The Great American Blog—250 / 25%: Over the course of the semester, each of you will compose 5 blog posts of 400-500 words (not including quotations), each relating to our work in this course. I will grade these posts as they are written, and include them as I organize the conversation for each day. I expect your posts to be polished, free of excessive errors, properly formatted, and they should, at times, incorporate various forms of media and external reference (images, video embeds, links to other sites or posts, and so on).
You will never be scheduled to post during the weeks we are discussing the novel you are researching for your major paper, or the weeks immediately following. Never blogged before using the WordPress platform? Not problem, just check out these instructions. As you review the instructions, please pay close attention to the use of categories. There are four dedicated categories, and you must post in at least three of them across the semester: “CloseRead,” “NovelWorlds,” “AfterShocks,” “Creative.” Here’s what each category is about:
- “CloseRead”: In these posts, please practice your skills at literary explication, also known as “close reading.” The goal here is to pay attention to the texts’s particulars–to characters, narrative strategies, structure, themes, motifs, and so on. Even in a course where we will do our best to situate each novel within its cultural and historical context, we can’t forget matters of style and form: we must read through them, rather than around them. To achieve the highest possible points for these posts, you must quote from the text and stay close to the textual particulars even as you make a case for their broader significance. Also, assume an external readership, which means you should set up quotes and scenes using narrative cues (e.g. “in an early Chapter when the protagonist finds himself in the midst of a Battle Royal”) rather than textual cues (e.g. “on page 32”). It is assumed that you will be quoting extensively in these posts. Make sure you provide page numbers for quotes.
- “NovelWorlds”: Each book we read in this class occupies a distinct “novel world.” And each of these “novel worlds” reflects a distinct reality: the book takes place at a particular time and a particular set of places that we can, for the most part, determine. But each novel world also reflects the author’s cultural and historical context, which guides that author’s selection or avoidance of certain historical and geographical particulars, or inspires the fabrication of these particulars (these are, after all, fictional works). For these posts, you can choose between attending to the cultural-historical background of the text or the cultural-historical background of its author around the time of composition. For these posts, it is important that you refer to something outside the text: a scholarly article a contemporary periodical–anything that will allow you to frame what is happening in the novel by looking outside of its borders. These are, in that sense, research-based posts: they involve actively engaging outside sources. How ambitious and inventive you are in selecting those outside sources will be reflected in your grade. A wikipedia entry is the easiest route to take, and unless your use of it is remarkably adept and subtle, it will not likely earn you an “A.” Do your best to locate interesting primary sources–historical periodicals, old ads, letters the author wrote, news accounts of events from the time of the novel, and so on. These posts are all about recovering the historical texture–all those ideas, events, and people that bring an era or a historical moment to life.
- “AfterShocks”: Once we get beyond the text and the cultural-historical contexts surrounding and impacting that text, where do we go? Well, we move forward. Each text we will read has a legacy, an afterlife–or, as I put it, many distinct aftershocks. How, you will ask yourself in your “AfterShock” posts, does this text live on today? What are its legacies? When does an author’s name enter contemporary conversations? These are serious questions, of course. But you can also take on the matter of adaptations–how books live in and through other media. These novels have been transformed into movies, video-games, and fan fictions; their problems are often our own.
- Creative: These posts can range from bits of fan fiction, to stylistic imitations, to parodies, to inspirations. These posts must be framed by some explanatory material discussing your goals.