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 period:

1. Composing a Discussion Question (DQ) for your peers to consider about one of the literary or theoretical works required as reading for the day (DQl and DQt, respectively);

2. Writing an informal Response (RS) applying one of the required theorists to the literature likewise required for the day;

3. Selecting an interesting Quotation (QT) from one of the optional theorists to share with the rest of the class;

4. Serving as a Respondent (RT) for the other students when they present on the tasks above.

You will cycle though most of 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 (/sched.htm) identifies which task that your group will be doing each day.  

Important Technicalities:

* Email quotations and discussion questions at least 1 hour before class time (acoykenda at comcast.net) so that they can appear on the class handout for convenient reference.  If you cannot email them in time, bring 14 copies to class, pasting them multiple times on the same page to save paper.

* Submit two copies of responses, one by hand during class time and a second at the Turn It In website before class begins: http://www.turnitin.com/ (class #2760395; password “cannibal”).  Depending on the amount of material covered for the day, you may have an opportunity to discuss your response during class time.

* Focus on different texts than the other students in your group when doing discussion questions and quotations from the optional reading to ensure that the materials covered for the day receive an equal amount of attention.  Either do the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th work listed on the Schedule consistently throughout the term—or the first or second half of the 1st or 2nd works if, as is most likely, there are only two—or determine which texts to do on a week-by-week basis with your peers after class or via email.  (If there is only one text listed, these arrangements are unnecessary as that text is certain to be covered.)  Additional texts, such as the artwork or recommended reading, may be incorporated so long as you concentrate on your designated text primarily.

I. Discussion Questions (DQ)

A discussion question is essentially a thesis statement in reverse: a provocative, pertinent line of inquiry challenging your peers to interpret texts 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 this question yourself, composing it should encourage you to think against the grain, to challenge unexamined assumptions, and to test the boundaries of conventional thought. 

Send the question by email in time for the class handout or bring 14 copies to share.  If your group is covering the literature (DQl), make sure at least one peer is focusing on each of the required literary works whenever there is more than one.  If your group is covering the theory (DQt), do the same with the theoretical works.    

Once you have a question in mind (or a set of interrelated questions), put yourself in the shoes of those who will ultimately contemplate it in class: Might they have too little background to answer it?  Does it refer to texts not covered in class and thus unfamiliar to most?  Is it too narrow or broad in scope to provoke substantive discussion?  Is it too little polemic to incite curiosity or debate?  Consider defining obscure terms, including brief quotations, or specifying the page numbers for clarity and context.  Drawing connections between the recommended and required materials would be great, but make sure that those who have not done the optional reading can still make sense of the question.

II. Response Applying the Theory to the Literature (RS)

Responses are written reactions to the main literary work required as reading for the week (the longest one assigned), incorporating a direct quotation from at least one required theorist.  Challenge yourself to find connections between the literature and the theory as you read (it helps to read the theory first), especially connections that may initially seem farfetched, since unforeseen juxtapositions often inspire excellent topics for the research paper. 

Begin by pinpointing a few of the more interesting or important arguments of the theorist with which to engage; then explicate those arguments clearly in your own words and show the specific ways in which they might relate to the literature.  Endeavor to discuss both the literature and the theory critically, clearly explaining your own position with regards to it and ultimately generating a position of your own.  Ideally, you will introduce an innovative line of argumentation unique to yourself, though not necessarily one that is coherent, polished, or fully fermented. 

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.  Since you can rework responses in the research essay, emphasize whenever possible those issues that you might afterwards want to investigate and write about in further depth. 

Responses must be 375-500 words (for undergraduates) and 500-675 words (for graduates), as well as submitted to the Turn It In website before class begins.  No scholarly citations are necessary, nor even is proper grammar, although putting quotation marks around citations is essential to avoid the appearance of plagiarism.  Specifying the page numbers from which you extract quotations will also be helpful just in case you incorporate the same quotations in the final paper.

III. Quotation from Outside Reading (QT)

After reading one of the optional materials identified on the Schedule, select a passage of 3- to 4-lines to share with the class, the one that you find most suggestive, representative, illuminating, debatable, objectionable, provocative, or notable in some other fashion.  You will convey the gist of this passage in your own words to the rest of the class so that your peers can encounter, at least by proxy, the supplemental materials that you yourself have read, thereby gleaning additional ideas to draw from in the research paper. 

If there are more optional readings than group members, one person can extract a quotation from the first and another from the second half of the text.  You can also find secondary criticism in the MLA Bibliography (focusing on the same literary work that we are covering), and extract a quotation from that in lieu of the optional reading, just make sure at least one group member is focusing on each of the optional readings.  Once you have a quotation in mind, send it by email in time for the class handout or bring 14 copies to share

IV. Respondent (RT)

Being a respondent is almost like having no homework at all except for reading the required materials extra carefully.  You will serve as the main addressee and point person in class when your peers describe quotations from the outside reading, report on conversations stemming from the discussion questions and groupwork, or recount issues drawn from their responses—either posing questions of your own in reply or providing additional commentary to incite discussion on the part of the class as a whole.