Literature and Composition | Professor Meehan

All assignments, reading and writing, are due by class time on the date posted (unless otherwise indicated). For example, a blog entry should be posted by the beginning of class, not after, in order to get full credit. One exception will be writing projects that are due (electronic submission) by 8 pm on publication days.

All assignments are due in class unless otherwise indicated; the items listed under “Consider” are suggestions for your thinking and responding, recommended but not required.


Week 1: Hidden Writers/Readers

M 8/28/17

First Class. Read through syllabus and other materials on the course home page before class. In addition, as brief a warm-up to some issues we will encounter and the ways we will engage in conversation and argument throughout the course, read Sherry Turkle’s article, “Stop Googling. Let’s Talk.”

Consider:  Be prepared to (begin to) answer: What are you doing here (that is, in a liberal arts college)? What are your expectations regarding academic writing and thinking? What experiences are you bringing with you? What’s your response to Turkle’s argument? What might we (as a class, as a college) do to sustain the kind of conversation that Turkle argues for?

W 8/30

Due: Reading: Gerald Graff, “Hidden Intellectualism” [linked here]

Consider: [Some questions to consider, perhaps make note of for some journal responding] What is the premise of Graff’s argument (the conversation we are entering)? Do you agree with any of his assumptions about reading or sympathize with the personal experiences that shape those assumptions?

In addition to making some initial notes on this article (in print and/or electronic form) for use in class discussion, post at least one comment to the essay in the Wreading Parlor. Your comment can be a question, a response to a particular paragraph or part of the argument, or perhaps a response to a comment from another reader in the class.

F 9/1

Due:  Berry, “In Defense of Literacy” + Dunn, “Defending Literature” (an alumna of the College and this course) +  First Blog due (posted to your own blog by 5pm, if not class time).

Consider: Description of the “Blog assignment”. Respond to Graff’s idea of “hidden intellectualism” and to Berry’s argument for literacy. You need not deal with both essays equally (might want to focus in more on one), but you should synthesize (in the summary section) the key idea or argument from all the reading from the week. One way you might develop the close reading section, consider these types of questions:  Are you a hidden intellectual? Why or why not? Do you share Berry’s values for literacy? What in your experience compares or contrasts with either of these two visions of being a reader and writer? If you have any problems posting this first blog, we can troubleshoot before you leave class.



Week 2: Becoming a Writer/Reader

M 9/4

Due: Reading: Birkerts, Gutenberg Elegies, Introduction (“The Reading Wars”) and Chatper 1 (“Mahvuhhuhpuh”)

Consider: What is the premise of Birkerts’s argument? What is the conversation we are entering? How does Birkerts define reading? Which passage thus far do you find most and least compelling in the development of his argument? Why? [think of these as responses for your notebook/journal/reading to prepare for class discussion and could return to for Friday Blog]

W 9/6

Due: Reading: Harris, Rewriting, “Introduction” + read/browse the discussion “What’s at Stake” from the HarvardWrites resource linked here.  [also start reading chapter 2 for Friday]

Consider: Based on previous classes, what’s your vision of ‘academic writing/thinking’—what does it entail? How does that compare to Harris’s vision? What’s on your to-do list for this semester?

F 9/8

Due: Read Birkerts, Gutenberg Elegies chapter 2 + Blog due: response to Birkerts reading from this week.

Consider: Focus your blog response on the reading from Birkerts this week—consider where you are most/least engaged by his argument; consider an autobiographical experience of your own regarding your reading/writing history and explore further


Week 3: Coming to Terms with Writing and Critical Thinking

M 9/11

Due: Reading in Birkerts: Chapter 3 plus one more chapter of your choice between 4 and 7

Consider: Prepare to share with class how Birkerts extends/develops his argument and focus in the additional chapter you read.

W 9/13

Due: Reading: Harris, Rewriting, “Coming to Terms” + Vershawn Ashanti Young, “Should Writer’s Use They Own English? [linked] + Annie Dillard, “Write Till You Drop” [linked]

Consider: Following Harris, consider what some key “terms” are so far for Birkerts and/or others we have read (Graff, Berry, Young, Dillard) and for your own understanding of the meaning or value of literacy. Begin to compost (brainstorm) for the draft due Friday.

