Some notes from our class conversations…

First Class: Getting Behind the Curtain.

Initial thinking (notebook): A memorable experience you have had with a text (something you read or wrote, a text of any sort) that has stayed with you, was meaningful in some way (positive, negative, or both). What happened? What can you learn from it?

What’s behind the curtain–types of experiences we have had?

My experience–and how it has shaped how we will get behind the curtain of “academic” reading and writing in this course.

Graff, “Hidden Intellectualism”

Initial read: summary of the argument and project, with brief reference to evidence that you think is crucial to supporting the argument. In other words, an abstract of the essay.

Closer read: where you select an idea and forward/quote a passage to focus in, spend more time, elaborate (why is this idea/example compelling and useful) and complicate (what might you take issue with, what are limitations). Here you can focus not only on what the argument is, but also how it works (or doesn’t work), its rhetorical effects. What are some lessons we as writers can learn from this writer?

Rhetorical elements of Graff’s essay we can learn from:

  1. Title: establishing focus/terms
  2. Use of keywords and terms in the opening paragraphs: book smarts vs. street smarts; vernacular, intellect by other means…
  3. Forwarding terms and ideas from another source to set up his argument (the quotation of Warner’s argument, argument by other means)
  4. “It’s more complicated than we/I had thought”: a key rhetorical move and foundation for any argument–the problem with conventional thinking that needs to be explored further if not challenged and rethought.
  5. Ethos: how/where he establishes his credibility
  6. Logos: evidence he brings forward
  7. Pathos: where does he connect with you–invite you into his argument most effectively

Further read: ideas and implications this reading makes you think of, connections you might make, questions that remain.

  1. To what extent does Graff’s vision of anti-intellectual culture still apply–or is it outdated?


Birkerts, Gutenberg Elegies (opening chapters)

Using the blog format to focus our response

  1. Initial reading/listening to the conversation

    1. What’s the conversation we are walking in on? The rhetorical situation: scene (context), audience, problem, purpose/motivation

    2. What are some of the terms and keywords of the argument being introduced–and circulating in the chapters?

      1. note use of opposing or binary terms: depth vs. surface, deep vs. shallow, page vs. screen, vertical vs. horizontal

    3. Summarize or quote what you take to be the “thesis,” the basic argument.

      1. Thesis/argument: a given, a problem/question, a response

  2. Closer reading/putting in your oar–something you want to take up, take issue with either by agreeing or disagreeing or both

    1. Identify an element of Birkerts’s pathos that you take to be strong (compelling) and another that is weaker (less compelling or problematic). What makes it so?

      1. Good Pathos vs Bad pathos

  3. Further reading/where the conversation goes next

    1. Identify questions you have at this point: what you want/need to hear more about from the author?

    2. Ideas to start composting: something from Birkerts you might pick up on and use in your writing project

    3. Put Birkerts into conversation with Berry and Graff: what do they say to each other? What do you at this point say to them?


Some terms for argument from Harris and Meehan

      1. Harris: academic writing as social practice–not hidden, based in responding to others’ work, rewriting it, ongoing

      2. Meehan: redefine thesis in terms of something more dramatic: problem/conflict/suprise, sometimes counter-intuitive.

        1. think of the way film works.

 an argument in its set up needs an urgency, a necessity, a problem. This is what motivates the research, the writing, and ultimately what makes it worth reading. 

Giving more attention to how the argument in each chapter is set up.




Preview First Writing Project 

What are some of your terms at this point (re-collect from journal and blog)? What is a problem you might explore and respond to?


Birkerts, chapters 3-7

Notice how the argument is set up in each chapter, how Birkerts uses the given/problem/response structure.

Reminder of the basic argument structure of the book.

Given: current situation, fast change, metamorphosis

Problem: readers in particular (his focus) in denial about the effects of the changes with reading

Response: The meaning of reading–not just the ways we read–is fundamentally changing, becoming something different in the change from analog to digital forms of reading.


Writing Workshop: Ways to Begin to Develop the Terms of an Argument

Our focus: developing the key terms of our argument.

