EL150 (2007; Intro to Literary Study)

Ex 1-1: Diagnostic Essay

In a draft of about 2-3 pages (about 500-750 words), convey your relationship to literature and the English language.

  • Do not exceed the maximum length.
  • Upload your draft to the proper slot on turnitin.com.

As is the case with most exercises, you will also be asked to complete a peer-review assignment for homework, and submit a thoughtful response to the feedback you received. (More details about that will follow.)

Helpful Readings:


  • Format pages properly -- 12pt double spaced Times New Roman, following MLA style (title block, header, pagination, etc.).
  • Demonstrate your commitment to English studies by writing grammatically correct, stylistically pleasing, well-organized prose.
  • Focus on a single theme and develop it with one or two specific, illuminating examples. Avoid a laundry list.

The following is too general -- it looks like a dry list of things that you might turn into an essay, if you had the time.

Every summer, my dog and I would play in the back yard from sunup to sundown. My mother tried everything to get me to come inside, but it never worked. I loved that dog more than anything, and I was crushed when he got cancer and died.

If you want me to feel the emotional attachment between you and the dog, make me feel that I am there in your backyard on one particular, significant day. Quote some of the actual words that your mother used to get you to come inside. Maybe your mother tempts you with chocolate cake, and your dog sees you edging towards the door, but growls and pounces joyfully on you, tumbling you into a ditch.

While we were lying there, a mass of sweat and dirt and fur and hair, I stroked his belly and we watched the sunset. That's when I first noticed the strange lump on his thigh. The next day at the animal hospital I learned what "malignant" meant, and a few weeks later I knew what "terminal" meant.
Do you see how the second version actually draws the reader into the author's thoughts, while the first version is more like a laundry list?

Intended audience: Undeclared SHU freshmen.


  • Be creative, but not overly flowery. If you write a narrative essay, don't confuse crisis and conflict.
  • Be informative, but not overly dry. If you write an informative essay, your conclusion should not merely summarize what the reader has just read.
  • Avoid phrases like "I think" or "It seems to me." Your whole essay represents your viewpiont, so there is no need for such labels.
  • Avoid phrases like "clearly" or "obviously." If what you're saying really is clear, you don't need to label it as such. If what you're saying really isn't clear, adding a label won't help.
  • Trim needless words. Instead of "hot and moist," write "sultry." Instead of "At that point in time, the realization came to me that, owing to the temperature having rising to a level where I could no longer find any way to be comfortable or even safe, the best of course of action I could take would be to vacate the premises," write "It was hot, so I left."
    The scene I beheld was hard to believe. I stared at the mountains, and simply could not make sense of how marvelously high they were. The longer I tried to comprehend them, the taller they seemed to get, the more confused I got, and the more insignificant I felt. I stared with a transfixed expression on my face. The sight was so awesome, I just could not look away.
    The above passage uses proper grammar and some powerful vocabulary words. You might expect to get an A on a high school paper that uses this kind of writing. But consider the following revision:
    The mountains loomed impossibly. I stared through tears of awe, shrinking with each blink.
    The revision has all the punch of the first version, but has the added virtues of brevity and intensity.
  • In early papers like this, students often don't find the subject they really want to write about until the bottom of the second page. Once you've found that subject, you should probably cut out the first two pages of fluff, and start over again with your new focus.
Sample prompts:
  • What do you hope to gain from an introduction to literary study? (Rather than listing four or five different things as they pop into your head, build your whole essay around a single idea -- the one thing that you most want to gain from literary study.)
  • What work of literature has changed your life? Make me feel the impact.
  • What part of literary study fascinates, annoys, or scares you? Make me feel that same emotion.
  • Who is your literary hero -- an author or a fictional character?

Permalink | 24 Jan 2007 | Comments (0)

Agenda Items

For all assigned readings, on your own blog, post an agenda item 24 hours before the class starts. This means that by Thursday the 25th, you should create a new blog entry for each of the assigned readings. (That's two from Wednesday and two more from Friday.)

You can post a single agenda item that focuses on one or several of the Foster chapters -- you don't need a separate quote from each chapter.

Close Reading Diagnostic

Bring a one-page close reading of a specific passage from "Bernice Bobs Her Hair." (There is no Turnitin.com slot for this -- just bring a printout.)