F 9/15

Due: First Writing Project: Initial Draft, submitted to Canvas and copy (paper or electronic) brought to class. (include an abstract with your draft) 

Consider: Your draft should be at least 2-3 pages; though you might have an introduction and something on its way to a thesis, don’t worry about that too much—focus on developing the critical reflection, see where that leads the argument and the narrative. At the top of your draft or in a comment in Canvas, provide a basic abstract for the project: what your argument is at this point (the basic given, problem, and response).

If you don’t have draft in class (paper or electronic) you will not be able to participate in workshop. You should consult the assignment/description of the first Writing Project (in fact, read it more than once).


Week 4: Writing Project #1—The Ethos of Reading

M 9/18

Due: Read Harris, chapter 5 “Revision” + respond  to the drafts from your Peer Review Group (post comments by class) + work on your revision (next draft due Wednesday). You will  need to have a copy (print or electronic) of your work in progress in class (paper or electronic). In addition, begin a project log in your notebook: listing all the work you have done on this project from the beginning (with approximate time spent at each point), including specific indications of what you have done so far with revision.

When responding to the other drafts, provide the writer your response to our revision questions: What’s the project? What’s working? What else should the writer consider? What’s next for the draft?

Consider: What have you done in the past with revision? How does that compare/contrast with what Harris means by the word?

W 9/20

Due: Further/complete draft of your writing project due at beginning of class and submitted to Canvas; have electronic or paper copy available.  Your new draft should be at least 3-4 pages—have beginning and ending; a more refined thesis/argument and more developed reflection. This draft should take into account the feedback from previous discussions of revision. At the top of the draft, provide an updated abstract for the argument + identify one or two elements of revision that you have been working on.

F 9/22

Due: First Writing Project due (fully revised and edited, submitted by 8pm to Canvas and posted to your blog.). Before class, read and respond to the Further Draft by the writer in your peer group.  And to focus your editing on a particular element of style, take a look at this tutorial on Active v. Passive voice from the Style Academy.

On your final submission to Canvas, don’t neglect the Preface to be included with the copy in Canvas (see Format description on Writing Projects):

The copy uploaded to Canvas must include this preface either on the document or submitted in a comment. The preface includes:

  1. What the project is: Abstract of your argument (2-3 sentences).
  2. What is working: identify at least one element of your writing  (from the rubric and/or your to-do list) that you have focused on and believe is strong in this project.
  3. What else you could do: identify at least one element or your writing that you will keep on your to-do-list and believe could use further attention and feedback.

For the in-class editing workshop: have your latest version of the draft in class to work on. Give attention to your presentation: style, language, and usage [remember the Evaluation Rubric]


Week 5: Frankenstein, volume 1

M 9/25

Due:  Read Frankenstein through chapter 3 (pages 49-83) +  Mary Shelley’s Introduction to the 1831 edition (pages 347-352).

Consider: Pay attention to the complications of how this novel begins, the various narrators and texts that come into the story. Come in with questions. There is a hypertext version of Frankenstein available–might find it interesting to use or compare to the print version.

W 9/27

Due: Frankenstein, continue reading for Friday. In class, we will continue to talk about the beginnings of Frankenstein (bring the text) and also look back at the first writing project.


F 9/29

Due: Frankenstein, finish Volume I (to page 110) + Blog

In addition begin to think about ideas for the second Writing Project (you can also read through the description). 

Consider: Focus on one or more intertextual elements of the novel thus far that interest you, that you think are significant, and might pursue further for the writing project. In what ways does this layering of other texts complicate the novel–and to what purpose? Why write the novel in this way?


Week 6: Frankenstein, volumes II and III

M 10/2

Due: Reading: Frankenstein Vol. II (pages 111-160)

Consider: the so-called “monster’s” narrative–what do you learn, what surprises you? Is the monster a  monster? How might our continued critical focus on the “intertextual” qualities of this novel help us to grasp this section of the novel? Why do you think this original depiction of the creature/monster has been left out of many of the film versions of Frankenstein?

W 10/4

Due: Reading: Harris Rewriting chapter 2, “Forwarding” plus continue reading novel for Friday

Consider: As you come to terms with Harris’ notion of forwarding, consider how we can think of Shelley’s novel as a forwarding of other stories/texts; and later versions of Frankenstein as forwarding.

F 10/6

Due: Frankenstein Vol. III (finish novel) + Blog.

