October 2009 Archives

Assigned Text:

Roberts, Ch 18

Assigned Text:

Mansfield, "Miss Brill"

We will meet in the Reeves Library classroom, for a research workshop that builds on your experiences with Ex 5, and prepares you for the presubmssion report.

(Halloween costumes are optional.)
Assigned Text:

Roberts, Ch 9

Assigned Text:

Shakespeare,"Sonnet 30"

Due Today:

Ex 6: Editorial

Book banning? Library budgets? Bookstore prices? Copyright and intellectual property rights?

Write an 800-word editorial on an issue related to literature -- broadly speaking. Submit by uploading to Turnitin.com. (You are welcome to blog your editorial, or submit it somewhere for publication, including The Setonian.  Most publications have "submission guidelines" that will help increase your chances of being published.)

An editorial is a form of journalism. Write shorter paragraphs than you're used to writing for academic papers. Feel free to interview experts and people on the street.

Prefer current events and widely-known examples to old, obscure ones.  (If you want to write about freedom on Huck Finn's raft, can you somehow tie it to lessons we've learned from Balloon Boy's box?  If you want to write about the fool in King Lear, can you somehow tie it to Saturday Night Live's recent spoof of Obama?)  This does not mean you should dumb down your thesis, but it does mean you are writing for the general reader, one who has not sat through the lectures and seminars you've sat through.

About Editorials

USA TODAY invites college writers and journalists to submit their work to our National Gallery of Writing. Through this gallery, we hope to build and support a community of young writers because you are our next reporters and editors!

Our curator will select the best submissions to be displayed in our gallery. And each month, of the submissions we displayed, we will select the top few pieces to be critiqued by one of our own editors.

This editor will then provide you with his/her professional feedback on the merits of your writing.

Why should you submit your work?
  • To publish your best work in a highly visible way.
  • To have staff at USA TODAY take a look at what you can do.
  • To potentially get feedback on your writing by an editor from the nation's #1 newspaper.
  • To be able to boast on your resume that your work has been published in USA TODAY's National Gallery of Writing.
  • To be a part of USA TODAY's community of up and coming journalists.
How can you submit your work?
Simple, just go to our gallery at http://galleryofwriting.org/galleries/114339.
Assigned Text:


Look in the "Opinion" or "Letters" section of any newspaper or magazine. 

Read and blog about a recent editorial -- published within the last month, at least 300 words long.  (I'm not asking you to look at short gossipy items, such as the Tribune-Review's "Laurels & Lances" feature.)

Quote from the editorial (and link to it if you can).

While I am asking you to write, for Ex 6, an editorial that relates to the academic discipline of English, for this assignment you can write about anything.

No Class

I am canceling class, in order to encourage you to attend the Holocaust conference (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday). 

There is no official assignment related to the conference, but you are welcome to use the conference as an opportunity to gather material for Ex 6 (Editorial).  I also encourage you to blog about the conference, in order to include for a future Wildcard portfolio entry.
My goal in this exercise is to give you some guided practice in research skills, at a phase when there isn't a looming draft assignment.

You will present your findings in a 2-3 page bibliographical essay, that describes your research process and evaluates your findings. I am looking for evidence that you can identify and evaluate how your authors are using their sources, that you can use the library's holdings effectively, and that you can assess your own results.  You are welcome to get help from reference librarians, or come to me for guidance, or give each other advice (but this is not a group project; I am asking everyone to demonstrate individual mastery of these important research skills).

Assignment Details

Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death."

(Aja, when you are ready, post a link from here to the blog entry you write before your presentation.)
Due Today:

Paper 2 Revision

Assigned Text:

Roberts, Ch 6

Assigned Text:

Roberts, Ch8

Please also address Masefield, "Cargoes"

You can do both in one blog entry.  (This is the same assignment that was originally listed as being due Oct 14 on the "Outline" page.  We didn't have time to discuss it, so I've pushed the discussion date back. There's no need to blog about these texts again if you've already done so.)
Assigned Text:

Spiegelman, Maus (Finish)

Assigned Text:

Spiegelman, Maus Ch 1-4

Due Today:

Portfolio 2

The instructions are the same as Portfolio 1.

