Required Blog Posts

Over the course of the semester, you will make two posts to the blog for your classmates to respond to is a requirement of the course.   The purpose of these posts is (a) to give you practice in writing for an audience of peers about the subject matter of the course, (b) to give you the opportunity to do some secondary research on one of the course readings, and (c) to prompt informal discussion of the readings among your classmates in advance of class time.

There are two forms that your blog post will take, corresponding to the two columns on the sign-up sheet: the Blog Question (worth 15 points) and the   Secondary Literature Blog Post (worth 35 points).  Both kinds of responses are due by 5pm on the date that you have signed up for, so that your classmates will have time to read them and respond.

The Blog Question (15 points)
For this post you will pose an analytical or interpretive question relating to the reading for your classmates to answer.  You should NOT do any outside research to prepare  for writing your question (though if you do, you must use quotations marks and cite your source).  The question need not be long, or have an extensive set-up, but it should be thoughtful and thought provoking.  A good blog question will

Features of a good blog question:

·      It’s open-ended, and not too easy to answer.  (It doesn’t elicit a simple or obvious “yes” or “no.”)

·      It confronts some problem in the text: something paradoxical, puzzling, or hard to understand.

·      It requires some delving into or processing of the text.

·      You don’t have a definitive answer to it.  (You may have some ideas or the beginnings or an answer, but not the expectation that your classmates will offer a particular response that you have in mind.)

·      It can (but doesn’t have to) consist of a “grab-bag” of smaller interpretive questions.

·      It can (but doesn’t have to) invite connections between the reading you’re assigned and other works we’ve already discussed.

·      It can (but doesn’t have to) use the text as a springboard for addressing broader themes and issues at play in the course (though in this case, it’s crucial that you specify ways that responses can relate to the text in question.)

·      It can (but doesn’t have to) pick up on an issue raised in previous class discussion of the text.

The Secondary Literature Blog Post (35 points)
This post WILL require you to do some outside research.  You will need to find a journal article, book chapter (from a scholarly monograph), or essay (from an edited print essay collection) about the assigned text (it doesn’t necessarily need to focus on the specific pages assigned for that day).  You will read the article carefully, and then write a blog post (<750 words) in which you

a.     Cite the article using proper MLA style (as if this were a paper, not a blog post) (5 points).
b.     summarize the article or essay’s main argument (10 points);
c.     offer your own assessment of the argument (How does it correspond—or not—to your own understanding of the novel?  Are there ideas in it that seem to you particularly illuminating or particularly dubious?) (10 points)
d.     pose a question for your classmates to respond to that in some way addresses, builds on, probes, or otherwise engages with some key element of the critical argument you have just assessed. (10 points)

To complete this assignment successfully, you should

·      Make sure the article you’re writing about is suitable for this assignment.  Book reviews, reading guides, online research assignments from students at other institutions, and the like are NOT acceptable sources.  Feel free to send me a citation for the article you have in mind to make sure it meets the requirements.   It’s a good idea to locate an article well in advance of the due date, so that you have plenty of time to clear it with me first and find a better article if it’s not a good source.

·      Make use of the UIUC Literatures and Languages Library website (NOT Google) to locate and get access to to the best available scholarship on your book:   The MLA database (there’s a link on the library webpage) is an excellent place to start (it’s much more comprehensive than JSTOR, for example), but it can be a little tricky to navigate at first.  If you have problems, consult a librarian!  They’re available by phone or e-mail and can save you a lot of fruitless searching.

·      Work hard to isolate the thesis of your article.  It can be tricky, in a scholarly article on a literary subject.  It isn’t always spelled out in the opening paragraph; it may not emerge fully until the close of the article; there may be some provocative detours.  If you find yourself completely baffled, a blog post eliciting help in unpacking a key passage or two in the argument is a fine way to handle the assignment.  But in many cases, you will be able to discern an argument—it will just take some careful reading.

·      Condense and clarify!  Avoid repeating the jargon and circumlocutions of the authors you’re discussing.  I put a word limit on the posts for a reason,  Try to distill your author’s ideas to the clearest and simplest form you can, for the edification of your classmates.

The Fine Print

You may not use someone else’s work to complete either of these blog posts.  The rules of plagiarism apply to these assignments as much as they do to formal print papers.

If the deadline for your blog post comes uncomfortably close to the deadline for
another writing assignment for this course, please come talk to me about an extension on the writing assignment.

There will be no extensions on the blog posts, except for extraordinary circumstances, of the kind that come accompanied with a note from the Emergency Dean.

Two points will be deducted for every hour after deadline (5pm on the date specified) that the post is late.

If you want to change the text or time that you’ve signed up for, you may, so long as you find someone in the class willing to exchange slots with you.  You must make these arrangements on your own (with, obviously, the consent of the others involved) and inform me in a timely manner.

Feel free to ask me (in class, by e-mail, or during office hours) if you have any questions about these assignments.