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February 07, 2006

Using Strange Depictions as both a Discussion and Writing Prompt

 'Der Danzig Danse Macabre I' © 2006 Lee Hobbs
Photograph: 'Der Danzig Danse Macabre I' © 2006 Lee Hobbs

"Cast a cold eye / On life, on death. / Horseman; pass by!" ~ W. B. Yeats Under Ben Bulben

Caption: A grim church ornament gives a grisly grin over onlookers in a Danzig cathedral (2002) . . .

"I hate cameras. They are so much more sure than I am about everything." ~ John Steinbeck

In an earier entry to this blog, I discussed using photos of odd subject matter in English classes as a writing prompt. Throughout the semester I have incorporated the techniques of poetry, quotations and other philosophical questions as jumping-off points for writing but it has been the photography days that get the "quickest" results. Perhaps this is because we live in the context of a visually-oriented culture? In any event, I continue to use this methodology from time to time and sometimes get interesting results.

For this entry, I've described my experiences using the "Devil's Head" rock in North Carolina photograph HERE. I stated that I didn't inform the students beforehand that the enormous rock "face" was a natural product of erosion. Many assumed that the it was carved or sculpted on the side of the mountain much in the way Mt. Rushmore and Stone Mountain, in Georgia, were done. This made some of their responses interesting, and more creative had they been told otherwise upfront. Of course, I told them in the next class. I always emphasize that there are no right or wrong answers in a written "response" for my writing class, only more or less honest ones.

As an in-class writing prompt for a following class I used the morbid photograph shown here, but without the photograph's title, description or fancy quote. In reality, there is no actual corpse being shown, only a depiction (sculpture) of one from a church in Gdansk (Danzig), Poland. Again, I told them nothing about the photo. I only showed it to them on a projector screen and asked them to write their initial reaction as one sentence. I didn't give them a lot of time to do this and asked them to work quickly.

Again, many of them interpreted this picture as a photograph of actual human remains and responded with their shock, repulsion or insights into death. Others were reminded of pirates and recent hollywood productions while others immediately saw the "sculpt marks" (good eyes for detail) and anatomical inconsistencies. Their responses are below, if you are interested. Obviously, we are informed from our own experiences and I wanted them to see this. No right or wrong answers for this activity: Only emotional or intellectual conclusions drawn from what we "see."

The purpose behind this exercise was to provide some practice on creating "topic sentences" for paragraphs and then following this up with practice writing suitable supporting sentences for a given topic sentence.

After the students wrote their one-sentence response to the skull and bones, I then told them to pretend that this was a topic sentence for a paragraph. We had a short question and answer session on what a topic sentence was (or wasn't) so that I could feel out what they already knew, or didn't know, after the previous meetings textbook reading assignment.

This followed with a very brief lecture on topics sentences via PowerPoint (about five minutes) so that they would have the data to complete the second part of the exercise.

Students then had to write a good paragraph of about four or five sentences based on the "topic sentence" they had just written. They were instructed to write only sentences that "supported" the topic sentence. Any idea / sentence that did not support the topic sentence in some way had to be discarded for that paragraph. The motive for this activity was inspired by the results of their last formal essay, a descriptive-narrative, that produced results that were "all over the place" for lack of a better expression.

After sharing thier results with the class, students were then given a homework assignment to "clean up" their paragraph through editing and revision procedures and then publish their results on this blog entry. I find that having students do this accomplishes several things. It gives them practice "presenting" their written thoughts before their peers and the rest of the "reading" world. As college students, this is something that will only have to do more and more as their academic careers continue. I also find the extra "pressure" of publishing encourages them to put a bit more effort into their proofreading than they might otherwise do. There is not only the embarassment factor of seeing your own words in print with a spelling error or a missing work (heaven knows I do this a lot!) it also provides a useful peer-editing activity that can be done in class.

I'll discuss the peer-editing activity in detail in a future post. In a nutshell, the activity asks students to comb through their fellow-students' online responses to find "errors." They then write down these grammatically incorrect sentences (or ones with spelling errors) as they are in their journal. They are instructed to "correct" the sentences to the best of their ability and then to bring their results to the following class meeting. In the following meeting, I have them re-write the "incorrect" versions of the sentences they discovered on their own time out of class of a blank piece of paper (no corrections) and then pair with another classmate. The papers are then exchanged. Each student then tries to correct the sentence that his or her partner found and recorded.

Obviously this activity stirs a lot of discussion (especially if a student discovers his or her own response!) As a sidenote, I try to avoid this if possible to save embarassment by asking them to keep their information anonymous: this only happens if the student volunteers this information, e.g. "Hey, this is my response, ha ha."

With this activity, I begin to get an idea of how much grammar they actually know or recognize in their reading. Many students will raise their hands because they do not know what is "wrong" with the sentence they are supposed to "correct." This is usually resolved by having the student read the sentence aloud. If the student still cannot determine the sentence's shortcoming, I usually read it to the class for a class response. Nine times out of ten, this works, in my experience.

