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Winter Quarter ’06
Assignments and Updates

(Read Carefully-Assignments are posted beginning with the most current)

(I've begun posting to the Blackboard page--posting the notes I've sent you by email. Other things will show up over time.)

For March 8:

Course portfolio due. Open Mike and Class Party

A portfolio for a class like this is like many other portfolios: a collection and display of the work you have done, together with a reflective essay describing your experience in the course. This project thus offers you a chance to review your quarter's work, as well as to put that work into some kind of narrative perspective. Your portfolio should include:

1) A detailed listing of the contents of the Portfolio.

2) All of the writing you have done for this class over the course of the quarter. (These should be the copies with my comments on them.)

3) A two to three page Self-Reflective Essay.

The Self-Reflective essay should be about your experience in this class. You should prepare for it by reviewing your writing for the quarter, but the actual essay may take a number of forms. It may, for example, discuss the writing you have done this quarter, describing what you take to be your work's strengths, how they may have changed over the course of the term, and anything you think you still might be able to improve. Or it may be a narrative of your experience in this course: why you took it, what problems it presented to you as it progressed, and what you did to address them. Or it may discuss how your attitudes about reading literature have developed, changed, or not changed during the quarter: what were you thinking when you came in, and how has that changed in the ten weeks since?

However you choose to set it out, the object of the exercise is to have you review your experience in the course, to think about that experience, and to do something towards evaluating and making sense of it.

The portfolio counts for 60 points of the course grade; I will evaluate the daily assignments included in the Portfolio on the basis of completeness and quality of involvement (30 points total). The essay I'll evaluate on the basis of responsiveness and thoughtfulness as follows (30 points total):

Fully responsive and thoughtfully undertaken = 30
Responsive but less completely thought through = 20
Marginally responsive, or not well thought through = 10
Unresponsive = 0

The Portfolio should be submitted in a mailing envelope. Its presentation should be neat, ordered, and careful. Be sure to address it and to provide postage sufficient for the thirty pages or so you will have submitted.

For March 6:

Writing: Revised Utopia Project due.

For March 1:

E-portfolio field trip day. Bring electronic copies of the papers you will be putting into your portfolio to class on a diskette, memory stick, or CD. Or email them to yourself as attachments. (For the full e-portfolio assignment go to the Blackboard.)

My colleague Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges' advice:

"I recommend that students use two electronic transfer methods just in case one fails. They can also make sure that their Dante accounts are activated by going to, choosing 'Turn services on or off,' and checking to see which services are off. If Dante is one of them, they can switch it on. Doing so allows them to successfully use the 100 MB of storage space they have on UW servers. It also allows them to use file transfer programs to move files from home and lab computers to Dante."

For February 27:

Reading and writing: The e-Portfolio internet scavenger hunt. Google tells me I've found 689,000 results for "reflective essay portfolio English." I've just spent the last hour browsing around in a few dozen of them, and I'm going to ask you to do the same thing for Monday. When you see for yourself how widespread the practice of creating portfolios (e- and hardcopy) is, some of you may even wonder why this is the first time you've heard of them here!

Then, having browsed about, pick one artifact that you find particularly informing as to how you might create your own reflective essay. Then write a response paper that focuses your scavenging experience by describing your artifact and why you have picked it.

For February 22: The Utopian Major project due. See Blackboard for the full project assignment. (The original plan was for a field trip to Mary Gates Hall for training in electronic portfolios in the second hour, but that can't actually be done. So we will postpone that tour until Wednesday, March 1.)

For February 20: NO CLASS--Yet another holiday.

For February 15:

Reading: Yourselves.

Writing: You folks are terrific. You’ve written a great set of essays, and they have created an extensive “data base” from evening degree students themselves about the program they are in and their responses to it. I liked them so much I decided we needed to publish them. So here are your personal copies. (Not to worry—I’m not going to publish them outside this class without your permission!)

But now that we’ve got such a data base, we need to mine it.

SO: First, read through these essays. Then:

1. List three of these essays’ common themes. (What as a whole do these essays end up being “about”?) (One example: many are about WHY you returned to school--boredom with jobs or even life itself--which I take to be a way of describing one of the goals you were seeking by returning to school.)

2. It is obviously difficult to articulate exactly what one has learned as one has done English, or how one has found oneself changed. But to the extent this has been articulated in these essays, what can you say the “learning outcomes” for this group of students have been? What do these essays say that you as a group are taking away from the experience of doing English/Humanities?

