A journal or notebook is a great resource for a writer and scholar. Emerson lived in his journal, continually responding to what he read and thought all day, working those responses into lectures and the lectures into essays.
You will be required to keep a journal. You will use this journal to respond to reading before and after classes; you will use the journal in class (so have one available at all times)–for in-class responding and thinking; you should also use the journal, at your own pace, for observing and exploring your possibilities for your own writing–the final project for this course and beyond (other venues and publications).
How much to write? I am looking for a level of engagement that is necessary for deliberate reading of our authors and the essay genre and for deliberate writing in the genre that you are working toward (your final project). So, I suggest an entry (some response) for each assigned reading as well as thoughtful use in class. Going beyond that should only help you better prepare for active participation in class and thoughtful writing.
How to write in it? Mostly up to you. The writing is not supposed to be finished, need not be edited. [the blog postings you will do, which can emerge from your journal, are where you can start to give more attention to the shape of your writing and thought.] I recommend you use as a template for response to reading a “commonplace” structure we will be using in class. Commonplace is a journal form in which the writer quotes from what s/he is reading, notes some initial response, for possible later use in an essay. This is the basic form I have in mind for a commonplace entry–something you can adapt and build upon:
Quote a passage (1 or 2 sentences) that provides a good example of the logic or argument in the text you are reading. What do you notice about this or other philosophical aspects of the text, its ideas?
Quote a passage (1 or 2 sentences) that provides a good example of the rhetoric in the text. What do you notice about the way this or other rhetorical aspects of the text works? Begin to make note of particular rhetorical elements that catch your eye.
Quote a passage (1 or 2 sentences) that provides a good example of the poetics in the essay. What do you notice about the way this or other poetic aspects of the text works? Begin to make note of particular figures and linguistic elements that catch your eye. Resource to consult: Guide to Grammar and Writing.
How will I assess your journal? At midterm, for your midterm evaluation, you will turn in to me your journal. I will assess the journal (and your overall participation) using a version of the following scale: excellent and thorough engagement demonstrated/ 90-100; strong engagement demonstrated, with room for more/80-89; partial and emerging engagement demonstrated, with need for more consistent work/70-79; weak engagement demonstrated, need for significant improvement/60-69; insufficient or incomplete/below 60.
Remember that attendance along with engagement in class factors in to your participation grade. Regarding both the journal and participation midterm, I encourage you to see me for a conference should you have any questions about the grade you receive so that you can head in the right direction in the second half of the course.