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WRT 205-M260: Critical Research and Inquiry The Prison and the American Imagination Spring 2014, Tuesdays
WRT 205-M260: Critical Research and Inquiry The Prison and the American Imagination Spring 2014, Tuesdays
WRT 205-M260: Critical Research and Inquiry
The Prison and the American Imagination
Spring 2014, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-1:50 p.m., HB Crouse 306
Patrick W. Berry, pwberry@syr.edu, office: HBC 235
office phone: 315-443-1912
office hours: Fridays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. and by appointment

“The best you can do as a reader is to try to show why you view a text in a certain way, both in terms of the values you bring to the text and the moments you notice in it. Your readers can then point to different values and different moments, and your ways of reading the text can then be contrasted and argued for, if not resolved. You can see quotations as flashpoints in a text, moments given a special intensity, made to stand for key concepts and issues. A useful rule of thumb, then, is to quote only those phrases or passages that you want to do further work with or bring pressure upon—whose particular implications and resonances you want to analyze, elaborate, counter, revise, echo, or transform.”

Joseph Harris, “Coming to Terms,” p. 22

you want to analyze, elaborate, counter, revise, echo, or transform.” Joseph Harris , “Coming to Terms,”

Assignment #1 We have begun our semester of writing by do ing readings on the prison and the American imagination . We have started with readings, reading practices, and learning about the rhetorical aspects of a text because strong writing starts with effective reading. One of the reasons for the connection betwe en reading and writing is that in order to write with sources, we need to be able to talk about the nuances and specifics of each author’s arguments. Although summarizing a text may seem like a simple task, we have found that being precise in how we talk a nd write about what a text does is actually quite challenging. As we have been using Joseph Harris’s “Coming to Terms” concept as an effective reading strategy, your first assignment asks you to revise and polish some of the work you have already completed during this unit and to push beyond what you have already done in order to develop your thinking and questions on our inquiry topic. Essentially, you will create a portfolio that investigates your own interests within our inquiry into the prison and the A merican imagination.

In terms of our class’s trajectory for the semester, the Flashpoints Portfolio assignment sets you up to start your own critical research project. As researchers, before we begin our own projects, it is important for us to familiarize ourselves with the on going conversations that are already taking place in a particular research subject area. Thus, good research isn’t just about finding a few good sources that speak to our own work; rather, it’s about reading in a subject area with the intention

finding a few good sources that speak to our own work; rather, it’s about reading in

of finding out more, complicating our assumptions and belief systems, and being generous toward the new ideas we encounter. Reading then, becomes a crucial step in the development of a research project. In fact, the hope is that through the Flashpoints Portfolio assi gnment you will become an invested and curious reader who, after studying some of the existing conversations regarding prisons and mass incarceration , will go on to develop your own questions on which you’ll go on to do more research, culminating in your o wn research project!

The Flashpoints Portfolio has three essential parts:

First: Revise & Polish As we have been reading about prison and mass incarceration , you have been writing summaries of the writers’ projects as homework. Locate three of your proje ct summaries. You will need to revise these project summaries so that they not only accurately and precisely summarize each writer’s project. but also are each framed with a flashpoint of your choice from the text. Harris explains that our summaries are ne ver neutral and objective, but that we always understand a text’s project through our own interests and experiences. Thus, you should be choosing one flashpoint for each text that is a quote that speaks to your interests or experiences within our inquiry a rea. To effectively complete the one - page summaries, then, you should first choose the flashpoint and then revise your project summary to reflect your interest in that particular flashpoint. Although the flashpoint establishes your interest in a text, the summary must also be an accurate account of the writer’s project — this is a balance that you will need to strike in each summary.

Second: Research & Do It Again For the second part of the Flashpoints Portfolio, you will essentially be doing the first step (above) on a text of your choice. Thus, you will first spend some time researching the inquiry area and locating a text that you feel speaks to your own interests within the inquiry area. At this point in the semester, you might understand your interests a s the combination of flashpoints that you have chosen from the shared readings. After you have chosen an effective text, you will use the reading strategies we have been practicing in class to read the text. Then you will choose a flashpoint and write a on e - page summary of the writer’s project that frames the summary through the flashpoint — again, remember to strike the appropriate balance between locating your interests in the text and accurately representing the project of the author.

Third: Response & Qu estions The third part of the Flashpoints Portfolio will be a one - page response to the collection of flashpoint summaries and a set of questions you might pursue for future research. By choosing a flashpoint for each of the four texts in your project summa ries, you have begun to think about and establish your interest within our inquiry topic of the prison and the American imagination . Further, you have done a good amount of investigative reading. Thus, your response should begin to pinpoint your interests the prison and the American imagination . You should think of this as a very precise and specific piece of writing: You will need to get right to the point and say as much as possible in a very limited amount of space; you will want to have a claim that art iculates a precise focus and interest that has developed out of these texts. This page should function as a jumping - off point for further research; in other words, what are you interested enough in to keep researching, reading, and thinking about? Within y our one - page response, you should include a set of at least three to four very precise research questions that these readings have led you to ask — and, that you might continue to investigate during the rest of the semester.

that these readings have led you to ask — and, that you might continue to investigate

Assignment Breakdown —

o Three pages, each of which is a revised summary of the project of one of the shared

readings; these should be framed by one crucial flashpoint from the text

o One - page summary of the project of a secondary source that you found; this should also be

framed by one c rucial flashpoint from the text

o One - page response to the set of readings that ends with a set of research questions that the readings point to and that you might be interested in pursuing

The Nitty - Gritty — The Unit 1 Flashpoints Portfolio should be five pages in length, no more than 12 pt. font, double - spaced, and formatted according to MLA guidelines. The portfolio should include a Works Cited page and an appropriate title. The Unit 1 Flashpoints Portfolio and the associated reflection are due on Tuesda y, February 4 . This assignment will count as 20% of your final grade.

Unit 1 Evaluation Criteria (spring 2014 ) Flashpoints Portfolio

1. Does the portfolio contain a total of four polished one - page critical summaries, which balance a precise and accurate overview of the author’s project with a focus on a flashpoint in each text? Does the critical summary highlight the portfolio writer’s int erest in order to frame what he or she notes as significant in each summary?

2. Has the portfolio writer carefully sel ected one secondary source in

the portfolio that is connected in some way to the flashpoints highlighted in the critical summaries from the shared unit texts?

3. Does the portfolio writer’s one - page reflection include a claim that articulates the precise foc us and interests developed through the readings of the unit?

4. Does the reflection include 3 - 4 carefully constructed and precise questions which the readings have led the writer to ask, and which might be pursued during the rest of the semester?

5. Has the writ er included in - text citations using MLA guidelines and a Works Cited page that contains the one new source?

The author’s “Project” is the “set of ideas and questions” “thrown forward.” The “Aims,” “Methods” and “Materials” used… (Harris 17).

of ideas and questions” “thrown forward.” The “Aims,” “Methods” and “Materials” used… (Harris 17).