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Guidelines for Completing the Journal Sets

Journal Set 1 (Weeks 1-6): the first section of the course concerns short fiction. 1-1/2 pages of reflections (single-spaced) total for each of our primary assigned authors should do fine. In a few cases, we are reading short critical texts about the primary authors -- include some reflection on at least one such critic's comments for each relevant author (Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner).

Journal Set 2 (Weeks 7-11): the second section of the course concerns poetry. Since I have assigned short poems by quite a number of poets for variety's sake, what I would like to see is a few detailed paragraphs (single-spaced) each on at least several of the authors assigned for each poetry week. In other words, you don't need to cover all of the authors for any given week, but you should address several of them and not skip over any week's authors. In one case (Harlem Renaissance), we are reading short critical texts about the primary authors -- include some reflection on at least two such critic's comments.

Journal Set 3 (Weeks 12-16): the third section of the course concerns drama. 2-3 pages of reflections (single-spaced) total for each of our primary assigned authors should do fine. In one case (Sophocles' Antigone), we are reading short critical texts about the primary author -- include some reflection on at least one such critic's comments (see Critical Excerpts, 1524-39).

Optional Questions for the Journal Sets

The question set below is optional since while you may find some of the questions useful for particular texts or authors, you are very welcome to maintain your journal set by means of free-form entries -- you can develop your entries based on whatever you find noteworthy about the authors/readings, but try to discuss the works mainly in terms of genre since that is, after all, the focus of the course.

General Questions

1. Consider a very limited portion of the present text you're reading by our assigned authors -- a stanza or two from a poem, a paragraph from a longer prose work, or a small section chosen from within a scene in a play. Analyze it in as much detail as you can: what formal, thematic, or other matters are most important to attend to in the section about which you have chosen to write, and why?

2. What did you find most difficult to understand (or, alternately, to accept or like) while reading the text/s assigned for this author? What did you do to try to get past the difficulty you describe and understand the work better? Explain with reference to some specific quality that you can tie to a specific part of the text, not with vague and general remarks.

3. Offer an assessment of what you consider most worth noting about one text assigned for a specific author: in other words, what do you take away from your experience with the work as a whole? Explain with reference to specific qualities or issues -- don't respond with vague praise or unqualified dismissal.

4. Build and respond to your own specific, substantive question. This may prove useful if you find that there's something about the text you're interested in but can't place it in terms of the questions I have provided.

Period or Movement-based Questions

5. To what period and/or movement does the assigned text belong? How do the relevant Norton Anthology's author/period/movement introductions (or other critical material you specify) influence your understanding of the text's meaning and value? How do specific qualities or characteristics of the text illustrate or, alternately, play against the movement-based or period-based expectations you brought to that work?

Genre-based questions

6. If the assigned work is a poem, the key thing to discuss is usually its quality as language -- I mean that in poetry, it's often not so much "story" or "action" that matters most, it's the medium itself: the refined, thought-provoking, emotion-inducing, clarity-enhancing arrangement of words on a page. Words are playing in a very intense spotlight in poetry. How is that quality on display in the particular poem/s you're now reading?

7. If the assigned work is prose fiction (a short story, novella, or full novel), the key thing to discuss is probably its way of proceeding as narrative, i.e. as a piece of writing that tells a story. What strikes you about it as a story -- is it the story itself? The narrator? The characters? What's distinctive, that is, about this particular piece of story-telling fiction by this author? Discuss with reference to one or more specific passages in the text.

8. If the assigned work is a drama, one key thing to discuss is often the play's manner of representing an action: a play's script is meant to bring carefully delineated or imagined events to life on a stage and thereby to evoke an intellectual/emotional response in an audience. What specific resources (language, structure, settings, realism, symbolic content, character development or revelation, etc.) does the playwright most fully bring to bear in order to further the play's aims as a representation of some "action"?

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