Every work needs a necessity, a nature, a material already existing for motive to the poet and credence to the people. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, journal 1845 (JMN 9: 344)
Emerson very deliberately moved from his journals to lectures to his published essays. You can think of the blogging assignment as a lecture, the “necessity” that your thinking/writing (in other words, essaying) needs on its way toward more formal writing (the writing projects). It is a place for you to give your ideas and reading response some shape through the “necessity” of an audience and form. This is where you begin to engage more directly with the rhetoric of your thinking and writing.
Another way to view this ongoing assignment: I will be using your blogging in place of reading quizzes—so it is also an opportunity for you to demonstrate how well you are reading and in effect create your own quiz for the week’s reading. Finally, the blog gives you a way to participate more actively in class discussion. At the very least, you can always share something you wrote about; I factor the strength of your participation in class into the evaluation of each blog assignment.
Here are the specifics. On the day that a blog entry is assigned, you will post to your wordpress blog, before the start of class, the following:
- A blog post that is between 300- 500 words (approximately 2 double-spaced pages in Word)
- The entry should have the following three-part structure–you can use the labels I offer as a guide, though not required. This is a basic structure for responding to texts and ideas, and beginning to generate an argument that provides a good foundation for class discussion on Fridays and could even be used in one of your essays.
- Summary of Reading: a brief summary of the reading that week (key elements in the texts) plus 1 or 2 passages that seem particularly significant or of interest to you as a reader, worth quoting [approximately 1-2 paragraphs]. This can be drawn from your journal and the type of commonplace response to the texts you have written in and outside class. In the case of multiple essays/texts in one week, you need to provide a synthesized overview of key ideas (theses, arguments, focal points) from all the reading, though not a book review.
- Close Reading: Identify 1 or 2 elements of the philosophy, rhetoric, and/or poetics of the reading that week (not what it says, but how it says it) that gets your attention and that you want to dig into–that’s of interest to you as a strength or possibly a weakness or problem of the text. Here you can focus on a single text from the week if you want (not required to do a close reading of every text from the week); or you might focus on an element that relates 2 or more of the essays. Show/quote an example and elaborate, interpret, contemplate and complicate this element of the writing. An effective way to elaborate and complicate your reading: make a connection to an insight or idea presented by our critical guide, Lawrence Buell. Forward and/or counter his perspective on Emerson as a way to develop your emerging perspective. [2 or more paragraphs]
- Further Reading: Identify any questions you have about the text thus far, ideas you would like to pursue further in class discussion and/or possibly in writing about this text in one of your essays. What remains unanswered at this point? What remains of particular interest to you? Where might you take this in future writing and thinking? How does your reading this week relate back to previous readings and discussions? [1 paragraph]
- Evaluation scale:
- 9-10: excellent—blog is thorough (500 words or more) and thoughtful in its response to the reading, very strong in noticing elements of the writing and exploring ideas for discussion and future essays. Basis for excellent class participation.
- 8: strong—blog is solid in its response to the reading and in noticing elements of craft/style, provides good preparation for class discussion, with room to expand in one area (300-500 words).
- 7: average—blog responds to reading with need for more attention to depth in its response and what it notices in the text (limited quotation), better preparation for class discussion is possible (barely 300 words).
- 6: weak/insufficient—blog insufficiently responds to reading with any depth or specificity, very limited to no specific quotation, doesn’t fully address reading from the week as expected, providing a weak foundation for class discussion.
- 0-5: failing—blog is posted late or not at all or otherwise incomplete regarding assignment.
To sign up for a WordPress blog, link here.
To post your blog address to the Student Blogs page, link here.