simple phrase like “ shakespeare writes ,” H u m a n i t i e s

simple phrase like “ shakespeare writes ,” H u m a n i t i e s

Do not do research for posts. They are responses to the readings; not a test of your ability to Google.

Reading Response Post — The Naked and the Dead, by Norman Mailer. Part Two: Argil and Mold, Chapters 5 through 7.

Q. Sam Croft — One of the novel’s more memorable characters is Staff Sergeant Sam Croft. Discuss him.

Instructions from Instructor:

A Reading Response Post is your opportunity to record whatever thoughts, questions, and emotional or aesthetic reactions you have as you read. For every reading assignment, I will create a new discussion board forum on which I will post possible issues or questions as individual threads. When your group has a reading post due, you should pick one of them and respond to it as best you can.

Because these responses represent the early stages of your thinking about the readings, you should feel free to use them to test out ideas, ask questions, and admit confusion; indeed, summary judgments and easy answers aren’t much use to me or your classmates, whereas confusion, when clearly expressed, can be stimulating. On the other hand, I admire students who are willing to venture an opinion and back it up. What is important is that your response demonstrates your engagement with these works.

The key to reading posts is to keep them focused by quoting specific passages — you must support your argument with textual evidence by quoting and citing the reading for that thread at least once during your post — and commenting on those quotations in order to support a point. Do not simply quote and expect us to see what you see in the passage; explain. That means you should never begin or end a paragraph with a quotation. Start by establishing a point you want to make or an issue you want to explore. Quote (do not paraphrase) the text to provide evidence for what you are saying. Then, comment on the quotation: never assume that your peers or I will see what you see in the passage you quote, let alone see it the same way. Quotations provide evidence; they do not make your case for you.

Always set quotations up substantively. That means that setting up a quotation with a simple phrase like “Shakespeare writes,” is unacceptable. If the set-up for a quotation tells readers nothing other than the information a citation could give them, it’s not substantive.

Do not do research for posts. They are your responses to the readings; not a test of your ability to Google. (See Honor Code note below.)

Your audience for these posts is people in the class. You should therefore assume everyone reading your post has also read the assignment to which it responds; do not engage in plot summary or waste time presenting background information we all know. Call your readers’ attention to specific elements of the text (characters, scenes, plot points, and so on) and quote textual evidence, but do not summarize as if you are writing for people who have not read the work in question.

Reading Response Posts should be between 275 and 325 words long, not including the quotations. Note that longer does not mean better: if you post 500 words I will not be happy, because I do not want reading the posts to be burdensome for your peers or correcting them to be burdensome for me. If you find yourself going over 350 words of your own writing, cut something; you can always bring up additional points in our weekly class meetings.

Following is an example of a superb Reading Response Post. It is from a different course and focuses on a book you are not reading (Frankenstein), but you can still use it as a model. Note the effective use of quotation: the writer does not quote just to quote, but uses the quotations to provide evidence for points she wants to make. She also sets up every quotation in substantive way (again, not just by saying “Shelley writes”) and comments on it, rather than expecting readers to see her point on their own. The post is also clearly focused and organized, it meets the length requirement at 316 words (not counting quotations), and the writing throughout is clear. The question to which this post responds was “The novel is divided among three narrative perspectives: those of Robert Walton, Victor Frankenstein, and the creature. What effect is Mary Shelley trying to create with these different narrators? You may focus on one or contrast any two.”

Subject: Is Frankenstein is the real monster?

Most first-person accounts elicit the reader’s instinctive sympathy for the narrator. As Frankenstein progresses, however, Victor becomes less than sympathetic. When confronted with the reality of creature that he has brought to life, he flees and loses track of it. He has become so caught up in the science of creation that he never thinks ahead to the reality, except to daydream about how “A new existence would bless me as its creator and source” (78). This desire to be blessed by his creation suggests he may be too human, too needy, to be taking on the role of Creator. When the creature awakens, Frankenstein feels an immediate revulsion based solely on the creature’s appearance: he is “unable to endure the aspect of the being” (81). The choice of endure is overwrought, especially given all he ends up enduring later in the novel. He immediately regrets what he has done, abandons his creation and accepts the conventional view that he has crossed boundaries better left uncrossed.

If his irresponsibility were directed only toward his creation, I might be more forgiving. However, he also fails to step forward at Justine’s trial. Despite his insistence that nobody would believe him, he doesn’t even try. I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at his certainty that he suffers more than anyone else, which demonstrates his narcissism and obsessive nature.

I don’t mean this evaluation of Victor’s character as an attack on the novel. His unlikeability makes it more intriguing. Instead of turning Victor into a deity, which his status as a creator already threatens to do, Shelley portrays flaws that keep him human, ultimately raising questions about who the real monster is. The creature may be overly kind in offering to “be mild and docile” to Victor (123). Should he owe gratitude to the man who abandoned him, simply because Victor is his creator — a creator who built him to be without real hope of companionship or happiness? Without the first-person narration, I suspect Victor’s passivity and irresponsibility would paint him in an even less flattering light.

So why is this post — which was written by a student, by the way — worthy of the highest possible grade?

1) The author explores a specific topic thoughtfully.

2) The author uses quotations effectively by setting them up in a substantive way that integrates them with the overall argument and by commenting on them at length. The ratio of commentary on a quotation to the quotation itself is generally a strong indication of how good a post is.

3) The author writes well — not just grammatically but clearly and concisely.

4) All quotations are correctly formatted and cited.

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