After all the sentences are corrected, I then have the students exchange their results (that is, return) the papers back to their rightful owners (in this case, their paired-partner). I then ask each student to compare the corrections their partner made to the three discovered sentences to the corrections they had made previously in their journals as part of their homework assignment. Were they the same? Were they different? Does one correction seem to work better than another? Why or why not?, etc. This leads to more class discussion. I generally ask the students to present any particularly different or interesting corrections to the class for a bit of comparison and discussion. I will sometimes even ask the class, which one do YOU think sounds/works better? Their responses can sometimes be quite interesting and give me a better idea of where I need to "focus" my attentions in future classes.

Well, for any teachers (or students) reading this, I hope this might provide a little insight. Please provide our own feedback for any of these activities in the comment box far below! I do appreciate it.

Best wishes and thanks to my students for participating in the project,


*[1 May 2006] P.S. See this photograph as utilized by GreyHawk in his political essay, "Danse Macabre -- A Tale of Two Cities" HERE!

**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 either this photograph or article below.

Posted by lhobbs at February 7, 2006 10:22 PM

Readers' Comments:

Professor Hobbs,

This photograph made me feel a cold chill rush throughout my body. In this picture was a pile of human bones. The most eerie feeling was that these bones seemed to be crumbled and mangled. These skeletal remains appeared to be lying on some sort of dry, deserted land. This horrific sight also happened to be missing the arm bones, while spider webs connected the other rotting bones together.

Angela H.

Posted by: angela h. at February 8, 2006 03:56 PM

Looking at this picture reminds me of death. The skeleton just seems to just be laying in an awkward position. Although the skeleton is in an abnormal position it appears that it is outside. From the look of the picture and all of the characteristics of the skeleton mentioned I think that this person might have gone through a rough death. It was not buried, it is just laying outside which seems to me that this skeleton may have gone through a struggle, starvation or possibly a murder.

Liz L.

Posted by: Liz L. at February 8, 2006 07:41 PM

Professor Hobbs,

When I initially laid eyes upon the selected photograph, the first thought that popped into my mind was pirates. I felt that it was something straight out of a movie like Pirates of the Caribbean. I believe that one of the reasons that I am reminded of a pirate when I view this picture is that skulls and crossbones are somewhat universally recognized as symbols of pirates. Another reason that pirates come to mind is the fact that often, when pirates died, their skeletons were left where they had died at, not buried as they would be in modern times. I suppose that different people could be reminded of various things at the sight captured by this photographer, but personally, I am reminded of pirates.

Kelsey L.

Posted by: Kelsey L. at February 8, 2006 09:30 PM

Professor Hobbs,

This paragraph reminds me of the war that is going on in Iraq and the many casualties that multiply everyday. I watch the news and see lifeless bodies in the middle of highways, markets and front yards covered with sheets. It is a gruesome reminder of how war and hate's ultimate consequence is death. Although the bodies shown on the news aren't completely decomposed as the one in the picture, both images represent death and gore.

Posted by: Adrianne E. at February 9, 2006 12:25 PM

Professor Hobbs

This picture gives me an eerie, morbid feeling. The elements project death and decay. The mummified body with attached cobwebs depicts the aging of the structure. The colors that this picture displays are dark and dreary. The overall emotion evoked through this photograph gives the audience a horrifying intuition.

S. Velkoff

Posted by: Samantha V. at February 9, 2006 06:53 PM

Insructor Hobbs

When I first glance at this photograph, I feel instant disgust and sorrow. The dead carcass is difficult to look at, and it makes my stomach turn. Thinking about a skeleton makes me wonder why it is there and how it got there. Seeing skeletons create a picture in my mind of someone being ruthlessly murdered.

Kashiff M.

Posted by: Kashiff M. at February 9, 2006 06:54 PM

Mr Hobbs,

The photograph scared me. It reminded me of death. It also made me realize that one day I will have to face death, not only for myself, but for my loved ones as well. It is upsetting to know that one day I will not be able to see everyday life again. Death makes you think of how you live life.

Kelly J

Posted by: Kelly J at February 9, 2006 07:49 PM

Professor Hobbs

What I see when I look at this picture is a skeleton. This skeleton looks it is in a deserted place were no one has visited for a very long time. This skeleton looks like it died a hard way by the way it is positioned by the way its legs are bent. This skeleton looks like a young individual that had his life cut short for an unknown reason. Only he knows exactly how he died and he took it to his grave. The environment around gives you an eerie feeling about the place this skeleton is placed in. In this picture you see that he is holding his one arm that was severed from his body. This shows that he must have bleed to death. This is what I get from looking at this picture.

Jennifer G.

Posted by: Jennifer G at February 9, 2006 08:30 PM

Professor Hobbs:

This picture makes me feel remorseful and a bit creeped out. Since the bones of the dead person looks small in size, I can't help but think that it is the remains of a small child. This makes me sad for the child, because it was not able to live out its life to the fullest. It also scares me a little bit, because the way the bones are positoned in a propped up manner, it looks like it is rising from the dead. It also looks zombie-like and it seems as though the bones are ready to pop out of the picture.

Linda M.

