I discussed the new assignment (and your essays that I read) with a couple of you after class today. Reba correctly pointed out that this is not a writing intensive class.  That’s perfectly true.  However, I believe that the true learning of reading and analyzing literature happens most productively when we are forced to grapple with our ideas, analysis, and interpretation in writing.  I could easily quiz you on plot points, characters, and point of view, but it wouldn’t mean that you actually learned anything and, in all likelihood, you would probably forget all of it as soon as you left for the beach in July.  That’s why I have designed the course the way I have. That’s why we seem to be writing intensively. That said, I am aware that none of you are English majors and I do respect that interdisciplinary difference.

Obviously, I can’t make any general guarantees about your grade, but judging from experience, I would say that if you keep up with your readings, do the work, and engage critically with the materials in class and in writing, chances are high that you will do well.  But, as Elina pointed out, then it becomes a question of defining what well is.

And, finally, don’t worry!  Your papers were for the most part fine!

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Comments



26 Comments so far

  1.    Claire on June 11, 2010 2:51 pm

    As a Political Science major, I do a TON of analytical writing on a very regular basis. I find that, as you mentioned, I learn better through writing than I ever will by cramming for a test. Sure, it’s labor intensive and annoying and frustrating. However, I almost always gain some MEANINGFUL understanding whenever I write a paper – especially when I write a good one. If not about the subject, I at least learn something about writing in itself, or about dealing with frustrating-difficult-annoying tasks in general.

  2.    Leo on June 11, 2010 4:27 pm

    Personally, i prefer this writing stuff, the whole “test everyday” gig is a joke. It creates a good discussion everyday this way, at least that is what i have noticed. Personally for me, this course is a LIT 231 class when it transfers back to my school. Nonetheless thought, the class wasn’t described properly, yet somehow this seems to work. But, then again…that’s just me.

  3.    Ken Nielsen on June 11, 2010 4:59 pm

    Thanks Claire and Leo, that’s clarifying comments. I’ll see if I can respond….

    Claire, I, too, often find the process of working out my ideas in writing frustrating, but in the end it is that process that actually forces me to learn something. That said, I don’t set out to be deliberately frustrating-difficult-annoying. Hopefully it will also bring some discoveries.

    Leo, I am curious at which level the class wasn’t described properly: in the bulletin, in my initial syllabus/presentation of the work and work-load, or in a combination thereof? The bulletin lists this as an introduction to developments in American literature through a study of selected authors and genres. That is, I believe, what we are doing. Though we haven’t spend much time thinking about these writers in relation to one another, we will. We are reading different genres and stylistic movements so that we may–in the end–consider “development,” “American,” and “great” as critical terms.

  4.    Claire on June 12, 2010 1:37 pm

    I didn’t mean to suggest that your assignments are particularly frustrating. That’s just how I feel about academic ventures in general. I find value in that struggle.

  5.    Ken Nielsen on June 12, 2010 7:44 pm

    Don’t worry, Claire, I didn’t take it personally. I think, as you hint at, that true learning almost always involve a certain amount of frustration as we grapple with thoughts, ideas, and concepts that are new and foreign to us. Writing is no exception.

  6.    Elina on June 12, 2010 9:43 pm

    I am a science major so I do a lot of writing, but usually in APA format. It becomes difficult to write English Papers because I haven’t “inferred” or “analyzed” for a very long time considering that science papers require factual statements. Overall, I do not find this class overwhelming, and think the writing assignments are in no way frustrating.

  7.    Ken Nielsen on June 12, 2010 10:07 pm

    I think that’s the beauty of an interdisciplinary classroom. We bring something from our disciplines–be it science, social science, or the humanities (and within those broad categories there are even more specific breakdowns)–and utilize that in the study of American literature. You should feel welcome to address this question anytime in class. This is not a class on MLA (how boring would that be?) and though citation is very important, most of you will never need to know MLA by heart–I’m aware of that.

    On a different note, I can only imagine the challenge I would face if I suddenly had to write a science paper in APA format.

  8.    Elliot on June 13, 2010 11:02 pm

    personally, i am a graphic design major in my other school, and there is a reason for it. mainly i am more creatively inclined, and i am not really able to write down 5-6 pages on a particular subject that, well, doesnt interest me in the slightest. honestly i was expecting a test-every-day schedule when i signed up for this class, and maybe 1 essay. nothing like this.

  9.    Ken Nielsen on June 14, 2010 6:18 am

    Well, I am sorry about that misunderstanding Elliot. I think I pretty clearly laid out what we would be doing at the beginning of class, and, the way I see it, there isn’t that much difference between me assigning a quiz on contents of the readings every day and then, on Thursdays, an in-class essay asking for analysis and interpretation and allowing you the time to write and revise at home. I happen to think this is more productive and offers you the chance to take control. You should feel free to come see me anytime.

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