Dr. J’s Blog

The last week of classes is always bittersweet. I will be sad to say goodbye to the students I have gotten to know this semester, but (like my students) happy to say hello to the break from classes, and (for me, at least) I am looking forward to some extended time to read and work on my research.

I worry at this point in the semester, as I prepare to give a final push to the students and send them out of the LitMeth nest, if the class has given everyone the tools they need to fly in the world of literary analysis.

I am happy to report that I have seen the majority of you mature as writers and thinkers: as a result, I am very excited to read your final analysis papers. I have spoken with or exchanged e-mails with several of you about your final papers. Based on this preview, I expect to see great results with this last set of papers.

I hope this last paper also will encourage you, whenever possible, to work through the draft process and to share your writing with others. Whether creative or not, writers write better when they share their work with readers for feedback. A rough draft reader encourages you to work through the revision process: all the more rewarding when it produces concrete results like a satisfactory grade.

You all have a range of tools and approaches to literature at your disposal. I hope that you will continue to add to your toolbox and continue to sharpen your skills and craft. Drop by my office now and then to tell me how you are doing . . . or perhaps I will see you in another of my classes in the spring. I hope so.

The weblog self-critique is due on the last day of our class (see our syllabus and the form in Blackboard for more details about this assignment).

As I mentioned in class, after our last day of class I will be examining your sites as a whole, especially the list of links and the explanations of those links, your overall theme and its execution, and your Stockton Arts reaction paper. You can look at my link: “A-Z Literature Links” as a model for what the list of links aspect of your blog should look like.

I am continuing to think and rethink how the blogs might be incorporated into future LitMeth classes. I hope that you will respond here with any suggestions that you have about this assignment. Our goal is to increase your technological literacy; let me know if you have other assignment suggestions or reasons to keep this particular one.

Good luck with your final papers and exams!

Hard to believe we are closing in on the final days/daze of the semester! I’ve continued to enjoy our conversations about drama this past week. I am impressed with how each of you push yourself and each other to make connections and experiment with the reading. I especially like how we have had a chance this week to dig into this drama for a few days and uncover many different entry points into it. Did you enjoy this aspect as well? Or, do you feel we have read the drama: end of story?

Speaking of the end . . . Have you thought much about your analysis paper, yet? I’m excited to see what connections you find and readings you explore.

In closing, I can think of no better profession than to share the love of books: whether you will do this formally (as a teacher, for example) or informally (maybe by participating in a book club or adding a review to Amazon.com), the skills you will continue to strengthen and gain over your remaining time at Stockton will serve you well and in a variety of situations.

So, with that in mind: It is never too early to think about what you will do with the LITT degree. You might check out this site if you are looking for ideas: http://www.siue.edu/ENGLISH/Resources/careers.html

Here are some thesis statements we will revise in class this week.

Select one of the following thesis statements and revise it so that it better fits the Analysis Paper Assignment:

1) The piano has several symbolic meanings in The Piano Lesson.

2) The Piano Lesson is about family history.

3) Berniece desires to keep the piano because she wants to preserve family history.

4) The Piano Lesson does not follow all three “classical unities” (time, place, and action); nevertheless, it is a great play.

5) Grace serves as a foil to Berniece’s character.

6) The Piano Lesson is a unique play because of its characterization and symbolism.

I very much enjoyed introducing the analysis paper this week: this is the type of critical thinking that many, if not all, of your papers in the Literature program will ask you to produce.

If you are interested in some web sources that can give you a “quick and dirty” definition of some of the various schools of literary criticism we’ve been studying this semester, here are two interesting sites: http://textetc.com/criticism.html
and http://www.kristisiegel.com/theory.htm

These sites are fun . . . not substitutes for our Bressler text, the Bedford guide, or other peer-reviewed texts, but good places to see and browse through the different schools in one spot. You might browse through and write about some of your findings in one of your blogs. Or, try out one of these “hats” or “glasses” from your ever-growing toolbox: attempt, for example, a feminist or Marxist reading of one of the texts we’ve read or on The Piano Lesson.

Remember, your previous papers (especially the poetry and fiction close reading papers) would be considered part of the “Formalist School,” part of the New Criticism movement that hit the literary scene in the 1940s and 1950s. This “old school” method still forms the foundation of your literary analysis for the last paper. The analysis paper asks you build from this foundation to craft an argument about the text’s literary, cultural, or historical significance.

I’m always happy to chat with students at any stage in the writing process. Drop by my office hours over the next couple of weeks if you would like to talk about your approach to the analysis paper.

We’ve been focusing a lot on conventions in this class: in other words, what are the tools and methods used in the field of literary study.

