Your final course grade will be determined by the following combination of assignments:Class Participation (including attendance): 15%
Assignment 1: Intellectual Autobiography: 10%
Assignment 2: Journals Review: 20%
Assignment 3: Report on Electronic Database: 15%
Assignment 4: Annotated Bibliography: 20%
Assignment 5: Paper on Issue in Graduate Study: 20%
Your first assignment for the semester will be to write a brief (2-4 pages) intellectual autobiography. Think of this as an opportunity to explore your academic and professional goals and to take an inventory of yourself: Where are you headed? Why do you want to go there? What will you need to get there? What do you already have? What do you need to acquire? Among the topics you should explore:
- Key figures in your intellectual development
- What led you the study of literature?
- Your primary areas of interest
- Areas of particular strength and weakness
- Your plan of study
- Your long-term academic goals (dissertation, career)
Consult the Scholes book (29-36) for additional ideas. Your completed autobiography -- carefully revised, elegantly written, and error-free -- will be due 23 September. This assignment will constitute 10% of your semester grade.
For this assignment, you will conduct a review of five (5) scholarly journals related to your primary area(s) of academic interest. This assignment is a good opportunity for you to begin exploring the contours of your field and to get a sense for the sorts of scholarship being produced at this very moment. I have outlined below the steps you'll want to follow as you prepare your review. The final review -- carefully revised and error-free -- will be due 21 October.
Step I. Identify Journals
Identify five (5) academic journals whose focus reflects your primary area(s) of interest. Of the six journals you select,
- At least one must focus on your chosen historical period or geographical focus (e.g. Shakespeare Quarterly, American Literature)
- At least one must focus on a particular genre or theoretical orientation (e.g. Studies in the Novel or Victorian Poetry)
- At least one must be an online publication (e.g. Literature Compass, Early Modern Literary Studies)
- At least one must be broadly inclusive in its scholarly profile (e.g. SEL, PMLA, ELH.)
Step II. Review Journals
Once you have identified your five journals, review the most recent (published within the past 2-3 years) issues of each. You needn't read every article closely: attentive skimming is reasonable. Your task is to get a feel for each of the journals, enough so that you can (1) compile a profile for each of them and (2) identify some of the current scholarly trends in your chosen field. You should also look at the each journal's entry in the MLA Directory of Periodicals.
Step III. Report on Journals
Having reviewed the journals, you are ready to write up a short report on each of them. Begin by identifying your chosen field, and briefly describe your method for journal selection: How did you identify which journals were connected with your area of interest? What criteria did you use in deciding which journals to review?
Following this general introduction, you will write a brief report on each journal individually. Your report should begin by identifying the journal, its place of publication (the institution in which it is housed), and its general editor. Identify how frequently it is published, and whether it is available electronically. Next, identify the journal's mission (in terms of its stated range of scholarly interests): What sorts of scholarship does this journal publish? How long are the articles? What sort of audience are the articles pitched to (interdisciplinary, specialists, students, etc).
Conclude your report with a general summative statement, in which you discuss your sense of the scholarly trends that your reviews of these journals has revealed. What sorts of patterns do you notice in the scholarship? What sorts of topics are getting a lot of play in recent issues of these journals (e.g. studies of material culture, single author studies)? Which theoretical frameworks or methodologies seem to prevail in the various journals you reviewed (e.g. formalism, Foucault). Most importantly, having sampled a bit of the recent scholarship, what is your sense of your chosen field? What's "hot," "exciting," "sexy," "now"? Where are the top scholars publishing their work? As a person exploring the contours of a new field, developing a personal scholarly profile, and working towards full participation in ongoing critical discourse, which journals will you read regularly and eventually contribute to? Be prepared to talk about your journals and your discoveries in class. This assignment will constitute 20% of your semester grade.
Report on Electronic Databases
For this assignment, you are to select and report on two electronic research databases that you might find particularly useful in your area(s) of interest. You may want to use this opportunity to begin exploring the electronic resources that you'll be using to research one or more of the papers you will be working on in other classes this semester.
Your report on each database should run 2-4 pages in length and should serve as an introductory overview of the database you have selected. It should identify the database, its location and availability (Who can access it? How is it accessed?). It should also identify the persons or institutions responsible for the content of the database. The main body of the report should explain very clearly what the database covers, how best to search its contents, and why database might be of use to scholars working in particular areas or investigating particular issues.
The final report will be due 4 November. I have set aside time in class that day for presentations of your database discoveries. We'll have a computer in class, so you will be able to demonstrate one of your databases to the rest of us. Your final reports will be also posted to Blackboard, so that everyone in class can reap the benefits of your discovery. This assignment will constitute 15% of your semester grade.
For your fourth assignment, you will produce an annotated bibliography representing the research you have conducted in preparation for writing a paper in one of the other classes you are taking this semester. Your annotated bibliography should contain 4-6 articles, book chapters, and/or books. The scholarship you include should be relatively recent (published within the last 15-20 years). Encyclopedias, Wikipedia, and Spark Notes do not constitute scholarly research sources. Neither do The Explicator or Notes and Queries. You should select scholarship of the highest quality for this project.
Preface your bibliography with a short paragraph outlining the project for which you conducted the research: What is the area being researched? What are the primary texts you will be working with? What are the research questions you began with? What is your preliminary argument, based on the research you have conducted?
Below this prefatory statement, provide your annotations. Alphabetize your list by author's last name (as you would with any bibliography). Begin each item with an MLA-style bibliographic citation (in grading your bibliography I'll consider how closely you follow MLA guidelines). Below the bibliographic entry, begin your annotation. Each annotation should run to no more than 500 words. Your annotation should record the central thesis of the article as well as the key points of the author's argument. It should convey a sense of the methodology employed as well as your sense of the argument's validity and usefulness. Use parenthetical citations to link your annotation to specific pages in the article (use page numbers only, and be sure to follow MLA rules for citations). I will evaluate your annotations according to their clarity, accuracy, and completeness. This assignment will constitute 20% of your semester grade.
Paper on Issue in Graduate Study
Your final project for the semester will be to write a short research paper (5-7 pages) on an issue related to graduate education (funding, the job market, community colleges, teaching, publication, etc). You may make use of any of the common readings for the course, but you will also need to consult at least three outside sources. We'll talk more about this assignment in class. Your completed paper -- carefully edited, error-free, and fully compliant with MLA guidelines -- will be due 9 December. This assignment will constitute 20% of your semester grade.