Writing is a practice and a process, thus the "-ing" on the end of the word. In this class, we will focus on the inventing, the doing, and the revising--not as much on the finishing, the being done.
Our first challenge will be to unpack the concepts of "queer" and "rhetoric," to create working definitions of our subjects, definitions that will likely evolve over the course of the semester. We will consider and experiment with various kinds of texts including essays, literature, film, poetry, and theory, always remaining attentive to the points of intersection between these genres. The work we do will center around the following sorts of questions: What constitutes queerness? What is the nature of gender and sexuality? How is identity constructed by the body? How is the body itself a construct? What is the performative nature of embodiment? And how do all of these subjects come alive in our writing?
In this course, writing will be a tool, a medium we use to engage our subjects and the world, however we will also consider the nature of writing itself. Thus, the course will be both about queer writing and about queering our own writing.
CCHE CRITERIA: The Colorado Commission for Higher Education (CCHE) is a division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, and part of its purpose is to make sure that general education courses at colleges across the state are based on similar criteria in terms of content knowledge and skills. Writing courses fall under the content area of “Communication” and include skills in written communication, reading, and critical thinking. The following “Course Objectives” have been adapted from the CCHE requirements for an Advanced Writing Course, which WRTG 3020 is considered.
• Rhetorical knowledge. We will make informed choices as we adapt our writing to the needs of our readers. Thus, we will work in various genres, always conscious of the context, purpose, and audience for our work. While we will be thinking mostly about written texts, we will also discuss and utilize visual rhetoric, thinking about the various ways that words and images interact.
• Writing process. We will work through the various stages of the writing process in a deliberate and reflective way, using workshopping, revision through multiple drafts, and self-evaluation. This will require a good deal of collaboration as we both write together and respond to each other’s writing.
• Writing conventions. As the course proceeds, we will examining the real effects grammar, syntax, and punctuation have on readers. We will think carefully about the choices we make as writers in all the different sorts of writing that we do with the goal of writing clear compositions and honing our own individual style.
• Content knowledge. As we work on each of the assignments of the course, we will discuss the issue of audience, thinking about how to make our writing clear and effective to both specialized and general readers.
TEXTS AND FILMS: All of the texts of the course have been chosen with several purposes in mind: (1) to serve as representative examples of the various sorts of work we’ll be doing ourselves; (2) as fodder for our own adventures in literary and rhetorical analysis; (3) because they are germane to the various subjects at hand, particularly writing, meaning-making, language, gender, identity politics, and queer theory.
Jagose, Queer Theory: An Introduction (1996)
Sinisalo, Troll: A Love Story (2000)
Bechdel, Fun Home (2006)
McCloud, Understanding Comics (1993)
Brite, Lost Souls (1992)
Condon, Gods and Monsters (1998)
Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Bigelow, Near Dark (1987)
And several short works you’ll download from this site and several short films/clips we’ll watch in class.
ONLINE CONTENT: There are links on this webpage that will take you to various assignments and readings that we will be doing throughout the semester. You can access e-texts of some of the readings via this web page--just click on the title in the schedule. My advice: if you make this web site your friend, you’ll have no trouble completing all the reading and assignments for the course. As we proceed, I will be uploading additional content, including course notes, activities, and assignments, so keep checking for updates.
ATTENDANCE AND CLASS PARTICIPATION: This is a collaborative course, focusing heavily on discussion and workshopping. The class will be a cooperative learning experience, a true intellectual community. And so, you and your writing are, in a very real sense, the primary texts for this course. Because of this, attendance and participation will be a very large component of your final grade. Also, in order for the class to work as a community, it is important that you complete all assigned work before each class session. If you are going to miss class or can’t finish the assigned work for any reason, just let me know in advance either in person or via e-mail. Also, I’m required to say that students who miss the first week of classes will be dropped from the course.
THE RULES: This syllabus is filled with the implied and explicit rules of the course. However, “queer” and “queer theory” are exactly about resisting the normative and the normative impulse--they are exactly about turning the rules on their head. So, in this course, I would encourage you to carefully consider, question, or contest any of the so-called “rules.” My intention with all of the assignments is to inspire you to do thoughtful and imaginative work. So, if you are completing an assignment, and it feels like busy work, you might need to re-imagine the parameters in subtle or even significant ways. If my description of an assignment is getting in your way, think about what will best help you advance your own goals (for the assignment or for your own writing more generally). If you are concerned that you are playing too fast and loose with an assignment, chat with me about it. One important exception: attendance and participation. Missing class excessively is not just breaking the rules; it’s leaving the game. I’m not an attendance nazi. However, I do consider our classroom a community that only works to its full potential if everyone is equally committed to it. So, you have a responsibility to contribute to the group by coming to class prepared, speaking up, and being respectful.
