Conferences, Tues, 5/04, & Thurs, 5/05

Please write a few hundred words in which you respond to the following questions about your essay:

  • What is the critical conversation you are entering?
  • What stance do you take in that conversation?
  • What have you done to engage your readers?

And, of course, please also be ready to ask any other questions you may have about your piece. I will begin our meeting by reading and responding to what you’ve written.



Class, Tues, 5/03

Opening a Critical Essay

Read these opening pages to three essays written in a previous version of E110. Jot down some notes in response to the following questions:

  • How does the writer define the critical conversation they want to enter?
  • How do they give you a sense of where the essay is headed, of the stance or position they are going to take in that conversation?
  • How do they try to engage you as a reader, to make you interested in reading on?

Conferences e2d2 (Wed, 5/04, and Thurs, 5/05)

Please write a few hundred words or so in which you address the same questions I posed above.  That is,

  • What is the critical conversation you are entering?
  • What stance do you take in that conversation?
  • What have you done to engage your readers?

The only difference is that I’d like you to write about your essay as a whole, not just its opening. And, of course, please also be ready to ask any other questions you may have about your piece. I will begin our meeting by reading what you’ve written, and we will move from there.

To Do

  1. Wed, 5/04, and Thurs, 5/05: Conferences with me in 134 Memorial. No class on thursday.
  2. Tues, 5/10, class: Bring  a print copy of e3d3 that is as close to finished and perfect as you can make. We will spend part of the class copy-editing it even more closely.
  3. Wed, 5/11, 11:00: Post e3d3 to your Google Drive folder.
  4. Thurs, 5/12, class: Bring a print version of e2d3 with you, along with your laptop. We will work on digitizing your essay.




Class, Tues, 4/26

Why Do Academics Stink at Writing?


The question Steven Pinker asks is: Why is so much academic writing so bad? That is, why do professors and researchers so often write badly? Why do college students so often write badly?

Let’s for the moment assume that the answer to this question Is not simply that these people are dumb or lazy. Instead let’s assume that, like you and I, most academic writers, either students or professors, are reasonably good with words and know what they want to say about their subject. So what goes wrong? Why is so much academic writing so boring?

Pinker has some theories: Metadiscourse, nominalizations, the curse of knowledge. . . . Perhaps you agree, perhaps you have another explanation. In any case, please write a ¶ or two in which you respond to the following, slightly different question:

Why does it seem so hard to write in a clear and interesting way about academic subjects?

Please refer to at least one specific example of writing gone wrong—either something you’ve read, or something you’ve observed, or a problem you’ve experienced in trying to write for your courses. But don’t just complain in general; point to a particular problem you’ve noticed.

New Schedule for Essay Two

  1. Thurs, 4/28, class: Draft 1.9
  2. Mon, 5/02, 11:00 am: E2d2
  3. Tues, 5/03, and Wed, 5/04: Conferences
  4. Mon, 5/09, 11:00 am: E2d3 (final)


Revising Plan (p7)

The guidelines for your revising plan are identical to those for p4. Namely,

Based on the feedback you’ve received to your e1d2 from your workshop members, please sketch out a plan for revising your essay. This revising plan should include:

  • Summary: Describe your essay in two or three sentences. then summarize the advice your readers have offered you on it. What do they describe as the strengths of your piece? What would they like to hear more about? What do they feel you could cut? What parts did they suggest you rework or rephrase? Please make sure to identify who offered you what advice—as this is how your readers will receive credit for their work.
  • Add/Cut/Change: Where do you now plan to add to your essay? Be as precise and detailed as you can. For instance, “I need to write a new second paragraph in which I offer a map of my essay” is much more helpful than “I need to work on my introduction.” What sections of your draft are you thinking about cutting? What sections do you need to rework or rewrite? Again, be specific. The rule is that you must identify at least one section in your piece that you plan to add to or develop, one that you plan to delete, and one that you plan to significantly revise.
  • Questions: How else can I help?  If you ask me specific questions, I can try to offer you concrete advice.

But let me add this observation: Almost all of you who wrote a thoughtful and detailed revising plan (say, 500 words or so) did very well on Essay One. Those of you who didn’t, not so much. Think about it.