Posted by: Linda M. at February 9, 2006 10:42 PM

This image fills me with a sense of caution and thoughts of death. It reminds me of a pirate movie and the classic arrangement of skull and crossbones. The figure in the scene seems fake and awkward, so I derive a more lighthearted reaction from it; hence pirates. Pirates were said to use similar images to invoke fear and cautious hesitation of engagement. Perhaps this figure is also such an omen.

S. Olson

Posted by: S. Olson at February 9, 2006 11:52 PM

Professor Hobbs,

This photograph reminds me of my archaeology class and the different things we are learning about. Although the object looks like it is carved from stone, it does resemble the human form. In class, we have been studying human ancestors, some including Homo habilis and Homo erectus. We will probably also learn about other artifacts found at archaeological sites, ones that could be similar to the object in the photograph.

Ali L.

Posted by: Ali L. at February 10, 2006 12:08 AM

The image showed to us reminds me of an illustration for a Poe story. It is very similar to the description of the Red Death given to us in the story Masque of the Red Death. It looks like a sculpture now that I look at it, there's no way it could be a real human skeleton. The ribcage looks like a stretched out slinky and the little nub coming out of his shoulder area looks a little awkward to actually be part of the human body.

Posted by: Rachael T. at February 10, 2006 12:20 PM

Professor Hobbs,

This photograph reminds me of one of my favorite holidays, Halloween. Halloween is fun because you get to wear scary costumes and play pranks on people. Houses are decorated with skeletons and monsters. The skeleton in the photograph is covered in cob webs, just like people's Halloween decorations. The only missing thing form the picture is a big bag of candy.

Brendan L.

Posted by: Brendan at February 10, 2006 12:32 PM

Professor Hobbs

The picture makes me think of death and how I’m going to die. The man in the picture appeared to be suffering when he died. I wouldn’t want to die in pain; rather I would like to die in peace. Then I looked a little deeper to collect my thoughts. Could the man in the picture be suffering for something? Is there a reason he had to die in pain? Perhaps it was a last attempt to keep alive fighting for something he believed in. Maybe there was honor and glory in his death. Maybe he felt that he would rather die fighting that sit back and let things go. I wouldn’t mind dieing fighting for something I believed to be true in this world. How glorious would it be to have all the pain and suffering be worth every second. People wouldn’t look back on me and say, “He died because he did nothing.” They would instead say, “He died because he did something.”

Sam H.

Posted by: Sam H. at February 10, 2006 12:48 PM


This photograph sends chills down my spine. The eyes of the skeleton that is floating on the ocean, appear hollow and deep almost as if begging someone to look in and read the thoughts in his mind. Thoughts of pirating and walking planks are things that come to mind. As this body floats, it leaves stories behind it for years to come.

Emily S.

Posted by: Emily S. at February 10, 2006 01:20 PM


Upon seeing the photograph, the Jewish Holocaust was the first thing I thought of. The photograph appeared to be of a human skeleton, which symbolizes death and destruction. I've watched various movies of the Holocaust, and seeing this skeleton reminded me of the horror of the concentration camps.

Terrell W.

Posted by: Terrell W. at February 10, 2006 01:34 PM

Hi Lee,

I have always thought visuals are wonderful stimuli in the classroom. The fact that the students can suppply their own words, their own responses, allows each individual to react personally. Texts in contrast somehow seem to carry too much baggage because of all the connotations and nuances that they bring with them. The samples posted here prove how effective the use of a picture was.

But one thing also strikes me. The picture was your choice and it is startling and alarming so you have in some way shaped tthe reactions of the class. To make the whole exercise even more personal, you could have the students supply their own pictures. That way you won't risk upsetting anybody by an image that is too strong. I have an enormous collection of postcards that, as a teacher, I used to spread over the floor and let students choose one to talk about or write about. And a very similar activity can be done by having students listen to a piece of music.


Posted by: PDean at February 12, 2006 12:49 PM

Note from Lee:

Hi Patricia, thanks so much for that advice. I think that is a great idea about the postcards. I suppose I could also pass around an assortment of magazines. You are absolutely right about the shock value effect of an alarming photograph. It is biased and may not always work with a positive effect on everyone. On the other hand, what does?

I'd be interested to learn more about your results from the music prompt. What kind of music did you use (instrumental or easy to understand lyrics?). Based on your suggestion, I think I'll try this technique in an upcoming class meeting. Thanks again!

Posted by: Lee at February 12, 2006 01:56 PM

Note from Lee:

Hi Patricia, thanks so much for that advice. I think that is a great idea about the postcards. I suppose I could also pass around an assortment of magazines. You are absolutely right about the shock value effect of an alarming photograph. It is biased and may not always work with a positive effect on everyone. On the other hand, what does?

I'd be interested to learn more about your results from the music prompt. What kind of music did you use (instrumental or easy to understand lyrics?). Based on your suggestion, I think I'll try this technique in an upcoming class meeting. Thanks again!

Posted by: Lee at February 12, 2006 02:07 PM

Hi Lee,

You have fascinating students! And, as usual, you have an interesting and unique approach to teaching your subject matter. I hardly recognise these entries as the work of ESL students, except some of the tell tale signs are there!

