Welcome to the Class Blog

0 Commentsby   |  01.07.10  |  Announcements

Throughout the semester, I will post entries on this site to encourage conversations and critical thinking about the stories, essays, poems, and films we will encounter in the course.  Feel free to comment on posts, submit your own posts, and generally engage the conversation of this blog.

Again, welcome to the course—I hope you enjoy writing about literary texts this semester.

A Student’s Prayer

by   |  04.30.10  |  Final Exam Essay

As we enter finals week, I wanted to offer these words by St. Thomas Aquinas as a prayer for the class.  “A Student’s Prayer” was copied below from appleseeds.org.

More »

Annotating the Reader Packet

by   |  04.28.10  |  Final Exam Essay

Instructors cannot provide feedback to students or comment on the works in the reader packet for the exit essay.  However, students can work together to analyze and annotate the reader packet when preparing for the exit essay. To facilitate a class discussion on the reader packet, please respond to the following questions on your assigned literary work from the packet as a comment to this blog post:

  1. Include the title of the work assigned to your group and names of group members
  2. Describe the identity of the speaker/narrator and provide some evidence to support this claim.
  3. What is the central message (argument) of this work? Or, what is the work trying to persuade an audience to do or think about?
  4. What is the rhetorical (persuasive) strategy of the argument?  How does this work accomplish its persuasive goals?
  5. What specific evidence does the work use to make its argument?
  6. Who might be the work’s intended audience?
  7. What is the tone of the language used in the work (the emotional quality of the language)?
  8. How would you describe the style of the language used in this piece (casual, formal, sophisticated, lyrical, etc.), and how does this language style help the work accomplish its purpose?

Final Exam Exit Essay Advice

by   |  04.23.10  |  Final Exam Essay

To begin preparing for the final exam essay, I would like everyone to read the following 6-page excerpt from A Brief Guide to Writing from Readings titled “Timed Writing Assignments” before class on Monday.

On Monday, the class identified the following tips on writing timed essays from the reading linked above:

Mad Men: Cultural Identity in Early 1960s America

by   |  04.21.10  |  Film and Visual Art

Below are links to two, 4-minute recaps of episodes from the AMC tv show Mad Men. These clips present only highlights from these episodes, so the transitions between scenes are abrupt and may be difficult to follow. However, these scenes present a taste of an imagined culture in early 1960s America that should be somewhat coherent. The main characters are men and women who work in a New York advertising firm or are family members of these ad men. While watching, pay attention to the visual rhetoric and language elements that deal with cultural or social identity. After viewing the clips, please work in groups of threes and post responses to the following questions as a comment to this blog post:

  1. Who are the members of your group?
  2. What do you notice about the men in this culture?
  3. What do you notice about the women in this culture?
  4. How would you describe the interactions between men and women in these scenes?
  5. How would you describe employer-employee relationships in this culture?
  6. Do these clips present any elements of racial identity? If so, how? and to what effect?
  7. From a rhetorical perspective, while thinking about cultural or social identity, what might be one of the persuasive goals behind these clips?

Recap Clip #1: “Guy Walks into an Advertising Agency”

Recap Clip #2: “Wee Small Hours”

Cultural Identity and Non-Literary Texts – THX1138

by   |  04.18.10  |  Film and Visual Art

George Lucas’s student project film titled “Electronic Labyrinth THX1138 4EB” is a strange movie—certainly low-budget—science fiction genre—and it’s often confusing. However, this film efficiently creates a cultural universe that includes some interesting aspects of social identity. As you watch, pay attention to the ways in which the film constructs identity, especially among different classes of people. After viewing, please work in groups of three to discuss and post responses to the following questions as a comment to this blog post:

  1. Who are the members of your group?
  2. How would you describe the cultural universe in this film?
  3. What happens in this film—how do you understand the ending?
  4. What visual elements/data does the film use to construct social identities in this culture?
  5. From a rhetorical perspective, while thinking about cultural or social identity, what might be one of the persuasive goals of this film? In other words, what is the purpose of this film?
[youtube 6n9Gp_wsTcc]

When Fiction is a Bad Idea

by   |  04.09.10  |  Rhetoric & Persuasion (Argument)

Sometimes, writers make things up out of thin air when writing introductions of essays intended to be nonfiction.

More »

Thesis for Research Essay

by   |  04.05.10  |  Thesis

To begin thinking in terms of your thesis, which is required for Step 5, please post a comment to this blog post that indicates the primary literary text(s) you are working on and includes a tentative/working/draft thesis for your research essay. Remember, your thesis must address how your literary text addresses some aspect of cultural identity.

