Project 1 follow up: critical reflection

Our focal point in the first project was critical reflection. There are two places you can see this critical reflection emerge in an essay and think about, going into the next project, how you can continue to develop it: a strong thesis (the critical focus that will help you develop the reflection); strong development in your body paragraphs (in this assignment, thoroughly exploring/supporting your definition of reading/writing from your own experience).

Some examples to consider from writers in the class.


  • Notice the way Alex effectively sets up her thesis in response to what others might think (naysayers) and in response to her own earlier views. This simply, but effectively, provides context for her conversation (why is she talking to us about reading and writing? the basic tension provides a reason, a problem she is exploring) and focus for her thesis: her response will focus on writing having a greater creative purpose.
    • Some people may balk at the idea of writing being an enjoyable experience. Those naysayers may figure that it is a waste of time that could be spent elsewhere, and an activity reserved only for people who have nothing better to do with their free time. I am simply not one of those people; I love to write whenever I possibly can. Writing has always been such a large part of most of my eighteen years of life that I simply do not understand when one believes that it has served no greater purpose to them besides the occasional assigned academic essay. Writing can be cathartic, it can be creative, and it can allow people to express themselves in ways they would never have dreamed of. However, despite my current love of writing and defining myself as a writer, I was not always that way.


  • Notice the way Emily develops her reflection (across several paragraphs) by combining a detailed narrative of an earlier writing experience with critical reflection (returning to her thesis) that distinguishes her view from Birkerts.
    • And no one else had any clue what was happening or why, either. My middle-school self had only understood it because the details of the story originated in her head, and all she had to do was read them there. She connected with Elizabeth because Elizabeth washer, and the parts that weren’t drawn directly from her life were things that she wished she could have. To further demonstrate how closely Elizabeth and that past version of myself were intertwined I need only to point out that this novel was written in first person.
    • This is where I question Birkerts’ notion of writing as a process of “treating our experience as a text.” (111) I feel that experiences, memories, and values can guide your depictions, but the overall story has to be based on something bigger than yourself. By using only my own hopes and dreams as a model I completely neglected huge parts of Elizabeth’s world and thus limited people’s ability to connect with it, because their experiences aren’t the same as mine. This convinces me that writing should be a reading of the world, an interpretation and transmission of myriad aspects of life and multiple experiences, not simply my own. Thus, writing becomes in some ways an interactive activity, where you purposefully extend yourself (in the form of your values and world views) outward rather than retreating inside yourself as Birkerts’ phrasing suggests.

Introductions: Chris offers a good example of the way a strong introduction can both engage in its opening as well as work towards laying out a clear thesis, what the focus of the argument will be. A good introduction works well by starting the kind of thinking that the essay will be getting into.

  • My favorite quote in the Harry Potter series is one from Albus Dumbledore.  He is talking to Harry after Harry has been hit with the killing curse in the forest.  Harry questions if what is happening is real or in his head; Dumbledore looks at Harry and says, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” This quote is essentially how I define reading.  While some people see reading as words on a page, it is so much more to me. Reading is an active experience; it takes the imagination and past experiences to fully immerse oneself in a book.  When I read, I put myself in the middle of the story, allowing my mind to create scenes and visualize the events that are happening.  The book becomes as much a part of my thoughts and my life as any real life experience.  My past experiences help me to shape and fully immerse myself in what I am reading.  Birkerts shares these feelings, saying that to read a book we need to replace our reality with that of the characters, and use what we know to create their world.  This is where reading begins to become personal.  Our own experiences shape what we see within stories, but in the same sense this brings back the social aspect of novels too.  The reason a book becomes popular is because people can relate to it.  If a book is only applicable to a few people, it won’t be as popular as something everyone can share some experience with.  Contrary to Birkerts, I feel that along with being private, reading is very much a social experience, and without this dualism, one cannot fully experience reading.

Conclusions: Something we will work on throughout the semester. My suggestion is to experiment; try more than one (there is more than one way to do it). And think about raising larger implications at the end: what’s next, given this argument? where does this leave you, or the rest of us, if we accept this argument? Are there further complications you might want to pursue in a larger project that grow out of this?


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