COLLABORATION: I encourage collaboration on any of the assignments. If you have questions about the various ways collaboration can work, feel free to chat with me at any point.
THE WORK OF THE COURSE:
• Class Participation. This includes your attendance, involvement in class discussion, in-class assignments, workshops, and other small-group work. As I mentioned, this is (by far) the most important component of the course.
• Service Learning. This is a service learning course, so you will be required to volunteer or otherwise engage the community outside the classroom. During the first couple weeks of the semester, we will discuss this component of the course at length. While I will encourage you to invent your own project to fulfill this requirement, I will also make several recommendations. You will keep a journal about your service learning experiences, where you can reflect on the intersection between the material of the course and your service learning project. Hopefully, the service learning component of the course will also provide fuel for our discussions in class and for the rest of the assignments you do this semester.
• Worksheets. As a tool to help focus our discussions and help you generate ideas for your longer papers, there will be a number of worksheets due during the semester. There are two scheduled during the first weeks, but I may add more. Please refer to the schedule due dates. You will submit your worksheet answer(s) via e-mail. Please don’t use attachments, just the text of your answer(s) in the body of an e-mail.
• Blog. Over the course of the semester, you will submit regularly to the course blog. Unlike journaling or papers you’d submit only to me, this will give you a chance to practice your writing in a more social forum. Like journaling, though, this is meant to be an informal outlet, so you shouldn’t worry about this writing being scrutinized or evaluated. Just make sure your ideas can be understood. Some of these responses will be more structured (i.e. a response to questions I give to you), while many of them will be more flexible, allowing you to respond to any aspect of what we are studying. Responses should be as collaborative as possible. In other words, don’t just throw your ideas into a vacuum. Instead, ask questions of each other and use the other responses as a jumping off point by answering questions, amplifying or complicating ideas, etc.
• Leading Class Discussion. You will be asked to help lead discussion at least one time throughout the semester. This is, by no means, a formal presentation. Rather, on the day you sign up for, be prepared to come to class with a few questions or topics related to the reading for that day, and bring at least one or two passages which you’d like the group to look at in detail. You are also encouraged to engage your group in writing or other activities related to the text you’re discussing. As you are leading class discussion, I will be mostly silent, moderating the discussions to some degree but primarily acting as a member of the group w/ my own questions, comments, etc. This activity will generally help shape the direction our discussion takes for the rest of the class period. During the week that you are leading discussion in the classroom, you will also write a brief blog entry (of about 250 - 500 words).
• Queer Autobiography. As you begin working on this paper, you will complete a 1-page working definition of the word “queer.” Then, you will further investigate the concept of “queer” by writing a creative non-fiction essay. This will be a narrative account of yourself, a story (or series of stories) that reflects upon who you are (as a person, as a writer, as a thinker, as an activist, etc.). The word “queer” in “queer autobiography” suggests that your work should either explore the concept of what it is to be queer or what it is to write queerly. Thus, you don’t necessarily have to identify as queer to write a queer autobiography. You could, instead, queer (as a verb) the genre of creative non-fiction or autobiography by approaching it in a novel or unusual way.
Don't forget the details. The more sensory details you include, the more your reader will feel as though they are right there with you. Even the most grammatically correct writing falls flat if it doesn't come alive for the reader. Make sure you consider carefully the implications of your narrative. One of the things that distinguishes creative non-fiction from other sorts of narrative writing is that you're not only telling a story but also reflecting upon it in some significant way. Don't just tack a moral on the end. Instead, try to insert your own reflections on the events of the story throughout, moving back and forth between the offering of vivid details and a discussion of what those details suggest about you, the world, the concept of queer, etc.
