Teaching Materials: Utopia, Dystopia, Science Fiction, Invisible Man, & Nightwood

The following links direct to a number of teaching materials from Frann Michel (Willamette University), covering 100-level Utopia and Dystopia classes, upper-level Science Fiction courses, and single-novel centered Senior Humanities Seminars on Invisible Man and Nightwood. Each link unfurls a bounty: syllabi, writing advice, and complementary resources. Below you will also find a syllabus for a different version of the Dystopia course taught as a 100-level, general education English course in writing and interpreting texts. Included with the syllabus are some of the assignments and course handouts.

 

IDS 101 College Colloquium: Utopian Visions

http://www.willamette.edu/%7Efmichel/utopia.html

 

IDS 101 College Colloquium: Dystopia Happening Here

http://www.willamette.edu/%7Efmichel/dystopia.htm

 

ENGL 118 Speculative Science Fiction

http://www.willamette.edu/%7Efmichel/118Wsf06.html

 

ENGL 319 Science Fiction

http://www.willamette.edu/%7Efmichel/ScienceFiction.htm

 

HUM 497 Senior Humanities Seminar: Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

http://www.willamette.edu/%7Efmichel/InvisibleMan08.html

 

HUM 497 Senior Humanities Seminar: Djuna Barnes's Nightwood

http://www.willamette.edu/%7Efmichel/nightwood.htm

 

American Literature: Dystopias

TuTh 9:40-11:10

Frann Michel

 

Course Description

          Globally and nationally, we face upheavals in the physical and political worlds.  Catastrophic climate change and resource scarcity emerge as both consequence of and contributor to capitalist crisis.   Recent electoral wins by nationalist and anti-immigrant voices in the US and UK have rebuffed the victims of climate chaos and neoliberal global trade regimes,  and we see massive and continuing violence by state and non-state agents.

          But the sense of political and cultural crisis is not new. In the past hundred years, North American writers have repeatedly envisioned a fascist America as developing in a possible future or an alternate past, sketching a time of social dissention and economic inequality, in which the country comes to be governed by big business, religious fundamentalism, and executive decree. In this course, we will examine five of these dystopian novels, considering their narrative structures, their political visions, their critiques of their own time, and their possible implications for readers today.

          This course fulfills the Interpreting Texts MOI requirement. As such, it will help you develop your skills in analyzing and understanding textual representations of human experience. We will consider the relationship between texts discussed and particular forms of culture they may express or help constitute. We will consider the form — for example, the various styles or genres — of textual communication; study various interpretive strategies and problems; examine dynamic relations among author, reader, and text; and explore whether — and if so, in what ways — texts embody cultural values.

          This course is Writing-Centered, and informal writing will be a primary mode of learning. In addition, the course requires three critical essays, in on time. Brief in-class and at-home writing assignments and peer editing will contribute directly or indirectly to the development of these essays.

 

Readings

London, Jack, The Iron Heel  • 1908 •  ISBN-13: 978-0143039716  Penguin         

Lewis, Sinclair,  It Can't Happen Here  • 1935  • ISBN-13: 978-0451465641 Signet 

Atwood, Margaret,  The Handmaid's Tale  • 1985 • ISBN-13: 978-0385490818  Anchor

Butler, Octavia, Parable of the Talents • 1998 • ISBN-13: 978-044667578 Grand Central

Roth, Philip, The Plot Against America • 2004 • ISBN-13: 978-0099478560  Vintage   

Additional texts will be available via course WISE site [W]: print these out.

 

Course requirements

Essays:  one-page paper 5% of final grade

          three-page paper 15% of final grade

          five-page paper 20% of final grade

written participation (including discussion questions, drafts, documentation for research reports, annotations of assigned texts, in-class writing, other writing assignments): 30% of final grade

oral/aural participation (including oral reports, editing workshops, and individual conferences): 30% of final grade

 

Student Learning Outcomes

http://www.willamette.edu/cla/english/info/outcomes/index.html

1. You will demonstrate through written work and class discussion improved comprehension of the significance of form, including styles or genres, in textual communication.


