Class Notes Archive

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Class Notes—February 15:

Notwithstanding the gender-exclusive pronouns, we considered some advice from John Stuart Mill in the context of evaluating arguments:

He who knows only his side of the case, knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may be able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side; if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion. The rational position would be suspension of judgment, and unless he contents himself with that, he is either led by authority, or adopts, like the generality of the world, the side to which he feels the most inclination. Nor is it enough that he should hear the arguments of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. That is not the way to do justice to the arguments, or bring them into real contact with his own mind. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them; who defend them in earnest, and do their utmost for them. (260-61)

Mill, John Stuart. “Of the Liberty Thought and Discussion.”  Prose of the Victorian Period. Ed.

Buckler, William E. Boston: Houghton, 1958. 251-72. Print.

Jeffrey Hart and David Gelernter

  • We discussed Jeffrey Hart’s essay “How to Get a College Education” and David Gelernter’s essay “Unplugged”
  • We compared the arguments in the above essays to the claims about education in one of ACU’s ConnectED videos available on ACU’s Mobile Learning Website
  • We considered writing an essay that evaluates the claims of one of the essays by Hart or Gelernter with one or more of the ACU ConnectED videos as the non-literary text
  • We ran out of time to discuss ACU’s 21st Century Vision document; however, this document could be evaluated as a nonliterary text in Major Essay #2

Class Notes—February 12:

We discussed an excerpt from Walden and identified the following aspects of Thoreau’s advice:

  • Commands to simpify
  • Commands to slow down
  • Distinctions between perception and reality
  • Thoreau’s repudiation of almost every aspect of modern life

We considered Thoreau’s advice and asked what exactly is left after rejecting all of the trappings of modern life?

We know what Thoreau considers as worthless and distracting—what does Thoreau value or esteem in place of all that he rejects?

We also viewed “The Story of Stuff” in class and considered how this video has a number of beliefs that are similar to those expressed by Thoreau:

  • Modern life is a powerful system that is destroying us (spiritually, environmentally, economically)
  • Our lives are controlled by pressure to be consumers (of goods, news, etc.)
  • The reality of our situation is hidden and difficult to see
  • There are ways to reject the dominant system and live in a new direction

We discussed how a writer might evaluate this video and considered whether the following aspects of the presentation were effective or ineffective:

  • The graphics were very simple cartoon drawings
  • The lines that formed the characters or the outlines of maps and other images in the drawings were unstable and fluid
  • The presenter, Annie Leonard, used casual, conversational speech
  • Sources for statistics and research were not cited
  • Sound effects
[youtube gLBE5QAYXp8]

Class Notes—February 10:

  • We discussed Etheridge’s essay “Music as a Safe Haven.”
  • We discussed briefly Sharon L. Williams Andrews “Song-Analysis Questions.”
  • Groups discussed and wrote blog comments in response to the questions in the blog post “Evaluating Song Lyrics.”

Below is a photo of Melissa Etheridge by Craig O’Neal published in Wikimedia Commons:

Melissa Etheridge Live
Melissa Etheridge Live

Class Notes—February 8:

Class Notes—February 5:

  • The class wrapped up the peer review workshops today while working in new groups of other writers working on the same primary texts. Reviewers used the same Peer Review Worksheet for Major Essay #1 we used on Wednesday, but they also assigned a score from the Grading Standards that faculty members use to score essays for final exam exit essays.
  • I presented slides on Major Essay #1 – Typical Problems, which offers a problem/solution format to address problems that often appear in the first major essay for this course.

Class Notes—February 3:

Writers spent time workshopping their papers today in peer review groups. Writers were asked to review two essays written by class members and complete a Peer Review Worksheet for Major Essay #1 for each paper reviewed.

Class Notes—February 1:

  • We met in the computer lab in ADM-327 today.
  • In class, writers wrapped up the MyCompLab diagnostics we started on Friday. Writers also posted some details about their plan for the first essay as comments to the blog post “Exploring Paper Topics – Major Essay #1
  • Writers spent the remainder of class drafting Major Essay #1.

