The course requires the following assignments. For information on the grading breakdown, please see the syllabus.
Weekly posts to our online “Commonplace Book.” Once per week (i.e. once every two classes), every seminar participant will make a short contribution to the class “commonplace book,” and all class members are encouraged to continue discussion outside of class by commenting on one another’s posts. In keeping with the practice of commonplace book-keeping in the Victorian era, our posts can take any form at all: they might be an argument about the week’s reading; a close reading of a single passage; or a set of discussion questions in dialogue with other posts. You might also find and electronically “clip” into the book a piece of Victorian writing, art, or mass culture that you see as relating to what we’ve read. (In this case a word about the relation would be appropriate.) Please vary the form of your entries over the term. Posts must be associated with one of the two class meetings, and are due by the relevant day, no later than 8 am. Thus a post for Tuesday’s class is due by Tuesday, 8 am; for Thursday class, Thursday at 8.
Close reading assignment (primary). (2 pages, single-spaced.) Details for this exercise in close reading will be provided, but essentially this is an assignment in the hyperbolically slow apprehension of a textual artifact. Your task will be to take time to appreciate this object in all its dynamic specificity: terms, tips, and helpful suggestions will be provided. You are not meant to argue but to read: your job is to notice everything. GUIDELINES AVAILABLE HERE: 355CloseReadingAssignmentPrimarySource
Close reading assignment (secondary). (2 pages., single-spaced.) Same as above, but engaging with a secondary source of your choosing. Focus is on microstylistic details and their conceptual consequences. Details available here: CriticalCloseReading.
Annotated bibliography. After devising a topic of inquiry for your final paper in consultation with me, you will prepare an annotated bibliography on your topic, consisting of no fewer than 10 sources (journal articles, books / book chapters, or archival sources), each with 3-5 sentences of explanation. A detailed assignment sheet is available here: AnnotatedBibliographyAssignmentSheet.
Seminar paper. (10-12 pages, normal font.) This is a sustained academic argument that follows the format of a published scholarly article, if slightly shorter. This is intended to build upon the assignments you have produced up to this point, but you are free, too, to move outward and upward, incorporating new texts and different ideas than you’ve worked with to this point. The bibliography for this project should come substantially from the annotated one you’ve already created. You will turn in a draft version of the paper’s argument in advance of the final due date.
Presentations and Participation:
Curatorial Presentation. Each member of the seminar will be asked to discover andcurate a Victorian object for the class: the root of “curate” is “care,” so this project asks you to learn about your object, meditate on its significance to our class and your thinking, and to care. This assignment will involve techniques of close apprehension, fine-grained reading, and intimate appreciation — and research. SIGNUP SHEET AVAILABLE HERE: ENGLISH 355PresentationSignupSheet
EXTRA GUIDELINES AVAILABLE HERE: 355CuratorialPresentationGuidelines
Ad-Hoc Critical Presentations. Individual members of the seminar will be made responsible, from time to time, for presenting one of our supplementary readings to the group; these short, informal presentations (c. 3-5 minutes) should summarize the argument’s key points and critical assumptions, then offer one or two critical questions to incite discussion. This assignment is designed to exercise your ability to quickly synthesize and restate critical arguments. Part of in-class participation grade.
Sharing of Your Research. At the end of the term we’ll hold an informal mini-conference that will replicate the format of a professional academic conference: you will prepare a short (5 minute) oral presentation of your research, which you’ll present to your peers; discussion will follow. Part of in-class participation grade.