This portfolio should present the work that you didn't present as part of Portfolio 1. If you have a reason to include an entry from the first part of class (maybe you have expanded it, or a new discussion has emerged on an old entry) feel free to include it -- just explain why you think it belongs in this portfolio.
Signing Up

No more than 2 students per class period. Sign up by posting a comment indicating that you'd like to present for the day.  I'll respond by creating a separate blog entry listing you as a presenter (putting you on the agenda for the day.)  Please sign up at least two class periods ahead of your requested date.

The Presentation

Perform a close reading of a selection (3 minutes), AND introduce a peer-reviewed scholarly work (3 minutes) that you can use to launch a discussion (5-10 minutes) on a non-obvious, non-trivial point related to the reading. ("The reading" might include a literary work mentioned in Roberts, or the primary text we're scheduled to discuss for the day.)  I will help the discussion along, but you're free to set your own goals.

I suggest that you prepare by writing a richly-linked, informal blog post, which explains your inquiry process. This can be conversational, and it can mention dead ends and false leads.

Rather than read from this blog entry during class, I ask instead that you prepare a different presentation, one that emphasizes the strongest points you've found at the end of your inquiry (rather than walking us through the whole process that led you here.)

After the presentation, e-mail me a reflective summary, in which you assess the class reaction.
Due Today:

Ex 4: Review

1) Read and analyze a professional book review of a recent book you have read (for class or for pleasure). Blog a brief response, linking to the review if possible. How does this book review differ from other genres that you have read? What is the audience for a book review? How well does the book reviewer know the book?  How does a book review differ from a plot summary or a SparkNotes analysis?

2) Write your own book review, 2-3 pages. Upload to Turntin.com.

Note that people read book reviews in order to determine whether they want to invest the time in purchasing the book.

A book review is written for a reader who has not read the work.

This is very different from a literary analysis, where you're constantly reminded that your intended reader already knows the book well.

Tips and Guidelines

Jargon and Genre

If you are familiar with the fan following of any work, you might be used to talking with other people who share your background knowledge of the genre. Rather than 1) using obscure genre-specific terms without any explanation, or 2) interrupting your essay frequent interruptions, so that your reader knows the difference between a k'tharn (a sword used by the Plains nomads in the realm of the Unknown Times, with a core of cursed blood taken from a clan enemy's heart) and a ba'tti'kak (kind of like a small k'tharn, only way awesomer), reduce your reliance on jargon. (If the jargon is especially well-handled, or especially confusing, it's worthwhile to note that in a section on its own.)


Rather than writing for the fans (who already have their own opinions), consider writing for a reader who is new to the genre. Is this work a good introduction? What more mainstream literary works or movements are echoed in the book you've chosen?

Suggested Readings

The Purdue Online Writing Lab has a brief handout, Writing a Book Review, which begins by explaining the difference between a "book report" (written for the teacher who assigned it, by a student who is trying to prove he or she read an assigned text) and a "book review" (written for an interested reader who has not yet read the book, and who is in fact trying to decide whether to invest the time and money).

How to Write a Book Review (Bill Asenjo)
  • Hook the reader with your opening sentence. Set the tone of the review. Be familiar with the guidelines -- some editors want plot summaries; others don't. Some want you to say outright if you recommend a book, but not others.
  • Review the book you read -- not the book you wish the author had written.
  • If this is the best book you have ever read, say so -- and why. If it's merely another nice book, say so.
  • Include information about the author-- reputation, qualifications, etc. -- anything relevant to the book and the author's authority.
Book Reviews (Colorado State University)
A review is a critical essay, a report and an analysis. Whether favorable or unfavorable in its assessment, it should seem authoritative. The reviewer's competence must be convincing and satisfying. As with any form of writing, the writer of a book review is convincing through thorough study and understanding of the material, and opinions supported by sound reasoning. (See this document on reviewing nonfiction, poetry, and other types of books, including travel and children's)

Slashdot Book Review Guidelines
(These are written for the benefit of highly technical readers who know a lot about the subject but may not have much experience writing for a general readership.)