Class Notes—January 29:

“If Love Were All”

  • After reading a number of works about family relationships (parent-child, spouses, etc.), “If Love Were All” moves us into considering relationships between friends.
  • We considered the ways in which the essay performs its argument; how the speaker’s friend, Patrick, is introduced in the essay; and a number of ways in which the essay establishes its ethos with an audience.
  • We discussed certain qualities of the various literary texts referenced by the writer as evidence of previous literary works on friendship. Many of these are written by notable Christians, who also write about spirituality or theology.
  • We discussed how the text subtly reveals how the two friends in the text routinely practice certain disciplines of Christian spiritual formation.


  • We discussed several features of MyCompLab, including SmartThinking, which allows students withMyCompLab access to upload their own essays and receive personalized feedback from by highly-qualified Pearson instructors.
  • We discussed how comma splices are some of the most common errors in undergraduate writing, and those with access to MyCompLab completed a diagnostic on comma splices for a participation grade.

The ACU Writing Center

  • In a shameless plug for the services at the ACU Writing Center, I pointed to the podcasts created by several ACU faculty and tutors from the Writing Center in a series called The Way We Write.
  • We viewed one of these podcasts in class:


Class Notes—January 27:

Comments to Blog Post

We discussed the rhetorical strategy of “Somebody’s Baby”:

  • It begins and ends with a story (personal anecdote)
  • The essay addresses public policy debates about parenting
  • Presents claims about the need for interdependence and infrastructure (282)
  • These claims lead into a warning that is repeated in the text (282, 284)
  • Attacks oversimplified op-ed logic (283)
  • Appealing to research reports and statistics (283)
  • Uses metaphorical language at times

Ethos, Pathos, Logos

  • We discussed the essay’s ethical appeal (ethos), its emotional appeal (pathos), and its logical appeal (logos). We discussed the thesis of the essay.

Next Class:

  • Bring MyCompLab access codes; 3 writers will post their RAs to the Class Blog on Friday.

Class Notes—January 25:

We Discussed Example Student Essays Posted to the Class Blog Pages Sidebar

Poetry Analysis

After reviewing the types of poems on personal relationships we have read so far, we practiced analyzing/reading a poem using the Handout on Poetry Analysis

  • The class chose “Tears of a Teenage Mother” by Tupac Shakur (297)

In-Class Writing Assignment

“Educated Guess”

The poetry selections in the “Personal Relationships” section of the reader contain the lyrics to “Educated Guess,” a song by Ani DiFranco (306-08). Below is a video of Ani DiFranco performing this song:

[youtube nTKYWC1iZTA&feature=related]

Class Notes—January 22:

We Discussed Posting to the Class Blog by Email

Uploading Documents to Files

Introducing Quotes

  • Chapter 1 from Sequence includes helpful material on when to use quotes and how to incorporate quotes into your writing (this is an important skill for academic writing).
  • Avoid freestanding quotations (Sequence, 48).

We discussed Melendi’s style of using quotes in “All of Heaven for Love”:

  • The way Melendi begins paragraphs or sentences with quotes is somewhat confusing and disorienting in the same way in which the story “Die Grosse Liebe” is confusing and disorienting.
  • However, Melendi always follows her quotes with identifications of who the speakers are (226).  This is quite unusual in academic writing.  In academic writing, identification of the speaker is usually at the beginning of sentences including quotes.
  • Melendi’s technique when presenting quotes could be a way for her essay to perform in a similar way to how the short story performs its argument.

Group Exercise and Blog Post on “Parker’s Back”

  • The story presents Parker as a man who embraces the senses. We discussed how language in the text repeatedly focuses on the physical experience of vision. Although Parker is attracted to an image of God that he can see, Sarah Ruth rejects physical representations of God (529). What is the purpose of presenting this particular difference between these spouses?
  • Parker and Sarah Ruth have radically different approaches to emotion, sensation, law, God, etc.  However, on numerous occasions, Parker seems compelled against his will to be in relationship with this woman (516, 517, 518, 524, 527). What does this text argue about choice and freedom within relationships, and how does it accomplish that rhetorical purpose?