Although I am a writer, I haven't taught much writing, but I do use pictures. I agree with Patricia, that texts often carry a lot of baggage.

The beauty of using images - and in this instance a highly visceral one - rather than words to teach a foreign language is it provokes the students to THINK in the new language. Yes, they may initially respond to the image with language references from their mother tongue, however the process of working with (in this example) a visceral image in the acquired language plants any vocabulary or grammar points deep in their psyche. The language learned in this leasson will stay with them because they have been stirred emotionally.

Though I have taught all ages, from 5 to 70, most of my teaching these days is one-to-one with young professional adults who want to activate dormant language. They come to me, after sometimes having had years of English lessons from a Hungarian speaking teacher in the Hungarian school system. They have learned English grammar rules ad nauseum - in Hungarian. They also have a lot of dormant vocabulary, both acquired through exposure to the English language through songs, movies and such, and also 'learned' by making lists of English words with the Hungarian equivalent.

Pictures are the absolutely most effective means to get them using English, especially in the early stages when they think they can't speak English. Simply by identifying the objects in the pictures I present them with they become more confident about their language skills.

Action pictures are good for teaching continuous verbs: "What's happening in this picture?" As the student tells me what's going on, they practice the continuous verb form.

Another great way to use pictures with these types of students is to use storyboards: a series of images with accompanying text. With these, I usually get the student to put the pictures in order then tell me the story in their own words. After they've done that, I give them the accompanying texts which they have to read out loud and place beneath the appropriate picture.

Great blog topic Lee!


Posted by: amb at February 12, 2006 02:54 PM

Note from Lee:

Thanks for the kind words, Alison. These students are on a varied level of ability, I might add. Also, at the university I work for, ESL students and native-speakers are sometimes integrated according to ability. Your point about action pictures make a lot of sense. Obviously, it's easier to think of something to say about something that's happening rather than something static. Did you see Patricia's suggestion about music? I was curious if you've ever tried that in your classes? That might be my next little project for the semester. Peace!

Posted by: Lee at February 12, 2006 03:56 PM

Hi Lee

You are most welcome, Lee and my words are written with sincerity.

I use a lot of music. Song lyrics are great for listening exercises. You can prepare a sheet of lyrics for gap filling, and then the student needs to fill-in as they listen.

Actually, I was videotaped teaching English the other day to one of my rock star students. It is for "A Day in the Life of Rita, lead singer of Zanzibar." I used the Alannis Morisette song "You Learn". They only taped about 5 minutes and it is mostly me chasing my cat! It will be posted on the internet. I'll let you know when.

I actually studied French composition in a similar type of class to what you describe. French is basically a second mother tongue for me, but I was not educated in French - it is mostly acquired through osmosis. I couldn't pass the required second language proficiency exam at the University of Ottawa. The chairman of the dept couldn't believe it because I had such a high level of fluency. In the end, they gave me my certificate and put me in a class for mother tongue speakers who needed to improve their composition for university.

Posted by: AMB at February 12, 2006 04:50 PM

Hi Lee,

Your query about music doesn't have an easy answer as so much depends on the group you are teaching. I always tried to use music that the group wouldn't know. I used The Verve, Bitter Sweet Symphony, with a group of retirees. I have also used Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (No 6) and Vivaldi's Four Seasons with Asian students but European students would be familiar with those pieces. World music is worth looking at. Bulgarian harmonies are very haunting. I would say experiment!


Note from Lee:

This is what I was lookng for: thanks again Patricia.

Posted by: PDean at February 13, 2006 09:17 AM

This photograph makes me pretty sad. After seeing a video on the Holocaust last semester, when I see skulls or very thin bodies or anything to that effect, it reminds me of all of the pain during this time. I believe that certain occurances in our lives are forever burrowed into our memories. This is all, of course, dependent upon the circumstances of each occurance. Upon making this memory, we associate a symbol, a saying, or a feeling with that occurance. Seeing the skull in the given photograph reminded me of death and pain. Obviously the Holocaust video has left its mark on my memory.

Missy Z

Posted by: Missy Z at February 13, 2006 01:44 PM

Prof. Hobbs,

When you showed the class this picture of a skeleton protruding from the ground, I was freaked out. The photograph depicts a skeleton in a desolate wasteland, much like the beginning of the film "Terminator 2". It reminded me of the sensation I got when I first watched the introduction to the film "Terminator 2". The androids (known as Terminators) have just won a war fighting with the humans of Earth, and they roam the planet covered with the skulls and armor of the deceased human race. It's a very chilling thought and visual.


Posted by: Holden B. Jones at February 13, 2006 04:08 PM

Professor Hobbs

The photo displayed is depressing and sad. It makes me think of death and loss. Even worse it makes me think of the death of a child. It seams as if the child is long forgotten. The loss of a young life is terrible. This photo reminds me that life is fragile.

C. Robinson

Posted by: Cathy at February 13, 2006 04:48 PM

Professor Hobbs

S. Olson wrote that he thinks that that the object in the photo is fake. He wrote that the photo reminds him of a pirate movie. He explained, “Pirates were said to use similar images to invoke fear and cautious hesitation of engagement. Perhaps this figure is such an omen.”