• Literary Analysis Essay. You’ll begin preparation for this paper by writing a short close-analysis paper, which you’ll expand into a full analytical essay. You will offer a critical reading of one of the literary texts we’ve discussed in class by choosing a topic or theme that interests you and presenting an analysis of what the text is attempting to do with relation to that theme. A “text” can be any of the films, essays, novels, poems, etc. that we’ve discussed during the course. Here are some steps that might help if you're having trouble with how to approach your literary analysis paper. Think of a theme in the text that you are interested in (perhaps something that came up in the passage/shot you close-analyzed, perhaps something else). Then, find more passages/shots that relate to that theme. Determine what you want to argue about the theme, i.e. Troll: A Love Story is a book about... and that theme gets taken up in order to... Or, Hedwig is a character that deconstructs the binary opposition of... and that leads to... You are also welcome to compare/contrast two different texts, i.e. While “Song of Myself” touches on the subject of... in the following ways..., Lost Souls approaches these same subjects differently... Use close-analysis of specific passages/shots to support your argument. You are welcome to incorporate some of what you write for one or more of the worksheets in this unit, but if you do, be sure to revise so your work doesn't feel disjointed. The final paper should be of an adequate length to explore your critical reading fully, or around 4-6 pages.
• Illustrated Argumentative Essay. This project will be the culmination of everything you've done in class thus far. The goal of this project is to investigate one of the important subjects of this course. You will start by choosing a specific issues or topic that has arisen for you during the semester. You are welcome to incorporate literary analysis and personal anecdotes into this piece, but you are invited to move beyond that by incorporating research about your subject as well. Your final project will have two components, a written component and a visual component. Since this is an argumentative essay, you will want to make sure that both your written and visual elements clearly support and contribute to your argument, whatever that might be.
The Visual component can take any of a number of forms, including but not limited to graphic art, video, photography, Powerpoint, a web page, etc. Words are very rarely divorced from images in our culture. What we read is usually accompanied by images, whether it’s direct illustrations, advertisements, the cover of a book, other elements on the page (of a newspaper or web site), etc. We’ll be talking quite a bit about the performative nature of language and the self, and this is what you’ll be reflecting in your work. Thus, this aspect of the project might also (but doesn’t necessarily have to) be performative, i.e. something that happens live on the day. We’ll consider more examples and possibilities as the semester proceeds. The other component of the final project will be an argumentative paper. The length of this paper depends, to some degree, on the nature of your visual work. We’ll discuss this further as we begin working on this assignment. You are encouraged to think outside the box in how you approach this paper, and feel free to weave your written and visual components together
You can develop your final project from one of the other papers or responses you complete during the semester, broadening its scope or reinventing it in some significant way. You may also collaborate on this project, if you’d like, although make sure that each person in your group is at least somewhat involved in every aspect of the final product (i.e. don’t have one person just do the visual part and the other just do the written part). This final project takes the place of a final exam.
GRADING: While you will be receiving a grade at the end of the semester, I will not be putting grades on individual assignments, but rather questions and comments that truly engage with your work rather than simply evaluate it. Throughout the semester, you will also be responding to your own work and each other’s work in a similar fashion. The intention here is to help you focus on working in a more organic way, as opposed to working as you think you are expected to. I hope that this process will give you (and me) a partial liberation from letter grades, but if it ends up causing more anxiety than it alleviates, feel free to see me at any point to confer about your performance in the course to date. If you are worried about your grade in the class, your best strategy should be to attend class, join the discussions, do the reading, and complete all assignments. Click here to see the sort of self-evaluation you will complete at the end of the semester. You will complete something similar following each of the major papers. This will give us a chance to check in with each other at several points as the semester proceeds, so if you have concerns about how you’re doing in the course, we will have many chances to address them.
PLAGIARISM: First, I will say that if you are unable to complete an assignment for any reason, it is in your best interest to discuss the situation with me. Authorship is a hotly contested topic in the academy. At what point do we own the words we say and write or the images we create? Among authors and filmmakers, creative influence, collaboration, and a certain amount of borrowing are acceptable (even encouraged). So, what sort of statement or warning about plagiarism would be appropriate in this class? Let me go out on a limb and say: in this class, I encourage you to borrow ideas (from me, from the authors we read, from the films we watch, from your classmates). However, even more, I encourage you to really make them your own—by playing with, manipulating, applying, and otherwise turning them on their head. In the end, it’s just downright boring to rest on the laurels of others. It’s altogether more daring (and, frankly, more fun) to invent something new yourself—a new idea, a new way of thinking, a new claim, a new image. This doesn’t give you license to copy something in its entirety and slap your name on it. That’s just stealing. Instead, think very self-consciously about the way that you are influenced by your sources—by the way knowledge and creativity depend on a sort of inheritance. And think also about the real responsibility you have to those sources.
OFFICE HOURS: I have scheduled regular office hours and I’m also available by appointment. If you’d like to meet with me in person, I’d recommend chatting with me in advance to set up a time. I’m always happy to meet with you (to discuss the course or just to chat). This is the most effective way for me to give you individual attention and get to know you better. I encourage you to meet with me as early in the semester as possible, especially if you have any particular questions or concerns. I’m also very easy to reach by e-mail. In fact, e-mail is (by far) the best and quickest way to contact me. You can send an e-mail with questions or comments to me at Jesse.Stommel@colorado.edu.