3. Think systematically. Taken together, again, what do these essays, directly or indirectly, say about the strengths/weaknesses of your major? Of the things one COULD do, what (from a reading of these 18 students’ accounts of their education) do we seem to do well, and what of the things we ought to be able to do do we seem NOT to do so well?

For February 13:

Reading: Scholes (in Richter), Service Learning (handout), Aesthetic Literacy (handout).

Writing: Key Word Exercise. We are looking at these pieces as ways to gain entry to the question of how an English major might be defined differently. Given that focus, locate in each piece THREE key words; pick one of those three and explain in a paragraph why you think that particular word matters.

For February 8:

The Other Programs Project: For your assigned institution, first, go to its website and find its major requirements. Then summarize its program (no more than two pages):

  1. by comparison to our own requirements, and
  2. by how its requirements relate to the readings we’ve been doing about the re-thinking of both subject and practice of an education in English.

You’ll then have 3-5 minutes to report orally to the class on your findings.

For February 6:

Reading: None!

Writing: We talked briefly in class about the way this film looks to raise questions about education generally, often not so much to answer the question as to provoke reflection about its complexities. Working from the list handed out on Feb 1 of questions raised by Educating Rita (look to the Blackboard for the list), either:

a) for one of the questions explain as carefully as you can where and especially how it arises in the part of the film we've now seen, or

b) identify another education-related question being raised, and describe where and how in the film we've seen so far that question arises.

For February 1:

Reading: Woolf, A Room of One's Own.

Writing: Pick your favorite page, and write an essay explaining your choice. What is particularly interesting about your page? What connection might it have to the project of this seminar?

For January 30:


Writing: The Looking Backwards Project.

What have you done as you’ve done English/Humanities?

This is a kind of literacy autobiography, focused on what you have done in your English/Humanities classes—a graduating major’s (much shorter) version of David Copperfield. It is also the investigatory phase for the e-Portfolio due in Week 9. Your audience for these essays is this class; we’ll be publishing these for you all to read and respond to.

You can write this as a narrative, or focus it thematically, or use any other structure that works for you. However you set it up, make sure you identify at least 3-4 key texts and/or moments and describe why they have been important to you and how. What was the context of those key readings? What did you learn in doing that reading that now seems of special value? Correlatively, what did you NOT learn? Where did you find yourself not growing as you would have liked? Why not? Be as specific as you can. (5-8pp).

For January 25:

Reading: Paulo Friere, bell hooks, Gertrude Himmelfarb.

Writing: Write a paragraph for each of the three readings locating them with respect to the two poles defined by Ohmann and Vendler. What is literary study for each of these three writers? What distinguishes THIS writer from the others?

For January 23:

Reading: More, Utopia.

Writing: You are a minister in Henry VIII’s court. You know More has been theorizing about reforming the state for years—he’s bent your ear about it many a time over a good flagon of ale. But now he has produced this text, and though he has declared it just a little thing he whipped up one night, he keeps winking whenever he says it. You read More’s book, recognize that whatever More says he was doing, in fact Utopia is an argument for major social and educational change, and you report back to the King. You pick three (implicit) reforms you would recommend, and three you would oppose. List those changes, and then for one of each, explain what More is proposing, and then explain exactly how you think the kingdom will be better off for following YOUR advice instead of More’s.

For January 18:

Reading: In Richter, "Why We Read," pp. 15-30; Vendler, "What We Have Loved, Others Will Love"; and Richard Ohmann, "The Function of English at the Present Time."

Writing: For both Vendler and Ohmann, write a one page "What-Why-So What" summary.

For January 16:

HOLIDAY—no class.

For January 11:

Reading: A River Runs Through It.

Writing: Three Paragraphs. For Paragraph 1, Pick a paragraph in this novella you find interesting for one reason or another. Explain as fully as you can in one full paragraph why you chose this paragraph. For Paragraph 2, Pick some work you’ve read in a college literature class that seems to you to be parallel to or to contrast with RRTI, and explain that parallel or contrast. And for Paragraph 3, describe one way your experience as an English/Literature major has made you a better reader of this book than you would have been had you taken your friend’s advice and gone into plastics, instead.

For January 9:

Reading (or re-read, if you have read it before): Barthes essay, “The Death of the Author.”

Writing: This is a difficult essay, but one that has been immensely influential. One of its charms is that it argues by aphorism—though that’s also part of why it is hard to make sense of. On p. 256 Barthes writes: “Once the Author is removed, the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile. … Hence there is no surprise in the fat that, historically, the reign of the Author has also been that of the Critic….” Write a response paper in which you do your best to explain how that summarizes Barthes’ claim. What is he saying? And why (extra credit) do you think he says it?






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