I think that S. Olson was writing both emotionally and intellectually when he responded to the photo. Although S. Olson says he had “thoughts of death” when he saw this photo, I think that he was having the emotional reaction to the thoughts. I think the thought of death will cause an emotional reaction in most people. S. Olson mostly wrote intellectually in his response. He knew the object in the photo was fake or manmade. He compares it to the images pirates use. I think he made a good comparison.

The response I gave was very different from S. Olson’s. My response was completely emotional. I wrote about what I felt when I first saw the photo. He wrote about what the object could possibly be.

Now that I know what the object in the photo is, I feel differently. When I first saw the photo I thought of the death of a child. I thought the photo was sad and depressing. Now I think the photo is strange and thought provoking. I think the use of these objects in churches is strange. I am a person who does not like to think about death. I know everyone will die, but it freaks me out. I would not want to go to a church where there were figures to remind me of this.

C. Robinson

Posted by: Cathy at February 14, 2006 06:09 PM

Professor Hobbs

Linda said, “The picture makes me remorseful…” She feels that the picture is terrible, and it makes her feel bad. Her response to the picture is remorse and pity.

Linda’s insight was very emotional. She considered the first thing that came to her mind, which were here feelings. The response is deep and thought out. It definitely leans towards an emotional standpoint.

Her response was similar to mine, in the fact that we both used our feelings to answer. We both thought of a dead corpse and felt sorrow. On the contrary, Linda thought the picture was a child, while I thought it was a decomposed adult.

Now that I know the photo relates to religion, I don’t feel as bad or as much disgust as before. Even though it is a painting of a skeleton, I still don’t feel as bad, because I know that it is not real. I still feel that the idea is a little scary though.

Kashiff M.

Posted by: Kashiff M. at February 14, 2006 08:35 PM

Professor Hobbs,

I felt that Angela’s response was okay. She described the picture in good detail and gave her opinion about it. She explained how she felt about the photo. Though it was a good response it was merely an emotional response. Many people could have had the same response just by looking at the picture.
Her response could have be more insightful if she added examples, like what the picture represented to her.
Comparing the two of our responses I know that we both put our feelings into it. I feel as though she could have put more ideas behind her response.
Now that I know what the picture is I am so glad that it was not a real thing. That would have been a little crazy, but a good concept.

~Kelly J

Posted by: Kelly J at February 14, 2006 08:57 PM

Professor Hobbs

Racheal T. wrote, “The image showed to us reminds me of an illustration for a Poe story.” She goes on to explain her reasoning as to why this image reminds her of the story, “Masque of the Red Death.” She expands her insight into describing the falsehood of the actual skeleton. Her overall response was more intellectual than emotion; because, it deals with more of the physical characteristics.

Compared to my response, I took a different approach by explaining the emotional appeal. I can relate to her response because I know how dark Poe’s writings are. I also see her points in why the skeleton looks fake. Which is true, but doesn’t change the overall elements of the photograph.

Now that I know what the photograph really is, it does not change my opinion. I still feel that the picture is dark and dreary. To me is still projects death and decay, even thought the elements are fake; they are still depicted the same way.

S. Velkoff

Posted by: Samantha V. at February 14, 2006 09:35 PM

After reading Liz’s response to the “Der Danzig Danse Macabre” picture, I saw that she wrote, “Looking at this picture reminds me of death.” I feel that was the general consensus of the entire class. She also noticed the awkward positioning of the skeleton. Liz stated, “…I think that this person might have gone through a rough death.” I think that her response was insightful and showed that she paid close attention to detail.

Personally, I was reminded of pirates when I viewed this picture, but also of death. However, now that I know what the picture is really of, I can see the beauty in it. I especially realized this beauty when I viewed the other sculptures in the church. It is amazing how something that seemed to morbid at first can be seen as beautiful if put in the right context.

Posted by: Kelsey L. at February 14, 2006 11:33 PM

Mr Hobbs,
Throughout Sam’s response, he talked mainly of the death of himself and the death of the skeleton in the photograph. Sam wrote, “I wouldn’t want to die in pain; rather I would like to die in peace.” He also stated that he would not mind dying for something that he truly believed in, rather than dying because, “he did nothing.”
Sam looked much deeper into this photograph that I would ever imagine. I mainly wrote of the way it made me feel, as opposed to what the picture itself actually meant. Sam added a very intellectual standpoint to this photograph.
I still believe that the picture is vulgar, even though I know now the picture’s true meaning. I’m happy to read Sam’s response because it enabled me to see things from an entirely different perspective.
Angela H.

Posted by: angela h. at February 15, 2006 12:17 AM


For this assignment, I was asked to evaluate Samantha's response to the skeleton photo. Upon seeing her response, I began to think about how to sum it up in a few brief sentences. However, her response was only a few sentences long, so that part was already done for me! But after studying the response, I found that Samantha basically compared the photo to death. In fact, to quote Samantha's exact words, "The elements project death and decay." This shows that the photo drew out a somewhat creepy feeling within her.