E-MAIL: The University now requires that every student have an active e-mail account that they check regularly. E-mail is an important component of this course. I will be sending regular announcements to you via e-mail, so if you do not check your e-mail regularly, you will miss crucial information related to the course.
DISABILITIES ACCOMMODATION: If you have any physical, psychological, or learning disabilities that need accommodations, please let me know early in the semester. If you have questions or concerns, you can also contact the Disability Services Office in Willard 322 (phone 303-492-8671). Their website is available at www.colorado.edu/disabilityservices.
RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES: Please let me know if the observance of religious holidays conflicts in any way with class assignments, attendance, etc., and I am happy to work with you. The CU-Boulder campus policy is available at http://www.colorado.edu/policies/fac_religion.html.
HONOR CODE: All students of the University of Colorado at Boulder are responsible for knowing and adhering to the academic integrity policy of this institution. Violations of this policy may include: cheating, plagiarism, aid of academic dishonesty, fabrication, lying, bribery, and threatening behavior. All incidents of academic misconduct shall be reported to the Honor Code Council (email@example.com; 303-725-2273). Students who are found to be in violation of the academic integrity policy will be subject to both academic sanctions from the faculty member and non-academic sanctions (including but not limited to university probation, suspension, or expulsion). See http://www.colorado.edu/policies/honor.html and at http://www.colorado.edu/academics/honorcode/.
DISCRIMINATION AND SEXUAL HARASSMENT: The University of Colorado policy on Sexual Harassment and the University of Colorado policy on Amorous Relationships applies to all students, staff and faculty. Any student, staff or faculty member who believes s/he has been the subject of discrimination or harassment based upon race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status should contact the Office of Discrimination and Harassment (ODH) at 303-492-2127 or the Office of Judicial Affairs at 303-492-5550. For information and campus resources see http://www.colorado.edu/odh.
Keep checking this course schedule throughout the semester as certain readings and due dates may change. Instructions for assignments will be added as due dates approach. Click the links below for course readings, details on assignments, etc.
UNIT 1: WRITING QUEERLY
Jan. 18: NO CLASS
Jan. 20: Whitman, “Song of Myself” (Pay careful attention to Sec. 40, 50, 52)
Jan. 25: Film: Gods and Monsters
Worksheet #2 Due
Jan. 27: Jagose, Queer Theory: An Introduction (pp. 1 - 21, pp. 72 -100)
Sedgwick, “What’s Queer?”
Queer Working Definition Due (e-mail before class + bring hard copy)
Feb. 1: Berlant and Warner, “What Does Queer Theory Teach Us About X?”
Reich, “Genderfuck: The Law of the Dildo”
Service Learning Plan / Proposal Due (e-mail before class)
Feb. 3: Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination”
Feb. 7: Queer Autobiography Opening Paragraph Due (e-mail by midnight)
Feb. 8: Opening Paragraph Workshop
Hoy, ”The Disarming Seduction of Stories”
Elbow, “Closing My Eyes as I Speak: An Argument for Ignoring Audience”
Feb. 10: Paper Workshop: Bring 4 Copies of Queer Autobiography Draft to Class
Feb. 14: Queer Autobiography and Writer’s Letter Due (e-mail by midnight)
UNIT 2: READING QUEERNESS
Mar. 15: Body Paragraph Workshop
Stein, “Sentences and Paragraphs” (How to Write, 23 - 35)
Mar. 17: Paper Workshop: Bring 4 Copies of Literary Analysis Draft to Class
Mar. 21: Literary Analysis Paper Due (e-mail by midnight)
Mar. 22: SPRING BREAK
Mar. 24: SPRING BREAK
UNIT 3: QUEERING MEANING
Mar. 29: McCloud, Understanding Comics
Mar. 31: Bechdel, Fun Home (pp. 3 - 120)
Apr. 5: Bechdel, Fun Home (pp. 123 - 232)
Apr. 7: Bechdel, Fun Home (cont.)
