As a way for us to explore more texts from several major authors in the space of one course, and as a way to grasp further the transcendentalist interest in the conversational circle or club that gathers around a reading or intellectual discussion, we will have what I call (with a nod to Emerson) Reading Circles.
You have all been assigned to a circle or group (see below). Periodically, your particular group will be assigned a text that only you will be reading. In class, you will have an opportunity to meet as a group to share some notes from your reading and prepare to present to the rest of us in class discussion some elements from the reading that you feel are significant and worthy of discussion. Since the rest of us will not have read this text, we will be relying on you for insight. It may be a text that some or all of us will need to go back to for a writing project.
As a way to guide your reading of these texts, and the discussion in the reading circle, consider this model for some notes–inspired by Emerson’s understanding that around every circle another circle can be drawn. Of course, this would also be a model you might use for notes in your reading of all the texts in the course.
- First circle: give a basic summary of the text you read; trace the circle, paraphrase or synthesize its focus; in the case of poetry, identify some key images or lines or figures.
- Second circle: give some sense of what is circulating in this text that we have seen somewhere else; make connections to another text from this author, possibly a different author.
- Third circle: give a sense of what is here that has no circumference–an idea or problem that might be new to our reading, has no direct link to a past text; or something that confuses you, that you have further questions about. This is an opportunity for some creative reading: where might you take this text were you to return to it for a writing project?