I feel that Samantha's response was somewhat emotional, similar to most other people in the class. Once again, I'll quote Samantha directly, "This picture gives me an eerie, morbid feeling." This shows that her initial reaction to the photograph was indeed one of emotion, and her response reflects that.

When comparing Samantha's response to my own, it becomes clear that we had a very different mindset. My response was more intellectual, as I compared the photo to the Jewish Holocaust. Samantha's response was more emotional, as she described the feelings that the photo invoked within her. Overall, I feel that Samantha's response was sufficient, and I wouldn't add anything to it.

My initial reaction to the photo was the thought of death, and the comparison to the Jewish Holocaust. Even though I know that picture is a scuplture, it is still a picture of a skeleton, and I'm still reminded of death. My opinions on this picture have not changed in the slightest.

Posted by: Terrell W. at February 15, 2006 02:18 AM

What I see is a person that use to be lively but now is dead inside. When I took a glimps of the corpse, the facial expression on it looked, in a way happy. Not quite sure how that's possible but it just looks that way. Not only does it seem the person is dead but also lives a barron life, like the surrounding the corpse is in. This corpse seems like it misses the past and dreds the present.

Posted by: David R at February 15, 2006 12:26 PM

Professor Hobbs;

Response to Adrianne E. post:

This Picture reminded my partner “of the war that is going on in Iraq and all the casualties that are multiplying everyday”. “The lifeless bodies are in the middle of the highways, markets, and front yards covered by sheets.” These innocent by standards are getting killed just going about there normal days. Not all are bad just certain ones are and the innocent have to pay the price. What I found insightful about my partners response is that she connected this picture to what is going on in the world all around us as we speak. She connected this picture to the bodies that lay dead in the middle of the highways, market places, and even peoples front yard. It is a gruesome experience live through. Horrible pictures are embedded in the livings minds. She stated that no the bodies are not skeletons for say but they are dead and they are in all different position like they are rag dolls just thrown on the ground were solders just walk over them. It is a game, they are playing it till one comes out the winner they don't care how many innocent individual that they kill along the way they are just trying to get to the end of the board game and be announced the winner. The number of innocent individuals is not the issue they will continue killing until one of them win or one of them forfeit. What I can add to my partners response is I see exactly were she is coming from. The victims that are laying dead or bleeding everywhere you turn. There is not a happy or beautiful seen anywhere only blood and violence. The skeleton represents the dead laying there decomposing waiting for someone to identify them,waiting for a family to lay them down to rest. These are innocent individuals without names. They will lay there until they are identified or until they turn to a skeleton and then decompose. What a wonderful way to die and what a wonderful way to be remembered. Being killed because of something a few certain individuals did is causing so many casualties and so much heartache. My assigned partners response is different from mine is that I didn't connect it to the war in Iraq. I connected it to a certain individual that left home and got into a miscommunication with another person and was killed. This person has no name and is waiting for someone to identify he or she. I had it as a individual that is waiting for a family to claim them and to bring them home and lay them to rest. This individual will not be at total rest until his or her family finds them. This is how my perception of this picture was different from my partners perception of this picture. Knowing what I know about what this picture truly mean and truly represents it does not change the way i think about the picture. This is because we all have our rights to interpret things differently, we all have the opportunity to say what we feel about a picture. We are American's we have the freedom of speech we have the right to say what we see in the picture. Even if it is truly not what it truly means. My perception of this picture will stay with me no one will change what i see in the picture they have the right to tell me what the true meaning of the picture is but they don't have the right to make me change my opinion of this picture totally. It's what I see in the picture and what I see is not going to change based upon others thoughts. This is just what I feel. You all have your rights to say and think what you want. This is what I think and it is not going to change no matter how many times someone tries to tell me different.

Jennifer G.

Posted by: Jennifer G. at February 15, 2006 12:37 PM

Professor Hobbs,

When Kelsey looked at the photograph, it reminded her of pirates due to the familiar skull and crossbones symbol that is associated with pirates. She stated that “when pirates died, their skeletons were often left where they had died,” which could be why the skeleton like object is out in the open.

Kelsey brought experiences from her life into the response by referring to the movie ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’ She felt as if the object in the photograph came directly from a movie, not necessarily that one, but definitely a pirate movie.

Kelsey’s response was similar to mine due to the fact that we both associated it with things we have seen. Although what we associated the photograph with was very different, we were both reminded of something we saw before.

I do not think that knowing what the object in the photograph is really changed what I thought about it. It still reminds me of my archaeology class, but it makes me think of different features and other artifacts found at sites rather than actual skulls and bones. In addition to that, the photograph reminds me of gothic architecture and the different objects that were used as decoration during that time.

Ali L.

