I’ve decided to conduct a significant proportion of our thematic discussion of texts in written form, with the goal of using this informal writing as a way of building toward more formal, full-length written assignments. Classroom interactions will focus less on the themes of the course, and more on our ultimate task, writing about the texts that embody those themes. I will treat your participation in online discussion spaces as writing; since I expect a substantial amount of discussion from you, I devote a substantial proportion of your grade to it, equivalent to one major written assignment.
While your participation in online discussion (via hypothes.is and online comment threads) will be written, it is also “discussion”: I don’t intend you to produce long-deliberated, carefully polished prose. Rather, I’m looking for exploratory and relatively informal writing, where you enter into conversations that deepen your understanding of the texts in question, and help you develop the skills and approaches that you’ll use when writing more formal assignments; particular notations may become starting points for an essay draft.
You will be asking questions; making claims; sketching contexts to show why those claims matter; providing evidence to support those claims; posing counter-points; analyzing texts, events, and ideas to generate that evidence; supporting that analysis through the use of key terms that we develop our sense of throughout the course; developing your own characteristic stance as a writer…..and, while doing all these things, honing your own sense of written style.
In other words, you’ll be doing all the things I will ask you to do in your formal written essays. But with a difference–or differences! These marginal discussions, and the comment threads I open, are meant to be a conversation: the “perfect”, overly-long, overly formal post that pretends it says all there is to say about an issue is rarely a successful move. (TL;DR.) This also means that you won’t be writing as formally: what you write will have something of a first-draft quality. Some of you will find you like your own informal writing better!–that it feels fresher to you; we’ll work on trying to get some of this freshness into your more formal written work.
hypothes.is annotations will be required of you all, for some of the readings. These annotations will work offer potential starting points for a wider-ranging conversation about a text to emerge, while grounding that conversation in moments of careful, detail-oriented attention. The interface is quite simple: text can be highlighted & annotations made on details or the entire text; individual annotations can be set to “public” or “private.” (One possible strategy is to annotate “privately” and then set what you feel to be your most useful comments to “public”; private annotations will help you record your responses for readings.) We will use ONLY hypothes.is for our discussion of Wilde’s text. Thus, in the case of Wilde’s novel, our conversation will be linked particularly closely to details of the text itself. Given the length of a novel (even a short one!), combining forum discussion and annotation within a single location will help us think about the potential similarities and differences between these two activities: between reading for comprehension and interpretive reading.