131 (A3) CIC
English 131 Message of the Day
Important class announcements, notes, comments, and suggestions will be made in-class and via email. Please be sure to check your email regularly for messages of the day. Messages will have "[English 131]" in the subject line. MOTDs will also be archived here from newest to oldest.
May 11, 2006: NOTES on the SEQUENCE ONE MAJOR PAPER
Your first major paper have been returned to you soon. Take some time to go over my comments on the paper. Really go over them. Re-read the assignment sheet and consider the grading rubric and the course outcomes for English 131, which are located in your course policies.
Overall, I really think everyone understood the basics and basis of the assignment and the spirit of the readings for the first sequence. All of the choices of artifacts were excellent -- some more provocative than others -- but there was something in each item that sparked inquiry, critique, analysis, and explication. You also showed that you had important things to say about what you saw and what you thought the artifact was 'doing'. And I also think the conferences helped you formulate ideas and points of entry into the assignment.
However, I am also noticing a lot of the same mistakes, a lot of the same issues, many of which could have been resolved or explicated with a little more effort, close reading, and help. Things are still cropping up that have been commented on since the first short papers. Below is a list of things I saw, commented on (often), and corrected across a number of papers. As with previous comments, please keep a running list of my notes to you. Print these out and add them to your collection. The same errors and issues should not crop up again in further assignments. Take a look at the following:
SATISFY THE ASSIGNMENT: One significant problem (be it in class, in lab, or on the job) is making sure that you satisfy the task set before you. The assignment sheet and our discussion in class (and via the blog) are crucial to understanding what your paper should do, include, address. A very articulate and well-written essay that does not answer the assignment's questions is technically incomplete (at best) and a failure (at worst). Make sure that you refer to the assignment sheet during your writing and revision process.
In the same regard, paper length is a factor in satisfying the task at hand. Paper length is not hard and fast, but it is a way to measure whether you can control your argument. Papers that are conspicuously short or long, particularly if they are not up to par, are not acceptable work. Papers that are too short may be considered incomplete and ineligible for the portfolio.
BANAL CLAIM: Just say no. I have already told you that banal claims are too general, too empty, too automatic. Statements like "Throughout the history of mankind..." or "Throughout American society, we have strived for a diverse society where discrimination does not exist" or "Advertisements are all around us..." says absolutely nothing useful. Be concrete. Get into the specifics of your argument. Begin with a solid claim rather than a banal claim.
I told you weeks ago never, ever, no way should you start a paper with "The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines..." Don't do it.
ALL-OR-NOTHING: Arguments that claim something is all-or-nothing do not allow for any complexity, for any layers, or for any possibilities. Your argument should be rigorous, focused, and specific /yes/ but be careful of claims that say things like "This advertisement is completely racist" or "Lippi-Green says that Disney films make children racist" or "America will never change and racism will stay because people are people." These kinds of arguments are closed, foreclosed. If you argue that your artifact is stereotyping, then explicate how it stereotypes but do not foreclose your argument by saying that it stereotypes totally, completely, without question. Claims need a little room for argument and exploration. Nuance, nuance, nuance.
HYPERBOLE: In some rhetorical situations, the use of hyperbole is warranted. But be careful of being too over the top. To claim that something is "very" or "completely" or "totally" anything seems to be too generalizing, too inaccurate. Moreover, watch out for categorical words such as 'always' or 'never' or 'omnipresent' or 'obvious' or 'inevitably'. Be careful when you claim something is so (and just hedging a little may not be any better). This is related to the caution against /all-or-nothing/ logic.
PERSONAL OPINION/NARRATION: The use of first person, personal opinion, personal anecdotes are usually not part of the academic genre. Remember that personal opinion is not a good basis for a strong academic claim. Your personal interest and investment in a topic is important to your overall exigence, but to incorporate yourself anecdotally into your paper is unnecessary and lacks academic rigor.
For example, writing statements like "I believe that racism is wrong" or "When I was sitting in the HUB flipping through magazines, I found an advertisement that made me feel bad" or "My belief is that Lippi-Green is right" are personal opinion statements. Instead, generate more academic statements that refer directly to the argument, to the analysis. (Again, remember that academic does not mean "high style" or "over written.")