A basic structure for an argument–a way to discover the terms for the argument:

Many people would define/characterize literacy as X [given]. However, that common definition tends to forget that for some people literacy is Y [problem]. I had experience with Y as a child that shaped my understanding of what it means to be a reader/writer. That experience informs my view that literacy is best characterized as Z [response].

key terms that argument and essay will work with: X, Y, Z

  1. Workshop: composting toward an argument

    1. lesson 1: skip the thesis statement (for now). Dig in to a memory/experience (or more than 1) from your history as reader/writer. See where it takes you [5-10 minutes of writing]

    2. lesson 2: focus on developing the critical argument from the experience (the “supporting example”)–reread what you wrote–identify some keywords and ideas/threads that are emerging. Focus on critical reflection, rather than nostalgia: slow down and develop.

    3. lesson 3: begin to shape a possible argument/thesis in response to another view of reading/writing (recalling Harris: academic writing needs to respond and interact with others, sources, texts.

      1. Harris (could also use Graff, Birkerts, Berry) defines reading/writing as ____________________, particularly when he argues that, “___________________.” I agree/disagree/partly agree with this view because in my experience reading/writing is _________________________________. My view here is particularly shaped by experiences I have had ____________________. [note: this sets up the response and tension/difference that an argument needs]

      2. Can also use your former self to set up this tension/problem.

        1. I used to view reading/writing as _____________________; however, I know see it is more complicated, that reading/writing is __________________________.

    4. lesson 4: Now use the given/problem/response (thesis) structure to outline the set-up of your argument. Think of this as a basis for an abstract of your argument, an abstract that I will ask you to revise with each draft.

Initial Draft/Revision

  1. Some Tools to generate reflection and revision

    1. Track Changes (and multiple files)

    2. Writing Center conferences–as well as conferences with me

    3. Use Journal/notebook for reflection–keep a Project log.

    4. Peer Response

    5. Writing Project Rubric

    6. Harris’s questions

  2. Revision Questions

    1. What’s the Project? Summarize/paraphrase the basic argument (as it appears at this point) in a short paragraph (2-4 sentences). This should include a statement of the given/problem/response–and begin to identify some of the terms and keywords of the argument. This will be the basis for the abstract of your argument–and eventually the foundation of your introduction.

    2. What’s working? Identify at least one area of strength, something that seems to be working, effective, something to build upon. Here you could focus in on your evidence, perhaps one of your personal experiences.

    3. What else? Identify an area that might be in need of more development, or one of your ideas or claims or examples that needs an additional perspective in order to be more persuasive. What else might you say? Here you could think of your citation of one of the authors we have read: is there a more effective quotation you might bring in, and use more extensively?

    4. What’s next? What’s on the to-do list for the project at this point–things you need to work on? Keep in mind your overall to-do list, as well as continue to consult the Writing Project Rubric for my guidance on qualities I am looking for in your writing and critical reading. 

Revision Workshop #2: Follow-up to Peer Response

  1. Harris’s views of revision (contrasted with editing).

  2. Peer Group discussions

    1. Readers speak (writer listens and notes): Elaborate on your answers to the four questions, starting with a full statement of the project, identification (pointing to specific paragraphs) of what’s working and what else needs work, and what you think the writer should do next.

    2. Writer speaks: Asks any questions s/he has for additional feedback or clarification; explains what revision work has been done since the last draft was submitted.

  3. Class discussions: identify/articulate examples of the revision work that we are doing and observing.

Revision Workshop #3: Further Draft

Focus: Reflection (not nostalgia); strong, not weak pathos

    1. Clarity: Identify key terms of argument. Write New/latest version of your abstract in notebook.

    2. Complexity: countering as revision strategy as well as strategy for extending the essay–a possible counterargument paragraph. Write an abstract for the opposite of your argument (its counter). Then use that to refine your abstract. Use that to look for places to bring those complications into your essay: rewriting the intro, a body paragraph, the conclusion.

    3. Coherence. The movement of the argument and key terms. Revision strategy: reverse outline or sentence outline for each paragraph (identifying your key terms.)

