast past and hectic. Then there are times where you need to slow down and relax. The reason for that is certain things require you to be calm and collected or it isn’t going to work out.
When Robert looked over my response to the quote, he felt that I had more of feeling towards mine rather than thought.
Robert can relate to my answer because he wrote down “My feeling about his answer is just like my major at this school”. We both had the same thought process when it came to this quote.
What Robert gathered from my quote is dead on. He knew where I was going with this quote. Its nice to know that he can relate to me.

Posted by: David R at February 6, 2006 02:07 PM

My reaction to Cather’s quotation was interpreted as a very good learning experience. In thinking rationally, one is able to make more clear decisions. Unfortunately, some of us cannot always learn from doing the “right thing.” My mother has always let me make my own mistakes in order to learn a more valuable lesson.
After Missy read my response, she believed I felt strongly about this topic and could have written much more. Missy followed up by stating, “I like how she included both ways of learning: calm and storm.”
Missy also seemed to enjoy the fact that I included my mother’s advice saying, “this made it a more personal response.” I purposely tried to make my response personal so that it would give the reader something to ponder about.
Overall, Missy felt that emotion took over my response. Yet, she stated, “it was insightful and provided advice, which in turn made the reader of the response think on a less emotional level.”
In all, I feel that Missy pretty much hit the nail on the head. She understood the type of response I had in mind, even though I may have not explained it too well. Missy took what I said to a much clearer level, yet she did not stray away from the point I was trying to make.

Posted by: Angela H. at February 6, 2006 03:41 PM

[ . . . ] Upon reading Cather's quote (as given above) I was surprisingly unable to think of how to respond to that. Sometimes you will cross a specific quote or lyric that explains so much. You will have a certain emotion that you could never fully describe before, that is, until you read the given quote/lyric. This is how I felt upon reading Cather's quote.
I believe it to be very true. I think that sometimes you need to have a controlled, calm environment to learn some things a specific way. At the same time, I also believe that you could learn more, and sometimes a lot faster if you are forced into something and made to learn things at a more rapid pace.
When Angela read my response, she claimed that she felt that my response was very emotional. She says, "This reminds me of rough times. Being rational is never a bad thing, but sometimes you must learn for yourself." I agree with her response. I also feel that taking the rational way through things is sometimes good, but also, you must be able to do things for yourself and not have your hand held throughout your entire life.
Angela's thoughts on my reponse was very understandable. "I think Missy described the true idea behind the quote very well. Her explaination in itself really gets you to think and realize the calm and the storm", she said. I believe that in order to get my thoughts about the poem across, I was to give specific reasons and break down the quote into what I thought it meant. I believe this would make the reader understand another meaning of the quote if they had thought otherwise.
We will come across many quotes in our lives, some will make us "think" more than others. I believe that it is the quotes that will make us "feel" as well as "think" on a deeper level are the quotes that can be picked apart in many different ways. They will also stay with us throughout our lives.

Posted by: Missy Z at February 6, 2006 03:45 PM

Professor Hobbs,

My reaction after reading Cather’s insightful quotation was a feeling of power. I really liked the quote because to me it says fearless. It would be hard to get lost if you were on top of anything because you’re overseeing everything. Every road, path, roadblock and happy ending can be viewed all the way up there. When at the top, you have control of a lot of things and it is easier for you told mold things into the way you want them to be.

Kelsey read my response and felt that I interpreted Cather’s quote rather well. She states “Adrianne’s response is insightful and I agree with her point about if you’re on top.” She also goes on to say, “The response does make me think about the underlying meaning or idea that is being discussed in the poem.” I agree with Kelsey’s interpretation of my response because my goal was to dig out what the underlying meaning was and if she understood where I was coming from then it was a success.

As I was reading the quote I found myself thinking about my life and where I would like it to go. I would say that I interpreted it in an emotional way and after reading my response, Kelsey agreed. She felt that my response was emotional and mentioned that after reading a quote she tends to take the emotional side because it takes her back to a time in life when she might have experienced the topic of the quote. That is how my thought process went but instead, I related it to my future. Kelsey couldn’t have done a better job at relating with my response and understanding where I was coming from.

Adrianne E

Posted by: Adrianne E at April 18, 2006 12:16 AM

Cather vs. Nin

Professor Hobbs, I decided to compare the quote by Willa Silbert Cather to a similar, yet different, one by Anais Nin.

[NOTE FROM LEE: See a detailed discussion of the quotation by Anais Nin mentioned by Paul at THIS ENTRY].

Many believe there are different paths to take in life, but the process and state of mind in which to choose these paths have their similarities and differences. Anais Nin and Willa Silbert Cather shared this idea but had slightly different views on it. Cather states “there are some things you learn better in calm and some in storm.” This means some people they learn better when they are put under a certain amount of stress, while others learn best when they are just relaxing and in leisure. The idea is there are things learned in our life and the view he has on that is how we learn those things. Nin states “life is a process of becoming a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” These quotes have many similarities and differences.

The idea of life as a process is shared, but where their views are different is your state of mind during the process. Some similarities of the two starts by comparing “life is a process of becoming”, and “There are some things you learn.” They can be put in the same category as a way of going through life. Cather looks at the process of life as learning, and Nin looks at the process as certain things we have to go through. They both share the beliefs that you have to go through certain things in order to learn from it. Heir beliefs share many similarities. They both believe that life is process. Anyone could say that is basically a shared idea.

Where the shared ideas if Cather and Nin’s quotes clash is the state of mind that they suggest. Cather suggest that we learn in calm and in storm, better in calm though. This is his view that someone can receive and learn better information when we are calm and relaxed. It’s up to oneself to agree with this or not. Nin’s argument is a little different. He doesn’t state what state of mind it’s better to go through life in he simply says what state of mind you will fail in. If it is possible to fail in life Nin’s believes if you remain in the same state you will eventually see failure. In his own words, “this is a kind of death.” Cather is not looking at the outcome of life to be a certain point, he has accepted the fact that there is calm and storm in our lives. He has come to the realization that people have ups and downs in life, that people experience different troubles in their life. Nin’s doesn’t, he sees life reaching a point or climax, and it can be successful or a failure. For one to accept an opinionated belief like Nin’s is up to them. Nin’s opinion is one hard to accept. Not only does he look at the out being good or bad he refers the failure to a kind of Death. The way Cather’s speaks of calm and storm he seems like the type to not judge the outcome of life or compare it to life or death. Cathers opinion is more calm and easier to relate to. Nin’s opinion is strong and people may not want to accept it. The thought of someone not judging you in anything you do and comparing it to life or death is an easier thought for someone to live by.

The comparison or the two quotes can be analyzed over and over, but it is accepted that there is a shared idea with a difference in views on the process of life. In life there are many different views on life not just these two. There are others that possess stronger or weaker points of views but these two are both strong in different ways. The speakers have strong voices and either scares the reader away with the truthfulness of the quote and draws them in because of the comfort it shares. Cather's quote is comforting, its something that relaxes and helps someone enjoys life. Nin quote distances people, facing reality and living off that quote can force you not to live life to the fullest.

It forces you to be cautious about certain things but it also pushes you to do the best in everything. So Nin quote is a double threat, it can alter your life personally and socially. Personally, this quote can change your life by not allowing you to live it to its extent. Socially it can make you the best. Cathers quote is inspirational personally and socially.

~Paul B.

Posted by: Paul B. at April 19, 2006 09:56 AM

Note from Lee:

Good job Paul!

Posted by: Lee Hobbs at April 19, 2006 09:59 AM

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