ARGUE, ANALYZE, ARTICULATE: Many of you are spending a great deal of time developing a lot of description in your close readings of your artifacts or your readings. Describing what you see is not enough. You need to make sure you frame what you see, what you notice, what you think in terms of an arguable claim, a solid argumentative thesis or topic statement or subclaim. In other words, don't just start a paragraph saying, "I noticed that there were only white people in this advertisement. This means that the advertisement says only white people are beautiful." Again, /that/ you notice something is not necessary for you to point out, but /what/ and /why it's important/ that you notice something is what you want to highlight. Therefore, "The advertisement constructs a certain kind of look, a certain kind of body, a certain kind of whiteness. By using only white models, the advertisement argues for a kind of homogeneity that leaves out whole groups of people from representation."
Again, paragraphs are generally begun with some sort of topic sentence; in your case, a subclaim. The subclaim teases out, adds to, complicates, analyzes, or deepens your overall claim. Most of the time your subclaims are buried in the paragraph as conclusions or analyses. Move them to the top of the paragraph and see how the argument flows and changes.
ASSUMPTIONS: In Toulmin's construction of an argument, one of the most important things to keep in mind are the warrants, the assumptions that you make as you argue for something. Make sure that you do not make the same kinds of critical mistakes that you are seeing in your artifacts. If you believe your artifact to be stereotyping of African Americans, then make sure you don't resort to using assumptions to support your claims. Sometimes as you are writing you don't realize the warrants you have in the back of your mind as you put words to paper. You must take some /time/ to go through, edit, and think about your arguments and their assumptions. Some assumptions are inevitable, but you have to make sure that the assumptions you make are not so flawed, so generalized, so problematic to weaken your argument or to put off your audience.
For example, saying that "only authentic rap artists are African Americans" makes the assumption (and a problematic one at that) that /only/ African Americans can be rap artists and that anyone else is just pretending. A fairer frame might read something like "rap artists have been predominately African American."
Assumptions can take the form of simple, innocuous words like "natural" or "classic" or "perfect" or "American" or "diversity" or "ideological." Be sure that you don't deploy these words without thinking through what they mean and without identifying how you are using them in your argument.
SUPPOSITION IS NOT FACT: To suppose something does not necessarily mean that what you suppose is factual, actual, or obvious. Be careful of writing statements that presume an answer, particularly if the answer is necessary for your argument. Build your argument on solid reasoning. Start with a claim. Develop a clear analysis. Use solid examples and evidence. Then conclude. do not jump from claim to conclusion. To assume the connection is faulty reasoning and weak writing. To assume that the reader will automatically make the connection in the way you want does not make for strong argumentation.
QUOTES: Remember that all quotes and paraphrases need attribution and citation. Quotes should be introduced in some way. "A quote that just sits by itself in the middle of a paragraph (like this) is a dropped quote." Quotes need a speaker and that speaker must be introduced. Give us enough information about the speaker so we can identify their credibility. Dr. John Q. Public, professor of writing at Yale University, writes about the need for "strong attribution and citation" (32) for quotations in academic papers. Starting a quote's introduction with a word or two is not enough. Frame your quotes.
Also remember that quotes are not /your/ arguments. You need to establish a claim or subclaim first. Then use quotes and evidence and examples to support what /you/ are arguing. Instead, many people are just using quotes to stand in for their claims -- you just introduce the quote and the point to it and say "hey, look, this guy says it better than me." That's not strong argumentative writing. That's writing a summary of other people's ideas.
Finally, make sure quotes are /relevant/ to your point or your paragraph or your main argument. Several papers simply invoked quotes from the readings without paying attention to how the quote fit the paragraph and whether what the quote was referring to was appropriate or even properly set up. Reading the paragraph through with quote will help catch problems. Never use a quote just to use a quote or to fill up space.
READING FOR WRITING'S SAKE: Part of the key goals for the assignment and for English 131 (this would be Outcome Two) is to read, use, and draw from the texts used in class and from your outside research. You must learn to find the ideas and language you understand from the texts to deploy in your own argument. You need not understand all of Brooks or Lippi-Green or Lowe. You need to understand their main ideas, and you need to use those ideas as support for your claims and subclaims. Consider the work you did for the close readings, our class discussions, and the exercises we did via the class message board -- all of these things should be in your notes and should be a means for you to gather quotes and concepts that should find their way into your argument.