2. You will demonstrate through written work and class discussion improved understanding of the challenges involved in textual interpretation and various strategies to address them


3.  You will demonstrate through written work and class discussion improved ability to distinguish the dynamic relations among author, reader, and text

4.  You will gain improved understanding of the complexities of academic writing—developing an innovative thesis, 
anticipating your reading audience, reasoning and arguing convincingly, and supporting your claims with concrete, textual evidence—and will show evidence of that understanding in your papers, peer review, and other written assignments. 



Aside from these intended, formal requirements and outcomes, college courses can provide opportunities for unexpected intellectual provocations, and I hope we will all remain open and curious about the novelties we encounter. I suspect that deep learning happens most not when we focus on getting a right answer or getting a good grade, but when we are receptive and attentive to an open-ended process of discovery and delight.

 

Tentative schedule of readings and assignments

Readings should be completed before the scheduled date for discussion. Bring your copy of the texts we are currently reading every day in class. When the assigned reading is available through WISE or online, you must print out the reading and bring a hard copy to class.  It is impossible to perform adept readings and analyses without a text in front of you. Read actively and annotate (mark up) your texts. Changes to this schedule will be announced once in class and posted to the course WISE site.

 

Tu Jan 17 Introductions ( Syllabus, Textual Annotations, Discussion Questions)

Th Jan 19  Eco, "Ur-Fascism"; Chaudhary & Chappe, "The Supermanagerial Reich" (W); Write a Discussion Question about the readings. See below for guidelines.

 

Tu Jan 24 London, The Iron Heel, epigraph, Foreword, Chapters I -II

          Lynch, "Getting an A on an English Paper" (W)

Th Jan 26  London, The Iron Heel, Chapters III-VII

          Write a Discussion Question about these chapters of The Iron Heel.

 

Tu Jan 31 London, The Iron Heel, Chapters VIII-XVII

          Saltz, "Revising the Draft" (W)

          Library Research instruction; sign up for reports.

Th Feb 2 London, The Iron Heel, Chapters XVIII-XXV

          Cooper, "Editing the Essay, Part One" (W)

          Bring two copies of a draft of a one-page paper about The Iron Heel.  See below for guidelines.

 

M Feb 6 11:00am One-page paper on The Iron Heel due to WISE.

Tu Feb 7  Lewis, It Can't Happen Here, Chapters 1-8

Th Feb 9 Lewis, It Can't Happen Here, Chapters 9-14

          Oral reports on historical references or literary allusions.  See below for guidelines.

 

Tu Feb 14 Lewis, It Can't Happen Here, Chapters 15-25

          Oral reports on historical / literary references. 

Th Feb 16 Lewis, It Can't Happen Here, Chapters 26-31

          Oral reports on historical / literary references.

 

Tu Feb 21 Lewis, It Can't Happen Here, Chapters 32-38

          Oral reports on historical  / literary references.

"College Writing" (W)

Th Feb 23  Smith, "The Black Stockings" (W)

          Write a Discussion Question about the reading.

 

Tu Feb 28 Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale, epigraphs, Sections I-III

          Write a brief proposal for a three-page essay; include a trial thesis and a

          list of quotations or passages you might use for evidence.  

          "Brief Guide to Writing the English Paper" (W)

Th Mar 2 Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale, IV-VI

          Write a Discussion Question about these chapters of The Handmaid's Tale.

 

Tu Mar 7 Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale, VII-XI

          Bring two copies of a draft of your 3-page essay.

Th Mar 9 Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale, XII

          Write a Discussion Question about these chapters of The Handmaid's Tale.

 

M Mar 13 11:00am  Three-page paper due to WISE.

Tu Mar 14 Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale, XIII-Historical Notes (end)

Th Mar 16 Butler, Parable of the Talents, Prologue-Chapter Three

 

Tu Mar 21 Butler, Parable of the Talents, Chapters Four-Eleven

Th Mar 23 Butler, Parable of the Talents, Chapters Twelve-Fourteen

          Write a Discussion Question about these chapters of Parable of the Talents.

 

Mar 27-31 Spring Break

 

Tu Apr 4 Butler, Parable of the Talents, Chapters Fifteen-Eighteen

Th Apr 6 Butler, Parable of the Talents, Chapters Nineteen-Epilogue

           Write a Discussion Question about these chapters of  Parable of the Talents.

