Throughout the semester, we will read challenging theoretical and secondary texts on print and digital media. Because these texts can be difficult to read, you may feel tempted to gloss over them, expecting them to be explained for you in class. But that’s not the best way to help you learn about and understand these texts. Thus, this assignment asks you to read and write responses to these texts before we discuss them as a class. You will post these reading responses on our course blog. You will write 10 of them throughout the semester.

You may only write reading responses on theoretical or secondary texts (a secondary text is defined as a text that “analyzes and interprets primary sources”) – i.e., you may not write reading responses on the novels we read. Each reading response is due by class on the day we discuss the text you write about. Your responses must contain the following four parts:

  • Concisely summarize the author’s overall argument in your own words. This summary should be no longer than 2-5 sentences.
  • Describe the three most important aspects (concepts, issues, interventions, discoveries, terms, etc.) of the author’s argument and justify your choices. You should briefly describe each important aspect in your own words, quoting from the text as needed, and then you should briefly explain why this aspect is important (to the author’s overall argument, to our understanding of topic x, to the course, etc.).
  • Identify two aspects of the reading that you don’t understand, and briefly discuss why/how these confusing aspects interfere with your understanding of the text as a whole. Although there might be more than two things that you don’t understand, you should limit yourself for this portion of the assignment to the two most confusing aspects.
  • Pose one question to the author of the text and/or to the class. This question should go beyond the content of the author’s argument and the areas of confusion you identified above. It should point toward what you think are the larger implications or applications of the reading for our course, and it should ideally open up avenues for further discussion.

There is no set length requirement for these responses, but if you are responding fully yet concisely to each part, I would expect your responses to be about 500-750 words each.

Your first two responses have specific due dates:

  • Response 1: On William A. Johnson, “Bookrolls as Media;” due Tuesday, September 1.
  • Response 2: On Elizabeth Eisenstein, “Some Features of Print Culture” OR Adrian Johns, “Introduction: The Book of Nature and the Nature of the Book”; due Tuesday, September 8.

After these first two responses, it will largely be up to you to set your own pace for completing the reading responses. Your first 5 reading responses must be completed by Tuesday, October 6. The second set of 5 responses must be completed by Tuesday, November 24. You are not required to write responses for the days you are signed up to act as a discussion host, but it is a good idea to do so, both because writing the response will help you with your hosting and because it will help you stay on pace for completing your responses.

I will not grade your reading responses; you will either receive full credit for completing the requirements for each response, or none at all. Each response is worth 10% of your reading response grade (which is 20% of your course grade). You may not write more than two responses per week, and you may not make up missed reading responses. I do not accept late reading responses.