Consider: For your blog, once again provide an overview of key elements of the novel to this point, and pick a particular element or passage of the novel of interest to you and do some slow/close reading–look at some complications and layers in the language of the text. As always at the end of a text, ask yourself: where does this novel leave me? In what ways does it resolve things (problems, ideas, themes)? What are some larger implications?


Week 7: Forwarding Frankenstein

M 10/9

Due: Reading: Editor’s “Introduction” (pages 13-40) + one of the selections of interest to you (and your upcoming project) from Appendix A, B, or C.

Consider: How and why does Shelley forward the texts she reads and uses as sources? How will you as a critical reader/writer forward Shelley in your second project?

W 10/11

Due:  “Frankenstein’s Futurity” (pdf ) + Initial Draft of second project submitted to Canvas: paper or electronic copy in class: should be at least 2-3 pages–focus on starting to develop the close reading of the text and the intertextual connection you are exploring. Include 1 paragraph process reflection (same as last project: what’s the project (abstract of your argument), what’s working, what else, what’s next?).

Peer response in Canvas (answer questions provided) due by class Monday 

Consider: Focus on the close/slow reading of your text and intertext–use that to complicate your thinking; once again, you might state an initial thesis, but don’t spend all your energy on the introduction–focus more on the body.

F 10/13  [Fall Break: no class]


Week 8: Writing Project #2—The Pathos of Writing

M 10/16

Due: Continue to work on Project 2 revision (Further Draft due Wednesday). Peer response to Initial Draft due by class. Bring work in progress to class (latest version of your draft). Plus: read/browse through this discussion on Structure and Audience and this one on Repetition to guide our focus on arrangement and coherence.

W 10/18

Due: Further/full draft of second project submitted to Canvas + updated reflection (same as last project: what’s the project (abstract of your argument), what’s working, what else, what’s next?). Should be at least 3-4 pages.

Consider: Go back and refine/revise your argument, work on the introduction and conclusion.

F 10/20

Due: Second Writing project due by 8pm (submitted to Canvas and posted to your Blog). Editing workshop in class (bring a version to edit). To guide your editing, use the Writer’s Diet test to give attention to using active verbs and cutting back clutter that we create sometime with too many nouns and prepositions. This tool can help you focus on the specificity of your language as well as sentence variation.



Week 9: The Medium is the Message

M 10/23

Due: Birkerts, Gutenberg Elegies, “Into the Electronic Millennium.”

Consider: As we pick up with Birkerts, how does this later chapter extend his argument? Consider what’s working in his argument and what else he needs to consider.

W 10/25

Due: Harris, “Countering”  in Rewriting +Dennis Baron, “Should Everybody Write?” [linked here]

Consider: Baron’s essay began as a shorter blog post, linked here.

  Meet in the O’Neill Literary House for class in the Print Shop.

F 10/27

Due: McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage + Blog

Consider: This is both a book and an argument–though as you will see, not a conventional argument and not a typical book. Locate a place where you think McLuhan’s argument is best stated or presented (what are some of his key terms); assess the uses and the limitations of the way he presents the argument in the ways he does. Refer to specific examples in your response. What would Birkerts say about this book? How might you forward and/or counter McLuhan’s argument in your third writing project? How might you put some of his lessons in remediation to work in your own writing, that is, mediating your message? How does your experience in the Print Shop compare/contrast with what McLuhan describes? Experiment with using tools of digital writing (the blog) to enhance the rhetorical effect of your critical reading of McLuhan (just as he does with his book). Think, in other words, about the message of the medium you are using.

Note: an audio version of McLuhan’s book here.


Week 10: Googling Literature

M 10/30

Due: Nicholas Carr, Is Google Making Us Stupid” [linked] +Davis “Is Google Making Us Stupid? Nope!” In addition, post at least two comments to Carr’s article in the Wreading Parlor to initiate discussion before you get to class.  Take notes–and have Carr’s  text and your notes available in class, either print or electronic versions.

Consider: As always, identify the basic argument (how it is set up and stated) and some places where you think the argument is effective and perhaps limited–where you might forward, where you might counter. You must bring a copy of Carr’s text (and your notes) to class for discussion. For some further examples of how Carr has been countered, also see Brunner “Using the Internet in Place of Memory Doesn’t Make us Dumber.” 