 

Tu Apr 11 Roth, The Plot Against America, Chapters 1& 2

          Walk, "How to Write a Comparative Analysis" (W)

Th Apr 13 Roth, The Plot Against America, Chapters 3 -5

          Write a Discussion Question about these chapters of The Plot Against America.

 

Tu Apr 18 Roth, The Plot Against America, Chapters 6-8

          Write a one-paragraph proposal for an essay about any two (2) of our readings.

Th Apr 20 Roth, The Plot Against America, Chapter 9 & Postscript

         

Tu Apr 25 Bring two copies of a draft of your 5-page essay.

Th Apr 27  Continued discussion.  Last class meeting.

 

F May 5 11am (Final exam date): Five-page essay due to WISE.   

          Optional revision due to WISE.  See guidelines below.

 

More information

Course Requirements:

1. Attendance: Attendance counts because you must, of course, be physically as well as mentally present in order to participate in class. Regular attendance is required. I will take attendance every day. In order to do well in this class you will need to attend each day on time, with the assigned texts, prepared to participate in class discussion. Every student is allowed three (3) absences. Additional absences, regardless of cause, will lower your participation grade. If you miss a class, talk to at least two other students who were present that day, and get copies of their class notes.

2. Essays: Students will three essays of different lengths.  Students will revise their drafts after consulting with peer editors about each draft and at least once during the semester with the instructor. Together, these essays will be worth 40% of the final course grade.

3. Written participation: Students will also submit discussion questions, documentation for research presentations, rough drafts of papers, and additional writing assignments, including in-class writing and possibly including unannounced reading quizzes at the beginning of class. In addition, I will sporadically check your texts for markings indicative of active reading. Together, these preparatory, informal, and other short writings will account for 30% of the final grade.

4. Oral participation: Most of our class time will be devoted to discussion of assigned readings. Good class discussion depends on your preparation, thoughtfulness, and consideration for others. Good participation includes listening to each other, asking questions, and offering your insights and responses. Students are expected to do the readings and to participate in these discussions, as well as to participate in peer-editing workshops.  Each student will present an oral report on background research and its relevance to our reading.  Together, these elements of oral participation will be worth  30% of the final grade.

 

Note: If you tend to speak a lot in class discussion, try to limit yourself to no more than three interventions per class. If you tend not to speak in class discussions, write down some questions or comments about the reading before class, and offer one early in each class discussion. If you are concerned about any aspect of classroom dynamics--or any other aspect of the course--please come talk with me as soon as possible, so we can work on making the class as successful as possible for all of us.

Note: In order to receive a passing grade for this course, students must complete all assignments. Papers must be submitted to WISE (under "Assignments"). Essays submitted late will be penalized one third of a grade per day, e.g. an “A” falls to an “A-“ and so on.


 

Assignments

 

Annotating Texts

Read actively. Preview the text—see how the book is organized and what supplementary materials it contains, for instance. Mark the text (underline, question, summarize) as you read and think about what you have read. Review your notes and markings before class. 

Annotating texts will help you improve your understanding, retention, analysis, and integration of textual material. It will make it easier for you to develop discussion questions and arguments for essays.

         

Discussion Questions    

Discussion questions must be brought to class typed. Partial credit will be granted for discussion questions that are either neatly handwritten or turned in no more than one day late.

Discussion questions have multiple aims: they should demonstrate to me that you are doing the reading (so we don't need exams or quizzes), and they should provide you with an opportunity to reflect upon the assignment. They will also provide the basis for much of our class discussions.


A discussion question is one that cannot be answered simply by looking the answer up somewhere, one that does not have an obvious answer, but that must be explored and argued. It is not completely open-ended, but specifically grounded in the text. It arises from careful consideration of the reading assignment: what the text says, and how it says it. It will be helpful to cite a particular page (give the page number) and even to quote from the text.  In about half a page (150 words), explain what prompted the question, what thinking went into arriving at the question, what possible answers (if any) have been considered, and why those answers are unsatisfactory. Try to frame the question itself in one brief interrogative sentence.

