This course examines selected fiction and nonfiction published between 2009 and 2010. In it, we will explore what makes a text “contemporary” and how our historical moment’s cultural, political, economic, philosophical, racial, religious, gendered, literary, marketplace, etc. influences impact its meaning.
Bender, Aimee. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.
Bissell, Tom. Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter.
Burgess, Matt. Dogfight: A Love Story.
Caldwell, Gail. Let's Take the Long Way Home.
Cronin, Justin. The Passage.
Donoghue, Emma. Room.
Mengestu, Dinaw. How to Read the Air.
Monroe, Debra. On the Outskirts of Normal.
Reimringer, John. Vestments.
Skloot, Rebecca. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
1. PANEL PRESENTATIONS=50% OF FINAL GRADE
2. PARTICIPATION=20% OF FINAL GRADE
3. FINAL EXAM=30% OF FINAL GRADE
1. PANEL PRESENTATIONS
Each student will be part of a panel that gives a presentation on one of the assigned books. Each panelist will write a 10-12 page paper (typed, 12 point, single sided, double spaced, MLA format) that focuses on the following:
Why this book now? How have the cultural or social or political or economic or historical or religious or philosophical or racial or gendered or literary or marketplace or etc. influences of our time lent meaning or significance to the text? How does knowing this enrich or deepen our understanding of the text? What makes this text “contemporary”?
Meeting with the rest of your panel to discuss ideas is encouraged but not required; however, panelists should get together at least once to compare notes and ensure everyone is focusing on a different idea. Topics for panel presentations should not overlap. I will conference with your panel on January 25 or February 1.
You will post a brief (500 words for each member) abstract of your presentation paper on D2L by midnight on the Saturday before your presentation. The abstract will highlight your main and key points. Failure to do so will result in dropping one letter grade for the assignment. If you have never written an abstract, you may find the following website helpful:
Your presentation paper is due on the day of your panel.
Your abstract will clearly and accurately address the following: Motivation; Problem Statement; Approach; Results; Conclusions. Your abstract will make the reader want to read your paper/hear your presentation.
Your essay will have a strong thesis, evidence (which will likely include research) to support all claims, and make a convincing argument. Your ideas will be complex and interesting, your points will go beyond what's obvious and cliched, and you will be not merely summarize the text or make observations about it. Your essay will provide compelling analysis. Your reader will not have difficulty following your ideas from point to point, and your prose will be clear and readable. You will make significant connections between your ideas and the original text,and offer a strong conclusion.
This is not a Public Speaking or Speech class; you will not be assessed as though it is. However, your presentation needs to be clear and well-organized; your audience needs to have access to your ideas and follow the logic of your points. You need to be articulate and convincing
Merely showing up is not participation—that's attendance. I define participation as your active engagement with the class. Part of your participation grade is determined by how well you demonstrate your active engagement through evidence of preparedness, and thoughtful contributions to discussions. Because this class relies so heavily on participation, you can’t sit silently and expect to do well (that’s intellectual freeloading.) But I also don’t want one voice to dominate class discussions (that’s just tedious.) I also don't want you to think participation means talking for the sake of talking or making meaningless, trivial or random contributions (that's obnoxious.)
As part of your participation grade, you need to prepare for presentations by reading the assigned texts, reading each abstract, and preparing three interpretive questions. At least one of these questions should be directed to a specific panelist; the other two can be questions that lead the class in other directions. Bring a copy of your three questions to class to turn in to me; the quality of your questions will be assessed on a scale of 1-10.
WRITING GOOD INTERPRETIVE QUESTIONS (based on Dick Terrill's ideas)
There are three kinds of questions:
1. Factual: only one correct answer based on the text.
2. Interpretive: more than one correct answer possible based on the text.
Test of a good interpretive question: you can think of more than one answer based on the text, and you’re not sure which answer you like better.
3. Evaluative: more than one correct answer is possible, but the question is based on the participants' values or choice of actions in a similar situation, rather than on the text.
GOOD INTERPRETIVE QUESTIONS ARE:
Interpretive (not factual or evaluative)
Specific to this story, not a question that could be asked about many stories.
Questions you care about.
3. FINAL EXAM=30% OF FINAL GRADE
An in-class essay exam to be taken on finals day. The exam will be made up of to-be-determined questions on texts other than the one you used for your presentation.
Missing more than one class results in dropping a full letter grade.
Missing more than two classes results in dropping two letter grades.
Missing more than three classes results in failure of the course.
The third time (and each time after that) you are late for class will result in being marked absent.
All coursework must be completed to pass this class.
Writing done for this class is considered public text.
Assignments are tentative and subject to change.
Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated; it may result in failure of the class.
I’m available for help outside class during my office hours or by appointment.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
11 First Day of class
18 NO CLASS: panels to meet independently
25 NO CLASS: I'm conferencing with panels
1 NO CLASS: I'm conferencing with panels
8 Vestments/John Reimringer visiting
15 NO CLASS
22 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
1 Room by Emma Donoghue
8 NO CLASS: SPRING BREAK
15 The Passage by Justin Cronin
22 The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
29 Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell
5 On the Outskirts of Normal by Debra Monroe
12 How to Read the Air by Dinaw Mengestu
19 Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter by Tom Bissell
26 Dogfight: A Love Story by Matt Burgess
4 FINAL EXAM 2:45-4:45