Weekly Homework Assignments
The homework assignments ensure interactive, engaged discussions for the duration of the class period, as well as regular participation in and preparation for the course throughout the term.† These assignments serve in lieu of cumulative exams or mid-semester writing assignments, enabling you to focus on the seminar paper that will be due at the semesterís close.† One of three assignments will be due for your group almost every class:
1. Composing a discussion question about the literature or literary criticism required for the week for your peers to consider in class (DqL);
2. Composing a discussion question about the theory required for the week for your peers to consider in class (DqT);
3. Posting a critical response to the course homepage on my.emich applying the theory required for the week to the novel God of Small Things (RsL);
4. Selecting a quotation from the optional theory to share with the rest of the class (QT).
You will cycle though these assignments over the span of the term, doing each in turn but beginning with a different one depending on your group number.† The Group Assignments handout (/groups.htm) specifies which group you are in, and the course schedule (/sched.htm) specifies the kind of homework that your group will be doing each week.
* Submit all homework, including the critical responses, to the course homepage on my.emich by the midnight before class meets, and be prepared to discuss them with your peers during the class itself (bring hard copies for reference).
* Group members must focus on distinct topics when doing the quotations and discussion questions, so check those already posted on my.emich before you post your own.
* To make things easy, members listed first, second, or third on the Groups handout (/groups.htm) can focus on the first, second, and third sections of the texts respectively.
I. Discussion Questions (DQL & DQT)
A discussion question is essentially a thesis statement in reverse: a provocative, pertinent line of inquiry challenging your peers to interpret the texts in a more nuanced fashion than they would when reading the text for the first time in isolation.† Drawing connections between the recommended, required, or background materials would be great, but make sure that those unfamiliar with the other materials can still make sense of your question and that it directly focuses on the texts which your group was assigned; that is, either the theory (DQT) or the selections from the novel or literary criticism (DQl) required for the week.
Because you do not have to answer the question (or set of interrelated questions) yourself, composing it should encourage you to think against the grain, to challenge unexamined assumptions, and to test the boundaries of conventional thought. Try to contact your fellow group members via email (/groups.htm) in advance to make sure the questions do not overlap too much once combined together.† Also consider including brief quotations, defining obscure terms, or specifying page numbers for clarity and context.†
Once you have a question or a series of questions in mind, put yourself in the shoes of those who will ultimately contemplate them in class: Might your peers have too little background to answer them?† Do they refer to texts not covered in class and thus unfamiliar to most?† Are they too narrow or too broad in scope to incite substantive discussion?† Are they too little polemic to incite curiosity or debate? Do they do answer the question in the very posing of the question, thereby stymieing further discussion?†
II. Critical Response (RS)
Responses are informal written reactions of 600-700 words in length applying the required theory to the required literature and posted to the course homepage (my.emich) so that other students can benefit from your ideas.† It helps to read the theory first and then read the novel so that you can make connections between the two.† You need to reference at least two specific concepts from the theorist (and directly incorporate at least two quotations from him or her by way of example) in your analysis of the novel.†
Endeavor to discuss both the theory and the literature critically, explaining your own position clearly with regards to them.† The easiest way to proceed is to pinpoint the most interesting, important, or pertinent arguments of the theorist with which you want to engage, then explicate those arguments in your own words before showing the specific ways in which they relate to the literature.† Challenge yourself to uncover the least straightforward or obvious connections between the literature and theory since unforeseen juxtapositions often inspire excellent topics for the research paper.† Also remember that the most rewarding ideas are often those that are the most bewildering or elusive at first.
Ideally, responses introduce an innovative line of argumentation unique to yourself, though not necessarily coherent, polished, or fully fermented as they would be in a regular essay.† Responses can be creative and playful if you like, experimenting with modes of writing or thought that you may not otherwise get away with in a formal essay.† However, since you can incorporate responses into your seminar paper at the end of the term, emphasize whenever possible those issues that you might afterwards want to explore in further depth.†
Make sure to put quotation marks around quotations (so that you donít inadvertently plagiarize) and specify the corresponding page numbers in parentheses at the end of the sentence.
III. Quotation from Optional Reading (QT)
This assignment entails reading the optional theory for the week and then selecting a passage of 3 to 4 lines from your section to share with rest of the class.† The quote can be suggestive, representative, provocative, brilliant, debatable, objectionable, obnoxious, or notable in some other fashion so long as it relates in some way to the literature also covered for the week.
You will convey the gist of this passage in your own words and explain its correlation to the literature during class time so that your peers can encounter, at least by proxy, the extra materials that you have read and thereby glean additional sources to potentially draw from in the research paper.
Remember to divvy up the reading or readings (if there are two) in the order in which group members are listed on Groups handout (/groups.htm) to ensure that everything is covered.†