Other resources for developing a thesis follow below:

What is a Scholarly Source?

0 Commentsby   |  03.29.10  |  Research and Cultural Identity

To follow up our discussion of scholarly sources in class, below are criteria to consider when searching for scholarly sources.

Scholarly Sources:

  • Are written by scholars (people with Ph.D.s) who are experts on relevant subject matter
  • Include articles published in peer-reviewed journals
  • Have a thesis and are fairly long (usually 10+ pages for articles)
  • Include books published by a scholarly publisher (like a university press)
  • Use extensive verifiable evidence to support their claims
  • Usually have a (long) list of Works Cited or bibliographic footnotes
  • Have a professional design
  • Are up-to-date and relevant to the issues being researched

Research Goals and Evaluating Secondary Sources

by   |  03.29.10  |  Research and Cultural Identity

In class on Friday, we discussed the following items related to the goals of research:

What are some of the purposes of research?

  • To confirm the validity of your claims – appealing to the opinions of experts
  • To establish your credibility as an informed reader of a text
  • To provide historical context for your argument/analysis
  • To discover new knowledge (highest goal of research)

Pitfalls of Using Secondary Sources

  • Losing your own voice

Secondary sources should be used sparingly to supplement your claims about a text – claims from secondary sources cannot be your primary argument about the text. When quoting a secondary sources, be sure to follow up the quote with your explanation or argument about why the information from the secondary source is relevant to your claims.

  • Quoting sources that have no relation to your text
  • Failure to properly cite sources

Research Step 1

by   |  03.24.10  |  Research and Cultural Identity

To document your work on Step 1 of the research project, please respond to the following items as a comment to this blog post:

  1. What is/are your selected primary literary text(s)?
  2. What particular aspect of cultural identity appears in your primary literary text(s)?
  3. What is your (narrowly focused) research question?

The research room at the New York Public Library, as photographed by Diliff, edited by Vassil:


Cultural Identity and The Research Question

by   |  03.22.10  |  Research and Cultural Identity, Thesis

Consider the following guidance when working on Step 1 of the Research Essay Project:

Many different factors can work independently or in combination to construct a person’s or primary text’s understanding of cultural identity, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Socioeconomic status or class
  • Education
  • Occupation
  • Political ideology
  • Sexual orientation
  • Geographic location
  • Nationality
  • Language

The cultural identities noted above can be explored in a number of ways as well, including how cultural identity affects understandings of various issues, such as:

  • Law and public policy
  • Environmental and technological issues
  • Community involvement and service
  • Access to employment, education, and healthcare
  • Economics and global resources
  • Immigration, assimilation, and separation
  • Ecumenism and sectarianism

The Research Question

In addition to the examples and guidance on the assignment sheet for Step 1, please read the section from your Sequence textbook on generating research questions (261-64). Additional guidance on research questions can be found on the following links:

When developing a research question, the key is specificity. Narrowing the focus is, generally, the best approach.

Exploring Cultural Identity

by   |  03.08.10  |  In-Class Writing Assignments, Research and Cultural Identity, Thesis

To practice thinking and writing about the idea of a research question, which is required for the research paper, please choose to focus on either “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie or “My Faith in Nonviolence” by Mohandas Gandhi and respond as a group to the following items about your selected text and post your response in a comment to this blog post:

  1. Which text are you responding to and who is in your group?
  2. An issue is more specific and more focused than a topic. Given the topic of exploring cultural identity, what specific issue(s) can you identify regarding cultural identity in this text?
  3. What specific evidence (language, details, ideas) from the text creates this issue?
  4. A research question, I would argue, is even more specific than an issue. Try to frame your response to item #2 above as a question that could generate further research.

Below is a photo of Sherman Alexie:

Alexie photo by Larry D. Moore – (CC) Larry D. Moore.

Assigned Topics on Viewing the Movie Doubt

by   |  02.24.10  |  Film and Visual Art, In-Class Writing Assignments, Interpretation and Purpose, Rhetoric & Persuasion (Argument)

As a comment to the blog post, please write a paragraph or two in response to the topic you selected to cover when viewing the movie Doubt as follows:

  • Describe your selected topic
  • Explain aspects of your topic another viewer may have missed
  • Explain how your observations help you understand the rhetorical purpose of the film
[youtube 8AMhK8A2mjU]

Freedom to Interpret – Reading for Wednesday

0 Commentsby   |  02.23.10  |  Announcements, Film and Visual Art, Interpretation and Purpose, Nonfiction (Essays), Thesis

For Wednesday, please print a copy of Roland Barthes’s very short (3-page) essay “The Death of the Author” from the Link below and read the essay before class. I encourage you to annotate your copy of the text—underline key lines or phrases, write notes in the margin, and be able to articulate the thesis of the essay.

