ENG505 -- Writing, Race, and the English Nation
Prof. Eileen Joy
SHORT READING RESPONSES
Figure 1. Paolo Ucello, St. George and the Dragon, circa 1455-60
Each week (beginning the third or so week of the course), you are responsible for writing a response (preferably in the neighborhood of 2 pages, typed and double-spaced) to one or more of the critical readings under discussion for that particular week. It is not your job to respond to absolutely everything we are reading in any given week--that would be asking too much, and it couldn't be done, anyway, in two typed pages. Rather, it would be best to choose one critical reading that intrigues you in some way, and respond to a point or points raised in that reading. OR, you may want to address an idea, or critical point, that interests you that relates, somehow, to the literary work or film under discussion that week. It would be ideal, in fact, to aim for a response that relates a critical reading to the literary work or film we are discussing at that time. And as the semester progresses, you may even want to comment on a current reading but relate it back to something we have read or viewed earlier.
You may approach this response writing in a variety of several ways, but the one thing that I must insist on is that you do NOT simply summarize something you have read (we call this a "literature review" or "paraphrase" and it is not appropriate in a graduate-level course, where you are expected to thoughtfully and critically engage with others' ideas, not just re-hash those ideas in summary form). Furthermore, do not just restate what an author has said simply to say, "I absolutely agree" (and leave it at that), or to comment, "I think that's interesting" (and then not elaborate on why, exactly, you think it's interesting). Keep in mind that these response papers will be graded mainly for the quality of your effort put forth, and that they are meant to be especially helpful for us in class each Thursday when we begin discussions about the readings, and where it is essential that you, the students, lead the discussions. Your response papers, therefore, are our conversational "launching pads."
Having said all that, here are a few pointers for how you might proceed:
Choose a reading, or portion of a reading, that was particularly confusing or difficult for you, and outline/explain (in detail) your points of confusion and difficulty.
Choose a reading, or a portion of a reading, that you disagree with for some reason, and outline/explain your points of disagreement.
Choose a reading, or a portion of a reading, that raises an idea and/or subject that really intrigues you and gets you thinking about other things you have read/learned in other courses, and write about that.
Choose a reading, or a portion of a reading, that sets a train of thought into motion in your head, and outline/explain that train of thought
Write about correspondences you see between two or more readings (from the same week, or between different weeks, as long as one of the readings mentioned is from the current week the response is due), and what you think is interesting about those correspondences.
Write about how a particular reading got you thinking about a literary work or film we have discussed or are discussing, and how it might have changed the way you read and think about that work now.
These are just suggested writing strategies, and it may be that there are many other ways to approach these reading responses. My main concern, again, is that your responses not simply summarize material being read, and that they critically engage, somehow, with one or more of the readings (or even just a portion of one of the readings).