It’s the last week of classes, holy moly. I will miss you guys! But I will still see all of you, phew, as my colleagues, and I will be running First Year Writing again next spring, so I’ll be doing workshops and all kinds of things.
And, more immediately.
I know that you will be thinking about grading, so I want to pass on some info that will be helpful to you.
Following up on our discussion last week, Karen asked me to share this info about the college policy with respect to grade replacements— and she also said that she found she delightful, as she asked me to tell you again how glad she is to have you with us. Then I also wanted to remind you about these polices, particularly with respect to INC and WU. We can discuss any of this next week.
Otherwise, I’ve set aside this week for you to share your plans for your papers with each other. This is an informal thing, and it’s meant to be a helpful moment in your writing process as well as an opportunity to share your work with the community of the class. (I know what you’re all writing about, but you don’t know what each other are writing about, and I think you really want to know.)
Each of you will have five minutes for your presentation, and it’s up to you how you spend it. I have a structure that you can use if you like, but you should also deviate from it as much as you like. (I’m giving you this structure because I know it’s a busy time of year, and this isn’t a big formal assignment, so it might be easier/faster for you to use a default form– but if the form doesn’t suit your needs, jettison it.)
I’m giving you this form exactly as I give it to the undergraduates in my senior seminar, so we can talk also about how you’re spending the last day of classes in *your classes*. I have found that most classes have some need for a bit of ritual– some pomp and circumstance– to honor the last day. There are a lot of days to create that effect, and paper presentations does some of it. If you want to discuss that below, I invite that.
Or, if you have any other end-of-semester topics to discuss, I invite all of that. What weighs on your mind or piques your curiosity as you wrap up this semester and look ahead to the next?
When I give presentation assignments to my undergraduates, I ask them to write their presentation in a 1-2 page paper. I’m not asking you to do that, although you can if that helps you. You may also just use notes, if you prefer. The goal here is to gather your ideas to share them in whatever form works best for you.
To share your idea for your paper with the rest of the class and solicit our feedback at this stage in your writing process, you can rely on Gordon Harvey’s definitions of thesis and motive. What is your thesis, as you know it so far, and what is your motive? What do know, and what do you hope to learn?
To summarize those things, you may use this form and deviate from it, too, as you like.
- Begin with a sentence that names the interpretive question you ask in your final paper. You might do that with a rhetorical question that gets to the heart of your paper (e.g., “How can we read Paul Beatty’s The Sellout as black literature and world literature at the same time– by what standards of literary value, measured how?”). Alternatively, you might name a gap in existing knowledge, or a puzzle that you intend to solve (e.g., “Literary critics have yet to use rhetorical theories of the second person to understand how that rhetorical formulation works in video games.”)
- Then provide some context for the question, showing why readers beyond this class would find it interesting. Put it in the context of a wider debate among professional scholars. Name the ballroom you’re entering, and predict what you might say. (You may not know entirely what you want to say or even which room you’ll enter; that’s ok. Just tell us as much as you know, so we can help you think about it.)
- Cite a very brief example that illustrates how you analyze the textual evidence you have to support your thesis. This will have to be very brief indeed, and you may need to work hard to keep your essay concise enough to keep your audience’s attention. The example will have to be well chosen as well, and your analysis will have to be to the point.
- Leave your reader with the most intriguing idea you’ve discovered in your writing process so far. This might be a question that remains for you about the text—a question that you can’t answer, but that you think somebody should answer. Alternatively, it might be an observation that you think is genuinely revealing, or a quotation from the one of the texts that recasts your thesis in an interesting way. The goal of the conclusion is to engage with your audience in a moment of shared curiosity and intellectual work.
As you prepare, think also about what you want to know at this point. Try to use the class as a focus group for your thesis, to test what works and what doesn’t for your audience.