         

Research Presentations

Pick two or three references (to people, groups, events, or other historically specific things) in the section of It Can’t Happen Here that we’ll be reading for the day of your report. Research those references, and present to the class your findings as they are relevant to the novel—that is, what’s the significance of the reference? You may need to research more than 2 or 3 in order to find that many interestingly significant terms. Coordinate with others reporting on the same day to make sure you don’t overlap. On the day of your report, turn in an MLA-style list of works consulted. You should have a variety of reliable sources.

 

One-page Essay

For the first essay, you will analyze a single sentence from The Iron Heel in light of the text as a whole.  I encourage you to meet with me to go over a draft of the paper. 

Three-page Essay

For the second essay (3-4 pages), you will trace a motif or other stylistic feature through one of the literary texts we are studying.  I encourage you to meet with me to go over a draft of the paper. 

Five-page essay

For the last essay (5-6 pages), you will compare and contrast an aspect of two of the literary texts we are studying.  I encourage you to meet with me to go over a draft of the paper.  

Individual Conferences

You must meet with me individually at least once during the semester to confer about a draft of one of your essays for the course.  That is, you will make an appointment, bring a copy of your draft to my office, and we will go over it together before you submit the finished essay.  In addition, if you wish to revise either of the first two essays, you must schedule an individual conference and bring a revised draft of the essay for us to go over together.  You are also invited to meet with me more often than is required.

 

Discussion Questions

Due: At the beginning of class on the days listed on the syllabus.

Purpose: Discussion questions have multiple aims: they should demonstrate to me that you are doing the reading (so we don't need exams or quizzes), and they should provide you with an opportunity to reflect upon the assignment. They will also provide the basis for much of our class discussions.

Skills (IT & W): Discussion questions provide practice in noticing textual details, recognizing textual patterns, interpreting the function and effect of these details or patterns in relation to the whole of the text in which they occur, and thereby exploring multiple dimensions of a literary work and considering multiple interpretations. In addition, they provide practice in introducing and integrating textual quotations and developing clear and vigorous prose.

Knowledge: Discussion questions will help increase your knowledge of the texts we are reading and the issues they raise.

Task: A discussion question is one that cannot be answered simply by looking the answer up somewhere, one that does not have an obvious answer, but that must be explored and argued. It is not completely open-ended, but specifically grounded in the text. It arises from careful consideration of the reading assignment: what the text says, and how it says it. It will be helpful to cite a particular page (give the page number) and even to quote from the text. In about half a page (150 words), explain what prompted the question, what thinking went into arriving at the question, what possible answers (if any) have been considered, and why those answers are unsatisfactory. Try to frame the question itself in one brief interrogative sentence.

Criteria for success: Discussion questions must be brought to class typed. Partial credit will be granted for discussion questions that are either neatly handwritten or turned in no more than one day late. A good question will generate stimulating discussion that helps us better to understand and appreciate the complexities of the text. It will be written in clear, correct, and lively prose.

Grading: Discussion Questions will be graded ✓, ✓+, ✓- , or ✗ (no credit). In most cases, the grade will be a ✓, meaning this was a good question. The grade of ✓- will reflect that the question was either not typed, was turned in late (after class but the same day), or was vague, unclear, or incomplete. The rare grade of ✓+ will be accorded to questions that are exceptionally astute, thoughtful, specific, and well written. Two✓-=✗;one✓- and one✓+balance out to a✓. The cumulative grade for discussion questions will be as follows:

A = No missing questions (✗ ); a steady stream of ✓, with some ✓+


B = No more than one missing question (1 ✗ or 2✓- ); a steady stream of ✓

C = No more than two missing questions.


D = No more than three missing questions.

 

Some Notes On How To Ask A Good Question That Will Provoke Discussion 
adapted from Some Notes On How To Ask A Good Question About Theory That Will Provoke Conversation And Further Discussion From Your Colleagues Published by Kyla Wazana Tompkins in Avidly September 13, 2016: http://avidly.lareviewofbooks.org/2016/09/13/we-arent-here-to-learn-what-we-know-we-already-know/

Read texts three times: once to get a mental map of the article/chapter/ paper; once to get the gist of the argument; and once to find your questions. [If you can't read a text three times, you should at least preview the text; then read & annotate; then take a break; then review the text and your notes before writing the question.]

Take notes in the margins: mess with the text. Underline, star, jot down questions.

Take a break.