Apr. 19: Brite, Lost Souls (pp. 188 - 284)
Final Project Sketch/Plan/Bibliography Due (bring hard copy)
Apr. 21: Brite, Lost Souls (pp. 285 - 355)
Apr. 26: Warner, “Normal and Normaller: Beyond Gay Marriage”
Apr. 28: Final Discussion
As you begin working on this paper, you will complete a 1-page working definition of the word “queer.” Then, you will further investigate the concept of “queer” by writing a creative non-fiction essay. This will be a narrative account of yourself, a story (or series of stories) that reflects upon who you are (as a person, as a writer, as a thinker, as an activist, etc.). The word “queer” in “queer autobiography” suggests that your work should either explore the concept of what it is to be queer or what it is to write queerly. Thus, you don’t necessarily have to identify as queer to write a queer autobiography. You could, instead, queer (as a verb) the genre of creative non-fiction or autobiography by approaching it in a novel or unusual way.
Don't forget the details. The more sensory details you include, the more your reader will feel as though they are right there with you. Even the most grammatically correct writing falls flat if it doesn't come alive for the reader. Make sure you consider carefully the implications of your narrative. One of the things that distinguishes creative non-fiction from other sorts of narrative writing is that you're not only telling a story but also reflecting upon it in some significant way. Don't just tack a moral on the end. Instead, try to insert your own reflections on the events of the story throughout, moving back and forth between the offering of vivid details and a discussion of what those details suggest about you, the world, the concept of queer, etc. The final paper should be around 3-5 pages.
Part 1: Queer Working Definition
This assignment is intended to get you thinking about the concept of queer. I am intentionally having you complete this assignment before we have discussed this concept at length as a class (and even before we’ve discussed any texts or films that are explicitly queer). While you may be doing some reading about the subject prior to completing this assignment, feel free to diverge from scholarly definitions of the word. Finally, I am leaving these instructions purposefully vague.
On one 8 1/2” x 11” page, define or illustrate the word “queer”.
Bring one copy of your page to class and, if possible, e-mail a copy to me in .pdf format.
Part 2: Opening Paragraph
As you approach this part of your finished essay, you’ll want to start thinking about beginnings and about the genres of autobiography and creative non-fiction. The main feature of creative non-fiction is the way it moves back and forth between telling a story and reflecting upon the social, political, personal, or philosophical issues the story raises for you. Creative non-fiction is all about tangents, allowing your personal experiences to inspire your own thinking about a subject.
For this assignment, compose a draft of the opening paragraph for your finished essay. There are many options for how you might begin. Take a look at my notes on beginnings for some ideas. The only rule for this assignment is that you don’t waste your first sentence. Make sure it’s intentional, well-crafted, and that it forces us to keep reading. We’ll be workshopping opening paragraphs as a group. I’ll be choosing a few of your opening paragraphs for us to look at together, so be prepared to have some of your work discussed by the whole class.
Part 3: Rough Draft
This will be a rough draft of your entire essay that you’ll have a chance to workshop with a small group of your peers. Make sure your work has a title and that it is your best first stab at the queer autobiography essay. Shoot for around 3-5 pages, the suggested length of the final draft, but don’t worry if you have a little more or less than that at this stage. You’ll be working in groups of 3-4, so please bring 4 copies of your work on the due date.
Part 4: Final Draft
First, the main page of this course insists that writing is never done, never really finished, something I believe to be entirely true. My hope is that you’ll find cause in your lives or academic careers to return to the works you do here. So, by “final draft,” I mean the last draft you’ll submit for this class and not some all-mighty, be-all-end-all, perfect piece of writing. Think polished, revised, something you’re content with. You’ll e-mail the final draft to me. As usual, you are welcome to send an attachment or bring a hard copy of your essay to class (particularly if the form demands that you do), but please also cut and paste your work into the body of an e-mail. Make sure your paper has a title, that you’ve incorporated the feedback you got during the peer review, and that you’ve proofread your work.
Part 5: Writer’s Letter
Along with the final draft of your paper, you’ll also submit what I am calling a “writer’s letter,” an informal letter that responds to, discusses or questions your experience so far in the class. This is also a chance for you to write specifically about the paper you are submitting, how you feel about your process, what you think of the final results, what is working, what still needs work, etc. You are welcome, though, to speak your mind about anything going on in class or in your service learning project. You have creative license in the letters and may respond in any style, voice, or genre that you find best suited to the task. The letters are your chance to make the course content personal. I will frame my comments to you as a response to this letter, so if there are particular things you’d like me to address about your essay, your writing, etc., this is the place to let me know. The writer’s letter is due along with the final draft of your essay. I’d prefer that you put it right at the top of the e-mail you send with your essay.
