Coming to Terms

This short assignment (minimum 500 words) asks you to analyze one of our class readings from Barrett, Myers, Lynch, and Ratnayake. We will do two of these short assignments, so you will end up writing about two of these readings. Your work here will serve as the foundation for Paper 1. You should submit your paper as an attachment (preferably a .doc file) via email before class the day it is due. Your analysis should address the following prompts:

  • Define the project of the writer. Address the questions Harris raises on p. 20:
    • Aims: What is the writer trying to achieve? What position do they want to argue? What issues or problems do they explore?
    • Methods: How does the writer relate examples to ideas? How do they connect one claim to the next, build a sense of continuity and flow? (This is a hard question, but the emphasis is on “how” – how does the writer work toward achieving their aims? What sort of moves do they make in their writing to develop their thinking?)
    • Materials: Where does the writer go for examples and evidence? What texts are cited and discussed? What experiences or events are described?
  • Note keywords or passages in the text. Following Harris, this is an opportunity to ask “What aspects of this text stand out for me as a reader?” (21). If defining the project of a text helps us think about the more general aims and moves of the writer, then noting keywords and passages helps direct us toward specific things that happen in the text. You can do this in your own words and by incorporating quotes.
  • Assess the uses and limits of the text. As Harris notes, “academics seldom write in an all-or-nothing mode, trying to convince readers to take one side or the other of an argument. Instead their work assumes that any perspective on an issue (and there are often more than two) will have moments of both insight and blindness. … And so, in dealing with other writers, your aim should be less to prove them right or wrong, correct or mistaken, than to assess both the uses and limits of their work” (25-26). So, your challenge here is to highlight aspects of the text that you find helpful, productive, effective or unhelpful, limited, or ineffective in some way. This is an opportunity for you to engage with the text on your own terms.

Your paper should follow MLA guidelines for formatting (spacing, font, first-page heading, title, header with last name and page number) and citations, both in-text and on a works cited page.