Rhetoric and the Animal Assignments

(Note that there is no final seminar paper. The course readings, weekly reading notes, and short papers will keep us very busy, and the absence of a final paper in the end should allow you to remain in questioning/learning mode all semester. There is no point at which you will be required to stop learning and start “knowing.” You will be asked, throughout, to hold the question[s] open.)

§  Weekly Reading Posts: Informal notes analyzing/exploring key issues in the readings on the class wiki. One or two people will be responsible for writing the opening post for each reading, to which others will respond. These opening posts are due on the wiki by the Sunday before the class in which we discuss the text. Everyone else’s substantial responses are due before the class begins—by 3pm. Whether you’re responding to a classmate’s post or offering your own read, these “substantial responses” should offer a real engagement with the material that takes us into the text, using quotes and page numbers, and posing questions and/or offering reflections on passages or ideas.

§  One artifact paper: You will select a “cultural artifact” for the semester (a novel or novelist; a literary theory or theoretical text or theorist; a rhetorical theory or rhetorical text or rhetorician; a philosophy or philosophical text or philosopher; an architect or architectural style, etc.), across which you will read the texts of this course. Ideally, the artifact you choose will be a “text,” broadly defined, that links your particular scholarly focus or interests to the theme of the course. Be sure to select something narrow enough to produce a focus but complex enough to sustain several re-readings throughout the semester. (Grimms Fairy Tales would work, for example, whereas one specific fairy tale might be too narrow, and a general theme of “fairy tales and fables” would be too unfocused. You could select Fyodor Dostoyevsky or Mary Shelley or Martin Heidegger or Kenneth Burke or Hélène Cixous or Bruno Latour, or you could select one of their major works, but I wouldn’t select a single essay by one of them. You could select a specific architectural approach or a specific architect or Aristotle or Aristotle’s Politics, but I wouldn’t select one building or one section of the Politics. You get the picture.)

Your artifact paper should introduce the class to your artifact, noting its implicit or explicit position(s) on the question of “the animal.” Papers should be one, tight, single-spaced or two double-spaced pages in length, and they should include an annotated bibliography of other works on this artifact–a handful is fine. Papers will be read aloud in class, handed in to me, and then uploaded to the class wiki.

§  Three Summary/Response Papers: Formal, one-page, single spaced, beautifully polished, and terribly insightful papers that are interested less in opinions than in relationships and that are to be read aloud in class and then handed in to me. Margins are optional, but no smaller than 11 point font and no more than one letter-sized page. The first half of each paper should be a concise but thorough summary of the assigned text. The second half should be your reading of that work “across” your artifact (or, if you can’t find connections, across another text we have read in class). Please don’t be fooled; these one-pagers are hard as hell—they demand a higher level of reading/writing savvy than a traditional essay. Until you get the hang of the process and the style-cramping format, expect to rewrite at least once, maybe several times. The grading will be rigorous; excellence will be required. The hope is that when you leave this course, these short, dense papers will offer you a base for one or more publishable papers and also provide you with some valuable study resources for your comprehensive exams. Once you hand in your papers, please upload them to the wiki to share with the class.

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