Literary Analysis Essay
You’ll begin preparation for this paper by writing a close-analysis, which you’ll expand into a full analytical essay. You will offer a critical reading of one of the literary texts we’ve discussed (or will discuss) in class by choosing a topic or theme that interests you and presenting an analysis of what the text is attempting to do with relation to that theme. A “text” can be any of the films, essays, novels, poems, etc. And, of course, as we’ve discussed, think about how you can queer (or pervert) literary analysis--how you can use your writing to more fully reflect your physical, emotional, and intellectual engagement with the text. Especially if you’ve done quite a bit of this sort of analysis in the past, try to think creatively about how you can approach this assignment. The final paper should be of an adequate length to fully explore your critical reading, or around 5-6 pages.
Part 1: Close-analysis
Consider this a way to help you narrow in on a text/film you’d like to explore further, a chance to get your ideas flowing. For this assignment, you will either: (1) Write a close-analysis focusing on one short passage from any of the texts we’ve read (or will read) this semester. In your work, you do not need to refer to anything outside the scope of the sentence(s) or line(s) you choose. You can use your analysis to make more far-reaching remarks about the text as a whole, but you don’t necessarily need to for this assignment. While I would highly recommend that you revise (so your language is as clear as possible), this is not a formal essay, so don’t worry about having an introductory paragraph, thesis statement, etc.
Or: (2) Choose a specific shot or frame from one of the films we’ve discussed (or will be discussing) and close-analyze it. I recommend having the film on in front of you as you write, so you can be as specific and detailed in your analysis as possible. Consider framing, lighting, camera angle or technique, props, performance, setting, sound, dialogue, symbolism, etc. What meaning can you draw from the shot or scene? Why is it so important to the film? How does the shot/frame support or complicate your answers to the first set of questions. If you are technically savvy, I encourage you to include an image of the frame you are working on along with your paper. You can certainly look closely at several cells or a page from the graphic novel for this option as well.
Again, this does not have to be a formal essay. Instead, dive right in and analyze. My main recommendation would be that you narrow your focus as much as possible. The less you try to tackle, the more easily you’ll be able to navigate this assignment. Your close-analysis should be about 2 pages or 500 words.
Part 2: Body Paragraph
By now, you should have gotten a good start on a draft of the literary analysis essay. For this assignment, choose one of the body paragraphs you’ve composed for your finished essay. We’ll be workshopping these paragraphs as a group. I’ll be choosing a few of them for us to look at together, so be prepared to have some of your work discussed by the whole class.
Part 3: Rough Draft
This will be a rough draft of your entire essay that you’ll have a chance to workshop with a small group of your peers. Make sure your work has a title and that it is your best first stab at the finished essay. Shoot for around 5-6 pages, the suggested length of the final draft, but don’t worry if you have a little more or less than that at this stage. Bring 4 copies of your work to class on the due date.
Part 4: Final Draft
You’ll e-mail the final draft to me at Jesse.Stommel@colorado.edu. As usual, you are welcome to send an attachment, but please also cut and paste your work into the body of the e-mail. Make sure your paper has a title, that you’ve incorporated the feedback you got during the peer review, and that you’ve proofread your work.
Part 5: Writer’s Letter
Same as before, although this time you may also want to consider your progress from the first essay to this one. Were you able to incorporate some of the creative stuff we discussed into your analytical writing. This is a chance for you to write specifically about the paper you are submitting, how you feel about your process, what you think of the final results, what is working, what still needs work, etc. Remember, though, you are also welcome to speak your mind about anything going on in class. You have creative license in the letters, as well, and may respond in any style, voice, or genre that you find best suited to the task. The letters are your chance to make the course content personal. I will frame my comments to you as a response to this letter, so if there are particular things you’d like me to address about your paper, your writing, etc., this is the place to let me know. The writer’s letter is due along with the final draft of your essay. You can send this in a separate e-mail, or feel free to put it right at the top of the e-mail you send with your essay.
Illustrated Argumentative Essay
This project will be the culmination of everything you've done in class thus far. The goal of this project is to investigate one of the important subjects of this course. You will start by choosing a specific issues or topic that has arisen for you during the semester. You are welcome to incorporate literary analysis and personal anecdotes into this piece, but you are invited to move beyond that by incorporating research about your subject as well. Your final project will have two components, a written component and a visual component. Since this is an argumentative essay, you will want to make sure that both your written and visual elements clearly support and contribute to your argument, whatever that might be.