Please email me your revising plan by 4:00 pm, Fri, 4/22.  I will email you a response by Mon, 4/25..  I will also be happy to talk with you about your essay during my office hours next week.  The next draft of your essay (e2d2) is due 4:00 pmFri, 4/29. Good luck!

Class, Thurs, 4/21

Workshopping Essay Two

Collect the responses from your two readers. Read through what they have to say about your piece. Then make some notes on:

  • At least two changes or additions you feel sure you want to make in revising;
  • At least two questions about the work you might do in revising.

Then select a passage in your essay of about 500 words or so that you’d like to have some feedback on. Jot down the questions or concerns you have about this passage. Read it aloud. Share your questions—both about the passage and the essay as a whole—with your readers. Take notes on what they have to say.

Do this for all three pieces.

Revising Plan (p7)

Begin drafting your revising plan. Email me a finished version by 4:00 pm on Fri, 4/22. I will do my best to reply by Mon, 4/25.

To Do

  1. Fri, 4/22, 4:00 pm: Email me your revising plan (p7).
  2. Tues, 4/26, class: Read Steven Pinker’s “Why Academics Stink at Writing“. Be ready to point to at least two bits of advice you think you can apply to writing Essay Two.
  3. Thurs, 4/28, class: Bring a print copy of e2d1.9 with you to class. We will work on them.
  4. Fri, 5/02, 11:00 am: Post e2d2 to your Google Drive folder.


Class, Tues, 4/19

Reading for Stance 

Pairs: Stephanie Jennis’s “Bridge Over a Pond of Commercialism” is a tricky and ambitious essay, since it deal with three different views of art—that of Claude Monet in his famous painting, “Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lillies”, Banksy in his repurposed version of that painting, “Show Me the Monet”, and Jenis herself. I’d like you to work in pairs to see if you can first distinguish those three viewpoints, and then show how they are connected. Begin by making a list of terms or phrases that Jennis associates with Monet, and especially with what she thinks he was trying to accomplish in his painting. Next make a similar list of terms and phrases she associates with Banksy, and then finally of some terms that Jennis add herself to the conversation. Finally, see if you can use these terms to write a sentence (or two) in which you describe what Jennis has to say about what Banksy has to say about Monet.

Reading for Voice

Fastwrite: Reread the note Stephanie Jennis writes about her essay. Consider her photo. Jot down some notes about how she presents herself in them as a person and writer. Then look back over the first three ¶s in her essay. Where and how does the person in the note come through in the prose of the essay? Or to put this another way, where and how do you hear Jennis'”voice” in her intro? See if you can point to some specific moments in her text where her voice rings through (or, perhaps, where

Responding to Drafts (2)

To Do

  1. Thurs, 4/21, class: Write responses to the drafts by the two other members of your group. Print out copies of their pieces with your comments, along with a clean copy of your own essay,  and bring them with you to class.
  2. Mon, 4/25, 11:00 am: Post e2d2 to your individual Google Drive folder.

Responding to Drafts (2)

To prepare for Thursday’s workshop, I’d like you to read and respond to your group members’ drafts in much the same way you did with Essay One. Namely,

Please download the drafts posted by the other two members of your writing group. Read through each carefully, and then write some comments to the author modeled on the notes I have written in response to your early drafts. Specifically,

  • State what you see as the aim of the piece.
  • Note what works well so far. Point to moments in the draft that strike you as particularly interesting, provoking, well-argued, nicely illustrated, or the like.
  • Suggest one or two ways in which the writer might develop, extend, refine, or rethink their piece. This is not a time to offer advice on editing, proofreading, or other matters of style and correctness. Try instead to point to work the writer can do to take the piece to the next level.
  • Address the writer by name and sign yours.

You can simply type this note to the author at the top of the document.

(See Responding to Drafts for more details.)

But I’d also like you to do a little more with these pieces.  After you’ve written your note, please go back through the draft and locate three or four moments where the author might do the sort of work in revision that you are suggesting. Use the Insert Comments function of Word to highlight these passages, and write a few comments outlining what you think the author should do.

Save your comments by adding your initials to the title of the document (e.g., “Tran e2d1 jh.docx”) and re-uploading it to your Group folder.  As before, I’d like to work with print copies during our Thursday workshop. So please print out a copy of each piece with your comments on it and bring them with you to class. Also print out a clean copy of your own draft. These texts will count as your exit tickets.