Short Reading Responses were a way to practice making arguments using evidence we had recently read and discussed in class. Students used the “claim” structure from Wayne Booth’s Craft of Research to construct short, 250 word responses that staged an original argument based on their interpretation of the text. Topics assigned were as follows:
RR1: Select two texts (from week 1+2) and argue for how Indians are represented and why. Consider what interests the authors/texts employ and what purposes these representations serve.
RR2: Select two texts (from week 3) and argue how you see nation building as a tension between self-making and Othering.
RR3: Select one area of reform (race, class, gender) and argue for how and why it necessarily intersects with another in the American experience. For example, how do race and gender work together in America? Why is it important to look at how both work together rather than one area separately? Be sure to include textual evidence (from week 7).
RR4: Select one or two texts (from weeks 8+9) and argue for the way in which depictions of work offer a status position that is otherwise overlooked in the American experience. What is the purpose of work? What impact does it have on society? The individual?
RR5: Select two texts (from weeks 11+12) and argue how you see the violences of modern life depicted in mid-to-late twentieth century America. What kind of violences exist? What are the implications?
Longer Essays allowed students to practice critical writing in more formal and sustained ways that synthesized their thinking about the material. The second essay prompt was as follows:
In a five-page paper that follows the writing structure detailed in the syllabus, argue for the way in which the American economy—and thus the American experience—has changed over three time periods. Your task is to offer ways in which these three distinct periods of your choosing and understanding incite or inspire different American experiences. This paper should attempt to construct a thesis that offers how the experience has changed at large, supported by individual claims that argue for the way in which each period is distinct through a representative text and evidence.
Questions to consider: How does economics or class status (or work) influence the way in which American figures live their lives? How does one become American? How does economy determine what values are shared or enforced? How is the experience of being an American man or woman impacted by economic concerns? Is the discussion really about money? or is it about something else entirely? What kinds of experiences are impacted by social class and how are those represented in texts? By which authors?
Please limit your examples to readings between weeks 7-14.
If you would like assistance with brainstorming, outlining or drafting plan ahead and make an appointment to sit down with me in person. Questions or concerns can often be addressed much faster and more comprehensively in person!
Sample Lectures/Slides (in PDF):
This course was designed around the phrase ‘If you see something, say something.’ With this in mind, I presented students with a series of images to critically and rhetorically evaluate throughout the term.