When teaching courses that introduce students to research, I like to do various activites that require them to set foot within the library. A few year ago, I had the class read Joyce Carol Oates’s oft-anthologized short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Typically, students enjoy the story and get sucked into the mystery surrounding Arnold Friend and his ultimate seduction of Connie. After students read the story, I inform them that Oates received inspiration from various sources. Initially, she read an article in Life about a killer in Arizona. The man targeted teenage girls and murdered them. At this point, I give the class an assignment that requires them to find the initial story that Oates read.
To begin with, students must find an article by Tom Quirk. In the article, Quirk discusses the real life antecedent for Arnold Friend and the magazine article that inspired Oates. The article, “A Source for ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have you been?'” is easy to find using a database like Ebscohost. Students must find the article, read it, then summarize it. After they find Quirk’s essay, they must find the Life article that he discusses. This article cannot be found readily online. Instead, students must go to the physical stacks in the library and find the article. Again, once the students find this article, they must read it and summarize it.
After they find both articles, students must provide a one to two page paper describing the process they went through to find both articles. This involves them providing a step-by-step summary of what they did, both online and in person, to find both articles. This typically results in a one to page description of the students’ research process. Having students write about their steps in finding the sources provides me with a good gauge of of their research skills and abilities. It does not provide me with a. Complete picture, but it does give me a point where I can catch problems that they may have in their research abilities.
In relation to having the class find the above mentioned articles, I have them search the Internet to see what songs inspired Oates’s story and what songs were inspired by Oates’s story. To begin with, students need to look at who Oates dedicates the story to: Bob Dylan. This provides them with a key hint about what songs served as inspiration. Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”
and “Mr. Tambourine Man”
provided Oates with a spark to write her story. She discusses these songs because they both have an element of fairy tales in them, similar to Arnold Friend’s seduction of Connie. They have magical and moralistic elements.
Finding the song that drew its inspiration from Oates’s story becomes a little harder. The Blood Brothers’ “The Salesman, Denver Max”
replicates the story in sonic detail. (The song is below.) Students can hear the seductive, mysterious voice of Arnold Friend as he tries to lure Connie out of her house and past the screen door. When Connie crosses the threshold, the song delves into chaos and explosive fits. Have students listen to The songs mentioned here and think about how they relate to Oates’s story. Have them examine the tone and how that tone gets relented musically.
The above is a just a brief assignment that could be done with any number of texts. What are some assignments like this that you do in your classroom? Let me know in the comments to below.
Note: I did not provide the titles of the Tom Quirk or Life articles because I do not want students to use this site as a shortcut to finding them.