TITLES: Make sure that your titles are appropriate to /your/ project and not some broad abstraction or reference to something other than your critique. A good title is brief, expresses some key idea of your essay, and engaging to the reader.
THIS/THAT/WHICH: I really dislike starting sentences (all the time) with pointing pronouns. 'This' statements can be effective once in a while, but don't depend on them all of the time. Furthermore, consider how you are using 'that' and 'which' again. Look at The Everyday Writer for the difference.
Basically, 'that' usually signals a restrictive clause: The club let in all men and women that were twenty-one years or older. (Meaning the club ONLY let in those men and women that were 21 or older. Everyone below 21 were not let in.)
And 'which' usually signals a non-restrictive clause: The club let in all men and women, which were twenty-one years or older. (Meaning the club let in everyone, including those who were 21 or older. Note that 'which' requires a comma and 'that' does not.)
MECHANICS: Spelling, punctuation, citation, bibliographic, manuscript format, and grammar should be the last thing your reader should have to worry about. However, when there are many mechanical errors -- most of which can be caught simply by reading your paper over -- they become a distraction and hurt your ethos as a writer and an arguer. Papers are still making the same mistakes from the Photo Autobiography (on up). Please edit carefully. Please consult your usage manual. Please ask questions about mechanics in class or via the blog. Simple errors like the confusion of its/it's or spelling Lippi-Green wrong or missing a title page or a sentence that ends mid thought should not happen at all.
Again, article titles (like those that appear in _Reading Contexts_) are in quotations -- "Teaching Children How to Discriminate" or "Constructions of Illusions" -- and are not italicised nor underlined.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: A handful of papers had perfect bibliographies -- correctly arranged, formatted, punctuated. All of the bibliographic information is located in your usage book or via online. Make sure you are using MLA format and the correct entry mechanics for a particular kind of source. Make sure they include enough sources.
READ OUT LOUD: You have been advised since the start of the quarter to read your papers out loud. Full voice. Slowly. Read and listen. Have someone else read while you listen. Reading your papers out loud is a surefire way to catch problems, unclear areas, awkward wording, and mechanical problems. Do it.
SIMPLE AND ELEGANT: Academic writing need not be 'high style' or 'Intellectual' or full of jargon, big words, confusing philosophizing. Obviously, some writers take particular stances, styles, and theoretical languages and use them in very specific rhetorical ways. But, for here and now, for our class, you are encouraged first to make sure the message and meaning are both clear, simple, elegant before you can attach any bells and whistles and mudflaps. Remember that simple does not mean simplistic or infantile or 'see spot run'. Simple means concrete, articulate, using everyday language. Imagine yourself in the back of a taxi with your grandmother and you have to explain these arguments to her. You wouldn't try to out-intellectualize your grandmother (unless of course she was an academic but even then...). Another way to think about this is "write like you speak" (simply and elegantly) but not "how you speak" (which tends to be fragmented, too informal).
Ultimately, this is about /clarity/ and /precision/. Choose language to express exactly what you mean. Don't get too fancy. And make sure the language is appropriate to audience, to the purpose of your paper, and to the ear.
Try these lines on for size: "Not only does it cause most women to seek that change to become beautiful, as they are often times don't develop to be much taller than a car, but it causes them to ingrain the stereotypical ideal of what it means to be beautiful, based on the value system brought by the advertisers."
Or: "Although they are not ambitious and don't try hard their lack of wealth or prestige prohibits them from going straight to college, but making a pit stop in the military for aid is the way to go."
Or: "As Abercrombie & Fitch's website continues to advertise without supporting racial diversty through visual language, the stereotyped ideal that physically attractive Caucasian men and women are the ideal, perfect person is becoming more common."
To statements like those above, I write: "Huh?" I understand what you are trying to say, but they could be so much cleaner, so much clearer, so much more elegant and telling.
