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 semester. These assignments serve in lieu of cumulative exams or long writing assignments, enabling you to focus on the seminar paper due at the semester’s close. One of five different assignments will be due almost every class period:
1. Writing a Discussion Question (DQ) for your peers to consider about one of the required readings;
2. Emailing an informal Response (RS) to the class, explaining your position on issues raised by one of the required theorists;
3. Selecting an interesting Quotation (QT) from one of the optional readings to share in class;
4. Hunting down a real-world example of a concept raised during one class and doing a brief Show and Tell (ST) account of it the next class;
5. Serving as a Respondent (RT) for the other students presenting on the tasks above.
You will cycle though the five 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) not only specifies which group you are in, but also provides an easy way to contact your peers; the Schedule (/sched.htm) specifies which kind of homework your group will be doing each day.
* Email quotations, discussion questions, or show-and-tell information at least 1 hour before class time (acoykenda at comcast.net) so that they appear on the class handout for convenient reference. If you cannot email these assignments in time, bring 10 copies to class, pasting them several times on the same page to save paper.
* Send responses to the class address (novel at list.emich.edu) sometime before we meet and bring a copy with you to turn in and have on hand. Depending on the amount of material covered that day, you may have an opportunity to present the ideas in the response to your peers.
* Focus on different texts than the other students in your group when doing questions, quotations, or responses to ensure that the materials covered for the day receive equal attention. You can either do the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th work listed on the Schedule consistently throughout the term, or determine which texts you will do on a week-by-week basis with your peers via email or in class. Other texts, required or otherwise, can be incorporated as well so long as you concentrate on the designated ones primarily.
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, challenge unexamined assumptions, and test the boundaries of conventional thought.
Send the question by email in time for the class handout or bring 10 copies to share. Make sure at least one peer in the group is focusing on each of the required theorists, with the remaining peers focusing on different background materials from the Feminist Theory anthology. Once you have a question in mind (or 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 including quotations, defining obscure terms, or specifying page numbers for clarity and context.
Responses are informal written reactions to one of the theorists required as reading for the week, with at least one quotation from that same theorist plus a second quotation from either the background or optional reading (to encourage making connections between the texts). Pinpoint one or two interesting or important arguments with which to engage and then explicate them clearly in your own words, discussing them critically, explaining your own position concerning them, and applying them in some fashion to the course content (gender, sexuality, feminism).
Aspire to introduce an innovative line of argumentation unique to yourself, though not necessarily coherent, polished, or fully fermented. Responses can be creative and playful if you like, experimenting with modes of writing or thought that you could not otherwise get away with in a formal essay. Since you can rework responses in the research essay, emphasize whenever possible issues that you may afterwards investigate and write about in more depth.
Responses must be 400-650 words and sent to the class email before class begins. If there are multiple theorists required for the day, make sure at least one peer is focusing on each. No scholarly citations are necessary or even proper grammar, although putting quotation marks around citations and specifying the page number from which you extracted them is important.
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, 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 have read and glean potential ideas to draw from in the research papers.
Once you have a quotation in mind, send it by email in time for the class handout or bring extra copies to share. If there are more optional readings than group members, one person can focus on the first and another on the second half of readings. Make sure at least one group member is focusing on each.
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 when peers report conversations stemming from the discussion questions, recount issues drawn from their responses, or describe quotations from the outside reading—either posing questions of your own in reply or providing additional commentary to incite discussion on the part of the class as a whole.
This assignment comes in two waves: first attending closely to whatever issues arise during the class period and then bringing a “show and tell” example of one of them to the following class. It could be a poem, a physical object, an artwork, an advertisement, or indeed anything else, so long as it helps drive an abstract or elusive theory home, making it pertinent to the concrete, everyday, non-academic world in which we live. Some possibilities include song lyrics, cartoons, found objects, product packaging, graffiti, Monty Python skits, etc. Try searching Google for material, whether for texts or for images.
We do not have very much class time to dedicate to this assignment, so find things germane that come in small packages (5-7 minutes at most). Email pictures and/or quotations in time to put on the handout, or bring copies (or the object itself) to class. If you cannot find a portable or tangible evocation of the phenomenon, simply turn to narrative and tell us an anecdote about it.