Presence and Participation: Our work this semester will be predominately collaborative, privileging open discussion over lectures, and as a result, participation, attendance and punctuality are all necessary for our class to thrive. I'm more interested in hearing your varied (and even contradicting) interpretations of our readings than forcing you to see them through my eyes, so being able to freely and comfortably share your insights, opinions, disagreements, perspectives and questions — whether in class, or on our blog and Facebook group — will be an invaluable part of our shared understanding.
Missing more than four classes will likely have an adverse affect on your final grade, and exceeding six absences earns you an automatic F (though, on the bright side, you won't have to write the final essay). Absences are absences, regardless of whether you're sick, hungover, in jail, taking a trip, having car trouble, can't stand my stupid face anymore, or just don’t feel like getting out of bed — the only exceptions to this rule are major medical issues (i.e. surgery, hospitalization) with supporting documentation or university-sanctioned absences (i.e. snow days or athlete travel).
Online Resources: Blackboard is quite frankly awful, so I'll run the class through this blog and our Facebook group. Aside from key documents (such as our syllabus, booklist, schedules, essay guidelines, etc.) and announcements, I'll also use these sites to distribute PDF handouts and share supplementary materials — including useful links, streaming MP3s, videos and more — which will help to broaden and contextualize your experience of the texts. Just as importantly, they'll serve as venues for discussion outside of class and it's possible that there'll be brief assignments asking you to post responses to a given text or issue.
It’s in your best interest to stay up-to-date with these sites. You can subscribe to the blog's XML feed and/or sign up for e-mail updates, and you should join the Facebook group as soon as possible. (please note: our group is closed, which means I'll have to approve your membership and your participation will be hidden from anyone who's not a member).
Respondent /Response Paper: In lieu of a midterm paper or bluebook exam, each student will be required to sign up for two days on which you'll serve as a respondent to the day's readings, leading off our class discussion with a relatively brief presentation (roughly 5 minutes), in which you'll pose questions about the work under consideration, highlight insightful quotations and generally frame the readings.
In conjunction with this role, you'll write up a short (3 page minimum) response paper, which will be due on the same day, and this will essentially serve as a model for the presentation. The responses themselves should offer a critical close reading of the day's texts, focusing on either big-picture facets of the book at hand (i.e. character and/or plot development) or their relation to larger abstract cultural ideas (i.e. race, gender, class, etc.) or Beat values and characteristics. You should be making an argument, and therefore analyzing specific evidence from the readings and dealing with details, rather than hovering generally over the surface of the narrative. These responses aren't a place for point-by-point recaps of the plot (presume the reader — namely, me — is familiar with the book and doesn't need to have its story retold to him), personal anecdotes ("this reminds me of a story my grandfather once told me..."), thumbs up/thumbs down book reviews ("I like this book a lot because..."), or filler not directly related to the text under discussion. When responding to poetry, you'll choose one poem (or perhaps two related poems) and write a close-reading analysis of it. I've provided you with tools and pointers to help you both make effective arguments and interpret poetry (available in the right-hand sidebar) and I welcome and questions you might have.
You'll sign up for your respondent dates on the second day of class and some modicum of merciful consideration will be shown to those going during the first week or so of responses (i.e. weeks 2 and 3). Students who are not prepared to go on the day of their scheduled response will be skipped and their grade for the assignment will be docked accordingly.
Quizzes: Over the course of the quarter, you can expect a number of short, unannounced quizzes, which will serve as a measure of your reading comprehension and retention, and have opportunities for bonus points. Missed quizzes cannot be made up, and will adversely affect your final grade. It's worth noting that we’re far less likely to have a quizzes when our class discussions are lively and engaged, but we'll aim to have enough that one bad performance won't ruin your chances for a decent grade.
Technology: In theory, technology is a wonderful thing, but in the classroom, it can be a distraction. Please make sure that your cell phone is turned off (or at the very least in silent mode) and put away at the start of class. Laptops may only be used by students with appropriate paperwork from Disability Services — otherwise, a notebook or binder will have to suffice (even if it's terribly old-world). If, on the other hand, you'd like to bring a manual typewriter and clack-clack-clack away, be my guest.
Communication: Please make use of my posted office hours, the time immediately before and after class, Facebook and/or e-mail to discuss your performance in the course, pose questions you might have, or just generally let me know what's on your mind. If you're having trouble, doing poorly on quizzes or just not getting the readings, it's better to ask for help sooner rather than later. Unofficially, you should meet with me at least once during the quarter.
Plagiarism: You have no doubt had UC’s Academic Honesty Policy and Student Code of Conduct drummed into your head repeatedly, however it might be advantageous to re-orient yourself with those policies now, as classes begin again this quarter.
Plagiarism, defined as “the appropriation of information, ideas, or the language of other persons or writers and the submission of them as one's own to satisfy the requirements of a course,” can take many guises, including cheating on a quiz, cutting-and-pasting information found on the web, failing to properly cite sources or fabricating them entirely. Any student found guilty of plagiarism, in any form, will automatically fail this course and face official disciplinary action, putting your academic future on very shaky ground.
The Writing Center: The Writing Center is a valuable and free resource available to all UC students. Writing Fellows are available to help students at all stages of the writing process from brainstorming to drafting, as well as with editing essays. I strongly encourage you to have a tutor review all the writing you do for this course. Please visit their website for hours of operation, writing resources and more information.
Special Needs Statement: If you have any special needs related to your participation and performance in this course, please speak to me as soon as possible. In consultation with Disability Services, we can make reasonable provisions to ensure your ability to succeed in this class and meet its goals.
Grades: Simply put, your final grade will reflect your level of critical engagement with our readings, your understanding of the authors and the effort you've put forth. Major weight will be given to your presentation and response paper, your final essay and overall participation (which includes your performance on quizzes and online responses, along with class discussions). A poor showing in any one of these areas need not doom your final grade — I'm more inclined to admire a student who shows consistent growth throughout the term than a superstar who phones in his final. In the end, what counts is the respect and seriousness with which you approach our shared work, as well as the personal discoveries you make, not how well you regurgitate what I've said in class.
Paper Format: All hard-copy work handed in for this class must be in proper MLA format (including a full header, in-text citations and [for the final essay only] a works cited list), use double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman (or a similar serif font), and be numbered and stapled. Online responses need not adhere to these conventions (save in-text citations). Late work will be penalized, losing a full letter grade for each class missed.