Class Notes—January 20:

We discussed the Major Essay #1 Assignment Prompt

Group Exercise on “A Respectable Woman” and “Journal of a Wife Beater”

Coffeen Lecture and Poll

  • Consider responding to the poll on Daniel Coffeen’s “Lecture 16.” Coffeen advises writers to avoid making claims about the world when writing about texts. When writing about texts, your task is to write about the claims made by the text (and how the text accomplishes its persuasive goals).
  • To do this, the subjects of your sentences should be something in or about the text (a line, a phrase, a word, a character, and image, the story, the poem, the essay, the movie, the strategy of the text, the way a story appeals to logic or emotion, the tone of a paragraph, etc.).
  • For example, if you are writing about “Die Grosse Liebe” and you are interested in the concept of uncertainty, avoid writing sentences like, “No one can be certain that his or her version of history is accurate.”  This would be a claim that a writer makes about the world in general, not a claim about a text.
  • Instead, clarify that your literary text is the subject of your sentences: “By including contradictory versions of the past and telling stories out of chronological sequence, the performance of Stollman’s confusing narrative suggests that no one can be certain that his or her version of history is accurate.”  Or, more simply, “The performance of Stollman’s narrative suggests that no one can be certain that his or her version of history is accurate.”

Present Tense

  • Daniel Coffeen recommends in his lecture that you should write in present tense (use present tense verbs) because action in literature always occurs now. Every time you read Hamlet, the characters are acting in the present during your reading. Likewise, I expect your verbs to be in present tense (always).

Consider reading the replies to the “Exploring Thesis Statements” comment posts for “Die Grosse Liebe” on the Class Blog.

Review Chapter 2 from Sequence – “Critical Reading”

  • We discussed how logical fallacies can be criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of an argument. Writers should consider whether their own writing contains any of these logical fallacies as well.

Class Notes—January 15:

Die Grosse Liebe” — How does this story perform?

  • Abruptly inserted quotes from the speaker’s mother
  • Contradictions and denials from Ute’s history
  • Repetition of certain language and events (advice about jewels)
  • Nonlinear progression of memories throughout time
  • Blurring or present and past
  • Events are chronologically out of sequence

What effect does this performance have?

  • What is the purpose of performing a story in these ways? (A good answer to this question could be a strong thesis for an essay)
  • How does the story’s performance contribute to its argument/purpose?

“All of Heaven for Love”

  • We discussed some strengths of Melendi’s essay:
  1. It doesn’t retell the story; it analyzes; it makes interpretive claims
  2. No excessive plot summary; it presents argument
  3. It offers advice on how to read the story
  4. It emphasizes and highlights only certain aspects of the story
  5. It explains details from the story (227)
  6. It raises questions about the text (226-227)
  7. It takes a quote from the story (227) and uses the quote as a device through which to interpret the entire story
  8. It remains focused on odd things about Ute’s character for most of the essay
  9. Does not shift focus to Joseph’s character until late

Thesis Statements

  • Must be debatable (not a statement of fact)—they take a risk, which makes them interesting
  • Someone must be able to disagree with a thesis
  • They often deal with an issue in the text that is ambiguous or less than certain
  • They might offer a position about:
  1. The significance of a literary text
  2. The purpose of a literary text
  3. An interpretation of one or more ambiguous issues or questions about a text
  4. How a literary text accomplishes its purpose
  5. How the performance of a text persuades an audience

Blog Post

  • We completed group blog posts on the thesis of Melendi’s essay and tentative thesis statements about “Die Grosse Liebe.

Class Notes—January 13:

Class Blog Orientation

Purposes of Rhetoric/Argument:

  • Does the work persuade readers to take action?
  • Does the work persuade readers to think in a different way?
  • Does the work intend to inform or entertain?

As Dr. Laura Carroll notes in an a blog post on the ACU Comp Blog, we will not be practicing the kind of argument displayed in Monty Python’s Argument Clinic:

[youtube teMlv3ripSM]

Literary Texts are Performances:

  • The purposes of literary works are often not expressed directly (except when reading certain essays); the purposes of literature are revealed through the work’s performance–the ways in which readers experience the text.  Your job is to write about how a literary text performs its argument.

Die Grosse Liebe” – How does this story perform?

  • Abruptly inserted quotes from the speaker’s mother
  • German language inserted into an English language story
  • Contradictions and denials from Ute’s history
  • Repetition of certain language and events
  • Nonlinear progression of memories throughout time (blurring of present and past)

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