Literature and Composition | Professor Meehan

Reading assignments due by class time on the date posted. The Blog assignment is due (posted to your blog) by Friday 5 pm any week it is assigned. Final versions of your three writing projects will be due by Friday 11.59 pm of the week each is assigned. Drafts, however, will be due in class (must have them with you) on the day assigned.

The “Questions” are provided to guide your response to reading in your Journal (see the Journal guidelines for my expectations for these responses). For every class when a reading assignment is due, you must have your Journal and the assigned text with you, prepared for further reading and discussion in class.


Week 1: Hidden Writers/Readers

T 8/27

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.”

Questions:  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?

TH 8/29

Due: Reading: Gerald Graff, “Hidden Intellectualism” [linked here] + Berry, “In Defense of Literacy” (Canvas link) + Dunn, “Defending Literature” (link to Elm; an alumna of the College and this course)

Questions:  What is the premise of, or context for, Graff’s argument? In other words, what’s the conversation you are entering? Do you agree with any of his assumptions about reading or sympathize with the personal experiences that shape those assumptions? Identify evidence that you do and/or don’t find persuasive. What about Berry’s vision of literacy, or Dunn’s? How would you compare/contrast to Graff’s view or to your own?

In addition to making some initial notes on Graff’s 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.

See the description of the Journal assignment for guidelines and suggestions.


Week 2: Becoming a Writer/Reader

T 9/3

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

Questions: What is the problem or concern that motivates Birkerts?  Which passage thus far do you find most and/or least compelling in the development of his argument? Why? How would you compare or contrast Harris on “rewriting” to Birkerts?

TH 9/5

Due: Reading Birkerts, Gutenberg Elegies chapter 2  (in class Thursday) +

Writing: First Blog response due (posted to your blog by Friday 5 pm); bring a first draft to class. 

Questions: For your blog response to the reading from Birkerts this week, focus on moving from initial reading and summary, to closer reading, to questions/idea for further reading that his argument provokes. You might follow Birkerts’s rhetorical model and consider an autobiographical experience of your own regarding your reading/writing history, and use it to elaborate your response to his argument for literacy.

Read through the Blog assignment guidelines.


Week 3: Coming to Terms with Literacy

T 9/10

Due: Reading in Birkerts: Chapter 3 + Harris, Rewriting, “Coming to Terms” +  Frederick Douglass, chapter VII from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave [linked]

Questions: How does Birkerts develop and extend his argument in chapter 3? Are there keywords and ideas from the introduction and earlier chapters that Birkerts repeats? Are there new ideas, new evidence? Following Harris, consider what some key “terms” are so far for Birkerts and/or others we have read (Graff, Berry, Douglass) and for your own understanding of the meaning or value of literacy. Begin to compost (brainstorm) for the draft due Thursday: what terms and ideas are emerging for your first project. Read through the description of Project One under Writing Projects.

TH 9/12

Draft due in class: Initial Draft of Project 1, submitted to Canvas and copy (paper or electronic) brought to class. (include an “abstract” with your draft). 

Guidelines: 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 2-3 sentence abstract for the project: what your argument is at this point (the basic given, problem, and response) + keywords.

If you don’t have draft in class (paper or electronic) you will not be able to participate in workshop.


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

T 9/17

Due: Read Harris, chapter 5 “Revision” + respond  to the drafts from your Peer Review Group (post comments by class time Tuesday) + work on your revision (next draft due Thursday). 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?

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

TH 9/19

Due in classFurther/full 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.

Due Friday by 11.59 pm:  Final version of Project 1 (fully revised and edited, submitted by 8pm to Canvas). To guide your editing, consult the Guide to Grammar and Writing for any questions. 


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) + keywords.
  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.


Week 5: Frankenstein, Volume 1

T 9/24

Due:  Read beginning of Frankenstein title page through chapter 1 (pages 57-98). [note: you can skip the editors’ introduction for now–we will read it later]

Questions: Pay attention to the complications of how this novel begins, the various narrators and texts that come into the story. What questions do you have about the beginning? This could be an area of confusion, or perhaps an issue you want to understand better. What annotation thus far is of most interest to you (identify at least one)?

There is a hypertext version of Frankenstein available–might find it interesting to use or compare to the print version.

TH 9/26

Reading due in class: Frankenstein, finish Volume I (to page 153) 

Writing due (posted to your blog) by Friday 5 pm: Blog #2

Questions: For your blog response, the initial reading needs to respond to the reading from the week. For closer reading, you might 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. This intertextual element might be identified in one of the annotations. In what ways does this layering of other texts and stories complicate the novel–and to what purpose? Why write the novel in this way?


Week 6: Frankenstein, volumes II and III

T 10/1

Due: Reading: Frankenstein Vol. II (pages 157-232) + Harris Rewriting chapter 2, “Forwarding”

Questions: What do you learn from the monster’s narrative? What surprises you? Is the monster a  monster?  Why do you think this original depiction of the creature/monster has been left out of many of the film versions of Frankenstein? You can also begin to apply Harris’s idea of forwarding to the novel. In what ways does Shelley “forward” other texts and ideas into her novel–and with what effect or purpose?

TH 10/3

Reading due in classFrankenstein Vol. III (finish novel) 

Writing due by Friday 5 pm: Blog #3

Questions: For your blog, once again provide an overview of key elements of the novel to this point (volumes II and III), 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: Frankenstein’s Texts and Contexts

T 10/8

Due: Read the  “Introduction” (by the editors of The Annotated Frankenstein, pages 1-43) 

Journals collected during class for midterm participation evaluation.

Questions: Identify at least one insight or idea from the introduction that you think best illuminates the novel and how you think it should be understood. How might you forward this idea into your second project?

