This investigation paper has two parts: blogging, and a critical reflection on that blogging.

Part One: Blogging

As described in the course guidelines, we will start the semester by reading advance copies of Mark Z. Danielewski’s The Familiar along with six other classes on six other campuses in the US and the UK (UC Santa Barbara; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; De Montfort University; University of Notre Dame; UC Davis; and Weber State University) and by contributing to a shared discussion site. We will use another WordPress site,, as a home for our discussions of the novel across the various classes.

Since The Familiar won’t actually be published until this spring, we will be reading and discussing a novel for which no criticism yet exists. Our ultimate goal will therefore be to contribute as much commentary, explanation, speculation, analysis, and debate as we can to this collective enterprise in order to begin shaping the critical conversation on this novel.

  • See this page for instructions on how to sign up for an account with We will take time to do this together in class on Tuesday, January 13.
  • Use that account to post at least two new posts to the discussion page and at least three responses to existing posts over the course of our reading the novel. New posts might include questions, theories, interpretations, invitations to discussion, or anything else that might provoke a response from others on the forum. Responses might affirm, oppose, elaborate on, complement, or otherwise advance the initial thinking of an existing post or posts. This is the minimum required amount of posting.
  • Strive for quantity and quality in your posts. There is no minimum word requirement for posts, but your posts should be thoughtful, nuanced, and they should reflect critical engagement with the text. More posts than the minimum or extraordinarily long posts are not necessarily better, although you must contribute the minimum five required posts to get full credit for this assignment. I also encourage you to post more than this minimum, and indeed as much as possible. It would be entirely appropriate for this forum to be all-consuming for the next two and a half weeks. In terms of quality, posts that are thoughtful and reflect engagement with both the topic and the conversation at hand are high quality, and posts that are influential, generating multiple replies or subsequent discussion, are valuable as well. Posts that are off-topic or that are merely for the sake of posting are low quality.
  • Timing is also an issue in how and when you post. Each class will be reading the novel on a slightly different schedule, so you should be aware of both giving and receiving spoilers, and provide spoiler alerts where appropriate. Also keep in mind that it will be helpful to students from other classes if you can provide context for your posts where necessary (giving the background of a discussion in our class, for example). Finally, do not wait until the night before your posts are due to start posting. If you wait until the last minute to do all of your posts, your posts will be less influential (meaning less people will have a chance to respond to them), and this will be reflected in your grade.

Part One of this assignment is due by class on Thursday, January 29, our last day discussing the novel. You should submit your work by emailing me the URL for your author’s page, which lists all of your posts (find this page by clicking on your linked username at the top of any one of your posts). If you choose to contribute more than the required minimum posts, I will evaluate the five posts that you feel best represent your contribution to the forum – just indicate which you would like me to consider when you email me your URL.

I have borrowed/stolen heavily from Mark Sample’s “Renetworking House of Leaves assignment in creating this portion of the assignment.

Part Two: Reflective Analysis

Part Two consists of a 3-4 page (double spaced, 1-inch margins, 12 pt font; 800-1200 words) reflective analysis of your blogging, of the experience of reading and responding to a novel in tandem with other students at other universities using an online forum, and of how this experience relates to the concepts and issues we have discussed in class so far. Your analysis should consist of an in-depth engagement of your chosen concepts and issues, and it should incorporate at least one of the scholarly works we have read so far. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What did you learn about blogging by doing this assignment? About yourself as a writer?
  • What was the experience of reading and blogging about this novel along with other classes like? What was interesting/challenging/difficult/frustrating/engaging/fun about this experience, and why?
  • What did you learn by completing this assignment that you could not have learned by reading the novel by yourself? What are some advantages of an experience like this? What are some drawbacks?
  • What was your experience of using WordPress to house our discussions of the novel? What is this technology like? What does it allow for? What doesn’t it allow for? What are the advantages/drawbacks of using this technology to discuss the novel? How does this technology relate to some of the novel’s concepts/themes?

These questions are intended to get you started thinking; not to provide an outline for your analysis. You are free to write about what specific aspects of this experience interest you most. Please be sophisticated and creative in reflecting on and analyzing your experience. Your analysis should be specific, and it should be based on specific evidence from your own writing, from the writing of other contributors to the discussion, and from the writing of the scholar(s) you are discussing.

Part Two of this assignment is due to Blackboard by class on Tuesday, February 10.