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English 560

Winter, 2021

Assignments and Updates

See also: Blackboard

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This is the Assignments and Updates Page. All assignments and updates to earlier assignments will be posted here, beginning with the most recent first.

This is the most up-to-date information available on this website. Please check this page frequently throughout the quarter!!

Thursday, Feb 25:

Final Paper

I have described the final project I’d like you to do as a 8-10 page exploration of any linguistic-connected phenomenon you want to explore, learn about, attack, or some other relevant verb. You might want to learn about Frame Theory, something I’ve mentioned in class and believe to be a really interesting phenomenon not just for English for languages across the world. Or you might want to wade a bit of the way into the lake of Construction Grammar (which we’ll engage for a bit today). Or you have an interest generated from your report over the past two weeks that you’d now like to explore further.

I’d like you to give me a three to four page proposal by Thursday of Next week; I’ll read and respond, and we can have a conversation over the course of the week. It will be due March 12.

I’m happy to talk with you at any point about the project(s) you might like to pursue, or help you figure out what direction you’d like to go.

And that’s just about it!


Thursday, January 21

Reading: How We Make Sentences: The Basics of English Language Constituent Structure.

Read the first two sections of How We Make Sentences (HWMS), and then get started on the Chapter Scanning project described below in tdhe January 26 Assignment.

Tuesday, January 26


1. As I explained in class, I'd like you to look through Chapters 7-14 for next Tuesday (I know I said Thursday, but upon reflection that might not give you enough time). You don't need to read all the chapters closely between now and then, but get a good sense of their contents. We will then play Harry Potter and the Sorting Hat (or something similar) to make sure that each of you has a chapter to present to the class over the next 4 weeks.

More particularly, over the next 4 weeks we'll do a chapter a meeting, and each of you will help us out by being responsible for 1) an outline of the chapter's contents generally and 2) a more complete explanation of 3 to 5 "take-away" big ideas that you find of particular interest. We will then use your reports as a jumping-off point for further discussion of the chapter. Meanwhile, we'll each be reading these chapters as we go.

So read through the chapters before Tuesday's class, and then we will do our best to give everyone their first choice. We probably won't be able to do that, however, so be prepared with a second and third backup choice.

Finally, I'd like each of you to pair up (or in one case, triple up) so you have someone to talk about your reading and evaluations before you write them up.

2. Read section 3 of How We Make Sentences: The Basics of English Language Constituent Structure.

Thursday, January 28

Reading: Read section 4 and 5 of How We Make Sentences: The Basics of English Language Constituent Structure, and the passages below:


Below is a reprint of openings from two different How-To-Write books: Peter Elbow’s Writing Without Teachers, and Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird. They take very different strategies as writers in the voice they choose/use. Your job here is to describe, characterize and compare and the styles of each. To do so, I propose to you three steps:

  • Choose 3-4 appropriate adjectives that characterize the speaking voice of the passage --e.g., is it formal, informal, chatty, serious, high, low, wise or any other set of adjectives that seem right to you.
  • Give a careful and full description of the stylistic features of the text that you see as having led to your conclusions about the style and purpose you are claiming the passage enacts. What stylistic language choices does the author make, and how do those choices work to create the tone of voice you have identified and enable her or him to pull off the effects you have described?
  • An explanation developed as best you can from your understanding of the passage why you think the author makes the choices s/he does in the passage you analyze. e.g., What is the intention, as you see it, of this speaking voice? Why is s/he taking the tone he takes? What is s/he trying to accomplish in this section of the text? Do you think you have in fact responded to the text as you think the text seems to want its reader to respond? If not, why not?

Peter Elbow, from Writing Without Teachers

The most effective way I know to improve your writing is to do freewriting exercises regularly. At least three times a week. They are sometimes called “automatic writing,” “babbling,” or “jabbering” exercises. The idea is simply to write for ten minutes (later on, perhaps fifteen or twenty). Don’t stop for anything. Go quickly without rushing. Never stop to look back, to cross something out, to wonder how to spell something, to wonder what word or thought to use, or to think about what you are doing. If you can’t think of a word or a spelling, just use a squiggle or else write, “I can’t think of it.” Just put down something. The easiest thing is just to put down whatever is in your mind. If you get stuck it’s fine to write “I can’t think what to say, I can’t think what to say” as many times as you want or repeat the last word you wrote over and over again; or anything else. The only requirement is that you never stop.