The Death of the Author

Also, please be prepared in class on Wednesday to discuss the topic you selected for on the viewing guide for the movie Doubt.

Assignment for Monday February 22

0 Commentsby   |  02.20.10  |  Interpretation and Purpose, Rhetorical Analyses, Short Stories

For Monday, please print a copy of “The Lottery” from the Link below and read the story before class. I encourage you to annotate your copy of the text—underline key lines or phrases, write notes in the margin, identify key themes, and be able to articulate the purpose of the story.

If you would like to replace your grade on an RA you may have missed, you may upload an RA on “The Lottery” to the Files Dropbox before class on Monday, or you may turn in a hard copy in class on Monday.

“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson

Writing Assignment for Friday Feb 19

0 Commentsby   |  02.18.10  |  Interpretation and Purpose, Nonfiction (Essays), Rhetoric & Persuasion (Argument), Rhetorical Analyses

Linked below is an excerpt from a book-length work of nonfiction by Annie Dillard titled An American Childhood.  I would like you to treat this piece as if it were a complete essay for the RA due on Friday February 19:

from An American Childhood

When reading, consider the rhetorical strategy of the essay, the essay’s primary argument, and pay particular attention to the identity of the speaker.  This work also takes a major turn at one point in the essay that significantly changes the interpretive landscape of the piece.

Reading Assignment for Wednesday, February 17

0 Commentsby   |  02.15.10  |  Announcements, Nonfiction (Essays)

In addition to reading “The America I Love” by Elie Wiesel in The Conscious Reader (835-37), please read and be prepared to discuss the following 1988 essay by Peggy McIntosh on Wednesday, February 17:

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

Elie Wiesel claims in “The America I Love” that racism “has vanished from the American scene” (836). McIntosh takes a different approach. How do you account for the difference in these perspectives?

Evaluating Song Lyrics

by   |  02.10.10  |  Evaluation and Critique, In-Class Writing Assignments, Poetry

Group Assignment:

  • Compare the lyrics from U2’s song “All I Want is You” on the handout to the lyrics from one of the three songs in Etheridge’s essay “Music as a Safe Haven” (525-31).
  • Of the two songs, which lyrics represent better poetry—which has a more effective argument, and how do you know?
  • Post a paragraph or a list in response to the questions above as a comment to this blog post. Be sure to introduce the songs you selected by title and note the names of the people in your group.

Other Resource:

Sharon L. Williams Andrews provides the following “Song-Analysis Questions” for her Introduction to Poetry course at Louisiana State University. Before posting your group’s response, consider Andrew’s questions below to generate possible criteria for your evaluation:

More »

Evaluation – What Criteria Should I Use?

0 Commentsby   |  02.08.10  |  Evaluation and Critique, Rhetoric & Persuasion (Argument)

In class, we discussed ideas for defining criteria as required for Major Essay #2.  We examined real-world examples of criteria used in various evaluation processes:

The criteria below could be quite useful when evaluating the rhetorical effectiveness of a literary or film text:

  • Logos—the logical appeal.  When evaluating the logical appeal of a text, consider whether the work includes or avoids common logical fallacies. How well does the work withstand intellectual criticism?
  • Ethos—the ethical appeal. How well does the speaker establish her own credibility with an audience?
  • Pathos—the emotional appeal. How well does the work create a sense of emotional involvement in the reader or viewer?
  • Sensory Appeal—consider how well a work appeals to an audience’s sensory perceptions by using sound, rhythm, or visual imagery to make a reader/viewer’s experience more tangible or memorable; consider descriptions of smell or texture as well.
  • Structure—consider the structure or organization of a work as a criterion for evaluation (whether the sequence of events or the order of evidence presented is rhetorically effective).
  • Audience—consider whether the ability of a work to reach a broad audience or a limited audience could be used as a criterion for evaluation (this criterion could be a subcategory of the ethical appeal).
  • Other criteria can be useful depending on which aspects of a text you consider most important. On Monday, the class created a word cloud of additional words to consider as criteria for evaluating texts:


Podcast on Writing About Literature

by   |  02.01.10  |  Interpretation and Purpose, Other Resources, Polls, Rhetoric & Persuasion (Argument)

Optional: I wanted to provide another resource that should be helpful when preparing to write Major Essay #1 (and future essays). Consider listening to Lecture 16 by Daniel Coffeen from a course on rhetoric at another university.