Think about the pieces of the text, phrases, expressions, moments that tweak your instincts, that bother and harass you. These intuitions and “feelings” are the ends of intellectual threads that you may want to excavate.

Linger over passages that are unclear or that strike you as particularly helpful or that don’t jar well with you. Why do those passages set off your instincts?

Relate those passages to the whole text: how is this piece of the text part of a larger context? 


Contextualize the writing. You should know the following information: who wrote the text / essay / chapter; for theoretical & critical reading, know what is the writer's discipline, or interdisciplinary nexus; what is/are the central arguments; who is the writer in conversation with; what are some key passages; what are some key terms; what did you not understand?
è Make your discussion question(s) simple, straightforward and jargon-free. 


Proofread your questions so that you catch grammar and spelling mistakes. 


Make your questions open-ended, i.e. not answerable with fact or by direct and immediate reference to the text. 


Make sure your question doesn’t rely on information the rest of the class doesn’t have, OR give the class enough information and background to be able to engage the question. Make sure the question is answerable to start with, i.e., is not vague and does not rely on facts or assumptions not addressable within the confines of our class conversation.

Make reference to the text with quotes or page numbers: direct the class to look at a relevant passage, read it together out loud, and drill down into the writing and sentence structure itself to get at the problem you are looking at. We need not reserve close-reading practices to literature, particularly if we are interested in the refractive effects of language itself.

A good discussion question about theory reframes some of the problems of the text and then tries to get at internal logical problems and paradoxes or to think through the consequences, implications, and applications of the theory.

Therefore, questions about “experience” or “responses” or “feelings” tend not to be helpful questions – try to step back from personal responses and instead focus on the intellectual shape of the ideas and argument.

Often we are tempted to ask the “what about” question: e.g., what about the people who are excluded from this theory? Although not an unreasonable question, asked in this manner this is not really a sophisticated question because it doesn’t open up conversation. The only answer to “what about” is: they aren’t there. More productive is to ask: how do the exclusions at the heart of this work facilitate certain conclusions, problems or paradigms, what are these paradigms and what happens when we consider this theory in a broader context? What would this theory look like if re-written from a different point in history, different assumptions about political economy, etc.?

It’s not the worst idea to make sure you have some thoughts about how to answer your questions before sharing them with colleagues. However, sometimes you are just really stumped and need to work through this question with your classmates. That’s okay too.

Write a preamble to the question. That preamble might be a short intellectual history of your questions, it might contextualize the text you are working with, it might scaffold the question you want to ask by referring to other texts or many points in the same text. Don’t make this preamble so long that no-one can excavate the original question, however.

If you can answer your question while you are writing it, you probably need to just state your point of view and move on to another, related, question.

Sometimes the question you write is simply the jumping-off point for more developed questions on the part of the class. That is fine! The point is to catalyze inquiry, not perform mastery.

Sometimes you are stuck with an instinct, a hunch, a nagging feeling and a half-formed question and you simply can’t move forward without thinking about it out loud. Bring those seemingly half-formed thoughts to the class: we will figure the direction or shape of your question together.

Finally: when you don’t get it, you don’t get it. Ask for help from the professor or your classmates, and feel free and supported in bringing your “I Don’t Get It” questions to class. We will all profit from these acts of intellectual humility and generosity.

 

Textual Annotations

Due: the day of scheduled reading for each text.

Purpose: Annotating texts will help you improve your understanding, retention, analysis, and integration of textual material. It will make it easier for you to develop discussion questions and arguments for essays.

Skills: active, critical reading.

Knowledge: textual content and form.

Task: Read with a pen or pencil in your hand. If you do not wish to write in the book, use post-it notes.

Before reading, preview the text.

Examine the front and back covers of books; note when and where the text was published.


Read the title and any subtitles.


Examine the way the text is set up; is it divided into chapters? Do chapters have titles, and if so, of what sort?


Examine any supplementary material—is there, for instance, an introduction, afterword, index, endnotes, glossary?
As you examine these, write questions, and make predictions (articulate your expectations) and/or connections near these parts of the text.

During reading, mark the text.

Underline, circle, box, or bracket words or phrases; put a line, check, asterisk, question mark by passages; write in the margins.