Have you mastered these conventions yet?

Citation 101
If not all of the kinks were ironed out in the poetry and fiction paper, I encourage you to browse the following pages in the Norton (note: the Norton does not have the 2009 MLA updates for your Works Cited page.)

Titles (page 1128 )
Poetry Citation–Format (1163; 1170; 1180)

Still have questions? Drop by my office or ask at the Writing Center.

Citation 201
What’s the next step? How do you cite short fiction? Again, the Norton offers some help if you aren’t near your MLA Handbook. (note: the Norton does not have the 2009 MLA updates for your Works Cited page.)

Parenthetical Citation (in-text citation) (1168-1172)
Effective Quotation/Introduce Quotations (1161-1168 )

This last element is something that we have not had a chance to talk about in class. We will talk about it soon. In the meantime, read the passage on “Effective Quotation” from the Norton and think about the following:

Another key skill to develop and get in the habit of always doing in all of your papers is the introduction of quotations. Don’t let quotations stand alone. Why? Well, for starters, introducing quotations sharpens your close reading by literally connecting the quotation with your analysis.

There are two ways to understand the loss of Faith in the story.
“ ‘My Faith is gone!’ ” (Hawthorne 201). She is both Goodman Brown’s wife and an embodiment of religious faith.

There are two ways to understand the loss of Faith in the story:
“ ‘My Faith is gone!’ ” (Hawthorne 201). She is Goodman Brown’s wife and an embodiment of religious faith.

There are two ways to understand the loss of Faith in the story. For example, the line “ ‘My Faith is gone!’ ” can be understood as the literal disappearance of Goodman Brown’s wife (Hawthorne 201). We can also read this line as the loss of his religious faith, which his wife embodies.

That quotation does not support every claim made above. More evidence is needed, for example, to prove Faith is an embodiment of religious faith. However, the last example most clearly connects the quoted passage with the analysis by integrating it into the paragraph. The quotation fits into the sentence (doesn’t create an incorrect sentence) and helps the reader see that “Faith” is both a proper name and an allegorical figure.

I can’t believe how time is flying by . . . we are already almost done with our section on fiction!

I must confess that I am a little worried that some students in the class needed a little more time with poetry.

How does the class feel? How do you feel about your own ability to read poetry?

I saw improvement in the writing about poetry from the OED paper to the poetry close reading. For example, I saw students using the text much more effectively–not only quoting the poem more but explaining more thoroughly how a particular quotation supports an argument or piece of analysis. Students are not only quoting a passage and saying this line is key to the poem’s tone, but they are also taking it to the next step to point out how the word choice, rhyme scheme, meter, etc. in that line work together to establish the tone.

However, I wonder if another week or another writing assignment with poetry would be helpful.

What is your comfort level with poetry at this point? Do you feel more confident so when you are assigned poetry in your future or current literature classes you have a set of tools that will help you come to a coherent reading of the text?

If you have thoughts about this topic, please let me know. I will be teaching this class again, and so some feedback (in your blogs, in a response to this blog entry, or some other format) would be appreciated.

Just as I did before the poetry paper was due, I want to share with you a few extra links and hints that you may find helpful as you begin to think about your close reading of fiction.

Still in the early stages or having trouble drafting a thesis/focus? This site from Purdue’s OWL should help as it takes you step-by-step through the process.


Want to read a sample of a close reading of fiction? Well, look no further than your very own copy of the Norton Anthology. I recommend Bethany Qualls’ essay “Character and Narration in ‘Cathedral'” (pgs. 162-64). While it’s a first draft, it can serve as a helpful model and as a tool to get you started.

While this link will not necessarily help you with your paper, those interested in elementary education might find it helpful. This link provides tools for helping younger readers close read fiction.


Happy writing and revising! Drop by my office hours if you want to chat about the paper before the final draft is due.

Thesis statements are probably on your minds these days. You have two more papers due in this class that require thesis statements: your fiction paper and the final analysis paper. (You might also consider crafting a thesis or controlling statement for your final Weblog self-analysis.)

Here’s a great link on thesis statements from UNC’s writing center: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/thesis.html

What I like about the above site is that it has specific examples–which can really help you see what makes a strong and a not so strong thesis.

This site also has a pretty good page on MLA citation: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/mla.html

If you have papers in other classes where the topic is assigned, this site can help you craft a strong thesis: http://www.indiana.edu/~wts/pamphlets/thesis_statement.shtml

And, last but not least, running out of time? Here is a good site that breaks down the main ideas about thesis statements into short and sweet statements: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/thesistatement.html