Derrida and Lacan Assignments


Grades will be determined on the basis of written assignments and participation in class.  Failure to do your very best will result in an average grade . . . or worse.

Unlike most seminars in the humanities, this seminar does not result in a final term paper.  Instead, there are three assignments and reading notes/responses due throughout the semester that ask you to engage the material both in terms of “close reading” and in terms of application.  In other words, critical and writing labor is distributed over the course of fifteen weeks instead of requiring massive, all-nighter binges at the end of the course.

To this end, we will be using a class “wiki” in which you will be asked to post your assignments and responses to others to help foster a sense of intellectual community, insight, and beffuddlement. Your work will be graded according to a percentage model (100 points = 100%), and your final grade in the class will be determined as follows:  90-100=A, 80-89=B, 70-79=C, and 69 and below is a failing grade. There are no pluses and minuses.  Diane and Josh reserve the right to change our grading policy and criteria at any point in the semester.

We will calculate your seminar grade based on the following assignments and participation:

One Reading Response (25 points, graded): Once in the semester each enrolled participant will write and deliver a short reading response, followed by questions for class discussion.  If there are two reading responses in one session, respondents will present their papers back-to-back, and participants will engage both sets of questions at the same time.  A sign up sheet will be distributed on the first day of class over the potty break period.  Reading responses should be typed and composed like a regular essay (with quotes and full citations), and should be no more than 3-4 pages in length.  In your responses, you are to explore one or two issues or concepts that interest you about the reading in relationship to an object (e.g., application of the texts read for class in some critical manner).  Use the reading response as an opportunity to connect the readings to a project you are already working on, or something you plan to work on.  You are welcome to use video clips, music, art objects, and so on as examples. Think about the reading response much like you would a paper at a conference: your job is not to teach the reading, nor is it to necessarily read closely (that is the project of the one pagers below), but rather to apply the concepts or issues of the readings that interest you to something that resonates with your research and/or interests.  Here are some more guidelines, bulleted for your pleasure:

  • Please practice and time your reading response.  You are not to go over ten minutes.  If you speak over your allotted time you will not be allowed to finish.
  • You are to read your response, in a lively and non-monotone fashion, much like a conference paper.  Please practice looking up at the audience, moderating your tone and volume, your reading pace, and so on before the day you deliver your response.
  • You are not to teach the reading; you only need to highlight the “gist” or summarize it before moving on to your discussion and application.  We realize some readings are very tough to summarize, so just do your best and move on to what you find interesting.
  • You should end your response with only two or three questions to stimulate class discussion.  Do not present a page of questions.
  • Post a copy of your response to the course wiki AND bring a paper copy for each course participant for referencing in class discussion.  Double-sided copies are A-ok.  There will be approximately 20 or so enrollees, plus Josh and Diane.  You do not need to supply paper copies to auditors.

Examples from students in past semesters are attached as pdfs below.

Two, One-Page Papers (25 points each, graded): In the second half of the semester (after we have digested enough material), students will compose two formal, one-page, single spaced, beautifully polished and terribly insightful papers that will be posted to the course wiki as well as turned into Josh and Diane in hardcopy.  Unlike the reading responses, which are focused onapplication, the one-pagers are designed to present close and succinct summaries and analyses.  Each paper has two parts.  The first half of each paper should be a concise yet thorough summary of one of the assigned texts.  The second half of each paper should be your reading of that work acrossanother text we have read in class.  The goal is not to come to some hasty conclusion and prove it to us, nor is it to use one text to discredit or take jabs at the other (your task is much more difficult than simply taking sides), but rather, to expose relationships, questions, and/or insights that take place at the intersection of two readings.  Exposition, in this specific sense, is your aim—not formal argument. The point of the course is to read Derrida and Lacan as dance partners, not prize fighters.  More bulleted pleasures:

  • Margins are optional, but aim for an inch.
  • Fonts are to be no smaller than 11 points, and fiendishly small fonts should be avoided.  Comic Sans is strictly prohibited.  When in doubt, go with the Times.
  • Only one letter-sized page is allowed.
  • For Paper One: Summarize Lacan and read him across Derrida (no secondary source texts please). DUE APRIL 3rd.
  • For Paper Two: Summarize Derrida and read him across Lacan (again, no secondary texts). DUE May 1st.

Examples are here: Sarah Frank, Kendall Gerdes

Reading Notes (25 points total, all-or-nothing, not graded):  Reading notes are comprised of informal notes that analyze and explore key issues in the readings. The two students scheduled to do a reading response in a given week will also be responsible that week for posting the opening set of reading notes on the Monday before the seminar, no later than 8pm. (The idea here is that the notes will also be helpful for preparing the formal reading response the following week). You can post your notes early if you wish. Others in the course will respond to the opening posts before noon on the day of seminar. Responses should be substantial, by which we mean that responses should offer real engagement with either your classmate’s notes or the reading material itself (or both), using quotes and page numbers and posing questions and/or offering reflections on passages and ideas.

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