Your high school English teachers rewarded you for using colorful adjectives when you described your own personal reaction to the assigned reading. You got points for summarizing the plot, or for speculating about what details in the author's personal life might have inspired certain parts of the story.

I am asking for something different. I want you to look closely at the actual words that the author used, and use your critical reading skills to discuss a particular passage in detail.

Note that a "close reading" is not a summary of the plot, nor a general description of what passed through your head while you were reading it, nor a statement of why you did or didn't like it.

What should you write about? After you've read the handout on close reading, take a look at Foster chs 1-3.)

Permalink | 26 Jan 2007 | Comments (2)

Agenda Items

Ideally I'd like to see your agenda items for Monday classes posted on Friday afternoon, but I won't consider them late if you have them up by 6pm Sunday.

I won't put any more reminders for agenda items on the course calendar, but they will continue to be due for every assigned reading.

Reflection Paper

Starting with "Trifles," everyone should bring a half-page (100-200 word) reflection paper that includes the name of a classmate whose blog helped you to see the assigned reading(s) in a new light. I encourage you to post your reflection papers on your blog, with a link to the peer blog entry that inspired you. Whether you choose to post your reflection on your blog or not, please bring a printed reflection paper to class so that you can refer to it if I call on you.

I would welcome a separate reflection paper for each assigned reading, but I will accept a single reflection that incorporates your responses to several different readings.

(You are welcome to bring a printout from your blog, but please don't print the authoring page that has the "Save" "Preview" and "Delete" buttons on it... click on "View Entry" first, and then print that page.)

Permalink | 29 Jan 2007 | Comments (0)

Ex 1-1: Response

Write an informal, one-page response to the feedback that you received from your peers and from me on your Ex 1 submission. Include a bulleted list that presents two or three global changes that you would make if you were to redo this paper.

You will submit this essay in a slot on Turnitin.com.

Fixing wordiness, grammar, or spelling is a local change.

A global change would be something that affects more than just a few words or a couple sentences. An example might be adjusting your understanding of a conclusion from a simple repetition of the thesis statement to an expression of a new idea that the reader would only be prepared to accept after having read the whole essay.

(If you have any questions about the difference between local and global changes, please feel free to ask me.)

Permalink | 7 Feb 2007 | Comments (0)

Ex 1-2: Close Reading

A close reading of "Trifles," "Prufrock," or "A Good Man..." About 2 pages (400-600 words). You are welcome to rework something you have already posted on your blog, and you are welcome to post your close reading on your blog. Bring a printout to class; post an electronic version to Turnitin.com; don't forget the peer review and response components of the assignment (consult Turnitin.com for the due dates).

Permalink | 9 Feb 2007 | Comments (1)

Quiz 1: Rhetorical Strategies in ''Everyman''

Rescheduled from Feb 14.

Be prepared to demonstrate how you can analyze the rhetorical strategies found in "Everyman." Consider both the rhetoric present in the script, and the rhetoric you can identify in the particular production staged here at SHU.

(The assigned sections in Hamilton explain what I mean by "rhetorical strategies".)

Permalink | 16 Feb 2007 | Comments (0)

Ex 1-3 Presubmission

A one-page start on a 3-4 page short story.

Read these handouts on showing, conflict, and how to punctuate dialogue.

Submit a single page, demonstrating your ability to write (and properly punctuate) dialogue that shows conflict. (Presubmission: 10pts; Draft: 10pts; Peer Review: 10pts; Response: 10pts)

Permalink | 19 Feb 2007 | Comments (0)

Portfolio 1

80 Points.

A collection of your informal responses to the assigned readings. Keep up with the agenda items and reflection papers for each class meeting, and this assignment will be easy and rewarding. Fall behind, and this assignment will feel... otherwise.

Examples of portfolios from previous classes have included a no-nonsense list and a more personal essay. Either format is fine, but however you present your work, it's important to me that you specify where each of your posts falls amongst the categories listed below. The same post can count for more than one category, but if you keep re-using the same handful of posts that's probably a sign you can do a little better next time.

Submit your portfolio by using MT Quickpost from this page, or by pasting the URL of your portfolio entry into a comment on this page.