Caution: The speaker in this podcast sometimes uses language that we do not affirm (profanity), which may be offensive. As such, listening to this podcast is not required.  However, the content in the podcast may be quite helpful to most undergraduate writers. This podcast provides practical advice on the goals of writing about texts and the posture of a writer when writing about texts. If you choose to listen to the podcast in your free time or while exercising, you can download it to your iTunes library.

Note: This speaker discusses texts other than the ones we have read, but the advice in the podcast could be applied to an essay about any text. It’s just an optional resource that is available on the web from iTunes.

Nonfiction Essays – “Somebody’s Baby”

by   |  01.27.10  |  In-Class Writing Assignments, Nonfiction (Essays), Rhetoric & Persuasion (Argument)

Regarding the essay “Somebody’s Baby,” please respond to the following items as a comment to this blog post:

  1. Describe the rhetorical (persuasive) strategy of the essay (how does it accomplish its argument?).
  2. Does the essay have an emotional appeal (pathos)? If so, exactly how is the emotional appeal created?
  3. In what ways does the essay appeal to logic or reason (logos)?
  4. How exactly does the speaker establish her credibility with an audience (ethos)?
  5. What is the thesis of this essay (or its persuasive goal)?
  6. Include the names of the people in your group.

Group Exercise on Poetry Analysis

by   |  01.25.10  |  In-Class Writing Assignments, Interpretation and Purpose, Poetry

As a group, choose one of the poems in the reader from pages 297-309 and write a response to the following:

  1. Name or describe the identity of the speaker and the title of your selected poem.
  2. Provide evidence from the poem that supports your claim about the speaker’s identity.
  3. Describe the occasion of the poem (the event or situation that is taking place in time).
  4. Describe the rhetorical purpose of the poem (or the human experience of the poem).
  5. Describe the tone of the language used in the poem.
  6. Describe how the tone of the language contributes to the meaning/purpose of the poem.
  7. Provide evidence of language from the poem that creates the tone defined in #5.
  8. Write the names of the writers in your group.

Poetry Analysis


0 Commentsby   |  01.24.10  |  Announcements, Interpretation and Purpose, Poetry, Rhetorical Analyses

Part of the reading assignment for Monday includes poetry.  Poetry analysis may be new to most undergraduates, so to help you become more comfortable when writing about poetry, please read this Two Page Handout on Poetry Analysis.

Uploading Documents to Files

0 Commentsby   |  01.22.10  |  Announcements, Other Resources, Rhetorical Analyses

To upload an RA or essay to Files, click on the Files icon for ENGL 112.08 shown in the Courses section of your MyACUpage.  The Files icon has an image of an open folder with a checkmark on the outside cover page:


In Files, you should see a folder called “Dropbox.”  Double-click on the Dropbox folder.  Then, you should see an icon on the right side of the screen called “Upload.”  Click on the Upload icon and upload the file from your computer that contains your rhetorical analysis.

Please save your work in Microsoft Word format before submitting your file.  The electronic version of your work should have the same formatting as you would use when turning in a hard copy.

Let me know if you have any trouble using Files, and I would be glad to help.

Post to the Blog by Email (Postie)

0 Commentsby   |  01.22.10  |  Announcements, Other Resources, Rhetorical Analyses

To post an entry to the Class Blog, I believe the only option is to use the Postie feature. All you do is place your writing content in an email and send it to:


Some guidelines for blog posts:

  • Please write an original title for your post in the subject line of your email.
  • Please write about only the texts assigned as course readings. Consider posting RAs to the blog to get feedback on your writing or start a conversation about a text.
  • This is a way to publish your writing to the class. Please edit your language using the same care you would use in writing any essay for a grade.
  • If you use quotes or refer to details from a text, please cite the page numbers (for stories) or line numbers (for poetry) just like you would in an essay.
  • Use paragraphs (and topic sentences for paragraphs) in the same way you would for an RA or essay.
  • You may include images in your post, but they must be appropriate and applicable to the literary text you are writing about.
  • Feel free to include a copy of an RA or an essay as an attachment to the email.

See also ACU’s Guidelines and Best Practices on blog posts.

Group Exercise on “Parker’s Back”

by   |  01.22.10  |  In-Class Writing Assignments, Interpretation and Purpose, Rhetoric & Persuasion (Argument), Short Stories, Thesis

As a group, please write a response to the items below on “Parker’s Back” as a comment to this blog post.

  1. What are some specific issues (questions) this story raises about relationships?
  2. Write a possible thesis (position) claim about the story’s purpose regarding human relationship.
  3. Exactly how does the story text accomplish its argument or purpose you identified in #2 above.
  4. Include the names of your group members.