    4. Work on elements of your “narrative”: introduction, conclusion.

Frankenstein: Complications–initial and closer readings

  1. Closer reading work:

    1. What’s working, what’s in front of you? Notebook: go to a passage of interest (can build upon blog response), a moment of complication (too much going on, layers, intertextual). Come to terms with the passage: what’s there, what do you notice in the language and imagery.

    2. What else?: other perspectives, possibilities, connotations, further reading, re-reading. Get some perspectives from a peer. Re-read together. What do they hear/see?

    3. What’s next: questions, ideas, threads, problems that emerge from this–larger perspective with the whole novel.

  2. Class conversation: 

    1. list of passages noticed and further questions. places where we see complications–where closer/slower reading is required. [our focus for the next project]

    2. initial close reading:

      1. Victor’s creation scene: what do we see/hear; what don’t we see? What’s going on? On closer reading, what do we begin to think about the purpose, the emerging “argument” of the novel?

      1. film versions: 1931; Brannagh 1995

The “Monster’s” Narrative: Closer Reading for Complexity.

Is the Monster a Monster? Yes or No [pairs: each assigned an answer; identify and forward evidence to support that answer.]

Then amalgamate those answers into a more developed and complex response to the question/problem.

further questions: Why is the monster’s narrative left out of the movies? Is this then a “monster” story or something different?


[1]Harris, Forwarding

notebook–5 min: write an abstract of Harris’ “Forwarding”:

what’s his argument–what does forwarding mean?

what are the key terms?

what are some implications of those terms and the overall argument that we can apply to our own writing?

[2]Forward “Forwarding”

What are the implications of “forwarding”–what definition of critical reading and writing emerges from this?

Think of Shelley in Frankenstein as ‘forwarding’ other texts?

Film: Branagh: forwarding the novel: example of illustrating, borrowing, authorizing, extending… [the creation scene]

Frankenstein: Final Questions

  1. The second creation: are you persuaded by Victor or the monster? 
    1. closer reading: what do we learn?
    2. film version–what is forwarded?
  2. What questions remain at the end, unresolved?

  3. What’s Shelley’s argument/project–what is resolved?

    1. Given/Conventional understanding:

    2. Problem/Confusion/Disturbance:

    3. Response/resolution:

  4. How would your film version of the novel forward that argument, and why?

Project 2: Intertextuality/composting

How best to forward Shelley’s argument into your argument?

  1. Intertextuality: functions and effects (review sheet). 
    1. Note the key function is basis for our argument: reframing (comparison), or deepening (dialogue), or rethinking (destabilization) our conventional understanding of the novel.
  2. What is Shelley “inventing”–reframing or rethinking or deepening–and which intertexts help us see this?
    1. examples from the materials reading
    2. class example: Mutability

Project 2: Initial Drafting–response to forwarding

1. What’s the project: present your current abstract.

2. Present to peer group a passage that is significant to your proposed project, one that you have begun to forward.

  1. Illustrate: paraphrase the passage and its context

  2. Authorize: identify some keywords that you will focus on

  3. Borrow: provide a specific quotation

  4. Extend: highlight implications from the passage that you will interpret, and use to extend your argument. Where do you take these implications? What other passages in the novel might you relate this to and why? What else, what different perspectives (or counter-perspectives) might you consider in this same passage?

Project 2: Revision Workshop (Reverse Outlining)

[1]Peer Response Follow-Up: Writer meet with Reader, and respond to the response. Take one or two of the reader’s responses and explore further: explain/show what you have started to do in response (evident in new draft); explain why you are doing something differently–perhaps a counter to their counter; ask questions you have for the reader.

[2]Workshop Focus: re-building (revising) the body after you complicate/refine your thesis.

Remember Victor’s problem: spends lots of time on his draft, but doesn’t revise his thesis at the end to match up with where the work ended up.

