Review of Week 1 (Jan 10, 12)
[by Dr. Seaman]
On the first day of the new semester, we met for our regular class meeting as well as our weekly “Fourth Hour” at 5:30. We spent much of that first day doing the usual new-class business: going over the syllabus, including the course schedule, and making a first attempt at getting to know one another. I explained what our particular class shares with all ENGL 110 classes (focusing intently on academic writing) and pointed to qualities that distinguish it from others, primarily in terms of the content that will be at the center of our analyses and writing (“Revising Cultural Prescriptions,” as the subtitle of the course puts it). We took a look at the course blog to see where to find information that you will need in the first weeks of class (and beyond) and to ensure that everyone knew how to access it in order to make their first blog posts by Friday morning’s deadline. We then offered statements about ourselves to see if the class deemed it a true or false statement, and in the process we collected some intriguing information about the members of our class, including that some are afraid of spiders, others teach sailing, or are from Virginia, can perform magic tricks, are majoring in computer science, and even have a heart condition.
During the Fourth Hour, we got started on the book They Say / I Say, which will provide us with some practical strategies for generating ideas suitable to argumentative essays and for structuring those ideas into paragraph and essay form. While everyone in the room has written argumentative essays before, everyone also could benefit from thinking differently about that process, and from thinking about it as a process that is part of a tradition of writing with a range of conventions that can be understood in terms of recurring formulas. We discussed the theory behind this approach as well as the authors’ explanation of the approach’s success. We analyzed their stated aim of “Demystifying Academic Conversation” (the title of the Preface to the book) and tried out some of the templates they offered in the Preface and Introduction to the book. We then analyzed their title for the book, “They Say / I Say,” in terms of their insistence that good argumentative writing depends on listening well to the conversation that has been already occurring on the topic and then presenting one’s own views in terms of that discussion. We ended the Fourth Hour by working in small groups on the template at the end of the Introduction to the book, then building together as a class a summary and response to Graff and Birkenstein’s introduction.
On Thursday, students wrote their diagnostic essays in response to an essay from Acting Out Culture, by Schulte: “The Case of the Purloined Paper.” These will not be graded but will be used to give me a sense of what the class seems adept at and what might perhaps benefit from some special attention. You also signed up Review of the Week duties for the semester.
I wish I’d been able to take note of pertinent ones, so that I might share them with you here. In future, those producing the review will note passages from the readings and visual texts that draw significant attention during class discussion, and they will also present here any observations or questions offered during class discussion that seem especially useful or entertaining.
I wasn’t able to (see note above under “Noteworthy quotes”) take note of any beyond what is included in the “overview” above. In the future, any terms in Acting Out Culture or They Say / I Say that require our attention in class discussion should be included here.
Preview of Week 2 (Jan 17, 19)
[by Dr. Seaman]
On Tuesday we will be considering “productive class dialogue.” Toward the end of They Say / I Say the authors show how the writing strategies of the book might be usefully adapted to the conversation that happens in the classroom. We will consider what the authors are emphasizing in the parallel they set up between these two situations and will consider the kinds of advice they provide, in terms of previous classroom discussion experiences as well as the one we are engaging on together.
We will also discuss the Introduction to Acting Out Culture, where the book’s author, MIller, lays out the thematic orientation of the book and explains the particular approaches it will be encouraging us to take in our own critical engagement with contemporary culture, including popular culture. One question guiding our discussion will be: “What do norms, scripts, rules, roles have to do with analyzing popular culture?” You might consider this especially as you prepare the reading for Tuesday. Consider, too, what Miller is trying to demonstrate through different examples and analogies, such as the extended discussion of the history of the seat belt law. What, in such cases, does he seem to be trying to encourage us to consider? At the end of class on Tuesday, we will discuss in depth the assignment for Project 1.
Tuesday’s Fourth Hour will be committed to the issue of plagiarism. Academic writing skills require a sophisticated understanding of plagiarism, as a range of actions rather than just one type (that is, bold-faced, deliberate misrepresentation of others’ ideas as your own). Our culture is, more broadly, in a moment of transition of sorts in terms of what we might call intellectual property, which makes the issue of plagiarism even more fascinating. We will consider the kinds of responses Schulte’s essay encouraged in you all, as part of that discussion.
Thursday we will begin our discussion, through They Say / I Say, of strategies for summarizing responsibly and critically. We will begin the first unit of Acting Out Culture, focusing on “How We Believe.” Miller’s introduction to the section in AOC will alert us to some of the ongoing concerns addressed by the essays collected in this section of the book. We will then discuss Dickerson’s “The Great White Way,” the first of the two essays in AOC that will be available for you to summarize in Project 1. We will consider how race might be, as Dickerson claims, “a failure of the American imagination,” and will analyze how she uses her many examples to support her central and subsidiary claims.