A writer’s journal or notebook is a great resource for a scholar–a writer and reader in any field or discipline. Ralph Waldo Emerson, the nineteenth-century essayist and a lifelong journal writer, used his journal to produce what he called “creative reading.” We can do the same.
Here is the gist of the journal assignment (and my expectations):
You will be required to keep a journal in the course. First, you will use this journal to begin your response to the assigned reading before class. Under each reading assignment (on the Assignments page) you will see “Questions” for you to consider before class; use these to shape your initial journal response. Next, we will each use the journal in class (so have one available at all times)–responding to any questions I pose in class, and also conversation that emerges in discussion. Finally, another important use of your journal will be before, during, and after your writing projects–as you shape your ideas and responses into publishable forms. Your journal should be old-media technology (paper notebook and pen/pencil) to complement the new media publishing we will do with the blogs.
How much to write? I am looking for a level of engagement that is necessary for deliberate reading of our authors and foundation for the writing projects. So, I suggest an entry (some response) for each assigned reading as well as thoughtful use in class. Going beyond that should only help you better prepare for active participation in class and thoughtful writing. Think of at least one page of informal journal writing in connection to each reading assignment.
How to write in it? The writing is not supposed to be finished, need not be edited. (The blog postings you will do, which can emerge from your journal, are where you can start to give more attention to the shape of your writing and thought.) In addition to considering the questions that I provide with the Assignments, you could use as a template the following structure borrowed from Rewriting:
Come to Terms: provide a basic summary/review of the reading, noting keywords and claims.
Forward and Counter: Quote/Forward into your journal 1 or 2 key passages [make not of the page citation for future use]; begin to offer an interpretive response to the passages–where you might agree, where and why you might disagree or have a different perspective.
Take an Approach: Make note of at least 1 question you have, unanswered, in need of further exploration; also note where you might go next with this.
In class, I will likely ask you to share items (questions, quotations) from your journal–so be prepared. I will also collect journals at midterm as part of the feedback I will give regarding participation. During conferences about your writing or work in the course, I will expect you to have your journal and you should be prepared to answer this question at any point: What do you have in your journal, how have you been responding to this idea from reading, from class discussion?
Along with the text assigned for that day, you will be expected to have your journal with you in every class for writing and response to reading and discussion. If you don’t have it, you won’t be able to participate.