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.

Responses are due by 9:00 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.

English 121 will require you to write responses according to the nature of the day's reading.

Stage-setting responses will begin with a quotation of a short passage (up to ten lines, quoted in full and cited) from the first act of a play. These responses will focus on how Shakespeare uses the passage to call our attention to some specific issue or question we can follow in the rest of the play.

Middle acts responses are like stage-setting responses in that they include the same kind of quotation and analysis), with the change that they can focus on the way Shakespeare develops or changes something from the first act in the ones that follow.

Final acts responses, logically enough, do the same thing but focus on the culmination in Acts IV and V of some issue or question we have already discussed in class.

In all these cases, the response itself should be less than 400 words, and everyone should print all the responses, read them carefully, and bring them to class.

Film responses are a little different. These responses should include the same kind of quotation from the play (with a citation from Shakespeare's text), but they will focus on some decision the director or actors have made in bringing the play to the screen. Because we will be watching films the evening before we discuss them, these responses should be posted at least an hour before class (so I can see them), and nobody needs to print and read them. The writers of the responses will read them aloud in class.

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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