SEL 150 Portfolio 2

As Unit 2 draws to a close, it is an appropriate time to reflect on the progress of EL 150 blogging. My initial unfamiliarity with online writing has faded; in the categories of depth, riskiness and timeliness, I have displayed significant improvement. In other areas, like intertextuality and discussion, I have not performed as well for various reasons. I will conclude with an examination of my progress in the EL 150 course goals, which demonstrate my growth as a reader and writer in the course. The following analysis accounts for new achievements, maintained successes and as always, reflections on how to improve.

Depth

Though my last portfolio analysis showed considerable achievement in the category of depth, these more recent posts have accomplished depth even more completely. In “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” “The River,” and “The Artificial Nigger,” I jumped at the opportunity to examine religious themes. I structured my responses in each entry around a central idea and provided plentiful textual evidence to support my claims. Upon review of these posts, I found that I also successfully addressed more than one literary element in each entry. For example, in The Artificial Nigger,” I used symbolism and plot to explain theme, instead of summarizing theme. These posts contained detail and complexity; perhaps this is because I truly enjoyed O’Connor’s short stories.

It’s no surprise that my other posts of significant depth were also responses to O’Connor’s works.  “Good Country People” definitely reached the “evaluating” level of Bloom’s taxonomy; instead of restating character traits of Hulga and Manley Pointer, I explained their respective changes in the course of the story and how O’Connor created a theme through their dynamic progress. Lastly, I spent considerable time and effort on the story of my choice from the O’Connor collection. In “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” I paid attention to the fact that readers of the blog, namely other students in EL 150, would not be familiar with the plot. Thus, I briefly summarized its major points before delving into a rich analysis of the significance of color in the story.

Overall, the strength of the depth category has increased since Portfolio 1. As promised in my previous reflections, I devoted more time to careful reading and sincere thought before crafting a post that could do justice to the story. My improvement in this category could be because I happened to enjoy O’Connor more than The Book Thief or Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, but I realize now that I am capable of solid, timely writing about meaningful topics in any text if I devote time and effort to the response.

Riskiness

O’Connor’s short stories kicked off the riskiness category for this unit. Because of my excitement about religious themes, I lost most of my hesitation of blogging about less comfortable topics. I stretched interpretation, searched deeply for evidence and presented arguments that were risky, especially because I knew that they would not achieve much support from readers. I could have shied away from deeply Catholic readings, but I stepped outside of my comfort zone with writing and touched on, I think, the essence of several of the stories. The first post of riskiness, of the O’Connor responses, was “A Good Man is Hard to Find.” The post was late, but I think this was necessary to develop the risky ideas that I published. Before class started, Danielle, Esther and I engaged in a lively discussion about our interpretations of the story. That informal conversation inspired some of my risky ideas in that post.

I also made bold claims in The Artificial Nigger.” It was so tempting to focus on race as the main issue of the story, but I decided to overcome that inclination and write about a more thought-provoking and perhaps less popular opinion. I aimed to understand the title’s significance and the journey of the characters as a whole, instead of one element of their relationship or actions. Truthfully, I was disappointed to see that my post received no comments from my peers. This embodies one of my hesitations about the nature of online interactions. Unfortunately, the course of discussion during class never came close enough to my post’s topics for a reasonable interjection, though it was fruitful in other ways.

My “Reflections on ‘The River‘” was also a rather risky post, but on a smaller scale than the aforementioned O’Connor entries. I was bold with my assertions about connotation and the ways in which words signaled the appropriate reader reaction to Bevel’s death. It was rather unusual for me to state an opinion; I feel that on most occasions, when asked to blog during class, I would have written a half-hearted collection of meaningless words, instead of a declarative post that made an arguable statement.

I am pleased to find, upon reexamining my posts, that the trend of riskiness was not only in responses to O’Connor. “Writing Effective Dialogue” was an attempt to employ the tactics in Dr. Jerz’s post. Riskiness in this post is found in my bold choice of topic. The simple conversation between friends deals with a topic that usually causes me to roll my eyes and stop reading, but I challenged myself to convey a complicated emotional issue in dialogue. In high school, I was taught that these topics ought to be avoided, but I never considered why. I realize now that high school students, who may have enough experience with the topic, may not be equipped with the writing skills to avoid cliche and write the topic effectively. But I shouldn’t have to avoid potentially cliche topics like this forever. I can, as Pound supposedly said, “Make it new.”

More Story Tips” was a rather brief post, but I squished some riskiness into it by choosing and applying a single idea to my own writing. Instead of blindly summarizing and repeating the content from the handout, I isolated an idea, applied it thoughtfully to my writing, and avoided the fallback of summary. (Again, this is in accord with the levels of Bloom’s taxonomy.) The riskiness category has seen remarkable improvement since my last portfolio. It seems that I am more comfortable now with posting my ideas and accepting arguments from classmates that may be contrary to my interpretations.