TH 10/10

Fall Break: No class meeting

Week 8: Forwarding Frankenstein

T 10/15

Due:  Read “The Strange and Twisted Life of ‘Frankenstein'” by Jill Lepore [linked] + Mary Shelley’s Introduction to the 1831 edition (pages 331-340).

Read through description and guidelines for second project under Writing Projects.

Questions: Lepore asks: Are we ready for the truth about Frankenstein? What is that truth, as you interpret the novel and will argue in your second project? Once again, identify at least one insight or idea from the reading that you think best illuminates the novel and how you think it should be understood.

TH 10/17

Reading due: Clayton, “Frankenstein’s Futurity” [pdf in Canvas]

Drafting due (in class): initial abstract for project 2 plus one paragraph sample where you begin to forward material from the novel.

Week 9: Writing Project 2

T 10/22

Due: Draft of second project submitted to Canvas + due in class. Include an updated Abstract (same as last project: Abstract + what’s working, what else do you need to do). Should be at least 2-3 pages. Your peer response will be due in Canvas by class Thursday.

Guidelines: For revision work this time, use the 3-Act outline structure to revise and strengthen your arrangement and coherence. Work on your topic sentences–read this brief guide on Topic Sentences and Signposts to help.

TH 10/24

Due in class: Further/Full draft of second project due in class. Plus your peer response to Tuesday’s initial draft must be completed by class time.

Due by Friday 11.59 pm (submitted to Canvas): Final version of Project 2.

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.

The final version of Project 2 uploaded to Canvas must include this preface on the document. The preface includes:

  1. Abstract of your argument–the given/problem/response (2-3 sentences). Plus include a listing of Keywords underneath the abstract.
  2. Self-Reflection. [1]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. [2]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.



Week 10: The Medium is the Message

T 10/29

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

Questions: As we return to Birkerts and his concerns with the fate of reading in the electronic age, how does this later chapter extend his argument? What’s familiar (keywords reiterated) and what’s new? Is there new evidence or a new method of argumentation that you find more persuasive now, or less persuasive?

TH 10/31

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

Due: Harris, “Countering”  in Rewriting + Fiore and McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage + Blog

QuestionsThis 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.


Week 11: Is Google Remixing our Minds?


Due: Nicholas Carr, Is Google Making Us Stupid” [linked] + Harris, “Remixing” chapter in Rewriting. 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.

Questions: 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.” 


Due: Reading: Luminous Airplanes: a hyperromance [1 hour in total]  Blog. 

Questions: 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 12: Hypertext and Electronic Literature

T 11/12

Due: Birkerts, Gutenberg Elegies, “Hypertext: Of Mouse and Man” +  Janet Murray “Cyberdrama” [pdf in Canvas] (introduction to Hamlet on the Holodeck) 

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

Recommended: browse this debate between Murray and Birkerts (Narrative, Reading, and the Technological Future)

TH 11/14

Due: Reading, Electronic Literature Collection (volume 1) + Blog. Read/browse/play/participate (?) in at least 5 more of the texts. You can also search this collection through Keywords that emphasize the types of media/technology used to create the literature. Focus on one of the texts for re-reading and closer reading.

Questions: For your blog, begin a close reading of at least one of the electronic texts from this week with critical discussion forwarded or countered from the critical reading  this week (Birkerts on “Hypertext”, Murray on “cyberdrama,” or Piper on 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 13: Third Writing Project—The Logos of Argument

T 11/19

Due: Read Birkerts,  “Coda” (p. 210) or “Afterword” (p. 231) + Initial Abstract for project 3 (in your Journal).

Questions: Where does Birkerts leave you? In the end, are you persuaded by his argument? Identify an element of his conclusion that you think is effective or ineffective in making his case. With your third project in mind, what are the uses and limits of Birkerts’s argument (the affordances and contstraints)?

TH 11/21

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.

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.

Writing Project 3 fully revised and edited version due in Canvas by Saturday  at noon, including abstract and self-reflection.

Editing: think about the medium of your project–the potential to use multi-media aspects effectively and persuasively (images, links, etc.).


Week 14Taking an Approach–Final Project

T 11/26

Due: Read Harris (Rewriting) “Taking an Approach” + Alexandria Smyth, “I am a Reader; I am a Writer” [published in Washington College Review, handout/in Canvas]


TH 11/28

Thanksgiving Break: no class meeting


Week 15: Final Project

T 12/3

Due: Final Project Proposal due: posted to your Blog, presented in class.

Proposal and Presentation. To guide your revision, you will update your to-do list and propose a revised abstract for the final project revision and identify a writer from the course who you select as a mentor. You will also identify one key rhetorical or logical element of your writing and one grammatical or stylistic element of writing that you will revise and improve. To conduct this further reading, consult resources such as Guide to Grammar and Writing, Purdue OWL, and others listed on right side of this blog. To identify these rhetorical, logical, and grammatical elements of composition, refer back to our Rubric from the course. You will submit a Proposal (300-500 words) that includes the following:

  • revised abstract of your argument
  • indication of which writer from the course (anyone we have read) you select as your writing mentor, and why: what aspects of writing do they demonstrate that you would like to develop?
  • rhetorical/logical element of your writing you will develop: with guidelines, examples to explain; provide a link/citation to the resource
  • grammatical/stylistic element of your writing you will improve: with guidelines, examples to explain; provide a link/citation to the resource
  • in a brief (5 minute) presentation in class, you will teach us what you have learned and how the rest of us might learn from the additional work, revision, and research you are doing for the final project.


TH 12/5

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.

Final Project due during Exam Week