  • The Cover Entry: Post a blog entry that contains links to all the entries that you plan to submit for your portfolio. For the benefit of an outside reader (that is, someone who doesn't know what a blogging portfolio is), introduce each of these links and explain why they are significant. (For example, see "Favorite Blog Entries: Journaling Mode.")
  • The Collection: Your blogging portfolio is supposed to be a collection of your best weblog entries. For the purposes of this class, a "good" blog entry is one that demonstrates your intellectual engagement with the assigned readings and student panels, and/or the questions raised by your peers. I will accept a bulleted list of entries, but please write for an audience that does not know or care about your homework requirements.
    1. Coverage. Ensure that you have blogged something for each of the assigned readings (for a C-level grade, at least brief agenda items for each assigned reading; for a higher grade, demonstrate your intellectual involvement with the assigned readings). If we looked at a group of poems, but I only created one web page for the whole group of poems, then I'm only expecting one entry for the whole group. (You can focus on one or several items in the group. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me.)
    2. Depth. Some of the "coverage" entries you selected above should demonstrate your ability to examine a concept in depth. Do some original online research, and link to the precise pages where you got ideas that helped you formulate your ideas. If you prefer to use a library book, quote a passage that you found interesting. Here are a few examples of a blog entry that goes above and beyond the standard "what I thought about the book" blog entry: Fitting in in the Diamond Age and Forced Reading-- Beloved Character.
    3. Interaction. Of the "Coverage" blogs entries included above, some should demonstrate your ability to use weblogs to interact with your peers. For instance, you might disagree (politely) with something a peer has written; link to and quote from the peer's blog entry, then carefully (and respectfully) explain where you disagree. Rather than hurl accusations in order to make the other person look bad, cheerfully invite the other person to explain their perspective. Quote passages from the texts your peer has cited, or do additional research that helps unveil the truth. (These may or may not include some entries you have already included among your "Depth" entries.)
    4. Discussions. Blogging feels lonely when you aren't getting any comments; you will feel more motivated to blog if you enjoy (and learn from) the comments left by your readers. Your portfolio should include entries (which may or may not overlap with either the "Interaction" or "Depth" entries) that demonstrate that your blog sparked a conversation that furthered your intellectual examination of a literary subject.
    5. Timeliness. A timely blog entry is one that was written early enough that it sparked a good online discussion, before the class discussion. A timely blog entry might also be an extra one written after the class discussion, if it reacts directly to something brought up in class. The blog entries that you write the night before the portfolio is due won't count in this category. And don't try to change the date in your blog entries -- I know that trick! ;)
    6. Xenoblogging. "Xeno" means "foreign," so xenoblogging (a term that I coined last term) means the work that you do that helps other people's weblogs. Your portfolio should include three entries (which may or may not overlap with the ones you have already selected for "Coverage") that demonstrate your willingness to contribute selflessly and generously to the online classroom community. Examples of good xenoblogging:
      • The Comment Primo: Be the first to comment on a peer's blog entry; rather than simply say "Nice job!" or "I'm commenting on your blog," launch an intellectual discussion; return to help sustain it.
      • The Comment Grande: Write a long, thoughtful comment in a peer's blog entry. Refer to and post the URLs of other discussions and other blog entries that are related.
      • The Comment Informative: If your peer makes a general, passing reference to something that you know a lot about, post a comment that offers a detailed explanation. (For example, the in the third comment on a recent blog entry about the history and culture of print, Mike Arnzen mentions three books that offer far more information than my post did.)
      • The Link Gracious: If you got an idea for a post by reading something somebody else wrote, give credit where credit is due. (If, in casual conversation, we credited the source of every point we make, we'd get little accomplished. But since a hyperlink is so easy to create, it's not good practice -- or good ethics -- to hide the source of your ideas.) If a good conversation is simmering on someone else's blog -- whether you are heavily involved or not -- post a link to it and invite your own readers to join in.
    7. Wildcard: Include one blog entry on any subject -- related to a homework assignment or not, serious or not -- that you feel will help me evaluate your achievements as a student weblogger.
Permalink | 21 Feb 2007 | Comments (7)

Ex 1-3: Short Story Draft

Length: 3-4 pages. (Please do not go over this limit.)

