Reading Response Paper and Critical Precis 10% (5% pts each)
Each student will write one reading response paper and one critical precis in the first six weeks of the semester due no later than Sept. 26. You will have an opportunity to choose the readings to which you’d like to respond in the first week of class. These papers should be no less than 750 words and no more than 1000(3-4 pages double spaced). Reading responses are due to Canvas by 8 am the day of class, in order to allow others the time to read them before we meet.
*If there is a topic that appears on the syllabus later in the semester that you would like to write about, talk to me. I am willing to allow you to write about materials we will read later in the semester provided that you turn in your response by Sept. 26.
Research in rhetoric and composition theory has clearly illustrated the connection between writing and knowledge retention. Your own experience may confirm these claims, as does mine—I am much more likely not only to remember but also better comprehend and articulate my thoughts about something I have responded to in writing. During my own education, the readings I remembered best were the ones that I was required to write a response to each week. Although I’m not requiring you to write them each week, these papers are designed with similar goals in mind: to help you get a handle on the new material while also generating topics for the mid-term take-home essay exam and for the final research paper. They come early in the semester, they don’t require outside research, and they offer an opportunity to practice your writing and get a sense of the types of research questions you find compelling. I hope you will use them strategically to explore something you find interesting. They will help me to better understand what concepts you’re understanding, which ones need more explanation, and what types of research you hope to pursue.
Since I’m only requiring you to write and turn in two of these; however, I expect them to be intellectually rigorous, carefully written, and meticulously proofread. You may approach these essays in a number of ways, but your responses should demonstrate not only your intellectual engagement with the readings but also how you’ve begun to synthesize, analyze, and incorporate the day’s readings into your ever-growing scholarly apparatus. Feel free to use these papers as an opportunity to dabble with ideas you are interested in exploring at greater length. Remember that even if you’re not able to write a tight argument in this response, the paper should raise questions that are rich enough to encourage further exploration, discovery, and development. Moreover, they should demonstrate that you have not simply read but critically synthesized and analyzed the readings to distill a key issue or compelling question.
The essays should be engaging and carefully proofread for both style and syntax. The grades attached to them are relatively low-stakes, but serve two main goals. First, they will enable me to provide you with early feedback on your analysis and your writing. Second, they will allow you to discover where your strengths and weaknesses might be, thus giving you ample time to both identify and work on them.
Essays will be evaluated on the following criteria:
Strength and intellectual insight of the question raised/argument made
Quality of evidence used to develop the claim (carefully selected textual passages, close textual analysis, and insightful interpretation)
Cohesiveness of the argument and its arrangement/organization
Precise and rhetorically appropriate sentence level mechanics (syntax, grammar, word choice)
Not sure how to start? Here are some possible ways in:
• Take a concept and juxtapose its multiple definitions (either within the same text) or across multiple texts we’ve read in class up to that point. Consider how and why it is defined differently? What purpose does it serve? For example, how does Booth’s notion of rhetoric draw upon and expand the definition(s) Aristotle sets forth in the Rhetoric? Or, how does Aristotle define and redefine rhetoric in the Rhetoric?
• Take a concept or theoretical term and apply it to a different text or a contemporary scenario—use it as an analytic tool. What greater understanding do we gain by using/applying the term this way, and why is this understanding important?
• Perform a close-reading/textual explication of a particular word that reappears—offer an explanation/interpretation/analysis for the repetition that explains why this repetition is important.
• Take one of the concepts/theoretical terms and call attention to the things it doesn’t or can’t explain, or fails to take account of. Make sure you explain why these gaps are important. For a scholarly example of this type of inquiry, see the Holdstein piece on Ethos in Week 8.