Anne Lamont, from Bird by Bird  

The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth.  We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are.  Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little.  But we do.  We have so much we want to say and figure out.  Year after year my students are bursting with stories to tell, and they start writing projects with excitement and maybe even joy—finally their voices will be heard, and they are going to get to devote themselves to this one thing they’ve longed to do since childhood.  But after a few days at the desk, telling the truth in an interesting way turns out to be about as easy and pleasurable as bathing a cat.  Some lose faith.  Their sense of self and story shatters and crumbles to the ground.  Historically they show up for the first day of the workshop looking like bright goofy ducklings who will follow me anywhere, but by the time the second class rolls around, they look at me as if the engagement is definitely off. 

Tuesday, February 2

Reading and Writing:

OK. For Tuesday, below are two prose passages. Before or after you read them I’d like you also to read the first sections of A Matter of Style, to and through the Style Checklist. You may not yet fully understand the terms you come across there, but we’ll straighten them out in class. Then, using as best you can what you know about recognizing stylistic choices in terms of syntax, vocabulary, and other stylistic features, give your best shot at a description of the style of each. Start again with descriptive adjectives. The two passages share much, but they are also highly contrastive in order to help make features visible that might otherwise be overlooked.

You can also go on to read the final sections of A Matter of Style if you’d like (the student paper on The Gettysburg Address is good example of a successful response to a formal stylistics assignment). Those sections were written for undergraduate writers. As I'm sure you know, the challenge of getting students to write interesting and authentic papers can be daunting; for many classes I use the study of style for students at all levels not just as an analytic strategy but also as a tool for the teaching of writing.

I can do this because learning to read for style is also a learning of how first to notice and then to reflect upon one’s own style and how it can be deployed. I use these strategies in many of the classes I teach, actually, and particularly in my style-linked W-classes. There I ask students to write an essay of 400-500 words for every class session, (Yes, I’ve worked out ways to manage the paper load as well—you need a such a plan for classes of up to 45 students writing 16 papers each. I’ve also studied students’ own descriptions of their writing growth as a result of this strategy.)

But here I’m just wanting to spend part of the next two weeks connecting the technical study of phonology, morphology and syntax and the readings each of you will be talking about to the pragmatics of the teaching/learning of writing. I'll be posting a provisional plan for the rest of the quarter by Tuesday.

Two Passages:

Ecclesiastes, from the Bible, King James Version

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever. The sun also riseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again to his circuits. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. All things are full of labor; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. The thing which hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.


Ernest Hemingway, from “Big Two-Hearted River” (1926) (I include the opening paragraph for context--it's the next two paragraphs I'd like you to focus on)

[The train went on up the track out of sight, around one of the hills of burnt timber. Nick sat down on the bundle of canvas and bedding the baggage man had pitched out of the door of the baggage car. There was no town, nothing but the rails and the burned-over country. The thirteen saloons that had lined the one street of Seney had not left a trace. The foundations of the Mansion House hotel stuck up above the ground. The stone was chipped and split by the fire. It was all that was left of the town of Seney. Even the surface had been burned off the ground. ]

Nick looked at the burned-over stretch of hillside, where he had expected to find the scattered houses of the town, and then walked down the railroad track to the bridge over the river. The river was there. It swirled against the log piles of the bridge. Nick looked down into the clear, brown water, colored from the pebbly bottom, and watched the trout keeping themselves steady in the current with wavering fins. As he watched them they changed their positions by quick angles, only to hold steady in the fast water again. Nick watched them a long time.

He watched them holding themselves with their noses into the current, many trout in deep, fast moving water, slightly distorted as he watched far down through the glassy convex surface of the pool, its surface pushing and swelling smooth against the resistance of the log-driven piles of the bridge. At the bottom of the pool were the big trout. Nick did not see them at first. Then he saw them at the bottom of the pool, big trout looking to hold themselves on the gravel bottom in a varying mist of gravel and sand, raised in spurts by the current.


We’ll also finish up our introduction to syntax and diagramming this week, and start next week with your Distillations and Emphases (My new name for your chapter project….).

Here again is a link to A Matter of Style: The Speaker in the Text