The Visual component can take any of a number of forms, including but not limited to graphic art, video, photography, Powerpoint, a web page, etc. Words are very rarely divorced from images in our culture. What we read is usually accompanied by images, whether it’s direct illustrations, advertisements, the cover of a book, other elements on the page (of a newspaper or web site), etc. We’ll be talking quite a bit about the performative nature of language and the self, and this is what you’ll be reflecting in your work. Thus, this aspect of the project might also (but doesn’t necessarily have to) be performative, i.e. something that happens live on the day. We’ll consider more examples and possibilities as the semester proceeds. The other component of the final project will be an argumentative paper. The length of this paper depends, to some degree, on the nature of your visual work. We’ll discuss this further as we begin working on this assignment. You are encouraged to think outside the box in how you approach this paper, and feel free to weave your written and visual components together. You may also want to think about whether there is a way to bring this final project into conversation with your service learning project, however this is not a requirement.
You can develop your final project from one of the other papers or responses you complete during the semester, broadening its scope or reinventing it in some significant way. You may also collaborate on this project, if you’d like. This final project takes the place of a final exam.
Part 1: Sketch, Plan, or Bibliography
You can choose to do one of these three things, combine them in some way, or do something else that fulfills the spirit of this assignment. The idea here is to get you thinking about the direction you’re going in for your final project. If you decide to work with a group, you’ll also want to think about how you’re going to work together on and/or delegate the various parts of the project, etc.
Things to consider:
1. What angle will you take on your subject? How will you narrow the focus? What’s your tentative thesis?
2. What medium is best suited to your subject. You should think not just about the medium of your creative project but also the medium of your essay. Your essay should be argumentative, but you are free to choose the form you use to express your argument.
3. How will your creative and argumentative aspects be interwoven?
Sketch: Map out the visual aspects of your work and include a short paragraph that discusses how the ideas of your final paper would intersect with your creative work. If you decide to make a film, you might find the Wikipedia page on storyboards useful.
Plan: Write a brief (1-page) abstract or proposal including a summary of the various elements of your project. Think about use value here and with all of these options. What will your work be about? What will it argue? How will it argue? This could be adapted into an introduction for your paper.
Bibliography: In a conventional annotated bibliography, you would include the bibliographical references (using a format such as MLA) and a short paragraph discussing how each source is (or will be) important to your work, perhaps including a brief summary and/or pulling out specific points that you find particularly meaningful or relevant. You can include a quotation from the source if you want, but try to keep focused on your own ideas about how/why the sources are useful to your final essay. The final essay isn’t a research paper, so how you end up using the various sources in your work will be up to you. You can analyze them in your work, use them to support the points you make, as a model for the style of writing you do, or as inspiration for the visual component.
Part 2: Final Project
We won’t be workshopping this essay in the same way that we have the other ones. Instead, you’ll have a chance to discuss your ideas with each other at various points, keeping the final product itself tucked away all the while. Then, during the final exam period, you’ll display your project in class so that we can all read, examine, and interact with each other’s work. Since the unveiling of this work will be more public, you won’t need to submit this project by e-mail in the usual way. I would encourage you to make your project even more public by putting it online. I’m happy to upload it to our course website if you send it to me in advance. Just chat with me at some point, and we can figure this out.
Rules for the final essay (because you know full well by now how I love rules):
1. It must make an argument, one that people will care about.
2. The argument must be supported with compelling textual and visual evidence.
3. Your work must investigate something relevant to one or more subjects/texts we’ve considered in class.
4. It should be both intrinsically and instrumentally valuable, i.e., it should be a work that does (or could) do real work in the world.
5. And here’s the tricky part: It can’t be disposable. The project you create must be something that doesn’t justtake up space in the world. It must be either reusable, recyclable, or a work of art that warrants keeping around and displaying. It can also, of course, be digital, but if it is, you’ll need to bring or arrange for (with me) some method of displaying it to the class.
Part 3: Final Writer’s Letter
Write a short evaluation of your performance in this class (around 1 - 2 pages), addressing the following sorts of questions: How many absences did you have? How would you characterize the regularity and thoroughness of your work? Were you prepared for each class? Did you do all of the required assignments? How would you characterize your overall effort, interest, commitment to the class? Did your engagement increase or decrease as the semester went along? Please also address your service learning project and whether you feel you met the goals you set out for yourself at the beginning of the semester. You won’t be required to submit the journal you were meant to keep over the course of the semester. Everyone approaches this sort of thing in different ways. However, I would suggest that you use this as an opportunity to “digest” your journal (by including excerpts from it in this letter), to share some of the writing you’ve done on your own, the things you’ve been thinking about service and activism over the course of the semester, etc.
