The writing requirements for the course can be met in the following ways:
A (Weekly Reading Responses): Complete five weekly reading
responses (see schedule for due dates). Reading responses will be
scored using a simple three-point scoring system.
B (Argumentative Essays): Complete two short essays (approx. four
pages each) that each present an argument about an assigned text.
Essays will be scored using a standard essay scoring guide.
C (The Combo Burrito): Complete three weekly reading responses and
one short argumentative essay.
Weekly Reading Responses
Complete and submit FIVE reading responses during the quarter. Reading responses are due on the date noted in the schedule. No late responses will be accepted. In total, the submitted responses constitute up to 30% of the course grade.
Short response papers are due on the dates specified on the syllabus. Papers must be word-processed and handed in at the beginning of class (no email submissions accepted). Effective responses are generally around two pages in length (good ones can be longer or shorter and so can not-so-good ones).
Response papers may explore any aspect of the text that strikes you as interesting or puzzling, contrast the current week's text with one read earlier in the quarter, choose a passage of the text to close-read, or raise questions that you would like to develop in a final paper or to discuss in class. Because these papers are designed as warm-up for class discussion, they must examine the text assigned for the day on which they are due (rather than the previous week's); for the same reason, extensions will not be given on response papers under any circumstances.
The response is not a paper so you should not concern yourself with introductions and conclusions. You should, however, make every attempt to provide a coherent response and you should proofread and edit your work for clarity. Each response will be graded using the following simple scale:
|inadequate; the response was submitted on time but fails to meet the terms of the assignment|
|adequate; the response was submitted on time and meets the terms of the assignment|
|superior; the response was submitted on time and goes beyond the terms of the assignment|
Examples of Student Work
"She was only Anne": Response on Persuasion by Alejandra Gonzalez
Reading Response on The Sign of Four by Sonia Cruz
Click on the link below to look at some more exemplary reading responses produced by students for an earlier incarnation of this course.
Argumentative essays should focus on a single aspect of one of the novels and make a case for the importance of that aspect to an overall understanding of the text. Each essay should be four and no more than six pages in length and should focus on one novel studied in this class. An aspect of a text can be a particular literary device, image, pattern, development of a character, specific scene, or any other isolatable detail of the text. Topics will be provided, but in general there are a number of ways to start thinking about this type of essay, and students can use the following process to develop their own topics.
people start with a theme, a pattern, an image, or even a word.
For example, one could start with the theme of education (a pretty
big topic in several of the novels), or the pattern of parents not
caring for their children, or an image such as smoke of Coketown,
or a word such as "persuade" which gets quite a workout
Of course there are countless variations on these themes.
people start with a passage of text that strikes them as
particularly rich in terms of language, or one which is otherwise
emphasized by formal features (i.e. sophisticated rhythms, complex
structure, heightened diction, "smoothness" in sound,
particularly heavy punning, and so on), or one which seems
people start with a problem, either a problem area in the text,
such as why is Dickens so obvious about utilitarianism, or a
problem in the text such as why is Stephen Blackpool not a very
interesting character, and so on.
people start with a way of thinking about texts, such as how does
it represent women, or what role does race, class and/or gender
play, or how is power distributed, or what does the text say about
the working class, or what claims about language or knowledge does
the text make, and so on.
(Of course, good arguments usually make use of a combination of the above considerations.)
From these initial considerations a writer generates a topic. A topic is not an argument. Rather it is a field of investigation. So, for example, fathers in Middlemarch is a topic, as is one’s obligation to the past. Neither of these topics is an argument, because neither says anything about the subject. Here are a few possible topics:
issues of genre or structure (how does a novel function as
narrative? or how does a particular kind of plot function within a text
made up of multiple narratives?)
patterns of images
or metaphors (for instance, hands, light metaphors or animal images and
recurring words (persuade in Persuasion, fact in Hard
Times, and so on)
themes (women’s speech, class aspirations, control and
power, seeing and knowing)
characters (specifically how a character’s language
creates/defines the character)
Once you have a topic, spend some time planning a response to it.
In other words, "try the topic on" to see how it fits.
What specific parts of the text would you focus on? How do these
passages fit the topic? What are some of the complications that
might arise from a consideration of the whole text (i.e. the parts
that you are trying to ignore because they don’t fit your
argument), bearing in mind that complications can often be a source
of the greatest interest for writer and reader?