May 9, 2006: NOTES on the PRATT CLOSE READING
Here are my notes on the Close-Reading of Pratt; you should print out and save for further reference. Look back at the Close-Reading of Lippi-Green and see how the two papers compare. Most of you are 'getting' the idea of what a close reading is like, but need to work on zeroing in on exactly what you want to write about. In 2-3 pages, there is NO time to spend trying to set up a fancy introduction or conclusion; you should use the space allotted to get to the core of your claim. Please add these to your running list of comments (and do your best NOT to repeat similar mistakes or problems):
1. No more broad, generalised, banal claims. Phrases like "Throughout the world there are times and places where different cultures..." or "Contact zones are present in all aspects of life..." or "When different cultures come together a few things can happen..." If you're having difficulting 'getting things started', then by all means write what you need but CUT it afterward. Banal language doesn't add anything telling to your writing. It's automatic writing of the worst kind and serves only to demonstrate that you are not certain of your goals, ideas, arguments (even though the rest of your paper might be well-written).
2. Clarity and precision still needs to be worked on, engaged. For example, why write "Pratt introduces many results of the contact zone" when far stronger language like "Pratt identifies miscommunication, misunderstanding, and misrepresentation as three consequences and risks of the contact zone"? For the most part, imprecise language and generalised statements are the result of "thinking as you write" or "writing on the fly" when you are trying to work out what you are saying and trying to fill up page space. GOING BACK and revising a little will help focus your writing. Be telling. Be specific.
3. The assignment required that you close-read Pratt and apply three of the six listed concepts to an example from your own world or life. In that analysis of Pratt and egagement with your example, hopefully, you demonstrate an understanding of terms like the contact zone or imagined community or safe house. Some of you chose very broad, very big examples; more local, more simple examples would have better served a 2-3 page paper. Go back to Pratt and look at your understanding of her terms. Many people correctly quoted and cited Pratt's definition of contact zone, ethnographic text, transculturation, imagined community, and safe house but failed to adequately explain it in their own terms, through their own examples. Defining how you understand a concept AND how you are using the concept is important to the success of any argument.
4. Relatedly, don't just describe. Work on the analysis. Description is as follows: "There is a contact zone in my home. This is described by Pratt as a place where cultures meet, clash, and grapple." (Note: Avoid those 'this' statements when and where possible.) Analysis is as follows: "My home, where there are marked differences in power and resources between my parents and my siblings and I, is a contact zone. Whether it is conversation around the dinner table, fighting for control over the TV, or helping around the house, we sometimes "meet, clash, and grapple" over differeing ideas and values about school, friends, money, and life. For example..."
5. Develop solid topic statements (subclaims) for each paragraph. The subclaims are in service of your larger claim, your larger goals for the paper. A subclaim, in a sense, takes up a part, a piece, an aspect of the larger claim and provides additional argument, evidence, support for your larger claim. Again, remember that article titles are in quotation marks. For example, Pratt's essay "Arts of the Contact Zone" was printed in _Reading Contexts_. Book titles, movie titles, journal titles, album titles are underlined OR italicised.
6. Still need appropriate titles for your papers.
7. Please take a long look again at the MLA format for parenthetical citation and bibliography. See the handouts as well as your usage book.
If you have any questions (clearly you are not paying attention to the details), please bring them up in class, via email, or via the class blog. Take these comments and my marginal comments seriously. Look for patterns. Look for places that work. And attempt to rethink, rewrite, and reconsider places that need attention.
April 3, 2006: NOTES on the PHOTO AUTOBIOGRAPHY REVISION
Just a few short notes about the photo autobiography revision, which you should print out and save for further reference. For the most part, the revision are stronger, clearer than the first versions (the benefit of careful and reasoned revision). However, I wanted to clarify, explicate a few things and concepts:
1) Make sure that you keep in mind the assignment. This is an autobiography at core. To stray too far away from that means that you are working on something completely different. Keep in mind also that an autobiography can and should do more than just describe, list details, enumerate events; it can argue about the kind of person you are, it can persuade an audience to like you or respect you or hate you or hire you, and it can be used to talk about a larger issue or bigger argument than just your life's story.
2) Consider the limitations and advantages of choosing an audience of one. Several people wrote letters to just one person: friend, mom, grandfather, higher power. Is this too easy? Even if the target audience knows you really well that doesn't mean you can be lazy on details (actually, an audience that knows you really well might actually expect more from you). Also consider that the one person may not be the only person that "gets the message"--there might be overhearers in the picture. (The flip side of this is picking an audience that is too large, too broad.) Consider well your audience.