Permalink | 23 Feb 2007 | Comments (0)

Ex 2-1a: Career Research

Find an ad for a job that you would like to have when you graduate. 1) Copy or type the text of the ad into a word processor file. 2) In the same file, under the ad, include a current resume. See my resume handouts for guidelines. 3) In the same file, write a 200-word reflection on what you can do between now and the time you graduate in order to make yourself more competitive for that job. (2-1a: 10pts; Peer Review 5pts; Response 5pts)

Sobering thought of the day:

I've hired writers before; there's no shortage of people who think they can write. Judging by cover letters alone, most are wrong. --Mark J. Drozdowski

Permalink | 28 Feb 2007 | Comments (9)

Paper 1 Presubmission

The presubmission is a form that you fill out to request permission to revise either Ex 1-1, 1-2, or 1-3. If you do not fill out an acceptable presubmission by March 5, you will not receive permission to submit Paper 1 (and I will record a zero for it).

Download file

Permalink | 2 Mar 2007 | Comments (4)

Quiz 2: Prosody

You will be asked to analyze the meter and rhyme scheme of poetry; you will be asked to write blank verses on a given topic. (Open book, but no collaboration.)

Permalink | 14 Mar 2007 | Comments (0)

Paper 1 Full Draft

If you have earned a 6 or above on your presubmission, then you may submit this assignment, which should be a major, significant revision of Exercise 1-1, 1-2, or 1-3.

Demonstrate that you can go beyond the specific suggestions that made, and come up with your own solutions to any problems I have identified. I won't have marked every proofreading error or wordy passage; I intend that you will look for such problems and correct them on your own.

Length: 4-5 pages.


I. Printouts
A) A printout of your rough draft (the original exercise you are submitting, with my comments)
B) Above that, a printout of your presubmission proposal (with my comments)

II. A single word processor file with 2 parts:
A) A highlighted copy of your full revision (with local changes highlighted in one color and global revisions highlighted in a different color).
B) A bulleted list that calls my attention to the most significant changes that you made.

Permalink | 16 Mar 2007 | Comments (10)

Ex 2-2: Response to Truss (moved from Mar 23)

This book makes some students laugh, and makes other students furious. Examine your reaction to Lynn Truss, paying special attention to your choice to focus on English. Please note... this assignment does not simply ask you to list your reactions, or to cheer her on or attack her positions. Rather, this essay is your opportunity to examine the reactions that you have already expressed. Has your opinion of Truss, of punctuation, or the field of English studies changed? Rather than providing a laundry list of reactions, demonstrate your ability to focus on a single thesis, and develop it across several paragraphs.

Permalink | 26 Mar 2007 | Comments (5)

Ex 2-1b: Job Application Portfolio

Job ad (with URL); resume; cover letter; writing sample; all in a single word-processor file, uploaded to Turnitin.com. (2-1b: 10pts; Peer Review 5pts; Response 5pts)

Permalink | 28 Mar 2007 | Comments (7)

A clever blank-verse entry on your blog.

Two rhyming blank-verse quatrains on your blog
Will demonstrate your ear for rhyme and beat.
Leave sev'ral blank-verse comments for your peers,
And verse your 'flection paper. You're complete.

Permalink | 2 Apr 2007 | Comments (7)

Portfolio 2

100 points.

Permalink | 4 Apr 2007 | Comments (4)

Blogging Checkpoint

Have you been keeping up with your blogging? Post a blog entry that contains links to all the "coverage" entries you have done so far for Portfolio 3. (There aren't a whole lot more readings left, so if you get caught up now, you'll have more time to devote to the very important Paper 2.)

Permalink | 18 Apr 2007 | Comments (4)

Paper 2 Presubmission

(Presubmission 30pts; peer review 20pts)

Your presubmission report. This is not something to start at the last minute.

Please do not try to churn out three pages of random thoughts. The presubmission report is your opportunity to check whether you are proceeding in a manner that is likely to produce an acceptable academic research paper.

The more work you put into this, the more helpful I can be.

1) A full thesis paragraph. A thesis has a limited subject, precise opinion, and reasoning blueprint. The reasoning blueprint, most simply put, is your list of the subpoints that you want to address; but instead of just saying "I will talk about A, B, C, and D," try instead to link them logically: "The author's attempts to do A backfire because of B, but her attempts to do C and D are more successful." or "At first glance, there are so many instances of A in the story that at first the story seems to make claim B, but a closer look at C shows that A and C together make the claim D."

2A) Quotes from your literary source in favor of your thesis.