  1. Use 3-Act template to sketch out the writer’s argument in the draft

    1. Act I: statement of argument [Given/Problem/Response]

    2. Act II: Examples/Passages that develop and complicate the argument

    3. Act III: Conclusion/Resolution of the argument.

  2. Focus on buried thesis: is the stated argument/thesis in Act 1 the strongest version of the argument–or is there a stronger or different thesis later (in act 2 or 3) that the writer needs to consider?

  3. Focus on the threading/connecting of the argument in Act 2.

    1. identify the language (keywords, transitions) in paragraphs that connects with the thesis

    2. identify places where the connection to the thesis is less clear or confusing: indicate what you need to hear/see in order to recognize the argument at that point in the body (act 2).

Birkerts, “Into the Electronic Millennium” [Beliefs, Assumptions, Changes in Perspective]

We will be reading various essays (nonfiction again) focused on an argument about literature/reading/writing in the electronic/digital age. Thus, we need to give thought to the rhetorical nature of these texts–just as we think of our writing in terms of its rhetorical effects of moving the reader into and through our argument. So, we will be focusing on critical reading for dynamic argument–how the thinking moves through the text.

  1. Notebook Warm-up [5 min]

    1. Before I read this text, I believed ________ about literature/literacy in the electronic age [fill in blank; give a specific example of your belief]

    2. After I finished reading this text, the author wanted me to believe ___________ [fill in blank; get specific citation from text for evidence]

    3. The author was/was not successful in changing my view. Why or why not? [point to a specific place that you read as strength or weakness in the argument in this regard]

  2. Class conversation

    1. What beliefs/experiences with digital literacy do we have? What does Birkerts assume about our beliefs?

    2. What view does Birkerts want us to have by the end?

    3. Where was he successful/unsuccessful in changing our views?


Baron, “Should Everybody Write?”

  1. Blog conversation: Forward/counter the arguments in conversation this week. In your own project, which might you extend? which might you counter? why?

  2. Class conversation–adding Baron to the argument.

    1. what does he assume about our views?

    2. what view does he want us to have by the end? How would Birkerts counter?

    3. is he successful in getting us there? Identify rhetorical elements of Baron’s essay (ethos, pathos, logos) that we might emulate.

McLuhan, The Medium is the Massage: Believing and Doubting

  1. Notebook and Discussion: Critical Reading strategy: Believing and Doubting game

    1.  Belief: Assume you believe McLuhan’s argument–identify a compelling aspect. What’s the belief? (remember our process for forwarding–identify in your notebook what you would illustrate, authorize/borrow, and extend

      1. discussion.

    2. Doubt: Assume you doubt the argument–identify an area you are doubtful/critical of. What’s the critique (or counter)? Remember with countering, you are still forwarding the language and idea of the author. How could we use Birkerts to counter McLuhan?

      1. discussion.

    3. Do areas of belief and doubt relate or come together? In the process of forwarding the belief, consider where it would be effective to include your own doubt. This is the basis for counterargument.

Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

[1]Notebook warm-up: Is Google Making Us Stupid?

–your initial answer to this question–before reading the article. why?

–an example from the article that you feel supports or challenges your initial view. explain.

[2] Close reading of Carr’s argument

Examples from argument that support/counter your views.

ideas that support/counter Birkerts or McLuhan or Baron.

think about reading in Google more thoroughly and purposely (Google Books), even if that still means the reading is lateral, associative

Do some Google reading

Can begin to think about ways you can use this article to develop a counter-argument with Birkerts or McLuhan (and the reverse). In other words, counter-argument can be developed by turning to another critical argument (for dissent, or a related but different perspective)

Style and Rhetoric of the article: things to observe and notice and model

Introduction: begins with close-up, scene, then eases back to focus; returns to this in conclusion.

integration of other critical arguments:

example: Proust and the Squid–to elaborate the idea of deep reading.

Counter-argument: maybe I’m just a worrywart–introduces Phaedrus

you should be skeptical of my skepticism

General style: notice the sentence variation; the transitions; blending of critical analysis with narrative.