3) Be simple and elegant. Here are a few examples of what I mean:
"Growing up I was always able to hear stories from my father and grandfather..." is clearer, stronger as "Growing up I always heard stories from my father and grandfather..."
"Being band president allwowed me to use the leadership skills I learned in Boy Scouts..." is awkward passive and may be clearer as "As band president, I used the leadership skills I learned in Boy Scouts..."
"Moving to Costa Rica with not a single person I knew was by far out of my comfort zone..." could be clearer as "Moving to Costa Rica was by far out of my comfort zone; I didn't know a single person..." or "Costa Rica, where I didn't know a single person, was by far out of my comfort zone..."
4) Careful of voice, tone, and formality. Some papers identified a very informal audience (e.g. family or friends), but still maintained a intellectual, academic tone. Some papers identified formal audiences (e.g. job search committee or college admission board), but used too friendly, too familiar a tone. There's no hard, fast rule, but consider your word choice, your phrasing, and the overall rhetorical effect you're after. This is under your control and should be something you consider as you write and revise.
5) Related to the control of voice, think about the language you use when writing anything. Giving yourself enough time to revise allows you to consider the words you use. Elocution, remember? Do the words serve you the way you want them to? This is more than just do they make grammatical sense or are they in the right tense. It is about whether they are the "right" words, in the "right" place. For example, why say something vague like "I learned a lot of different things in high school" when you can take the opportunity to say, "I learned about chemistry, building an electric car, playing defense in basketball, and most importantly, about regret in high school..." Or for example, what is the rhetorical difference between "I am academically inclined" and "I love learning?" Which would you use? Which is better? Why?
6) Titles, folks, titles. Papers should have some form of telling title. (Even emails have subject lines and personal ads have taglines.)
7) Punctuation counts. Commas seem to be the biggest culprit. Followed by semi-colons, hyphens, and quotation marks. Take a look at See Lunsford's The Everyday Writer.
Keep up the good work. Remember to ask questions. Please let me know in class or better yet via the class blog. See you in class.
April 3, 2006: NOTES on the PHOTO AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Your first paper draft, the Photo Autobiography, has been commented upon and will be returned to you. Take 15-20 minutes to go over the comments on the paper. Consider the grading rubric and the course outcomes for English 131, which are located in your course policies. Please take into account the marginal comments as well as the overall end comments when you sit down to work on your next paper (or when you work on your revision). Take a look at your notes for the assignment as well.
Overall, I admire everyone's enthusiasm for the assignment, the varied and illuminating photos you chose, and the effort to try to make the assignment your own. Before we even got into heady things like "cultural studies" or "close reading" or "stereotypes" or "representation", you have a shown to me and to yourselves that you know how to analyze an image and find something important to say about it. In the spirit of improvement, here is a list of things I saw, commented on, and corrected on across a number of papers. Please keep a running list of my notes to you. Print this email out for your records. The same errors and issues should not crop up again in further assignments. Take a look at the following:
1a) Careful of careless mistakes such as the difference between they're/their or it's/its; watch out for homophones or near words like affect/effect, accept/except, there/their. If in doubt, look it up in your usage book or in a dictionary.
1b) If any paper is turned in with instant messenger-speak (e.g. u instead of you, l8r instad of later, nite instead of night), I will immediately stop commenting on it.
2) Generally, spell out numbers under a hundred. Never start a sentence with numerals (e.g. "6 days ago, I went to the store."). Depending on the style manual you're using, the rules for numbers will vary. See Lunsford's The Everyday Writer.
3a) Be careful of hypens (-) and m-dashes (--). Remember, a hypen connects words (e.g. ninety-four) and an m-dash connects parts of sentences, usually serves as a pause right before an important point or piece of information (e.g. "Johnny was very, very, very hungry--like a rabid wolf."). Usually, people have been using semi-colons (;) to signal a long pause and this is not correct. Either form two complete sentences or use an m-dash. Like most spices, m-dashes should be used sparingly, for emphasis.
3b) Be sparing with semi-colons (;). See Lunsford's The Everyday Writer.