Intertextuality

Intertextuality was a solid section in Portfolio 1, but it took a hit in this unit. I made far fewer blatant references to outside sources, like my philosophy course and other research. However, my lively engagement with O’Connor’s writing allowed my to incorporate Catholicism into my response posts. All of O’Connor’s stories provided this opportunity; I managed the references appropriately, without overwhelming readers with doctrinal allusions or blindly aligning myself to Catholic tradition; I was careful to avoid relying on religion alone to guide interpretation of the stories. I think engaging literature with another topic, even religion, is a display of intertextuality. Good Country People” was my strongest post in this section. Using notes from our excellent class discussion, I returned to my original post to expand, revise and update. In the update, I referenced Jack directly because his ideas were related to mine; by including him as a reference, I was able to expand my response and develop my ideas.

In hindsight, intertextuality suffered during this unit. In reflecting on why this occurred, I came to the following conclusion: In the last portfolio, I wrote, “Forming connections between blog posts and other sources, such as classmate’s blogs, other courses and other works of literature is one of my favorite ways to create a blog entry.” I used relationships between ideas to stimulate ideas for blog posts. In this unit, however, I was so enamored by the richness of O’Connor’s stories that I folded the stories into themselves; instead of connecting the responses to outside concepts, I related separate elements within the stories, such as theme and symbolism or diction and tone. I think the reading assignments for this unit, namely O’Connor’s stories, were of a completely different nature than the assignments from the last unit, like The Book Thief, Lemire and The Piano Lesson. Therefore the lack of intertextuality in this unit did not damage my writing; in fact, my writing improved though I made fewer references to outside sources. For the nature of these reading assignments, I think the decrease in intertextuality was appropriate. 

 Discussion

Discussion, like intertextuality, were not as strong in this portfolio, though my efforts increased since the last unit. For “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “The River,” I commented on nearly every post from my classmates with thoughtful responses to their ideas. I also spent a fair amount of time reading “Writing Effective Dialogue,” but I did not offer commentary as frequently as I should have. As mentioned previously, an in-class discussion with fellow classmates led to a lively discussion on Danielle’s post. That conversation, which included several people and an exciting exchange of ideas, was the best discussion of this unit, at least online.

My blog entries are curiously lacking in comments from my peers. My entries, which I thought were pretty good writing, received only a few comments from my classmates. I thought that timely posts and clear ideas would make classmates eager to read, but I think the depth of my entries turned some students away. In the next unit and to enhance the portions of my blog that are technically “complete” for course purposes, I will pay special attention to responding to comments on my blog quickly, and ensuring that I voice my appreciation that a student took the time to read my work.

Though this point does not relate directly to reflection on blog entries, I have found that discussions in class have improved. When we vacated the middle of the room and sat facing each other, with Dr. Jerz generally silent at the front of the room, we engaged in a thoughtful, serious discussion about the “The Artificial Nigger,” sharing reactions, ideas, interpretations and questions. I recall that we did the same for “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and “The River,” though that was less student-led. It seems that we thrive on student-led discussion.

Timeliness

Timeliness is my most improved category since the last portfolio. It may have taken half the semester, but I’m finally learning to manage my course load. I posted several entries significantly early and I treated the posts as writing instead of as homework. This is evident through the richness of my other categories, especially depth. One example of my efforts to create a fully developed blog was to return to the last unit to complete a blog post, “Wilson, The Piano Lesson, Act 2.” I also posted Good Country People” four days early and The Artificial Nigger” at least a day in advance.

The general improvement in class discussions and my increased participation both indicate that I have prepared the assigned materials for class. My other posts, including “Profile” and “Writing Effective Dialogue” were posted at least twenty-four hours before class.

Coverage

Though blogging has improved overall, some posts achieved nothing but completion. “Short Story Tips” and “IWP Analysis” were not timely and they did not engage any deeper thought. Still, I aimed with every post to at least achieve the level of “applying” in Bloom’s taxonomy. As I practice writing more frequently, I am better able to recognize the terrible habit of spewing out useless words of summary. The coverage section of this portfolio is better than the last, but still leaves ample room for improvement.

Conclusion

After examining all of my blog posts and evaluating them in the six categories, I conclude that I have improved overall since the last portfolio analysis, despite my setbacks in discussion and intertextuality. My commitment to quality work has only increased; these opportunities for analysis allow me to see the areas that need attention and those that indicate success. This success is measurable by my growth in the course objectives. In the last portfolio, I could confidently determine progress in only one course objective. However, I now see considerable accomplishments in the following goals:

“Comprehend and interpret literature written in English, representing a wide range of genres, styles, and cultures.”

“Analyze a variety of literature in discussion and in the writing of critical essays.”

My progress in depth and riskiness demonstrate that I am learning and developing my skills involved in interrupting literature. The reading assignments from this unit, especially O’Connor’s work, presented a new style of writing, thus widening my range of familiar readings. To address the second goal, we have analyzed this literature and written, in the form of blog posts, ever-improving, super-mini critical essays.

In this reflection portfolio, I have examined my own reading and writing practices (another course goal) and developed a plan to maintain my current progress and continue the exciting growth in the course. In the second half of this semester, I will remain dedicated to quality posts and increase my efforts, especially in the areas that need the most work, namely discussion and intertextuality.

via Portfolio 1.via Portfolio 2.

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