Also, write a brief evaluation of the work you did for the final project. Finally, what grade do you give yourself for the semester and why? (Don't be overly modest, but don't be grandiose either—there should be a reasonable correlation between your answers to the previous questions and this one. Ideally, I would give everyone the grade they give themselves, but I reserve the right to raise or lower grades as appropriate).
According to www.servicelearning.org, Service Learning is "a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities."
The most important aspects of a service learning project are that it should both address a need in the community and enhance your own learning. The project you design should intersect in some way with the topics of our course, but that doesn't mean you have to volunteer for a queer-identified organization. It just means you have to make a compelling case in your proposal for why your project is related to one or more course topics. Since one of the focuses of our course is to rethink academic writing and how we approach it, I would encourage you also to think about ways that you can queer the concept of service-learning. For example, you are welcome to come up with an innovative project that meets the goals of service-learning in an untraditional or unusual way. You should also think carefully about what sort of community you want to address with your project, i.e. the university community, the Boulder community, the online community, the queer World of Warcraft community, etc.
There is no exact number of hours or required schedule for the service learning component. It will vary depending on the project each of you pursues. However, as a guideline, I would suggest you complete at least 20 hours of service over the course of the semester. For many, this could mean volunteering a couple hours each week for 10 weeks. However, certain projects might have you volunteering in a more concentrated way, and that is just fine. Since this is a writing course, it would be useful for you to do some writing, editing, etc. as part of your service learning experience, however this is not a requirement, since you will have the opportunity to reflect on your experience in all the writing assignments you do for the course.
Service Learning Plan / Proposal:
For this assignment I'd like you to write one to two paragraphs that briefly outline your plan for the service learning project. You don't need to have all the details entirely ironed out, but you should have a clear direction already determined when you write this plan. So, if you are volunteering with an organization, make sure you've contacted the organization and set up a basic plan for your work, but you don't necessarily need to have your entire schedule worked out with the organization. If you are setting up a public blog that addresses queer issues, you wouldn't need to have entries posted before submitting your plan, but you should create a blog space, decide how you'll promote it, who'll contribute to it, etc.
Service Learning Journal:
During the course of your service learning experience, you will keep a journal where you reflect on your experiences with service learning and how they intersect with the ideas of the class. I will not be collecting these journals. This is a place for you to write freely about your ideas, reactions, etc. I will ask you to digest some material from your journal into the writer’s letters you submit with each of your final papers. You will also have the opportunity in these writer’s letters to reflect further on how your service learning project intersects with your other work for the class.
Some Suggested Service Learning Projects:
1. Boulder Valley Safe Schools is looking for one volunteer. They have several projects that you could potentially help with. You can get a sense for the organization by going to http://www.bouldersafeschools.org/. If you are interested in volunteering with them, you can contact Anne Guilfoile at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-494-8171.
2. GLBT Resource Center has the need for multiple volunteers in several capacities. You can find out more information about them on the web at www.colorado.edu/glbtrc. If you are interested in volunteering with them, contact email@example.com.
3. Bash Back Queer Liberation Summit is looking for one volunteer. Bash Back! is a network of radical, anti-authoritarian queer projects within the United States. Bash Back! seeks to critique the ideology of mainstream GLBTQ movement, which we see as dedicated to obtaining straight privilege by assimilation into the dominant institutions of a heteronormative society. The student placement position we are offering will primarily be in helping to organize the Bash Back Convergence that will be in Denver in May 2010. There are a variety of potential tasks; contacting speakers, fundraising, networking and setting up the convergence space that will be available for the student to do depending on their interests and their skills. If you are interested in volunteering, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or with questions.
4. Queer Film Call for Actors. I sent this via e-mail. Let me know if you'd like me to resend.
Some More Ideas:
1. Promote and/or enhance our Queer Rhetorics course blog. I'm not sure exactly how one goes about promoting a web page, but if someone has expertise in this, you could consider this as a service learning project. Since we will be having an ongoing discussion of queer issues on the blog for our course, bringing this blog to the public would definitely fulfill the goals of service learning. If you propose this as a service learning project, you might also consider other ways to make our web site and blog space more meaningful to the public, i.e. by creating additional pages, blog entries, etc.
2. Organize, promote, and coordinate mini-conference at the end of the semester. At the end of the semester, everyone in the class will be presenting or displaying their final projects in a public forum, bringing what we've created in the class to the larger communities of the university and Boulder. One or more people could take on the organizing of this event as their service learning project.