3c) Avoid slashes (/). Usually, using the conjunction is much clearer and better looking. For example, I dislike the construction "and/or" or "he/she."
3d) Titles of newspapers and books and movies are underlined OR italicised. Titles of songs or poems or articles are in quotations. See Lunsford's The Everyday Writer.
3e) Typography: be sparing (very sparing) in your use of boldface, underlining, all-caps, and italics.
3f) Avoid using etc. when possible. If you want to indicate that the list could go on, use a phrase like "and so on." Generally, though, such phrases indicate a lack of detail or automatic writing, which should be avoided.
4a) Watch pronouns (like a hawk). Particularly watch 'it' statements. Pronouns are very useful, but they can become confusing when their antecedent gets lost. For example, "The duck and the dog went to the park. They wanted to play near the pond. He was very excited" -- who is the 'he' in the last sentence?
4b) Avoid "this" statements, particularly starting sentences with "this." Pointing pronouns can become confusing particularly if what you're pointing at is lost in a sea of nouns. It's usually a weak way of writing. Use it sparingly or when necessity requires it.
4c) Same with "which" statements, which incidentally requires a comma beforehand. For more information about "that" and "which" statements, restrictive and non-restrictive clauses, see Lunsford's The Everyday Writer.
5a) Avoid what I call over-writing or purple prose. When you inflate your language, use fify-cent words, complicate and convolute the language to sound prettier, more intellectual, or "academic" (in a negative way), you're not writing effectively. Formality has a place in writing, particularly in scholarship and professional writing, but that does not mean it needs to be stiff, choked with jargon, or indecipherable. Be simple and elegant. You prove your a smart writer if it's readable, if it sounds natural, if it makes clear points, and provides sound support or reasoning.
5b) I dislike the use of "thus" or "hence" or "often times" since they are overly formal to my ear. Use them sparingly, if at all. Avoid the pronoun "one" as well. Again, much of this depends on the rhetorical situation.
5c) Mix up your sentence length. If you tend to write really long sentences, try a few short ones. If you tend to write really short sentences, try some compound sentences. Furthermore, vary how your sentences are constructed. Realize that your language does have a pace, a rhythm, as well as a voice. You want to modulate so it isn't too monotone and predictable.
6a) Watch organization of ideas. If you have difficulty mapping out where your ideas are going, outline before writing AND outline after. Generating an outline from your finished paper (write down what each paragraph's main argument and subarguments and evidence are) can show you if you jump from topic to topic without clear transition. A good rule is that each paragraph should contain one main idea or one piece of information. Each paragraph should have a clear topic statement or argument.
6b) Avoid unnecessarily or overly nonspecific philosophizing or esoterics. Avoid banal claims, broad generalizations, useless generalizations, cliched generalizations, circular logic, and tautologies. Statements like: "The problem of war has plagued mankind for thousands of years" or "Since the beginning of time..." or "The problem can only be solved when the world comes together in harmony, peace, and understanding" don't really say very much to the reader and sound trite. It's automatic writing. Don't do it.
6c) Related to above, avoid cliche words like "unique" or "nice" or "interesting" when you are trying to be descriptive. Use better words, active words, compelling adjectives instead. But make them appropriate to whatever it is you are doing. In other words, don't become a thesaurus-aholic.
6d) Avoid using the dictionary as a go to for inspiration or definition; usually it's only a form of automatic writing (like banal claims). Generally, the dictionary offers very little in the way of illumination (unless you are using something like the Oxford English Dictionary for historical or etymogical purposes).
6e) Watch sentence fragments (e.g. "Which is what led them to change the law." is not a complete sentence or thought). Sometimes sentence fragments can be very useful, dramatic, and create emphasis. They must be used with care and artfully, not accidentally.
6f) On the other hand, watch run on sentences.
6g) Be careful of comma splices. For example, "John went to the store, he bought bread, cheese, hamburger, and a gossip magazine." To correct a comma splice, make each sentence separate or use a conjunction. Such as "John went to the store. He bought bread, cheese, hamburger, and a gossip magazine." Or "John went to the store, and he bought bread, cheese, hamburger, and a gossip magazine." Depending on whether you want two shorter sentences or a long sentence will determine which method you'll use.
