Rail yard background, from the Library of Congress


A Hypertext Resource for Literature

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Responses are not essays or themes: they do not need to support a single argument or provide a neat introduction and conclusion. Responses can include questions for the class, conjectures, gut feelings, and speculations. They should, however, provide specific textual evidence for whatever points they want to make. (In other words, quote readings specifically, with page numbers, rather than referring vaguely to them.) Responses should represent a first attempt to make sense out of the assignment, an effort to get the bits and pieces you have marked in the reading to hang together in some way. In grading them, I will reward careful presentation of textual evidence, intellectual risk-taking, and efforts to provide material for class discussion. I also expect you to write in standard prose, as opposed to the less formal language of electronic communication. In some cases, the assignment will ask you to address a topic or answer a question. Other times, I will leave the assignment open-ended.

Responses are due by 11:00 the evening before the class for which they are assigned. Because the success of this course depends on our ability to read and consider responses in advance of each class session, late responses will incur severe grade penalties: the maximum grade for a late response will be a C.

Here's how I imagine you doing these assignments:

  1. Having finished the reading, you page back through what you have read, scanning over the things you've marked. You look at the clock and note with satisfaction, or even a touch of smugness, that you have left ample time to think through your ideas, write a careful response, and edit your prose.

  2. You sit at a computer and type. You do this in a word-processing program so that your prose does not rely on the good spirits of computer networks.

  3. You type a response of fewer than 400 words and read it over, editing and revising it as you please. If you get carried away and write more than 400 words, you then choose the parts you most want us to read, contense the response to fewer than 400 words and bring your other ideas to class for discussion. You take the time you have left between writing and the deadline to read your response aloud and edit it for clarity.

  4. You login to Pioneer Web, then copy and paste your response into the appropriate place on the discussion board, then save your original document in case anything goes wrong with the post.

Should you have trouble with the Pioneer Web server for any reason, send an email to the class (including me) with your response, and post it to the discussion board when the technical problems are resolved.

These responses will be fodder for class discussions and for papers. Each student should print all the responses for each class and mark potential comments or questions. I might collect your copies of the responses occasionally to see how well this process is working.

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