Underline or circle unfamiliar words or references; look them up (later, if not while you are reading) and write a brief reminder of the definition in the margin.


Mark anything you find puzzling or striking.
Mark character names, where and when events occur, unusual word choice, figurative language (metaphors, similes, and such), repetitions.


In the margins, note summaries of major incidents; write questions, comments, note connections with other texts.

After reading, review the text.

Reread annotated passages and your annotations.


Look up any unfamiliar words or references, if you haven't done so before.


Consider possible patterns or connections among things you've noted; determine possible meanings.
Note details that compare to or contrast other parts of the whole work--or to other texts.

Note overarching issues or themes. Relate noted details to explicit themes (i.e. those clearly evident or stated in text) and implicit themes (i.e. those abstractly evoked, or even suppressed)

Criteria for success: A visibly marked-up text in which you can easily find significant passages.

 

Some things to notice in prose fiction narratives (with some borrowing from John Lye: https://brocku.ca/english/jlye/criticalreading.php):

Plot—This is not simply what happens but also how it is presented. Consider, for instance, order, duration, and frequency. That is, in what order do things happen? Is there any difference between the order in which events occur (sometimes called the story) and the order in which they are presented (sometimes called the discourse)? How long is spent on reporting events? Are long passages of time dealt with briefly? Are brief moments described in great detail? Are some events described repeatedly?

In order to establish significance in narrative there will often be coincidence, parallel or contrasting episodes, repetitions of various sorts, including the repetition of challenges, crises, conciliations, episodes, symbols, motifs. The relationship of events in order to create significance is known as the plot.

Narration—Who speaks the story? If the narrative is first person (I), is the narrator a participant in the story? If so, to what degree? If the narrative is third person (she/he, with no "I" telling the story), do we have access to the consciousness of a particular character? Lots of characters? None? That is, who sees the narrative? Through whom is it focalized?

Characters—Keep a list of characters as they are introduced into the text. You might consider the significance of characters' names, physical descriptions, dialogue, behavior, or juxtaposition with other characters. Keep in mind that characters in literary texts are made out of words; even if the characters are based on real people, the text offers not the person but his or her textual representation.

Characters in a work of fiction are generally designed to open up or explore certain aspects of human experience. Characters often depict particular traits of human nature; they may represent only one or two traits -- a greedy old man who has forgotten how to care about others, for instance, or they may represent very complex conflicts, values and emotions. Usually there will be contrasting or parallel characters, and usually there will be a significance to the selection of kinds of characters and to their relation to each other.

Settings—What does the text tell us about where and when the tale occurs? Where settings are described in detail, what does this detail tell us about the location, the characters associated with it, or the events that occur there? What are the boundaries of this storyworld? How do paths, portals, and containers shape the narrative?

Often setting will have particular culturally coded significance -- a sea-shore has a significance for us different from that of a dirty street corner, for instance, and different situations and significances can be constructed through its use. Settings, like characters, can be used in contrasting and comparative ways to add significance, can be repeated, repeated with variations, and so forth.

Images or figurative language—for instance, does the text use particular kinds of metaphors repeatedly? What might these images suggest? How does their use change in the course of the narrative or in different contexts?

Repetitions or echoes of phrases or ideas—cross-reference these with a page number in the margin.

 

One-Page Paper on one sentence from The Iron Heel

[Close Reading assignment adapted from work by Roy Pérez, http://www.willamette.edu/cla/english/faculty/perez/index.html

Due: draft due Th Feb 2: two paper copies at the beginning of class

final version due to WISE Assignments M Feb 6 11:00am as a doc or docx file.

Purpose: To argue persuasively for the larger significance of seemingly small, specific textual details in relation to larger thematic, substantive meaning of the text as a whole.

Skills/Knowledge: Close and careful reading of textual details;
 interpretation connecting different levels of reading; integration and analysis of textual quotations in support of an argument; clear and concise prose.

Task: Choose from your reading of The Iron Heel one complete sentence that you consider especially significant, puzzling, or otherwise interesting.

 

For your first draft, re-type the sentence into your own text: this will compel you to look closely at the wording, and you will include the sentence for reference at the beginning of your interpretation.

