- Friday, September 23 by class
Your Unit 2 blog is designed to help you – and the class as a whole – prepare for our first take-home exam. It has three parts:
Part 1: Pattern
For the first part of your post, you will simply report 1 pattern that you have discovered in either The Raw Shark Texts or A Visit from the Goon Squad. All you need to do is to write down any pattern that you discover in the text. A pattern is simply a repeated textual element. I’m asking you to closely observe the text we are reading. You should carefully consider which pattern you report (among many that you will no doubt notice), however, because in Part 2 of the post you will write a brief analysis of your chosen pattern (see below).
Your pattern might be organized around repetition: repeated words, repeated symbols, repeated metaphors, repeated settings. It might also involve change: how the meaning of a specific image seems to change throughout the text, for example, or how a particular character changes, or how the style of narration changes at a particular point. It might also have to do with the structure or form of the text: you might notice that certain chapters are organized in a particular way, or that certain pages are organized in a particular way, or that the plot is repetitive or otherwise structured in a different or unexpected way. There are endless possibilities.
Once you’ve detected a pattern, cite 3-5 specific instances of that pattern from the text. This means that I want you to include specific quotes and/or page numbers from the text in your entry. This part of your entry can look something like this when you’re done:
Pattern: Description of overall pattern. How are all your pieces of evidence below related?
- Description of example if needed. Do you need to explain exactly how/why this is an instance of the pattern you identify above?: “Example 1 from text. Notice how I am writing the exact quote as it appears in the text in my entry” (page number where I found the quote).
- Note: Sometimes it might not be possible to quote a specific passage or passages (if you’re talking about the way a particular page or group of pages is structured, for example). In that case, just briefly describe the pattern you see on each particular page.
- Description of example if needed. Do you need to explain exactly how/why this is an instance of the pattern you identify above?: “Example 2 from text” (page number).
- Description of example if needed. Do you need to explain exactly how/why this is an instance of the pattern you identify above?: “Example 3 from text” (page number).
Part 2: Analysis
For this part of your post, you will write up a brief analysis – or the beginning of an analysis – of your chosen pattern. This means that I want you to reflect on the significance of your chosen pattern to the text as a whole, and to begin to make an argument that defends this interpretation. I’m asking you, in this part of the post, to produce a mini close reading of the text.
There are many, many ways to do this. Here are some questions you might think about as you write:
- What is the significance of your chosen pattern to the text as a whole (or what seems to be its significance)? What does it mean? Why does it mean this? This is another way of asking what conclusions we might draw from your pattern about the meaning – or one possible meaning – of the text overall.
- How is your chosen pattern functioning within the text? What is it doing? What meaning(s) does it produce, and why?
- How does this pattern relate to larger thematic concerns of the text, and why? What does this relationship mean in terms of the text overall?
Please note that you do not need to answer all of these questions in your post. They are all interrelated anyway, and they are only listed above to get you thinking. What you write about is up to you, but what I want to see in your post is a brief argument – or the beginnings of an argument – that lays out the case for your interpretation of your chosen pattern. How/why is your pattern important to the text overall?
This part of your post should be about 500-750 words long.
NOTE: This takes practice and is more difficult than it seems. If you’re asking the right kinds of questions of your pattern, your analysis should — in a clear and structured way — bring out and emphasize the complexity of the text you are writing about, NOT “solve” or do away with it. Our goal here is to invite complexity, not make things simpler. If you do this, it will be difficult to stay within the word limit because you will have so much to say. Try to come as close as you can, which may mean leaving some of your ideas out or focusing your post on only one thing. On the other hand, if you find that you are struggling to write 500 words, that could be an indication that you are not digging deep enough in your interpretation of your chosen pattern; or that you need to ask different kinds of questions; or that you should find a different, more potentially rich pattern. If you find yourself in this position, I strongly recommend you come talk to me. I can help you.
Part 3: Exam Question
In this part of your post, you will help me in formulating a potential question (or a series of related questions) for our first take-home exam. The exam format will be as follows:
- 3 shorter essay questions OR 1 long essay question (you will choose which format you want to complete)
- 5-6 double-spaced pages (about 1600-2000 words)
- You will have the chance to revise this exam for a potentially higher grade.
I already have the long essay question in mind, so I need your help formulating the shorter essay questions. I will review the questions you submit and base the exam questions on those you submit, although I reserve the right to revise/reword/edit/expand on/combine and otherwise alter your initial questions. The final form the questions take will be up to my discretion. You will receive the exam questions for Exam 1 in class one week before the first take-home exam is due (Exam 1 is due Monday, Oct 3, so you will receive the questions on Monday, Sept 26).
The question or series of related questions you submit should focus on one concept or idea that we have covered so far in this course (in either/both the readings and/or class discussion), and on how that one concept or idea is discussed/enacted in at least one of the texts we have read so far. Your question should ask the examinee (who is also you, after all) for what you consider to be a fair assessment of this material. Here are some general guidelines to follow:
- Your question(s) should be answerable in about 500-750 words.
- It should cover material from Units 1 and 2.
- It should be as specific as possible. This means it should refer specifically to at least one text we have read in class, and to at least one concept/idea we have read about/discussed.
- You might also think about putting two or more texts in dialogue with one another in some way (comparison/contrast, for example).
- It should provide the opportunity for independent, creative and critical reflection and/or analysis. In other words, it should NOT be a yes/no type of question; in fact, it doesn’t necessarily need to have only one “right” answer. Nor should it be an opinion-based question (i.e., “Do you think x is a good idea/fair/unfair/etc? Why or why not?”).
We will be talking more about what makes a good question in class as the deadline for this blog post nears.