Posted by: Ali L. at February 15, 2006 02:07 PM

Dr. Hobbs,

It’s amazing how different one thing can look according to certain people. Ink blotches are shown to people to try to determine their state of mind. One blotch of ink could look like a dog and a cat playing together to one person, yet look like a baby crying in a crib to another. It all depends on your state of mind.
We were given a photograph of a skeleton and told to write a response to it. In Terrell’s response, he speaks of the Jewish Holocaust, and how he was reminded of this by looking at the photograph. He explained why he felt this way and why the skeleton reminded him of the Holocaust.
I think that Terrell’s response is very “deep” and insightful. He connected his feelings with a past historical event which allows the reader to, in a sense, feel what he feels.
I found it shockingly close to what I had written about the photograph, which is odd, yet interesting. As said in my response, I believe that certain occurrences in our lives are forever burrowed into our memories. This is all, of course, dependent upon the circumstances of each occurrence. Upon making this memory, we associate a symbol, a saying, or a feeling with the occurrence. In both the cases of Terrell and myself, we associate sadness, death, and in this case, skeletons, with the Jewish Holocaust. It’s interesting to find someone who had a similar thought process upon seeing a simple picture.
It’s hard for me to say if my ideas or visions of the photograph have changed in any way considering the close relation of both of our responses. I don’t really have any changed feelings, but I do know now that even though two peoples’ opinions of something as simple as a photograph or an ink blotch can be completely different, at the same time, two peoples’ opinions can be shockingly alike.

Missy Z

Posted by: Missy Z at February 15, 2006 02:53 PM

Professor Hobbs,

Kashiff seems to associate death with terrifying experiences and ends, saying, "Seeing skeletons [creates] a picture in my mind of someone being ruthlessly murdered." The point of this mere ornament is to remind one of death, but not in the violent shadow of murder. However, it's understandable that Kashiff may be disgusted by this image, for the version we first viewed had been modified and stylized, making the origin and subject of the figure vague and eerie. While the image seemed very "plastic" and benign to me (and others), Kashiff thought the image seemed very real and threatening, continuing to say, "...it makes my stomach turn." Thankfully, we all now know that it's no more than an elaborate decoration.

Sean O.

Posted by: Sean O. at February 15, 2006 03:07 PM

Professor Hobbs,

This mini essay, written by Sam H., seems to be insightful from the very start. The picture of the skeleton brought images of death to the writer and also made him think about how his own death would play out. Knowing now that this image was once displayed in a cathedral, helps me see why they were once placed there in the first place. They were meant to bring these exact thoughts into the minds of people in order to make people think about the life that they were leading. The picture also allowed the writer to reflect on his own life. He stated that he wanted to die fighting for a cause and know that his life was worth living.

Aside from a few grammatical errors this paragraph was very well written. It seemed like it had more ideas than one would usually see in just one paragraph. Just from this one paragraph, I could see myself developing it into a whole essay. Perhaps he could concentrate more on one idea instead of so many at one time.

Emily S.

Posted by: Emily S. at February 15, 2006 03:59 PM

Professor Hobbs,

This photograph, depicting a

skeleton protruded from the ground, thoroughly

freaked me out. It reminded me of the first time

I saw the movie "Terminator 2". In the

introduction to that film, the androids (known

as Terminators) are in a war with the humans of

planet Earth. The androids get the upper hand in

the war and the Earth is littered with skulls,

skeletons and armor of the humans. There is one

scene in particular where a Terminator steps on

a human skull and then the camera zooms in up to

the face of the Terminator. This is eerie

because it reminds me that our presence on Earth

will not be eternal.

Posted by: Holden B. Jones at February 15, 2006 04:22 PM

S. Olson had a reaction similar to my own reaction. Although toward the end of his entry he seemed to have changed his mined about what he thought and what his reaction was to the picture. S. Olson thought at first glance that the picture reminded him of death. His reaction was the same as mine because at first glance I thought of death also. Although he determined that the picture looked a little fake and thought more of pirates. Where in my perspective I thought of someone suffering a long and painful death. In other word two different people in the class room had completely different perceptions of what the picture was and their reaction.

Posted by: Liz L. at February 16, 2006 07:14 PM

Kelly's response to the picture of the skeleton was short and to the point. However the first two sentences are fragments and they could have been combined. The first statement she made about how the photo reminds her of death, was a generic statement that she did not elaborate on. Aside from this fact her response was clear and concise.

-The Duke

Posted by: Holden B. Jones at February 17, 2006 12:59 AM

Professor Hobbs

Jennifer did a good job on her response even though she thought it was a real person. She described how the person died painfully in a baron place and bled to death from his severed arm. I thought that the severed arm comment was quite unique because she made a guess as to how he died. She could have just said he died from pain or agony, but she went with the severed arm and bleeding to death. Jennifer also said, “Only he knows exactly how he died and he took it to his grave.” I felt that this was an interesting comment because she assumed that he died alone from suffering. She described the baron soundings that were actually part of the architecture of the building. She said this is why she thought he was alone because there wasn’t an object in sight.
In comparison to what I wrote I think Jennifer was right on. I got the same vibe as she did form the picture. Neither of us knew that it was a piece of architecture on the side of a cathedral and we both took it as real. We both thought that the man in the picture died in great pain and we both felt compassion for him. We also both thought that the person in the picture was younger and died from unnatural causes.
I thought it was really interesting to see where the picture came from. It gave off this eerie vibe the first time I saw it and the picture of it on the side of the cathedral downplayed it a lot. It just goes to show how not being able to see all of a picture can change your perspective a lot. If I knew it was on the side of a cathedral I would have probably wrote about why the people would put it there or something and not about death like I did.