2B) Quotes from your literary source that work against your thesis.

3A) At least one quote from an academic source that support your thesis.

3B) At least one quote from an academic source that works against your thesis.

4) A preliminary conclusion.

5) MLA-style Works Cited list.

Permalink | 25 Apr 2007 | Comments (6)

Ex 3-1a: Sonnet Draft

Bring 3 copies for your peers, and one copy with the stressed and unstressed syllables carefully marked for the instructor. Be prepared to deliver your poem orally in small groups. (Draft 8pts; peer review 12pts)

Update, Apr 25:

You can choose any subject you want for an original sonnet. I have already gone over the form of this poem, but remember to have two quatrains and a final sextet. Each quatrain should be a complete thought that sets up a problem, and the first line of the sextet should contain a twist or complication that leads to the resolution.

Permalink | 27 Apr 2007 | Comments (2)

Sonnet Slam

Be prepared to deliver a version of your sonnet for the class.

You don't need to memorize your sonnet, but you should have practiced your delivery so that your oral presentation contributes to our understanding of your work.

Remember not to pause automatically at the end of every line, but remember also not to ignore the stressed and unstressed patterns that are part of the form of a sonnet.

Bring a double-spaced printout that we can put on the overhead projector.

Evaluation criteria for the sonnet exercise:

Meter: do the lines have the right number of syllables and the right pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables?
Diction: are your individual word choices effective? Does each word matter, or are your lines stuffed with filler ("I think that maybe I just might do that")? Does your poem include a list of emotions, or do your words SHOW emotion, using specific images that GENERATE unnamed emotions in the reader?
Form/Thought: do your quatrains and your sestet contain complete thoughts? Is there a twist in line 9? If you end with a rhymed couplet, does the couplet drive the point of the poem home? Does your poem look like more than 14 random lines stuck together? Is your poem chiefly focused on expressing the feelings that you have, rather than using specific, vivid imagery to generate new feelings in your reader? (Note: If you choose wonderful words that don't fit the meter, or your meter is perfect but your diction is simplistic, overall the fit between form and thought will suffer.)
Presentation: did your oral presentation add to our understanding of the poem? When speaking, did you remember not to pause mechanically at the end of every line? Did you remember to speak naturally, without artificially stressing the syllables that you need to stress in order to get the right meter? A singer can make "Happy birthday, dear Tim" and "Happy birthday, dear Veronica" fit the same music, but poets have to pay attention to each syllable.

Permalink | 30 Apr 2007 | Comments (2)

Ex 3-2: Media Fasting Reflection

Write an essay on your participation in a media fast during last week's TV Turn-Off Week. Demonstrate your level of proficiency in Standard Written English. Your essay may inform, delight, and/or persuade a general reader with a high school education. 700-800 words.

Permalink | 30 Apr 2007 | Comments (3)

Ex 3-1b: Revised Sonnet

Follow special instructions (TBA) on marking up your revision. Present your work orally, supply the class with a suggested prompt, and take notes on the ensuing discussion. (Revision 10pts; response 15pts)

Update: I've removed the presentation/prompt/discussion component of this exercise.

When you submit your final draft,

  1. highlight every passage that differs from the draft you workshopped on Friday. If your poem is completely new, please add a note to that effect.
  2. Add a note that addresses what you learned from the sonnet exercise.

This revision: 15pts (emphasizing changes since the version you workshopped on Friday).
Monday's Oral Presentation: 10pts.

Permalink | 4 May 2007 | Comments (0)

Paper 2 Full Draft

(No points assigned for draft; I will give brief comments that focus on the quality of your academic research and your integration of credible material into your own intellectual argument. Peer review 20; response 30)

Draft Length: 5 pages minimum.

Final Draft: 6-8 pages.

Permalink | 4 May 2007 | Comments (1)

Portfolio 3

120 points.

Permalink | 7 May 2007 | Comments (0)

Ex 3-3: ''Response to Weird Romance''

One of the segments refers to two different Yeats poems: Lake Isle of Innisfree and "When You are Old."

Permalink | 7 May 2007 | Comments (4)

Paper 2 Final (10:30am)

150 points.

There is no final exam meeting, but the final draft of your term paper will be due when the exam is scheduled to start. (You may submit it electronically.)

Permalink | 8 May 2007 | Comments (0)