Assignment Descriptions

In-Class Writing Activities

During most of our class sessions, I will ask you to complete some kind of written activity that relates to the texts or topics that day. You’ll submit these for credit on Blackboard under the “Writing Activities” page, but they cannot be completed unless you were in class that day.

Reading Journal

Your journal is a private place (on Blackboard) to reflect on the assigned texts and show me what you are thinking about as you read this semester. When applicable, entries are due the night before class by 12am, and should reflect on the text(s) assigned for the following day. Each entry should meet the following criteria:

• 200 words minimum
• Incorporate direct quotes (include page # when possible)
• Avoid summary
• Constitute “close reading”

Playlist Project

For this assignment, you will choose one of the texts below and create a literary playlist of 5 songs inspired by the text. To accompany each song, you’ll write a 200-word paragraph about how the song––musically, lyrically––connects to or fits some aspect of the text: this can be thematic, aesthetic, related to a plot line or character, etc. You’ll also write a 200-word rationale paragraph to introduce your playlist, in which you should briefly analyze the text and explain how you approached the curation of your playlist. An example of a 4-song version of this project can be found here. You can also see previous playlists on our Playlist Library page.

• 200 words per song + intro = 200×6 = 1,200 words total
• Hyperlink each song to Spotify
• Double-spaced, size 12 font
• Incorporate direct quotes from the text and the songs, when appropriate

Text options:
“Earth, Speak” by Morgan Talty
“There He Go” by Ladee Hubbard

Theoretical Lens Exam

On Wednesday, November 29, you will practice analyzing a literary text through a theoretical lens for this written exam. Think of it as an extended, formalized version of your in-class writing activities, in which you will “read” a text through the lens of a theoretical concept. You will write your essay by hand in a blue examination book, and I will be checking your printed materials as you enter the classroom.

Theoretical lens analysis is about more than simply locating or identifying a “theme” that runs through the text. Rather, reading a primary (literary) text through the lens of a theoretical concept should magnify or shed light on the meaning generated by the literary text. In turn, reading the literary text in this new way may also put pressure on or add nuance to the theoretical text.

Literary (Primary) Text:
“American History” by Judith Ortiz Cofer

Theoretical Text Options (pick one):
1. From The Assassination of John F. Kennedy: Political Trauma and American Memory by Alice George
2. From “Rupturing from the Black-white racial binary: AfroLatina/o/x bridging the Black-Brown divide” by Claudia García-Louis
3. From “Mothers and Daughters: Understanding the Roles” by Judith Pildes

See the PDF containing the primary and theoretical texts, as well as the grading rubric, here.

• Bring a pen/pencil
• Bring your printout of texts (I will provide these on Monday, November 27)
• Only use one (1) theoretical text

• You may mark up the texts with marginal notes and highlights in advance
• You may briefly outline your essay

Not Allowed:
• No phones, computers, other devices or headphones
• You may not write the essay in advance and transcribe it
• Any forms of plagiarism, including ripping off summary sites/blog posts

Final Essay

“The Best American Literature of Fall 2023”

At this time of year, media outlets publish their “top ____ of the year” lists to rank the best new films, television shows, music and literature. Taking inspiration from these year-end listicles, you’ll choose and rank your top five (5) texts assigned this semester, #1 being your favorite based on your own criteria.

For the intro, preface the listicle the way a real journalist would and give some insight into your ranking process. Maybe you notice certain patterns emerge among your choices, or you find yourself surprised because you ranked texts of various different genres.

For each entry (5 total), avoid simply writing 150 words of summary, instead focusing on what you liked most about the text, information about the genre, style of writing, key issues/themes addressed, most memorable moments or passages, and why it ultimately made your top 5 list. Try to make these cohesive paragraphs written in the style and voice of a listicle, rather than a series of disjointed thoughts thrown together to satisfy these requirements. Of course, you may also want to speak to why your #1 earned its place at the top of your list.

• 150 words per paragraph minimum (5 top picks + intro = 6 paragraphs)
• Be creative with formatting! Make it look like a real listicle, but also make it legible
• Order your texts from #5 first, down to #1 (revealing your top pick last)
• Submit PDF via BB by Fri. 12/22 (no extensions)