Reading Luminous Airplanes

  1. Group discuss: Develop a list

    1. Characteristics of Literature (or the literary)–any genre: fiction, poetry, drama, nonfiction–provide specific examples/evidence from your experience

    2. Characteristics of Luminous Airplanes–provide specific examples/evidence from this text.

  2. Class Conversation–Are there characteristics that are on both sides of the list? In other words-are there characteristics unique to each? If so, how do these factor into your evaluation of the effect and quality of the hypertext? If not, how does that factor?

  3. Critical reading: what would others say about this hypertext: Birkerts, McLuhan, Carr?

Reading/Playing Literature: Birkerts, “Hypertext” and Murrary, “Cyberdrama”

Birkerts vs. Murray: both use as key terms “process” and “game”–but with different implications and conclusions. Why?

  1. Forward  Birkerts’s argument and extend it to support your critical reading of Luminous Airplanes. Elaborate key terms of his argument (specific quotation).

    1. Do you agree with his claims and argument?

    2. How would Murray counter him? Who is more persuasive?

  2. Further Reading:  other texts that we can “play” and games that we can “read”?


Electronic Literature Database

  1. Writing Groups: Initial Reading

    1. Lead your group through one of the texts that you gave more time and attention to. What are its characteristics? Identify a key term or concept from one or more of the critics we have read that you would apply to your interpretation/evaluation of this text (either forwarding or countering)

    2. Others in group: make connections and contrasts with your text as you listen (ie, forward and counter the interpretation that the group member is developing).

    3. Group will report back: 2 characteristics from one or more of the texts, with critical terms related to what is going on, how we should interpret this work.

  2. Class Conversation: Closer Reading

    1. Texts: characteristics, specific examples

    2. Terms: what critical concepts and terms can we forward/counter to help develop our interpretation, and provide evidence for our evaluation.


Project 3 Workshops

Analogy for our rhetorical focus in project 3 (inspired by Kenneth Burke): We all attend a performance of new forms of literature in Gibson–interactive, multimedia, hypertextual. Some have claimed this new type of multimedia writing and reading as a valuable development in literature; others argue it is a problem. The performances include: The Medium is the Massage, “The Museum,” and a bunch of texts from the Electronic Literature Archive. After the performance, you gather with a group that includes people such as Birkerts, Carr, Murray, Baron, Piper and others, as well as fellow students. You listen in to the conversation, in which others are offering their critical evaluation of what they have experienced. You then join in, putting forward your argument and evaluation, focusing on one or more of the texts. Your third writing project is the written, polished version of what you say.


1]Birkerts’s conclusion in “Afterword”: paragraph response. Agree or Disagree with his conclusion, based on your own encounter with electronic literacy you are writing about in the project.

2]Counterargument: What’s the strongest objection to your emerging argument, an alternative perspective to your reading of the text, your critical perspective on the topic (your evaluation of reading in the electronic age)? Write it out in a paragraph–identifying specific terms and a particular critical voice (name of a critic we have read) and key term–and how this counters your focus.

Counterargument review: where to put the counterargument? Ways to counter.

3] Abstract: Write 3-4 sentence abstract of your argument. Include reference to an argument you will be countering, as well as specific references to the terms of your argument and the text(s) you will be using for evidence.

  1. Class conversation: read abstracts; class will help to sharpen the argument with additional countering; additional evidence.

Draft Workshop: logos

Process Paragraph: What’s the argument at this point? What’s working? What else? What’s next? Questions to direct feedback.

Initial Reading: focus on the complexity of the argument and its use of logos–evidence from the critics and the texts. Is the argument dynamic, moving? Does the writer take enough time (slow reading, reflection)? Is the counterargument effective?

Second reading: focus on the consistency of the argument–all points (scenes) specifically and effectively relate back to the thesis. Is the argument consistent?

Editing Workshop

Wordle: reminder about specificity, variation, too much ‘is’

Citation format: reminder about MLA–consult OWL or Hacker; three-part structure for effective quotation.

Conclusions: think resolution (where are we now, what’s the new reality, the next day), not simply restatement.

larger implications

10 min: experiment with a completely new conclusion–try something different, see what happens.