Annotate the sentence thoroughly: consider such matters as speaker (who is speaking and to whom, with what aims and to what effect for the reader); context (where in the text the sentence occurs, what is happening at this point in the story); language (distinctive word choice or sentence structure; be sure to look up the meanings of any unfamiliar words and to consider connotations as well as denotations); imagery or figures (does the sentence include metaphors, allusions, or other kinds of literary patterns). For more suggestions on what to look for in and around the sentence, see Suggestions for Critical Reading and on Close Reading on WISE Resources in the Interpreting Texts folder.

Think about what the things you have noticed mean, or what effect they have. Your one-page interpretation of the sentence may not end up incorporating all of the observations you made in the process of annotating it, but should draw on the most interesting and productive of these as evidence for your interpretation. That is, you will need to explain the significance of what you have found and how it illuminates the sentence in relation to the novel.

The thesis of your interpretation will bring together some of your concrete observations about the sentence (e.g., for a paper about Wells's The Time Machine, "The Narrator's abstract language..." or "The Time Traveler's use of animal imagery..." or something similar) with your explanation of the significance or effect of the feature(s) you've observed (e.g., ".... indicates his distance from bodily experience," or "...reveals the character's hubris about human superiority," or some such).

In the body of the essay, your analysis should do the following in more or less this order:

-Situate or frame the passage: In a sentence or two explain how the passage fits into the larger plot or structure of the novel.

-Focus your reading: Bring your reader’s attention to the particular aspects of the passage that are most important for understanding your interpretation. These can include key words, figures of speech, clues about the plot, plot twists, what we learn about the characters (characterization), and the like. 


-Unfold your interpretation: What does this passage do? How does it support your claim?

How the paper should look: Standard font (e.g., 12-point Times New Roman), one-inch margins. Single spaced: Your name and the date in the upper left corner; skip a line, then: a title centered; skip a line, then the rest of the page (s) left justified; the sentence from The Iron Heel quoted exactly, followed by a parenthetical reference to the chapter and page number.  Then, double spaced, your interpretation.

Save the paper as a doc or docx file with the filename YourNameIronHeel and submit to WISE Assignments.

Criteria for Success:  Clarity and perspicacity of the thesis, evidence of careful reading and analysis,
the integration and interpretation of evidence,
 clear and logical development of the argument, clarity, concision, and grace of prose.

 

Research Presentations

Due:

In class, during our reading of It Can't Happen Here, on the date for which you've signed up.

Purpose:

To develop your ability to recognize and fill gaps in knowledge; to provide us with background information about the cultural milieu and historical circumstances from which the novel emerged; to begin exploring the ways that historical or cultural circumstances may be represented in fictional texts.

Skills:

locating and assessing information; examining and interpreting the ways that historical or cultural circumstances may be represented in fictional work.

Knowledge:

historical, cultural information about the 1930s, particularly in the US.

Task:

Read ahead for the chapters you'll be researching. Pick two or three references (to people, groups, events, or other historically specific things) in the section of It Can’t Happen Here that we will be reading for the day of your report. You may need to research more than 2 or 3 things in order to find that many interestingly significant terms. (You might also research references in earlier chapters if they have not yet been addressed.)

Coordinate with others reporting on the same day to make sure you do not all research the same things.

Research those references about which you are curious. Consult a librarian. Use a range of reliable sources (at least three; for instance, encyclopedias; databases accessible through Hatfield Library; peer-reviewed journals; print books).

Summarize what is interesting about the reference. Consider, for instance, the following: where does the reference occur in the novel? Refer us to a chapter & page number. What have you found that sheds light on the reference? What variety of perspectives did you find in your sources? How do they vary? What does the novel add, change, or leave out? What use does the novel make of the historical referent? How does this aspect of the novel fit with the text as a whole?

Make a plan for your presentation to the class and write notes to refer to during the presentation.

Make an MLA-style bibliography of the sources you've used. You can find information about MLA style at https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/

In class, present your report (about 5 minutes total, 2 minutes or so per reference); at the end of class, turn in your bibliography of sources.

Criteria for success:

Successful presentations will address significant references or allusions in the novel, and will be clear, concise, informative, and well supported by careful and fully documented research.

 

 

Course content: Frann Michel, Willamette University

Description: Katherine E. Bishop, Miyazaki International College, Japan

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