If not already addressed in your responses to the items above, try responding to the following questions: More »

Theology and Marriage in “Parker’s Back”

0 Commentsby   |  01.20.10  |  Interpretation and Purpose, Short Stories

The short story “Parker’s Back” presents spouses who have remarkably different perspectives of the divine. Sarah Ruth seems obsessed with following abstract codes of regulations that she associates with her religious identity. In contrast to Sarah Ruth’s obedience to doctrine and law, Parker’s experience of God centers on the incarnational image of a person who is perceptable to the senses and who has “eyes to be obeyed” (527). Considering these differences, how might a writer compose an essay about the complex relationship between Obadiah Elihue Parker and Sarah Ruth?

Below is an image of the famous icon Christ Pantocrator (“Christ, Ruler of All”), which could fit the story’s description of Parker’s Christ tattoo, with its “haloed head” and “all-demanding eyes” (522):

Christ the Saviour

Reading and RA for Friday, Jan. 22

0 Commentsby   |  01.20.10  |  Announcements, Short Stories

Please read the short story “Parker’s Back” by Flannery O’Connor for the RA due on Friday, January 22.  This story is not in the reader, so please click on the link above to access the text of the story.

For Friday, please also read the short section on “Quotations” from A Sequence for Academic Writing (44-53).

A Respectable Triangle?

0 Commentsby   |  01.20.10  |  Interpretation and Purpose, Short Stories

If you plan to write about “A Respectable Woman” for Essay #1, consider some of the following differences between Mrs. Baroda’s relationship with her husband and her relationship with Gouvernail: More »

Exploring Thesis Statements

by   |  01.15.10  |  In-Class Writing Assignments, Rhetoric & Persuasion (Argument), Short Stories, Thesis

In groups of 2-3, please discuss the following items and have one member of your group post a response to these items as a comment to this blog post:

  • Articulate what you think is the thesis of Melendi’s essay, “All of Heaven for Love.”
  • Offer your own tentative thesis about the short story “Die Grosse Liebe” (one that is different from Melendi’s thesis). Remember, a thesis must be debatable (a claim that people can disagree with). Try to offer a thesis about howDie Grosse Liebe” accomplishes its rhetorical purpose.
  • List the names of the people in your group, so they can receive credit for today’s in-class assignment.

Writing About Short Stories; “Die Grosse Liebe”

0 Commentsby   |  01.15.10  |  Interpretation and Purpose, Rhetoric & Persuasion (Argument), Short Stories

Writers of stories spend time creating cultural universes, and they ask us to experience these universes as readers.  These cultural universes are shaped by carefully selected details in the stories—particular language, particular images, and particular spaces.   Every word, every detail in a text functions as an argument—an argument that attempts to alter the experience of readers.

On Friday, we’ll look at additional details in “Die Grosse Liebe” and what effects those details have in the story’s performance:

One of the most interesting questions to ask when writing about texts is simply, “How?”

  • How does the story perform its argument?
  • How does the story accomplish its purpose?
  • How does the story’s language cause readers to experience certain effects?
  • How does a certain detail interact with other details in the story, and to what effect?
  • What kind of cultural universe is presented in this story?  And how does the story create that kind of universe?

Here’s a clip with selected images and audio from the movie described in the short story:

[youtube cwQLJqf7TNo]

Rhetorical Analysis Guidelines

by   |  01.13.10  |  Rhetoric & Persuasion (Argument), Rhetorical Analyses

Be sure to read the Rhetorical Analysis Guidelines linked to the Pages sidebar of the blog.

An example rhetorical analysis is available on this link: Example Rhetorical Analysis.

NOTE: You should not do any research when writing a rhetorical analysis.  For rhetorical analyses—and for your first two major essays—I want to read only what you find interesting from your own engagement with the text.  Please do not refer to or quote any source outside of the text about which you are writing.  Stay focused on the work you are reading.

Welcome to the Class Blog

0 Commentsby   |  01.07.10  |  Announcements

Throughout the semester, I will post entries on this site to encourage conversations and critical thinking about the stories, essays, poems, and films we will encounter in the course.  Feel free to comment on posts, submit your own posts, and generally engage the conversation of this blog.

Note: I expect blog contributors to treat other class members with decency and respect as brothers and sisters in Christ.  One goal of this course is learning how to communicate ideas about literature to a university-level audience, without alienating your readers.  Consider the tone of your language before commenting on a post by another writer.

Again, welcome to the course—I hope you enjoy writing about literary texts this semester.