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English 120
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Assignments

Summary of Assignments for This Class

Conferences
Responses
Midterm Exam
Critical Voice Papers
Final Exam

Conferences

You will be required to meet with me at least three times during the term, including an introductory conference at the beginning of the term. (Naturally, you are welcome to consult me more than three times.) If all goes well, this should be a pleasant requirement to fulfill; I just want to let you know the conferences are coming. All I ask--nay, beg--is that you show up when we agree that we'll meet. If you really really can't do so, please email me to let me know not to wait for you.

Responses

This assignment was adapted from one given by Michael Barsanti

Responses

This assignment was adapted from one given by Michael Barsanti

There are many assignments due for this class that are called "Responses." Students are often confused by these assignments, in part because they are less formal than what they have been asked to write for classes in the past. These 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, a first attempt at getting 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. Be fearless: the correctness of these preliminary thoughts is not a factor. Responses are due by 9:00 pm the evening before the class for which they are assigned.

Here's how I imagine you doing these assignments:

You read the assigned readings, and mark them up accordingly with passages that strike you. In some cases, you may be assigned to follow a particular theme or answer a particular question. Other times, I will leave the assignment open-ended.

  1. Having finished the reading, you page back through what you have read, scanning over the things you've marked.
  2. You sit at a computer and type. (You do this in a word-processing program. Blackboard is incredibly unreliable as a text editor, and as a couple of students and I have discovered, it will sometimes forget what you have typed if you try anything tricky.) You can be tentative, speculative, or downright wrong about what you're saying.
  3. You type 300 or so words (one page single spaced) and read it over, fiddling with it as you please and editing for clarity.
  4. You copy and paste your response into the appropriate place on the class discussion board. Should you have trouble with the discussion board server for any reason, send an email to the class (including me) with your response, and post it to the 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.

Midterm Exam

The midterm exam will test the material the class has covered before spring break. It will test critical terms we have discussed, both in the abstract and as they apply to literary works we have read together. We will discuss the exam in more detail as it approaches.

Critical Voice Papers

While the responses ask you to write in your own voice, as it were, about the texts we read, the critical voice papers ask you to work on modeling your writing after the critics we read, from Aristotle to the present. You will do three of these papers, each of which should be 600-800 words; the three deadlines are listed in the syllabus above. For each paper, you have two options: you can either apply a critic's ideas to a specific text, explaining the text through a lens the critic offers us, or you can actually imitate the critic's voice as closely as you can, paying attention to sentence structure, style, and diction. The only requirement of the latter approach is that the imitation be serious and respectful. Satire has its placea large and important placebut it is not the place I want these papers to occupy.

Final Exam

The final exam will be cumulative; that is, it will test material from the entire term, not just the part after spring break. It will be similar to the midterm in structure, but the additional time of the final will allow more extensive and open-ended essay questions.