"The Night Face Up" by Julio Cortázar

"He went on thinking - rode the motorcycle, savoring the ride."   

"he would not wake, that he was awake...a dream in which he had ridden...with an enormous metal insect that buzzed beneath his legs.  "

Lesson Overview 

 The very first reading quiz.   Before that, as the students are walking in, they grab a handout on a desk which has the lyrics to the Talking Head's song "Once in a Lifetime" which is playing during this passing period.  When the bell rings - I pass out the reading quiz (see my page on that).  After the quiz - I begin by explaining that in Greek Mythology there were two gates that dreams passed through on their way to the sleeping. 1) The Gate of Horn (through which true and prophesizing dreams pass) and 2) The Gate of Ivory (through which false and misleading dreams pass).    We then begin with a two-part discussion  - 1) Have you ever woke up from a dream thinking what was happening in the dream was real?  We get plenty of answers from the students - a great way to break the ice - to recover from that first quiz.  Then 2) Have you ever woken up somewhere new (on a trip or a friend's house?) and thought for just a second that it was "a dream" you were now in.  Then I ask the students - "What is the difference between those two states of mind?".  That sets us up for the discussion.  We begin with a volunteer to describe the plot.  And then I ask the students a BIG question.  "How many of you believe that the story is about a modern man dreaming of an Aztec World - OR how many of you believe it is an Aztec man dreaming of our own time?"  I give the student 5-10 minutes to look through the text (Ahhhh it begins) to find proof for their point of view (remind them to write it down).  Then we discuss what they come up with.  I play the devil's advocate - pushing, probing, questioning.  

Finally, I have two students come up to the front of the room.  I give one student the part from the beginning that describes the modern man on a motorcycle - I give another student the part at the end where the Aztec sees his dream of riding on a metal insect.  I instruct them to read at the same time - and ask the class to try and listen and process their words simultaneously.  They read - and it is invariably amazing.  I then say "Which is the Gate of Horn?  Which is the Gate of Ivory - it is up to the reader."  I ask the class which is the real story - and almost always some wonderful student will say "It doesn't matter which is real...".  And that sets the tone for the rest of the year.  With any time left I play the Talking Heads song "City of Dreams"

My Lesson Notes (2016/2021) - Hand written notes - I often use numbers and letters to help me keep things organized.

The Story

The Text by itself and with notes

The Story: Docx  PDF - For "The Night Face Up" 

The Text with my Notes: PDF


Most Recent Handouts & Quizzes

Reading Quiz: DocPDF - For "The Night Face Up" (notice the space to check if they did the reading)

Handout #1  DOC x  PDF  Two Songs by The Talking Heads that pertain very much to this story - "Once in a Lifetime" and "City of Dreams".  There is also the reading schedule for the next Three Classes, and the first book, "The History of Love" that the students should order.  There is also a short poem about transformation "Butterfly" by Zhuangzi.

Older Versions of Handouts:
A Group Work on the Story (I couldn't be there one day) Docx   PDF

Audio Visual Content

Here is the opening song  of the lesson -  and the closing song


        Remote Enhancements (could also be used for focus enhancement in person) 

                           Remote PowerPoint (from 2020) helping focus the questions and give instructions for the activity



The students did their end of the year project on this short story one year - when I find it , I will put it here.

Class Recordings (for registered members)



What's Next - Unit Homepage

"Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne - now that they've learned that truth is often "hard" - they will next take a look at how it is often ambiguous.


  The Opening Class - The Wayfarer

Thoughts on the Lesson 

I love this lesson for so many reasons.  It gives us a chance to get to know each other.  Everyone has dream and/or sleepwalking and/or waking up in a strange place stories.  It also has three key elements that will appear throughout the year: 1) Looking for textual evidence (you can say anything you want about a text - as long as you back it up).  2) It has elements in the lesson that the students are allowed to infer or put together (for instance the songs that bookend the lesson).  3) The lesson ends with the HUGE idea that it doesn't really matter if the man is modern or Aztec - what matters is the text.