7) Remember that paper length is an important consideration. Assignments must meet certain criteria. Your grade will be negatively affected if the paper is too short or too long. Part of the rationale behind length is to force you to consider how to focus or expand your argument, how to include or what to exclude in your writing, and to edit conscientiously. Your ability to control length demonstrates control over your argument, your ideas, and the organization and elocution of those ideas.
8) Papers should have relevant, interesting, catchy titles. Plus, don't forget to use MLA manuscript format. See Lunsford's The Everyday Writer.
9) Be telling. Be specific. Be detailed. Too many papers began ideas and failed to follow through with enough relevant detail, enough support, enough exemplification. Also keep in mind that your audience, if it is a general one, does not necessarily know everything you know. When you mention specific places, towns, programs, items, you may need just a couple of words or phrases of set-up. If it is a particularly complicated or obscure reference, you might need more. Purposefully obscure or irrelevant references may ultimately detract from the paper.
Overall, I noticed general organizational, rhetorical, and mechanical errors that could have been corrected very easily if the paper had been read through once. There is no excuse for not catching spelling mistakes or fragments or formatting errors. If I have to stop reading in your first sentence because there is a glaring error or problem, then you're already in the hole.
Finally, read your papers out loud. Have someone read your papers to you. Let your ears catch things your eyes might not catch. Also, budget adequate time for you to work on your paper and then come back to it for revision.
March 28, 2006: Week One Reminders
My office hours this quarter will be on Wednesdays from 10 AM - 12 PM. Please let me know if this is convenient for you via the class blog. If too many people cannot generally make this time, I will try to arrange a different set of hours.
Second, I will be holding periodically "collegial hours" on Thursday afternoons. Generally from 3 - 4 PM in Suzzallo Espresso. What are collegial hours? They are an informal office hours where people can come, talk about class, chat about school in general, as questions of one another, discuss topics from favorite movies to sports to computer games to whatever. It is a chance for you to interact with each other and with me that is not in a formal setting. My students found it very helpful and enjoyable last quarter. Plus, it's a good way for me to get to know you! Collegial Hours will be announced each week (that they happen). Our first one will be this week, this Thursday, March 30, 3-4 PM, Suzzallo Espresso.
March 28, 2006: Week One Reminders
Good to meet you this first day of class! I hope you got something out of the introduction to the course. Please do not hesitate to ask questions in class, via the class blog, or via email. Remember: advocate for yourself!
Here are a few reminders for this week...
First, as pointed out by several classmates, the course reading on e-reserve was not working. It is now. The Brooks essay should be retrievable now via the library's reserve page OR via your MyUW schedule page. Make sure you print out a copy of the essay for yourself, read it carefully, mark pertinent passages, and come to class prepared to talk about it.
Second, remember to go to the class "blog" and read both the current posts and say hi and introduce yourself to the class once again! I will be posting a Blogging Point this week as well to give you the opportunity to respond to a question.
Third, read Chapter 2 in Reading Contexts. Pay attention primarily to the actual text and skim over the long examples Stygall gives. Be prepared to talk about what close reading is about.
Fourth, your first short paper is due on Thursday. The Photo Autobiography's assignment sheet can be found in the Assignments area. If you have any questions about it, please direct them to the blog.
I hope everyone has a good week. I didn't forcefully say this in class today (but I think you get the idea) but I wanted to iterate that the course will be dealing with issues like rhetoric, culture, pop culture, multiculturalism, diversity, race, gender, sexuality, and critical thinking. If you do not think after looking at the syllabus and being in class that this is your cup of tea, I recommend that you find another section better suited to your interests. Remember that the last day to change your schedule without penalty is APRIL 2.
March 26, 2006: Course Mail "engl131a3_sp06@u"
I have created a course reflector list, an email address designated for our class. Periodic announcements will be made via this list (and mirrored here on the course website). Sending an email to engl131a3_sp06 @ u.washington.edu will send your message to the whole class. Please treat the course reflector list with the same rules and respect as the blog.
March 25, 2006: Welcome
Welcome to English 131! I just wanted to extend a warm, spring welcome to the class! Hopefully, had a good spring break and is having a good first week of classes. Here's to a productive, fun, and interesting spring quarter! If you have any questions or concerns or comments, feel free to talk to or email me.
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