Weekly Homework Assignments

The homework tasks 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 long writing assignments, enabling you to focus on the research paper due at the semester’s close.  One of four different assignments will be due almost every class:

1. Composing a Discussion Question about the Literature (DQL) for your peers to consider in class required as reading for the week;

2. Composing a Discussion Question about the Theory (DQT) for your peers to consider in class required as reading for the week;

3. Emailing a critical Response (RS) to the class listserv (novel at list.emich.edu) applying the required theory to the required literature for the week;

4. Selecting a Quotation (QT) from the optional theory relating to the required literature to share with the rest of the class.

You will cycle though these tasks twice 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), along with specifying which group you are in, provides an easy way to contact fellow members; the Schedule (/scd.htm) identifies the tasks that your group will be doing week by week. 


Important Technicalities:

* Email quotations and discussion questions to acoykenda at comcast.net TWO hours before class time so that they can appear on the class handout for convenient reference. If you cannot do so in time, bring 14 copies to class, ideally pasting them multiple times on the same page to save paper.

* When doing quotations or questions, focus on a different section of the readings than the rest of your group to ensure that everything gets covered. To make things easy, members listed first, second, or third on the Groups handout (/groups.htm) should focus on the first, second, and third section of the texts respectively.

* Only email responses to the class listserv (novel at list.emich.edu), not the quotations or discussion questions which will be consolidated on the class handout.


I. Discussion Questions (DQT & DQL)

A discussion question is essentially a thesis statement in reverse: a provocative, pertinent line of inquiry challenging your peers to interpret either the literature (DQL) or the theory (DQT) in a more nuanced fashion than they would when reading the text for the first time in isolation.  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 other group members via email (/groups.htm) in advance to make sure the focus of the questions does not overlap too much once combined together.  Also consider defining obscure terms, including brief quotations, or specifying page numbers for clarity and context.  Drawing connections between the recommended, required, or background materials would be great, but make sure those who have not familiar with the optional reading can still make sense of the question.

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?  Do they do some or all of the answering for your peers in the very asking of the question, stymieing further discussion?  Are they too little polemic to incite curiosity or debate?

Remember to divvy up the readings in the order in which group members are listed on the Groups handout (/groups.htm) to ensure everything is covered and to email the questions to acoykenda at comcast.net two hours before class time so that they can appear on the class handout for convenient reference.

 

II. Applied-Theory Response (RS)

Responses are informal written reactions of 550-700 words in length applying the required theory to the required literature and emailed to the class listserv (novel at list.emich.edu) 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 more interesting, important, or pertinent arguments of the theorist with which you want to engage, then explicate those arguments in your own words, and finally show the specific ways in which they relate to the literature.  Challenge yourself to uncover the less 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 (like the best gothic novels) 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 in a regular essay.  Responses can be creative and playful if you like, experimenting with modes of writing or modes of thought that you may not otherwise get away with in a formal essay.  However, since you can incorporate responses into your research essay 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 direct citations (so that you don’t inadvertently plagiarize) and specify the corresponding page numbers in parentheses at the end of the sentence.

 

III. Quotation from Optional Reading (QT)

For this task, you will read the optional theory for the week identified on the Schedule (/scd.htm) and then select 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 read and thereby glean additional sources to draw from in the research paper.

Remember to divvy up the reading in the order in which group members are listed on Groups handout (/groups.htm) to ensure everything is covered—always do the complete versions of the works in the Electronic Reserves [ER] so that there will be plenty for everyone—and to email the quotation to acoykenda at comcast.net TWO hours before class time so that it can appear on the class handout for convenient reference.