Sam H.

Posted by: Sam H. at February 17, 2006 12:47 PM

Professor Hobbs:

In the response to the photograph “Der Danzig Danse Macabre” taken by Lee Hobbs, Ali compared the picture to ones that she had seen in her archaeology class. She also goes on to relate the picture to her class and the things that she learned. She said that, “although the object looks like it is carved from stone, it does resemble the human form.” She was able to see that the skeleton-like image was in fact not real, but instead that it was manmade.

I believe that Ali’s response was more intellectual, because there were not any emotions connected to it. She just felt like the picture reminded her of her class and then she proceeded to discuss what she was learning in the class. The response that I gave was definitely different from the one Ali left. For me, personally, I thought that the picture was real. I thought that it was the remains of a child, and it made me feel remorseful for it. Knowing differently now, however, I find it quite intriguing to know that churches used skeletons to scare people away. I know that some churches uses gargoyles, but the skeletons are different from them, but are used in the same way. Also, I do not feel sad anymore for something that was not real to begin with.

Linda M.

Posted by: Linda M. at February 17, 2006 12:49 PM

After reading Angela H's response to the skeleton picture, I realized that we had similar views on the photo. She had a very emotional response as did I. She stated that her innitial feeling to the photo was an uncomfortable one.

Now that we both know that It truly wasn't as gory as first thought, I think mine as well as hers would be a little different. She really went into detail to explain what she was feeling in looking at the picture, as she thought it might have been mutalted, and been a digusting act. It actually is a religous figure that really doesnt give off that same vibe nor is the meaning the same.

Posted by: P.Beckles at February 19, 2006 04:06 PM

Professor Hobbs,

In the David's response to the picture he described several characteristics that I did not recognize. He talks about the skeleton's expressions and surroundings. In one part he says, " Not only does it seem the person is dead but also lives a barron life, like the surrounding the corpse is in." I think David's response was very intellectual.

One comment that was very insightful was that the skeleton had a smile on his face. David also states later, "This corpse seems like it misses the past and dreds the present." I thought the picture was the cause of some kind of mass destruction. It is different than my comments because his was more about the picture itself and I was trying to think a of a deeper meaning.

I do not think David or I thought it was a piece of artwork for a church. The picture looked like some type of painting and we both took it for what it was in the picture.

Posted by: Thoryn S. at February 19, 2006 08:00 PM

Professor Hobbs,

This picture makes me think of death, decay, and destruction in the world. The body of the skeleton lay on the ground in a disfigured position like it collapsed or fell like that. This picture makes me think that of a death from a bomb or some type of plague. Wars and fighting are more common today over religion and things of that nature. Death is a scary thought when thinking of how close you can be to it by wars and other world issues.

Posted by: Thoryn S. at April 23, 2006 03:22 PM


I'm sorry if this is an inappropriate method of contact, but I wanted to inquire if I could have your permission to use the photo "Danse Macabre in Danzig" to help illustrate one of my articles. I'm currently working on a series that all begin with the phrase "Danse Macabre", and then have a title pertaining to the particular topic of the day.

The first article, "Danse Macabre -- And the Band Played On [UPDATED]", appeared on DailyKos, ePluribus Media, Booman Tribune, European Tribune, Political Cortex and TPM Cafe. Here's a link to it:

There are 14 more in the planned series, listed below with their current working titles.

Danse Macabre -- A Tale of Two Cities
Danse Macabre -- The Return of Jaafar
Danse Macabre -- Bang the Drum Slowly
Danse Macabre -- The Two Towers
Danse Macabre -- The Return of the King
Danse Macabre -- Where Eagles Dare
Danse Macabre -- Into the Heart of Darkness
Danse Macabre -- The Kingdom, The Power & The
Danse Macabre -- The Crisis
Danse Macabre -- The Patriot Papers
Danse Macabre -- Schoolhouse Rock
Danse Macabre -- The Final Countdown
Danse Macabre -- To Be, or Not
Danse Macabre -- Requiem (Funeral for a Friend)

It's late, so I'm not sure if I'm just failing to find an email address for you, or if there really isn't one here. My apologies if this is not your preferred method of contact.

Thank you.


Posted by: Greyhawk at April 25, 2006 02:08 PM

Dear Prof. Hobbs,

In Linda's response, she says that the photo reminds her of a small child who was not able to live its life to the fullest. I like how Linda brings a new interpretation to the table. The dominant interpretation amongst the class was simply a skeleton protruding from the earth. But I believe that Linda's interpretation was an intersting one. I also like how she personalizes it. She says that the photo makes her feel bad for the child. That was something that made me want to read more about her response.

B. Jones

Posted by: Holden B. Jones at May 3, 2006 08:42 PM


wow, i like your style of teaching, its very creative. and you obviously take an interest in your students' opinions and insights. i am a student. i hope for a more exciting and personal teacher like you someday soon. what grade do you teach?



Hi Danica,

I currently teach at the postsecondary education level.

Thanks for the comments,


Posted by: danica at January 29, 2008 12:58 AM

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