American Lit, 1915-Present (2005)

3 Mar 2005
Portfolio 1

If you've been keeping up with the blogging homework, this assignment will be simple. Those of you who have had me in other classes, please look closely at these instructions -- I'm changing a few things. (Feel free to ask questions.) Towards the end of this posting, I answer some technical questions about trackbacks and creating links.

If you've fallen a bit behind, this assignment gives you the chance to catch up.

If you've fallen far behind, this assignment will be a killer. (No apologies from me -- I've said several times that weblog entries will feel like a pointless chore if you start them only after the classroom discussion is already over.)

Your portfolio is a collection of your best blog entries, that represent your developing intellectual engagement with the concepts and skills we have examined.

The portfolio includes certain requirements, such as "Coverage" (that is, you should demonstrate that you have done the minimum blogging that was required of you each week -- usually one blog entry per assigned text, except when we study a collection of short poems, when you may write two or three entries that cover most of the assigned readings) and "Depth" (a certain portion of your blog entries should demonstrate your ability to engage critically and at length with a difficult subject matter, far beyond a simple statement of a topic that you'd like to discuss in class).

I don't require a blog entry for every web page handout I've included as part of an assignment description... check the course outline page and see what's marked as "Read".

I don't require you to include every blog entry you wrote -- if you only blogged two or three lines when we first disucssed a text, but you've got much more to say about it now, I'd rather see the more detailed entry.

For Fitzgerald, or any future text I've asked you to blog about more than once, I'm asking for a single blog entry that you feel best represents your ability to analyze/apply/react to/critique the assigned text.

You can use the same entry for more than one text -- thus, in your cover blog entry, you might say "I comapred the religious imagery in Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and Shakespeare's The Tempest," (with "religious imagery" being a link to a single blog entry).

Since blogging also involves commenting and linking, I'm asking you in your cover blog entry to link to entries in which you started or particpated in online conversations. In your cover blog, when appropriate, use the terms I've described below. (I am not giving you a magic number of entries for each category... that's for you to determine, given the "Coverage" requirement I've given you.)

  • 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. Please do not say "This blog entry fulfills portfolio requirement #1". Write for an audience that does not know or care about your homework requirements.
    1. Coverage. Ensure that you have blogged something substantial (for a C-level grade, at least a paragraph) that demonstrates your intellectual involvement with assigned readings.
    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 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 online writing or not, serious or not -- that you feel will help me evaluate your achievements as a student weblogger.
  • Print out your cover entry and turn it in.
If you have questions about this assignment, please post them here. (If you aren't a student in my class, and you just want to comment on the basic idea of using weblogs in a classroom, I invite you to post on my academic weblog instead.)

As I mentioned in class on Feb 24, it looks like the habit of posting "Trackbacks" hasn't yet stuck. This e-mail includes a remidner of the proper procedure.

This posting also reminds you of the contents I expect for the weblog portfolio.


While you should bring to class printouts of your blog entries responding to the readings we are going to discuss on Thursday, for the portfolio, I DO NOT WANT WANT PRINTOUS OF ALL YOUR BLOG ENTRIES.

To submit your weblog portfolio,

1) Create a new weblog entry that contains links to all the weblog entries that you want to include in your portfolio.
2) That new weblog entry should also contain links to discussions in which you participated on weblogs originally written by your peers.
3) A dry list of the components of your weblog portfolio is boring. I would much rather read an informal reflection on the issues we have discussed in class and online.
4) Submit a printout of the entry you created for your weblog portfolio. (Don't print out the page that has "MovableType Personal Publishing Systyem" at the top -- click on "View Site" to view your weblog the way your readers will see it, and then print out the appropriate entry.)

Here are some examples of weblog portfolios compiled by students in other classes.


A trackback is a link that blogger A generates on weblog B, which lets everyone reading weblog B follow the link back to weblog A.

The tutorial on "" shows how to set up your weblog trackback feature.

The tutorial mentions one of two options to generate trackbacks -- the "Bookmarklets" option.

Another option is probably simpler (assuming that you have correctly set up your weblog, as described in section 2 of the tutorial).

1) Find the URL of the page devoted to the reading about which you want to post.
2) Create an entry that includes a link to that URL.

An alternate way to inform me that you have done your homework is to post a comment on the page I have created specifically for that reading, and include the URL of the entry you want me to read.


I have created a separate weblog page for each assigned reading. If you are on a page that includes a line of text that reads something like "Trackback Link:," then you are on a page that is Trackback-enabled. If that page also includes the title of the reading you want to discuss, you've found the right page.

The URL for the March 3 class looks like this

That is the WRONG URL.

The web page above lists all the blog entries I have created for March 3. Since I am asking you to write about specific readings, this is the wrong URL.

That page does, however, include LINKS to the correct URLs. You can get to the proper pages by clicking on the word "Permalink" underneath the title of the reading you want. The page you load will have a URL like this

And on that page you will see the line that reads "Trackback Link." That's the place you want a Trackback link to appear. Select the URL in the address window, and copy it to the clipboard (Edit|Copy).


Log into your weblog and create a new blog entry, as usual. When you mention the name of the reading you are discussing (in this case, Pound's "In the Old Age of the Soul"), select those words, click the small button labled "URL," and then in the window that pops up, paste in the URL that you've got saved in the clipboard. When you publish your entry, you should get a message about "pinging" sites... that means the software is informing the target web page that you are requesting that it add a Trackback link. While the trackback link might not appear immediately, if you've done it correctly, the link will appear eventually.


When i want to link to a comment that I have made on another student's blog Do I just link it to their blog entry or is there a way that i have to link it to the actual comment?

Posted by: Holly at March 1, 2005 5:43 PM

Holly, there's no way to do that directly... I would just link to the entry itself but say something like, "In a comment she posted to my entry on Portfolio 1, Holly asks..."

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at March 1, 2005 9:05 PM


Posted by: Holly at March 1, 2005 9:32 PM