The style tips apply pretty well to any informative writing.) 
  • Avoid cliches (this book, which is better than sliced bread, cuts through the clutter to break down to the nuts and bolts of the real brass tacks at the heart of the matter). Write plainly.
  • Go easy on the exclamation marks and glib hyperbole ("This book belongs on every developer's desk!" sounds too much like "You're not going to pay a lot for this muffler!")
  • Be cautious in general about suprelatives [sic] and strong adjectives. Don't say a book is "unsurpassed" or "the best available" on a given topic without doing some actual comparisons to likely contenders. Some other words of praise or derision are often used with too little backing evidence: rather than just calling a book "excellent," "sloppy," "boring," etc., provide concrete examples from the text that demonstrate these qualities.
  • Watch your background. Even if each one is sensible by itself, too many adjectives in a sentence (or a review) makes it look like adjective soup. In particular, intensifiers like "very" and "extremely" in most cases can be excised to everyone's benefit.
  • Rhetorical questions are fine in small doses, but not large ones. More than a few rhetorical questions in a review can make it sound breathless and silly.

Due Today:

Paper 2 Draft

The full assignment is a 6-8 page literary research paper, that uses both primary and secondary sources to defend a non-obvious argument about one or several literary works we have studied in class.

For the draft, I'd welcome a full attempt at a 6-8 page paper, but I'd accept a complete paper of 5 or even 4 pages at this stage -- I just won't be able to give you the same level of feedback.

See Also:

Short Research Papers

This document focuses on the kind of short, narrowly-focused research papers you might encounter early in a course, when professors want a quick peek at your abilities.

Integrating Good Sources
If your college instructor wants you to cite every fact or opinion you find in an outside source, how do you make room for your own opinion?

Review: Thesis Statements; Blueprinting
Finish the book.
The outline originally had this listed for Oct 2, but I've delayed it so you can have some extra time to work on it.

Paper 2 is a 6-8 page research paper. (See my online handout Short Research Papers.)

The presubmission report is not a rough draft of your paper.  Think of it as a proposal.  Many students report that, once they get the presubmission approved, the paper almost writes itself. 

When you submit it, you're giving me the opportunity to assess your preparation skills, before you launch into the business of connecting all the dots and shaping a whole essay.
The word "essay" comes from a French word that means "attempt."
The secret is to make more a greater percentage of of your intellectual discoveries before you commit to churning out the sentences and crafting the paragraphs. (You may still have a last-minute revelation, since the essay is our laboratory, and we won't know how solid we've made our case until we actually put it to the test.)

Upload to the Turnitin.com slot a single MS-Word document (about 3 pages) that contains the following sections.

Assignment Details
Read the middle third (about pages 100-200).
Read the first third (about 100 pages).

Recent Comments

Karyssa Blair on Paper 3 Revision: Thank you! I was worried I wou
Dennis G. Jerz on Paper 3 Revision: That's right, you have until T
Karyssa Blair on Paper 3 Revision: Dr. Jerz, I was wondering, by
Kayla Lesko on Portfolio 4: http://blogs.setonhill.edu/Kay
Kayla Lesko on Roberts, Ch 10 and Ch 16: Ch. 10: http://blogs.setonhill
Dave on Portfolio 4: http://blogs.setonhill.edu/Dav
Kayla Lesko on Dickens, A Christmas Carol (Finish): http://blogs.setonhill.edu/Kay
Aja Hannah on Roberts, Ch 10 and Ch 16: http://blogs.setonhill.edu/Aja
Kayla Lesko on Dickens, A Christmas Carol (Staves 1-3): http://blogs.setonhill.edu/Kay
Aja Hannah on Chekhov, "The Bear": Not True Love http://blogs.se
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