W 11/1

Due: Reading: Luminous Airplanes: a hyperromance [hypertext novel linked here]. Spend at least 45 minutes with the text.

F 11/3

Due: Reading: Luminous Airplanes: a hyperromance [further reading]  Blog. 

Consider: For your blog, respond to Nicholas Carr–using specific examples form Luminous Airplanes to forward or counter his argument. Put Carr to work for your evaluation of this new type of electronic literature.


Week 11: Hypertext and Electronic Literature

M 11/6

Due: Birkerts, Gutenberg Elegies, “Hypertext: Of Mouse and Man” + Janet Murray “Introduction” to Hamlet on the Holodeck [pdf]

Consider: What problems does Birkerts encounter with hypertext? How do his views compare to your recent experience with hypertext? What is Murray’s counter-perspective?

W 11/8 [Advising Day: no class]

Due: Work on reading and Blog due Friday.

F 11/10

Due: Reading, Electronic Literature Collection (volume 1) + Blog.

Read/browse/play/participate (?) in at least 5-7 of the texts. You can also search this collection through Keywords that emphasize the types of media/technology used to create the literature. For your blog, begin a close reading of two of the electronic texts from this week with critical discussion forwarded or countered from Monday’s reading (Birkerts on “Hypertext” and Murray on “cyberdrama” or Piper on literature and numbers) included in your response–forwarding and countering one or more of the critical perspectives. In other words–present an example of a text that you think Birkerts would be critical of–and explain why; and present a second text that you think Murray would point to as a good example of cyberdrama. Focus your response toward the third project: if you were to write about this text in that project, what would your evaluation be? Would you agree more with Birkerts or with Murray (or with other critics we have read)? Focus on counterargument to develop your critical response to the electronic text you are evaluating.


Week 12: Third Writing Project—The Logos of Argument

M 11/13

Due: Read Birkerts, “Afterword”Three-Act outline for your third writing project, submitted to Canvas. 

Consider: Have the outline in hand for workshop. Template for outline:

You can use this to compost ideas for a draft; might also use this as a revision strategy, to re-outline your argument–test for the thesis thread–after you have a draft.

Act 1: Introduction/Set UP



Response (What you will argue):

Act 2: Complications

Complication #1: [identify specific passages or elements from your literary text, as well as quotations and keywords from the critics you are in conversation with; these keywords should relate to the terms of your argument]

Complication #2

Complication #3, etc.

Second Act Turning Point: [counter-argument]

Act 3: Conclusion

Climax: answer to question/solving of problem

Resolution: new normal—where this leaves us; larger implications

W 11/15

Due: Full Draft of Third Writing Project submitted to Canvas with  paper or electronic copy in class : should be at least 3 pages; include abstract. Respond to drafts from your peer group (4 revision questions) by Thursday 10 am.

Plus read “Evidence and Analysis” from HarvardWrites to guide your attention to logos and the structure of your argument.

Consider: Focus on your logos, which you can strengthen with counterargument.

F 11/17

Due: Writing Project 3 fully revised and edited version due by 8 pm, including abstract. Editing: think about the medium of your project–the potential to use multi-media aspects effectively and persuasively (images, links, etc.). 


Week 13: Thanksgiving

M 11/20

Due: Debate in Class: Are digital media harming literacy? Should there be regulations on their use at the College?


W 11/22 [Thanksgiving Break]



F 11/24 [Thanksgiving Break




Week 14: Taking an Approach–Final Project

M 11/27

Due: Read Harris (Rewriting) “Taking an Approach” + Alexandria Smyth, “I am a Reader; I am a Writer” (pdf)

W 11/29

Due: Conferences–meet at scheduled time (no regular class meeting). Work on Final Project Proposal/Presentation

F 12/1

Due: Final Project Proposal due: posted to blog and presentations in class


Week 15: Final Project

M 12/4

Due: Final Project: Track Changes Revision due (submit to Canvas). At least 2-3 pages of your new/revised version of final project due. Track changes by either using Track Changes function or otherwise changing font to indicate where you have added, deleted, revised. If it is not clear where and what the changes are, add a note detailing those changes. Provide an updated abstract for your project.


W 12/6 [last class]

Due: Final Project: Peer response due; bring latest version of final project to class for workshop


Final Project due no later than Wednesday 12/13  11.59 pm (Submitted to Canvas). Project must include Preface. Description under Writing Projects.