1) Two discussion questions each week based on readings (20%).
PURPOSE: to help you and your classmates come to a better understanding of the readings, their intersections, and their applicability to issues raised in class; to develop your critical reading skills; and to enhance class discussion.
ASSIGNMENT: Print out an extra copy for me with your name at the top and turn in before class begins. Email the assignment to your classmates at least one day before class and earlier if possible, and cc me into that email, so I can be sure that you have distributed your questions in time for all of us to read and think about before class. Your questions will be graded on quality and ability to generate thought and discussion.
2) Critical analysis (3-5 pages) AND moderation of class discussion once during the term (20%).
PURPOSE: This is your opportunity to develop your future professional skills in moderating class discussions.
ASSIGNMENT: Analyses should engage that day’s readings (and any relevant outside resources) by articulating a rhetorical and/or discursive analysis or by making a particular argument about them in relation to other texts and/or historical issues/events. Copies must be provided for all participants. You will use this analysis to prompt that day’s discussion, for which you will have primary responsibility. You won’t read your critical analysis directly; rather, it will be a springboard from which to expand on your ideas in dialogue with those of your classmates. This will require advance planning and outside reading.
3) Conference Paper/Abstract and Presentation (30%).
PURPOSE: There are many reasons why you should know how to write an abstract: your dissertation, funding proposals, journal publications, and conference CFPs. Since part of graduate education includes professional training, we’ll have a “mini” academic conference at the end of the term that will give you the opportunity to practice your public presentation/performance skills. You’ll provide a 250-word abstract of your individual presentation and, with at least three others, organize a panel for the conference (complete with panel chair/moderator). I’ll give guidance and detailed post-panel feedback, but you’ll be responsible for the successful organization and execution of the conference panels. Each panel will be followed by a question-and-answer period. The typical conference calls for 15-20 minute papers, which translates into 8-10 pages (12 pt. Times New Roman). Always, always, always, write the paper first and time your reading. Never, ever take a longer paper and try to read it at a conference, cutting things out as you go along. These never work and the presenter always goes over his or her time allowance. These presenters irritate the audience and demonstrate rudeness toward fellow panelists whose time is compromised when everyone does not stick to time guidelines. An additional note on conferences: two conferences a year are enough until you take your comprehensive exams. After your exams, the only conferences you should aim for are MLA or ASA, nothing else, because all your energy should go toward writing your proposal and dissertation. When you go on the job market, too many conferences and little to no publications become a negative. Therefore, turn your conference papers into publishable articles.
ASSIGNMENT: You will be graded on organizational skills (putting the panel together), presentation skills, fielding questions, and writing the abstract/conference paper. You will expand on this assignment for your longer paper. The success of each presentation will be determined by its ability to clearly articulate your scholarly argument in a compelling manner; keep in mind that this is a performance, so think of ways to enhance the efficacy of your presentation. Consider doing something other than "reading" your paper to your audience. Consider using visuals (not powerpoints that you read word-for-word, but images or selected text that enhance your talk).
4) 20-page research paper, including works cited (30%).
PURPOSE: One goal you should have for your conference presentations is to turn them into article length papers for publication. Publications help in the job search process and are necessary for tenure and promotion, so plan on securing publications early on. The best scholarly writing should be clear, well-crafted, and free of gratuitous jargon and intentionally vague or muddled syntax. Our job as scholars and teachers is to communicate our ideas and arguments, not to confuse our audience with arrogant, convoluted prose. Sometimes specialized jargon is necessary shorthand for complex ideas, but even then moderation is generally the best approach, especially if your audience is likely to include non-specialists. Good prose needn’t be transparent or simplistic—-sometimes the most meaningful texts are the ones that we have to work hard to understand—-but it should at least be accessible to thoughtful people who are familiar with the conventions of your particular scholarly field.
ASSIGNMENT: The research paper will combine textual analysis, research, and application of any relevant criticism to a particular author, issue(s), or text(s) emerging from the course; this will be the extended version of your conference presentation. This essay must be well-written and free of errors in style or substance. The essay should be around 20 pages, including works cited, and follow either MLA or Chicago style. You should include along with your essay a separate page with a list of at least three journals to which you might consider submitting the piece and a brief explanation of why you chose these publications.
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